The Refashioners 2017 – Me!

Ok then! Grab a seat and a coffee. We’re in for the long haul here! I have 2 completed refashions for you and 2 WIPS. Probably a shed load of excuses but most importantly lots of tips, tricks and detail on the challenges I encountered and my methods to overcome them.  Lets start with what I got finished!

In a slight departure from my usual casual style I decided fairly early on (despite some tangents in between) to go formal (ish) and that I really wanted to honour the tailoring origins of my base garment. In my youth I used to love men’s vintage waistcoats teamed with floral wide leg trousers and DMs. Yep. Total style icon. I know. (It was the 90s what can I say.) In any case I saw this as an opportunity to see if I could resurrect  that look and, well, if I could still pull it off! The Refashioners 2017 - Me


I’m a big fan of “mannish” dressing. So waistcoat it was; and along with some (not insignificant) modifications to the trousers, I had my 2 piece from a two piece…The Refashioners 2017 - MeThe Refashioners 2017 - Me

I opted to add a sliiiiiightly unconventional element to it in the form of this back panel. Cut from a techy sportswear fabric from Stoff & Stil.  The fabric itself and the abstracty camo  pattern provides a great foil/contrast to the formality of the pure wool pinstripe AND provides me with a little “give” in the back as it has a degree of stretch to it.


I tried styling this several ways. I lean more naturally to this slightly more casual way of wearing it and it’s more akin (in fact spookily similar) to how I used to wear my waistcoats back in the day…

It’s been a long time since I’ve worn anything close to as form fitting as this so I am well and truly out of my comfort zone in that sense. But in other ways it’s like “Ah! hello old friend!” I really did used to live in these things!

But enough reminiscing! Let’s talk about how this went down!


The Suit

I picked my suit up at a local charity shop. I live rurally and there are some great bargains to be had here. So that’s tip number one for you. If you live in a big town or city…head out to the sticks. The more rural you go….the cheaper the charity shops get. And failing that check out the link to the Oxfam online discount in the sidebar 😉

This one cost me £7.50. Originally £14.99 but hadn’t sold after several weeks and so was put on the sale rail. I know alot of you have guilt about cutting up a perfectly good suit. I’ll go on the record and say I do and I don’t.  Ha! Nothing like a bit of vagueness to clear things up, lol! Let me explain…At the end of the day, by virtue of the very fact that this ended up in a charity shop, this is unwanted clothing. Someone gave it away. They didn’t want it.  In this case it then sat unsold in said charity shop for several weeks. So it seems nobody else wanted it either. Doesn’t get more unwanted and unloved than that. That’s the reason I don’t feel guilty.The Refashioners 2017 - Me


What makes me feel a little guilty is the time somebody spent making this suit and, well, I’m about to undo alot of that. It never ceases to amaze me what doesn’t get snapped up in a charity shop. It’s a beautifully made suit made from 100%  pure Italian wool. But at the end of the day, no-one wanted it. So to my mind, it was due some love and attention. But yes….hard to cut into something like this!The Refashioners 2017 - Me

And yep. The fly is undone in this pic as someone pointed out to me on Instagram! But I am wearing jeans underneath. So it’s ok. Not embarrassing at all.

Now onto the deets.

The Waistcoat

Cue gratuitous close up of my boobage. You’re welcome. But I wanted to show you the seaming and shape on this. I have never sewn a waistcoat before. I’ve only ever lined one garment properly. AND this is my first experience sewing princess seams. And I’m like….where have you BEEN all my life. They really are great for fitting on a larger bust in a way that standard darts never really have been for me…


This is the pattern in question. (New Look 6814) Yep for this element I opted for the “harvest some fabric and use a pattern” approach to refashioning. But don’t worry if you’re a purist. I adopt other approaches further on 😉 And if you’re not a purist, yes harvesting fabric is a perfectly legitimate approach to transforming a garment imho. There are many routes to the same destination 🙂 The Refashioners 2017 - Me


For the jacket I went into total deconstruction mode.  Disseminating the whole thing into it’s component parts and cutting around welt pockets and existing darts where I couldn’t unpick. I never felt at any stage a scarcity of fabric during this make. If anything I felt there were so many options it was hard to decide which route to go down because there were so many I wanted to try.  Just looking at the way some of those pieces are laying on the floor in that picture I can see options that make me want to rewind and explore those instead!The Refashioners 2017 - Me


But this is the route I took for the waistcoat so let’s talk about that. The front & side back sections are cut entirely from the sleeves. The side front section from the lower half of the back of the jacket (incidentally the largest pieces of easily usable pieces you can harvest from a jacket).The Refashioners 2017 - Me


To ensure everything was on grain (hard to do on some occasions as you have no selvedge to guide you obvs!) I made use of the pinstripe!. I knew the suit would have been cut on grain and with the pinstripe. So I used that as my guide, drew a vertical line down each pattern piece and lined it up with the pinstripe…The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Each matching sleeve piece is layered ontop of it’s counterpart, RS together to ensure that both sides of my pattern pieces were cut with equal accuracy. You’ve got accuracy inherent in a well made suit. So make use of it and take it as your guide would be my tip…The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Cutting it fine in this instance! So if you encounter this, just make sure your edges are fully lined up. If the fabric layer underneath is even a smidge out you end up with a badly cut pattern piece and there are no second go’s with a refashion!

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

The pattern called for my sections to be interfaced.  But where I ended up with original pieces of interfacing still in place, I trimmed back my own interfacing as I didn’t want to double up and over structure my garment…

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

When it came to cutting the lining I really wanted to retain some of the original details…

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

So I pieced together the pieces I wanted to use with other scraps until they were the right size/shape to fit the pattern pieces …

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Marked on my pattern pieces where I wanted the inside pockets to sit…

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

And then used that as a guide to cut my pieces…

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

The pattern calls for the same fabric as the outer shell to be used as a facing for the front section. The lining on it’s own would not be sturdy enough to perform this function and create a nice crisp and clean edge around the waistcoat front and bottom edges. So I traced, cut and applied a wide band of interfacing all around the outer edge to remedy that..

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

The rest of the construction was (more or less) as per pattern instructions. Apart from I only part “lined” that back piece (in the same stretchy fabric). Essentially just the section where the lining was meant to act as a facing to finish the back neckline and armholes. If I’d lined the back I would have negated the stretch characteristics of the back section. I thought about binding the bottom edge of the back facing for a “posher” finish but opted not to as I was concerned it would show through as a line across the back of the waistcoat when wearing. So I left it raw but it’s a non fraying fabric so we’re good!

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

I did however “go posh” for the edge lining at side back seams. This would have been attached to the lining I was meant to put in the back. But my decision not to line the back of the waistcoat left me with the dilemma of how to finish and attach that section of lining. As you can see, it’s bias bound and then hand pick stitched to the seam allowances at the back seams so everything is secure and neatly finished. A little nod to the tailor or the original suit if you like.

The Trousers

Now you might have thought that the trousers would be relatively straightforward, quick and painless to alter. But they gave me WAY more problems than they should have done. Largely down to my own “duh” stupidity. I felt hugely off my game going into this challenge. First thing I’ve sewn in weeks as we’ve just moved house. So I went into this “cold” following a lengthy sewing break. But actually, it’s pretty straightforward…The Refashioners 2017 - Me


The reason it became a bit more complex is the sheer amount of structure in a pair on man’s trousers. Awesome yes. Impressive? Absolutely! But just not comfy for me. I felt like I was wearing armoured trousers!

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

So all that structure had to go…..

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Waistband was unpicked in one section. Zip, fly, and fly shields included…

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

The front legs on these were lines and the pocket bags were made of a medium weight cotton with added wool facings. Too bulky for my liking so that all got removed too..

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

I made new pocket bags from the same fabric I used for the back of the waistcoat. Using the existing pockets as templates and mimicking their construction. Cue some pocket porn pics because a) you get a better look at that contrast fabric and b) I’m quite proud of the finish, lol!

The Refashioners 2017 - MeThe Refashioners 2017 - Me

Nice right?!!

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

I assembled the trousers adjusting for fit across the side seams and CB and CF seams until I was happy with the fit. (I actually did very little reshaping of the crotch seams as was overall happy with the fit of them weirdly enough. ) Then I inserted an invisible zip in the CB seam. (My first invisible zip and I didn’t realise I should have attached the waistband first! Which caused me a few problems but there was no way I was unpicking that invisible zip. They are NOT fun to sew. No Likey!)

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

On a man’s trousers there is a generous SA to the CB seam. This comes in handy when you’ve lopped off a big chunk of the length by cutting away the button tabs. Just saying. You can also see there is ALOT of structure in there. Canvass, interfacing, chain stitching, piping. Again….impressive but way more bulk than I want to be wrapping around my waist!

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Belt loops be gone! (Bar tacks are by far the piggiest thing to unpick in my opinion).

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Waistband pared right back. Canvas and layered facing removed…

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

It was JUST long enough to fit after all that. But I ended up cutting a new facing from some stash fabric., and had to ease like a demon.  But eventually, I won.

The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Shape wise I simply tapered from hip to ankle as it’s a shape I really love and feel comfortable in. These trousers have seen quite a bit of wear already. The process involved in these is what I would call the “adjust to fit” approach to refashioning. Not a complete transformation. But changes to suit the new wearer if that makes sense?


So at the beginning of the post I alluded to nother two elements that I haven’t finished yet. But I thought I’d share them with you anyway, at the stage they are at. In my head I write my blog posts as I sew. And the intro for this was gonna be either “a tale of two waistcoats” (gotta love a classic literary reference) OR “waistcoats two ways” a la Masterchef. (Are you watching? I’m willing Ulrika to win!)

All of that meaning…yes…I had two waistcoats on the go. The second, though, takes a slightly different route. This one has been more of a draping excercise and a piece that is evolving with no clear plan. Just seeing where the pieces of the jacket take me. I’m actually really excited about where this is heading and a little gutted I didn’t get it finished in time for this post…The Refashioners 2017 - Me


Essentially, the jacket fronts are probably the most challenging to reuse because of all the detail and structure. So I really wanted to focus a project specifically on those. Here they are. The details have been unpicked and removed but the structure is still there in the form of interfacing welded on!The Refashioners 2017 - Me


One of the reasons this one is taking a bit longer is that draping on yourself is a bit tricky. (The mannequin is nowhere near my shape and size). So I’ve been pinning it onto myself, through my clothes and onto my bra to get the positioning right. Here you can see I’ve overlapped the original dart legs by a much larger margin until it fits and follows my bust shape…The Refashioners 2017 - Me

That’s been topstitched in place and it makes for some interesting lines with the stripes I think!

That was my jumping off point, and from there I’ve been gradually adding sections of offcuts from the jacket to build up a garment shell, which I will then sew together properly and line with the remainder of the lining…The Refashioners 2017 - Me

Not sure what this will end up as. But It’s a creative process I’m really enjoying and will keep you posted. (I really need to pad that mannequin out to my shape. Would make it so much quicker!)

The other thing I’ve been playing with is the canvas I removed from the jacket fronts…The Refashioners 2017 - Me


I’ve pieced some of it together using a zig zag/butt join method until I have one larger piece to work with. It struck me that with such an obvious and clear weave (like a slightly finer Ada) it would be a good candidate for some hand embroidery. So I’ve been experimenting, using the weave as a guide for stitch counting…The Refashioners 2017 - MeThe Refashioners 2017 - MeThe Refashioners 2017 - Me

Right from the get go this make, and this post, has been like pulling teeth for me. But despite that a really enjoyable challenge. The good news is, that there is plenty of fabric to work with. If you work WITH it I think. But this one is very very time consuming. (Oh the unpicking!! Don’t start me on that!) So if you’re going to take part, get your skates on and get started.

So that’s it! That’s me done and the blogger element of this challenge done too! From now on….it’s over to you! You have until 31st October to enter . Get cracking!

If you fancy getting your refashion on, but are in two minds about whether to enter this year’s community challenge;

The Refashioners 2016 - Huge Prize Package

….If you haven’t familiarised yourself with what the actual challenge is yet, essentially we want you to refashion an old, unworn or unloved suit! Simple as that! What counts as a suit you say? Definition here!

The Refashioners 2017 - Prize Package

Man’s suit. Ladies suit. Doesn’t matter.  Interpret how you see fit. If you’re breathing new life into a suit that would otherwise go unworn or be thrown away, THAT’S what counts.

BUT, if you want to be in with a chance of winning one of these amazing prize packages you’ll need to SHARE that refashion with us in one of the following ways:

  • On Instagram: Share a pic using the hashtags #therefashioners2017  and #suitsyou
  • 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 2 methods will be entered into the competition. Closing date for entries is 31st October 2017 Midnight GMT.

Good luck!!! Get refashioning.

Oh and by the way…The Refashioners is going on the road this November!! If you fancy attending our very first “in person” workshop in London on 4th November….full deets here!!


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  1. Helen September 29, 2017

    Looks amazing, Portia! I love all of it. I remember being partial to the odd waistcoat in the 90’s too. I remember my mum making me one! And I have to say that you should give invisible zips another try. I love them – my zip of choice. My tip would be to baste it first using your normal zipper foot, before sewing again with your invisible zipper foot. X

  2. Helen September 29, 2017

    Looks amazing, Portia! I love all of it. I remember being partial to the odd waistcoat in the 90’s too. I remember my mum making me one! And I have to say that you should give invisible zips another try. I love them – my zip of choice. My tip would be to baste it first using your normal zipper foot, before sewing again with your invisible zipper foot. Xx

    • Portia Lawrie October 3, 2017

      I actually sewed this with a standard zipper foot! The bit I hated was that little section of the seam that you have to go back and stitch seperately without getting a pucker at the base of the zip. Pffft! That’s the bit I no likey! Any tips on that part gratefully received!!

  3. SJ Kurtz September 30, 2017

    I have moved my lucky waistcoat to my younger son (who is that small now) and figured I’d make myself another for this edition of Refashioners.
    Just finished my work for this, and will (in classic ErnieKD fashion) get photos this evening and write it all up at the very last minute (I’m US west coast /-8GMT) so I’m going all out to get the hindend of September 30th. Don’t let that last one go unfinished – nice thinking with the pinstripes.

  4. Wendy W September 30, 2017

    You’ve transported me right back to my early 90s waistcoat wearing days. Thankyou!!! I’d not even thought about it for decades. I love your 2 piece Portia and I’m so glad you included your WIPs they’re looking really interesting – I look forward to seeing how they develop. What a finale!!

    • Portia Lawrie October 3, 2017

      Ha! Another reason to believe we are cosmic (waistcoat) twins, lol! Thanks lovely 🙂

  5. Sue September 30, 2017

    I love your refashion! The waistcoat is such a good idea! I found this refashion quite fascinating -some of the details were so intricate. Thank you for hosting.

  6. Amaia October 8, 2017

    This is awesome!! I just entered posting my pics on IG. It really took my brain to make this piece, it was really fun!! Thanks for organizing.


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