The Refashioners 2016: Rosie

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie MartinI was really excited when Portia got in touch asking whether I’d be up for taking part in the refashioners challenge this year. I’m not much of a refashioner. Like – At. All. I’m very comfortable buying a nice big piece of fabric – often much more than I need in fact – and molding it into whatever I want. But I love a mass-participation project, I really enjoyed watching Portia’s 2015 shirt challenge unfold, and I had the niggling feeling that I was avoiding refashioning cos it involved being more resourceful and creative than I actually was. So I decided to jump right in.

After Portia let us know that the challenge would be all about jeans, I started collecting inspiration on Pinterest  and thinking about what I’d like to make. This (00 Denim array) image of a pile of jeans became my key source of inspiration.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

All those slightly different shades and tones of blue look so beautiful together. I was struggling to think of what garment I could make that I would actually wear that could be made from lots of small pieces of fabric. This image made me think I could use strips from different pairs of jeans to create a colour gradient. In a way, I’d be creating myself a nice big sheet of fabric, just made out of smaller bits of fabric pieced together.

My first major challenge became getting my hands on jeans. I don’t wear blue jeans and a pair of jeans in a London charity shop costs anywhere between £5 and £8 pounds. I calculate I’d need at least 7 pairs of jeans, and spending that much money seemed to not be in the spirit of this thrifty project. I tried to strike a deal in a charity shop in Chichester, asking if I could buy 10 pairs of jeans for £15 but they were having none of it and I left feeling a bit embarrassed – like I had just asked them if I could steal money from someone with cancer. The shame.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

I had 2 massive laundry bags of homemade clothing that I didn’t want sitting at home. I sewed 86 garments for my first book alone, none of them fitted me and they were just taking up space in my tiny flat. I had been meaning to book a collection from the amazing charity TRAID  so I emailed and asked them if they would consider swapping my handsewn garments for a pile of unwanted jeans from their stores. They kindly agreed to my proposition and one of their trucks stopped by my house to exchange the goods. They had very generously stuffed a huge bag full of blue jeans for me, and the truck driver swung my bags of clothing up into the belly of the truck and off they sailed into the sunset to be upcycled themselves into something wonderful no doubt.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

The jeans were all massive! Not just in their size, but in their style. My boyfriend suggested this is probably why they have been rejected in these days of skinny and slim fitting legwear. Most of the jeans were dark or mid blue, so inspired by Portia’s suggestion of using bleach, I set to work creating some lighter shades.Here is my first lot of jeans soaking in bleach.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

From this first bleaching session, I learned that jeans need a lot of water to move around in whilst bleaching. These jeans came out very patchy where different surfaces had been touching each other. I also learned that a world of sins can be hidden by the indigo dye of denim. Lots of them had looked perfectly clean whilst dark blue, but once pale showed dark spots and stains. I started to get a feel for the past lives of this cast of trousers.

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

For my next bleaching session I cut off all the unwanted parts of the jeans – the waistbands and front pockets – divided them into individual legs and cut up the inside seams.

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

I’d like to say that was my last bleaching session… But it wasn’t. I did 5 batches of bleaching all in all. I started to feel extremely bad for the oceans and rivers as I tipped yet another tub of bleachy water down my drain. I wondered if maybe I had missed the point of upcycling, which is to work with what you have rather than force an idea. A lesson to be applied to my next upcycling project! Now it was on to the pattern.

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

I chose the Inari dress as I wanted something with a simple design and a bold shape that would really let the denim do the talking. I hadn’t made th Inari before and I spent so much time bleaching that I ran out of time to make a toile. I spent a lot of time on the internet reading about everyone else’s Inaris (if you have made an Inari and blogged it  have probably read about it!) and decided to trace the pattern off grading to a larger size at the hips as recommended by Heather.  I measured the length of the longest pattern piece, laid my jeans legs out in a rough gradient and calculated how deep each strip would have to be to make up the full length of the dress. Refashioners 2016 - Rosie MartinI measured, marked and cut out all my strips (8.5cm deep in case you are wondering!).

I was actually creating a lot of waste! This was another moment where I thought maybe I was missing some of the purpose of upcycling; to use what you have wisely, rather than to throw stuff away. Again, a lesson noted for the future.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

Before sewing, I numbered all my strips with tailor’s chalk so I wouldn’t get mixed up. I also remembered some advice from a quilting tutorial I watched a long time ago, which recommended sewing seams in alternate directions when joining long strips together, so that the resulting sheet of fabric wouldn’t become twisted. I drew little chalk arrows along my seams to remind myself which direction I had sewn in.

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin


The fabric was starting to take shape and I was loving it. So was my neighbor’s cat, Dave.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin


I cut the front piece of the dress and was pretty pleased with the gradient effect.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin


Construction of the dress itself was very simple, though I had to do a lot of readjustment of the width of my denim strips so they aligned at the side seams. The inside of my dress is pretty messy as I don’t have an overlocker. But I kind of like it!The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin


And I love, love, LOVE the finished dress. It feels strong and it feels special. It is incredibly comfy and the natural affinity of denim with workwear means it doesn’t feel showy, which is exactly what I want from a dress.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie MartinIn a conversation I had with Sarah from TRAID, she said “I love working with reclaimed denim, it has such integrity.” What a great description of this incredible material.  It really took some manhandling when sewing, and my finished dress feels sturdy, like it can undergo a lifetime of wear.

The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin

I’m feeling proud that I have rescued some of this wonderful fabric from unloved jeans and turned them into something durable that has real longevity. I’ve learned a lot about upcycling from this challenge, so thanks for having me Portia, and I look forward to seeing all the other creations this years refashioners inspires.The Refashioners 2016 - Rosie Martin


Wow, wow, wow! What a way to let the fabric do the talking. And the subtle  hues of those blues and that ombre effect is completely beautiful!  You can apply this technique to any number of patterns. Essentially you’re just creating a large expanse of fabric from several smaller pieces before you start. But when you’re piecing a garment like this, you are adding bulk in the process. The trick Rosie has employed here is to keep the shape simple and let the piecing and ombre effect do the talking. It just works, right? LOVE this!

Rosie has just released her second book and I can attest, it’s brilliant!! You can find  Rosie 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.

The Refashioners 2016 - Huge Prize Package

….I think you’ve go 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.

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  1. Meg August 1, 2016


  2. Helen in the UK August 1, 2016

    Fabulous dress from unwanted jeans. Why not contact TRAID again and give them the weblink to the makery site and let them know about the jeans upcycling project 🙂

  3. Wendy W August 1, 2016

    What a stunning start Rosie I love this. Great story about how it came into existence too!

  4. kathryn August 1, 2016

    This is brilliant, what an amazing effect! I really enjoyed reading Rosie’s analysis and thoughts on her refashioning experience too.

  5. Edina August 1, 2016

    This looks amazing!

  6. Sue August 1, 2016

    I really love the simplicity of the shape combined with the variety of blues! So wearable

  7. houseofpinheiro August 1, 2016


  8. Audrey August 1, 2016

    Wow! Just wow! I love what you did, and how your garment will last for a very long time!

  9. Melissa August 1, 2016

    What a fantastic refashion! It is stunning and very inspiring!

  10. Jane August 1, 2016

    Wow! What a fabulous start to the challenge, I absolutely love your dress Rosie! xx

  11. Kelly August 1, 2016

    Beautiful dress. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, doubts, lessons throughout the process.

  12. Lisa G. August 1, 2016

    This looks so nice! And so much work for you, what with all the bleaching. But it’s great.

  13. Deb Nev August 1, 2016

    Me too, what a totally fab dress!

  14. Michele August 1, 2016

    This is absolutely amazing. I just love your creative use of the jeans and bleaching them to get all those lovely gradients of colour was inspired. I love the pattern you picked for the use of your newly created fabric. You did a wonderful job and the dress is stunningly gorgeous. Cheers and happy sewing, Michele

  15. Mary August 1, 2016

    This is a fabulous, yet everyday wearable dress. Very inspiring. I thought that jean weight denim would have been too stiff for a dress but I’m wrong. Really great ideas; the color strips and the style of the dress. Well done.

  16. Lisa E Pelt August 1, 2016

    I love it.

  17. nicola August 2, 2016

    im a newbie to sewing but both started a garment on denim. i originally received denim from a neighbour. i used the denim to cover a sofa. denim has a great feel for this. i no longer have the sofa. im refashioning the denim. i deconstructed every pair of jeans, taking off zips, pockets, hems….without giving away my idea….i also constructed a full circle dress using pieces of material bought at a car boot, the material being childrens clothing, mens shirts, etc and created the dress from all the pieces, a bit like a jigsaw. i made six A line with one layer skirt from all of this material…very pleased. at the mo i am constructing a monkey and a teddy from used socks, lovely soft material to work with. hope you like my recycling ideas

  18. Linda August 2, 2016

    Looks great. I like the inside too!

  19. Helen August 2, 2016

    Oh wow! This is just amazing. What a brilliant and creative idea.

  20. Helen S August 3, 2016

    No one could accuse you of not putting much effort into this challenge. Enjoyed reading your comments on the process.

  21. dr P August 4, 2016

    How many pairs of jeans were used in the making of this dress?? Surely this is the opposite of what refashioning is about?

    • Portia Lawrie August 4, 2016

      Hey Dr P, well I guess that depends on what you perceive refashioning to be about? Since you haven’t stated specifically why the number of jeans used is a problem, let me TRY and read between the lines and address some of the points you may or may not be alluding to. Based on what I commonly hear people saying about refashioning. 1) The dictionary definition of refashion is to “give new form to something”. Nothing more nothing less. Any other perceptions about conditions or restrictions that apply to refashioning are more to do with an individuals self imposed restrictions or motivations for refashioning. 2)I’m not sure from your comment if you read the post but as stated, the jeans used here had been deemed unsuitable for resale in a charity shop so were destined either for landfill or recycling. Each of which has their own environmental impact. Not to mention that Rosie traded 50+ garments that could be sold for 7 garments that couldn’t be sold. So I think the maths there works out too. 3) The purpose of this series is to inspire and encourage people to look at reusing old clothing and textiles that at first glance seem to have no appeal or use, and see the potential in them. These projects are not meant to be reproduced or copied verbatim but rather inspire an idea. There is a “takeaway” to be had in each post. in this case the idea of combining smaller, less useful strips of fabric to create a larger more useful piece of fabric. This post should not be interpreted as “go buy seven pairs of jeans and make this dress” but rather “re use/combine smaller less useful pieces of garments/fabric to make a useable piece”. If you have seven pairs of jeans that are no use, great! If not, look at what you have got to reuse and adapt the idea. Hope that answers your question in some way 🙂

      • dr P August 4, 2016

        Thanks for the reply

        • Portia Lawrie August 4, 2016

          You’re welcome 🙂

  22. Abbey August 5, 2016

    This is AMAZING!!!!!! Love the finished look. Sorry to hear to process took longer than initially anticipated.

  23. Sasha August 7, 2016

    Gorgerous! … simply gorgerous !!!

  24. Francesca August 9, 2016

    wow, this is amazing! And now I know you’re the rosie whose book I just bought:). Looking forward to it even more now – it looks so clever! I didn’t get the first because it seemed to be very much how I work when i don’t use patterns – but the bit I’ve seen online told me book 2 would be incredibly useful.


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