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One Woman’s Trash…

sustainable modern darling blue and white cotton blouse
sustainable modern darling blue and white cotton blouse
sustainable modern darling blue and white cotton blouse

Could be Trash

I married into a family with a longstanding connection to thrifting. My mother-in-law spends hours poking through her local Salvation Army, searching for natural fibers and name brands. She has also encouraged clothes sharing among her friends and co-workers. I have been the very fortunate recipient of bags (and bags!) of second-hand-garments that she has purchased or been gifted, some of which she’s worn for years before handing off to me. I’m not sure I would have discovered a passion for thrifted garments without her persistent searches and the numerous gems she’s snatched.

Thrifting is not a new venture for my MIL. When my now 26 year old sister-in-law cleaned out the bedroom she once occupied, she offered me 6 stuffed-to-the-brim trash bags of trends from days past: distressed Hollister shorts, American Eagle plaid button downs, and hemlines that’ll surely make you blush. Many of these garments were likely found by her mother at thrift shops after already serving their original owner, making this collection a very sustainable source for my making. I greedily accepted, took over the living room, and had myself a dressing room montage. I sorted everything into four categories:

  • Items that I’ll wear as is
  • Items that I won’t wear as is but could alter or use to make something else (i.e. UPCYCLE!)
  • Items that are great but won’t fit or I already have a similar piece, so I’ll offer to a friend
  • Items that I’ll donate

In my continued effort to curate a conscious closet, I tried to be realistic about what I’ll wear. Recognizing that much of what is donated to thrift shops never gets sold and is ultimately burned or thrown away, I also tried to minimize the donation pile.  I ended up with a wonderful collection of 100% cotton, cotton and modal blends, and a few linen, silk, and wool pieces. I also held on to a few garments made of synthetic fibers because they *sparked joy*. I then broke that pile into:

  • knits, which I plan to make into underwear, bralettes, and baby clothes 
  • denim, which I envision patchworking into the trending overall / overall dress
  • french terry (aka sweatshirt material), which I also envision patchworking together to create color block lounge wear (this suggestion came along from my SIL as well) 
  • all other wovens

New Treasure

I was immediately inspired by the royal blue and white zig zag stripes of a strapless summer dress with a small ruffle along the top and an elastic just below the bust (still new to documenting my work, I didn’t think to capture a before photo. Alas, live and learn!). The very lightweight cotton draped beautifully, stirring up images of flirtations with a breezy summer afternoon. Knowing I wouldn’t likely get much wear out of a strapless dress cut several inches above the knee, I decided to use the fabric to make an oversized, sleeveless button down with a notched collar and large buttons. 

Notched Collar

Notched collars are new to me. I had taken a Bluprint (shout out to this amazing source for all things crafty!) course last year which featured the design and creation of several collar types, including notched, but I hadn’t completed one myself. I had originally planned on using the blue and white fabric for the entire piece but had to dig through my pile of wovens when I realized I didn’t have enough for the whole collar. Luckily I found a white slip-like dress (pictured here) which no longer had a tag but had almost the same exact weight and feel as the 100% cotton blue and white fabric. I am really glad the white worked out – I think the final piece would have felt too busy had I used the striped fabric for the collar as well. 

Generally, I really like the notched collar as a design feature. I like that it adds a bit of polish and maturity but I also like the power it has to affect the look and feel of a garment by adjusting the size and shape of the collar and the lapel and how the two meet. Expect more of this versatile feature as I try and figure them out. Here’s what I learned about notched collars from this project:

secondhand white slip dress

This second-hand slip dress may not have much of a place in my wardrobe but the lightweight (likely) cotton it’s made of is a great find.

What I Learned

  • Designing: I liked the idea of mirroring the oversized nature of the bodice with an oversized collar but didn’t want it to be so big that it became a statement piece. I’m fairly happy with how this one came out but will alter the shape a bit next time so that the angle between the collar and the lapel is smaller and the bottom of the collar isn’t so far away from the top of the lapel. 
  • Interfacing: I used a lightweight interface since the fabric I was using was so lightweight. To avoid the somewhat sloppy/wrinkled effect this collar has, I would use a slightly heavier interface next time or experiment with multiple layers of the lightweight stuff. I would also interface into the seam allowance because I wasn’t able to consistently match the end of the interfacing portion with the seam line. I think this is more of a reflection on the fabric than the collar, but I would interface whatever amount of fabric I was going to use before cutting out the pieces. This approach contributes more waste and I don’t typically think it makes enough of a difference to warrant but, in this particular case, I think it would have offered a more professional finish.
  • Sewing: Leaving about a stitch length between where the collar and the lapel meet makes it a lot easier to pull the collar through with a clean finish. I say “stitch length” instead of a specific measurement because I think the lighterweight the fabric is, the smaller a gap you’ll want to leave. I originally left too much space on this ultra-thin fabric and found myself with an obvious whole and raw edges creeping out.
sustainable modern darling blue and white cotton blouse

Stay tuned for what I’ll pull out of this treasure trove next!