Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sew 212 – Clothing is not fashion

second-life for clothingI’ve learned so much from reading Kate Fletcher‘s Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys book – including an understanding about the difference between clothing and fashion.

Here’s a big slab of what Fletcher says about that: “Fashion and clothing are different concepts and entities. They contribute to human well-being both functionally and emotionally. Clothing is material production; fashion is symbolic production. Although their use and looks sometimes coincide, fashion and clothes connect with us in different ways. Fashion links us to time and space and deals with our emotional needs, manifesting us as social beings, as individuals. Fashion can be what is set in motion when a designer presents a new collection on a catwalk on Milan. But equally, fashion can be the moment when a teenager crops a pair of jeans, adds a badge to an old sweatshirt and paints their Converse pumps. Clothing, in contrast, is concerned chiefly with physical or functional needs, with sheltering, shielding and protecting. Not all clothes are fashion clothes and not all fashion finds expression in garment form. Yet where the fashion sector and the clothing industry come together (in fashion clothes) our emotional needs are made manifest as garments. This overlaying of emotional needs on physical goods fuels resource consumption, generates waste and promotes short-term thinking as we turn our gaze from one silhouette, hemline and colour palate to the next in search of the next new experience. It also leaves us dissatisfied and disempowered, as physical goods, no matter how many of them we consume, can never truly satisfy our psychological needs.”  Continue reading

Sew 211 – Use skills to renovate clothes

Jane Milburn wears upcycled skirt capeI’m up to day 211 of upcycling and renovating existing clothing to give them another chance at life through the 2014 Sew it Again project.

We don’t live in a perfect world so why expect our clothing to be so? Clothing requires maintenance and can be renovated. Sometimes we wash them more than we need to (Levis CEO doesn’t wash jeans) and often times we rush off to buy something new instead of checking and changing what we already have.

As an op shop queen, I buy very little new, am into DIY and use the library. But when I found Womankind magazine while browsing the newsagent, I saw something special.

The cover is symbolic, a beautiful butterfly collage of a woman’s face, the editorial by Antonia Case a compelling case for using time wisely to create a good life and the article about Julia Schor was the decider to add Womankind to my collection of affirming publications.  Continue reading

Sew 210 – Collar wrap adds interest

Birger Christensen cashmere upcycledThis long black 100% cashmere coat is a favourite found on a freezing day out in Toronto op-shopping with son Max a few years ago. It is total quality as a Birger Christensen and a testament for natural fibres and superior design.

The coat was in perfect condition when I purchased it (for $120) but this winter when I got it out of the airtight winter suitcase, I noticed the fleece on the cuffs and collars had a couple of small bare spots. Not insect damage, perhaps age. I used a permanent marker to blacken the spots and that camouflaged them effectively.

While in Warwick last week, I couldn’t resist a quick visit to the op shop and found two pieces of wool fabric for $3 each. This red and charcoal herringbone weave square metre was ideal to turn into a wrap collar, which was an easy way to add interest to the plain back coat without interfering with its integrity. This combination was nice and warm to wear to the Night Noodle Markets at Southbank in Brisbane.  Continue reading

Sew 209 – Simple drape of tartan

Tartan wrapIt has received controversial reviews but I love the Scotland team’s Commonwealth Games uniform of bright tartan – particularly the wool wrap which was worn in so many different ways by female athletes during the opening ceremony.

The uniform inspired me to uncover an unused piece of tartan fabric that has been languishing in my studio for a decade and create this winter wrap. This piece of fabric is about 160cm wide and over two metres long, with one side longer than the other but this method works with any length or width (the shape will be different though). It is just a matter of cutting partway down the middle, securing the end of that cut by sewing a rectangle of fabric to the back, then fringing the cut edges. You just sit the wrap on your shoulders and flick the longer end over the back. You could use an old blanket to achieve the same effect.

tartan wrap

Sew 208 – Easy when you see how

Jane Mllburn wear upcycled jumper-skirtInteresting to see a Vinnies op-shop scarf included in the fashion pages of our local newspaper The Courier-Mail yesterday. St Vincent de Paul was Just casually listed along with the other fashion suppliers featured in the photos.

Does this suggest op-shops are going mainstream? Advertising enables publishing and commerce makes the world go around, so can’t get too excited that op-shops and upcycled clothing have more than a niche future.

Unlike the established processes for recycling glass, metal and plastic, we don’t do much with textiles beyond donating them to op shops. That’s why I am spending this year on a counter-culture Sew it Again project to demonstrate other uses for reject clothing and fabrics – building a 365-page archive of options for reuse. Continue reading

Sew 207 – See old jumper sew skirt

Desirea wears upcycled jumper-skirtThis was an ordinary old cotton jumper that Helen transformed into a skirt, scarf, toggle and headband at the Textile Beat jumper-to-skirt workshop – and Desirea modelled at the gorgeous Abbey of the Roses in Warwick, Queensland.

Cotton farmers are paid about $500/bale (which is 227kg) for raw cotton or about $2/kg for the cotton in a standard jumper which weighs less than 500 gms. A lot of water, energy and other inputs (insect control, defoliant) go into producing this natural fibre. After being grown on farms, the fibres then go through ginning, spinning, colouring, knitting to turn it into garments which we buy so easily and cheaply in clothing stores because they are made en mass. Billions and billions of such garments are produced every year to clothe the world.  Continue reading

Sew 206 – Jumper becomes jazzy skirt

Desirea wears upcycled jumper skirtMost of us have clothes we don’t wear in our wardrobes. We can give them to friends, donate them to charity, put them in the rubbish bin – or upcycle them into something else.

At our Jumper to Skirt workshop in Warwick today, Desirea converted this jumper (that was no longer being worn as such) into a jazzy skirt with two scarf options.

It is also exciting that Desirea hasn’t sewn before (she has always called on her mother to do that) so this simple project was a good way for her to get quick results and hopefully be inspired to sew more in future. Continue reading

Sew 205 – Repairs and maintenance

Jane Milburn at International HouseJust a quick mend and post today pertaining to repairs and maintenance.

I wore Sew 205 to the International House Board of Management meeting last night. It is an exciting time for the organisation, with lots of clever heads around the table. The college was severely impacted by the 2011 Queensland floods but International House has recovered well and we had good discussions about strategic decisions for the future. It is great to be working with an astute team enabling young people to live, learn and lead with others from around the world.

Continue reading

Sew 204 – Hem just right for Lily

Altering hems to suitHere’s my little girl all grown up and flown the coup. Lily left with friends for Europe last night to holiday before undertaking a semester of her University of Queensland degree at Leeds University in the United Kingdom. We will miss her so much. Travel safe my beautiful clever girl.

Like many people, Lily buys clothes online. Because you can’t try them on, they’re not always what you expect. Lil bought several dresses including this one a year ago, and we had a sewing bee (she sewed!) taking up the hems about 4cm and trimming the sleeves. The viscose fabric (reconstituted plant fibres) is light, soft and easy to wear and work with.  Continue reading

Sew 203 – Where clothes come from

Jane Milburn wears upcycled jumper-skirtDuring the past decade there has been growing interest and awareness in where food comes from, how it is grown and what are its nutritional and sustainable values. We’re alive to fact that we are what we eat.

In a similar way, there now is growing interest in where clothes come from, who made them, what they are made of and whether they are ethical and sustainable – because we are what we wear.

Skin is our body’s largest organ, so the clothing we wrap it in influences feel, comfort and interactions by osmosis. Natural-fibre clothing free from contaminants and toxins must be best. The benefits of natural fibres are eloquently summarised by Wildfibres UK.  Continue reading