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Tear Down. Remake

In my journey into slow fashion and quest to live a more sustainable life, I’ve taken to upcycling clothing and other textiles around the home. I’m neither a sewist nor a designer, although I’m quickly becoming intoxicated by the challenge of unlocking the potential of the fabrics that run through my hands.

The process of upcycling involves ripping apart old clothes/sheets/shower curtains and reclaiming the material to make something new. Much of the time that I dedicate to “sewing” is actually spent with scissors and a seam ripper in my hands, rather than piecing patterns and running my machine.

It’s a slow, solitary activity. A welcome one after busy days filled with diapers and deadlines.

Recently I was sitting at the dining room table tearing apart an old skirt of mine to use the material in a dress for my daughter.

It’s a skirt that I’ve always loved: made from a cotton woven fabric of coral and lavender with a large floral pattern, kind of boho and flowy, knee-length. I got compliments on it everywhere I went while wearing it.

This past summer, when I was sifting through my closet, even though the skirt doesn’t really flatter my shape the way it once did and it’s a bit immature for my current wardrobe, I knew I’d never be able to part with it. That’s part of the beauty of upcycling; instead of chucking my favorite skirt into a donation bin (I can’t bear to throw clothes away), I decided to hang onto it and breathe new life into the fabric.

This week, as I ripped away stitch after stitch, admiring the growing pile of “new” fabric pooling at my feet, my mind wandered to the meaning behind what I was doing. I considered the poetry behind the act of destruction, with the intent of reconstruction into something new and beautiful.

Why is it profound?

I’m not necessarily making something better - whether it’s a skirt to cover my rear or my daughter’s, the purpose is basically the same. Though arguably, when paired with the fabric I’ve selected for the bodice of my daughter’s dress, the reclaimed skirt is going to be even cuter. But that’s not really the point.

For the first time in my life, I can value the bizarre beauty of destruction.

My introspection over a torn up skirt is much deeper than the pile of coral fabric and stack of cut up serged seams. You see, I’m currently going through a process of tearing up a lot of my conventional ideas about career, work, and worth.

While I can’t share all of the details of this journey right now, I can assure you it’s certainly the first time I’ve really taken the scissors to my life to cut things up in the hopes of putting them back together. Soon, I’ll be sitting among the pile of torn, seemingly worthless fabric, which is utterly terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

A pile of torn fabric doesn’t provide for my family.

A pile of torn fabric seemingly doesn’t serve much purpose at all.

Without integral stitches and a master design plan, the fabric is functionally a pretty pile of trash.

However, with a new design and some basic fundamentals: thread, pins, the whirring sewing machine, the fabric regains new life.

Each new stitch imbues new purpose.

Each completed seam provides structure to withstand new strains. They provide integrity for the new garment to hold up to the tension of someone walking, running, wiggling underneath of them.

I can say with almost complete certainty that the designer for Old Navy didn’t ever picture his or her boho skirt coming off of the shelf and being remade into a play dress.

I don’t think anyone else would desire to rip it to bits and pair it with a funky llama printed quilting cotton for an offbeat and wild romper, perfectly suited to the personality of the little person it’ll clothe.

But I did.

I hope that in a few months, I’ll be able to share some of the details of my personal journey that so echoes the journey my skirt is on. I’m currently plotting, mapping out my next steps and setting timelines.

The road to change can be a long one, as this one may or may not prove to be. I’m learning to find joy in the scissors clearing away old and now-useless stitches, while looking forward to fashioning the resulting fabric into a design my very own.

Until next time,

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