Archive for the category “Ethical Clothing”

Rainbow Twirling Skirt – Tutorial

It has been a very long time between sewing projects for me and I’ve had this idea in my head (and all the fabrics ready) for at least six months. It was so lovely today to have the house to myself for an hour or two to get it done.

And the best part for me is that all materials I needed were bought from the op shop – hooray! The rainbow silk was found first and it made me think how it would make a beautiful skirt for Miss 5 who loves rainbows. I’d also been wanting to make her a fairy dress, but wanted something nice and simple to make. So when I saw the purple singlet the idea popped into my head to put them together.
Here’s a bit of how-to if you’d like to try it yourself:

  • Stretchy singlet or t-shirt in your child’s size
  • floaty fabric for the skirt, I used squares pieces that were 85cm in length.
  • sewing machine (though it could be hand stitched), scissors, measuring tape, pins.


I followed this tutorial on making a circle skirt…

I made a few changes though.

Instead of attaching it to an elastic waist band, I attached the skirt to the bottom of the singlet.

I also left my fabric square at the bottom as the rainbow silk was already beautifully hemmed by hand. I offset it with the jade fabric, firstly because the silk was see through. And also because I like the draped, flowy effect of the points the squares make at the bottom of the dress.
Here are some photos of the process and a few extra pointers…


  Take your child’s waist measurements and make a paper pattern as per the instructions in the circle skirt tutorial (link mentioned above).
Cut the corner off.

Repeat  for the 2nd square of fabric if you are using one.

Lay them on top of each other to make a star shape as shown in the photo above.

Pin the two together around the inner circle.

With right sides facing pin the skirt to the singlet top.

Using an over locker stitch all three layers together. I also add an extra straight stitch on my regular machine for extra strength.

Hem the bottom of the skirt to the required length.

And you’re done!

Happy twirling !!




My Winter Coat Project (Part Two)

Finished at last! It was a tad optimistic to attempt this coat in 10 days, I think it was close to a month in the end. Just in time for some unseasonably warm spring weather! Although I’m sure Melbourne will provide me with a few opportunities to wear it before summer arrives.

Overall I’m pretty happy with it. Given the thickness of the blanket I knew it would be a bit tricky and perhaps bulky in places. I also made an attempt to match up the sides which I think worked out pretty well too.


The only problem that’s really bothering me is that it’s ended up somewhere between a half to one size too big!

So the question is ‘To unpick or not to unpick?’…

The Sound of Music Revisited

I’m on a roll…two upcycled items in one week! My latest piece is a summer top made from a curtain, it is floral but I think it’s a bit more stylish than the Von Trapp kids – although Maria did a great job getting all those outfits from one set of curtains!

I used the Newlook 6895 pattern, quite simple and easy to make. I made it a size bigger than I normally wear as the measurements for the waist seemed tiny. But I ended up having to take in the side seams so next time I’ll make my usual size.

The back is easy too as there’s no zip just a simple opening and button.

Can’t wait to make some more!

Upcycled T-Shirt Undies

I have a few t-shirts in my wardrobe that for some reason or other I don’t wear anymore. This one was a present from my brother and I love it but this colour looks so wrong on me. So now I’m transforming it into underwear, it feels great to be finally putting it to use.

There’s a few tutorials out there for upcycled t-shirt underwear and this is my version. I wanted to see how it would work using only the t-shirt and no other elastic or ribbing etc,  so it would be 100% upcycled. I think the result has worked quite well. I used an overlocker but you could get the same result with a zig-zag and straight stitch.

1. Firstly I got a pair of undies I really like and unpicked all the seams. I then used the pieces to make a pattern which I pinned onto my t-shirt, making sure I lined up the writing where I wanted it.

2. I used the back of the shirt to cut bands for the legs and waist. The leg bands were 7cm width (cut 2) the waist bands were 9cm width (cut 2).

Bands for legs and waist

3. I began by sewing the back, middle and front pieces together. I had marked which edges to sew together with an ‘A’. Put the front and back pieces together, right sides facing and the middle piece on top of the back piece. Overlock/finish the narrow edge of the middle piece. (Sounds confusing but see photo below – I always pin first to check I’ve got the pieces the right way round).

4. Pin together the side seams of the front and back pieces (right sides facing) and stitch.

5. Now for the leg bands. To make sure the are the right size stretch them around your leg until they feel firm. Mark the place where the ends meet and sew together the short ends.

6. And fold in half to form circular bands.

7. Take the undies (inside out) and pin the leg band to the inside of the leg hole with the raw edges lined up. Now because the leg bands are shorter in length than the leg holes you will need to stretch them as you sew. To make sure they are stretched evenly I mark the halfway points of the leg bands and leg holes and match them up.

Don't forget to stretch as you sew.

8. You also need to make sure you catch the edges of the middle piece as you go round (pictured above). The undies should now look like this…

9. Now for the waist band. Firstly sew the two pieces together then follow the same procedure for measuring the right length, sewing ends together, folding in half and attaching to the waist. And you’re done!!!!

They did turn out a little smaller than I wanted, so I’ll probably end up adding a couple of cms to the waist next time. The real test will be when I wear them tomorrow…

Goody goody yum-yum!

Affluenza – the disease of Modern Australia.

Last week I had a rare opportunity to have some kid-free, husband-free time with my friend Claire. I went round to her place in the evening and we ended up chatting until 12.30am (a rare late night for both of us!). Claire is very knowledgeable on all matters environmental and economic and I’m hoping to learn a lot from her. She lent me a book called Affluenza – When too much is never enough by Clive Hamilton and Richard Deniss. I’m only a few pages in so far but it really rings true for me. We are so much better off than we were 50 yrs ago yet still we want more and more – but are we any happier? It was written in 2005 before the GFC however I believe the arguments still apply. Interestingly the authors note that in the 60s & 70s it was predicted that ‘our technological progress would allow for us to work only a few hours a week and our main problem would be how best to enjoy our leisure’.

Anyway I’m getting sidetracked, here is an update on my ethical clothing challenge: I have already aquired a few new items of clothing and coincidently each in a different way. But now I’m thinking – did I really need more clothes??

1. Didriksons 1913 Fleece – valued at $139. Cost for me: free

My husband picked this up from the lost and found box at his work (a Golf Course) and it’s not something I ever would have bought but it’s really lovely and soft and warm. It’ll be great when the Melbourne winter kicks in.

2. Hot Options Women’s top. Value – probably around $20. Cost for me: $5.99

I bought this top from Savers op shop with the intention of wearing it to a job interview I hope to have next month. I really love the colour and the subtle pin stripes.

3. Valleygirl Green Spotty Dress. Value – no idea, never shopped there. Cost for me: free

A friend was having a wardrobe clear out and was kind enough to pass on some things to me. I really liked this dress and I’m hoping to find and orange belt or sash to go around the waist. At the moment I’ve just tied a vintage paisely tie. I’m hoping to wear it to my new job should the interview next month be successful!

4. Maggie’s Uranium protest t-shirt. Value – I love it so it has a high value to me! Cost for me: $9.00

My husband found an adults shirt with this logo in the op shop one day and we were deciding what to do with it. It was going to form part of my patchwork blanket that needs mending but he decided it would be great for our 21mth old daughter. So we went back to the op shop and bought a matching red t-shirt. Then it was a simple matter of overlocking around the edge, ironing onto the new t-shirt and double stitching round the edge. Now she’s all ready for the festival circuit!


It’s about time I had a wardrobe clear out too so I’m heading to the Frankston Library Clothes Swap next week!

Want a Greener Wardrobe?

A couple of weeks ago I decided to set myself an ethical clothing challenge for 2012. I’d been down to one of the January sales and bought some cheap shoes and I couldn’t help but feel a stab of guilt as I have been a lot lately – if I’m getting these for such a bargin someone has got to be missing out here, someone else is paying the price for my purchase.

Ever wondered about who made the clothes you buy? What were their working conditions? How much did they get paid?

Or take it a step back further and ask yourself how was the fabric made? Were the natural fibres grown using sustainable farming practices? How much energy was needed to manufacture it? How far did it have to travel to get to you? What about the company selling it – do they have a good environmental and social record?

A lot to think about and certainly it’s not easy to find out all those answers. But there are some simple steps you can take to get yourself a greener wardrobe.

1. Buy Second Hand. Scour those op shops! It may not be as easy to find something you like – but it’s so much more satisfying when you do! Savers have a loyalty card, so that each time you take in a bag of donations you receive and increasing percentage off  your next purchase. Vintage shops are great too but a little more pricey. You can also pick up a bargin at pre-loved markets.

2. Swap. The Clothing Exchange is an event I’ve always wanted to go to. Events are held throughout the year in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. You bring along your (good quality) unwanted clothing, get some buttons to use as currency and swap away. Local councils also organise events on National Swap Day or why not organise one with your friends?

3. Source Ethical Clothing. Ethical Clothing can mean a number of things depending on what is important to you. Is it organic? Or fair wages and conditions? Is it the carbon footprint? Or is it a company’s environmental & social record? A website I highly, highly recommend is this ethical consumer guide. It’s aimed at supermarket shopping (a whole other challenge!) but you can apply the principles to any consumer purchase you make. Find out what is important to you and start from there. Ethical Clothing Australia is an independant committee that promotes fair wages and decent working conditions by assisting businesses through an accreditation process. You can view the list of accredited brands here. Etkio promote fair trade and sustainable. Sustainable Hemp Products focus on sustainable natural fibres.

Livia Firth in a dress made with fibres derived from the mechanical, non-chemical recycling of plastic bottles

So great to see some ‘green’ dresses on the red carpet – check out Livia Firth’s (Colin Firth’s wife) Green Carpet Challenge.

4. Make Your Own. Go on, try it! I bet you know someone with a sewing machine. Start simple, maybe get some lessons and get a good basic instruction book. You’ll be so proud of yourself!

A dress I've made from a tablecloth - you find some fantastic fabrics in op shops!

The whole subject of Ethical Clothing can get quite overwhelming when you start to research – and I’m only just beginning the process myself. But just remember that everytime you buy something you’re sending a message. You are supporting that company and it’s activities, whether you are aware of it or not and whether you like it or not. Be deliberate about what you buy, make your money count.

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