Sunday, January 18, 2009

Clothing reconstruction

REgift Yourself
Renew a gift by reconstructing and restyling
Originally published January 10, 2009 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

I’m sure you’ve heard of “regifting”—taking an unwanted gift you’ve received and giving it to somebody else. According to Wikipedia, the term was first used by Elaine on a Seinfeld episode after Jerry receives the same label maker that Elaine gave someone else for Christmas. Of course the practice itself has been around a long time.

Apparently there are also 12 rules for regifting without fear of being caught, which include: keep track of who gave it to you first; update the card and wrapping; don’t regift something from a now-defunct company; and don’t regift items that are obviously regifted such as fruitcakes, hand-me-downs, and obsolete appliances like a hot-air popcorn popper. A friend at work told me she has a friend who gives her gifts—like bottles of wine—that she actually intends to be regifted. How thoughtful.

I’m not exactly promoting regifting here—it feels a little deceptive to me, despite its recycling ethic. What I am proposing is a way of turning an unwanted gift into something you really do want to keep. If you received some clothing for Christmas or Hanukkah that you are sure you will never wear because it’s the wrong fabric, size or style, why not turn it into something you will enjoy wearing? Sometimes a pair of scissors, some thread, and a reviewing few episodes of Project Runway, are all that’s needed to get you going.

REassembled Sweater
Wool sweaters are especially good candidates for a make-over. If a wool pullover is scratchy against your skin, turn it into a cardigan that will always be buffered by a shirt or blouse. Wool can be easier to work with than other yarns, because you have the option of felting the fibers together. If you wash a wool sweater in warm soap and water, the fibers will bind together and you can cut up a sweater with no fear of unraveling edges. (Without felting, you’ll need to sew along a cutting line before cutting to prevent unraveling.) Felting will shrink a sweater though, so you’ll probably need 2 or 3 wool sweaters to make a new one that will fit properly.

Felted sweaters can be cut up and refashioned without bulky seams or even a sewing machine. Separate pieces can be overlapped or simply abutted, and then joined with embroidery thread or yarn and decorative stitches.

Websites with examples of restructured sweaters include: and or just Google “cut up sweaters.” For examples and instructions try “Rip It!” By Elissa Meyrich and Altered Couture published by Stampington & Company.

REfabricked Shoes
One of my favorite magazines—Craft—had a great issue this year (Vol. 7) focusing on shoes. (You can see a preview of the article at One project involved taking a pair of Converse All Stars and replacing the original fabric for something more personalized. Instead of Converse All Stars, I purchased an under-$10 pair of OP high-tops and refabricked them with iron-on ink jet fabric (printed with my own design) backed with canvas. Here are the basics:

1. Cut the fabric off the shoe using a craft knife, being careful not to cut the rubber. Try to remove all the fabric, including the tongue, in one piece. Separate the tongue with a seam ripper. Cut the large piece in half at the heel, creating two mirror-image pieces. These three pieces will serve as patterns for the new fabric. Remove the insole and the heel support. (I recommend doing one shoe at a time, so you have the second as a guide.)
2. Print your ink-jet fabric (at least two 8-1/2 x 11 pieces) with any design (photographs, paintings, words, graphics, etc.), then iron it onto canvas or a heavier fabric for stability.
3. Lay the pattern pieces on the new fabric and trace around the edges in pencil or disappearing ink, adding one inch to the bottom so that you’ll have extra fabric to tuck under the insole when gluing. Also add an extra inch to the toe-end of the tongue as well.
4. Cut an additional strip the same size as the one covering the back seam at the heel. Using a sewing machine, sew the two halves together at the heel adding the strip on top. Sew an overlocking stitch along the top edges of the shoe and around the tongue. Add any other desired embellishment.
5. Mark the holes for the laces and cut them large enough to accommodate the eyelets. Hammer or punch eyelets in place.
6. Sew the tongue to the shoe piece using the second shoe as a placement guide.
7. Glue the fabric to the sole and to the top of the toe cap using Shoe Goo in a well-ventilated area (like outdoors). Glue the heel support and the insole in place. Pack the shoe with paper and use clamps to apply pressure while the glue is drying. Allow to dry for 24 to 72 hours before wearing.

REstyled Greeting Card
This project isn’t about a gift I didn’t want to keep, but rather about one (a greeting card) that I wanted to savor a bit longer. The card, created by my friend Kim Roseth, is so lovely, I decided to create a padded frame for it using scrap pieces of fabric, wood, foam core, scrapbooking paper and batting.

Cut and sand the ½-inch thick piece of pine or plywood to the desire size. Cut the foam core and the batting to the same size. Cut the fabric large enough to be folded over and glued to the back of the wood. Using a craft knife, cut a window in the foam core and the batting the size of the card. Carefully cut an X in the fabric, which extends just to the corners of the window cut in the foam core. Using Yes! Paste, glue construction paper to the board so that if the window is any larger than the card, the wood will be covered.

Glue the flaps from the cut X to the inside of foam core, with the batting sandwiched in-between. There should be no foam core or batting showing at the corners of the window. Glue the edges of the fabric to the back of the wood, making a neat fold at each corner. Glue another piece of scrapbooking paper to the back to cover all the fabric edges. Glue the card into place in the window. Add a hook or wire to the back for hanging.