Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The London Kimono Vintage Tourist Scarf Refashion Project

The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

The London Kimono - A Vintage Tourist Scarf Refashion Sewing Project

Once I had worked on my pattern drafting for the upcycled scarf kimono jacket (more about designing the jacket here), I set to making up some more designs and repurposing some more of my vintage scarf collection.

I always LOVE vintage tourist scarves and keep an eye out for them on my vintage shopping trips.

I have several in my collection - from London, the Loire Valley, the Netherlands to name just a few - and I think that using them in garments is a great way to display their wonderful colours and artwork.

The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

Many vintage souvenir scarves date from the 1950s when scarf wearing was at its peak and overseas travel was booming for tourists for the first time.

More vintage scarves

The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

I love picking out toning scarves in colourways and designs to complement the "showcase" scarf which I select to use on the back of the kimono jacket, the canvas I guess.  Here I chose a 60s mod inspired floral in soft shades of pewter, rust, taupe and silver grey for the front.  The sleeves were cut from a slubby abstract floral in rust, grey and buttermilk on the front and rust toned paisley on the reverse.  The neckline was finished with a chocolate colour satin bias binding.

Tricks and tips for sewing vintage scarves

I have to admit that it is very difficult to sew vintage scarves.  They slip and slide at all stages of the sewing project, from cutting out right through to stitching together.  It is tempting to think, "Oh, that would be so easy to make!", but the reality is that you need a lot of patience when putting these together.

Cutting out

When cutting out I use weights (improvised!) to hold the scarves in place.  It is important to consider pattern placement before cutting and I take some time to decide where to cut the pieces.  If the scarf edges are in good condition particularly if they are hand rolled, I try to incorporate them into the edges of the garment as I like to make use of the manufacturing history of the scarf.  Also, you will often find that vintage scarves have small areas of damage, maybe small holes, as they were frequently worn with a brooch or scarf clip.  Fortunately these flaws are usually on the edges or corners so you can avoid them by careful placement of your pattern pieces.

Making up

Now that I have an overlocker this helps enormously when making upcycled scarf garments.  There is simply no way to achieve a good seam finish with an ordinary domestic sewing machine.

My construction process is:

1. Stitch sleeve fronts to front pieces and sleeve backs to back piece.
2. Stitch shoulder seams.
3. Stitch side seams.
4. Stitch hem.
5. Overlock neckline and front jacket edges if necessary before attaching satin bias binding.

Even though I have made several jackets now, not to mention numerous other scarf fashion garments, it is so easy for the scarves to slip while sewing together so always double check your seams are secure and that none of the scarves have slipped and therefore not been caught into the stitches before you proceed to the next stage of the garment.  It is easier to rectify problems before you start on the next part of the sewing process.

Press seams open as you stitch them to improve the final drape of the garment.

The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

Future kimono projects

As much as I love these kimono jackets and am really pleased with how the design has turned out, I want to try a kimono with a peplum next.  Watch this space!


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