Saturday, 8 August 2009

3 tips for reconstructing clothing

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Sometime ago I wrote here about how I learned how to sew. To save you clicking on to that post, basic summary is that I had taught myself (with some help from friends, youtube and various online tutorials), using second-hand equipment and old clothing. I learned by reconstructing clothing.

What is reconstructing clothing?

Basically its when you cut-up or cover-up all or parts of old clothing and turn it into "new" clothing.

Recently I turned up to a work function wearing one of my reconstructed dress. When some of my workmates admired the dress, I told them that the dress used to be an old jumper (I think called "sweater" in other countries) and several of them stated, "how could you even see a dress out of the jumper in the first place?"

I think some people are put off with the idea of reconstructed clothing because they don't know where to start and think it involves a tremendous amount of creativity and/or skill. The thing is that when I first reconstructed clothing, I did not have much skill. I also hadn't had much of a chance to nurture my creativity at that point. So I thought I'd share my top 3 tips for reconstructing clothing.

Tip 1: Don't be scared to cut it.

The thing is that old clothing is either CHEAP (if you bought it from an op shop) or TAKING UP SPACE (because its taking up space). I approached the whole thing as a learning adventure. If I ruined it then the $1-$5 I paid for it is worth the lessons I learned - including learning what DOESN'T work. After all, if you were paying to go to sewing classes, its a lot more expensive than $5!!

If its taking up space - then think of it as another way to declutter. This is especially true for those items not quite good enough to donate to charity but not quite bad enough to throw in the bin. And if you ruin it...well, then at least you won't feel so bad throwing it out and once again, you would've learned some valuable lessons.

Just do it!

Tip 2: Use the clothes you have (that you do wear) as a guide.

If you're unsure how to cut it or shape it, then just use your current clothing as a guide. I have a fitted jacket that I love. I love it 'cause the cut of the jacket is flattering for my body shape. So I use that jacket as a guide for cutting. Basically I just lie it over the top of what I'm going to cut. Use chalk (or pen) to draw and then cut.... just make sure you add a seam allowance as you cut!

Jacket that I used as my guide to cut the leather jacket (above) and to make my party dress

Tip 3: As you unpick or cut, make notes or take photos!

Not just for blogging purposes...but so that you can learn new techniques. The first time I unpicked a sleeve, I couldn't believe how ingenious the shape of it was! I would never have guessed that in order to make a sleeve, it had to be that particular shape. Now me, I made notes, but its only when I am writing this article that I realise that it would've actually been faster to take photos.

There are so many clothes/styles out there that are put together so cleverly. Use the deconstruction time as an opportunity to learn new techniques. You'll never know when you'll need them!

And those are my general tips. Anyone have any more?

Oh and if the thought of reconstructing clothing attracts you as a project, then you may want to check out these websites:

Reconstructed Clothing Discussion Board at

Threadbanger's Channel at

Wardrobe Refashion

Hope you are all having a great weekend!