Stuff from Stuff

I am in the process of making a new jean challenge project but have run into a time crunch.  Hopefully I will be posting two this week.  Thanks for those who asked.

Here’s the second project from my jean challenge.  I made this teddy for my mother-in-law for her birthday.  It is made from an old western shirt that has lots of sentimental value to her and a pair of her lightweight denim pants.  She was thrilled with her present and remembered giving me the shirt a long time ago.

I used a commercial pattern to make this bear.  It was fairly easy to make and I am thinking of a way to make recycled stuffing for future projects like this.    I have plans to make several more since it was an easy, fun project and makes a great gift.  These would be really cute with lace collars, or other fun embellishments.

I have been collecting and collecting thrifted clothing for over a year now.  The amount of clothing that has come through my hands in this one year alone could fill a Wal-mart!  I cannot believe that one little, obscure, thrift store receives the volume of clothing, much of it of name brand, top quality, that it does.  Who buys and tosses all these clothes? It really is a testament to our throw away society.  I guess people feel better about their gluttony because they donate their cast offs to a worthy cause but geez it is pretty ridiculous.  But that is another post and I don’t want to get started on that rant!  No, I am just going to consider how blessed I am.  Yes, what blesses me is that this generous thrift store gives to me what doesn’t sell or is in sad repair and I get an endless supply of free fun.

One reason I started all this is because my life had changed directions and sewing was something that helped fill the void.  Not one to ever do anything half way, I began to teach classes after having to teach myself for lack of a mentor.  That led to trying my hand at alterations, custom sewing and trying to have a little business.  Again, my life changed and I was no longer able to have a business and my budget for sewing was drastically cut.  I was on what I called a fabric diet.  I could not afford to purchase fabric but I was really passionate about sewing.  I joined a group called free cycle and asked for unwanted clothing or fabric.  That is when a dear gal at the thrift store contacted me about picking up their extras.  From then on, it has been a crazy but very rewarding experience.  About once a month, I fill my husband’s mega cab truck inside and out and then the adventure begins.

So what does one woman do with a mountain of clothing? Well, I start by sorting it.  My method of sorting is as follows.

Wear as is – are clothes that are in good repair, in style and in my family’s size.  These we launder and start wearing right away.

Alter/Embellish – are clothes that have potential to be wearable art or clothing for embellishing.  These will be for personal wear and hopefully for sale in the near future.  I have found a real passion and creative outlet in altering clothing into something entirely different than originally designed or simply adding trims, or an artistic technique to enhance the original design.

Give Away– are clothes that are in good repair and can be used by different charities in our area.  They are stunned when we roll up for sure! The majority of the clothing are sorted into this category.

Raw Material are clothes that are of unique fiber content, inspiring prints or patterns or with can’t pass on notions.  I tend to be a bit greedy and lots of clothes fall into this category, but my family is threatening to call the hording police if I don’t pass on way more than I keep, so I have become more realistic than when I first started this journey.  This process does allow me to have fabrics that I would otherwise not be able to afford or even find.

Trash are clothes that are too torn, stained or missing closures that make them unwearable.  These come in large black bags and the thrift store doesn’t do anything other than give them to me.  I look for potential, for raw materials but most of the time, I shred them and fill used pillowcases and donate these to our local humane society.  We also use some of the fabric to make dog chew toys or blankets. Some of it also goes to another organization that disposes of them in a way that keeps them out of the landfill, which is a huge concern of mine.

Once the sorting is finished, I begin the process of distributing the give away clothes.  This makes my family very happy because it causes their level of concern over the hording to diminish rapidly.  Next, I begin the process of removing notions, trims etc from the raw material clothes. I have to say that I get a kind of real enjoyment just looking at and handling the clothes, sorting the buttons, trims etc.  I dream of how I might use them and I have come to accept that if I don’t use a 10th of the things I collect, I can die happily having just touched and dreamt.  I am getting very organized in my studio as I have discovered I have an obsession to categorize and put things in little zip top bags or containers. Recently and have teased my kids that once I pass, they will not have any trouble having one of the largest, most organized crafter’s garage sale ever.   Once the extras have been removed, unsuable parts removed and shedded for bedding if possible, the remaining fabric is sorted into bins in my storage room.  I sort by fiber content for the most part, but sometimes, I sort according to project type.

So that is the process I have been using recently with each load that I have been given.  I still have some fine tuning since I was not as well organized when I first started this endeavor and I have some items that have not gone through the whole dismantling process.   Once I am finished with this organizing, I am planning on photographing the clothes that are potential garments/accessories.  I would love to have before and after photos of all my projects.  I have a closet where these will be stored until I have time to work with them.

Soon, the real fun will begin. Not that I haven’t done a few projects along the way, but I am very excited about being able to approach this with a lot more focus and originality. I am looking forward to learning new techniques, honing my sewing skills and challenging myself to explore my personal creativity.  I am also hoping to write about it along the way.  I suspect that I will finally begin to see that I do have a personal style that will come through although I tend to be very eclectic in my taste.  Up until now, I have copied well.  I want to create.  I read somewhere that there is no original art, but I do want to draw from others and then create my own interpretation of it.  I think at first I will not seek the opinion of others.  If they offer them, great! Even constructive criticism is okay.  But I am afraid that since I have been pretty much a people pleaser all my life, that if I get too wrapped up in what other people like or don’t like,  it will inhibit me from really exploring.

Speaking of inspiration, I belong to a great group on the internet of altered clothing artists and there are a few magazines and books now dedicated to this form of art.  My favorite is Altered Couture, which I purchase as soon as it hits my book store and it is solely responsible for my new found passion or obsession depending on who you talk to.  Another is Belle Armoire which is also published by Stampington and has some very inspiring articles and artists.  With a limited budget to say the least and a desire to spend what I do have on art supplies, I explore the internet and various blogs for inspiration as well as how to tutorials.    I hope that as I get better at blogging, that I will be able to share more information on the sources I draw from and to help promote these terrific role models.

Well, as my title says, my work is never done, but sleep is good for the brain, so I am off to bed to dream my dreams and tomorrow I will create.

create a day,


This was such a fun project, so I guess I am sticking to rule number 3.  I got the idea from Betz White’s blog and then I took it from there.  This one took me awhile because I am so unorganized in my studio and I hadn’t mastered just cutting into things instead of ripping every seam.  I also had to figure out how to work the middle pocket, I am not an engineer for sure, so have to learn by trial and error.  But I learn fast and the next few should go much more quickly.  I am not sure if Betz backed her apron but I like a more finished look, so I added a backing.  Next, I hand stitched my Darn Cute label where the original jean label was (which is being recycled too).   I am hoping to make several more of these Darn Cute aprons with different fabrics and styles.  This project will get rid of a lot of jean backs!

Project materials:

1 pair jeans- back only
1 plaid shirt- ruffles, top of middle pocket & flower
large scrap of orange fabric-back & flower detail- yo-yo flowers
pieces of a sheet- bottom part of middle pocket hidden below seam line.
embroidery floss- label
covered button base- jean button flower center
3 small buttons for yo-yo centers

Create a Day,


The other day after sorting through the latest haul of thrifted clothing, which should be an article all on its own, I thought to myself ” I seriously have to start making some stuff from all this stuff”  But where does one start a project such as this?  Then I spotted one of the biggest bags in my storage room and thought,  ” That’s as good a place as any.”  Looking inside, I discovered it was entirely filled with jeans.  Thus was born my personal Stuff from Stuff- Jean Challenge.

Bag of jeans- bigger than it looks

Now, I love a good challenge, in fact it is probably the most motivating thing in the world to me.  Make it public and it is as good as done.  Well, at least it will be done at some point.  I am not a deadline lover.  Challenges yes, deadlines no!

So here are my rules: I also love rules, I know, I am working on the breaking the rules part to be a liberated artist- still another article to be written. I have also found that I cannot state things simply.  I seem to have to explain every statement I make.  Even my rules get kind of complicated.  What is it with me?

Anyway back to the rules, as simplified as I can be:

1. Use the entire bag of jeans  with as little waste as possible– that means any little scrap cut while making a project gets saved for making something else. I am going to put all scraps/waste into a basket as I go and try to empty it as best as possible and I will show the basket at the end of the challenge- hopefully near empty.

2. Post once a week on my progress to show the projects I am creating– I was thinking every Thursday but I know I can’t keep to a schedule so it will be sometime during the week.

3. Have Fun– This means not to let the rules stress me out, be overly concerned about what other people think and to spend time dreaming and making myself laugh.

Well, there you have it.  A challenge is born and I even have the first project done, which I will post next.   But this challenge isn’t a single birth, no, that would be too simple.  I have decided that this challenge will be the sibling of several other challenges.  The parent of which is a new series called Stuff from Stuff.   But, being the first one delivered, this will be my main focus and I will try not to get too bored and finish this challenge before I go share the others.

If anyone wants to join me in this challenge or has some great used jean projects, I would love to hear about them.  I have searched the web and I am looking for unusual projects as well as oldies and goodies.

Have a great day,