Saturday, March 29, 2014

Repurposing Your Favorite Man's Shirt into a Skirt

Do you have that favorite shirt of your guy you wish you could wear all the time or one that no longer fits him? Well now you can wear it anytime you want by reconstructing it to make a cute skirt. If you don't have any shirts from family members, you can buy one at Goodwill for a lower price and it's a bonus if it's a sale day, as many have a good selection. This tutorial does require some sewing knowledge and trial and error as not all shirts are made the same. There are many different design and pattern ideas for a skirt using a shirt, so find one that you like and make it your own.

    I really liked the design of this skirt that I found while reading the blog, Fashion Indie by Kirby Marzec, but I ran out of time to create it. I made my own version of the skirt and I hope to make many different styles of skirts with different design features, such as adding pockets, lace, a bow belt, or appliques.

Materials you need:
     1 Men's Button-Down Shirt (Any adult size will work but XL or L works best because you have more to work with)
    2 Inch Wide Non-Roll Elastic (It should be as long as it needed to go around your waist)
    Sewing Machine
    Good Cutting Scissors

1) Lay the shirt out flat. Cut the sleeves off right along the the shoulder seam.

2 Turn the shirt over and cut off the yoke. Open the shirt and lay flat.

3) Taiper the side seam to create a new side seam. With right sides together,  pin the sides together and stitch. 

4) To make the belt for the waistband, cut the sleeves so they are laying flat. You want to cut a piece that is 5 3/4 inches wide and the length of the waist measure. 

5) Measure your waist and cut the 2-inch wide elastic to fit.

6) Sew gathering stitches at the top of the skirt sewing at 5/8 and 3/8 inches apart. Draw up length of the skirt to match the length of the belt and even out the gathers.

 7) With right sides together, pin the belt onto the gathered skirt. The gathered skirt should be the length of the belt.  Lay the elastic on the waistband and fold back half of waistband over the top to create a casing for the elastic.

8) Baste the waistband where the two pieces meet at the waistline. Topstitch it all the way around. 
9) Place a hook and eye on the band and try it on! 

The Finished Product! I'd love to see photos of your repurposed shirt skirt.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Kraal Gallery: Inspiring The World, One Tapestry at a Time

     About this time last year, I was in the most beautiful country in the world, South Africa, on a University of Northern Iowa Study Abroad Global Skills Capstone course. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will definitely treasure the rest of my life. During my visit, I had the opportunity to complete a service-learning project with The Kraal Gallery, a non-profit organization, located in Stellenbosch South Africa. This is a very unique company, in the fact that not only participates in social engagement, but also in sustainability and upcycling. Some of their work is hanging in corporate offices and museums around the world.

    What is The Kraal Gallery?
 I would like to start by providing you with some background information with this video An Introduction to The Kraal Gallery  ( that myself and three other students from the University of Northern Iowa put together as our final course project. The Kraal Gallery was established in 1972 by a group of German artisans, whose goal was to teach South African women in impoverished communities how to hand weave. In South Africa, women are considered to be the "breadwinners" of the family, so by teaching these women a craft, they are able to provide for their families. I had the opportunity to meet and interview many of these wonderful women, share laughs, smiles, and stories. One woman, Nazeema, has been working at The Kraal Gallery for over thirty years and is one of the most skilled weavers I know. Some of her artwork is hanging in a museum in London. Visit their website at The Kraal Gallery has taught over 300 women how to hand weave and has the goal of teaching 1,000 women. 

What do they weave and how does this relate to upcycling or being green?
My laptop case handwoven with love 
Weavers complete a six-month training course to develop the basic weaving skills. Once she has gained experience, she can start experimenting with different design techniques or blending patterns. The women weave everything from rugs and tapestries to storage baskets, iPad and laptop cases, and handbags. I purchased a woven laptop case and a backpack and am absolutely in love with both of them and all of their bright colors. The unique thing is that no two items are the same and neither is woven perfectly--the weaving tells a story of its weaver's life. You can feel and see the weaver's emotions woven into her work and each weaver has a signature style. 

This organization and its weaving process are entirely eco-friendly for several reasons:
1) The design process is 100% technology free or hand made with everything from drawing out the design and painting the color guide, to tracing it on the canvas and finally weaving it on a loom. The only aspect of technology used is in marketing and promoting the product and business.
2) All of the fabric used is from scraps of cotton t-shirts thrown out by the textile industry that have been reworked into long strands to be used in weaving. Using these helps reduce the amount of waste that could end up in the landfill. If the fabric is dyed by the weavers, it is done naturally with little harm on the environment.
 3) It is ethically made and the proceeds from purchase go towards the weavers' salaries. They also receive paid training and workshops on how to manage money effectively. The Kraal Gallery not only provides support financially to the weavers, but also personal support.
4) They are considered to be one big family and you can truly see how passionate the CEOs are about the company and all of their employees. When someone walks into one of their three locations, you can hear laughter, see smiles, good conversation, and love. I loved every minute that I spent here and I would definitely like to return. The Kraal Gallery is truly changing the world, one tapestry at a time.

I would like to congratulate The Kraal Gallery on their award for the 2013 Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards, as they received 1st Prize in the Social Enterprise category.
One of the CEOs, Alex, of The Kraal Gallery with students from UNI and the Mayor of Cedar Falls  in the weaving studio

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Zero-Waste Fashion Designer Spotlight: Tabitha St. Bernard from TabiiJust

    About a month ago, when I was looking for content to write about, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog called Tabs on Fashion by a NYC eco-friendly fashion co founder and designer of Tabii Just, Tabitha St. Bernard. I was very interested in learning about her clothing line, Tabii Just, so I visited her website to discover that she uses a unique pattern making technique. This technique, zero-waste design, really interested me, as I make my own clothing and I love sewing. I am always looking for new ways to use fabric scraps and design more efficiently. One of the neat things is that everything from designing to manufacturing is done locally in New York City. Tabitha's designs made a debut in the Fall 2013 New York  Fashion Week and have been worn by Wayna (American R&B singer with top single, "My Love" in 2008) and Lenay Dunn (Host of MTV's 10 on Top). 
   Tabitha's designs are very bright and unique, bringing out the beauty in women, who like to be bold without showing a lot of skin. I decided to contact her to see if she would be willing to interview with me and much to my surprise, she replied to my email. I could hardly contain my excitement and posted below is our interview! 
M: What is Tabii Just?
T: Tabii Just is a zero waste line of ready-to-wear clothing that is manufactured in New York City. 

M: Could you explain what zero-waste pattern design actually means? 
T: Zero waste pattern making can be classified as any pattern making or design technique that leaves no fabric remnants. For Tabii Just, I start with a basic rectangle of fabric and use darts, tucks or seaming to tailor it to the body. I then take the little remnants of fabric and take it to be recycled at a local green market.

 M: Why did you choose to become a sustainable eco-friendly designer and how did you get started?
 T: I chose to become an eco-friendly designer when I started learning about the in-depth workings of the clothing industry. For too many mainstream lines, the focus is on profitability without considering the effects on the environment and the people who are making the clothing. I simply was not comfortable just making beautiful clothing in a bubble. I wanted to make a difference and I want my clothing to help increase awareness with their presence. I got started when I enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After graduating, I interned for Vivienne Tam. I then joined the dressline design team at Tahari ASL. I started Tabii Just after leaving Tahari.  

M: What is the importance of designing and manufacturing locally in NYC?
T: New York City used to be one of the most thriving fashion manufacturing neighbourhoods in the world. Because of a lack of international labor regulations and low costs, clothing started to be produced at a fraction of the cost in countries so foreign, no one questioned the conditions under which the workers were working, whether children were making them, how much the adults were being paid and the number of hours they were forced to work. What the US consumer saw was really cheap clothing. They didn't see anything else. This meant that skilled workers lost their jobs. The movement to bring manufacturing back to the US is important because this model for clothing production is not sustainable in the long run. Local manufacturing means that US labor regulations are more likely to be enforced. It means that skilled workers are able to set the standard for production depending on quality, not cost. 

 M: Your designs have bold prints and patterns? What is your source of inspiration?
Photo taken by Charles Beckwith
 T: I am from Trinidad and Tobago and my heart belongs to my country. My love for design is strongly rooted in my ancestry. I am inspired by nature, the beautiful colors of costumes in our annual Carnival and the vibrancy of the culture. I have also lived in New York for over 10 years so that has also had an effect on my aesthetic. I want to make clothes that are easy to wear for the New York woman.   

M: What types of promotion do you use to make consumers aware of Tabii Just and that sustainable fashion exists?
T: I've been lucky to be living in the time of social media. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blogging, etc. It helps me connect with the people that support and buy Tabii Just. I also get their feedback sometimes before I place an order on what works and what they like. It also helps them see the process of creating a line using a sustainable model. I post images of me in the factory, the trim shops I visit, and other daily activities. 

 M: How is eco-friendly fashion different from what current NYC designers are doing?
 T: I don't think it's very different. I think local production is a subset of eco-friendly fashion. If you think about the time, money and energy that is saved when designers aren't producing locally, it's easy to see that eco-friendly fashion isn't a narrow concept but a rather inclusive one.

Thank you so much Tabitha, for agreeing to interview with me. You have inspired me to try incorporating zero-waste design and eco-friendly techniques into my own sewing. I look forward to seeing your future designs! 
Photo by Charles Beckwith

Friday, March 7, 2014

Happily Ever After: Upcycling your Wedding Dress

     You had the most beautiful wedding dress and where is it sitting now? Most likely it is sitting in a box in your closet. The phrase you commonly hear with bridesmaids in regards to their dresses is "the best part is you can shorten your dress and wear later." Why shouldn't this phrase also be applicable to the bride? Upcycle your wedding dress into something you can wear for dressy events, such as other weddings, banquets, or a night out. There are many ways you can do this, by shortening the dress, using the sparkling bodice, adding different fabric for the skirt of the dress or using it behind the lace, printing/dyeing, and many more. Your level of creativity is unlimited and this will allow to create own design.
    Here are some different ways:

                                    Stitch This: Wedding Dress Edition
    My team, The Fab Four, (SEE BELOW) decided to go with a Kentucky Derby theme, where we used the technique of keeping the bodice, but incorporating a blue satin fabric into the skirt and accessorized with a handmade wide-brim hat featuring blue satin fabric roses.     Wedding dresses are very expensive and with reconstructing your dress, you will be able to wear it many more times. There are many different tutorials and ideas available on Pinterest or blogs. The compliments you will receive along with the number of times you can wear it, will allow the dress to pay for itself.




Saturday, March 1, 2014

From a T-shirt to a Memory Quilt

        I am sure, like me, you have more t-shirts than you know what to do with, but you don't want to throw them away. People often collect t-shirts from places they visits, events they participate in, or even those in worn when memories were created. They are also a great conversation starter, so why not make them into a t-shirt quilt and let the stories live forever? This is a great project to upcycle your t-shirts and save them from ending up in the landfill, since the fabric is often chemically treated, it will take many years to decompose. Or in another case, t-shirts are often donated and sent to communities in Africa and sold cheaply. Although it may seem like we are helping since we are clothing them, we are in fact harming their local economies because the textile industry cannot produce and earn a profit. 
        The solution is to make a t-shirt quilt uniquely your own with a specific theme (maybe a vacations or places you've traveled, sports and activities like mine, or music...). I really enjoy the quilts that have a variety of different designs and colors. The quilts make great gifts for your students going away to college or their first job. 

Supplies you need
    • T-shirts- number will vary depending on the desired quilt size. 
    • Thin cotton batting 
    • Fabric for the back of your quilt
    • Tricot Interfacing (a knit interfacing) that is iron-on (fusible) Available at any fabric store.
    • Pins
    • Iron
    • Sewing machine 

       1) Select your t-shirts and you want to include, but make sure the design isn't too large, or you may have to cut some of it off. The desired size of your quilt will help you determine how many t-shirts you need.
        2) Cut a large square out of each t-shirt, you can use both the front and back sides.
        3) Cut squares of tricot interfacing (fusible) the size of the t-shirt square.
        4) Place the t-shirt square face down on an ironing board and place the fusible (bumpy       glue side) of the interfacing down on the t-shirt. Lay it so that the stretch of the t-shirt is opposite of the stretch on the interfacing.
        5) Lay the iron down on the interfacing for a few seconds, pick up the iron and move to another spot. Repeat until the interfacing is all secured.
        6) Cut the cooled pieces into the size you want your squares to be. I cut mine 12 x 12
Plan your design- there are a number of different ways to do it. You will now sew your squares together. Take one square and sew right side to right side or the front of one t-shirt design on the design of the other one and pin one side, stitch. 
        8) Repeat step 7 until all of your squares are sewn together.
        9) Take your thin cotton batting and fabric for the back of the quilt and cut to fit. Place the batting in between the quilt front and back. Pin together. 

         10) Take the quilt to a quilter to have it finished on a quilting machine. 

Please send me your t-shirt quilt designs, as I would love to see them!