Throughout the pandemic, many Americans have been repurposing their own clothes as a way to save money or test out a new (at home) hobby. Sewing machine sales have skyrocketed. Knitting needles are sold out. Tie dye is making a comeback. Mending, in particular, has not been this popular since the “Make Do and Mend'' campaign implemented by England’s Ministry of Information during WWII. For six long years Brits and Americans were forced to be frugal, and took to repurposing their own wardrobe as a way to make do with what they had. Pamphlets were distributed with different design ideas in the hopes that this collective act of resourcefulness could also bring about unexpected joy and creativity in the home. Eighty years later, under different but equally difficult circumstances, people have a renewed interest in this traditional craft. Since most of us are still working from home and searching for indoor activities, we thought we’d share repurposed pieces from Tara’s wardrobe, one of our leather shop artisans, to spark your interest in reviving your own closet. Tara used to make costumes for the theater, so she has sewing experience. The pieces below offer suggestions for a range of experience levels, from dyeing (you'll need pigments) to sewing patterns (this requires a needle and thread). Hopefully her skilled hands inspire you to rework some of your own wardrobe items.
All of Tara’s pieces are well-worn and well-loved with their own whimsical backstory.
Orange Silk Scarf
“Sahra, a new and lovely friend, hand-stitched this silk. She’s an artist who is so grounded in the earth around her, and the garments she makes reflect that. We spent a morning in my kitchen dyeing this, and whenever I wear it, I think about it hanging off the wooden spoon, and how much I miss her.”
JR Ranch Sweater
“My mom’s been a horsewoman since high school, and JR is where she’d skip school to ride. Just beyond state lines (she grew up in Columbia Heights, MN), I always think of her feeling a little like an outlaw heading to Wisconsin to ride. At some point, this sweater might be beyond mending, but until then, it’s a weekly backstitch.”
“The butt on these have blown out more times than I can count, but the latest patch seems to be holding up well. I don’t think I can ever part with these, even though the elastic stretches past the point of utility.”
Waggy Baby N Tee
“My friend Jade used to run artist residencies at her home in Happy Valley, Oregon. Nora Jane Slade (Waggy Baby) made this incredible run of alphabet tees, and the N just felt right.”
Photography by Claudia Landreville.