Sunday, June 2, 2019

Weekend Review: The Refashion Handbook

It's the beginning of a new month, and also the beginning of a theme for me here at Following The Thread. This month I'm going to focus on some of the ways that sewists can sew thriftily. I know that sewing can be an expensive hobby, but there are a few things that I do to keep my costs down and help me to sew more affordably.

Today's review is a book that looks at one way to customize your wardrobe quite affordably -- refashioning, or upcycling your own old clothes or ones you've thrifted. This is something I've done for many years but there are always new tricks to learn.

The Refashion Handbook / Beth Huntington
Lafayette CA: Stash Books, c2014.
127 p.
I picked up this book recently, interested in seeing some new tricks I might be able to add to my repertoire. I have enjoyed reading Beth's blog, The Renegade Seamstress, for many years and like her diy approach to sewing. She shares not only wardrobe remakes but quick and scrappy household items there, like reusable teabags or tote bags made from tea towels. There's always something of interest over there!

I really liked this book. The layout and the projects are all clear and user-friendly. Anyone with some sewing experience could easily follow along and use these ideas as starting points for further customization. Those new to sewing who are just starting with refashioning will find this accessible and a great doorway into sewing from scratch, as I'm sure anyone might want to do after getting the bug with these alterations that are more than just re-hemming something.

The book starts with some basic tips for thrift shopping (useful), goes on to cover basic tools and techniques of sewing, then a few extras like how to add/change zippers and create cap sleeves for almost anything (I loved this - so easy and very handy if, like me, you prefer a sleeve on everything).

Then there's a mix of restyling projects, from very simple to a little more complicated. She shows how a simple change like narrowing the body of a t-shirt and shortening the sleeves can totally change the look; or, how to fit a long baggy elastic waist skirt into a short and better fitting full skirt. Then there's my favourite -- taking an ankle length black and white polka dot dress with a big sailor collar and removing the collar and some length and making it into a very modern and chic LBD. There are more unusual ideas like taking the middle out of a dress rather than chopping off the bottom, or adding vintage embroideries to a jean jacket. There are even a couple of accessory tutorials at the end.

This book is made up of a great mix of inspirational projects and solid techniques that could be used by anyone interested in refashioning or updating an outfit. I know it's given me a few ideas already. It's cheery, upbeat and really encouraging. And the projects don't look amateur and unwearable in the after photos, always a plus! Definitely one to check out if you are interested in refashioning or want to create a more customized wardrobe in an affordable and earth-friendly way.


  1. Yet another book to put on my library request list! It's getting to be quite a tall stack.

    1. It's a great idea to get these books from the library! I always like to preread them via the library before buying to see if I want to add it to my personal collection. I've found quite a few that way!

  2. An interesting topic. Unfortunately this book is not available at my library, but I have been browsing her web site which is full of ideas. One thing that strikes me is that we are so careful with accuracy when it comes to pattern making, but with re-fashioning clothing there is a much greater relaxed approach. Which maybe what puts some people off. I guess in the big picture a happy medium is just that - happy. Not getting too hung up with the very small details, but being happy that we can continue to get wear from our clothes, and respect their place/value.

    (As an aside, I have just picked up from the library 'The Wardrobe Mistress' as reviewed by you - I am intrigued. Another book I would not have chosen but looks very promising. Nothing to do with re-fashioning but could be fun.)


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!