Am guest-posting today on Project Run and Play. I am honored to be guest judge for this, Earth Day Challenge week. If you are unfamiliar with PRP, it's the kids' clothes version of Project Runway - designers make outfits based on weekly themes, and they are scored by judges and readers' votes. One designer goes home each Monday, until one winner remains at the end of the season. Every week, these amazing seamstresses turn out beautiful, creative outfits and take gorgeous photographs of adorable kids modeling them. And I am blown away, not only by their skill and ingenuity, but even more by their ability to sew under pressure, with deadlines, and produce garment after garment of loveliness. Remember what I'm like, sewing with deadlines? I procrastinate and make cardboard stuff, and then try spells, and drop off the surface of the blogosphere and have to be scared into thinking I'm dying just to get enough adrenaline to get to the finish line. My admiration of these resilient and talented designers knows no bounds.
This week, the designers are making outfits based on their interpretation of eco-friendly sewing. Could be an upcycling/refashioning project, or using natural fabrics, or any other form of "green"ness. You might be surprised when I tell you that, in spite of all the cardboarding that goes on at ikatbag, I've never actually refashioned a garment (that I can remember). I've poached zippers from old bags to reuse in new bags, turned old jeans into stick horses and garage sale bedlinen into princess tents and little blue houses, but I've never made a new garment out of an old one.
Why ever not? I couldn't say for sure. For one, maybe because I've always preferred working with a flat piece of fabric. It doesn't have to be new, but having pre-sewn features -like hems or button plackets- feels constraining. And sometimes even the size of the garment is a constraint because it translates to limited-size fabric pieces to work with. Constraining means thinking differently about how to lay out a pattern, or how to adapt a pattern so that it works with funny-shaped pieces of fabric, a stain, a rip, or even a print that needs to match at seams. Different thinking means time. And time I don't have a lot of. Then I've also had the tendency to avoid seam-ripping if I can. Probably laziness, but it could also be that I feel bad hacking into a garment that could, left whole, bless a different wearer if I gave it to a thrift store. And - let's be honest - some of my old garments are made of such hideous fabric that I couldn't bring myself to reincarnate them as anything else. So a host of personal, maybe even wrong, reasons for not making upcycling old clothes a lifestyle. But never having tried it even once? No excuse for that.
So I set myself a challenge, in the spirit of PRP - find an old garment and turn it into something new. There were some rules (I made them up): it could not look like patchwork, it could not have huge amounts of new fabric grafted onto it, and it could not take me longer than a normal, sewn-from-virgin-fabric garment. AND it had to be completely wearable, not some fancy schmancy dinner outfit that I'd eventually have to auction off (or give to Goodwill) because it was so beautifully impractical.
I found the garment:
I'd go as far as to say it was a maternity shirt and nursing top i.e. I bought it several sizes larger from the regular clothes rack when I was pregnant with Kate.
And it became this:
And Kate loves it.
So in a strange way, it's come full circle - I first wore it with Kate inside me, and now she wears it outside me.