About 8 years ago, my grandmother gave me a lovely, hand embroidered skirt. She told me that it was a gift from her friend in New Delhi, Swaran, and the skirt was at least 40 years old. As beautiful as it was, I never actually wore it.
The style was simply a straight waistband with a gathered rectangle for the skirt, and a side closure. The fabric was a basic navy cotton, but the stand out feature (obviously) is all that beautiful, hand embroidery.
I feel like the embroidery itself has been done in silk; it is very soft but the fibres aren’t spun together, so the fly-aways do tend to make it look a bit hairy. Just for added sparkle, there are little circular mirrors scattered among the embroidery!
I couldn’t have this glorious piece of work hiding in my stash anymore, so I decided to up-cycle it. Before I ripped any seams, I went over the embroidery and tidied up all the hairy bits by threading them to the back. Some bits that were too short to work with got a very careful trim. Then I unpicked the hem, waistband, and the single side seam.
I decided on a very simple, Channel-style jacket. I couldn’t have darts eating into the beautiful embroidery. I already had the perfect pattern in my library; New Look 6496.
At the start of the year I learnt a very hard lesson about not making a toile (the Tully pants that I made from some gorgeous Pitt Trading linen were way too small!). I didn’t want to repeat that disaster, so I happily made a quick toile to test the fit. The only alteration I made was to split the single-pieced sleeve into a two-piece sleeve.
Once happy with the fit, I carefully placed the front panels, paying close attention to where those little mirrors lay. To help the silk threads stay in place (and to add a bit of structure) I used iron-on interfacing on the back side of all the pieces.
Even with the stabilisation, the cotton fabric seemed quite thin, so I hunted through my stash for something to use as a warm inter-lining. I found some merino wool that I bought from The Fabric Store a few years ago. I had previously attempted to make a mens t-shirt from it, and failed miserably. I’m so glad I kept this failure, because there was just enough to cut up and use inside this jacket.
I simply hand basted the merino wool to the cotton, to act as one piece. I also tacked it together in a few central places in case the merino wanted to sag inside the jacket.
In the spirit of using as much of the original fabric as possible, I had to do a bit off-cut piecing together. You can see on the right hand side facing where I had to sew two bits together. I’m really not fussed by it, and I honestly think a few quirky seams adds to the character of the jacket.
With the jacket shell sewn together, all I had left to do was draft a lining (because it’s not included in the pattern). I followed this amazing tutorial by Jen from Grainline Studios. If you ever need to draft a lining, follow this tutorial! It’s so simply explained! However, I worked off the one piece sleeve for the lining, I didn’t have the brain power to figure out how to do a two piece sleeve lining.
Pattern drafted, I fully expected to have to purchase some lining to finish this jacket. I’m so glad I looked through my scraps first, because I found just enough left over from a dress I made about 4 years ago. Again, I had to piece together a section for one sleeve, but I managed to cut the rest whole.
Instead of bagging out the lining, I sewed it straight to the facing. I was unsure about the correct finished measurements and felt that this gave me more control. I took my time and used hand sewing techniques (blind stitch) to finish the bottom hem and sleeve hems.
Finally, she was finished! I’m thrilled with the end result, I feel like I’ve given this textile a brand new life, with many years of wear to come.
I’ll leave you with some pictures we took down Katoomba’s Street Art Walk.
- Pattern brand/name/number: New Look 6496
- Style, size: View “A”, size 14
- Outer shell – Navy cotton skirt with silk hand embroidery
- Inter-lining – Merino wool from The Fabric Store
- Lining – High quality poly lining left over from a previous project
- Notions: Black iron-on interfacing from Spotlight
- Changed the one piece sleeve to a two piece sleeve for the shell
- Drafted a lining pattern (with a single piece sleeve)