How can you dress your children, (and even yourself) in eco-friendly clothing while sticking to the ecotarian big ideas of keeping the big picture in mind? Natural fibers…organic…non-sweatshop…soy inks? Sure! -But I’ve got something better. Here are some really fun ways to re-purpose old material. Re-purposing old clothing is super rewarding for those of us who really dig
making something valuable and useful from something that was formerly…uhg. And it’s fun! A little background on the thought process that led my daughter and I to get out the sewing machine and get to Goodwill:
I have a budding Fashionista for a daughter. Before she could talk she would longingly look at the racks of clothing in the mall and reach for anything she though was beautiful, (and somehow also expensive). Now her mother, (me, right?) -she’s a different story. She’s all about what’s practical and comfortable. She wishes somehow everything she needs would just appear in the right size in her closet. Not so with my daughter. If it’s pink or purple or encrusted with gems she’s all about it, (it’s what all the 6-year-old girls are wearing!). Well, here comes the “confessions” part of Confessions of an Everyady Ecotarian. Do you want to know one of my biggest fears for the future of my fashion-conscious daughter and clothing? Hollister. There, I said it. I don’t know, there is just something about it that gives me the creeps. Maybe it’s the way the store smells when I walk by it, maybe it’s the music emanating from the doors like some kind of elite club, but more likely it’s the plastic models with pants so low that they are nearly showing their plastic private parts, (“mom, why are his pants falling off?”) I guess I just can’t stomach my present carefree, smart, beautiful and budding Fashionista daughter someday getting sucked into...that. So, in order to have a little fun as well as be proactive in encouraging my daughter to develop her own sense of style I got out the sewing machine and we took a mother/daughter trip to Goodwill.
Now, this was not my idea originally. I have an incredibly creative friend named Heather who makes beautiful things out of the most unlikely pieces of fabric scavenged from here or there. She has a blog entitled: Heather In Bloom. You really should check it out. It will greatly inspire you.
But back to Goodwill. Using Heathers free-sewing ideas, (no patterns, no directions, just how I operate!) my daughter and I went through the racks of clothing looking for anything that could potentially turn into something beautiful for a 6-year-old girl. She spotted a teal multi-tiered women’s skirt with a bit of shimmer woven into it and brought it to me declaring it “beautiful!” We purchased it for $1.50, brought it home and with the sewing machine and a little input from my daughter we turned it into a summer dress. Staying true to Heather’s “free sewing” idea I won’t go into too many details. We basically took the sides in and turned the material we removed into straps. We also shortened the dress a bit. That’s pretty much it. I’m not an expert seamstress and I don’t desire to be exact but my daughter is thrilled with the results. Here are some other ideas for “re-purposing” clothing:
Turn Womens Button-Down Shirts into Little Button-Down Skirts
This is something my friend Heather does a lot of.
It’s a super-simple project with quick results. Find a button-down shirt you like and cut the top of it right off right below the arms! Sew some elastic into a hem on the top, (adjusting the size as needed) and presto, a skirt. Here’s one Heather did. I did the shirt. Quick, cute, practical and inexpensive enough to let her play outside and climb trees in it.
This is also a project a child just learning to sew could do. My cupcake shirt in the picture brings me to the next Eco-Chic idea…
Screen Printing on Second-Hand
This is also loads of fun and not as difficult as you might first guess. The first thing you need to do is self-explanatory. Go to a thrift store and get some second hand shirts -whatever size you are looking for, (I do recommend 100% cotton. For some reason I find they print with less problems). Next, find an image you want on your shirt. You will also need some variety of textile paint. You can find it at most craft stores and many places online, (Dick Blick Art Supplies is great!) I recommend a water-based printing ink. Next, you need a way to get your image on the fabric. Butcher paper is the easiest way to jump into it in my opinion. -No fancy supplies needed. Butcher paper is a thick, one-side waxed paper used for wrapping meat. You might even be able to convince a butcher to let you have a bit. You trace your image onto the butcher paper and cut it out -like a stencil- in the butcher paper using an exacto knife or something similar. Then, iron the butcher paper right on your shirt wax-side down making sure that all of the small corners are nice and tight to the material. Then, using a brush, paint the ink onto the fabric that is showing. You will probably want to have a piece of cardboard inside the shirt between the front and the back to stop ink seepage. Wait until it dries, (or go at it with a hair-dryer if you are impatient like me) then peel off the butcher paper. Your image is now on the shirt. There is a good visual tutorial here. You can also cut your stencils out of acetate, (overhead sheets) and put them under and actual screen that is used for screen printing and get literally years of use out of your stencil-prints. Here are a few more I did.
Alright, that’s all for now. I have more ideas to add so check back!