Showing posts with label clothing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clothing. Show all posts

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Ultimate Upcycle: Mosquito Leggings

Mosquito leggings on Ometepe Island

A month-long trip to Nicaragua inspired this latest creation in the ongoing series, "Repurposed Men's Shirts." By night on the Corn Islands, mosquitos carry malaria. By day in towns and cities where folks congregate, mosquitos carry dengue fever. The challenge is keeping legs covered while wearing dresses or three-quarter-length loose pants, as is my wont. The solution? Upcycling a $1 thrift store man's shirt.

The how-to (click to enlarge)

The diagram above is self-explanatory for those who sew. Just turn under the upper raw edge and stitch down to form a casing for the elastic, leaving a small opening to run the elastic through. Run the elastic through the casing; overlap and stitch the elastic together at the ends; close small opening in the casing.

Finished legging on a lovely floor in Granada

Because these were intended to ward off mosquitos, I also stitched the upper opening on the cuff closed. If you're making these purely as a fashion statement, that will not be necessary. On me, the finished legging ends at my lower thigh, just above the knee. If you're short, the legging will extend higher.

Thigh-high leggings

Leggings on a hammock on Ometepe island

The perfect place for mosquito leggings: Little Corn Island

I am so enchanted by these leggings that even though I'm now back in the largely mosquito-free Bay Area, I plan on wearing them often, mixing and matching with other clothing. 

An unbeatable upcycled fashion look

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chopstick Training Shirt #1

Back of chopstick training shirt

What to do with a single yard of 45"-wide fabric (part of the score in an everything-you-can-stuff-in-a-bag-for-$5-deal at the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale)? In the past I've had fun fooling around with a square of fabric to create a garment so I thought I'd try once again. I've also had fun fooling around with chopsticks and have often incorporated the how-to instructions on restaurant chopsticks wrappers into various assemblages, jewelry, and other creations. For this piece I scoured the Internet searching for chopsticks how-to instructions, printed them out onto iron-on transfer paper, and created patches which I then sewed onto the chopsticks training shirt.

Front with close-up of instructional patch sewn on pocket

Back (see close-up of patches below)

Close-up of upper patches

I like the effect of iron-on transfer on the cotton plaid patch (a scrap from an upcycled man's shirt), creating an homage to the Japanese tradition of mixing plaids in textiles in interesting ways. These images are from a patent application for a chopstick user's training mechanism.

Lower side patch on front

Below is an outline of the steps I took to transform a yard of fabric into a vaguely Asian-looking training shirt. The fabric is cotton and gauzy, perfect for hot weather.

Click on image for close-up

Click on image for close-up

Obviously, all measurements can be adjusted to suit different sizes (e.g., trim a larger strip off the side in the initial cutting step; use that strip to create a longer shirt/tunic; make arm opening larger or smaller, etc.).

Final shirt

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spider Stain Removal: The Little Miss Muffet Dress

The Miss Muffet Dress

Another score from the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale: a diminutive little cotton lawn dress with a host of problems. The collar and sleeves were unfinished and fraying, the back closure had never been added, and the sleeve openings were too small for the almost-three-year old I wanted to give this to. Otherwise the garment was cunningly stitched, clearly homemade, with hand-sewn embroidery at the collar. Why did the creator abandon this project part way through? Closer inspection revealed the answer: stains on the upper left back. I've used many stain-obscuring techniques in the past from Mend Writing to Spirals. I have never, however, used spiders.

Spiders concealing stains

It turns out that once you start stitching spiders it's hard to stop.

Spider concealing nothing

more spiders...

and more spiders...

and more spiders...

Finally I had 12 spiders on what turned out to be a Little Miss Muffet Dress (poem follows). In the process I hemmed the collar and sleeves after creating a wider opening for the sleeves and added a back snap.

Miss Muffet front

Miss Muffet back

And a reminder of the words to the classic children's poem that is over 200 years old, dating back to 1804:

Little Miss Muffet
sat on a tuffet
eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
that sat down beside her
and frightened Miss Muffet away.

One can only imagine how this poem will be played out when the dress is worn by a three-year-old.

ta da

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Angry Mice

I'm ready for a rumble in the mean city in my Angry Mice Jacket.

This is an example of pushing past a mistake into something entirely unexpected. While trying to make two felt masks for young children as part of an extreme advent calendar (stay tuned), I turned out a mask so small it would only be appropriate on a day-old infant. I set it aside, but liked it so much that I had to use it on something.

Happily, I had an Oska gray linen jacket on hand, a thrift store find just waiting to be fiddled with.

The addition of the felt mouse mask and a little hand embroidery made all the difference.

The Angry Mice Jacket

Monday, April 29, 2013

Embroidered Sound Waves (and Upcycled Shirt #13)

Sound wave of me singing out of tune: " are jumpin' and the cotton is high."

The idea of embroidering sound waves has been on the back burner ever since I participated in a symposium on listening at the Exploratorium a number of years ago. This is the first experiment. To get a graphic of a sound wave I used Garage Band software, recorded myself singing, and then took a screen shot (Command, Shift, 4) of a section of the sound wave. This is going onto a vest fashioned for a hot climate, so I sang "Summertime" and selected the section, "fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high" because it had the most interesting graphic appearance.

Transferring sound wave image to cloth

Enlarge the sound wave image to the size you want and print it out. Use carbon paper to transfer the image to cloth. As you can see in the above illustration, the outside borders of the sound wave are what you want to focus on when transferring the image. You'll be stitching solid fill inside those borders, but there's no need to tediously fill it all in when doing the carbon transfer.

Embroidering the sound wave

Completed sound wave panel, sewn onto garment

Where did this sound wave panel end up? It serves as a back panel embellishment on an upcycled garment designed for the tropics. The original article of clothing was a light green linen jacket from a thrift store. It was altered as shown below into a tropical vest.

Click to enlarge

Finished vest

Back of vest with embroidered sound wave panel

Thursday, January 10, 2013

That Dog Don't Hunt

Red flannel hunting shirt

Part of a new line of Conceptual Couture here at Stuff You Can't Have, this red flannel hunting shirt brings new meaning to the phrase: "That dog don't hunt." Fashioned from the recycled remnants of two flannel shirts and one flannel scarf, this cozy tunic top falls at mid-thigh and sports a wide boat neck cowl collar. Because (as always) pockets are power, this upcycled rendition incorporates all four of the pockets from the original shirts.

Front breast patch
The two patches on the shirt incorporate images of hunting dogs printed onto iron-on transfer paper, transferred to recycled T-shirt material, and blanket stitched in place.

Shirt back

Close-up of back panel

Piecing together a shirt like this requires a little ingenuity and a lot of stitching. Begin by cutting up the shirts you are going to recycle. Use a simple tunic top pattern (I've heavily adapted the one here from a commercial pattern, but any simple tunic pattern should work). Lay out a single pattern piece and start playing with fabric in jigsaw puzzle mode on top of the pattern piece. When you've pieced together something pleasing, slide the pattern piece out from underneath, pin the fabric together, and stitch. You now have a panel of pieced fabric. Lay the same pattern piece on top of the fabric and cut out that piece. Repeat this method with all pattern pieces.

Piecing in progress
Close-up of piecing
Happy hunting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Extreme Mending (Uber Boro)

Extreme mending

The traditional Japanese approach to mending called "boro" (which literally translates to "rags" or "scraps of cloth") means mending for life, with garments repaired throughout the owner's lifetime and beyond. Peasant clothing fashioned from hemp and cotton, often in shades of indigo, was repeatedly patched and extensively repaired for generations. Multiple layers of fabric were sewn together with "sashiko" stitching - a simple stitch that runs in parallel lines and may also be cross-hatched.

Sashiko stitching on my travel vest

While I am an avid mender and have invented mending techniques of my own (see Mend Writing), I always assumed that at a certain point you simply have to give up, until I encountered the art of boro and started applying it to my travel vests. While boro is usually shades of indigo, my travel vests are usually shades of green and are made of linen. Hard wear around the world eventually results in rotting fabric which I gamely try to patch - and patch and patch and patch.

Old vest with multiple patches and extreme rot

Close-up: multiple patches on pocket, which continues to distintegrate

The vest above lasted for a decade or two. Patching techniques included the clever strategy of snipping material from the inside pocket (which was then replaced with another fabric) and using the snipped material for patches.

Inside of vest, showing where inside pocket panels were removed and replaced with other fabric. Fabric from the inside panels was then used as patching material

 I grew so attached to this vest that even after I thought it was no longer salvageable I couldn't bear to throw it out.

My current travel vest, also green linen, has also begun to rot at an alarming rate. This vest was created by converting a thrift store linen jacket, which involved cutting off the sleeves and the collar. Material from the sleeves was then used to create a V-shaped panel in the back, and to create an inside security pocket (absolutely essential in a travel vest). Leftover material from sleeves and collar became patching material as the vest began to go the way of all travel vests.

Travel vest from a converted linen jacket

Back of jacket with added V-shape panel and textile art

This vest includes a panel of textile art on the back by artist Paul Nosa, which was a gift from a friend. Unfortunately, my clever strategy of salvaging yet more patching material by cutting away fabric from underneath the textile art backfired when the fabric edges began to fray as seen above.

The use of boro has changed everything, including my tendency to want to hide the patching by using identical material. Boro has taught me that the patching itself is beautiful, particularly when highlighted by sashiko stitching, and different shades of fabric can enhance the end effect. My poor old wreck of a vest that I couldn't bear to throw away has now been cannibalized into patches for my current vest. 

Boro in progress


I am learning that boro is like gardening; it requires ongoing maintenance. I hold the vest up to the light and can see where the fabric is so thin that it is about to give way and I add another patch. There is joy in knowing I will never, ever have to give up this travel vest. I will maintain it through my lifetime and it will then go to whichever grandniece seems the most adventurous. By then it should be absolutely gorgeous.

Back, with sashiko stitching in progress

For more about the history of boro cloth in Japan and to see some lovely examples, visit Kimono Boy.
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