Making to remake

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Fitted, but made to be moved

In general when we are crafting, we think only about a single finished product, but maybe we should try to have a longer term perspective. For example, if you are making children’s clothes, they may only be the right size for a relatively short time, so perhaps you could design, from the outset, for them to be altered or even taken apart and made into a different garment. If you are particularly fashion-conscious, you may want to change your look every year or even every season, so it makes sense from an eco-perspective to be able to reuse the same raw materials time and again. Equally, you may want to build some free-standing shelves when you live in a rented home, but when you buy your own place you might want to convert them to being wall-mounted. When we had our new fitted cupboard built in the kitchen, Tim the carpenter made it on a frame that could be removed, so we can take it with us if we move house.

If we start off with the mindset that we are likely to want to reuse our raw materials, we can make to facilitate this. This seems like a reasonable suggestion, given the earth’s limited resources, and is something that may eventually be forced upon us. I’ve been thinking about examples and, so far I’ve come up with a few:

  • Use screws rather than nails or glue for woodwork.
  • When knitting or crocheting, weave in all the yarn ends before joining the pieces together, then seam with a new long length of thread.
  • Stitch on buttons or press-studs rather than riveting them.
  • Leave generous seam allowances and hems where these will not affect the fit of the garment.

Do you have any ideas? Do you ever think about this sort of thing when you are making?

 

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23 Comments

  1. Ann Pole

     /  February 10, 2019

    I prefer slabs (used, never new!) to not be cemented down. Firstly, that is more cement to use. Secondly, it seals the area (builders do love to grout) so water cannot drain through. Thirdly, what if they have to be lifted for access to services, or if the design needs to change. BTW, in some cases I do prefer slabs – the old, thick ones, and always second hand, because weeds don’t grow through them like they would with wood chippings, they don’t get muddy and cats don’t use them as a toilet. By using 2×2’s, there is also a grid set out on your patio with lots of right angles – perfect for projects that needs a large set square!

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  2. It’s a jolly good point you are making here. However I have enough trouble making things in the first place though, although I do repair and recycle, just not design things to be reused from the off. It would be great if people like your Tim who are makers by profession could think this way.

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  3. You reminded me of Victorian dresses for both children and women made with lots of vertical tucks in the bodice, gathers at the top of the skirt and horizontal tucks above the generous hem. They could be let in, out, up or down to allow fro growth, pregnancy, losing weight or whatever. And the tucks or smocking were decorative as well. Since I have finished growing, am too old to get pregnant and, for some reason my weight is very stable I just wear clothes until they are too far gone to interest even the charity shops then cut them up for rags (cleaning or rug making), patchwork or whatever.

    There is a lot to be said for unfitted kitchens and other furniture not being built in too. Not least because I enjoy re-arranging furniture as my mood or the seasons or my life changes. Plus I get bored easily!

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    • The idea of adjustable dresses makes so much sense and I guess that all that fabric in Victorian dresses provided plenty of opportunity. It’s funny you should mention clothes worn until they are unfit for anything other than rags – Jon and I were talking about just that yesterday.

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    • Patricia Collins

       /  February 10, 2019

      Not so Victorian! My mum made all my dresses with tucks so hems could be let down. Hadn’t thought of it for years.

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      • Most ‘peasant’ style clothes are made so as to have minimal seams (less work) and less pieces so they can be reused or re shaped. Yukata/ kimono/sari /kilts( well maybe not so peasant). Capes and cloaks were unfitted so many sizes/people could reuse the same garment/fabric.

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  4. I haven’t made or had things made with that viewpoint in mind, but it makes very much sense. Thanks for bring it up to our attention – it’s food for thoughts.
    In the distant past, raw materials used to be much more expensive due to the different production methods, so things would be reused as much as possible. For example, I think I remember reading about clothing in the 18th C was made to be altered or adjusted at a later point.
    I think the problem with getting people to think in longer terms, is that things are so readily and inexpensively (in terms of price paid by the consumer, not in terms of earth resources) obtainable that hardly anybody is pushed to be more ingenious in the use of said items.
    I haven’t had clothes made with future alterations in mind, but I reuse fabrics and materials whenever possible. Old curtains, tablecloths, bed sheets, can get a second lease of life without any problem. Even old towels. Especially when their quality was superior to start with, like it’s often the case for older one.
    Discarded solid wood can be reused to make shelves, boxes, flower beds, small tables… I have a friend of mine making some small things for me from upcycled wood.

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  5. You raise some excellent points here Jan. I admit to not thinking of reuse or change when making yarny things – making the thing is challenge enough for me 🙂 I have recycled yarn though, undoing and doing up into something else when it was in reasonable condition. But it’s not something I habitually do. However I have, for more than 30 years, wherever possible, used free standing modular furniture in all my rooms. Initially it was because that was all I could afford to buy, then it became obvious to me that it allowed me to be more creative in how I set up my spaces and, because I get bored easily, to move things about. Now I am aware that there are also healthier eco ramifications from my choices. I am always inspired by your posts to do better 🙂

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    • I think the original idea for this post came from a discussion at Knit Night – certainly the points about improving opportunities for remaking knitted and crocheted things came from one of our chats there.

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  6. You raised some interesting things here. My mother did a lot of dressmaking and things were remade into other things as well as passed to other family members when one grew out of something – in particular I remember I wore the same style/colour nightdress for years, passed down to me (the youngest/smallest in the house) one from my mum and another from my sister – and I’d started with one my own size too! Handknits were often frogged and reknitted – especially jumpers for school.

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  7. Good points for thought Jan.
    On my ‘design list’ currently is a ‘piece of portable reusable furniture’ to be used for storage now but in the future it will be my coffin.
    With secret pockets for art, poems, words of songs and other items to be buried (or burned) with me catered for. ‘Wishes & Plans’ in a crafty box and a ‘Legacy Box’ leaving letters & items for friends and family. 😊🐸

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  8. I was reminded of kimonos, which are hand sewn, to make washing easier. These beautiful garments are obviously made to be taken apart when the need arises.

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  9. Patricia Collins

     /  February 10, 2019

    More from my mother! Working as a dressmaker just before, during and after WW2, she was often asked to turn clothes i.e. a customer’s garment would be dismantled then sewn back together with what had been the wrong, less worn side out. So perhaps thinking about using reversible fabrics in our contemporary projects would add extra years of use?

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  10. I had to laugh when I read this. Every shirt I buy I look at with a quilter’s as well as a wearer’s eye. Will this be useful as patchwork fabric? Is it pure cotton? Will it fade after too many washings? I won’t tell you how many of my former garments now grace the beds, walls and windows of other people (as well as mine, obviously!), and have done so for more than 20 years. The Husband’s work pants become hard-wearing crochet mat yarn. Every jumper I wore as a child had seen at least two previous incarnations for parents or siblings. Every shelf and book case in the house is free standing and living in its fourth or fifth home, every napkin was once a tablecloth, many hankies and pillowcases were once sheets. I haven’t yet start rug hooking with scraps or making baskets with fabric-wound cotton rope, but it’s only a matter of time…

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