Learning to Refashion Clothes

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

vb (tr)
to give a new form to (something)

The term 'refashion' is being used all the more often lately, everywhere you look, there is somebody reworking an old garment, customising a thrifted piece, or creating a dress from a vintage sheet.

Refashioning has been going on for many years, "During World War II, the "Make Do and Mend" campaign encouraged Britons to update old clothes instead of buying new." Quote taken from faircompanies.com.

Photo c/o johnclare.net

We could think of the recent rise in refashioning as a way of rebelling against fast fashion, coupled with our need to look more unique and individual to our own style rather than succumbing to fashion trends, and becoming a high street clone.

Our society has become more environmentally aware, yet we still like to have new clothes. Refashioning therefore removes the guilt of buying new clothing which can often be made with cheap materials, and produced in less than ideal working environments.

"Second hand and vintage clothes have been hugely popular for a while but refashioning offers the opportunity to create a piece of clothing that preserves the best features but also creates something fresh and fashionable." Quote from Ceri Heathcote from an article written for posh-swaps.com, a website for swapping, buying and selling second hand and vintage clothing.

So how hard is it to refashion clothing? It is not uncommon to hear people say they wish they could sew, or that they had the creativity of others such as the inspirational Marissa from New Dress a Day, or the collaboration of talented refashionistas that have joined up with wardroberefashion. I honestly do believe that anyone can do it.

Refashioning need not be as advanced as creating a new dress from an existing garment, it can be as simple as cutting off a pair of jeans into shorts, and sewing on a few motifs or buttons, or perhaps repainting a pair of shoes. But for those that would prefer to sew their refashioned garments, it may be hard to know where to start. As a beginner, even buying a sewing machine can be mind boggling. I remember asking myself a few months ago, "what on earth is an overlocker?" And once getting hold of a sewing machine, whether that be borrowed, inherited or newly owned, it is then knowing what to actually do with it!

Lucky for us, there are many initiatives popping up to teach, encourage and promote refashioning. Not only are there private and group sewing classes to join, but sewing workshops and lessons dedicated soley to refashioning existing garments are becoming available in many cities.

Now forgive me for only mentioning lessons and workshops that take place in Victoria, Australia, because this is where I live, but here are some options available for refashionistas-in-the-making in Melbourne and surrounds:

Hayley from thinkermaker; ethical craft and mindful living blogger, teaches private sewing classes. Hayley ran a successful eco clothing line called Heidi & Seek until early 2010, take a look at her work - she is very talented. Hayley helped me reconstruct this t-shirt and skirt into a new dress.

Thread Den offers lessons such as 'Revive your Vintage Finds' and 'Recycle your Favourite Tee Print into a Tote Bag' in Fitzroy and North Melbourne

I spent my last Saturday morning at The Social Studio's Remix workshop, which are held every Saturday at 128 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC, from 10am to 1pm at a cost of $30. Workshops are open to anyone with an interest in learning to sew, and/or wanting to know how to rework a fashion item.

I went along to the workshop with fellow blogger Maria aka Sleekitone. Maria wanted to rework one of her existing dresses which had a rip under the arm. I didn't really go with any ideas, other than to get some inspiration, and learn some new sewing skills.

Taking part in the workshop without a garment is fine, the cost of $30 includes a piece to take home with you. You choose a few garments from boxes which have been donated to The Social Studio, and once you see something you like the look of, Sarah, The Social Studio's helpful tutor, will guide you to refashion something new.

I chose a short sleeve black jacket, along with a ripped silk top to remix together. I decided to take off the frilly collar from the silk top to stitch around the inside of the jacket lapels, and use the tie across the waist of the top as a belt around the jacket.

My 'before' picture is not so good:

Tired black short sleeved jacket and ripped silk top

I used an overlocker and an industrial sewing machine for the first time, and was also taught how to make some button hoops.

The overlocker!

Frilly collar off

And frilly collar back on again

My end result is this, you could call it more of a jacket customisation, the buttons finish it off well I think:

For anyone living in or visiting Melbourne, I'd recommend popping down to The Social Studio and joining in with a Saturday morning remix workshop. There are no term commitments, you pop in whenever you wish, but do contact them beforehand so they know who to expect on the day. For anyone living outside of 'Australia's fashion capital' I would still encourage you to give refashioning a go. Trial a few things at home with thrifted pieces, or unworn clothes from your wardrobe. Search for lessons and workshops in your local area, you'll undoubtedly find sewing workshops in most main cities around the world.


Annette said...

Thanks for all that info. I'll do some visiting of those links. I bought a sewing book on ebay last week to refresh my growing yearning to get the sewing machine out again and start creating or recreating!

Jonathon Pedrozo said...

WOW! so beautiful! i always say that Fashion is always recycled, what we stopped wearing long time ago sometime in the future will be re-wore


Great job!


Journeywoman said...

Great post Erica and a gorgeous jacket! It's so important for us Gen Y types to learn about how damaging fast fashion can be.

By the way I got an email saying that you'd commented on my blog, but for some bizarre reason admin deleted it. Orble's an odd place at times...

Keep up the good work!


Unknown said...

Thank you for your comments!

Journeywoman - I loved your post about fast fashion, so I commented to say I'd included a link to Recycled Fashion's FB page http://www.facebook.com/RecycledFashion hope you dont mind!

Sleekit said...

Looking good Erica, great post, lots of informative info for wannabe re-mixers, I'm hooked and thinking about my next project already

Have a great weekend and enjoy the sunshine

Sleekit x

Little Girl Big World said...

I am a fan of your work. This inspires me to become a better sewer!


Unknown said...

@Little Girl Big World thank you so much. It is an honour to inspire others

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