Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Process to Repurpose Clothing

Someone recently ask us "if we get all our shirts from the same wholesalers as the others?" (referencing vendors at a large flea market / Canton trades day.)

My response was "no ma'am, we fix up all of our own shirts." to which she was surprised and then said, "well y'all do great work" and picked a shirt off the rack and took it with her!

This conversation prompted me to outline the process and show you what all goes into repurposed and upcycled clothing.

If you read my last blog post and sustainability in our business, you learned that
According to the EPA, American discard approximately 13.1 million tons of textiles a year and only about 15 percent of that is reclaimed for recycling. This means that more than 11 million tons of textiles are dumped into landfills across the country each year. 

Keeping textiles out of landfills would save more than $375 million per year in fees alone. ($44/ ton to dispose of waste.)

  • Our process starts by rescuing clothing. Almost every Thursday morning, Angea and I meet up at our favorite thrift store, then hit the road together, searching for any kind of good junk along the way. I'm always looking for flannels, denim jackets, vintage pearl snap shirts, lace, and any other fabric or clothing item that I think has the potential to become something more that it was originally. 
  • I come home and most of the clothing goes straight to the washing machine, since I don't know where exactly it came from.
  • After it's dried, it usually winds up in a laundry basket or hung on my clothing rack (in the living room, I might add!) waiting for inspiration to strike.
  • The shirts have to tell you what they need. Sometimes they get bleached, others want lace added, or some fun graphics, or lately I've been combining some t-shirt graphics onto the button up shirts. 
Junk shirt

Recently, I had a shirt that had a small rip towards the bottom of it, so I cut off the lower section of the shirt and added layers of lace to make it a one of a kind fun shirt.

Occasionally buttons or snaps have to be replaced.

I had a bunch of white shirts on hand and decided to give them a vintage look and dyed them a camel color, although each fabric took the dye differently and turned out shades of pink, coral, and tan in color. 
shirt with wings

Sometimes there might be a small hole that needs patching or a spot on the shirt that I decide to cover up with lace or a graphic patch. 

For the distressed flannels, they go through a process of bleaching, rinsing, and run through the washing machine. 

For the shirts with the graphics:
  • I have a paid subscription to a digital graphics site, that allows for commercial use (side note: you can't take images off of google and use it without proper licencing and many digital graphics are for 'personal use only.') 
  • I "play" with the digital graphics till I come up with something I like. I have a few apps on my phone, that I do most of this in. 
  • Next, I must get them to the Mac Book, so the images can be reversed and printed. (I can't reverse print from my phone or I would print from there.) This involves using drop box or email to get the image sent to computer and then downloaded to photos on conputer. My main computer and the printer I use for graphics don't jive too well, so even if I design on my computer, they still need to be sent to the Mac. The Mac Book was Jeff's computer and I should really learn more about using it and finding a design program on there... This is truly the most frustrating part of the entire process, but rewarding once it's complete. 
  • Once printed, the patches are then heat pressed onto fabric.

Random tidbit here - when I first started my etsy shop, I was making caps and purchased a cap press on ebay. I didn't have much success with caps and I can't seem to give them away now, but I've still got the heat press and use it for patches now. I do wish for a flat press, instead of the curved hat press, but we are making it work right now, till we can get a bigger shirt press. 
  • After the graphic patches are made, they can then be sewed onto shirts! 

Like I said earlier, I am always looking for vintage lace. It doesn't matter if its lace curtains, a table cloth, by the yard, white, ivory, skinny little dainty lace, flat lace, ruffly lace, lace trim...if I find it, it's most likely coming home with me! Once I bought a box at an estate sale that took over 2 hours to go through and sort it out and roll it up neatly, once I got home. They originally wanted to price the lace by the yard, and I ask for a box price - I can't imagine how long it would have taken to actually measure and record every yard of lace in the box and then figure the total price! If you're selling vintage lace at your estate sale - mark it by the box and I'll be more likely to take it off your hands, all at once! 

 Since I buy and rescue mostly vintage lace, there's only a certain amount of each style. The fun part comes when matching up the right lace, with the right shirt and having the correct amount to do the job! There's been a few occasions when I thought there was enough lace to go around the bottom hem of a shirt, although after pinning it in place, coming up an inch short. When that happens, I have to start digging through the lace and find an alternative style. 

My workroom gets to be a big mess when I'm adding lace to shirts! I have several tubs, buckets, and bags of trim, doilies, and hankies and I start digging for the right match, lace gets strewn all over my work tables and sewing machine! 

  • Somewhere along the way, most everything gets ironed, tagged, and measurements taken.
  • I include measurements of the width and length of each shirt, when describing them. I know from my own online clothes shopping experiences, that measurements help insure a proper fit, when I can compare to a favorite shirt in my closet. I have learned from taking the measurements that sizes vary so much between brands and styles. I hope this extra step helps you out! 

  • Next comes photographing or videoing the shirts, so that I make them available to everyone, by listing them online or taking them to our booth. 
  • After this process is complete, they are folded and placed in storage tubs until they are purchased and shipped out to you. 
It's a long process but I do get excited to create something new, fun, and one of a kind, with something that someone else was finished with. I know when I wear my unique shirts out, I always get compliments, so it makes me feel good that someone else likes my upcycled clothes and at the same time, we've saved textiles from the landfill! 

I hope this helps you understand the process we go through and I honestly feel like we have a very reasonable price on our upcycled shirts. The lady who originally ask the question about our clothes knew that our shirts were reasonably priced compared to many of the others who were purchased at wholesale. We had a sale going in our booth at the time and she got a bleached flannel for a 1/4 of what many boutiques sell them for. Our goal is to keep all of our items at a price point that is affordable to everyone and that is usually 1/2 of what many places charge for upcylced clothing. 

P.S. We are planning to do a LIVE Facebook Sale with some of the new shirts. Please stay tuned and watch for special announcements concerning the sale! Like and Follow my Facebook page to get updates and notifications. 


  1. These are all SO pretty Janice!

  2. The picture of the blue shirt with lace is my favorite of all. :)


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