Life’s too short for “hum-drum”

19 Feb

This is my new kimono-styled jacket, made of fabric recycled from other garments I owned, and then chopped up into pieces:

I finished it yesterday, after a week of sewing, and today I wore it out and about into the world. A woman commented “You clearly have a very unique taste.” I laughed. “Unique”, along with its partner “interesting”, is one of those words non-crafters often use to politely say “Good god, what are you wearing?”
But this time, the compliment was sincere. The woman continued “You don’t see things like that, very often. Mostly you see the same old hum-drum grey and tan and black, over and over again.  It’s so nice to see a departure, for a change.”
My jacket is certainly a departure from the “hum-drum”, and making it has been a delightful, although sometimes trying, process.

It all started last weekend when I took a class at Olde City Quilts with a notable textile artist Judy Donovan. The subject was “Project Makeover”: bringing items from your closet that don’t get enough love, and using a variety of techniques to perk them up, revive them, or chop them up and make them over altogether.
I brought a bag of unloved wearables, but I did not expect to hack and slash as ruthlessly as I ended up doing.  There were just so many delightful examples, all sorts of possibilities of things I could have in return for my sacrifices.

One item I’d thrown into my bag last-minute were these Thai fisherman’s pants I’d had for about ten years and worn only once or twice:

I love the color of this silk fabric, but the way they’re worn feels like a diaper to me, and the sides open up too easily and make them impractical for getting into and out of vehicles, climbing stairs, sitting down, or any other physical motion common in everyday life.  But I’ve kept them, just the same, hoping some day they would magically just start “working”, or perhaps that I would become a Thai fisherman.
The instructor said “why not cut them up and use the fabric?” and when I saw the following pattern, I decided it could be worth it:

You might say this looks like a really simple pattern and you would, in fact, be right. But one thing I’ve learned this week is that sometimes the most simple, elegant looking things are quite time-consuming to make, because each seam is carefully finished, and each detail precise. Which is the case on this one, but I’m happy for that process, because I like the way it’s turned out, with mitered corners and seams that were “finished” in advance of the garment being constructed.
Although the basic pieces are simple (back, two fronts, two sleeves, and a neckband) I pieced together each garment section from multiple fabrics, including not just the silk fisherman’s pants but also a random grey skirt that got thrown in there (which I actually wore a lot, but oh, well, it’s far more exciting, in its new life form).

One thing I discovered in this process that I am most excited about is lead hem tape. So many times I admire the way a garment hangs and drapes in photographs, only to find, when I’ve made it, that it just sticks out stiffly and not at all as I expected. Little did I know that there’s a cure for that: they make leaded cord (little beads of lead in a fabric cover) that’s just heavy enough to keep a draped garment hanging properly in place.  This was a real “Ah-ha!” moment for me, and I may just be going through my closet adding strips of lead strategically here and there from now on.  In this instance, I discovered while sewing that the silk from my fisherman pants was very easily pulled in various directions, so I did not add hem weight to those panels, but I did put a few inches in both front and back in the more sturdy gray skirt fabric, and I’m very happy with the way the finished jacket hangs as a result.

And here is the part where I post too many pictures of my finished Kimono jacket, just because I am very pleased with it, and because I worked on it for quite a while and have not had much else to say, here, because I was too busy cutting things up and sewing them back together:

I liked how the fisherman’s pants looked on both sides, the inside and the outside, so I used it right-side-out for the front and back panels, and then pieced in the reverse side on the sleeves (the grayer version of the silk, bottom right, here):

I also like that it is like a blazer (worn over a professional dress, skirt or pants) but that it is decidedly feminine, creative, and non-blazery. This isn’t exactly my blazer project, but it does propose one good solution to my questions.

And as my commenter pointed out, it announces me as someone with “unique taste”.

19 Responses to “Life’s too short for “hum-drum””

  1. mrsmole February 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    What a superb result!!!!!! Makes me want to wander through my closet too!
    When folks around here see a “unique” garment they usually ask if you made it and then ask if you could make one for them too…don’t be surprised when that happens and accept all comments and compliments as your jacket is gorgeous!

    • handmadejulie February 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      I didn’t admit to ANYTHING! Ha. I figure with something this “interesting” I’m not going to tell people “I made it myself!” but rather let them think I just have really original and mysterious sources for all my clothing. (Which, come to think of it, might prove more effective if I didn’t write all about it on the internet.)

  2. prttynpnk February 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Wow! Its seeing projects like this that make me want to stretch my skills toward garments as art. Beautiful!

  3. jacqui February 19, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    i love the jacket cuz.

  4. Catherine Daze February 20, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    It’s gorgeous! The colours go so well together. It really suits you; you look mysterious and glamourous wearing it.

    • handmadejulie February 20, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      Thank you! “Mysterious and glamourous” is a wonderful alternative to “Unique.” 😉

  5. JDS February 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    LOVE this! And it looks so incredible on you.

  6. roobeedoo February 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    That’s amazing! 😀
    I am always too scared to cut up an existing garment, so just give things away to charity instead of repurposing the material. This jacket is a real lesson in making more from less – I love it!

    • handmadejulie February 21, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      I think the class was just the hand-holding I needed to take that final step of bravery, with scissors in hand.

  7. brownbirdgreenstring February 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Beautiful work, great bravery and lovely result. I’ve been hacking up some of my closet too, should post about it one of these days. Love seeing your work as inspiration, I’m not nearly the seamstress you are but I will keep at it.

    • handmadejulie February 21, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      I’d love to see other hacked up closets! You should totally post. 🙂

  8. judydonovan February 24, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Julie, your work is amazing. Thanks for being in my class. I think you should share this link with the gallery. You have inspired me!

  9. Judy Grow February 25, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    I’ve often found wonderful fabrics in garments that I could never fit into at thrift and consignment shops. For a w2hile there people were getting rid of full skirts. Now All I see are things that you could make from a single yard, and the fabrics are usually sleazy.

  10. Tamara Moore March 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    I really really want one of those! It’s gorgeous


  1. I Made a Dress Today! « brown bird green string - February 23, 2012

    […] to Julie at handmade mess (this post right HERE!)    for inspiring me to try this and then write about it. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike […]

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