In a recent private lesson, I was working with a student who expressed how overwhelming her stash of cloth has become, that when she goes to make a new project she has to hunt for the items she wants to use. And this wastes a tremendous amount of creative energy and time.
We talked about more sustainable practices for sewists, because the really wild but not surprising, thing that happens when committing to sewing your own clothing, is that some of our habits from the previous life of buying our clothes start to repeat in our sewing practice.
And this made me consider how I'm repeating past unsustainable practices myself- and I sat down and thought about how much cloth is really in my house at the moment. Not only do we have yardage purchased from when Hancock Fabrics went out of business, but Paul and I have been making trips to NYC and Chicago to add more specific items to our fabric collection. This is not how I'm used to designing and working- though I appreciate I am no longer at the point where I can only use found cloth, there was something really creative to that practice that I want to share with you today.
In this post, I want to share with you a recent make, and a method that I devised called "heirloom repurpose." It is a practice of actually repurposing me mades that you no longer have use for or never quite got worn, but still maintain significance that make it hard to part with them.
REPURPOSING ME MADES
Repurposing has made it's way into DIY sewing and a lot what I see is reducing large sized thrift store clothes that would have gone to waste. I think some sewists will unpick a sewing fail, and use the cloth for something else. Or a me made that is no longer in the clothing rotation will go to the back of the closet, just like a ready to wear piece that has lost its value.
And some of us are sewing up A LOT of stuff. Are we wearing or using all of it? What do we do if the answer is no? Sometimes it's hard, just like clothing you buy at the store, not every item that we make really gets worn for a multitude of reasons. And it's really hard to part with a me made- if you donate it, because it doesn't have a designer label, it can just get thrown in the "craft" heap. Sometimes they have sentimental value too, like the ones I'm about to show you.
What's in my Stash?
After my conversation with my students, I thought about what's in my stash. If you watched my presentation, How I Created My First Clothing Collections, you will see I am a big time repurposer. In one project, I strictly repurposed, and came up with garments like the photos below. If you want to know the story behind that project, go watch that presentation. But here's some of the finals from that time.
And these were sitting in tubs. They were projects that were part of my learning process, but just weren't quite fully conceived. I thought about how much detail and labor was in them, so many interesting details that could be revisited! So I went to town unpicking and tearing into them. I use a razor blade and save the delicate areas for the seam ripper, and I can unpick rather fast.
Then, I set about applying the garment fragments to my Fair Fit Pattern, which works great for repurpose because it has a lot of small parts. I used the Fair Fit Raglan Sleeve variation- it's not out yet, but if you want to learn more, you can get all the info about the Fair Fit Pattern in these two posts:
And this dress was the final result- I'm over the moon in love with it. These are pieces of cloth and design that I have had for almost 10 years. And to see it come to this new, fully realized intention, that I'm going to wear- is thrilling. I mean, this fabric was sitting in a tub!
Do you have anything like this- something of value waiting to be realized? I think returning to this fabric has inspired a new path in how I design, and by tackling the challenge, it will inform the next items that I sew.
This is a repurpose of a repurpose, it takes what would be an heirloom- a me made and art project, and reconstitutes it to bring new life. This is the trend in my self development and education right now. One of my hobbies and passions is nutrition and healthy food. I haven't had the easiest time with my health in the past, so I am always looking for how to improve what I put in my body and my mind so that I never encounter the health scares I experienced as a young adult and teenager.
And food is super critical to this, and since clothing is so related to food, what goes in is important to what's outside, I have been taking classes from Cultured Guru on fermentation. And like everything I do, I research, read, and get to know the whole subject and apply it to optimizing my life! I am so engrossed in this study right now, and how it has been answering questions about my health for 20 years. I'm blown away by what I've learned, and the potential to optimize your food, health, and life through improving the impact that food has on your body.
I digress- however, in one of my classes, I learned that yogurt, the really tasty kind, has cultures that can be passed down for 1000s of years. You just keep making yogurt from the same culture and the culture continues to thrive and evolve. That's why I'm calling this method, "heirloom repurpose." The cloth, instead of being stored, hidden, or tossed aside, is now optimized and thriving. That's why repurposing can be so exciting.
Who says clothing has to look like what already exists?
I mean, come on, how boring is that? The process of optimizing whats on hand, even when it looks like you don't have enough, creates the compression of limitation that forces something new to emerge. You can optimize cloth by these methods- here are just a few examples:
Sewn Surface Design
Textile Printing and Stamping
Thanks for reading! I'll end with the question, how do you want to optimize what's already in your possession? How will you take action to give something that's not being used, a new optimized life?