Maria von Trapp. Scarlett O'Hara. Heroines of two of the best movies ever, or at least two that I've watched more than probably any others...very different women, but there was one key thing they both did that has bearing on a blog about resourcefulness, repurposing, nothing going to waste...Anyone remember?
(Wait for it....)
They were incredibly resourceful women who, among other things, turned old curtains into fairly awesome new clothes. (Okay, the curtain-wear of the von Trapps was maybe a little tacky, but as a little kid I remember loving their outfits.) I mean, could you get any greener than that? In fact, now that I think of it, both sets of curtains actually were green, weren't they?
So in honor of these two amazing women, fictional or not, this Superhero Secrets is dedicated to the blogs and craft sites I follow that are able to convince people that this particular impatient not-very-good-seamstress Greenmom can sew. Especially the ones that enable me to save money while doing it.
Over on my regular blog, I have a couple of posts with links for recycling old denim jeans and t-shirts, with lots of projects to try. And last year on the Booth here I did one on repurposing old shrunken wool sweaters into all kinds of things. The other day, even, I posted a tutorial for how to make these really easy wrap-around shorts. But there's so much more...and tons of free sewing patterns and tutorials all over the web, if you know where to look.
There are several crafty-tutorial blogs I've become huge followers of--one of the cool things about summertime, especially if one a) is female or b) has one or more daughters or girl-type short people of whatever connection, is that cute pretty summer clothes are quite easy to sew. Check out the tutorials of these amazing moms who regularly sew for their kids:
Indietutes: This is one of the first of this bunch that I discovered, and I'm there every couple of days, easy. She has tutorials for everything from peasant blouses and lace-up sundresses to cool little crafts--and a lot of good repurpose-y things, like making baby pants from sleeves, or a circle skirt from man's shirts. Love. Her.
Ikat Bag: Lier is more of a Real Seamstress than I will ever hope to be. But her directions and patterns are really easy to follow. She has tutes for summer dresses, skirts, stuff like that, which are great--but check out her foam-and-felt garden, or her felt cake, or countless other adorable and creative little projects she makes for her kids...way cool. Most of us couldn't (or don't have time to) aspire to her level of amazingness, but some of her ideas look at least contemplatable...
From an Igloo: Three words--"One Hour Sundress." Isn't this adorable? And the Hug Pillow would be the perfect grandma gift (or the perfect Mother's Day gift, if Mom weren't so often the one doing the sewing, you know?) She too has a whole bunch of cools and do-able projects on her blog; check it out!
(UPDATE: and I just found Dana Made It, another great collection of patterns and tutorials! Check her out too!)
Something else that might sound a little bizarre if you're sort of interested in learning to sew...but a great place to start, especially if you're a Renaissance Faire or SCA nerd like I am (There, now you know.), is by looking at "period" costume construction. The reason? Folks in the 1600's didn't generally head out to Jo-Ann's and buy a Simplicity pattern for what they were going to sew; they drafted patterns to fit them, and made clothing based on bodies and not on size-numbers. And the poorer working stiffs, since fabric was not cheap or possibly you had to weave it yourself, were much less likely to waste anything than we are with modern patterns, which are so full of waste fabric it's unbelievable. They used a lot of rectangles, found ways to cheat curves, and just plain Made It Work with remarkably little wasted cloth. Which translates today into happiness for the frugal or the green. Check out the Elizabethan Costuming Page--it is a treasure trove of patterns/tutorials for skirts, pants, billowy (pirate-like) shirts, "chemises" (think nightgown--summer if you make it out of light material, winter if you use flannel or something like I did), skirts, and so forth. If you use the "corset pattern generator," you don't necessarily have to make a corset out of it--it leads to another pattern for a dress bodice, which leads to another link for a "kirtle" (aka dress), which could be modified into a very wearable modern sun-dress if you aren't scared of zippers and stuff. (I'd recommend starting with shirts and nightwear if you've not done much of this before--plus, you can go to the local thrift store and buy some nice soft cotton sheets for $2 or so and if you royally screw it up, you're not out much money! That's totally what I do, and I screw up a lot.)
The beauty of learning to sew this way, rather than by conventional patterns, is that you really learn how the clothes are put together--the theory behind them, not just the instructions. I started about 5 years ago making very rough and simple skirts and nighties, and last summer I just dared my first actual Renfaire gown. (Flemish working woman. Not too complicated, but it fit like a glove and I was really pleased.) And in the meantime I've learned how to whip up jammies for the teddy bear, nightgowns or pajamas for the humans as well, matching skirts for myself and my daughter or nine princess capes in a couple of hours with $12 worth of fabric and $5 worth of ribbon.
Give it a whirl!
--Jenn the Greenmom