Hello everyone! I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am to be involved in this year’s Refashioners #jeanius team. It is an huge honour to jump in at the last minute and let my jeans flag fly! Thankyou Portia for the opportunity and for all the awesome makers for inspiring me everyday with their jeans recreations.
I’m going to start with the moral of this story… don’t unpick until you know how much material you will need. For instance spending hours, nay days, unpicking 8 pairs of jeans when you only need 3 may turn out to be a tremendous waste of time and let’s be honest, who has time to waste?! That of course is exactly what I did!!
It started with 11 pairs of jeans… the day after I got the exciting email asking me to get involved I was rushing around Battersea Car Boot Sale with one thing on mind ‘get as many pairs of jeans for as little money as possible’ and I did extremely well getting 11 pairs for £11 in a range of sizes (luckily some HUGE) and colours.
I knew from the start I wanted to make a gown – a big theatrical dress that would really let the material sing and I made some (awful) sketches that looked very steampunky with big full skirts and belts made from the back pockets and zips going down the front but I didn’t have a clue how I was going to make it a reality. My husband was beside me whilst I was sketching away and he said ‘can I have a go, as I have an idea’ now this is something that happens a lot as Stephen and I love to get involved with each other projects and get excited about creating things together (cheesy but true) so this dress is very much a team effort. I did all the sewing but the ideas were from both of us – as Stephen has one of those brilliantly creative minds I would be a fool not to get him involved! So this is where things picked up – we got excited about having a sort of outer skirt, layering and a corset type bodice.
So I started unpicking… for AGES. I thought I would need as much fabric as I could get my hands on so basically spent a week taking apart these jeans- first the waistband, then take off the back pockets (I still thought these would be a feature at this point), unpick the crotch seam and then the inner seam of both legs. Stephen even helped me take out some rivets (with pliers and a flathead screwdriver) so I had 8 pairs of flat jeans ready to turn into a dress that was taking shape in my head.
I did consider using patterns – especially for the bodice and using the jeans as just normal fabric but the moment Stephen started placing jean legs over me and it just seemed to fit… the crotch seam became a perfect armhole and just by using the two legs from one of the biggest pairs of jeans is was already starting to look like a pretty cool dress especially with the waistbands as a sort of dungaree straps (which is the only remaining element from my original sketch!)
So I discarded the patterns idea, got the mannequin out and just started draping instead! First I tried to recreate what we came up with on me and pinned everything to Betty (my mannequin). I fell in love with the look of where the pockets used to be on these jeans – like the fabric time forgot – the general wear and tear, sun bleaching and fading hadn’t touched this bit and I think it leaves a lovely effect so I was very happy to make that a feature of the bodice.
I started by sewing down the hems as that was the easy bit – they were already creased to shape so didn’t even need pressing down. I did this to the neckline and all the way around the back. Oh I was so very thankful for my amazing Gutermann jeans thread set, jeans needle and my lovely Pfaff Passport 2 for making it seamless, if I tried this on my old machine there would have been tears and a few choice words spoken!
Then the interesting part started – how the hell was I going to sew this thing?! I had the shape that I wanted pinned to the mannequin, but there were complicated tucks and pleats to make it fit that I just don’t know how to transfer to a marking to sew up from the wrong side.
I am not a hand sewer, I’m very bad at it and have to be forced into kicking and screaming into it but I had a strong word with myself and got out the needle and thread to tack my way through this.
Actually, my hand sewing wasn’t too bad (yay!) and now I had the shape of the bodice I wanted and a interesting dress starting to emerge. I sewed together the raw edges of the waistbands for the straps and folded over the belt loops so they were the same width as the waistband as that was another detail that I was determined to use.
The turning point came with the discovery of the perfect zip in my stash – a giant open ended chunky zip that was the perfect length to go all the way down the back of the dress. From that moment on it something special at the back too and I loved the idea of having a dress that you could completely unzip for ease of getting into (as a performer one of my pet hates is spending ages doing a huge hair style and intricate makeup only to have to pull a dress over your head – nooo!) Also I was worried about all the shaping and hand sewing I was doing would need some wiggling about to get into the dress and this zip meant I didn’t have to worry about that – eureka!!
I put the dress on and it looked great, lovely bodice and perfect fit until I looked down and realised I hadn’t covered my…ahem… modesty… at all!! I needed a bottom to this dress and so I went back to the sketches and got excited about our idea of making the overskirt -so I made a big old triangle out of a massive jeans leg.
And laid it under the dress.
It became clear that more draping was needed to create the waterfall effect we wanted so back to Betty, lots of pins and hand sewing, which I’m happy to report didn’t feel like a chore for the first time ever. In fact I would go as far to say as The Refashioners ignited my joy in sewing by hand!!
The last thing I did was add a gathered hem in a darker denim to make it a proper full length gown. I used two legs, cut off at the crotch, sewn together and gathered up along the edge using twine to pull up the gathers. I attached it to the bottom of the dress and matched the hemmed sides either side of the zip. DONE!!
Everything in this dress is made from the recycled jeans except for the zip and I added buttons to the bodice top as we tried pulling off the old jeans buttons and gave up/ran out of time. Luckily I have this awesome Prym punching tool that made it a doddle.
I freaking love it! It is by far the most complicated and original thing I have ever made. Stephen and I are pretty darn proud of our denim baby that I’ve been called The Dream Jeanie Dress, as a nod to the late great David Bowie. This piece deserves a stage and I can’t wait to wear it on tour!!!
The rest of this post is pictures – Stephen (I told you he was brilliant) is behind the camera and his newly finished summerhouse is the PERFECT back drop. The paint is only just dry and it basically looks like we painted it to match the dress! The sunglasses suited the look far too much not to use them and it was a sunny day afterall so I decided to rock chick it up for this shoot! You may notice my bra is showing – I had to take it off for the back shots but I think I might bring up the straps a bit to reveal a little less chest or just wear it with a stripey top underneath?!
So that’s all from me folks!
I know I’m the penultimate blogger of this series which means tomorrow it’s time for Portia herself to show us what she’s been up to, I may or may not have had a sneak preview and can’t contain my excitement for you to all see her icing to this epic #jeanius cake!
I hope you are all joining in – I would totally recommend giving it a shot – you learn so much just by taking apart jeans and it’s a fantastic fabric to work with. Oh and have you seen the prizes?! DO IT NOW!! 🙂
Sew much love,
There is so much I love about this. Admittedly not everyone could pull off this look. It’s flamboyant, unique….verging on the avant-garde. Just the kind of look that Gabby rocks on stage all the time. Which is exactly why I was so excited to see her take on this challenge. And boy oh boy did she rise to this challenge. But there are so many elements to take inspiration from and use in your own makes. Detail after detail of the original jeans reworked and referenced in unexpected ways. This dress was essentially sculpted and allowed to evolve. I for one cannot WAIT to see this worn on stage!
You can find Gabby here or here. And if you’re inspired to get your refashion on and enter the Community Challenge and be in with a chance of winning some epic prizes…DO IT! Deadline for entries is 30th Sept. Midnight GMT.
….I think you’ve got the idea now right? Essentially we want you to refashion some jeans! (You can find the full details/small print of the brief here). BUT, if you want to be in with a chance of winning one of these amazing prize packages you need to SHARE that refashion with us in one of the following ways:
- On Instagram: Share a pic using the hashtags #therefashioners2016 and #jeanius
- On Pinterest: There is a community board here where you can pin your makes. (You will need to request an invite to join)
- On Facebook: There is a community board here where you can post your makes (You will need to request an invite to join)
Only entries shared via the above 3 methods will be entered into the competition. Closing date for entries is 30th September 2016 Midnight GMT. Good luck!!