Sew 304 – Turning skirt into shift

Lucy wears upcycled shiftOne of my goals for this year is to help shift people’s thinking about the way we dress and encouraging creative, individual, empowering, thrifty and sustainable clothing options through refashion.

This is primarily driven by my background in sustainable agriculture and interest in natural fibres – as well as a desire to reduce waste and excess consumption.

When I spoke with ABC presenter Rebecca Levingston about the project last year, she totally got what it was about and has been following progress through the year. Today is Day 304 and it was great to have an opportunity to catch up with Rebecca on the 612ABC radio drive show.

Today’s upcycle is by teenager Lucy at the home-schooling workshop on Wednesday, who turned an unworn long cotton skirt into a cotton skirt with t-shirt ribbon as shoulder straps and belt. Barely any machine sewing in this one, because you could use hand-stitch to attach the shoulder straps, and the belt is plaited. Lucy said it would be great to wear over her swimmers and another unworn garment (from my opshop-stash) finds a new home and use.

upcycling skirt into shift dress

Sew 303 – Favourites given new life

Dionne wears refashionIt is always good to hear repair and reuse stories on the airwaves because they run counter to the perpetual consumption messages so dominant in today’s throwaway society.

I enjoyed this 612ABC chat yesterday between Kelly Higgins Devine and Chrissy Keepence, who is singing from the same song-sheet as the Sew it Again project, about repurposing quality older clothing rather than buying newer cheap stuff.

Dionne – who features on the blog today as Sew 303 – hates waste, so yesterday she refashioned two garments from her wardrobe to extend their life. This look was created from a top and skirt that had fallen out of favour (because they had become shabby under the arms with wear) but with which she didn’t want to part.  Continue reading

Sew 302 – Zero waste refashionista

Chantel upcycles Refashioning and upcyclng clothing is play-based creativity because there are no rules – you are only limited by your imagination and energy.

It was great to have the opportunity today to lead an activity day with Brisbane home-schooling families who regularly meet at Petrie School of Arts.

Young Chantel was amazingly dedicated in refashioning a black and white unworn viscose dress (from my stash, a friend’s cast-off) into a skirt, bag and headband in zero-waste style.

To begin, she made a skirt by cutting off the bottom portion of the dress, turning the cut edge over to make a casing for elastic (cut to fit her waist) then threading elastic through using a safety pin and knotting to secure (her Mum helped with the sewing machine).  Continue reading

Sew 301 – Upcycle by extending hem

Ellie wears upcycled skirtThere are no rules about the length of your hemline, unless you mix in Royal circles. It is really just a matter of what feels comfortable for the wearer and appropriate for the situation.

This soft blue cotton skirt was in Lily’s exit pile – most likely because it is too short, even for slim teenagers. The upcycling solution is adding a piece of fabric to extend the hem to a more agreeable length.

At our weekend workshop, Jade and I decided what length we wanted the finished skirt to be (to suit her younger sister) and then tore two extender strips of lightweight white linen fabric (from my stash). After fringing away the excess threads, Jade sewed the strips together into one long piece then zigzagged the edges to stop further fraying. This was then zigzagged onto the existing hemline, with the excess twirled into a loose floret (and secured by machine stitching). We then found a white doily and sewed it across the join to link new with old. See Jade’s work in progress photos belowContinue reading

Sew 300 – Celebrating thrifty repairs

Gemma upcycles old favouritesWe know that endless growth is impossible in a finite world. Therefore being thrifty, conserving resources, repurposing and repairing existing clothing are actions that contribute to the sustainability of life on Earth.

I find it interesting that some of the wealthiest people are also the thriftiest. Just because one can afford to go out and buy new clothing, doesn’t mean one does. I wrote about this in an earlier post and quoted UK design guru Kevin McCloud’s views on thrift “throw nothing away if you can help it and wear your clothes until they are rags – thrift is an admirable value that we have lost”.

Well-worn and cherished resources are often more comfortable, they have a story attached, and may even be of better quality than newer stuff. Thrift underpins this 365-day Sew it Again project which is valuing, reusing, repairing and refashioning natural-fibre clothing instead of always buying new.  Continue reading

Sew 299 – Jade upcycles cotton top

Jade wears upcycledOur style and taste in clothes changes over time, and those we no longer wear can be moved along by donating to opportunity shops, given to friends, swapped, sold online or at suitcase rummages – or as we are doing in the Sew it Again project this year, we can upcycle them by resewing.

My daughter Lily is in the United Kingdom at the University of Leeds this semester and before she left home, we sorted her clothing into keepers and stuff she no longer wanted.

At a Textile Beat workshop with young teenage friends yesterday, Jade found a summer cotton top and Canterbury shorts in Lily’s exit pile. She reshaped the top by cutting off the bodice, neatening the cut edge then reapplying the spagetti straps in a new way. The Canterbury shorts continue to be favourites among school girls – all they needed was a new owner and that’s Jade. Great to work with young girls interested in learning sewing skills that will last them a lifetime.  Continue reading

Sew 298 – Change clothes to wear

Elle wears upcycled dressAm I imagining there is too much clothing in the world? We (in the west) have bulging wardrobes already and the shops are full of new season temptations, with slightly different prints, shapes and styles from the last.

People in the business of selling more do not want to hear talk of reduced consumption. They are selling newer, better, brighter, shinier, prettier. The recent opening of a Forever 21 fast-fashion store in Brisbane even made the Nine News nightly bulletin and Brisbane Times newspaper. As the story goes, it is all about ‘something new, something fresh every day’.

I am adopting an alternative approach to something fresh everyday. The Sew it Again project is posting something fresh every day by upcycling clothing that already exists, rather than buying new. It is a social-change project, based on the premise that the ‘greenest’ clothing is that which already exists in the world. By upcycling garments from our own and others wardrobes, we can have something ‘new’ created from reject or unworn garments.  Continue reading

Sew 297 – Silk worn across generations

Georgie Somerset wears upcycled silkWe have clothing, and then we have fashion clothing. Clothing withstands the passage of time, whereas fashion comes and goes.

Professor Kate Fletcher Sustainable Fashion and Textiles says fashion links us to time and space – and caters to emotional and social needs. Where the fashion sector and the clothing industry come together – in fashion clothes – our emotional needs are made manifest as garments. She says this overlaying of emotional needs on physical goods fuels resource consumption, generates waste and promotes short-term thinking. It also leaves us feeling dissatisfied and disempowered, because external physical possessions are unable to satisfy internal psychological and emotional needs, no matter how much new stuff we consume.  Continue reading

Sew 296 – Silk for Sydney Town Hall

Jane Milburn wears upcycled silkIt was such a privilege to be at Sydney Town Hall last night for the 100 Women of Influence awards dinner, at the invitation of my friend Georgie Somerset who is a regional influencer named in the 2014 list.

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly announced Elizabeth Broderick as the overall 2014 Woman of Influence for her strategic and far-reaching work as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

There were some fabulous speeches, with Kelly saying women of influence know how to share their stories, have purpose and generosity, and co-sponsor Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood saying gender diversity is still an issue – because men inevitably revert to male-group-think, society needs women in positions of influence. The other point Mr Hywood made was women journalists from Fairfax currently hold the nation’s top journalism awards, led by Joanne McCarthy with a Gold Walkley.  Continue reading

Sew 295 – Final Fairholme refashion

Annie wears upcycledIt has been fantastic to have so many Fairholme fashion students involved with the Sew it Again project, and this is the last one from the batch they created from our upcycling session as part of the Westpac Fairholme Fashion Week.

Because my preference is for natural fibre clothing, I have to declare that this pretty paisley print dress is made with polyester – which enables the permanently pleated skirt.

This was a bit of a granny dress which the girls cut in half to make a top and a skirt. They cut out a portion of the skirt to reduce the width (see workshop action photos below) and considered making the skirt shorter, but time was against them. The gorgeous Annie models the longer version.  Continue reading