The more I paint, the more I like everything
I'm so pleased to be part of The Refashioners this year. Concocted by Portia Lawrie, The Refashioners is a global project that asks sewists to take old, unwanted garments and alter them, to give them a new life. 'Altering' could be adjusting a piece of clothing so that it fits, or completely transforming it to give it a whole new identity. Whatever you choose to do, it's about rescuing something that is considered waste, so that it becomes an active piece of clothing that is loved and used. It's a grand and revolutionary project, tackling humanity's issue of garment waste in an inspirational, practical way. I love it!
Every year, Portia comes up with a theme and schedules a full month of blog posts by people across the sewing community to share their refashioned makes. She then opens up the challenge, and everyone entering it has the chance to win a huge prize. Details on how to enter at the end of my post - the deadline is October 31st. I've been amazed at how differently everyone has interpreted Portia's brief this year, which is 'Inspired By.' Portia has asked us to choose one picture, and make something inspired by that image. This is the image I chose.
It's an image from Edda Gimnes' Spring/Summer 2017 collection which knocked me out with it's playfulness, creativity and beauty. I decided I wanted to transform something using this style of free, loose mark making. I thought it would be fun to experiment with surface decoration as a way of transforming a garment, and I hoped it would be inspiring too, as the method could hopefully be applied to all sorts of garments.
I last participated in The Refashioners in 2016 when our brief was to refashion unwanted denim. I sourced jeans for that challenge, using more than 10 pairs I think. This time, I wanted to challenge myself to stick to the constraints of using a garment I already owned, rather than buying what I needed. When I hunted through my disgustingly messy wardrobe however, I remembered that I have a problem with print, in that I almost solely own clothes with busy surface decoration, and I was looking for more of a blank canvas. But buried at the back was this jumpsuit.
My friend Isabel gave me this earlier this year. Someone had given it to her for her birthday with the words "I saw this and thought of you" and she found the assessment of her style pretty baffling. She tends to wear retro clothing from the 1960s that is well fitted - waist-pinching mini skirts and tucked-in blouses - often in deep colours. A world away from a loose, pale blue all-in-one.
And the jumpsuit is absolutely massive. It looks kinda nice in the top picture - a bit like the Peppermint Magazine jumpsuit, or the new pattern by Heather from Closet Case Files - but it's just tooooooo big.
It's too wide at the underarm, too wide at the hips, the top is too long so the V-neck is much too deep on me, and mostly the crotch is unflatteringly low, hanging just above my knees.
However, it's brand new, with the Topshop price tag still on - it cost £42.00. And despite being 100% polyester, the fabric is really nice - it has the look and feel of linen. Time for a refashion.
I began by reducing the length of the straps at the shoulders. They had a sort of gusset in, rather than a single shoulder seam, and I wonder if it's a clever money-saving way the manufacturers have come up with to create their larger sizes - adding an extension piece rather than drafting and cutting a whole new piece. Anyway! I pinched out roughly how much I wanted to reduce it by while looking in the mirror, unpicked the bias finish at the neckline and armhole, chopped out a section on each side, and re-sewed. (I ended up removing the bias from the armhole as I realised I'd be taking in the side seams too.)
With the straps re-sewn, I tried the jumpsuit on again, roughly marked my waist then chopped through the jumpsuit all the way round at that level, separating the trousers from the bodice. For most of the duration of my refashion, I was deeply worried that I had made this cut far too high and would end up with some sort of regency under-bust waistline - but to cut the suspense now, it worked out just fine.
I unpicked the bust darts which were now in completely the wrong place and pressed them flat. Again in front of the mirror, I estimated where I should put my new darts, basically using my nipples as a guide. I accidentally did all this while not wearing a bra, so now I have to always wear this without a bra, which is actually OK!
I marked and stitched the darts, did a pin fitting to figure out the side seams, then sewed them up. When I tried it on to check it fit, I was tempted to keep it as a little waistcoat, but that would be weird (would it? I don't know!)
Next for the part I was dreading slightly - cutting the trouser pieces. I wanted the trousers to remain fairly long, I needed quite a long rise so I wouldn't be giving myself a jumpsuit wedgy, and of course I needed enough width for the crotch. I wasn't at all sure if I would have enough fabric, but refashioning is about taking risks and making things up as you go along, right? These pictures don't really reflect the order in which I did things.
I unpicked the side seams of the trousers first, which had been overlocked by some lovely people in Romania who made this garment *shakes fist at those lovely people in Romania*. Unpicking overlocked seams must be one of the least fun activities in the world. But I felt I'd need every centimetre of fabric available, so didn't want to lose the precious seam allowance. I unpicked the hem and pressed it out. I unpicked the darts on the back at the waistline. I left the inside leg seam stitched together.
I took a version of the Lander Pants pattern which I've previously traced in brown paper for myself with a few minor personal adjustments. I layed it out on the trouser pieces to see what the situation was. I lined up the bottom edge of the pattern with the bottom edge of the trousers, which were also nicely overlocked. The front piece fit by the skin of it's teeth (see above) with a couple of extra inches at the top which I wanted to add so the rise wouldn't be too short.
The back didn't give me the same positive news - it was about 2 inches too narrow, but I decided I would persevere and add a little crotch extension piece, to make up the missing width. After cutting out both front and back legs, this is the waste I was left with. To say the jumpsuit was so big, this was a lot less than I expected.
The biggest pieces were the strips that had the inner leg seams running up the middle, so I had no choice but to make my crotch extensions out of these. Not bad...
Around this time I also realised the waist edge of the trousers would be quite a bit smaller than the bottom edge of the bodice I'd made, so I chucked a couple more bust darts into the bodice, running upwards from the waist edge.
I fashioned a fly out of the pocket lining and some of the other remnants. I definitely should have paid more attention to how the fly worked on the original garment before I took it all apart as my button front bodice and fly did end up a little bit wrong somehow and runs at a slight angle rather than straight up and down.
Finally I sewed the trousers to the bodice. At that stage, I tried the jumpsuit on and did quite a bit of fitting at the back, taking in the centre back seam of both the bodice and the trousers. Next up: painting. To ready myself, I returned to Edda Gimnes, looking up more of her work.
There are so many inspirational pictures of her clothing online. I recommend just doing an image search for her name, or having a good browse of the illustration library on her website.
I started to get slightly intimidated by the thought of making these loose, free-flowing marks, and for a while thought about doing something more Jean-Charles De Castelbajac-esque. I love JC/DC, and I wondered if I might be better off painting images of objects, or faces, so I had something concrete to depict. Eventually I decided it might get a bit to cartoon-ish and child like. JC/DC can pull it off, but I thought I might end up looking like a heap of kids bedding.
So, back to Edda Gimnes...
I was especially drawn to her playful tromp l'oeil markings, that seem to mark out the edge of a garment but inside (and sometimes outside!) the actual edge of the garment.
I wasn't sure I could pull off something similar, but I wanted to give it a go.
I warmed up by playing with marker pens on paper, making random shapes and lines and getting used to producing abstract marks without a particular goal. Some I liked, and some not so much! What's that hairy potato thing on the right?
I drew a rough outline of my jumpsuit, and on top of it some markings I thought I could apply - like a rough map for my actual paint lines.
I bought three pots of Pebeo Setacolor fabric paint - black, white and red. I tested out different brushes and ways of applying the paint on a plain black tshirt (It's the Peak Tshirt pattern from Wendy Ward's book A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics). I watered the paint down a little as I thought that would help it flow, and go further, but it ended up looking slightly too diluted.
I tried the black and the red paint on the tiny scraps of jumpsuit fabric remaining. Red looked too colourful, so I decided to stick to plain black. I hung the jumpsuit on a coathanger from a light fitting in our living room (which has a really low ceiling) and printed out some Edda Gimnes images to scatter around so I'd have handy visual references while I painted.
Obviously, Edda Gimnes doesn't actually handpaint all her garments. I'm pretty sure she does her drawing with ink and crayons on paper, then scans it in, blows it up and gets it printed onto fabric. I would love to try this in future.
It was nail-biting putting the first brush strokes onto the fabric - hence my serious face.
I started with the back bodice in case I messed it up. After a while I realised it didn't really matter if I 'messed up' as I didn't have a concrete plan anyway, and I could always make lines bigger, or turn them into blocked out shapes. I do feel I made the back bodice a little bit too busy though, and one thing you can't do is take a brush stroke back.
Hanging the jumpsuit worked quite well for painting the bodice but it was too wobbly to paint the trousers so I laid it out on the floor with scrap paper up inside to prevent the paint bleeding through.
It was fun painting the trousers as there was such a big expanse of fabric without seam lines. I just had to hold myself back from doing too much. With the paint dry and ironed so that it set, I finished the armholes with bias binding from my stash, sewed on some black buttons (which I bought, though I've saved the originals for the future) and hemmed the bottoms of the trousers.
The transformation was complete.
I love how it turned out.
I had to use two original buttonholes that were in the jumpsuit - the top one and the second one down - then I added the three below. This is why they're a bit oddly spaced! Looking at it now, I think I should have put the third one below the waist seam, and just one below that. But never mind, I feel an element of randomness is fine with this freehand painting design.
I'm pleased that I got to keep a a good amount of width for the trousers, and I'm happy with the fit around the bum, particularly with the fact that the crotch patch extensions aren't at all visible from either the front or the back.
I'm glad I attempted a bit of tromp l'oeil, it sort of worked, especially on the back! My boyfriend suggested as this is a romper with some tromp l'oeil, I should call it a 'tromper.'
I thought Portia mentioned she'd like people to recreate their original inspiration image if possible, but now I wonder if I imagined that. Anyway, whether I dreamed it or it is real, I took it to heart and bought a second hand hat off eBay for £4.99 and gave it an Edda Gimnes-style paint job too. The hat in the original photo has a brim of epic proportions, but I had to stick with what was available. It's hard trying to look like a model when you don't look like a model and when you have resting bitch face!
Luckily my cat Danny can always be counted on to cause trouble.
I think the hat came out looking a bit too 1982, so I'll most likely be sending it back into circulation in the secondhand economy.
All-in-all, I totally love my jumpsuit and I can see myself wearing it loads. The great thing is that its very comfy and feels very 'normal' to me already, like it belongs in my wardrobe. I'm really grateful to the person that gave this to Isabel, and to Isabel for thinking of passing it to me, and I'm pleased that it wasn't brought into existence for nothing.
I'd love to encourage others to get out the fabric paint and have a go at Edda Gimnes-ing garments, so if you have any questions about the process please do ask in the comments or on Instagram. To enter the challenge and be in with a chance of winning a fantastic sewing-related prize, you need to pick an inspiration image, refashion an old garment and post a picture of it either:
- On Instagram using the hashtags #TheRefashioners2018 #InspiredBy - you need to use both hashtags so Portia can find your entry!
- On the community board on Facebook (you have to request an invite to join the group)
Once again, big thanks to Portia for getting me involved in her ambitious, incredible project and for challenging me to think outside the box. I don't think of myself as particularly creative when it comes to making clothes, but with The Refashioners project Portia sets a challenge that demands a response and definitely surprised me by pushing me out of my comfort zone, so thank you Portia!