Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sew 325 – Clothes last for decades

Jane Milburn wears upcycledWhat is a reasonable lifespan for clothing? We know that food is perishable and has a shelf-life, but what about our clothes? Fashion has a contrived shelf-life of one season (or less) but what about classic and simple garments that don’t go out of date?

The variables to consider are – the quality of fabric and construction, how often you wash and wear them, whether your shape or needs change, and whether your taste and style moves on.

The act of throwing out clothing because it has literally worn out has become old-fashioned. How many know the experience of garments moving through the stiff-new beginning to become soft-with-age comfortable and rich with memories from many wears?  Continue reading

Sew 162 – The REfashion Revolution

refashioned cotton skirt We are what we repeatedly do. I’m repeatedly refashioning existing clothing to prevent them going to waste. Everyday this year, I use what I have and do what I can to demonstrate a more creative way of reusing natural fibre clothing instead of dumping them.

In so doing, I’m part of a REfashion Revolution which is inspiring thoughtful and creative reuse of existing clothing instead of buying more.

Waste not, want not, as my Great Grandma used to say – but it is astounding how wasteful our society has become in pursuit of new stuff.

The REfashion Revolution has integrity.

IntegrityIt is creative, autonomous and purposeful in reducing waste and exploitation – and in alignment with my personal values. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles – or another graphic definition I picked up via social media recently which I love is this: Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain.  

The REfashion Revolution is happening all around us, when we pause to consider how we can reuse clothing by chopping and changing instead of tossing out. Continue reading

Sew 126 – Linen suit gets update

upcycled suitSetting up the Upcycled exhibition at Pandora Gallery in Coolah has helped consolidate the purpose and messaging around my 365-day Sew it Again campaign. Once people think about how our relationship with clothing has changed over the years, they understand why we need to adjust our behaviour to reduce textile waste.

Because country people live close to nature and are naturally resourceful, they’re really receptive to the upcycling concept. We workshopped the Upcycled values for a sign on the gallery wall and keeping adding more – they include being mindful, thrifty, ethical, resourceful, sustainable, creative, original, zero waste, eco-friendly.  Continue reading

Sew 108 – Resewing existing clothing

upcycled silk and wool lookWeird, eccentric, alternative, unusual, different, unique, junky, ragged, rustic, rough, bodgie, wasted, original, rad, scrappy, yuck, quirky, bespoke, creative … adjectives describing various results from taking scissors to existing clothes and resewing them.

There are professional designers creating cutting-edge clothing from upcycled materials all over the world, with the best collated by New York-based academic Sass Brown in her latest book Refashioned and website Eco Fashion Talk.

I’m an amateur, learning by doing, having a go with what I have, resewing rejected natural fibre clothing using home-sewing techniques and posting results on every day this year.

One doesn’t have to look far to see evidence of clothing waste, millions of tonnes of it every year. Americans throw out 30kg of textiles per person per year, according to Elizabeth Cline in Overdressed: the Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.  And at least half of donated clothing ends up being shipped overseas to African countries, according to Beverly Gordon in her book Textiles: The Whole StoryContinue reading

Sew 39 – Towards zero waste

upcycled silk suitTransformed from two jackets, this outfit is for tonight’s opening of the Love Up-cycled exhibition at Reverse Emporium in Brisbane, which includes Textile Beat’s Sew it Again.

Am looking forward to meeting upcyclers likely to have similar values to mine – integrity, creativity, autonomy and purpose.

I’m proud to live in a city with a sustainability agenda that includes a Towards Zero Waste Strategy, and events such as the bi-annual Green Heart Fair which I attended last year. Other cities with zero waste strategies include San Francisco (they’ve just introduced a textile waste program) in the US, Vancouver in Canada and Kaikoura in New Zealand.

Brisbane City Council’s says on its website: “Zero Waste is a goal, a process, a way of thinking that profoundly changes our approach to resources and production. Not only is Zero Waste about recycling and diverting materials from landfills, it is also about restructuring production and distribution systems to prevent waste from being created in the first place. Zero waste ensures that resources already in existence are used to their maximum potential.”  Continue reading

Planning a year of sewing and creativity

Jane studio webAs I relax in my beautiful light-filled studio anticipating a year-long campaign upcycling natural fibre clothing in what amounts to a zero-waste commitment to textiles, I am enjoying Kevin McCloud’s 43 Principles of Home.

Principle 40 in this book is: ‘Zero waste is not fairy tale pie in the sky. With proper municipal waste programs, thrift and prudence, it is possible’.

Reading books and online research has led me to follow my heart on a creative journey woven from the threads of childhood, education, work and family interspersed with a love of nature, natural fibres, simplicity and resourcefulness.

My research during 2013 confirmed an instinctive belief that we are churning through textiles at an unsustainable rate – global consumption of textiles has grown three-times faster than the world’s population.

According to recent figures*, world apparel fibre consumption grew from 39 million tons in 1992 to 70 million tons in 2010 – an 80 per cent increase in fibre consumption over an 18-year period, with most of the growth being in synthetic (non-cellulosic) fibres. During that same period, the global population rose 25 per cent, from 5.5 billion in 1992 to 6.9 billion in 2010.

Our Earth has finite resources so this escalating growth in consumption of fibres seems a kind of madness driven by unconscious greed, look-at-me fast fashion and a churning desire for newer, brighter and supposedly ‘better’ clothing.

Kevin McCloud says throw nothing away if you can help it and wear your clothes until they are rags – thrift is an admirable value that we have lost.

Of course we all enjoy new clothes and dressing well but like fast food, fast fashion is leading to over-consumption for the wrong reasons which may include chasing trends, wanting to fit in, retail therapy and stress relief.

I’ve been rescuing discarded natural-fibre clothing from op shops and other sources for years because I value them as natural resources. These wool, silk, linen and cotton garments may sometimes be out-of-date, in need of a stitch or a nip and tuck, but I see their beauty.

That’s why I plan to make a daily ritual of upcycling garments from my own and others’ wardrobes as a way of creating and sharing a different way of dressing that is mindful of the Earth’s finite resources.

It is a commitment I hope to meet, even while I am travelling to various locations in Australia – around my state of Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory – and perhaps overseas as well – inspiring upcycling wherever I am.

I’m used to running campaigns for others, but now Sew it Again 2014 is a campaign of my own making based on ecological health and wellbeing. I hope you will share my journey with creativity, resourcefulness and a love for nature.

*FAO/ICAC World Apparel Fibre Consumption Survey July 2013 FAO-ICAC-Survey-2013-Update-and-2011-Text

**Kevin McCloud’s 43 Principles of Home: Enjoying Life in the 21st Century, Harper Collins Publishers, 2010

A 365-day eco-fashion project for 2014

These days few people know how to mend or sew a simple garment, yet this is a life skill akin to cooking. Fast fashion, like fast food, has taken over with an endless stream of cheap, disposable clothing – but at what price?

Not only is this exploitative and wasteful of resources, it’s taken away the simple pleasure of creating something of our very own to wear. Something unique that is crafted by our own skilled hands through imagination and energy.

While sewing from scratch can be expensive and sometimes disappointing, there is a seemingly endless supply of upcycling material languishing in wardrobes and opportunity shops.

Sew it Again is a 2014 project which aims to revive home sewing to be:
•   empowered – wear unique garments in colours you like that suit your shape
•   sustainable – create eco-fashion, reuse natural fibres and reduce waste
•   thrifty – enjoy affordable, natural, one-off outfits that won’t break the bank

For years, Jane Milburn has been stockpiling clothing made of natural fibres such as silk, linen, wool and cotton by rescuing garments from op shops and friends. Five wardrobes later, something has to give.

Through 2014, Jane will refashion 365 garments for a second life as part of a creative journey inspiring upcycling of natural fibres. Please revisit this site after 1 January 2014 to see the results.

Why does this matter?

Global textile use is growing at a rate three times faster than the population. Since 1992, the world’s population has increased 25 per cent while textile consumption has increased 80 per cent. Read more in the World Apparel Fiber Consumption Survey July 2013 FAO-ICAC-Survey-2013-Update-and-2011-Text

In her book Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion, Elizabeth L. Cline said: Every year, Americans throw away 12.7 million tons, or 68 pounds of textiles per person, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But all is not lost, because Cline also said: According to Time magazine, there were approximately 35 million sewing hobbyists in the United States in 2006, up from 30 million in 2000. And the number is growing as more people tap back into the pleasure of making something themselves.