Saturday, February 1, 2020

Refashion Runway, Week 2: 1970's Challenge, contestant Michelle Paganini

Hello, I am Michelle Paganini.  You may already know me from Paganoonoo, or appearances on the syndicated PBS TV show It's Sew Easy, or my upcycle sewing YouTube tips.

Lucky me! I juried into Refashion Runway hosted by Beth Huntington a.k.a. "The Renegade Seamstress. It is an online 6 week challenge to refashion with the emphasis for each week selected in advance, much like Project Runway. There is winner each week, based on votes (like yours) 50%, and 50% judges choice.  You can vote for your favorites once a day, every day, Sat - Friday.

We started last week with 15 contestants.  The challenge was "statement sleeves" and I tied for 3rd!  See full details on my sleeve refashion entry on this blog post, and all the contestant entries here.

Week 2 the challenge is "1970's".  

I was actively sewing much of my high school wardrobe in the 1970's so the first place I turned to for inspiration was sewing patterns, what memories!!! 

When I was in grade school I received a canvas bank bag (remember those?) full of buttons from my Great Grandmother.  As stated above I found a set to use on the vest I made from this pattern.  I loved that vest!!!!  I was slender then and a perfect fit for the patterns as a result. The vest fit me so well that I did not need to wear a bra, lol.  Would never happen now. 

Once I saw the vest pattern I knew I wanted to make a vest, and make it from an existing jacket, as I have done in the past.  I had a very oversized silk/rayon velvet jacket in my stash in a beautiful shade of blue/slightly teal.  Preferring to keep as many existing features from the starting garments as possible, I thought the lines were similar enough to the pattern to work. 

The skirt is a bias cut dirndl and a terrific color match for the jacket. It was also very oversized.

This garment was quite a challenge. I had never sewn with velvet before.  I think I had tossed the jacket in the washer and drier when I first purchased it (something I almost always do no matter the fabric) because the lining was far too big for the jacket.  I removed it entirely and it frayed terribly so did not seem worth trying to add back in and the end. The velvet still looked great.
As I unpicked most of the seams I could see that any machine stitching left permanent marks. Given the liquid nature of velvet it was tough to reshape the seams without stitching and trying the garment on to check fit.  I ended up doing quite a bit of hand basting.  It took 2 days to wrestle the shape into what I wanted.  Whew!  Would have been easier to have a friend help pin fit. 
The collar was floppy, and the velvet layers shifted around. It was even worse once the lining was removed. I check my stash of thrifted embroidery thread and found a perfect color match, then topstitched around the edges of the collar to hold the layers in place. I repeated the top stitching on other seams to help control the lay of the velvet and for decorative reasons. 
I added 4 snaps as closures on the vest. The jacket had 2 self covered velvet buttons that could have been added back on as a decorative element, but they just did not look good so the front was left plain. 

As you can see from my collection, I never pass up a vintage (or modern) set of snaps at thrift stores, estate sales, etc.  I have an identical cigar box full of hooks.  Thrifted notions can be better quality and less expensive than those found in big box fabric stores.  See my YouTube tip on thrifted notions.

I took about 6" of width off of the skirt, which improved the fit, although it is hard to see a difference in the photos.  

Overall I am very pleased with the result.  It looks so simple in the photograph compared to the effort it took to achieve the result!  

You may recognize the Marlo Thomas pattern cover pose, hand out and flat to the ground.  The illustrations on those patterns were so charming.
I hope you love the results too and vote for my entry!  To vote you must scroll all the way to the bottom of the post until you see a list of names, click a name and then scroll down and click vote.

This time I am up against some formidable competition, particularly the coats made by Diane and Peggy which to my eye are spot on for the era.  

The lady that won last time makes amazing results and works by harvesting fabric from existing garments (or this time a couch) and using it like regular flat fold cloth. I am seeing that I have a bias towards refashions/upcycles that retain original features.  It feels a bit like cheating to me to use just fabric bits. That said, I'm not sure exactly why it occurs to me like that.  Anything that causes discarded textiles material to be reused is fantastic!  Applause for all of the contestants!

What's coming in the next weeks?  3) Faux Fur,  4) Small to Large, 5) Southwest, and 6) Kentucky Derby Hats.

P.S.  Find out more about Michelle and shop Paganoonoo upcycle sewing designs at 

P.P.S.  Create simple upcycle sewing projects with free video tips!  I show you how to add a double color to a dress shirt, combine color and pattern with confidence, shorten sleeves to ¾ and add a decorative cuff, and more!  Register for free today!


  1. This refashioned velvet vest is beautiful and shows a lot of skill. Reworking this fabric is not so easy. Good job, Michelle.

  2. Love this! Clever and beautiful! And the vest is damned great too!

    1. Thank you! Wrestling velvet into submission is not easy.