Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whatnot: Why I upcycle

 Have I told you that once upon a time I was a costume designer?  Well, in college I was.  And there began my flirtation with upcycling.
I didn't know that it was called anything (upcycling, refashioning, re-purposing, etc...) - I was just a poor college student trying to make ends meet who knew how to sew.  My very first project was an old pair of my dad's jeans (like old from when he and my mom were dating or first married or something like that).  For some reason my mom had them in a drawer and handed them over to me on my way out the door to freshman year.  They fit me loosely around the hips, but I didn't like the cut or length of the legs.  Luckily I had just entered a world where I had a costume shop full of scraps at my disposal - ahhhh the good old days. I chopped the legs off below the knee, added bell-bottoms made out of funky fabrics, appliqued a coordinating butterfly to the upper thigh where there were some holes and a sun to the back pocket (what can I say, I was in a hippy phase).  These jeans were anything but fashionable, but I loved their comfort, and they made me smile.

My mom taught me to sew, but college set me free to CREATE.

Upcycling has become popular these days, between a down turned economy and a generation attempting to go green; 'reuse, renew, recycle' when it comes to your closet seems a perfect solution.  But this trend is anything but new.  It isn't hard for me to conjure the image of Maria singing "A Few of my favorite things..." and creating play clothes out of the household drapes for the Von-Trapp children .  Going back to the 40's, women painstakingly took apart suits and dresses to turn worn collars and hide stains by filliping the pieces.  Wool and silk were hard to come by during war time as soldiers' uniforms and parachutes took precedent over new fashions.  Going further back in US history, colonial women and children used worn garments to create napkins, handkerchiefs and other items that helped them hone their skill at a variety of stitches.  Eventually their needlework made its way into their hope chests to be used for their own future families.

History lesson aside, upcycling has been around for a long time, and the trend seems to be here to stay!  I would love to say that I upcycle to create a greener planet, to celebrate the resources already at play in our wasteful world, to.... Eh, let's be honest, I'm just cheap.

I have watched my sister create gorgeous things out of t-shirts and other materials for her children over the years, and I love the knowledge that not only can I re-fashion for me, I can do it for them as well.

Here are just a few of the things that are staples in my closet that I have upcycled or made out of remnant fabric peices:

Knit Vest: one of my favorite spring/fall layering pieces
made from scratch
once long, now short

most comfy pj pants ever

favorite fitting tank from t-shirt

Awesome fabric my mom had laying about
I tie the bows around my bra straps so nothing gets out of place

Before (flirty dress with too low cut top)
After: perfect comfy skirt for all occasions

Before: Way too big (just trust me,  they were falling off)
After: Just right

Before: 2 too short shirts
After: Cute color blocking

And here are some new re-creations for my kiddos:

headband from onesie
my nephew D sporting his new hat

Before: Men's Shirt
After: Bucket hat
headband from t-shirt 
t-shirt to baby romper

So, my closet has become my home shopping network and I have a pile of clothes waiting for their turn on the chopping block. It makes me think of this quote:
 "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me"... and let me see what I can create ;o)

*Expect to see more sewing projects and tutorials in the future - any one have any requests???


  1. Sew cute! You are gifted my friend!

    1. Thanks Erin - these days I just like to have fun and see what I can come up with ;o)

  2. hahahah - my mother just informed me that she refuses to comment on this blog post because she is cringing at my finishing techniques (or lack there of) on some of these items. I fully admit, I am a down and dirty sewer - I want it done & I want it done now! That being said, I do know the steps and techniques to finish things beautifully. Many of my projects will be down and dirty, but I promise to finish things properly when it really matters - in fact I just completed a new shirt last night with very nice flat-feld seams.