Refashioning thrift store finds


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A basic intro to refashioning thrift store finds, including why you would do so, the ethics of doing so, how to begin refashioning and an overview of basic projects.

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  • Refashion = a new word for an old activity; taking existing clothes and sewing them to change the style or the fitHow many of you have prior experience with refashioning?How many of you have prior experience with sewing, period?
  • Be creative and express yourselfSave money. Buy something for $1-2 and often will spend no more than a few more dollars on supplies to remake it. And once you’ve stocked up your sewing supplies…you’ll be spending even less. For those of us who are just beginning to pay off our library degrees – this is the way to go. Be a style maven – your clothes will be unique to the second level. 1st level: bc you bought it at the thrift store, it’s more likely to be unique. 2nd level: bc you remade in a way that no one else has. Practice sewing with little costThe do-it-yourself mentality – <3 the pride that I take in my work, being able to say breezily, “thanks, I made it myself”Connection to tradition & the past: personally a lot of what I do reminds me of the work my mother did back in the Soviet Union when scarcity was a real problem and the way we lived when we first immigrated to the US (ex: braided rugs); but also, in a broader cultural sense, tapping into generations of predecessors who didn’t live w/the same kind of abundance we have, the “make do and mend” mentality of WWIIFor ethical reasons
  • Fast fashion = clothes that are made quickly to reflect the most current trends, usually very cheap to makePlagiarism– these companies usually copy patterns from high-end brands. In a way, this is okay – copying fashion trends has been shown to keep designers motivated and one step ahead of their competitors. And it’s hard to pity, say, Dior. But when Forever 21 copies the work of an indie designer who is struggling to make it…Cheap labor in places like Bandladesh. In the past 12 months, there were two horrific labor incidents: Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,129 workers. Several factories were housed in this building, including factories that supplied clothes to: Benetton, Bonmarche, Joe Fresh, Mango, Walmart, among othersTazreen Fashion factory fire in Bangladesh that killed 117 people. This factory supplied clothes to the US Marines and Walmart, among other international brands.These accidents happen because labor is cheap and labor in these places is cheap bc the laborers have no rights. And when we buy that $15 tshirt, we support that market
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – refashioning does all three of these! Reduce = cut back, buy less, buy things meant to last longer. Buying trendy things means buying more things each season as you try to keep up with the trends.Recycle – 11.1 million tons of clothing ends up in landfills but clothing is almost 100% recyclable (made into rags, paper, yarn, insulation, carpet padding). Most thrift stores will send their unsold clothing to be recycled (e.g., PTO Thrift Store recycles what isn’t sold)
  • Your grandmother, or in my case, my mother. Everyone – well, with a disclaimer: this is overwhelmingly women who refashion; did a search for male craft bloggers who refashion or for bloggers who do refashions for males – for the latter search, only found kid’s clothes; for the former, nothing; not surprising bc sewing is traditionally a hobby dominated by women
  • Scissors, needles, thread, tape measure, something to mark the fabric with, pinsOptional: sewing machine. It significantly improves your life (IF you know you’ll be using it a lot, AND if it’s worth the upfront cost and time spent on it) but you can get away with doing all your refashions by hand.
  • Check out AADL – they have a great selection of sewing basics – great little articles that give you snippets about different techniques and tips and also link out to additional resources if you’re interested in learning more.
  • Not sure about these books – I’ve never even thought to check if there was any published material on this topic, just assumed it was a blogger-world kind of thingI don’t even mention sweaters in this presentation, but felted recycled wools offers the ability to do amazing things, like potholders.
  • Plan your design: I find it helpful to sketch out the original piece and then mark what I need to do where. Calculate: you have to do a lot of math in refashioning, I have found. Baste whenever you’re uncertain what the end result will look like. Basting is making very large stitches along your intended seam line without securing the stitches – a little more secure than pinning and allows you to try on your finished piece and see what the end result will be. After taking out too many stitches, I’ve really learned to appreciate the value of basting. And if you’re using a sewing machine, it won’t take more than a couple of minutes to do this extra step. Sewing and cutting as the last steps. You know, for all that we talk about “sewing,” I find that I spend the least amount of time on this part of it. Most of the time goes into measuring and basting and remeasuring and making modifications until getting to the desired shape and cut. Cutting: be careful with cutting! You can never undo it!
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  • There are generally two main parts to getting clothes to fit right: you have to remove the excess fabric and then sew in darts to get the right fit. Measure against an item of clothing that is the desired sizeResource: Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit: Using the Rub-off Technique to Re-create and Redesign Your Favorite Fashions, by SteffaniLincecumTalks about two methods of resizing patterns. One of the sections is about using already existing clothing to make new clothing – this will show you how to do the technique properly if you really care toWhile wearing the item, estimate and mark where you want to remove excess. Literally, I pinch in at the sides and stick a safety pin to mark how much I want to take in. This is to get it close to the right size, be careful not to take in too much or you won’t be able to have enough fabric for your darts and gathersDressforms – you can adjust them to mimic your actual sizes, pad them as appropriate
  • Darts are little triangles of fabric that you sew to remove excess in curvesSomething I’ve really learned while doing all this: the importance of trying things on again and again to see the impact before you do the final stitching. Seriously, it’s a pain, but if you go in with the expectation that you will make an adjustment and immediately try the item on to see the adjustment, it helps. Good fit is important. If you’re going to spend time on something, might as well do it right. Resource: The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, by Sarah Veblen. – to learn more about adjusting fit on clothing, although it’s more generally aimed at working with paper patterns; principles should be applicable to working with already existing clothingImage “types of bodice darts”: Image from
  • Original skirt: 56” of fabric at the waist, mid-calf length, elastic waistbandRefashion: 36” at the waist, knee/upper calf length; features 8 pleats, 1 zipper, and one messed up waistband (which I can hide by wearing a belt)
  • Original: 1980s skirt, mid-calf length and too small at the waist Refashion: to avoid having to fix the hem, I took it up at the waist rather than at the hem – that also solved the problem of it being too tight at the waist. Using the existing waist, I measured down 5” from the top of the skirt, cut there, added the new waistband (elastic!!)
  • Original: 1980s frumpy dress – lots going on here. Capelet at the shoulders, dress is too long, but the fit was great.Refashion: removed the capelet at the collar seam and kept the original shape of the collar; chopped off the sleeves and used the original shoulder seam; chopped off the bottom of the skirt (oops, too short)
  • Featuring Primrose the CatOriginal: classic 1980s pencil skirt: they really liked their bulk then, too much extra width at the hips (but the waistband was the perfect size), too long Refashion: took in the excess fabric but because I followed the original seam lines when I did this, still had too much excess fabric at the hips – had to adjust the curve of the hips, so I took an existing basic pencil skirt that I love the shape of, laid it down on top of the skirt, and chalked in the hip curve that I wanted. Success!
  • Original: Paisley boxy,button-down shirt. Just a couple of sizes to big. I picked it bc I loved the fabric.Refashion: peplum! (type of overskirt, that is attached to a fitted item) To do this, I measured where I would want the peplum waistband to fall, chopped the bottom piece of fabric off and saved it, refitted the top part by removing excess fabric and increasing the darts (a little too much, in fact). Then taking the bottom piece of fabric that I had removed, I pinned in a bunch of gathers at the front and back, ran a line of stitching over the gather to secure them, and then attached the gathered fabric to the top part of the bodice. Last step: adjusting the sleeves. I have wide arms so I had to do a lot of basting and taking out my stiching and rebasting to get the width of the sleeves right. Chopping off the length and sewing the sleeve edge was easy. Inspiration posts:
  • Refashioning thrift store finds

    1. 1. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds unleashing the awesomeness of sometimes hideous, often ill-fitting, occasionally outdated clothes Angelina Zaytsev @angelinanz s/
    2. 2. Why refashion?  Be creative and express yourself  Save money  Be a style maven  Practice sewing with little cost  The do-it-yourself (DIY) mentality  Connection to tradition & the past  For ethical reasons Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    3. 3. The ethics of refashioning  The questionable practices of “fast fashion”  Fast fashion: clothes made quickly to reflect current trends; cheap to make, inexpensive to purchase  Plagiarism  Cheap labor & no labor rights = horrific accidents Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    4. 4. The ethics of refashioning  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!  Reduce = cut back, buy less, buy things meant to last longer  Reuse = give new life to old things, REPURPOSE! REFASHION!  Recycle = donate unwanted clothes appropriately Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    5. 5. Who refashions?  Your grandmother  Craft bloggers  Stylists  EVERYONE – hey, it’s a recession, after all! Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    6. 6. How to refashion? Tools, skills & know-how, inspiration Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    7. 7. Tools required Scissors Thread Something to mark the fabric with OPTIONAL: Sewing machine Needles Measuring tape Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    8. 8. Skills needed  Basic sewing skills  The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress, by Sarai Mitnick. | Blog:  The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques Hardcover, by Alison Smith  The Sewing Bible: A Modern Manual of Practical and Decorative Sewing Techniques, by Ruth Singer.  Basic math: adding and subtracting  Measuring: don’t forget your seam allowance on all sides!  Cutting: measure twice, cut once  Sewing a straight line Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    9. 9. Inspiration  Blogs:  New Dress A Day  I Still Love You, by Melissa Esplin  Cotton & Curls  Refashionista  Refashion Statement  So, Zo…What do you know?  Pinterest  | Angelina Refashioning Thrift Store Finds Zaytsev
    10. 10. Books  Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T- Shirt, by Megan Nicolay.  Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads Into Street Couture, by Melissa Alvarado.  ReSew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs, by Jenny Wilding Cardon.  Sew Subversive: Down & Dirty DIY for the Fabulous Fashionista, by Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng.  The Sweater Chop Shop: Sewing One-of-a-Kind Creations from Recycled Sweaters, by Crispina ffrench. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    11. 11. So you’re ready to start…now what?  Plan your design: What are you going to do? What do you have to do to get there?  Calculate: What are your beginning and ending measurements? Where do you need to stop and start sewing? Where do you cut?  Measure, mark, pin and baste: Measure how much you will be sewing or cutting. Mark it with your tailors chalk. Pin the cloth together as appropriate so your fabric isn’t sliding around. Baste whenever you’re uncertain what the end result will look like.  Sew and cut. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    12. 12. Basic Projects Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    13. 13. The Button Down Shirt Refashion  Take one button down shirt, oversized Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    14. 14. The T-Shirt Refashion  Take one (or more) basic t-shirt(s) Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    15. 15. Resizing clothes down, 1 1. Remove excess fabric: Two ways to estimate how much to remove from a too-big item:  Measure against an item of clothing that is the desired size.  Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit: Using the Rub-off Technique to Re-create and Redesign Your Favorite Fashions, by Steffani Lincecum.  While wearing the item, estimate and mark where you want to remove Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina excess. Zaytsev
    16. 16. Resizing clothes down, 2 Get the proper fit. Darts are your best friends for proper fitting. 2.  The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, by Sarah Veblen. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    17. 17. My Projects Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    18. 18. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    19. 19. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    20. 20. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    21. 21. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev
    22. 22. Refashioning Thrift Store Finds | Angelina Zaytsev