Most of my Clothes Used to be Bedsheets

 

It’s true, most of my clothes were originally produced to cover mattresses. Other people’s mattresses. Now, those old sheets have become my arsenal of t-shirts and dresses. I love transforming bedsheets into everyday garments.

The Practical:

It’s already been established that I’m operating on a tight making budget. $40 a month doesn’t go very far for everything needed to make clothing. Plus, I’m a newbie. I’ve only been sewing regularly for nine months – and teaching myself no less. If I hope to get any better, I need to practice, which requires access to materials. Sheets have a ton of yardage. Thrifted bedsheets, which I can sometimes buy according to weight, are a perfect solution to a tight budget. Most of the time I can get a bedsheet for $1-3, and each bedsheet will make two items (50 cents a shirt! that’s even cheaper that fast fashion). But the practical is only one piece to this grand making adventure.

The Philosophical: Beyond the practical reasons for sewing with bedsheets.

When I use my hands to create a garment from a discarded textile, I give those materials new life. I honor the hands involved in producing those materials – from the farmer who grew the cotton, to the workers who processed the fiber, to the artists who compiled the pieces together. My transformed garment remembers all of their efforts. I’m remembering the nameless and faceless. I’m refusing to let their efforts be masked. I’m recognizing that behind every item is a collection of hands desperate to make a living because my community demands absurdly cheap materials. And by remembering them I can resist my own urge to demand the same. I consider making garments out of discarded items as a gentle but powerful act of resistance. I resist the structures of capitalism that equate human beings to energy – simply cheap resources to get the job done. I resist the culture of waste – that new is always better and the old is better off discarded. I resist the idea that making things by hand is useless and meaningless. I resist the concept that handwork is too costly and inefficient.

Each time I choose to transform a discarded item into an everyday basic, I am habituated to see the good in the unwanted and discarded. This act small act of resistance reminds me not to give in to the demanding voices of an economic system that feeds on cheap labor and easy access to anything I want.

Making from unwanted items satisfies more than just my small budget, it creates the space for thoughtful reflection and critical engagement with economics, culture, and capitalism. I’ve grown to love my practice of sewing from bedsheets. But it doesn’t end there, while the practical and philosophical reasons for sewing with bedsheets are necessarily entwined, I wonder what would happen if my craft budget increased? I’m committed to the philosophy behind making with used materials, but I don’t believe that used materials are the only answer to my environmental and ethical commitments. Used materials fit within my budget at the moment, but I’m confident that ethical options are available at any budget point. I know if I had the resources, I would gravitate towards newly produced materials that acknowledge and valued the work of farmers, producers, and makers.

I’m purely speculating. I don’t have the resources at the moment to buy new, and I don’t think I’m good enough at sewing to use new ethically produced materials without the fear of ruining them forever. So while I’m building my skills with needle and thread, I feel confident and comfortable with my choice to use discarded items.

All that from an old bedsheet!

Happy Making.

 

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Summer Wardrobe Round-up

 

Fall classes started last week. I’m already mourning the loss of so much making time. I’ve turned a corner this summer in my wardrobe philosophy. I’m making things that replace ready to wear items, I’m planning my projects, and I’m fixing mistakes rather than rushing to finish.
So, in honor of the end of a season, here’s a round-up of garments I’ve made. I have some thoughts about each item, some were great choices, some weren’t. By cataloging those thoughts hopefully I can learn from my mistakes each season and discover what works!

Total items made: 15

  • Shorts: 2
  • Skirts: 1
  • Dresses: 5
  • Tops: 3
  • Outerwear: 2
  • Sweaters: 1

Shorts

 

 


My first shorts ever (left) might not last into next summer. These were basically my “I know these will be awful but you have to start somewhere” shorts. Pattern is a vintage 1970’s that was two sizes too big. I took in the waist, but the legs are still kind of roomy. The zipper is sort of a fly construction… without the back? There are no back pockets. The waistband is weird. All signs point to “let this pair go.”

Second pair of shorts = 100% success. I love these shorts. They’re perfect. These are the spring shorts pattern from peppermint magazine (free!!) and I used an old linen tablecloth. All good things to say about this pattern.

Skirts

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This has been a great casual skirt. The high slit is a fun detail. However… there are a few mistakes… the hem is super botched, the waistband was cut against the stretch, and there are a few holes growing in the fabric. So I might remake it and turn this one into a cleaning tool…

Dresses

 

 

Takeaway from the summer: I love sewing dresses.

My first Cleo (purple corduroy) was a bit premature – definitely more of fall outfit. So I’m looking forward to wearing it this fall.

My every other day dress is holding its title… every other day. Love it. I haven’t machine washed it, I just rinse with cold water and lay in the sun for less than two hours. It’s stayed nice and bright.

My denim Cleo has also seen a lot of wear. It already has a few dye spots and stains from teaching workshops! I consider that a success since it was an intentional work dress.

My Orla also hasn’t had much wear this summer, it’s kind of a warm fabric. So I’m waiting to see if fall will be its time to shine

The Laneway Dress is so new! It’s perfect for school and I feel super classy.

Tops

 

 

Two Megan Nielsen Rowan Tees. Both huge successes, though the white one almost gave me a run for my money. These are two basic tee’s that will see heavy rotation in my wardrobe. The navy is perfect for all seasons. The turtle neck is a bit warm for summer, but I plan to love it for fall and winter. These are both made from thrift shop bedsheets. The sheets had less stretch than the pattern called for, so I went up a size and they fit perfectly!

Outerwear

 

 

The Mountain Gods vest has really been a dream. All good things so far.

I made the SOI Kimono out of a thrifted silk wrap skirt (the kind with two layers). I need to revisit this – perhaps fix some of the seams that look a little sketchy.

Sweaters

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This sweater has not really seen much action this summer. A little very early on in June, but I was unsure if I really liked it. The sleeves are tiny bit too tight. And I don’t know if I want to lengthen the crop top by an inch or so. Only time will tell if this will survive. I think it’s super cute though, and it’s just calling to be styled with some high waisted black jeans… that I hope to make… someday.

Summer was so productive. I am so happy with all that I made. My biggest lesson learned: I can tell when I’ve rushed through something. If I want my pieces to last and experience wear, I have to make them well and attend to the details. As a big picture person, sometimes I focus too much on my overall goal of a handmade wardrobe and forget that each piece has its own complexities. So, with my autumn wardrobe in mind, I want to work on taking each piece slowly and carefully.

In Progress

It’s halfway through August and I’ve been on a making spree. Classes start on August 29th so I’m trying to work at peak making speed before most of my time will be spent reading academic jargon. 

I have one sewing project and one knitting project in the works at the moment. 

Sewing

I was selected to review the Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. I’m almost done, just have to insert the invisible zip (my first one!), the facings, and the hem. I’ll be writing a separate post to review the pattern- so look forward to that. 


So far this dress feels very Cinderella to me. Not in the modern massive ball gown way… More like everyday Cinderella pre-prince style. The dress is 1940’s inspired, which, combined with the light blue color, probably contribute to the Cinderella feelings. Also… could use a good press. 

Knitting

I’ve joined the Brooklyn Knitfolk #hipsterKAL. Very excited about the whole theme of the KAL – knit a pattern that has less than 30 projects. I’m knitting the Circlet Shrug by Norah Gaughn in the newest issue of Making (this is the most amazing knitting periodical in existence). It’s a beautiful pattern that uses cables and lace to create a really unique fabric. 


 I’m using unused yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in the Potion colorway, because this thing requires a ton of yardage… and I was doubtful I could create the right fabric type from salvaged yarn. I’m pretty stoked about Brooklyn Tweed though. I love that it’s 100% American made


Im trying out the KT method of knitting all the parts at once. Rather than knit the entirety of one side, I’m keeping the pattern fresh in my mind by knitting similar sections all together. I’m almost done with the ribbing which means I’m about to start the cables! I feel really excited about this knit. Lots to keep me interested. 

Clothing Swaps are Magic

I’ve been a swapper since birth. My twin sister and I had one closet until we were in grade school. Then, when that vast resource was halved, we would walk the entire 20 feet of the hallway to build outfits. Though, her outfits were always more put together. My friends would always swap clothes, and our church had a great culture of swapping hand-me-downs. I loved it.

img_3990-1Sporting some hand-me-downs

Swapping, not donating, is my favorite way to let go of used clothing.

  • Swaps reduce waste by providing a venue for used items to be reworn
  • Swaps are more personal
  • By swapping with a small group, there’s a greater chance clothes will be used and cared for
  • Every swap I’ve been to has unique and interesting items
  • Swaps have a minimal door fee, by the pound fee, or could be free!

In my last post I wrote about my handmade wardrobe goals. Well, every season my replacement plan leaves me with a few items that I no longer wear. They’re still usable, so I shuffle them off to my local swap.

My favorite swap in St. Louis happens at PerennialSTL – a creative reuse studio. Besides generally being my favorite place in the world, Perennail hosts well organized swaps that draw in people from all walks of life. After the swap is over, any leftover items that can be used for classes and workshops are set aside and unusable items are sent to the local textile recycling plant (I think to be made into airplane upholstery or carpets?)

img_4985Setting up at Perennial
I’ve volunteered at the past few swaps – it’s amazing how much is donated, how much people take, and the amount left behind. Watching the vast quantity of clothing pile up is almost overwhelming. Because of the piles of cute and trendy pieces, I am so tempted to grab whatever fits, but this doesn’t actually address my overall goal of reducing waste. If I continue to grab whatever I like, I’m still participating in the endless cycle of consuming textiles rather than wearing fewer pieces for longer periods. I also don’t need seven variations of a button down – I just don’t.

Now that I’ve committed to making my clothes from used materials, I try to see the swap as a materials resource and keep my eye out for quality fabrics. Before I go I write down the items I’m potentially interested in to guide my browsing. Before I leave the swap I scrutinize everything for repurpose-ability. I try to have very high standards at this point in the process. I only take home that which can and will be used.

Clothing swaps have been a huge resource in my slow fashion journey. But, if you don’t live close to St. Louis, don’t fret. If you live in a city, there is probably a swap close by – it might even pop up in Google. If you live remotely, why not try organizing a swap for your community? All you need is a designated space and time. I organized a few swaps in college where we laid clothes out on dorm beds and couches – it was amazing.

I would love to hear your stories about clothing swaps! Let me know in the comments below.

Until then, happy making (or swapping)

My Handmade Wardrobe

One of my long terms goals is to have an entirely handmade capsule wardrobe.
A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe of limited items that receive a lot of wear and generally all coordinate together. The exact number is up to individual preference, 33 is a really common item count. There are some great resources about capsule wardrobes out there: I personally recommend watching videos by My Green Closet, she focuses on ethical fashion and minimalism, plus her videos are kind of relaxing.

I have 100% met my goal in terms of sweaters. Unfortunately, I can’t wear sweaters everyday, this would be ridiculous. But it’s okay, I have a plan. Every season, I catalogue each item of clothing in my wardrobe, log which pieces are handmade, then consider which pieces I can make myself.

Cataloging my wardrobe in my recycled craft journal

I’ve broken down my wardrobe into three categories: casual, school/professional, and activewear/workshop-wear. I apply the capsule concept to each of these categories and try to keep my numbers around 20-25 for each group

My revisions and updates to my handmade wardrobe additions

Eventually, I will be able to replace every item I wear with something handmade. I’ve chosen to take on this massive goal because it structures my constant projects. I now have a list of items I can make and choose between many options. It also prevents me from making too many of one thing (like sweaters or party dresses). I see this as an ongoing and everlasting project. Items I make now will eventually break down or my lack of skills will become so obvious that I will need to make a replacement. It will also be a great way to push my skills further: one day I’ll need to make jeans.

As if this weren’t enough, I’ve added a preferred goal on top of this handmade capsule wardrobe: use reclaimed materials. So, when I am about to make something new, I want to try my best to use recycled/reclaimed materials. By doing so, I do not add to the overabundance of textiles that inhabit our planet and I can make a small (perhaps unnoticeable) dent in the amount of materials that already exist. I also want to cultivate this habit to curb my own desire for the new. I believe that used materials can provide all my needs. I’m fully aware that this is a very lofty goal, so I give myself some grace. Some of my projects are made with new materials: most often for practical reasons. Sometimes I need a large quantity or specific weight of yarn for a knitting project, sometimes I need specific tools that can’t easily be reclaimed, thread for example. Making things solely from reclaimed items could easily become a barrier to my making process; I don’t want this to happen. Garment making is fun, but too many rules makes it difficult and unenjoyable. So, I try to be gracious with myself.

I’ll be back with updates about how my summer capsule replacement procedure worked out as well as what I have planned for autumn.

Until then, happy making!