Upcycling! I’m so happy to hear this word used more in all forms of media.
I call myself a Guerilla Upcycled Indi-designer, because I simply don’t follow the rules. I started making upcycled Steampunk clothing about a decade ago, when I turned my Renaissance wedding dress into a Steampunk gown. I’ve always been a thrift-store shopper… it’s something I learned from my mom, so the majority of my own clothing is second-hand. I began experimenting by punking my everyday clothes.
Naturally, I sought used clothing for its potential to be reconstructed or just for its fabric. Tip: Check out used home linens like bedsheets, tablecloths and curtains. Why would anyone buy brand new expensive fabric, when we could buy beautiful textiles at thrift stores? There is an endless supply and variety of used textiles available, with potential to be remade into something spectacular. This also keeps textiles out of landfills. Oh and… using thrift clothing is extremely affordable. I’m never anxious about cutting up a $3 skirt, versus a $40 piece of fabric.
My designs began to develop, based on the treasures I’d find on thrift store field trips with my bestie, Arden. This amazing variety of textiles, did the designing for me. I started making my Utilabustles, Cargo Vests, Urban Bloomers, Bedsheeet Bloomers and Cargo Hat Bands.
When I moved to North Lake Tahoe, my chronic pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia worsened during the cold stormy months. I love my sewing machine (her name is Juki)… but sitting at my sewing desk can be painful and exhausting. I had to find a way to sew by hand, while sitting on the a heating pad, binging on Netflix. I jokingly call these projects hand jobs, because I sew them by hand.
I’m from Bay Area where the weather is mild all year, so I was always cold in my new mountain environment. My hands were especially cold at night, so I made myself some hand warmers from an old cashmere sweater. That’s how I started making sweaters into neck warmers, shrugs, wraps and fingerless mittens, which I call Hand Sweaters.
There was a lot of darkness in 2020 for everybody. I identify as an HSP, Highly Sensitive Person, which means I absorb and feel other people’s energy. For more than a year, my pain, depression, insomnia and lack of appetite have been debilitating. I’ve had no events to sew for, I used to do four per year. I haven’t been able to teach sewing during Covid and I have no retail outlet, so I lost all interest in sewing.
Enter Bernie Sanders and his amazing upcycled mittens, made by an Upcycle Maker. Suddenly, the wonderful world of Upcycled Sewing has been exposed. There is suddenly new interest in my Upcycled knits. I’ve added new things to my Esty Shop, and have been asked to vend at Trunk Show, a unique shop in Tahoe City.
I’m happy to say I have new inspiration to sew again. I’ve begun working on my version of the Bernie Mittens. They are a hybrid of machine sewing and hand sewing, so let’s call that a half & half.
I’d like to thank Jen Ellis of Vermont, the maker of the Bernie mittens, who is now raising money for humanitarian groups with her creations, and shining the spotlight on other makers out there.
I often say that upcycling can save the world, but at the very least it will make us look good while we save the world.