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Upcycling clothes!

 
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I am a dumpster diver, recycler, thrift store type, and I sew. I have a few favorite clothes I have modified, rebuilt, whatever, I'm not a fan of the word "upcycled" but it's a word people understand. To me, upcycled is just a normal thing to do to things, and doesn't rate it's own trendy word. Thought I'd start a thread where we can show off things we do to clothes that need "something!"  

One of my favorites is a tank top from a thrift store that fits well, good color for me, boring, added the lace off the ugliest children's dress I have ever seen in a dumpster. I feel sorry for the child who was put in that dress, hopefully that pretty lace consoled her a bit, that was a hideous dress.


I turned an oversized men's sweater into warm leggings to wear beneath my snow pants! They work well, I made the waistline high so no drafts on my back, I had surgery there, left nerve damage and it always feels cold on my low back.


Every pair of jeans, camo pants, and skirt I own has pockets, and I add these to each item: a pocket for my phone (on my left) and a pocket for my fans I carry around (on my right.) This is a random pair of jeans off my floor, some have cute pockets, skirts usually have their own fabric pockets, but everything has these as well as regular pockets.


What have you done to clothes that weren't what you wanted them to be?
 
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Warning! Totally off topic, but where do you but your little fans? I haven't seen those in ages.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I have gotten them a couple of places, most recently Dollar Tree, and those places in the malls full of cheap jewelry "Buy any 6 items for $5.00!" Try any cheap Chinese import place they show up pretty randomly. We could probably order them in bulk, but I'd rather make better ones one of these days.

I'm addicted to them. Addicted enough that I sew pockets in for them :) I get them in lots of colors, match them to my outfits, sorta. Hard to match my camo + dirt work clothes, I have a gray lacy one that I claim matches :) The guys laugh at my fan, till they try it, then they start snagging it out of my pocket when they are hot.
 
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I especially like the leggings!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I especially like the leggings!


Trying on the men's sweaters at the thrift store was interesting...  Can I fit these over my thighs? Hard to try them on when they are being sweatersl :) was a lot easier when I got it cut apart.
 
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Leggings from men's sweaters!  That is the coolest idea I have heard of.

I love fans, too!

I have a caftan that I took the zipper off and opened the seem so it is like a robe so I don't have to put it on over my head.  Not cool like what you are doing.

Thanks for sharing.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I was putting away laundry this morning, and took a stack of pictures for y'all! The flash was being a PITA, the colors are all weird. Explanatory text is below each picture. All thrift store stuff, none over 1.00.


A collection of things that got dyed. From the left: turquoise shirt was white, matches a certain outfit now. Evil t shrt was white, that don't look very evil, basic tie dye on it. Butterfly shirt was bought just for the butterflies, was going to remove them, the shirt was an awful faded pale blue, like baby blue that got soaked in bleach, realized it was close enough to fitting to be worth adjusting, and dyed it turquoise. Much better! Belt was .. hm, not even sure of a color, sludgy greyish ick.


Some of the sunhats I wear! the purple one started life neon pink, but then got faded in the back of my car, the blue one was soft blue and also got faded. Rustoleum paint to the rescue! I love saying "why of COURSE I wear Rustoleum, don't you?"


Beautiful purple jacket I love, nowhere to put my hands! It got pockets!


This one just got done this week, and worn yesterday to a festival. The purple lace was lined with fabric the same shade of purple. You couldn't even see the lace much at all. Putting it over turquoise REALLY amped it up! Both skirts are full circle.


Another lace skirt, about 2013. It was a sickly shade of creamsicle orange, and had a weird waistband, no clue how it was supposed to be worn, and was too short. It got taken apart, the skirt dyed, the waistband redone with a piece of fabric the color of the shirt I would wear it with put into lengthen it, and a different underlayer added. Much nicer!


This shirt was cute when I bought it, but I realized I never grabbed it to wear, why not? It just doesn't dance. Too bright to be a work shirt, not interesting enough to be pretty. It got gold paint added to it, to add flair. Gets worn a lot now!


A random pile of pockets that have been added to pants, posing to show themselves off!


I dyed a white thrift store skirt for a friend's 8 year old :) She LOVED it!! Insisted on wearing it to her birthday party that afternoon, although her mom said "but it doesn't match the rest of your outfit!"

And not clothes, and not thrift store, but too cool to leave out...

Years of dumpster diving towels of all colors! I needed to do something to the chaos. Every towel that was anywhere from white to brown, to pink or yellow, all got thrown though magenta dye. Some of those are really nice thick towels, some are the light scratchy ones I like after I work. They all match to a point now. Hand towels and washcloths too!

Welcome to my closet!!
 
Pearl Sutton
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My favorite petticoat started life as a thrift store dust ruffle :) The skirt part is over full circle, the lace is gathered on to it. It fluffs REALLY nicely! Got a lot of attention as part of something I wore to a Steam-O -Rama, Steam Tractor show a while back. Always a popular thing when I wear it, and I wear it a lot.

I saw a second hand store once that wasn't open (rats!) called Rust and Lace. That is SO my kind of place!! I hope to get back to it one of these days.
 
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I had a pair of blue jeans that I continually decorated with house paint, fabric paint, pen-and-ink... but after 20 years or so, they fell apart. I cut them up for shorts, but then I felt it was a shame to waste the excess fabric. So I dyed the shorts and the extra pieces yellow-green (against the original blue); then I brought in pieces of a pair of black jeans that had also bit the dust; and pieced it all together into this pair of patchwork shorts.

I first got into designing my own clothing because everything in the stores was so boring. Now that online shopping is a thing, I have better options; but I still like to create unique items.
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Pearl, your posts about added pockets really spoke to me!  I don't like the word "upcycled" very well either but I can't think of an alternative off the top of my head so I'll just go with it too.  I almost never buy womens clothes anymore because they don't fit me as well as mens, and because they have no pockets or poor excuses for pockets.  I'm a pack rat so pockets, deep ones, are a necessity.  I wish I'd photographed a woman's parka that I bought back in the 80's and sewed pockets everywhere all over it.  Oh well... it lives on fondly in my memory.  It was a beautiful patchwork affair that became more so after my add-on pockets, and really warm.  

However I do have a photo of one of its successors, finally and reluctantly sent to the dumpster after decades of use.  This was a man's parka, the warmest coat I've ever owned, and it came with a myriad of wonderful roomy pockets, close-able with heavy duty snaps.  Still I added a couple pockets; the black one in lower right of picture was one of mine.  I made many repairs to the coat over time; the bright red little patch on my left sleeve was one repair of many.  The little dog (RIP sweet Brynnie) was "upcycled" too from a canine rescue, and I made some alterations to his little coat also.  My OTHER dog was the source of final destruction for my parka that eventually sent it to the landfill.  She was a terrible biter of clothes (not to be mean, just to get me to throw a ball for her) and she finally destroyed the right sleeve beyond the point of sewing repairs, so I resorted to duct tape to get more wear out of it.  She's pretty much outgrown the sleeve destructo phase finally, so hopefully my current coats will last the rest of my lifetime.  At 68 yrs old I'm striving for most of my earthly possessions to outlive me.

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Pearl, I think I want to be you when I grow up.  

As for a alternative to the word upcycled, I usually say refurbished.   Unless something is being put to a completely different use (the dustruffle/petticoat) repairing and upgrade just seems like sensible upkeep.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Casie Becker wrote:Pearl, I think I want to be you when I grow up.  


Thank you for the giggle Since you are one of the people *I* admire... this gets recursive!

As for a alternative to the word upcycled, I usually say refurbished.   Unless something is being put to a completely different use (the dustruffle/petticoat) repairing and upgrade just seems like sensible upkeep.


I think I just dislike trendy words.
I don't try to explain what I do to things in words much. If i say anything it's something like "oh, I took this  boring shirt that fits nice and put this lovely lace on it that I removed from a horrible dress!" I don't say it's upcycled etc. It just is itself. I don't name the food I cook either... "What is this?"  "dinner."
Just my own weirdness. Seems like if I name food, people have weird expectations "Coleslaw doesn't taste like this!" "No, I said kinda coleslawish stuff..." I gave up. I don't name my food, I don't name my work, except I have started using "bricolage" which at least has no expectations attached to it
Glad you like my work I don't like wearing anything anyone else has.  
 
Pearl Sutton
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I realized that the post above where I showed the things that have been dyed, I said a turquoise shirt was dyed to match a specific outfit, I have a pic of that outfit! I didn't like any of my shirts with the colors in this lovely skirt, so I dyed that comfortable white shirt to match it.
 
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I want to learn how to sew and upcycle clothes can anyone give a place to learn online?
 
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Carmen Sanchez wrote:I want to learn how to sew and upcycle clothes can anyone give a place to learn online?



Sewing is something that is better learned hands on, but a couple of places I can think of to learn are:


1) A local Adult Education Course at your local school

2) Churches (Ours has a sewing circle every Friday). Most churches do, and would LOVE to show someone new how to sew (and it would be free too).
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Another lace skirt, about 2013. It was a sickly shade of creamsicle orange, and had a weird waistband, no clue how it was supposed to be worn, and was too short. It got taken apart, the skirt dyed, the waistband redone with a piece of fabric the color of the shirt I would wear it with put into lengthen it, and a different underlayer added. Much nicer!



Hey Pearl,  

I like all your thread and dye work.  I've got that skirt in white and had about given up on it's weird waist.  You give me inspiration.
Please, please tell which dye brand you use.  Those towel piles are awesome!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Ruth Meyers wrote:
I like all your thread and dye work.  I've got that skirt in white and had about given up on it's weird waist.  You give me inspiration.
Please, please tell which dye brand you use.  Those towel piles are awesome!


I use Fiber Reactive Procion Dyes from Dharma Trading Co

From their website:
Dharma Fiber Reactive Procion Dyes
Pros: Best dye for cotton, rayons, linens, hemp and other plant based fibers. Best dye for Tie-Dye and Batik because used in lower temperatures. Vibrant wash fast permanent colors. Easy to use. Does not need hot water. Safe for clothing for infants and chemically sensitive people, once properly washed. Economical!
Cons: With silks and wools, colors are still vibrant, but shift. Need to use with the proper chemicals. Soda Ash used in many techniques is hard on silk and wool. Does not work on synthetics.

I'm really sensitive to everything, and I do not react to these. They are not "natural" I'll be shifting to more natural ones later. I love the colors! The bright colors on my profile cover pictures is a silk scarf I dyed, not my favorite one, but the one that photoed best.

I sold dyed silk scarves for a while, and t shirts and some other stuff. Still have a few scarves running around that didn't get sold. Think all the tshirts are finally gone. Still have scarf and shirt blanks to make more, but no good work space in this rental. I can post more pics, if anyone wants to see. I don't do dye jobs that look like most you see sold.

The fiber reactive dyes take a bit of chemistry to work with, but it's not difficult to learn. It's is NOT, however, just "buy a box, dump it in, that's all."  The color shifting on silk takes a bit of a learning curve to deal with. I botched up a dye job when I first moved, failed to take into account the drastically different pH of the water here, dyed a silk sweater turquoise (which is not a cheap color!) and watched almost all the dye rinse out, left it a lovely lavender. Lavender is cool, it's a color I wear, but I wanted it turquoise! The learning curve kicked me hard on  that one. I have a beautiful lavender silk sweater :D

Edit: and thinking about the towels, and the pH, those were a few years old when we moved from a very alkaline pH water area (NM desert) to a slightly acid pH water area (Missouri) and all those towels, that had been washed many times, ran pink the first couple of times they were washed in the different water. That was interesting! They hadn't run since they were rinsed when they were first dyed.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Carmen Sanchez wrote:I want to learn how to sew and upcycle clothes can anyone give a place to learn online?


Travis is correct, most people learn it easier hands on. If that's not an option for you, try looking up "beginning sewing" on youtube. The only places I look for fabric work info online are definitely not beginner sites, I suspect they are out there, but don't have a clue where, just not my thing. Maybe someone else here will know of sites.

Upcycling clothes is fun to me, I am not interested in wearing the same thing everyone else wears. I hit thrift stores, and modify what I find there, end up with things that look like mine, but don't look like anyone else's. That's more my style.


 
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Carmen Sanchez wrote:I want to learn how to sew and upcycle clothes can anyone give a place to learn online?



While I completely agree with Pearl, that it's often best learned, hands-on, the are also several a HOOT TON of sewing blogs, out there, many of which cater to newer sewists. Sew So Easy, See Kate Sew, The Sewing Loft, and Sewrella might be good starting points.
 
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Travis Johnson not where I reside has any churches or schools that teach sewing for free. I reside in Jersey City NJ and I have been living here for 3 years and have asked around and was told their are no schools or churches that teach sewing classes for free. If you know of another way that I can learn would greatly appreciate if you don`t mind sharing?

Carmen Sanchez
 
Pearl Sutton
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Carmen Sanchez wrote:Travis Johnson not where I reside has any churches or schools that teach sewing for free. I reside in Jersey City NJ and I have been living here for 3 years and have asked around and was told their are no schools or churches that teach sewing classes for free. If you know of another way that I can learn would greatly appreciate if you don`t mind sharing?

Carmen Sanchez


Hey Carmen! a thought for you: Go to the senior citizens center closest to your home, and ask if they know anyone who might teach you to sew. You might need to trade them errands or something, but I know around here there are lots of older women who can sew with lots of time on their hands, and a bunch of them go to the senior center. Not someplace like a nursing home, but like an activity center for seniors.

Another thought would be if you go to a church, ask the older women there if they know anyone who could teach you.

You are in a big city, seems like there are lots of people there, just a matter of finding them. You don't have to find a whole class, just one person who is willing to teach you. Basic sewing skills are easy to learn and teach.


 
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"I use Fiber Reactive Procion Dyes from Dharma Trading Co"

I thought that might be it.  I've never done any dyeing except for playing with a few natural sources; but my daughter is an enthusiast and I think that's where she shops.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Ruth Meyers wrote:"I use Fiber Reactive Procion Dyes from Dharma Trading Co"

I thought that might be it.  I've never done any dyeing except for playing with a few natural sources; but my daughter is an enthusiast and I think that's where she shops.


They are pretty distinctive looking colors. I was at a street festival, there was a "dye your own shirt!" booth, as I walked up I looked at the examples, asked the lady "Dharma's fiber reactive dyes?" "oh yes, pretty obvious aren't they? :D" I was fighting my health badly that day or I'd have stayed to help them, that's skills I have and enjoy using.
 
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Pockets!  Why do women's clothes not have pockets?  Ask the seller and they will say ah, it's so you don't spoil the nice line of your dress putting things in the pockets, most women don't want pockets.  Well I do, thank you, I can decide myself whether or not to succumb to the temptation of spoiling the nice line.  Really they are just cost-cutting.  The worst example I found was a women's waterproof jacket where the map pocket was inside the main zip - this made it cheaper to manufacture but meant you would have to undo the coat to get the map out.  The men's version?  The map pocket was outside the zip.  Obviously "most women" ask their man to do the map reading.

Anyway - I have found that old socks make great pockets.  I've sewn them inside the waistband of leggings so I can go for a run and take my front door key with me.  I've unpicked the side seams of a t-shirt dress and inserted pockets made from two pieces of another older t-shirt.  I've unpicked the side seam on another short dress and put in a single piece of material from an old sock, and sewed it back to the front of the dress to make a flatter pocket, but this only works well with a patterned material so you don't see the line of stitching.

When my son was a baby I made wool nappy covers from old jumpers, thin lambswool in a double layer with the cuffs reused for the leg bands..  I bought the first one on ebay and copied the pattern making it bigger as he grew.  They were joyful items.
 
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Pocketless clothes are one of my biggest clothing pet peeves. Another is the ridiculously thin, stretchy fabric they make women's jeans out of. Why do the manufacturers think women don't need or want sturdy, durable jeans, that don't sag to your knees, after 15 minutes of wear??? Oh - and those useless, wimpy, tiny bellhops they put on them!!! GAAHHH!!

Oh - as far as words for this process, I like 'revamp'!

 
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Carla Burke wrote:Pocketless clothes are one of my biggest clothing pet peeves. Another is the ridiculously thin, stretchy fabric they make women's jeans out of. Why do the manufacturers think women don't need or want sturdy, durable jeans, that don't sag to your knees, after 15 minutes of wear??? Oh - and those useless, wimpy, tiny bellhops they put on them!!! GAAHHH!!

Oh - as far as words for this process, I like 'revamp'!


For my work jeans I buy men's camo stuff, add extra pockets (although they come with a bunch) and I have to change the cut on them a bit to make them fit a female body instead of a male one, but they work for me. I need loose enough to move easily, and well fitting women's jeans don't do that. And I need 8 tons of pocket crap. I pay around 5.00 a pair at thrift stores, worth it to me to mess with them.
 
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I like 'upcycling'. Even the word. I like everything 'cycle', most of all 'bicycle'.

I don't yet have photos of my most recent upcycling objects. A.s.a.p. I'll show you the light-weight sun hat I made of (a small part of) a white cotton summer dress.
I do have a photo of this trousers / pants I made some time ago of small squares cut out of duvet covers (old ones I wore out myself and other ones bought 2nd hand).

 
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There's a couple of blogs I like which are dedicated to refashioning.  http://refashionista.net isn't active but she has a big back catalog, and https://theupsew.wordpress.com/ still updates occasionally.  They've both given me ideas about sewing and altering clothing.  

I've done a little of my own refashioning.  I buy silk clothing from charity shops without trying it on, as I know I can make it into something else if it doesn't fit.  I bought a too small strapless silk dress--even if it were my size I wouldn't have worn something so skimpy.  I took the skirt section and made it into a maternity top.  Then a year later I altered it further to be a non-maternity (i.e. smaller) top.  


I actually have a too big strapless silk dress in my wardrobe now, but still ruminating on possibilities for that one.
 
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G Freden wrote: I buy silk clothing from charity shops without trying it on, as I know I can make it into something else if it doesn't fit.
...
I actually have a too big strapless silk dress in my wardrobe now, but still ruminating on possibilities for that one.



Beautiful work! Are you making baby clothes now?

I buy silks too, and other fabrics that I like, without trying them on, for the same reason. I have a size 3x purple velvet dress that was new with tags at a thrift store, I'm still considering what it wants to be. My current lifestyle needs lots of work clothes, and few to no pretty clothes. So the velvet may sit for quite a while.
One of my favorite shirts for years was a remade skirt, I was sad when it finally died.
 
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Here's the photo of the sun-hat I promised.
 
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden: I like that!! Nice work!
Do you stiffen the edges with anything?  
 
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I don't name the food I cook either... "What is this?"  "dinner."
Just my own weirdness. Seems like if I name food, people have weird expectations "Coleslaw doesn't taste like this!" "No, I said kinda coleslawish stuff..." I gave up. I don't name my food



When my kids were young, I often cooked a varying concoction called "Whoknows". They learned to ask questions like, Did you use a recipe? They all hated "whoknows". Then when they were adults with families, they called asking for the recipe!
I'm now in the process of perfecting a pants pattern to fit me perfectly. I made the first prototype out of old curtains, and spent the day singing "The Sound of Music."
 
Adele Poe
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I also like to buy sweaters at thrift, to unravel to crochet into shawls or blankets. You can get specialty fibers for little cost. The only trick is to make sure the sweater was knit in pieces, not cut out of a larger piece. Then some patience in taking it apart.
 
Pearl Sutton
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At a thrift store I paid 4.00 for the heaviest flannel sheet set I have ever met, queen, deep pocket. They were white. White ain't my color :D

 
pioneer
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LOVE this thread! Been sewing for well over 50 years - started with hand-sewing around 8-yrs-old - am now retired professional costumer. Taught my 9-yr-old niece to sew last year!
IMHO, sewing should be #3 on "homesteader" skills, after "green-thumb" and cooking! Save $$ and make $$.
Get started with hand-sewing, used "kids-sewing" books from Amazon, and thrift or garage sale items to use as your "fabric". You-Tube might be helpful, but you can also get lots FREE help/simple patterns by "Googling" something you want to make. While you're still hand-sewing, you should concentrate on learning mending/repairs and getting feel for fabrics; taking garments apart; ripping out seams; etc.
Years ago in school "Home-Ec", our first project was an apron, and it's still a good project to start - we all need one, or you could easily make an "egg-apron" or put pockets on pants.
VERY soon, you will want a machine! Don't be scared - my niece was completely able within 2 months. With about 3 total hours of instruction from me, and a good book from Amazon - she was comfortable AND successful!
PLEASE do not buy a "$200?" Brother or Singer machine from Wal-Mart or fabric "chain-store"! Choosing your machine may well be the hardest part, but it's worth it. Those machines are filled with plastic parts and not reliable over any long term. My personal faves are KENMORE, Elna, White, New Home, etc from the 1970's. Because me and my machines have spent a lot of time on airplanes and going thru baggage claim, I've had to replace them over the years. I've had good luck buying "vintage", tuned-up machines on eBay from reputable sellers/mechanics. VINTAGE - non-electronic machines are a "thing" - going up in value as new sewers realize that new, "entry-level" machines are not equal.
If you can find a sewing "mentor", you may also be able to find a good local mechanic. GREAT vintage machines can be had at thrift stores or garage sales for $25 or less and can be tuned-up for $60 in many cases. Home sewing has so much gone out of favor in the last 30 years ... great machines are showing up from clean-out of Grandma's house!
I hope I've been helpful here to gals or guys who'd like to learn this valuable life skill. Talk it up in your community, rural or urban .... you'll find sewing NUTS like me, who are willing to help!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Mary Beth Alexander wrote:
PLEASE do not buy a "$200?" Brother or Singer machine from Wal-Mart or fabric "chain-store"! Choosing your machine may well be the hardest part, but it's worth it. Those machines are filled with plastic parts and not reliable over any long term. My personal faves are KENMORE, Elna, White, New Home, etc from the 1970's. Because me and my machines have spent a lot of time on airplanes and going thru baggage claim, I've had to replace them over the years. I've had good luck buying "vintage", tuned-up machines on eBay from reputable sellers/mechanics. VINTAGE - non-electronic machines are a "thing" - going up in value as new sewers realize that new, "entry-level" machines are not equal.


One of my earliest solid memories is was when I was 3 or 4 sewing together scraps from my mom's sewing into a girl scout sash! I wore it my great grandma's very proud of it, and me and her cats got rowdy, and it didn't survive the day. :)

I totally agree with the newer machines being plastic that breaks. I have had a lot of machines, my best is still the Kenmore that my mom bought me for my 19th birthday (1982.) She was going to buy herself a new machine, and give me the old one for my birthday (which I would have been  thrilled with!) she told the guy at Sears this, he talked her into two floor demo models for the price of one new machine, so we both got new machines. And we both are still running them. Over the years various cheap ones bounced through my life, and broke past repair due to plastic. These days I only buy heavy cast iron machines, treadle or motor, in the 1920's age range.
My latest machine, no plastic parts to break:



When I moved I packed things in very well labeled boxes. The boxes labeled 01, 02, and 03 were, respectively, the Kenmore, my treadle, and my Serger. Priorities in life. :D

When I teach people to sew, I tell them the actual connecting the seams part is easy, especially if you drive a car, just stay in your lane, the tricky part is knowing where you want to go. It's weird, but I start with teaching them how to fold up a box out of paper and tape it up. We then cut a box out of fabric, fold it up just like the paper one, stitch the sides up just like we taped them, stuff it, and it's a pillow. That's a neat way to show people how to get where they want to go. Makes patterns make more sense to them, they never even really notice the actual "learning to sew" part. Filling the bobbin and threading the machine is just like putting in gas, a certain set of steps that once you know it, you don't think about anymore, only tricky the first few times.

:D

 
Carmen Sanchez
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I went to several senior centers and no one knows how to sew to be able to teach me how to sew. I want to upcycle some of my clothes if any other ideas would greatly appreciated.

Carmen Sanchez
 
G Freden
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Carmen Sanchez wrote:I went to several senior centers and no one knows how to sew to be able to teach me how to sew. I want to upcycle some of my clothes if any other ideas would greatly appreciated.

Carmen Sanchez



Hi Carmen, if you can't find an actual person or group to help you, I suggest looking up sewing blogs and websites or going to the library for some good books with illustrations, and simply jumping in.  I was never taught to sew, everything I know is learned from the internet and books.  I do make mistakes, and sometimes I make things that I don't like or don't fit well, but because all my clothes are secondhand (and I won't pay any more than £5 for anything), I'm not too heartbroken when a project doesn't turn out.  Rather than trying to alter anything expensive, try getting a few things from a thrift store/charity shop and practicing some simple alterations or refashions.  
 
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