Sew it Again an award-winner

Social Media Award winner Jane Milburn with co-ordinator Edwina Close and Rural Press Club president Brendan Egan

Jane Milburn with awards co-ordinator Edwina Close and Rural Press Club president Brendan Egan

It is fantastic to have this work recognised by journalistic peers. Sew it Again was judged Social Media category winner in the Excellence in Rural Journalism 2015 Awards run by the Rural Press Club of Queensland.

The judges comments were: Jane Milburn’s Sew It Again project engaged with the community, had a call to action and was transformative. It actually made a difference in the world.

I am a natural fibre champion and believe that dressing is an agricultural act, unless you prefer synthetic fibre clothing derived from petroleum, coal or gas.

My work has a clear connection to agriculture through its focus on natural-fibre clothing, which now only makes up 1/3 of apparel consumption (see table below). The other 2/3 of clothing are made of synthetic fibres, which 2011 research shows are shedding microplastic particles into the wastewater stream with every wash and these particles are entering the food chain.

This is the message I am now sharing at Textile Beat workshops and talks on slow fashion, natural fibres and dressing with conscience – consistent with my goal to travel the world inspiring creative upcycling of natural fibres.

World Apparel Fiber use

RPC journalism award winners with Minister Bill Byrne

Congratulations to the other award winners, photographed with Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne, including overall winner the ABC’s Marty McCarthy

Sew 365 – All stitched up!

Jane Milburn celebrates 365 days of upcycling natural fibresWhat an amazing experience. To do something repeatedly for a whole year and come out the other side with an entirely fresh perspective.

It has been challenging and lonely at times. The reward is the transformative journey of honouring the commitment I made in December last year to upcycle existing clothing every day. And daring to start a conversation about resewing clothing and textiles.

Hats off to the professional makers and designers of clothing which I admire from afar and I am proud to be part of the Fashion Revolution.

In the same way we have become conscious of food, it is time to become conscious about where clothing comes from and ask more questions about where, who and what it is made of, and consider the true cost of our clothing habits. My personal choice is to seek out pre-loved clothing from local op shops and use creative methods to adapt them to suit myself. That way, my clothes have a good story to tell about how they came to be.

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Sew 364 – Thanks friends + family

Many regard shopping as Jane Milb urn wears upcycledrecreational sport at this time of year with sales everywhere –  yet shopping is ultimately unsatisfying because there is always more bright, shiny, new merchandise to buy. 

OK, I did send Mr Darcy into the fray this week for new pots so we could pension off old ones that have seen decades of service and too many burning experiences. There was a need, not just a want.

Reducing consumption of new stuff is at the heart of this counter-culture Sew it Again project, which is exploring ways to reuse existing clothing and textiles rather than always buying new.

I admit to bulging wardrobes, which I’ve been trying to whittle down all year and only made a small dent in. Most of the stockpile is natural fibre-clothing from op shops which I can re-donate at any time, in the same way I bought it, so no harm done.  Continue reading

Sew 363 – Upcycled action research

Jane Milburn wears upcycledAmazing to think this Sew it Again year of upcycling is nearly done, with only two days remaining in what has been an incredible journey of creativity, persistence and hard work, if I do say so myself!

Reflecting on learnings from the process of action research during the past 365 days, here are some thoughts of what upcycling means to individuals who chose to engage in it:

  • Creative – Upcycling is creative problem-solving, you need to envisage different ways of making cast-offs work and see mistakes as opportunities for experimental play. 
  • Individual – Upcycling requires imagination, and the willingness to see and be individually creative rather than wanting sameness
  • Unconventional – Upcycling involves risk-taking, it is a disruptive, non-conformist approach which challenges the status quo and conventional ways of dressing
  • Limitless – Upcycling is an ongoing process in which clothing can be in a continual state of tweaking, adapting, mending, restyling. It was commonplace for earlier generations  Continue reading

Sew 362 – Handmade ministrations

Julie wears upcycled linenExciting to collaborate with Julie Hillier from Ministry of Handmade, when she popped over to the Textile Beat studio today as part of the final countdown of the 2014 Sew it Again project.

Julie has been developing Ministry of Handmade over the past three years to teach handmade skills with a contemporary twist. From her studio on Brisbane’s northside, Julie encourages people to slow down and take time to embrace the joy that comes from making something by hand. It was fascinating to talk with Julie about her workshops (which include lampshades, ottomans, cushions and picnic frocks) and how she engages people in the process of making, not just the end results. Sew wonderful to spend time with someone who has shared values, and who also believes home-sewing as a life skill just like home-cooking!  Continue reading

Sew 361 – Creating opportunities

Jenna wears upcycled jeans skirtWhile I’ve not resorted to singing and dancing, I have been spruiking at every opportunity this year about ways to resew  and restyle unworn clothing into something fresh.

I’m grateful to those who created those opportunities to present talks and workshops in three Australian states and raise awareness about ways to dress with conscience and reduce our clothing footprint on the world. 

There’s a global rethink happening about the way we dress, as people begin to ask more questions about where clothing is made and what from, and there’s a trend back to local and handmade.  Continue reading

Sew 360 – Thanks upcyclers, models

Steph wears upcycledToday I thank the many upcyclers and models I’ve had the opportunity to work with during this Sew it Again year.

Looking back at the 360 photos (to date) taken during the year pinned here on Pinterest is a great reminder of the breadth of both old and young who’ve been involved with the project.

Upcycling appeals across generations and of course was a practise routinely undertaken in earlier times when clothing was valued for the natural resources it represents. People refashioned and reshaped, mended and passed clothes along as hand-me-downs.

We’ve been reclaiming some of that conscious and conservative culture during 2014 – and I thank those who have been part of the journey by engaging in workshops at various locations or at the Textile Beat studio in Brisbane Australia.  Continue reading

Sew 359 – Upcycled White Christmas

Jane Milburn wears upcycledWhat can I say? Even though it’s Christmas Day, it is a day like every other in 2014 when I’ve been upcycling and posting ways to reuse clothing that already exists rather than buying new.

Consumption often peaks at this time of year and it is great to see groups like 1 Million Women #nowaste and The Story of Stuff #buylesslivemore focusing on changing behaviour. Reading this poignant story from The Guardian exposes the uncomfortable truth and hidden cost of frivolous consumption. Be the change.

With a background in agriculture and interest in the material world of natural fibres, I’ve been fortunate to spend time re-creating clothing and learning more about the clothing footprint we (the collective 7-billion strong we) make on the world. My model for change includes empowering individuals to reimagine and recreate their own wardrobe collection by resewing at home to gain individual, conscious clothing.  Continue reading

Sew 358 – To guides and mentors

Jane Milburn wears upcycledWhen we think of creativity, most think of art with a capital A, when really it is about having a sense of festivity, fun and playfulness. One of my academic friends said the sense of play is what she most enjoys about Sew it Again because we need more creative play in our lives and workplaces.

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron quotes Stephen Nachmanovitch: “Creative work is play. It is free speculation using the materials of one’s chosen form” and C. G. Jung: “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”  Continue reading

Sew 357 – Leadership is an action

Liz Jumelet upcyclesFive years ago, I was down a dry gully in the remote Kimberley region on the Australian Rural Leadership Program when one of our spiritual travellers mentioned a quote which resonates with me to this day.

“Leadership is an action you take, not a position you hold”, was the quote repeated by my C16 team mate and attributed to Donald H. McGannon, an early American broadcasting executive who believed in the industry’s potential for good. The quote is powerful because it demonstrates a process for every one of us to influence outcomes, not just those with positional or assumed power. 

I’ve been taking action every day this year on a 365-day campaign of my own making – refashioning existing clothing instead of buying new. This campaign is about dressing with conscience - reducing our clothing footprint on the world through reuse and choosing natural fibre clothing because it has less embodied energy than synthetics. And it is great to see the influential 1MillionWomen campaign for individual action against climate change pick up the Sew it Again story.  Continue reading