Jane Milburn

The clothes you wear are statements about your personality, values and perspective. Every day you make choices in what to wear – and unless you or your connections are empowered with simple sewing and design skills, you are a slave to current fashion in-store and online.

Constantly seeking new clothes can be time-consuming, expensive and overwhelming. The alternative is to become more inventive and refashion, repurpose, and recreate existing pieces in your wardrobe.

Jane Milburn is following the heart on a creative journey by upcycling the natural fibres which she grew up to love on a sheep farm in South Otago, New Zealand. This attachment continued through agricultural science study and work as a rural reporter and communications consultant.

Now a fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, in 2013 Jane undertook a Graduate Certificate in Australian Rural Leadership which included research into textile consumption trends.

This research revealed global fibre consumption growing at three times the rate of global population growth. Fast fashion, cheap clothes make in developing nations by people paid very low wages, is driving excessive consumption that is wasteful of resources and increasing waste.

The human toll highlighted by the Rana Plaza Fire in April 2013 brought this problem to world attention, as highlighted in the ABC’s Four Corners program FASHION VICTIMS and was the spark for an international campaign “Who made your clothes” that will mark Fashion Revolution Day on 24 April 2014. Find out more here

Jane’s response is the 2014 Sew it Again campaign by Textile Beat to inspire local upcycling of pre-loved natural fibre garments as a way of reviving home sewing, improving creativity and wellbeing, as well as ecological health.

11 thoughts on “About

  1. suzanne

    Really love what you’re doing, and looking forward to seeing your results!

    It’s quite a different project, but thought you might be interested in Natalie Purschwitz’s project where for a year she only wore clothes she made herself. That’s shoes, underwear, sunglasses, everything. Might be some inspiration for you: http://makeshiftproject.blogspot.com.au/

  2. Karen Ellis

    Hi Jane, I have just discovered Sew it Again. I am fascinated by this research project and will be spending time indoors today reading your blog posts.

    I REfashion and would love to be doing more of it but I can only wear so many clothes! I have been REcreating garments for over 30 years and have not bought anything new [except for underwear] for over 10 years. My signature is Scavenger Style – most of my REsources for REfashioning come from the point of landfill.

    I look forward to finding out more about you, your REfashions and the project.

    Kind regards
    Karen Ellis
    Twitter at @RudeRecord

  3. Jane Post author

    Great to hear Karen. There are so many beautiful resources go to waste, I feel compelled to rescue them … five wardrobes later, and Sew it Again is the result!

  4. Kylie Attwell

    Hi Jane,

    A friend of mine, Robyn Vanholland, was at the ATASDA meeting that you spoke at. I caught up with her recently and she was raving about you.

    I’ve had a quick look at your website and am extremely inspired. Wondering if you are doing any workshop’s in the future?

    I’m just getting back into sewing. I’m looking into sewing lessons, as I taught myself as a child and feel I’m missing many of the basics.

    I’m passionate about the environment and recycling. As well as designing & making my own clothes. (Nothing in my wardrobe is what I would call conventional).

    So any assistance, inspiration and wisdom you could pass on to me as I embark on this journey, would be most appreciated.

    Thank you so much in advance.

    Kind regards,


  5. Jane Post author

    Hi Kylie … thanks for the positive feedback. The ATASDA talk was great – such a receptive audience I could almost see their creative brains ticking over with ideas! I love doing workshops to empower and enable others to rework own clothes – will investigate having one at the BVAC hub sometime soon. I have The Garment Story exhibition at Pandora Gallery in Coolah, New South Wales, keeping me busy in May but would love to share skills in June. To get going right now though, I suggest you get some waste clothing – kids/friends/your cast-offs, op shop $2 fill-a-bag bin) in complementary colours and start using scissors. Don’t bother unpicking seams, just cut them out. Select the waistband of trouser/jean/skirt that works for you (ie is comfy and fits around your waist) then cut it off at about hip level (below the zip if there is one) so you have a ready-made waistband. From other clothes, cut out panels (decide on what length you want the skirt to be and work to that) and sew them together in a long rectangle by lying seams flat and zigzag together. Sew this rectangle to the waistband, making random tucks over or overlapping to make it fit. Cover any messy bits with ready-made features (frills, buttons, pockets) cut from the waste garments. Messy and random is good for creative result, being too-neat and fussy doesn’t mix easily with upcycling because you are working with irregularity. If this sounds too hard, check out Sew 113. Cut legs off old jeans, open out and sew together into a wrap-around skirt. You only need basic sewing skills. Don’t be scared. Just keep going. Enjoy the results – whatever they are – because you did it yourself. I look forward to catching up soon and hearing about your exploits! Jane

  6. Catherine Jarvis

    Hi Jane, I heard you on ABC radio a few months ago, around the time you were in Coolah. I’m interested in talking to you and hopefully persuading you to come out to the Tottenham Expo next year, you would be a fantastic guest speaker! Could you please email me? Cheers Cath

  7. Jane Post author

    Tottenham Expo sounds great Catherine – will be in touch via email.
    Cheers, Jane

  8. Kristina

    Hi Jane,

    I just stumbled over your website and I absolutely love it! Great idea and some beautiful results from the upcycled garments.

    I recently did a craft swap with an amazing fashion designer from Finland who only uses reclaimed fabric for her designs and also upcycles mens shirts into very cool new clothing!

    If you are interested this is her FB: annaveeclothing


  9. Jane Post author

    Thanks for your feedback Kristina and glad you are inspired. I’m motivated from resource-use perspective because my background is agricultural science – I hate to see natural fibres going to waste. Love to catch up sometime. Jane

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