Friday 15 February 2013

Refashion Friday: Interview with Refashionista Miss P

(All images in this post are care of Miss P except those acredited to alternative sources)

Something a little different for today's edition of Refashion Friday: an in-depth interview with the deeply talented refashioner Miss P! Enjoy... You can thank us later!

1) Refashioning, up cycling, remaking, reworking.... How would you describe what you do and/or what term do you use?

I think any of these terms are equally valid. I tend not to get hung up on putting things in boxes :) Essentially it's the process of taking a garment that, as it stands, just doesn't work for you. Whether that be size, style, colour, whatever. Then it's figuring out what you can do to make that garment more "you". Sometimes it's as simple as shortening something, dyeing it, or adding something like an embellishment of some kind (applique, embroidery,buttons etc) that speaks to your sense of personal style. (We all know about your love of anchors Zoe! ;) Sometimes it's more involved and means totally deconstructing the garment  and putting it back together in a totally new way. Using the fabric from a skirt to make a top for instance.

2) What proportion of your sewing projects are refashions compared to projects that start with a piece of fabric? 

I'd say it's a 60/40 split with refashioning projects in the lead! My refashioning "queue" is usually much longer than my dressmaking queue!

3) What appeals to you about refashioning?  

Several things really. When I first started learning to sew, I found that deconstructing a garment taught me as much about how a garment is constructed as making something from scratch did. When you first look at a commercial pattern as a "newbie" it's difficult to see each step in the context of a finished garment. That takes time and several projects to achieve. Deconstructing existing garments helped me to put the steps I was learning in dressmaking in context. Does that makes sense? It's another way of viewing the process. Working backwards and breaking a garment down from the finished garment back to the original pattern pieces is another way of making sense of it. Or maybe my brain is just wired in a weird way!

Another element is the creativity that starts to flow from "thinking outside the box" and the challenge around working with what you have rather than just going out and buying what you need. I feel much more creative when I'm refashioning than I do simply following a set of instructions in a commercial pattern.

Then there's the "fast fix" you can get from a refashioned garment. Garments from scratch typically take several hours of work, whereas you can refashion a garment dramatically within half an hour. Small changes can make a massive difference and it's a great way of getting that creative "fix" when time is tight. Let's face it, time is ALWAYS tight.

It's cheaper than buying a pattern and all the material and notions you need for a dressmaking project (why is it that non sewers seem to think that making your own clothes is a cheap alternative to RTW??!) and there's the added ecological benefits of reusing existing materials. I also have this "thing" where I  can't bear to throw something away when whatever is "wrong" with it is fixable. There's a sense of satisfaction to be had from giving a new lease of life to something destined for the shredders of the textile recycling plant!

4) Where do you source your 'raw materials' and what do you look for when selecting a garment to refashion? 

Anyone who reads my blog will know my obsession with charity shops! (Just look at her recent scores pictured above!) I'm lucky enough to live in a place that has "old school" charity shops. The kind that pile it high and sell it cheap. Thrifting heaven! Larger chains of charity shops and those in big towns or cities are more inclined to over price in my view. The best kind of charity shops, in my experience, are the independent ones, and those in smaller, more rural towns and villages. Church jumble sales are also brilliant. But beware pensioners with walking sticks and sharp pokey elbows!

I tend to buy according to the quality and quantity of fabric in a garment first, colour and pattern second, and style last. I can change the style, and in some cases the colour, but if the fabric is nasty then it's an absolute no go for me. Buying second hand means you can afford more luxury fabrics like silk and pure wool, so my radar is firmly set for those types of fabric! Heavily gathered skirts are great sources of fabric. Once you cut off the waistband and spread the whole thing out, you'd be amazed how much fabric there is to work with. Similarly, looking at larger sizes than your own on a rail is worthwhile. Again, there'll be more fabric to work with and taking something in is much easier than making it bigger. When it comes to trousers, for the most part I'll only buy them if they fit me in the waist, hips and bum. I can easily reshape the legs but usually can't be arsed to faff around unpicking a waistband or crotch seam! Dresses are great too. Again, alot of fabric AND ripe for a 2 for 1 refashion. Chop it in half and make a skirt AND a top. Especially good for the recent peplum trend.

5) How do you approach a refashioning project? 

With some garments, I know right away what I'm going to do with them. If I find a pair of jeans that fit me up top but are a dodgy shape in the leg, well they instantly get "skinnified" for instance. With others I will fall in love with the fabric but not have a clue what to do with it. I'll tend to hang those garments in plain view in my sewing room so I walk past them every day. Eventually inspiration will strike!

When I look at a garment I tend to take my minds eye out of focus a bit. I always describe it as being a bit like those magic eye pictures that were around in the 80's. You know the ones? When you look at them normally they're just a mess, but if you stare at them for long enough a picture emerges? Refashioning's a bit like that for me. I tend to look past the garment in it's current form and think of it in terms of raw materials. Then I'll work out what existing seams I can work with and which I can't. I'll use pattern pieces to recut the fabric in some instances. In other cases I'll use another garment as a template. Occasionally I'll pin it to fit and mark new seams that way. It's a bit of a nightmare to explain actually because there isn't a "set" process I follow. It's very much led by the garment itself.

What I have started doing since the advent of Pinterest (man oh man I LOVE Pinterest!) is scouring the web for images of garments that I think could be recreated through refashioning processes. So I have a "source book" of inspiration, ready and waiting.

6) What would you say are your favourite refashions you've completed? 

My favourite projects are usually my most recent ones. I'm fickle like that! The top that I made from an 80's dress (pictured at the top of this post) has become a wardrobe staple. Simply because I love the colour, the supersoft fabric, and the simple shape is really versatile. Also because I made this top from my kimono tee pattern, it was drafted to my specific measurements and as a result is a perfect fit! A seamstresses holy grail!

I also really love the monochrome magic shirt refashion I did recently (pictured above). It's a classic example of how a few simple changes can change something from bland to funky in a few simple steps. I simply changed the buttons, the collar shape and added some contrast binding. The whole thing took less than an hour but the results are dramatically different from the original garment.

Sometimes I like to take an entire outfit bought from a charity shop, that is baggy and shapeless and completely transform it (see below). I recently did a refashion like this on a baggy pair of purple jeans (Zoe may recognise them from a thrifting trip we made together in Leigh on Sea in Essex!) and an 80's oversized black silk blouse. I think you'll agree the transformation is pretty dramatic! I've never actually worn the top, but sometimes I just like to try these things out for the hell of it; to see if I can make an idea work. The jeans are in constant rotation though!

Recently I've been dabbling with tea and coffee dying too. I've been super chuffed with the results! Quick, easy and cheap. My kind of refashioning!!

7) Can you share with us some of your favourite refashions by other people? 

Wow, there's so much refashioning inspiration out there! I'm a big fan of a blog called Cotton and Curls. Apart from being ridiculously gorgeous she's also super talented and clever and could make a bin bag look stylish. I know, you hate her already, right?! But seriously, You can find all of her DIY tutorials here but what I really love about them is their simplicity. I'm a fan of simplicity in all things. I don't like overly fussy design or tutorials and this is a great blog to check out if you're like me in that way!

Now Casey, let's talk about Casey! Well I just love her really. Not in a creepy stalky way I promise! I've had a few dealings with Casey over the past few years and she really is as sweet as she seems. But in particular I was bowled over by the refashion that she did (pictured below) for my Refashioners challenge a couple of years ago. (actually ALL of the refashions for that challenge were super cool and inspirational. How hot did Zoe make a tartan kilt look, hmmm?!) The suit that I sent Casey was borderline irretrievably naff. But just look at what she did with it. Amazing!!

(Image care of Casey)

Seriously too, and I'm not just blowing smoke up her ass because I'm appearing on her blog, I promise. But Zoe's sweatshirt refashions are really floating my boat at the moment. Frustratingly I can't seem to find a single sweatshirt in my local charity shops that would fit the bill. (I'm looking for grey, burgundy, khaki, or navy. You'd think there would be loads wouldn't you?!) Sweatshirts are set to make a fashion comeback big time and I'm desperate to replicate (OK, shamelessly rip off...) some of Zoe's designs. In particular the ones with contrast, patterned and lace shoulder panels. Lovin' that look. Of course the beauty of sweatshirt material is it's not going to fray so you can cut into it without fear. No need for hemming or seam finishing if you're not inclined to do so AND if you find a super XL man's sweatshirt to work with (charity shops, are you taking note?! Sort it out!) then there's shed loads of fabric to work with.

8) A couple of years ago you created a refashioning challenge for bloggers called The Refashioners, which I was lucky enough to be involved in. What inspired you to create that challenge? Did the outcomes surprise you? What kind of reaction did the challenge receive? 

Ahh, I loved that challenge! I really need to get my ass in gear and sort another one out! The idea behind it was really to inspire people to get into refashioning and to reach an audience of sewers who may not have considered refashioning as a creative outlet. Apart from yourself (high priestess of refashioning that you are. Don't argue. You are) I deliberately approached bloggers that were known predominantly for dressmaking rather than refashioning and that I knew to be really creative. My reasoning was that if I stuck purely to refashioning bloggers, then by definition, their readers would be into refashioning already, and we'd simply be "preaching to the converted". I wanted to widen the appeal to as many sewers as possible who might not have been bitten by the refashioning bug, and inspire those that already are into refashioning, with exciting new ideas. The participants, Karen Casey, Tilly, Dixie and yourself certainly didn't disappoint. I sometimes feel that refashioning is seen as the poor relation to traditional dressmaking. Somehow requiring less skill. All of the refashions in that challenge proved the complete opposite and hopefully inspired a whole new bunch of peops to give refashioning a go. The response was certainly phenomenal. Those posts are still getting regular page views over 18 months later.

(image care of Tilly)

9) Refashioning projects seem to form a relatively small proportion of the creations shared on the online sewing community. Would you agree with that? And if so, why do you think that is? 

I DO feel that in some respects, refashioning has very much been the "underdog" in relation to traditional dressmaking. Almost as if it's not "proper" sewing. But having said that, I think this is changing rapidly. There's a massive resurgence in the popularity of DIY overall and upcycling in particular. I think refashioning is benefiting from the knock on effects of this and examples of refashioning that I'm seeing online are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Almost art like. It is becoming much more credible.

10) what do you think is the future of refashioning? 

Really exciting! When you look at the current economic climate and our increasing ecological awareness, then combine that with an emerging interest in DIY and upcycling; surely that's a perfect environment for a refashioning revolution?!

Massive thanks to Miss P for taking the time to answer all these questions so damn thoroughly. I don't know about everyone else but I am feeling so inspired to do some refashioning now!


Unknown said...

This is a great interview :)
I love other people's ideas and thoughts on refashioning.. but everytime I try mine don't really turn out :/ hrmm

Tilly said...

Fantastic interview! I love Portia's refashions so it's great to read about her reasoning and passion behind them. xx

Anonymous said...

Great interview-- thanks for sharing! Miss P's refashions (and the others pictured here) are amazing and completely inspiring!

didyoumakethat said...

Two of my favourite ladies in one place.

Marie said...

This was bloody brilliant thanks so much for sharing! As you know, I'm a huge fan of you both ;o) Portia, I hope you bring back The Refashioners again...what an incredible challenge. And yes, I still drool over Casey's 40s suit!!!

Charity Shop Chic (Sally) said...

A really interesting interview, thanks! You both raise some great points.

Totally agree (as a 'full time' refashionista) that refashioning seems to be considered the underdog. Perhaps people don't realise that there are people out there doing complex and sophisticated refashioning projects, Portia being a case in point. Without wishing to toot my own horn, I recently refashioned a rather ugly shirt into a Chanel-inspired jacket ( which I like to think is both complex and sophisticated! One sewing blogger I admire recently described refashioners as "I cut six inches off my skirt and oh look I made a new outfit" or something similar - that hurt!

I followed Portia's 'The Refashioners' challenge series with delight, partially because it brought refashioning to the audience of mainstream dressmaking blogs. Would love to have had the chance to participate, maybe Portia will consider me next time? Perhaps it would help bring mainstream dressmaking to the attention of refashioning blog readers! ;-)

Come to that, perhaps I should start my own blogger refashioning challenge series?! Wonder if anyone would be interested...?

Helen said...

Great post! As a follower of Miss P for a while now (think she was the first blog I stumbled upon) , it's really interesting to discover her thought process. I would love to do more (some) refashioning, but struggle because a) I struggle with the "vision" b) I am a shopper who goes for colour first and foremost and c) (the main one) I just don't have time to spend rummaging through charity shops. Far quicker to nip to a fabric store where it's almost guaranteed to fund something I can use. I so wish I'd discovered this when I was young, free and single!

But I absolutely continue to be inspired and to appreciate what you achieve, so thank you!

Unknown said...

One of the best interviews I've read in a long time.

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