Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sew 120 – Passing it on

upcycled midnight blue jacketThe internet means sharing and connecting through social media is a great way to source and receive information about happenings in the wider world.

Technology has transformed since my first professional job, as an ABC rural reporter back when we used manual typewriters, nagra reel-to-reel recorders, and telex machines. Eek, that’s ages ago!

With age comes knowledge and experience though, and that’s why I enjoy being part of the QUT Career Mentor Scheme to pass-on some of my hard won lessons to help kick-start another’s work-life journey.

Reflecting on what you enjoy doing, what your core values are, what you feel passionate about and how that align with your skills and qualifications sounds simple – yet it can take a lifetime to get them singing in tune. Continue reading

Sew 119 – Upcycling is endless

upcycling is endlessThe theory of ‘buy once, buy well’ definitely makes a valid case for having fewer garments of better quality in your wardrobe.  Yet most of us are attracted to the constant stimulation of variety and change, so it is easy to understand why cheaper fast fashion options are popular.

Upcycling existing clothing is a way of enabling a near endless array of unique choice and difference, at little financial and environmental cost. Certainly there is a time cost – that is offset with satisfaction of mindful creativity and empowerment from originality.

I love this Sunday Mail quote from fashion authority and author Marion von Adlerstein: “I don’t think great style belongs exclusively to fashion people or arty types; anyone can tap into it with a bit of thought. It’s about creating the best version of yourself you can be.” In other words, give it your best shot.  Continue reading

Sew 118 – Thrift the new black

upcycled wool cashmere coatSome people look at you sideways when you declare you’re an op-shopper while others understand the sense of discovery, salvage, revival, thrift and pleasure it represents.

There are many reasons why people throw out clothing including de-cluttering a bulging wardrobe, boredom, dated style, gain/loss of weight, doesn’t work with body shape, owner has moved on, it needs mending or they may want to help a charity.

But in a recent 1 Million Women post about the pros and cons of donating clothing to charity, Bronte Hogarth wrote: “It might feel like you’ve lifted a weight of your shoulders in cleaning out your closet and donating your clothes to charity, but everyone should be aware that your clothes don’t automatically end up in an op shop or in the hands of someone in need, if at all. The model at Lifeline, for example, shows that one third of clothes donated are considered good enough to go back into the stores to be sold, one third is packed up to be exported, and the remaining third is either cut up and sold as cleaning cloths or disposed of. This model is reflective of clothing collection charities worldwide.”  Continue reading

Sew 117 – Upcycle with length

Add length and top becomes dressIt is shocking – horrifying even – that there is such a surfeit of clothing in the world that barely worn stuff is being tossed for lack of the right look, shape, size, pattern or fit.  

We are encouraged to buy more stuff at every turn, without mindful consideration of a longer-term perspective for ourselves and the planet.

This year I’m pausing to reflect and sort all the stuff I’ve accumulated – my stuff of choice being found natural fibre clothing from opshops.

Over the past three years of op-shopping, I’ve accumulated enough to see out my lifetime. I don’t harbour any guilt from it because I’ve had a sense of rescuing it for a good cause. That cause is the Sew it Again project, upcycling every day this year to demonstrate how simple home sewing skills can extend the life of existing clothing by adapting to suit one’s needs.  Continue reading

Sew 116 – Wool workover

upcycled wool wearThe more wool the merrier I reckon. I have lost a few garments in the past to moth/silverfish damage, but now there is much more wool in my wardrobe I seem to have fewer problems. I’ve learned to take a preventive approach to caring for it – cakes of nice-smelly soaps and bags of star anise (see photo below) seem to do the trick. And of course, sponging any food or drink spills before putting away.

When you have a critical mass of wool, you can get a load together for the wool-wash cycle on the machine, adding eucalypt-based wool wash to further guard against munchies. Wool actually needs much less frequent washing than we tend to give it. A good rule of thumb is that unless it is smelling or looking dirty, don’t wash. Continue reading

Sew 115 – Fighting the good fight

top and skirt upcycled to dress The fabric of society is threads of courage, concepts and good conscience woven with heart. It is Anzac Day in Australia, a day we remember the sacrifice of others so we can live well in a just and free society.

Yesterday a different type of war began. The Fashion Revolution is a battle of conscience to change the culture of clothing consumption which causes injustice, exploitation and waste in the name of looking good.

When you lead from the heart, valuing good and honest endeavours, you live with a clear conscience. This year I stepped into a fairly vacant space, upcycling downunder out of concern for the waste and clothing churn I saw all around me.

This time last year on television, I had watched Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory collapse in what was the worst industrial accident for a generation, killing 1133, injuring twice that number, and leaving thousands more destitute. It seemed so wrong – people working in unsafe and desperate conditions, churning out more $5 clothing that not one of us need.

There’s little any individual can do on their own to change things – but yesterday it was amazing to see the Fashion Revolution Day social media storm begin in Australia/New Zealand and gain momentum as it swept around the globe.

So many great words written, photos posted and shared with the #insideout hashtag. The Fashion Revolution movement, founded by Carry Somers in the United Kingdom, connected people in more than 50 countries wanting fashion to become a force for good, one year after Rana Plaza collapsed.

It fell on fertile ground with me, an agricultural scientist and communications consultant with a love of natural fibres and wardrobes bulging with op-shop rescued natural fibre clothing. My Sew it Again upcycling journey began this year as a way of reusing what I already have, showing others what they can do with what they have, and working to shift society’s thinking about the way we engage with our clothes.

Sew 115 is a dress upcycled from a skirt and top that weren’t being worn as they were. The skirt I’d made a while back from cotton/viscose knit fabric which was resewn to the reworked top.  The top was op-shop found of cotton/viscose/elastane blend fabric which was quite thick and structured. I cut out the neck and put it aside. I cut off the hem and reattached it as a collar – positioning the collar piece inside the neckline so that it flops forward over the cut neck edge. (Place collar inside neck with both pieces sitting the same way not right sides together. It is hard to show in a photo but easy when you get it sitting the right way. Put one pin in and test how it sits when you bring it to the front.)  I trimmed and angled the sleeve length to groove it up a bit, leaving the edge unfinished but putting a few hand stitches in the cut arm-seam so it doesn’t unravel. I removed the elastic from the waist of the skirt and discarded. I then attached the skirt to the top by sewing right sides together. The skirt had a slightly bigger circumference than the top, so I pinned both in quarters (for even spread) and stretched the skirt as I sewed it to the top. The rosemary sprig from our garden is a nod to Anzac Day. Lest we forget.

Upcycle top and skirt to dress

Sew 114 – Jeans repinafored

Jeans upcycled as pinaforeFashion Revolution Day has arrived. It’s exactly one year since Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1133 workers, injuring many others, and exposing unpleasant truths about cheap, unethical and exploitative clothing.

We’re fussy about what we wear because we want to look good, feel comfy, reflect an image, belong to our tribe. Wearing any old thing is rarely enough. We want to make a statement.

Fashion Revolution Day is a chance to wear your heart on your sleeve, think about what you’re wearing, show your labels, ask the brand who made it, reflect on whether it is an ethical and sustainable choice.

Clothing the world soaks up massive resources when you do the sums – 7.2 billion people each (on average) consuming 11 kg of apparel fibre (ie clothing) every year. Look at this graph below and you’ll see how consumption is rising, with the growth mainly in synthetic fibres made from petroleum. source document  Continue reading

Sew 113 – Jean genie

Jean jenie Jeans are produced in their millions annually and an average pair weighs at least half a kilogram. That’s a huge resource in terms of cotton farmed, fibre spun, fabric woven, dyed, sewn, finished and marketed.

It is enthralling – and appalling – to think that 253 tons of clothing is thrown away by Hong Kong residents on the average day, according to their Environmental Protection Department.

Redress is a Hong-Kong based NGO with a mission to promote environmental sustainability in the fashion industry by reducing textile waste, pollution, water and energy consumption. 

The 5-metre high mountain of second-hand clothing, photographed below, was designed as part of the Get Redressed campaign to illustrate the Chinese territory’s textile waste and is just the tip of a precipice because it represents only 7.5 tons of textiles, or 3% of the daily dumping of clothing.   Continue reading

Sew 112 – History skirt revisited

Coral and brown wool history skirtIt would be interesting to know how much time we spend each week attending to our clothing requirements in terms of trying, buying, preening, storing, washing and perhaps sewing, resewing or mending.

Over Easter I had a spring clean of my wool wear with southern winter approaching and was pleased to find most in good order and only two moth/silverfish munches to be found.

With Fashion Revolution Day April 24 asking Who Made Your Clothes? it is particularly interesting to look closely at the labels and reflect on who originally made the clothes I’m now upcycling.

Who made your clothes

Continue reading

Sew 111 – The 4T-shirt skirt

upcycled 4t-shirt skirtFast fashion means new clothing has never been cheaper or more plentiful. The process of shopping, trying and buying clothing in stores (or online) is recreational therapy – replacing tailor-made or making your own clothes.

A recent Choice magazine article quotes Council of Textiles and Fashion Industries of Australia figures (based on value) that 92% of clothes sold in Australia are imported.  Of these, 73% are made in China, 6% in Bangladesh, 2% in India, with the rest from Italy, Indonesia and other countries.

Global supply chains mean we have lost sight of the making process. Skills, knowledge, and understanding about where and how clothing is made are diminishing. The new clothing story is about consuming end results, limitless choice, on tap 24/7, then toss and replace once the gloss has gone (Americans toss 30kgs of clothing each per year).

who made your clothes?The Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh this time last year exposed the dark underbelly of the fashion industry – sparking a global Fashion Revolution to inspire cultural, ethical, environmental and social change in the way we engage with our clothes.

If you have Made in Bangladesh on your labels, read more about Where your clothes are really made in this well-researched Women’s Weekly article published six months after the Rana Plaza collapse.

The first Fashion Revolution Day campaign is Who Made Your Clothes? Take a look at the label, ask questions, consider whether it was ethically made by someone who was adequately compensated for their work. Post a selfie with the hashtag #insideout to support the campaign.  Continue reading