Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sew 151 – T-shirts reworked

upcycle with crochet necklineThe fabulous City of Brisbane Australia demonstrates that it values sustainable living by hosting the Green Heart Fair twice each year – and this free community event is on again at Chermside tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to engaging with eco-aware locals on the topic of sustainable and ethical dressing – discussing ways we can reduce our clothing footprint.

With the 365-day Sew it Again campaign approaching the half-way mark (well nearly), there are plenty of garments to fill out the Textile Beat tent this year.

Although time is against me now, I’m working on a few t-shirt upcycles we can do – sans sewing machine with just scissors, hand stitching and crafting. Continue reading

Sew 150 – Turtleneck becomes fringe

upcycled wool jumper by fringing necklineTight necklines can be uncomfortable, which might be why there are many turtle-neck wool jumpers to be found in op shops.

I decided to test what would happen when I fringed the neck and Sew 150 is the result. I’ve since washed it on gentle cycle in a laundry bag and the edges developed a nice fluffy effect, no unravelling in sight.

So instead of throwing away jumpers with tight necks, consider fringing. To achieve this effect, cut by following the rib-lines about 1cm apart, taking care to stop before the reinforced edge of the neck. Keep the strips as even as possible – get your eye in by looking ahead of where you are cutting. Wash with care. Sew 150 is teamed with a brown wool jumper skirt, with sleeves used as a tie belt. The different colours is the photo are due to the flash – not a magic new dye process. Continue reading

Sew 149 – Serena resews trousers

Serena wears upcycled culottesThe Sew it Again project is not about Jane Milburn resewing adventures, it is about inspiring and enabling others to relook at clothing that already exists in their wardrobes and refashioning it for a second life.

Serena Williams is an early adopter. Having bought jeans-to-skirt convo Sew 31 at the Reverse Emporium Love Upcycled exhibition, she got in touch about refashioning a wool suit that was no longer suitable for her partner’s corporate role.

We had sew much fun together, although she made me wield the scissors. Tellingly, Serena felt a twinge in her chest as I cut into the fine wool suiting fabric. It is a little scary slicing up something that still has intrinsic value but if it is not being worn as is, the risk is not high.

Serena resews

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Sew 148 – Green at heart

upcycled wool jumperIn her book Naked Fashion: the new sustainable fashion revolution, Safia Minney says the price tag on fashion you buy rarely covers the real social and environmental costs – and she explains why.

“For many developing countries, clothing manufacture is a leg-up into industrialisation and so-called development, and is a substantial part of their earnings. In Bangladesh, clothing exports account for 70 per cent of GDP and the industry employs over three million workers, mostly women. The clothing industry offers opportunities to low-income countries because of the relatively low cost of setting up factories, and a burgeoning population that provides a constant supply of deft hands as semi-skilled labour. Developing countries end up competing with each other to be the world’s garment factory, in what has been called a ‘race to the bottom’ for wages, health and safety and job security,” writes Minney, founder of fair trade fashion brand People Tree.

It is a tricky scenario, but the reality is that Western consumerism – in Minney’s words – is stripping land and natural resources away from farmers and fisherfolk and concentrating it all into the hands of a few business owners, investors and their army – the advertisers, creatives and marketeers who make consumption so seductive, even at the cost of our planet and our sanity.”

That’s a reality check if you needed one – and it’s why I’m demonstrating a creative way of dressing with Sew it Again and getting involved with Brisbane City’s fabulous Green Heart Fair, which support sustainable living initiatives such as upcycled eco-fashion. Below is a photo of Stephanie Poncini in Sew 143, Belinda Burgess in Sew 1 and Jane Milburn in Sew 113 taken by Annette Dew for Westside News … and the new bunting I’ve created for the Textile Beat display this Sunday. Come along and join in a T-shirts Reworked adventure I’m working on now.

Jane Milburn Stephanie Poncini and Belinda Burgress ready for the Green Heart Fair

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Sew 147 – Resewing at embryonic stage

upcycled wool cardigan skirtForecasting social-cultural trends is something European trendsetter Lidewij Edelkoort learned to do by trusting her instincts and she now travels the world presenting at events such as Designex  coming soon to Sydney Australia.

In a recent article, Edelkoort reflects on the current move towards nature, organics and the traditional. “We’re seeing the dawning of an embryonic age, where the social mood is shifting to a climate of community, care and compassion. A new epoch with different and more wholesome, localised options … Twenty years ago we craved imported goods. Now we’re turning our attention to things that are local and locally made … We went very quickly into the desire for global things and I think we will also unglobalise rapidly which I think is positive because transportation is taking its toll on society, financially and ecologically. So if we can do less of that, the better it is.”  Continue reading

Sew 146 – A blanket connection

Steph in wool blanket Sew 146Connectedness and community is something inner-city neighbourhood friend Lisa Baumann and I reflected on this morning. These positive characteristics of old-fashioned country life are not always cultivated in modern cities but are comforting when you come across them.

It was lovely sharing a coffee at Abode and scoping up Lisa’s day-old newspaper before heading home. Then to open the Sunday Mail and find a spread which has stories about Cunnamulla friends and sheep/wool producers Pru and Stu Barkla beside Ministry of Handmade’s Julie Hillier, well it’s made my day. I feel the urban and rural connection. Continue reading

Sew 145 – Many fashion futures

Upcycled cotton skirt and skirtMost of us are spoilt for choice in the Western world, with every conceivable item available in a plethora of colours, styles and sizes ready for our consuming pleasure. We purchase our identity according to whichever brand message grabbed our attention from the rivers of print, screen, digital and social information flowing our way.

Clothing shapes our day. Each morning we dress to be comfortable, look fabulous and belong. In seeking to satisfy those needs for 7.2 billion people in the world, apparel fashion has blossomed into a $1.7 trillion industry. As long as consumers happily and mindlessly reach out for more and more clothing, manufacturers will keep providing it.

Any thinking person knows that endless consumption is destroying the planet. Our wardrobes bulge with stuff we don’t wear because we purchased it for a single occasion, our shape has changed, or we bought it cheaply, hurriedly, without longer-term consideration. Continue reading

Sew 144 – Seeing resewing results

Diagonal jeans skirtWe all bobble along in the world, making the best of what we have and contributing where we can to make a difference. I’m assiduously working away this year on the Sew it Again project, supported by my family and friends to demonstrate ways of upcycling existing clothing to conserve and revive natural fibre resources instead of buying new.

And it is exciting when others catch the ball and run with it! Star pupil from the Coolah workshops Jacki sent me this update: ‘Had a great day – mended two dresses, patched some work jeans that had holes and upcycled a hoodie top into jeans, bag and scarf with little pockets to keep hands warm. That outfit was for an 8-year-old girl, the daughter of a friend. When I gave her the clothes she said “Look Mum the jeans aren’t ugly anymore”. See below for Jacki’s photos of the second-life she created for her unworn hoodie. Continue reading

Sew 143 – Skirts from trousers

Steph in upcycled skirtHow about this for an amazing statistic – China’s annual consumption of tissues is about 4.4 million tons. This has led to an Eco-Handkerchief event around the use of handkerchiefs over tissues as part of an eco-business trade mission to China from Australia to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly products to a ‘green-hungry’ Chinese market.

So many things that were once considered old-fashioned and traditional are returning to the fore because we recognise them as ‘eco-friendly’, sustainable and practical ways of living.

It was affirming to be among creative women for the sixth birthday celebration and opening of BrisStyle HQ at 24 Macquarie St at Newstead last night and chat with others who value handmade and traditional craft skills.  Continue reading

Sew 142 – Repairing old favs

Mending is upcyclingCrisp new natural-fibre fabrics are lovely to feel, yet the softness and malleability that comes with age has great appeal too.

The men in my family often come with hands outstretched when their favourite trousers or shorts need mending (they’re good at housework and cooking so it’s a quid pro quo). I love that we have this family ethos of treasuring things for sentimental reasons rather than monetary ones.

Staying overnight recently with my friend Georgie Somerset on her and Rob’s beef property at Durong, I took this photograph, below, of their mending pile stacked in a corner waiting for a spare hour or two in between cattle work, community work and board meetings!  Continue reading