Category Archives: hand sew/no sew

Sew 360 – Thanks upcyclers, models

Steph wears upcycledToday I thank the many upcyclers and models I’ve had the opportunity to work with during this Sew it Again year.

Looking back at the 360 photos (to date) taken during the year pinned here on Pinterest is a great reminder of the breadth of both old and young who’ve been involved with the project.

Upcycling appeals across generations and of course was a practise routinely undertaken in earlier times when clothing was valued for the natural resources it represents. People refashioned and reshaped, mended and passed clothes along as hand-me-downs.

We’ve been reclaiming some of that conscious and conservative culture during 2014 – and I thank those who have been part of the journey by engaging in workshops at various locations or at the Textile Beat studio in Brisbane Australia.  Continue reading

Sew 348 – Silk wrapped cinnamon

Bark and silk Christmas decorationsMr Darcy is so helpful. Suggest he pick up a bag of large cinnamon/cassia sticks when visiting a favourite Asian grocery and he arrives home with four bags!  The bark smells so good and represents great value. Some of it has now morphed into Sew 348 – Christmas decorations and potpourri bags created from a repurposed sheer silk shirt.

I’ve been looking at this op-shop found shirt (see photos below) for a while, wondering how to best utilise its embroidered silk fabric and clear plastic buttons after deciding I didn’t want to wear it as a top. With the arrival of the bark, it’s repurpose was determined.

I began the filleting process, cutting off the bottom of the sleeves to create bags and making strips across the bodice to become ribbons and bows. Continue reading

Sew 346 – Upcycled flower power

Upcycled Christmas flowerAdmiring some beautiful big pink decorations on a Christmas tree in our local Brisbane News newspaper inspired me to create a variation using lily pods and an unworn jacket repurposed into flowers.

The jacket was amongst a bundle of clothes given to me for refashion by my friend Robyn Sheptooha earlier in the year and it was likely to be moved on (not natural fibre) until I saw its potential to return to Robyn as bespoke Christmas decorations.

Taking lotus lily pods (which Darcy gathered from a north Queensland friend’s property) and cassia bark (similar to large cinnamon sticks), I glued them together to create flowers bases (see photos at bottom).   Continue reading

Sew 341 – Dolly peg angels

dolly peg angel christmas decorations

Dolly peg angels are one of my favourite Christmas decorations which are easy to make as simple gifts with meaning and usefulness. There are endless creative options when you gather wooden pegs, quick-drying clear fabric glue, various fabric offcuts and bark (from a paper bark tree in a park near you).

The pegs above which I’ve made as Sew 341 utilise torn silk strips of fabric as bows, with the threads that peel off when you tear the fabric being randomly knotted as a clump to form hair. It is just a matter of choosing a piece of bark or silk to wrap around the peg, securing it with glue under the overlap at the back. Continue reading

Sew 340 – Clothing in a material world

Fabric on Crows Ash podsJane Milburn at TEDxSouthBankReflecting on what I’ve learned from this 365-day Sew it Again journey, I had the opportunity to summarise it in a one-minute pitch at #TEDxSouthBank today, as follows:

Every day we eat and we dress. We’re now conscious of our food – it’s time to become more conscious of our clothes. Do you know:  Continue reading

Sew 339 – Xmas stacks of fabric scraps

no waste Christmas decorationsCreative types use lateral thinking when reviewing the usefulness of any old coats lurking in your wardrobe, back door or opportunity shop.

Off-season or damaged coats are often available for just a few dollars at op shops, yet they have metres of useful fabric when cut up and repurposed as a craft resource.

I removed the lining and cut up a beige wool coat (see photo in Sew 339 how-to) into pieces, throwing out the small damaged sections which had led to the demise of its usefulness as a garment. I had the fabric pieces stored in a plastic bag, waiting for their moment to shine.  Continue reading

Sew 338 – Christmas allsorts from offcuts

Christmas allsortsIn the same way you can scratch up a meal from leftovers after Christmas, you can make decorations before Christmas from bits and pieces of fabric from here and there. Just apply a bit of creative energy and tap into ideas all around you.

I got this Christmas allsorts decoration idea from the Thrifty by Design team in Canada and I’ve just modified to suit the textile resources I had at hand – no need to go out a buy anything, just use what you have.

They are made from old wool coats – a beige one (photo below) that was $2 at opshop due to marks on the back (making it perfect for chopping up) – and the red wool sleeves left over from an earlier project Sew 226.

I started by making a pattern from cardboard, cutting circles and triangles in three-different sizes. While watching TV in the evening, I cut out shapes from the red and the beige wool, aiming to make roughly the same number of each. Then you just make stacks, interspersing the colours, and use fishing line on a needle to thread up through the middle before finishing the bottom with buttons and a bell, and the top with buttons. To provide a hanging loop, trim out the seams and cut a slit at either end – one fits over the buttons, the other will hang on a hook on the tree or elsewhere.

upcycled Christmas decorations


Sew 337 – Old lights, new decorations

Old dragonfly lights upcycled as Christmas decorationsChristmas is coming and we’re Into the final straight of the year for this 365-day Sew it Again project, demonstrating creative ways of reuse for thrift, well-being and ecological health.

Community, connection and care are the fabulous aspects of this time of year and I have always struggled with the push to consume more and more. Australians are tipped to spend $18 billion over the holiday season – that’s up to $800 for every woman, man and child in the nation.

My Christmas thing has always been hand-made decorations because they are useful, pretty and non-fattening offerings. I enjoyed being able to give one of these Christmas dragonflies, right, to my hairdresser yesterday and my friend Wendy Agar when she popped in for lunch today.  Continue reading

Sew 336 – Reusing shell treasures

Jane Milburn wears upcycled linen and buttonsShell buttons are beautiful unique treasure from the sea and deserve to be used again and again. I have old hand-made trochus shell buttons from my mother-in-law’s collection and am still incubating an upcycling project worthy of them.

I’ve salvaged many shell buttons over the years and find the variety and natural beauty truly amazing.  They’re special because they won’t always be available in future. ABC Rural reported recently that a small trochus shell industry remains in Great Barrier Reef waters to cater for the high-end fashion market but the reality is that most buttons are now plastic.  Continue reading

Sew 335 – Sewing is a life skill

Changing buttons for fresh lookToday’s upcycle is simply about changing buttons – as my friend and wool producer Carol Watson has done to personalise a beautiful linen jacket for Sew 335 of 365 (see photos below).

It seems we’ve just blinked and now we’re at the beginning of the last month of the year, reflecting on 2014 and considering what might be up next.

The storms last week had a silver lining – they forced a tidy-up of the Textile Beat studio (for those following the details, I’m still drying out my machines under the overhead fan and have not tried to plug in yet – hence hand-sew projects).

One useful rediscovery during the tidy-up was my seven-point note-to-self written during study last year that provides some homespun perspective and direction for day-to-day actions and reactions. The points are: 1. Being is enough  2. Follow the heart  3. Live and work to your values  4. Make health a daily priority  5. Stay connected  6. Respect process and planning 7. Give/ask for help, and keep learning. I’ve mostly stuck to that philosophy this year, with just a few deviations.  Continue reading