Refashioners: making a suit…..into a suit

As I mentioned in my October makes post, one of the makes that took up quite a lot of time was my suit refashion, which is my entry for the Refashioners 2017. I joined in 2 years ago and refashioned 2 men’s shirts (1 & 2) and wanted to join in last year but family events took over and I didn’t get around to it, so I was very keen to take part this year. When I was at home in August, I suddenly had the thought that it would be nice to use one of my dad’s suits rather than a random suit from a charity shop (though perhaps I would have been more adventurous if the suit had been more anonymous?!) so I asked my mum if she still had any of my dad’s suits (he was in a care home at this point). She had one still in the wardrobe – she had got rid of most of them quite a few years ago, when he stopped having a job that required wearing a suit every day. It was a St Micheal’s one (which I think is a Marks and Spencers brand) and it was apparently made in Israel.


Although my Dad had been ill for a long time – he had a rare degenerative brain disease called Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) for quite a few years, I obviously did not think that by the time I refashioned the suit he would no longer be with us. So this refashion became even more poignant to me than it would have been. I’m a little sad that he won’t see me wearing his suit, but c’est la vie.

My Dad wasn’t a huge man, so I was a little shocked by just how big the suit was on me – though I am small I suppose.

 

The first thing I did was to unpick the vast majority of the seams – and man did it take a long time! It was my occupation while watching TV in the evenings for about 2 weeks. I even took a picture of all the thread I removed (with pin cushion for scale)!

And this is the pile of pieces.

I unpicked everything from the trousers – side seams, inner leg seams, the fly, the zip and the waist band. I even managed to pry off the metal hook above the zip to use again later. The only things I left were the pockets and I wanted to use them in the new trousers. With the jacket I similarly unpicked everything – I removed the lining, the took the sleeves off both lining and shell, unpicking the underarm seam; I unpicked the side seams of both lining and shell; the shoulder seams; and I unpicked all parts of the collar. I also removed the shoulder pads and removable canvas around the shoulders – most of the interfacing and the like I left as I was remaking a jacket, so it saved me a job!

And this is the finished suit! I’m pretty pleased if I’m being totally honest. And I think I’ve been bitten a bit by a tailoring bug and would like to make a proper jacket from scratch to see all the processes I was able to skip by virtue of them already being done.

I thought I would go into detail about the trousers first, then the jacket, as that’s the order I re-made the suit in.

I used the Simplicity 1696 pattern as I knew I would be able to just about get them to fit me as I have made the pattern once before. As you can see below, I did extend them a little higher in the waist as I wanted to keep the full pockets, and although the trousers were quite big on me, I couldn’t bring the pattern piece to the top of the original trousers as the crotch curve wouldn’t have fit. After taking so much off the legs of the pattern the last time, I decided to narrow the legs at the pattern stage – though I ended up taking them in too much, so I had to reduce the seam allowance to 0.5cm to make them not skin tight!

I made the size 14 as before, and did quite a bit of fiddling with the crotch curve. I took 4cm in total off the back seam, including the waistband (which is the original waistband of the trousers, and the original waistband facing) and had to take 2cm off both crotch curves (front and back) – I think that’s what they’re called? I kept basting the seams, then trying them on, then unpicking them, then repeating the whole process until I thought it was good enough. They’re not perfect, but I didn’t want to over-fit them and make them uncomfortable to sit down in, which is always a worry!

Men’s pockets are soooo huge! I’ve got other ready to wear things (and probably things I’ve sewn) with teeny tiny pockets – pockets too small to fit an iPhone. But I can get half my arms in these pockets! I’m very glad I kept them. Also it’s so quick to sew a pair of trousers when the pockets are already done!

I did do a totally new fly, though I used the original zip. I had to slightly fudge the fly piece and the fly shield as because I had made them more high-waisted than in the orignal pattern, the pieces weren’t tall enough to reach the waist band. The original fly and fly shield were much thinner than the ones for this pattern, so I used the pieces I had cut off the bottoms of the trouser legs to make new pieces. It pretty much worked, and you can’t see any of the McGyvering on the outside.

One of the things I’m proudest of is managing to keep this metal clasp – I bent the prongs that went through the waistband facing to get it off, then poked it through once Id finished the trousers, when I knew it would be in the right place. The hook part of the clasp stayed where it was from the original waistband – I just made sure I used that end in the right place and trimmed the excess off the other side (and from the back seam too) so I could keep the metal thingy.

The original waistband facing (and the pocket bags) are made from this weird cream fabric, as shown above. The facing must be interfaced as it’s quite thick (unless they’re 2 different cream fabrics). Anyone know why it would be so contrast-y? Also there was a gusset from the same fabric in the seat of the trousers, but I did not put that back in as it looked a little worse for wear (gross!).

I also managed to keep the one back pocket, though I definitely think it could have been placed better! I cut out the 2 back pieces at the same time, for speed, but didn’t really take into consideration where this pocket was and made it so I was worried it was going to disappear into the side seam. Luckily there’s only one, so it’s not like one is perfect and the other one is around the side, so hopefully it isn’t as noticeable as I think it is!

Even after cutting off a chunk of the length of the trousers when I trimmed the legs to match the Simplicity pattern, I still had to shorten them by 8cm to get the ankle length hem I was after. I cut off 6cm and left myself 2cm for a double folded hem. I hemmed them on the machine, but I’m temped to unpick it and sew it invisibly by hand as a machine hem doesn’t fit with the style of the trousers. But they’re wearable for now.

And now onto the jacket.

I was going to use the Great British Sewing Bee Hacking Jacket as a pattern to base the jacket on, but I could not get the pattern pieces to fit. Boo. I do want to make it one day as I like the style of it, but for this jacket I decided to slightly wing it and take it in on all the seams where I had unpicked – I maybe shouldn’t have been so hasty to unpick so much!

I think it might be easier to just list all the places I took it in and by how much (in case you’re interested):

5cm off the shoulders
3cm off the side seams (initially I took off 5cm but the pockets were too much to the side so I changed it)
3cm off the back seam (in 2 chunks as I kept tweaking the adjustments)
3cm off the shoulders of the jacket (to bring the shoulder seams up from part way down my arm)
3cm off width of the sleeves
8cm off the top of the sleeves (I traced the shape of the sleeve head and moved it down the sleeve by 8cm to try to keep the button detail on the cuffs of the sleeves, but this didn’t end up working
6cm off the back of the collar

Phew! As you can imagine, this took a loooot of time and a lot of trial and error. The only new things I put in were new shoulder pads, made from wadding. The ones that I took out of the jacket were really past their best and starting to disintegrate. Also they were much too big for my re-sized suit, so it seemed easier to start again.

I made all the same adjustments, above, to the lining. I thought about fiddling with the lining first, so I only had to sew the shell once, once I knew what adjustments to make, but I figured the wool could withstand more unpicking than the lining, which isn’t the most expensive lining in the world.

I made sure to keep the front of the jacket as untouched as possible so I would be able to put the lapels and collar back, without having to know how they work! I sewed a new seam in the back of the collar piece to narrow it so it fitted between the 2 lapels. It was also an advantage to have kept the lapels as they are still pretty well presses, so they don’t want to flap so they’re flat. The notch of the collar/lapel is maybe a little high, but there wasn’t much I could do about it to be honest!

It took a lot of fiddling to get the sleeves right – that is definitely a tailoring skill that I don’t have. I kept the original sleeve head shape and size as I feared making it so small the jacket would have to shrink to fit it, and not the other way around. At one point one of the sleeves was pretty twisted, because there are 2 seams on the sleeve (only one of which I unpicked and took in) and I had lined up the wrong one with the seam on the jacket. It did not feel right! As I mentioned above, I was hoping to keep the button detail on the cuff, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it – and, to be honest, I was running out of time for the deadline! It would have taken a lot more brain than I had at the time to figure out how to re-attach the lining to the button thing, so I got rid of the whole thing and just did a normal hem/lining seam.

The back is maybe the least successful part – but maybe it just needs a good press? I tried to shape the back so it wasn’t quite so straight, but each time I basted it, it looked wrong, so I reverted to a straighter shape – and I’m glad I did as it’s more in keeping with the original style of the jacket. I also managed to keep the 2 vents at the back, which was, again, a headache to work out how to put the lining back in. I wish I had taken photos as I was unpicking as then I would have know how various bits looked before and would have had an idea of how to put it all back.

I’m glad I managed to keep all the pockets – on the outside and in the lining – as they keep the jacket looking quite like the original, and I didn’t have to sew any pockets! Hurray!

The final change I made was to shorten the jacket by 6cm, leaving a 3cm hem (which is how much hem was on the shell before), then the lining was shorter and neatened the whole thing. I was slightly shocked when the lining actually fit the shell, when I went to sew them together again. I bagged it out, unpicking a seam in the side of the lining, then stitching it back by hand once the jacket was turned around. I used this tutorial from Grainline for attaching the lining at the cuffs.

I have resewn the buttons since I took these photos, by the way – you can see below that they absolutely do not line up! It was very late and I was rushing to finish and take photos before the deadline of midnight on the 31st October!

I even managed to reuse the same hook for the back of the jacket. And this is the original hanger the suit was on – I assume my Dad stole it at some point! 🙂

These are all the scraps I have left over after all of the changes I made. It doesn’t look like too much, but I will try to use these up at some point to make the refashion a little lest wasteful. No idea what I’ll use them for, though!

I definitely want to have a go at a proper tailored jacket, from start to finish. Maybe I’ll see if there is an online course or something, so I’ll learn some tricks of the trade. I’m pretty please with how this turned out and I’ve already worn the trousers to work a couple of times. I think the jacket will be a nice warm layer now the weather is getting colder! I have some nice thick jumpers but most of my cardigans are pretty thin, so I think this jacket will see quite a lot of wears when it’s too cold for a cardigan, or over a jumper when it’s really cold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s