Old clothes to new

Most of us have them -- dusty piles of unused clothes in the back of the closet.  They looked good at one point, but now they (a) don't fit, (b) have a stain, (c) aren't in style anymore, but we can't bring ourselves to get rid of them so they linger in the dingy corners.  People at Transition Mar Vista (TMV) are turning their old clothes into something new.

This past weekend, Transition Mar Vista (part of the Transition action in the greater Los Angeles area) held a "Repurposing old clothing" workshop.  Everyone was invited to bring a few articles of old clothing -- tshirts, dresses, skirts, etc. -- as well as sewing notions, buttons, ribbons, and trims. 

The workshop was lead by Gaia Waters, the high-school-aged granddaughter of one of the TMV steering group members.  Gaia, an aspiring fashion designer, was visiting from England and TMV certainly made the most of her presence.  Gaia had plenty of help from TMV members who have an eye for design and color.

Workshop participants, young and old, chose a garment from the share pile.  Then they proceeded to decorate, alter, or radically remake it into something new.  One girl stitched multicolored beads and buttons down the front of the pink sweater she'd brought.  A woman's flowered tshirt became a pencil skirt for another young girl.  Another woman split her silk dress into a flowing skirt with a separate bolero jacket. 

A glistening pastel patchwork skirt became a bookbag, and bold-patterned yardage became a new pillowcase.  A pretty piece of lace covered a grease stain on favorite yoga pants.  A man's kaftan awaited new buttons.  One person's scraps quickly became another person's trims; a woman cropped the sleeve off her tshirt and braided a contrasting knit strap for a stunning asymetrical new look.

For my own part, I'd brought along a sweater which was a favorite color but the turtle-style neckline had always bugged me.  Another participant suggested cutting the collar off, but I wasn't bold enough.  So she took up the shears and did the deed.  She then suggested a silk ribbon to edge the raw cut, and I now have a new look to get more use out of a comfortable garment.

The cooperative design effort was a great part of the fun.  One participant would lay out a garment, and several others would hover around offering suggestions and fetching potential add-ons.  When we look at our own old garment our imagination can be limited, but design with a circle of newfound friends brings a fresh new view.

So often sewing becomes a solitary experience, but this past weekend five machines whirred and hummed as we sewed together.  Frustration over a tangled bobbin thread was no problem, because there was someone else to lend a hand.

You don't really need much in the way of materials for an event like this; simply invite everyone to bring what they already have and you'll find out it is more than enough.  (The invitation for TMV's event can be viewed here

TMV prepared well by calling a few selected participants and reminding them to bring their sewing machines and sewing tools.  One book was passed around the room and received lots of attention: 99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Trim, and Tie Your T-Shirt into Something Special by Faith Blakeney, Justina Blakeney, Anka Livakovic, and Ellen Schultz.  The book isn't necessary, but it was the source for ideas like the above-mentioned braided strap on the asymetrical tshirt.  Also, it does help to invite some sewing veterans to be on on hand to help out with challenges.

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