Category Archives: wellbeing

Sew 362 – Handmade ministrations

Julie wears upcycled linenExciting to collaborate with Julie Hillier from Ministry of Handmade, when she popped over to the Textile Beat studio today as part of the final countdown of the 2014 Sew it Again project.

Julie has been developing Ministry of Handmade over the past three years to teach handmade skills with a contemporary twist. From her studio on Brisbane’s northside, Julie encourages people to slow down and take time to embrace the joy that comes from making something by hand. It was fascinating to talk with Julie about her workshops (which include lampshades, ottomans, cushions and picnic frocks) and how she engages people in the process of making, not just the end results. Sew wonderful to spend time with someone who has shared values, and who also believes home-sewing as a life skill just like home-cooking!  Continue reading

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.”  Continue reading

Sew 351 – Batik sees light of day

Jane Milburn wears refashionWe’re hurtling towards the end of the year and the completion of this 365-day Sew it Again project. It has been a relentless commitment, refashioning and posting every day without fail. It has also been transformational.

In documenting progress and learning, I’ve recognised the project is more than just upcycling natural fibre garments. It is about bringing heart, conscience and individual creativity to our wardrobes.

In the same way we are now more aware of the production integrity and nutritional value of our food (and the impact of processed food on our health), we are becoming conscious of the impacts of our clothing choices – on ourselves, on society and the planet.  Continue reading

Sew 342 – Synthetics shed microfibres

Frankie wears upcycled cotton dressGlobal research shows synthetic clothing can shed microplastic fibres with every wash, and these fibres are then flushed into oceans to contaminate the food chain and the planet. 

The research led by ecologist Mark Browne found clothing fibres to be abundant in habitats worldwide, and the problem is worsening. In his University of California Benign by Design presentation, Browne says ingested and inhaled fibers carry toxic materials and a third of the food we eat is contaminated with this material.

Environmental Science and Technology published the study in 2011 on Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Worldwide: sources and sinks: “Experiments sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines demonstrated that a single garment can produce >1900 fibers per wash. 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

Sew 316 – Making a difference

Jenna wears upcycledWhen we slow down and use traditional home-sewing skills to repair and refashion clothing that already exists in the world, we are practising slow fashion. This is the opposite end of the spectrum from fast fashion which thrives on high turnover, continuous and conspicuous consumption of newly made fashion clothing.

Slow magazine recently posted a story about the Sew it Again project, while another thoughtful magazine Womankind has a great article about the merits of meaningful creative practice. Womankind says that the story of making something may have disasters and triumphs along the way, but it brings meaning to our lives.  Continue reading

Sew 313 – Who wants our waste

Jane Milburn wears Textile Beat jacaranda purple“It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.” We think we are being kind and generous when we donate our unwanted clothing to charity – but are we just shifting our old stuff their way to help ourselves? When we give to people in need, we should give quality stuff – or cash.

In this thought-provoking post on We Are That Family, Kirsten wrote: ‘Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.”

Yesterday I wrote that Australia exports 70,000 tonne of used clothing each year (according to NACRO) mainly to UAE, Pakistan and Malaysia – that is 70,000,000 kg of cast-off clothing every year. Every pair of jeans (less than 1kg) takes 10,000 litres of water to grow the cotton fabric (according to WRAP UK). They are big numbers. Textile waste is a big issue and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that as a society, we need to change our ways.  Continue reading

Sew 311 – Immersing in slow fashion

Jane wears upcycledI was fortunate to spend formative childhood years on a family farm in Otago, New Zealand, and have memories of mushrooming after rain with Nana and sitting on Great Grandma’s porch shelling peas from the field garden. These authentic slow food experiences have informed subsequent life choices.

It is a logical side-step in a diverse career across agricultural journalism and advocacy that I am now part of the slow fashion movement in Australia, sharing ways to extend the life of clothes and reduce our clothing footprint.

Slow fashion – as distinct from fast fashion – is based on principles similar to those of the slow food movement which is a conscious cultural choice to slow down and share local, seasonal food grown in sustainable ways.  Continue reading

Sew 310 – Sharing refashion confidence

Kristina wears upcycled dressWe don’t live in a perfect world, so why expect that our clothing, our sewing and our refashion projects will be perfect?

In my book, a finished project has a few quirks and minor imperfections is far superior to the one that remains incomplete waiting for its ‘perfect’ moment to arrive – or sadder still, it never even got started.

Sometimes you just have to dive in and make something happen in order to move forward in an organic if unstructured way – a bit like the Sew it Again project itself!

I have learned some people worship neatness in the same way I value original randomness – and upcycling and refashion is not for those people. When Kristina arrived at the Textile Beat studio yesterday she knew her neat cautious approach was holding her back from playing fast and loose with the scissors. She just needed confidence to let go and try something new – and see what happened. Continue reading

Sew 302 – Zero waste refashionista

Chantel upcycles Refashioning and upcyclng clothing is play-based creativity because there are no rules – you are only limited by your imagination and energy.

It was great to have the opportunity today to lead an activity day with Brisbane home-schooling families who regularly meet at Petrie School of Arts.

Young Chantel was amazingly dedicated in refashioning a black and white unworn viscose dress (from my stash, a friend’s cast-off) into a skirt, bag and headband in zero-waste style.

To begin, she made a skirt by cutting off the bottom portion of the dress, turning the cut edge over to make a casing for elastic (cut to fit her waist) then threading elastic through using a safety pin and knotting to secure (her Mum helped with the sewing machine).  Continue reading