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Repair, Reuse, Recycle - free sewing workshops

Firstly, my apologies for not writing for the last 2 months! I began 2023 with very few fixed plans and some vague ideas about what I might make. As often happens in retirement opportunities arrive that are too good to miss. More about that in a bit.

Secondly, I don't do much refashioning unless it's something I've made that will get more wear. Like this jumpsuit that became a tunic

I feel that the most sustainable clothing are the pieces we already own and wear frequently. I know many people buy second hand clothing to refashion, but I prefer to leave clothes that are wearable for people who will wear them. I'm also not good at shopping for used clothes as I'm attracted to things I actually want to wear.

I have a good friend, @newvintagesewing who I know in real life. Anne is an amazing garment maker who asked me if I'd get involved in a project she was setting up in Ashby de la Zouch. It's called Sew It Don't Throw It and has been funded by Leicestershire County Council and sessions will take place in St Helen's Heritage Centre who make no charge for groups linked to the church.

Most UK councils have a fund you can apply to for grants for projects that meet their criteria, one being sustainability. We were lucky to receive £3000 to equip and run a series of workshops starting in April. We've been able to buy 8 sewing machines and other basic tools and haberdashery.

Saturday 11th March was our launch day with the Heritage Centre open for people to drop in to discover what we're going to be doing and have a go at making one of the quick projects Anne and I had prepared.

Anne had created an amazing display of vintage sewing fabric, haberdashery, patterns and a vintage toy sewing machine, plus posters about why Repair, Reuse and Recycling our textiles is such an important environmental issue. We set up a display of pieces each of has made from preloved textiles, some specifically for the event and some made many years ago retired teachers this is something we both taught before it became fashionable......

I can see a lovely drawstring bag I took along that was gifted by @judithrosalind cofounder of @sewover50

The next stage is to be a series of free workshops run by three experienced teachers. These are mainly aimed at beginners to encourage people to discover the benefits of sewing and making things from their unwanted items. we'll cover upcycling projects, repairing clothes, gaining confidence using a machine and much more. These events will be run totally by volunteers, so if you're in the area and available to help please get in touch. Details and booking for the workshops can be found at

I thought I'd share some of the things I took a long with me, hoping they might inspire you to have a go at reusing your items. I'll begin with the few items of clothing I've made......

I wore my Coat of Many Colours made from upholstery samples with added hand embroidery. I really ought to write more about this project!

I also wore(yes it was cold last week!) my leather jacket refashioned from a very sad trench coat my son had worn to Uni. The pattern is Vogue 1714.

A few years ago I bought 3 scarves from a charity shop which was asking people to take photos of things they'd made from the shops products. My scarves became a dress using a now out of print pattern, Vogue 9112

Also in the picture is a sari I refashioned for someone else and a christening gown made from old pillowcases and cotton embroidery anglaise trims I already had.

I'm sure many of you will have bags for life and those infamous bags from IKEA. What about those covers you bought to protect your garden furniture?

Sent to landfill, Polypropylene takes up to 30 years to biodegrade. So why not find interesting ways to recycle these types of products. It's easy to cut and to sew, just use a long straight stitch and the seams don't need neatening. The straps are also really useful for handles. I added a zip to both these bags and attached it to the top of the original bag that's a double layer. The Dogs Trust one is my own design for my mucky walking boots. I might get round to selling this design as it can be made from all sorts of old waterproof type fabrics or even new offcuts from making your own outdoor clothing....I just need to work out the technical stuff to create a downloadable pattern!

Box Bags

These are an easy make and so versatile as the only constraint is the size of the fabric and length of any zips you've removed from old textiles.

Mine are made from Denim, but I've also use a bag for life, crazy patchwork, almost any unwanted fabric. I've even worked out how to line them. I have a pattern using a sheet of A4 paper which I'll share in another post, along with how to make them. A pencil case made from old jeans makes a great teacher present, I'm sure it'd be inspiration for Reuse, Recycle, Repair in anyone's classroom. The small one is a doggy poo bag, with the coin pocket on the outside, the bag large enough for extra bags and doggy treats. The waist band fastening makes it so easy to attach to your belt loops or dog lead. Box bags will be one of my workshops.


The denim cap is loosely based on the News Boy patterns from Butterfly Tree on Etsy.

The sun hat is my own pattern and made from offcuts of linen. It's basically crazy patchwork as the design developed by using up the scraps left over from the previous stage of making the hat.

The mannequin was made from 3 offcuts, plus ribbon from my trims box and was a commission from a local shop....Not quite what I was expecting when asked to recover it .....

A Collection of Things!

A silk jewellery pouch makes a lovely present. I can't lay claim to designing this, but I'm sure searching Pinterest will come up with something similar. The book mark is a square of fabric folded double and smocked. The zipped pouch hangs inside my day bag and useful for so many things like coins for a shopping trolley, in my case it's for my ear buds.

I came across the plastic I bought for making Smile Masks to help people who need to lip read and used it to make a bus pass/identity card holder. This fabric box was made from new fabrics, but a great scrap buster. Its 2 squares quilted together before sewing the corners. Finally carrier bag tidies, a great beginners project that teaches hems, elastic casing, how to sew and neaten a simple seam plus adding a handle.

Machine Embroidery Sewing

This appears to be something I keep coming back to. I'm lucky that my Janome MC6700p on loan to me from Janome UK has loads of stitches and to be honest I'll never master everything it can do. However, you don't need loads of fancy stitches to do things like this. You might find that you can change the length and width of your stitches to get different effects, but even zig zag can be used to decorate things, especially using it to sew down strips of ribbon or other trims.

Along with my laptop bag there's two glasses cases. This will be one of the projects I'll be teaching at my workshops.

The jacket was inspired by one I saw on holiday and the closest way I could reproduce it was to sew down strips of coloured knitting yarn. This was done after cutting out the fabric pieces and before sewing the jacket together. The wall hanging is made from scraps left from cutting baker boy caps out of upholstery samples which were appliqued onto calico with different embroidery stitches, edged with offcuts from blind making.

Colour blocking has been quite popular in the dressmaking community.

This is my exercise top made from leftovers from two other projects. This was literally the only way I had enough fabric to make it. The coloured stripes were from the selvedge edge and needed to get the length!

Finally, a sample I made of few years ago to show examples of applique, machine stitches and free motion embroidery.....and a bit of hand embroidery as well.

Hopefully I've inspired you to think about using your unwanted textiles to make useful items rather than them ending up in landfill her in the UK or more likely being burnt in Africa.....more about sustainability another time.

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Janet Major
Janet Major
16 бер. 2023 р.

Great post, hope the project goes well. We did a smaller in scale version in our village hall and one of the real positives of this was the interest of two young people, one doing GCSE Textiles and another who had to buy a needle to try and take in some clothes but who went away to look at sewing machines.

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