My second "jeanius" refashion for The Refashioners community challenge took a bit longer than anticipated, but it's finally finished! I was pondering the unique qualities of denim and how I could use those in unexpected ways to create something new. For inspiration and - copious amounts of fabric - I was perusing the men's section at Goodwill, when I spotted these rather large, sort of camel-colored jeans. The interesting wash gave these pants an almost suede-like appearance, and thus, an idea was born! A picture began to form in my head of a faux sheepskin vest with these brown jeans as the exterior and lots of frayed white denim (denim chenille, I believe it's called) on the inside to mimic the sheep's wool. So I grabbed the brown jeans and three pairs of white jeans as well, and headed home to plot out my course of action.
I first cut up the inseam, then the outer leg seams and just below the waistband so I could separate the four large panels. Then I picked off the back pockets. The fabric underneath was noticeably darker, but not in a super interesting way like my blue denim tunic. I knew I would need to devise a way to either cut around these sections of cover them up instead.
Next I spent quite a lot of time sketching and measuring and cutting out pattern pieces only to find I couldn't get them all to fit on my jeans. Eventually, I found a solution using multiple pieces for my vest's front panels, which would also allow me to incorporate giant pockets that would conceal the unfaded fabric from under the original pockets. So with my final pattern pieces figured out, I arranged them on my jeans, cut around each of them, and tossed the extra bits into my remnant pile.
Then I repeated the process of disassembly and pattern cutting from each of my white jeans. I was able to get two white copies for each brown piece, though I did have to do a bit of splicing for the larger pieces. Not to worry though! Since I'll be cutting up the white pieces for chenilling, a few extra raw edges aren't going to matter at all. Here, you can also see all my pieces laid out in roughly the right places. The larger pieces on the left are the two halves of the back (stacked up on one another). The right shows the two sections of each front panel with an angled seam from the armhole to the center. You can see the two pieces don't quite meet at the armhole edge; that's because the angled seam has a built in bust darts for a better fit. And in front, we have the collar and the giant pockets that will be layered on top of the lower front panels.
I thought about sewing my two layers of white denim directly to the back of each brown piece and then cutting up the white for the chenille, but that presented a couple different problems. Firstly, I didn't want all the little lines of stitching to show on the outside of my vest, and secondly, I was afraid the brown would still peak through the chenille on the inside and make the chenille look too sparse. Adding another white layer to attach the white denim to would solve both problems, but I was worried about adding even more bulk. So I pulled out the remnants of an old white sheet from a previous refashion and cut out yet another set of my pattern pieces. Then I layered one sheet piece and two white jeans pieces together and sewed lots of little lines straight across, about a half-inch apart and perpendicular to the grain of the jeans. Once all that was finished, I sat down on the couch with my scissors and Netflix and starting cutting up between each row of stitching, only cutting through the two denim layers, NOT the sheet layer.
By the end, my hand was pretty sore, but I was pretty pleased with my progress. To encourage the fraying, I popped them all in the washer. I gave them a quick hair cut before they went into the dryer. Then another hair cut, another wash, another hair cut, another dry, and a final hair cut. Here they are after 0, 1, and 2 cycles. Getting pretty fuzzy!
Finally, it was time to start assembling my vest! I pressed under all the edges of my brown pieces and placed them on each white with the frayed bits facing downward. Then I top-stitched all around using a brown thread on top and white bobbin thread.
To put the pieces together, I simply overlapped them and top-stitched again. As it turns out, my beefy little Brother machine can handle 8 layers of denim and 2 layers of sheet just fine! It did groan a bit, however, on the small sections where three pieces overlapped, meaning there were 12 layers of denim and 3 sheets. These were the spots where the giant pocket panels, which I attached to the lower front panels to cover the unfaded denim, met the upper fronts at the angled seams and met the back panels at the side seams. We persevered though, and got the job done!
My vest is finished just in time for our first real cool front. Sure, it's been raining all weekend, but 65 degrees? Yes, please!
No one would mistake it for real sheepskin, but I think it still has the same feel at a fraction of the price and without harming any sheep! And the more I wear it and wash it, the fuzzier and awesomer it will become!