Makers Month: The Refashioners 2015

It's not often I remember how or when I found a blog, but in the case of Portia Lawrie's blog I remember specifically. It was September 2013 and was at work searching for good examples of customising to use for a window display for Sew Crafty. I came across Portia's pashmina/t-shirt re-fashion and I knew then that it would be a blog I was going to have to keep an eye on!  

This year saw her take a monthly column in Simply Sewing magazine, build her very own sewing shed and launch the third season of The Refashioners. The series designed to bring the sewing community together in an online group project like no other. We had a little chat with the lovely Portia and she filled us in on everything you need to know about it. 

Hey Portia, for those who are new to it, tell us a little about the story behind the re-fashioners? 
The first series launched in 2011 with 6 participants in total and running over a week only. Participants were sent a variety of secret garments by me; with the challenge to turn them from "Meh" to amazing and share the results and the "how to" in the hope that it would inspire others to get refashioning...I wanted to raise the profile of refashioning. Shout about it's ecologicial and economical credentials and show just how creative it can be and encourage people to look at the "fabric" they have at their fingertips. It's all just fabric after all! Fast forward to 2013 and the second series. This time doubled in size and running over a fortnight as opposed to a week with eleven participants. Again, I sourced all garments and the participants had NO idea on what they were getting. (Evil laugh!)
The aim this year is to make this series bigger and more far reaching than ever before. To get as much of the sewing community refashioning in August/Sept and beyond, as we can. So far it looks like we're achieving that! With 20 awesome blogger inspiration posts that ran throughout the whole of August; now the community challenge is gathering pace too. Looks like large swathes of the sewing community have taken up the call to "get shirty" with us! 

How was it approaching all the amazing people who were involved this year?
I'm always nervous when I approach the bloggers and stitchers on my wishlist for the series. They're usually on there because I admire them for some reason. When you admire someone and you ask them to join you in something, you really really really want them to say yes. But of course they have the option to say no too!! Which means a potentially gutted Portia, lol! Thankfully the majority of those that I approached said a resounding yes; and BOY did they not disappoint this year! I always feel incredibly privileged to host such talent in my little home on the web. Still pinching myself!

It must have been fun watching the blogger entries roll in? Was it intimidating to then have to post your own re-fashion? 

Ha ha! You are NOT kidding! It's kinda fitting for me, as the "instigator" to close off the series I think.  But as the series unfolds (I would squeal with delight every time I saw the next blog post roll in to my inbox!) and the standard of pure genius becomes apparent...well!  I mean, really, when you're the one that threw down the challenge in the first place; you have to come up to scratch yourself, right!! What was really interesting though, was how many of my fellow participants also confessed to feeling nervous themselves. The blogger part of the series is in no way a competition. Each participant has their own style; their own way of working; their own uniqueness. That's the point. But when you see who you're playing alongside, there's an understandable temptation to "up your game". I think most of us felt that to be honest. But from a place of "not wanting to let the side down" rather than trying to better anyone else. I was no exception to that feeling of course. I'm not "the best" at refashioning just because I came up with The Refashioners. I just refashion in a way that suits my taste and my ability. I just made sure my refashion was done and in the bag before I saw what everyone else was doing, lol! If I'd have seen what everyone else was doing first I may have been influenced, intimidated or otherwise distracted. And I'm really pleased with my little kimono idea! I think it holds it's own ;)

Where did the idea for opening out to the public come from?

Ah, the question should really be "Portia, why on earth didn't you open this up to the whole community before now you muppet?!"

Really it's something I should have done before I guess. But  I was still streamlining the whole concept and initially I didn't know if people would even respond to the idea or be interested in taking part. Back then refashioning was very much the poorer cousin of conventional dressmaking. After the second series the response from my readers was amazing and there seemed to be an increased appetite for refashioning. When I announced this years series, right off the bat I had people asking if they could join in and how they could take part too. Well, what could I do except put together a massive prize package and say....go on us what you can do! Have you seen some of the entries coming in on IG and Pinterest??! Wow!

Are there any of the re-fashions that you are thinking of re-creating for yourself? 
Gosh, they're all so awesome! But if you're asking in terms of what might actually suit me, anyone that knows me knows I'm a flan of simple lines and simple construction. So a version of Ute's simple white shirt, that kicked off the series, is in my future for sure.  I like Wendy's interchangeable denim dresses and might apply the collar swapping concept to some silk shirts and colour block them. Erin's wrap top has me wondering if it's a style I can carry off. So that may appear at some point in a slightly different interpretation.  I will also be making another shirt kimono! I genuinely like the concept. The one I made is the first incarnation of the idea and I'd like to try it again with a few minor mods. So I'm on the hunt for shirts again, ha ha!

What has it been like working with Simply Sewing Magazine? Do you think working with such a new magazine has helped raise the profile of re-fashioning? ( do you have a photo of one of the things you have done for Simply Sewing?)
I've been so lucky with Simply Sewing.  They are very easy to work with and I've really enjoyed being part of the magazine right from issue one. I was so chuffed when they first contacted me to be a part of it! Even in this increasingly digital and virtual world, print adds a specific credibility to a venture. So I'm incredibly grateful to the team at Simply Sewing for throwing their support behind The Refashioners series. I think the profile of refashioning has been growing slowly over the last few years and I sense it's gathering momentum now. Long may that continue! 

Do you have favourite refashion from your archive? ( ie one that you have made) can you include a photo? 
My favourite is usually my most recent. But aside from that the refashion above  that I did for Simply Sewing (image below) is one of my faves. In terms of the one I wear the most, it's my banded tee (image above). It's just so comfy; I reach for it as soon as it's out of the laundry again. I'm a total comfort dresser!

Who is your favourite Instagrammer? 
There's too many!!! IG has become my preferred hangout in terms of social media. I don't know why it took me so long to discover it. Blog posts take time and planning to put together and the subject matter kinda needs to warrant a blog post in the first place! IG is great for sharing snippets of ideas, thoughts etc  and seeing what everyone else is up to as well! I've found myself having conversations with people from all over the world, in real time (sometimes silly o'clock my time!) So cool! It's like a micro blog, twitter and  pinterest all rolled into one. Awesome!

Thanks Portia! 

We have been so excited to see the growth of this series and we have loved discovering lots of new sewers to follow too. Customising and 'refashioning' is a big love of both H and myself. We are looking forward to seeing all the entries for the public competition #therefashioners2015 . Totally do Not envy the job of deciding that one! 

If you want to join in the fun and be in with a chance of winning the frankly A-mazing prize package worth over £700! Including a Sew Crafty Essentials Sewing Kit and a Sewing Journal head over to Portia's blog to find the details.

Sammy and H 

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