Sewing with vintage fabrics
Updated: Jul 28
When I started teaching sewing many years ago it was obvious to me that my students would only use upcycled or recycled fabrics. For a number of reasons, economical, ecological and to challenge their creativity.
The cost of fabric many years ago was exorbitant, before all the imports from China. The cost of fabric today in the long run is the same. The quality is poorer and the items sewn do not last as long. I am sure all of you have worn t shirts that after a few washes have small pitted holes in the front.
And the cottons sold today are not the same as those vintage 100% cotton sheets that one touches and think of grandmothers and starching and quality.
As far back as I can remember myself I have always bought second hand. It started out as the thrill of finding a treasure and then as a cheap source for very good quality fabrics.
One of the mothers of a student called me last week and said that her daughter wants to sew at home and asked me where she could buy cheap second hand fabrics. I told her that the first place to go was her clothing closet and then her linen cupboard. She said that sounded weird. I told her to take out all the pieces of clothing that she had not worn for a year or didn't like at all. The same for the linen closet. How many sheets did she use? How many did she need. I told her to call me back after a week.
She did and said that her daughter ended up with a pile of 10 t shirts, 4 pairs of jeans, 3 sheets, 5 button down shirts from her father's closet and a dress from her mother's closet. She said that the philosophy of shopping in one's closet was new to her but that she had really enjoyed doing it and they had spent some mother daughter time together cleaning out and folding everything in the closet and talking about fashion and fads.
When they run out of fabric at home the next stop is a trip to the charity stores where they will find very good quality, cheap fabric in the form of sheets and shirts.
As a rule, other than when they make their purim costumes or their prom dresses I don't allow the students to buy new fabric.
Using upcycled fabric allows the students to experiment via trial and error without thinking of the expense of the fabric while learning. There is invariably "wasted fabric" when the student is on the learning curve. But another's "waste" are our crumbs for patchwork or filling for dolls and pillows.
We really don't throw anything out.
While working we have designated boxes for crumb pieces and for smaller remnants for beads or stuffing for pillows or dolls.
My sewing tutorials are based on using thrifted or upycled fabrics from clothing we have in our closets.
The patterns which I teach to draft are based on our clothes that fit us and complicated techniques are simplified so that even children can make these items.
And when refashioning an item I teach to use an existing piece of clothing because all of the elements are already there, the buttons, cuffs and collars and the shirt can be sized to fit one perfectly.
The tutorial for this shirt can be found here
For some free sewing tutorials see here https://www.priganart.com/blog/categories/tutorials