Designs on Denim: Part 6 (of 6!)

This is the final part of the denim series, at least for now… hope you have enjoyed reading.

It’s a good old denim jacket!

Again this came from Thrift Town in San Francisco ($7.99). I had several denim jackets that I was looking at, trying to decide which one to get. I eventually settled on this Calvin Klein jacket in traditional indigo blue. It’s really well worn; the cuffs are falling apart and the collar is fraying. It’s so well worn that the denim is really soft to the touch and not at all cardboard-y. It just feels good to wear!

There wasn’t really anything wrong with the fit, but I had to think hard about how to add something to this without changing it too much. After thinking about it for a few months… I decided it would be easy enough to add a fabric panel to the back of the jacket, that way if I change my mind I can always change the fabric for something else, or just remove it. I have seen many, many examples of this technique for customising denim jackets on the web – usually they use blankets (Mexican, Guatemalan or Native American styles, typically) or some other type of ‘ethnic’ fabrics. I went for something a bit different: silk.

I suppose this could possibly be described as an ‘ethnic’ fabric – it’s actually a piece of a vintage Japanese kimono. I bought this on ebay about two years ago from a seller called kimonopetitjapon. I can’t remember how much it cost, but I got several pieces in different colours and patterns, all silk. I highly recommend checking out his selection on ebay, I think he has a web shop too now. The package arrived in record time from Tokamachi, Niigata, Japan along with a cute note. I was delighted.

Anyway, the kimono silk has been in the stash for two years, occasionally I get it out and look at it and sigh, and then put it away again. But not this time. The grey colour of the silk really brought out the grey tones of the worn parts of the denim and they are basically a match made in heaven. The silk has a pattern on it in lilac with hints of pink and pale blue metallic thread, which shimmers in the light. It’s really, really beautiful.

Taking the plunge, fingers trembling, I cut off a piece big enough for the back jacket panel, including a generous seam allowance.

This is where things started to go wrong. Since the silk had creases from being folded for so long, I decided to give it a gentle press. The pressing itself was fine, but the iron decided to vomit yellow limescale all over the piece. I almost cried. Before the limescale vomit dried, I quickly ran the cloth under some cold water to try and get rid of it, eventually immersing the whole piece in the cold water to avoid watermarks. The limescale stain came off easily enough – job done, or so I thought. I hung it up to dry for a few hours before sitting back down to sew. Unfortunately though, I got a bit of a shock.

The silk had shrunk around 20%.

Its length was now several inches too short for the jacket panel, even with my generous seam allowances. Imagine my horror.

What to do….?

Eventually I decided to man up, wash the remaining large piece of silk to shrink it, and then cut a new panel at the right size. Readers, there is a lesson here – always wash fabric before you cut!

I pinned the panel on firmly and then hand-sewed it in front of the TV, trying to keep the stitches as small as possible. Here’s how it looks.

I am really happy with it as it’s perfect for Autumn’s sometimes surprising weather. If only it was waterproof ;-)



  1. Debbie

    I really like this idea for several projects that come to my mind. The silk is very pretty, too. Last weekend my mother in law and I were shopping at one of our local GoodWill stores and she found a really lovely silk blouse for me. I may refashion it into something else that involves a denim dress I own that is too big for me to wear.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Debbie in Florida…(O:

  2. craftywubo

    I learned the prewash fabric lesson long ago :) It really is a must. yikes, can you imagine how this would look after washing the jacket if you hadn’t done that! Another lesson from your project-whenever you are ironing something white, or fragile or remotely delicate in any way (or just because it’s special or one of a kind)-take a piece of scrap material and iron that first. that will warn you in advance about possible stains in the water and spraying it out may completely clear it. In addition, with a delicate silk it might be prudent to cover it with a piece of fabric as you are ironing. Just a couple of suggestions from a senior citizen! :)

    • charityshopchic

      Haha yes, thanks, obviously hindsight is 20/20 with regard to prewashing. When I buy fabric new I know I should prewash it (not that I always do), but with recycled or ‘used’ items they have usually had many washes in their previous lifetimes, so I didn’t think of it with the kimono silk. And yes, clearly I should have used a presscloth. And/or buy a new iron ;-)

  3. Sarah

    I’ve really enjoyed this series! Simple changes with big impact. Looking forward to your next projects!

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