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.” 

Cameron’s book is about discovering and recovering your creative self and it has relevance to us all, not just artists and creatives. “We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals. Recovery urges our re-examining definitions of creativity and expanding them to include what in the past we called hobbies. The experience of creative living argues that hobbies are in fact essential to the joyful life.”

Whether it is a hobby, a cause or the project of a lifetime, I’ve been sewing seeds this year to cultivate a creative approach by refashioning natural-fibre clothing for a sustainable second life. These fibres are still useful albeit unloved in their current form and it is through creative play (or a mend, a tweak, a twist or a flip) that we can turn something we don’t like or wear into something we can love again.

I wholeheartedly dived into this year of demonstrating upcycling because I have mentors and guides encouraging me along. My leadership fellows Ele Cook, Georgie Somerset and Carol Watson, and my friend Dr Kay Pearse are key among them. Thanks to you – and others – for your guidance and encouragement in life and work.

Sew 358 is beautifully soft yet coarsely woven silk which I purchased from a Cairns remnant fabric shop decades ago, and made into a shirt and wrap skirt which served me well but was off the boil. Perfect upcycling fodder and the photos below give some indication of the process.  I took a pair of wide-legged linen trousers (which I’d also made and wasn’t wearing) in a complementary colour and cut them into several bias cut strips (20cm wide for new collar and the rest 7cm wide for trim). First I removed the old silk collar (which was marked with wear) to turn the top into v-neck before creating a fresh collar (I chose one end straight and other pointed). Instead of measuring exactly, make the bias-cut slightly longer than needed, fold over lengthwise, sew around most of the edges (leaving an opening at the back) and turn it right-side out before stitching (the side with the seam) to the underside of the v-neck, making a few random tucks at the back (to help it sit neatly and use up the excess). Collar done. I then trimmed the front bottom corners from the top and added the bias-cut trim all around it, as well as on the wrap of the skirt, leaving the cut edge un-neatened. It feels good to refashion this old favourite for a new lease on life – and bring out the old favourite Christmas decorations too. See photo, bottom, of the calico bear made by a 6-year-old Casey (he’s now 26) for his little sister Lily (now 20 – and having Christmas in Amsterdam this year!). Time marches on, seven days to go and this upcycling year will be done!

upcycle an unworn silk suit

Christmas bear by Casey