Refashioner2017 entry #suitsyou #therefashioners2017

Over the last few weeks I have been seriously admiring the inventive and stylish makes popping up on instagram for the refashioner competition set by Portia from Makery. I had no plan to enter until I had an idea that wouldn’t go away. I am busy working on my Vintage pledge that I made when I was gifted a big bundle of vintage patterns earlier in the year. And life in general is quite hectic with a job, a business and two little monkeys to look after.

The idea happened when the weather started to become a bit more Autumnal. I am one of those people that is permanently cold so any temperature below 18 degrees the slippers are on and several woolly jumpers. Naturally my making ponders turned to warmer clothes like jackets and cardigans. Recently in my sewing classes I have helped my lovely young 16 year old customer Rashmi turn her Grandmothers vintage sari into a kimono jacket. We took our time to make the pattern cater for the lovely golden border and utilize the trim which was different on each side of the sari. The kimono was stunning when she finished. I particularly liked the way the square edge of the border framed the jacket front and decided I may need to search out some vintage saris!

Then the idea came along…perhaps I could make a boxy kimono jacket with wide sleeves so it could be worn with long sleeve jumpers underneath. I could cut a border for the jacket that looked like the golden trim on Rashmi’s sari. But what would I make it in? I had a look through my stash and through the fabrics in my shop, but nothing seemed right for the idea. One factor I wanted with the fabric choice was a basic colour like grey or navy that would work with whatever I was wearing underneath. This was when the mans suit idea dropped in and seemed the perfect solution. Grey and medium weight!

I knew I was unlikely to have time to venture to the shops so I ran a search on eBay for used grey wool suits under £10. There was a lot of choice and I even found a buy one get one free secondhand suit jacket offer. I ended up with a suit and three suit jackets. I chose wool because I prefer natural fibres but also as I was buying from the internet I felt they may be closer in weight and handle which was quite important as they were ultimately going to become one garment.

My original plan was to use the back of the jackets to make each of the large panels – front, back and sleeves. Then I was going to use the sleeves and trouser legs for the border.

I drafted a pattern for the jacket and made a calico toile. I wanted a fairly cropped style, with squared front hem, dipping at the back with wide cropped sleeves. I was very lucky that it was right first time. I did pin it and mess about with it because I felt it wasn’t right to except the first toile with no amendments. But in the end I realised I was being a bit silly.

I was a bit naughty with the jackets, I throw them all in the washing machine on a cool wash. I decided the worst that might happen was the lapels might become misshapen and not sit properly afterwards, but that didn’t matter to much as I wasn’t planning to use them. When it came to working out where to cut each piece I noticed the darts and centre back seams in the jackets. I hadn’t taken this into account. I wanted a clean simple Japanese inspired look and I thought the seam lines might distort and spoil the shape of the jacket.

So I decided to take probably the most labour intensive route…always a good idea when you have limited time!! I cut the sleeves from the jackets and started to cut 18cm x 5cm strips to make brick patchwork. I cut 180 strips and began sewing them together. This took a looooonnnnggggggg time and several late nights. I was hideously bored of under pressure patchwork by the time I stitched the last piece.

I carefully cut the fronts, back and sleeve panels out of the patched and pressed panels. I cut the border panels from the trouser legs and the remaining parts of the jackets. It was quite useful to have chosen stripes and checks as I was able to use the pattern to keep on grain as much as possible.

I deliberately kept some clues of the former life of the garment, like this buttonhole. I had intended to cut shaped pieces so that the side seams would blend together as if cut from one circular piece. However I had started to lose the will while burning the midnight oil to get the patches sewn together so that didn’t happen.

A small part of a jacket welt pocket is just peeping out here near the side seam another clue to its former life.  Initially I thought I would have enough suit left to make another item or two. I wanted the pattern variation which was why I bought three jackets and a suit. Oddly I did use the majority of the suit and jackets with not much left to spare at all. I played around with cutting the striped suits vertically and horizontally to create more variation in the pattern.

Contructing the jacket was super simple and a real joy after all that patchwork.

I made a duplicate jacket in copper lining fabric. I found the fabric in a bag that someone had given me, it smelt of moth balls but that washed away easily. It seemed an appropriate choice to use this vintage lining in an up-cycled jacket. The final part was to place the lining and the outer together with wrong sides matched and stitch together. I then joined the edging bands and placed right sides together on the edges of the jacket and the same with the sleeve bands. The other side of the band was placed right sides together on the outer edge of the band, stitched and turned to the inside. I hand finished the inner edge.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the process of making the jacket. The light isn’t the best in the wee small hours and as I was feeling determined to meet the closing date deadline time was a bit to limited to stop and take pictures along the way. I have no idea if this is even a worthy competition entry as I have used multiple suit jackets.

Overall I am really pleased with the jacket and I will definitely be wearing it. I am pleased I finished it, entry or not because I think it might definitely have laid in one of my many unfinished project boxes for a long time if I hadn’t tried to meet the comp closing date.

At the end of the day these unloved jackets and suit have now found some new love.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...


  1. Jenny Ryerson on October 30, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I absolutely love this jacket – It’s simple and yet so eye catching. You did a great job with it!

    • Julia Claridge on October 30, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Jenny Thanks so much, it was a great challenge so nice to see everyone’s different take on it!

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