Sunday, April 10, 2011


There are lots of posts out there right now about "refashioning" - that is, taking an old, seen-better-days garment or two (sometimes vintage), and altering it/them, with nothing more than talent and finesse, into a fabulous new piece.

To wit - and these are just a couple of the many great examples:
  • Patty's upcycled cardigan (This woman is a phenomenal, intuitive sewist who really sets the bar for sewing of all sorts, but particularly for the clothing rework...)
  • Zoe's knitwear refashion. (This blogger has energized the sewist community to undertake various "all hand-made clothing" challenges such as Me Made March.)
Strangely enough (given that I've never refashioned as much as a scarf), lo those many months ago, when I first undertook sewing as my newest passion, the first book I bought was this one:

With nary a scrap of ability or experience, even then I knew this was a perfect idea. Back then, mind you, I didn't know a soul who'd approached the concept, much less achieved it. God love the internet.

What's better than taking old garments that have stood the test of time - even vintage ones whose bones are awesome but whose edges have frayed by up to a century of use - and combining them to produce something a) new b) unique and c) tailored perfectly for you?

I dare you to find something suboptimal with this!

Needless to say, I'm not there yet. I'm afraid to disassemble my beautiful vintage (even the stuff that's not that precious - or even that vintage). Maybe it's the perfectionist in me balking at the unknown. Maybe it's a lack of vision.

The perfectionist in me is a freakin' pain in the ass. She stands between me and my sparky creativity, aggressively thumbing her nose (wtf does that mean, exactly??). What's the harm in taking a chance? At worst, I throw the result in the bin (or on the lawn for pickers). At best, I make the most gorgeous thing ever.

No doubt, I'm not suggesting that one disassemble her prized Balenciaga. But that no-name thing from the 60s that has never quite fit right in the shoulders, well...

So, Lovelies, do tell: How do you feel about upcycling? Have you ever done this for yourself? Are you afraid to work in the medium of pre-existing garments? Do you feel my fears? What do you think - those of you who are comfortable with this art form - is the easiest item to start with? What should I start with?


  1. My brother, yes brother, is having one of his suits refashioned for his wedding, by one of the San Francisco Burning Man artists. His bride will be in Vera Wang:).

  2. oooh- I'm going to a clothing-swap this coming weekend, and you've got me all inspired to look at those hard-to-wear dregs with an eye toward re-working them! love your blog!

  3. Ah, the refashion. I really think these require an entirely different mindset from the one for creating regular garments. I kinda avoid it, at least at the moment. Not that I don't think it's a fabulous idea---but I just know I'll end up with a crapload of things to refashion hanging around and NOT GETTING DONE. And I don't even have ab

  4. Susan: Someone needs to be bold!

    LPC: There you go. When guys are doing it, it's all the rage :-)

    Kimbersew: You see, you have moxy! I hope you find some great things. And thanks for your lovely comment.

  5. I think it's a great idea. That's how I started, actually. I used to take my Grandmother's old things (some pretty gorgeous vintage dresses) when I was a teenager and make them cool! Or so I thought. Very often, vintage pieces are cut so tiny, it's hard to wear them as is anyway. I always find the armholes so small and restrictive. So... go for it! Chop 'em up.

  6. I'm still waiting to be just blown away by a refashioned garment. And sometimes I'm just good and sick and tired of something I've worn a lot and prefer to put it in the give away pile.

  7. Stacy: Your grandmother was very supportive! :-)

    Roseana: Oh, I hear that!

  8. Taran: I know, that really is the risk - having tons of crap around waiting to be "finished".