Cochenille Design Studio
Upcycle Project

Up-Cycling: From Sweatshirts to Fashion – Getting Sustainable

As we all know, the movement for a sustainable world plays a growing importance in our day to day life. As a result, I’m becoming more aware of what I keep, and how I dispose of my used clothing. It takes a conscious decision to be an activist in sustainability, and one way to make it fun, is to challenge your creativity when it comes to designing clothing.

One of my current pet projects is to take a sweatshirt and see how I can transform it into something new and different.  There are so many approaches to this type of rework, that I know I will never run out of inspiration. My favorite go-to for ideas is Pinterest. Check out my board called Upcycled Sweatshirts and T’s.

I’d like to share a recent project with you. Generally, I like to start by pulling together my ‘ingredients’. Of course, the sweatshirt is the base, but I have fun gathering ‘ideas’ to use in conjunction with it. I like to mix my crafts; a little knitting, some stitching, and so on. Throw in a pair of denim jeans you plan to cut up, and away you go!

Ingredients

My concept for this project was to create a dress. I planned to add some knitting, stitching and sewn parts such as the skirt. My general plan was to cut the sweatshirt at the empire line and use the lower part to build a tall stand-up collar. I like to position things in place on my dress form, moving the parts around, try this, try that, and so on.

Getting an idea..

To get started I needed to establish the empire line which would become my cutting line. I used a piece of yarn to sort out the division line, and then, I cut the bottom of the sweatshirt away.

Establishing the line for cutting
Cutting

This is the point that I get Garment Designer involved. I go to the software and utilizing some of the existing measurements of the garment (e.g. the width at the underarm and shoulders), I build a pattern with a new neckline and the correct garment length. Then I added an ‘edging’ in the software to create a flared skirt and I built a tall stand up collar.

My pattern in Garment Designer

Pattern pieces were then printed, and I cut out my neckline, chopped off the bottom of the sleeves, and cut out fabric for the skirt.

Using my Garment Designer pattern to cut out the neckline
Find yarn
My yarn

I had decided to add a yarn insert to the collar, so off to my yarn stash I went.  Then, I test swatched a mohair yarn, and knit a rectangular insert that I later sewed into the polar fleece cut collar.

At the sewing machine, I added a denim eyelet tape to the center front of the garment.

Then I attached the collar, and tested the skirt by pinning it in place.

Checking out the Skirt

Back to knitting… I knit up the lower portion of sleeves and sewed them to the sweatshirt sleeve. I had decided to add a pocket to the garment and utilized the blue jean pocket for this by simply cutting it out and placing it on the garment. Ultimately, I will add buttonholes to the pocket and button it in place on the garment.

Getting ready to cut out the pocket
Almost done

Now, on to the trims. This is where experimentation became. I took little pieces of denim and stitched various patterns on them as I explored stitches on my Brother sewing machine. I let the serger tails remain, and notice how I have been using a heavier denim-like thread in my loopers. I also crocheted a flower out of yarn.

Components; a mixture of stitching, knitting, and embroidery

I created a brooch-like composite of the various parts, and will have this be removable.

And now.. the final dress.

The finished project!

I really felt my creativity flow while making this project. And the bonus is, I recycled a garment and used up other parts of my stash. I will be teaching classes on this technique in the future. The first will take place at Stitches United in Hartford, CT. Join me in being sustainable, either by taking a class, or challenge yourself at home. This garment will be in the

Check out Garment Designer on our website. It is such a capable tool for creative design.

~~~ Susan Lazear

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