Taking up-cycling way UP. Taking materials no longer used, cutting into them and repurposing into artful garments. Especially those things lovingly made by hand and needles mostly made for home decor by family members who may not be here any more. To honour and respect the needle arts that has come down  to us and show it off just one more time

From Sad to Chic
What do you do with a really sad shaped and tired looking old hand crocheted bedspread? When you find out how much work it is to crochet all those popcorn stitches that someone went to great trouble to do, your brain goes into overdrive trying to figure it out. This was part of a recycling contest issued by The Fashion History Museum to a bunch of designers. So all of the coat came from leftovers and things people no longer had a use for. Amazing what dye can do! And a whole lot of work (see the process pics at the bottom of this story)!!
I didn’t win the contest but the coat was a winner! Bought the first night of The Wearable Art Show by Cathy to confirm my opinion and her’s is all that mattered to me.
Thank you to whoever gave me those grey pearl buttons because they really caught the light (catching light is a big deal to me) and moved the whole design up a notch. “Popcorn Pleasures” was the name bestowed.
The People’ Choice Award at the 2024 TWAS show (www.thewearableartshow.com). Thirty years after starting my business with a coat I had made from upholstery scraps I win the Recyled to ARTcyled challenge issued to the artists in this year for the show. For me it felt like God kissing the top of my head and saying “Well done daughter.” I start with a process of putting things together that I have and then pulling from that so there are 2 things that don’t make it into the final jacket (can you find which ones don’t). The needle worked framed picture is the inspiration for the whole coat. I have done one of those large needle worked pictures and they are a LOT of work. No way I was going to let this one sit neglected somewhere when it could be seen walking!
When I tackle a totally recycled garment (the only new things were thread and the hair elastics)I know I am going to be spending way more hours then if I was working from new (process below and there is piecing involved and stitching a doily down so it doesn’t move) and my brain will hurt from figuring it all out.  But it is completely SATISFYING  if it comes out anywhere close to what you imagine it could be. Called it “Hearth and Home”.

From Bathing Suits To Portrait Perfection
She handed me a bolt of shocking blooming PINK. It was the leftovers from a play some dance troupe had put on in Toronto. A challenge emerges in my head with how to use stretchy bathing suit material in a colour you need sunglasses to look at. But I will meet it because it’s free! It’s also good quality. I recall I have factory off cuts of Guipure lace in navy some where in this studio……
The finished coat dress comes out looking so fine I decide I will have Canada’s own Laurie McGaw (www.lauriemcgaw.com) paint my very first client Lynn’s portrait wearing it to mark the occasion of being 25 years in business. Laurie catches the essence of Lynn who is a true original just like the coat. I called it “Portrait Perfection”.

The Victorian

Karen brought me her beloved grandmother's lambswool fur coat and asked "Would I incorporate parts of it into a new cape coat?" I don't usually do custom any more but Karen is a treat of a human being and it was obvious she loved her grandmother. I had also never worked with fur (even though I have been at this over 25 years) but there is nothing like a first time. So it was the first time I had to keep the vacuum cleaner by my sewing machine! You cannot throw enough happy colours at Karen and she is a contemporary kinda girl. She said I nailed it. And her grandmother's name? Victoria of course!

Interwoven Colaborations With Maureen Harding 2009

It was the beginning of January and I was on the homestretch finishing a swing coat for my very pregnant  friend Gina - had to keep that baby warm in there. Went upstairs to have my lunch and read my emails and there it was - Maureen Harding had passed. Oh my word! It had been some years since her and I had worked together on collaborations when we were both a part of ArtWear Network. She would take the lead on each piece made with her hand dyed and felted cloth and then I let the work speak to me as to what it should be. I had been totally inspired by what she had done! She made it so easy for me. Not just because the cloth she handed to me was amazingly unique and beautiful but she herself put my mind at ease with what I could create with it. And I needed that freedom in my head to cut into it. She was gentle, quiet, understated and a master of her craft.

I contacted her husband Rod. His nickname for her was Mo and he told me he had been amazed at how many people had written him extolling her skills and her friendliness. She had trained as an RN in the 1960's and had always considered herself a working class girl from the industrial north of England. She got into spinning first after buying a small sheep farm in BC and then later felting. Although she took some workshops in it, she was mostly self taught. As a self taught artist myself, I knew what that meant - a lot of stuff in the garbage! In the year 2000 she started her business called DreamSpin Fibres suppling felting and spinning materials. She mentored others and helped them launch their artistic careers in felting. As with so many other great artists he told me she suffered greatly from self-doubt. In the end it was Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis that took her.

So after reading that initial email, I went back into my studio to finish the coat and it hit me. The whole inspiration for the colours, design etc. had come from a felted scarf of Maureen's. It had been chosen because it was going to be perfect for my fiend Gina's colouring so I had cut into it and incorporated it in the coat. I teared up. The coat was being made to cover a new life coming and it felt like a blessing bestowed on it by another life that had left our earth.  I give each of my original coats it's own title so I called it "Maureen's blessing". She would have liked that.