Sew 329 – Reshaping the future

Billie wears upcycled with styleFun today hosting a Restyle Party in the Textile Beat studio with four enthusiastic young women keen to learn how they can refresh existing clothes to suit themselves and their needs.

I’ll be posting refashions by Nina, Frankie, Billie and Stan over the next few days and certainly it is fabulous to be able to engage with thoughtful young people interested in making ethical, sustainable, individual, creative and affordable clothing choices.

Also exciting to see the amazing Flourish Festival: Design the Future event in Sydney this weekend with its focus on Fashion vs Nature defining the intersection between desire and ecological health, and the impact everyday lifestyle choices have on the long-term health of the planet. Great to see Fashion Revolution Day involved in the event and that creative reuse of existing clothing featuring in many workshops. The Refashion Revolution has arrived!

As the Sew it Again project celebrates its 329th day of a year refashioning existing clothing instead of buying new, we today feature Billie who – with a bit of home-sewing magic – turned a big old op-shop-found dress into a funky refash. After deciding what length she wanted the new skirt to be, she cut the dress off, neatened the edge and turned it over a circle of elastic cut to fit her waist. To make the top, Billie neatened the hem after opening-up about half of the bottom-back seam and neatening the edges both sides – which are then tied as a knot to pull-in the top for a fitted look without fuss and bother. To tighten up the neckline, Billie then overlapped the back-top edges (where a button and loop had been) and top stitched them together along the neckline. Great working with beautiful young women who care about where clothes come from – and are happy to rescue, repair and restyle them before they become landfill prematurely.

I’ll post some more Restyle Party photos on the Textile Beat facebook page – and you can review the 329 refashions to date over on Pinterest.

Billie restyles a baggy dress to suit herself



Sew 328 – Wearing a unique story

Upcycled corporate wearQuestion everything, never assume, use what you have differently. These are handy thinking habits when it comes to work – and dressing for corporate work, sans black suit.

Although you don’t want to leave it until the last minute before you are due to rush out the door, one of the simplest ways to upcycle is to play creatively with clothing you already own to see how it might work in ways other than how it originally appeared.

This white and brown jacket has a conventional fold-down collar (see photo below) which I’ve turned upwards to create a much more interesting (my perspective) and angular look. I bought the jacket at a Paddington second-hand shop a few years ago although I swear it had never been worn. There is an incredible amount of pre-loved clothing available (who knew we annually export 70,000+ tonnes of pre-loved clothes see pg 7), I wonder how it is possible to justify buying new unless for a very special occasion?  Continue reading

Sew 327 – Mullum refashion

Jane Milburn wears upcycled sarongWe had a quick trip across the border yesterday to enjoy one day of the Mullum Music Festival at Mullumbimby in New South Wales and found a relaxed funky spirit that encompasses the entire community, as well as an amazingly creative, sustainable dress scene.

Highlights included seeing Darren Percival at the Civic Hall, a great dinner at The Middle Pub and chatting with Andrew Nichols from Mullum Glassery. While I’m trying to be non-consumerist this year, in support of creative reuse I bought two glasses from Andrew which he refashions from spent wine bottles (see photos below).  Continue reading

Sew 326 – Slow refashion flexibility

Jane Milburn wears refashionPersonal empowerment is one of the best things about having a few simple sewing skills. You are never dependent on what is currently available for purchase because you can craft something that suits your need and preference.

Own-style ticks all the slow fashion boxes of individual, creative, sustainable, ethical, natural, known provenance, comfortable – and is simply a matter of investing time and applying skills to magic something wearable out of not much.

Now on the home stretch of this Sew it Again year, I’m applying effort to refashion some loose, comfortable shifts for summer as the weather hots up in the Southern Hemisphere.  Continue reading

Sew 325 – Clothes last for decades

Jane Milburn wears upcycledWhat is a reasonable lifespan for clothing? We know that food is perishable and has a shelf-life, but what about our clothes? Fashion has a contrived shelf-life of one season (or less) but what about classic and simple garments that don’t go out of date?

The variables to consider are – the quality of fabric and construction, how often you wash and wear them, whether your shape or needs change, and whether your taste and style moves on.

The act of throwing out clothing because it has literally worn out has become old-fashioned. How many know the experience of garments moving through the stiff-new beginning to become soft-with-age comfortable and rich with memories from many wears?  Continue reading

Sew 324 – Existing clothes revisited

upcycled opshop findsThis opshop-found skirt is made from linen-silk blend fabric but had three issues working against it from my perspective. It was too long, too wide and had an old-fashioned, uncomfortable interfaced waistband.

I solved the length and waistband issues by simply cutting off the fixed band (including across the top of the zip). With the band removed, I reduced the girth of the skirt by taking a slice out of it along an existing seam (start from the bottom so the pleats sit neatly). Returning to the waist, I turned the cut edge over twice to make a casing for elastic. The zip now works, in conjunction with the elastic. This compromise method may horrify traditional dressmakers and neat people, but it is a practical workable solution that enables something unwearable to now be worn in a comfortable and viable form.  Continue reading

Sew 323 – A bauble from waste

Christmas bauble from upcycled T-shirt ribbonThe festive season brings saturation marketing of many material things which most don’t need and obligatory rehashed Christmas news stories about more binge spending and consuming.

How refreshing to see the 1 Million Women campaign promoting a No Waste Festive Season and encouraging a focus on moments rather than things.

At our house, we’ve been trying to minimise Christmas fuss and waste for years.  We’ve used the same fabric wrapping (secured with safety pins) and ribbons for a decade and they are still going strong and looking good.

This year the 365-day Sew it Again project adds another imperative to reduce waste. With the 12 days of Christmas rapidly approaching, here’s an upcycled decoration made from waste. Continue reading

Sew 322 – Doily linen cushion

Upcycled linen cushionTravelled back across Australia from Perth to Brisbane so today’s upcycle is one I had in reserve for a difficult day such as this.

Sew 322 utilises some beautiful doilys gathered from a Dubbo opshop which are stitched to linen cushions.

If you buy Sheridan linen sheets and pillowcases (my favourite), they come in linen pouches secured with coconut shell buttons. It takes a little effort to unpick and remove the labels but once that’s done, you can decorate with doilys to make pretty cushions. I created the pillow insert by using stuffing from an old pillow inside a pillowcase cut down to suit the required size.  Continue reading

Sew 321 – Suiting yourself

Jo wears upcycledTelevision presenter Karl Stefanovic wore the same suit every day for a year to make a statement regarding the way female presenters are judged on appearance and dress.

A fringe benefit of Stefanovic’s experiment is he demonstrated how long clothing lasts and how little we need for utilitarian purposes.

An average suit weighs about 1kg – yet the global average consumption of clothing is 11kg/person/year (up 80% from 7kg/person/yr in 1992) according to the UN Food and Agriculture global apparel fibre survey (pg 2).

Imagine the sheer volume of clothing that is sitting in wardrobes, cast aside after one or two wears, shed into charity shops or dumped into landfill? Tens of thousands of tonnes of clothing every year.  Continue reading

Sew 320 – Greed before need

Jane Milburn wears upcycled at Cottesloe BeachGreed before need is the headline on David Penberthy’s column in Western Australia’s Sunday Times newspaper today about the level of unnecessary consumption in our society.

This unnecessary consumption leads to 70,000 tonnes (70 million kgs) of cast-off clothing being shipped from Australia to developing nations each year and sparked this 365-day Sew it Again project, which is reusing and refashioning pre-loved clothing as an alternative to always buying new.

Penberthy was writing about phone upgrades and said many of us have convinced ourselves that luxuries are necessities.

“We have embraced a big-bang approach to shopping which is a world away from the gradual acquisition which marked more frugal and disciplined past generations … The basics for a young couple starting out are not defined by shelter, transport and utilities but have been extended to include a television which simply must be 40 inches across and web-ready, the latest phone for every member of the family, and three meals out a week because of the rapidly dying art of peeling a carrot or a spud.”  Continue reading