Giving New Life to Handmade Clothes


I have been sewing my own clothes for over three years.  In that time I have tackled shirts, skirts, dresses, leggings, underwear, bags, slips, and scarves.  My plan was to sew new pieces slowly and carefully, filling holes in my wardrobe left by my ready-to-wear clothes falling apart.  I considered fabric type (cotton, soft and breathable), color (mostly neutrals), print (mostly solids because they go with everything), and style (flattering while remaining work-appropriate).

But I did not consider whether my clothes would grow with me as my body changed, whether they would provide nursing access for breastfeeding my baby, and whether they would double as maternity wear.   As a result, when my husband and I decided to start a family, some of my favorite tops and dresses were packed away.

At first I thought the situation would be temporary, that within a year I would be back to my pre-pregnancy size, reveling in some of my favorite handmade pieces.  A year later, I have finally accepted that my body is simply a different shape.  My hips are wider, my chest is still larger.  In response to these changes my style has shifted from fitted wovens to drapey knits.  I revel in the comfort of clothes that gently hug my body without drawing attention to the bumps and wiggles motherhood brought.

So what do we do with our favorite handmade clothes when they no longer fit our bodies or our style?

The nuclear option is to turn them into something else entirely.  Perhaps a tank top becomes a toddler dress or part of a quilt.  This way the fabric doesn’t go to waste, but time and additional resources (thread, for instance) are needed.  Frankly, I have an entire box of old clothes waiting to be transformed into something more useful, so I’m hesitant to add to the pile.

A less dramatic approach is to alter the clothes to fit a new shape and style.  This way a shirt stays a shirt, but its sides are taken in or let out.  A collar is added or the hem is shortened.  The time and resources required scale with the level of alterations, but there’s the chance that a quick fix will bring the piece back into the fold.

Perhaps the easiest and kindest path is to find a new home for our clothes with someone who will love them as they are.  No more time spent crafting.  No more resources spent making. Another person gets to enjoy a piece of clothing made with care under fair conditions (a mug of hot tea handy, tunes in the background, a comfy seat on the couch).

What do you do with your handmade clothes that are no longer worn?



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