Sew 260 – Student models doily skirt

Kate wears upcycledUpcycling today at the Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women’s Network conference at Charters Towers with great women and girls from All Souls &  St Gabriels School.

So grateful to have an opportunity to demonstrate creative ways to reuse existing clothing at the Women of the Worlde conference – and talk about how our modern clothing habits have led to increasing consumption of textiles, two-thirds of which are synthetic fibres derived from petroleum.

The world is smothering in cheap synthetic clothing, with UK figures indicate nearly one-third of clothing ends up in landfill. This waste has sparked my creative Sew it Again journey that integrates professional expertise with a desire for sustainability and well-being – woven with threads of childhood, thrift, empowerment and a love of nature.

It was so lovely to have the school girls involved in the upcycling movement – and see and hear them inspired to get into refashioning clothing when they go home from boarding school in the holidays. I’d started Sew 260 at home, but the girls got involved arranging and sewing extra doilies I’d found in a Charters Towers opshop (10 or $3) to an op-shop found circle skirt. I had begun the refashion by altering the hemline, turning up the corners which drooped near the ground and adding a few doilies around the bottom. Gorgeous young student Kate agreed to model Sew 260 in front of one of Charters Towers many historic buildings.

kate web

Sew 260 web

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Sew 259 – Streamlining a favourite

Jane Milburn by Fiona LakeThis year I’m on a creative journey that integrates my professional expertise with a desire for sustainability, ecological health and wellbeing – that is woven with threads of childhood, thrift, empowerment and a love of nature.

My goal is to travel the world inspiring creative upcycling of natural fibre clothing. And I’m working to achieve that goal in five steps, with this Sew it Again year being step three.

That may sound structured but it’s a fluid process – I’m writing the script as I go along, drawing on universal intelligence and fresh input, ideas and opportunities that emerge along the way. Continue reading

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Sew 258 – Creativity in Charters Towers

Fiona uses upcycled denimIt is my pleasure this week to be in Charters Towers where the regional council is working to nurture and develop an artist culture and build a creative economy.

I was invited to present a Purposeful Passion workshop as the first of a series of Regional Arts Development Fund workshops to help foster emerging and existing artisans by providing tools, information and connections.

On the way to the Towers, it was fun to stop at the mighty Burdekin River just east of the city – where my friend, pioneering bush photographer Fiona Lake, agreed to model Sew 258, a denim bag upcycled from a girl’s denim skirt. Thanks for the lift Fiona! Making the bag was just a matter of sewing the bottom of the skirt together, then using denim leg offcuts (from earlier project) to create a strap that is sewn either side. Continue reading

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Sew 257 – Change T-shirt to suit you

Jenny wears upcycled TshirtJust a quick post today because I’ve flown north, back to the old stomping ground of Townsville, north Queensland where we lived for many years.

I’m enroute to Charters Towers for the upcoming Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Conference, where I’ve been invited to present a Sew it Again Jane workshop on refashion and upcycling. The Women of the Worlde conference from September 16-18 promises to be enjoyable and enriching because there are so many enterprising and inspiring women in the network.

And tomorrow I’ve been invited by Charters Towers Regional Council to present a workshop on turning your creative passion into purpose, which is another exciting opportunity to reiterate ‘start where you are, use what you have, do what you can’.  Continue reading

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Sew 256 – Lucy works T-shirt magic

Lucy models t-shirt upcycleWow – look what Lucy whipped together from a bunch of reject t-shirts and t-offcuts? I was impressed to see how Lucy selected colours and textures from the pile of bits and pieces. She played with them for a while before heading home with a promise to send through photos of her modelling the refashioned results.

I met Lucy at today’s Whites Hill State College fun day in Camp Hill after being invited by my friend Kerryn to run a T-shirts Reworked workshop. It is always good to chat with locals about how they engage with clothes and most have some concern about the declining quality leading to increasing waste as we adopt what amounts to a disposable clothing culture.  Continue reading

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Sew 255 – Crochet rug to shawl

crochet blanket upcycled as shawlOne-third of my laptop screen went on holidays a fortnight ago and it has been downhill ever since. Not worth fixing screen says computer man. Son Casey called on to help select new laptop (MacBook Air) and the tortuous process of getting files, systems and programs in sync.

Meantime the old-old laptop previously pensioned-off due to hot flushes that may, or may not, have resulted from being dropped on its head (off a bus rack while travelling) has acquitted itself well and got me through until today when, magically, the new laptop became fully operational. THANKS CASEY and here’s wishing this laptop a long and happy life.

Another bit of excitement this week was a visit from image consultant Rita Noon, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago in Sew 231. After purchasing Rita’s e-book Get Dressed Not Stressed, I decided it was worth going the whole hog and arranged for a body proportion analysis based on actual measurements (no disguising the chocolate-biscuit habit!).  Continue reading

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Sew 254 – Silk restyle overcomes tear

Lisa in favourite upcycled silkClothes don’t last forever but when they have treasured memories attached, it is great to be able to extend their lifespan through restyle and repair.

My friend Lisa bought this gorgeous silk outfit about 12 years ago for a special occasion and it has served her well since, being hand-washed and worn at least a dozen times.

Recently when she was warmly hugging friends farewell at a function, Lisa felt the underarms rip in what she laughingly describes as a ‘blow out’ which left the delicate silk torn and frayed.

After umming and ahing over upcycle options and green tea, and seeing that Lisa had already hand-repaired the same area once before, we decided to remove the sleeves altogether.  Continue reading

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Sew 253 – Valuing vintage fur

vintage furI remember seeing Fur is Green advertisements when visiting Canada and the United States in 2009 and thinking it was clever marketing. The Fur Council of Canada campaign maintains that fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. It claims synthetics, by contrast, are generally made from petroleum (a non-renewable resource), which is not consistent with the sustainable use of our environment.

The campaign website said: At a time when the true ecological cost of “cheap”, mass-produced, disposable “fast-fashion” is just beginning to be calculated – think millions of tons of poor-quality fibers and short-life garments filling up landfills – the naturally durable and recyclable qualities of fur makes more sense than ever.

Max Lily and CaseyNow that I think about it, perhaps the seeds for this 365-day Sew it Again project were sown back then because this message resonates through my ongoing reuse of natural fibre clothing that already exists instead of buying cheap new synthetic stuff. (BTW, here’s a favourite photo, right, of my lovely children Max, Lily and Casey in Montreal during that 2009 trip to visit Casey while doing part of his engineering degree at McGill University).

Anyway, fur fashion is a polarised debate as Leon Kaye explains it in this Triple Pundit article. I am squeamish about animal suffering for people’s pleasure but I grew up on a farm and work in agriculture so I have a pragmatic approach to eating meat and wearing animal products. We have laws to ensure animals are treated humanely and we expect them to be enacted.

Jane Milburn and Keelen MailmanI don’t believe I would go so far as to buy a new fur coat – yet was happy to purchase this vintage fur in a Launceston op shop when I visited Tasmania a few winters ago because it reminded me of a fur coat my great great Aunt Winnie once owned. And it was only $20.

Living in Queensland, we have to guard against pest incursions (silverfish, moths) during summer months because there is nothing more traumatic than seeing a treasure munched. Therefore, I store this fur with bags of cloves in the pockets and in a flat fully-sealed plastic hanging bag. This storage technique may not be ideal but the fur emerged intact to become Sew 253. It does not have a label but the coat is so beautifully constructed, I wondered if the original lining had been replaced. Either way, all I did was fix the hand-stitching on one section where the lining had come away from the fur and it was good as gold. Here’s me in Sew 253, after book club at my dear friend Kay’s, on the banks of the Brisbane River my Australian Rural Leadership Program buddy Keelen Mailman wearing Sew 74.

vintage fur lining restitched

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Sew 252 – Add space around waist

add space around waistBeing a visual person who loves texture and colour, I got a dose of creative inspiration from Barbara Stephenson’s pinterest boards – particularly the dresses and sewing possibilities which are the two I viewed this morning. Thanks Barbara (and pinterest) for gathering such fabulous pin-boards.

It is interesting how we inspire each other with just the spark of an idea, which we can then develop in our own way to suit ourselves.

I’m thrilled to see Bev Ryan writing about my Sew it Again blog in a meaningful way in her article Blogging for Social Impact. Sometimes messages can get lost within a blog particularly with daily posting, and I’m grateful to Bev for drawing out my essential messages: sustainable dressing by refashion, reuse, repair of existing clothing using simple sewing techniques – to reduce our clothing footprint and put our own stamp on the way we individually present to the world.

I’ve been thinking about how to achieve this upcycle, Sew 252, for a few months since a Sew it Again friend (Jane W) forwarded me this beautiful wool garment which had grown too tight at the waistline for her to comfortably wear. Being tall and long-limbed, she loves the style but just needs a little more room around the abdomen. (I know the feeling, hence my attachment to elastic waists!)  Continue reading

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Sew 251 – Shorts to knitting-bag

batik shorts become bagHere’s another upcycle by my friend Cazza – batik shorts that she has turned into a bag for knitting needles and yarn. All that needed to be done was to hand-stitch the leg openings shut at the bottom,  remove the waist tie and hand-stitch it at either side to become a strap.

Upcycled and vintage are key themes at Woolloongabba Antique Centre where everything old is treasured by various dealers and shop owners. It’s been open for a few years, having been set up by Sarah Jane Walsh who, according to the website, was inspired watching her mum sew dance costumes from old material and having a large extended family produced an abundance of ‘hand me downs’ and many occasions to ‘Dress up’ when she was growing up in country New South Wales.

I’ve been wanting to visit the centre for ages and had a perfect reason to spend time there today with my friend Keelen Mailman while we were in the neighbourhood to have her Toyota serviced. Plenty of vintage clothing and a great 50s style cafe for refreshments.  Not much sewing done today – but it has been great catching up with Keelen who is in town chatting about for book The Power of Bones at Brisbane Writers Festival.

Keelen Mailman checks out vintage options

shorts upcycled to knitting bag



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