A couple weeks ago, Pillows A-La-Mode posted links to some of her favorite denim and jeans upcycling projects. I was excited that my embroidered denim clutch was included on the list. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve made and is currently keeping my purse organized by holding a variety of random items. I have to share the picture again because the colors make me so happy.
The post reminded me of the denim projects I made back in high school. My mom and I had competing ways of making things back then. If she wanted to make something, she’s use a pattern or sit down and work out the dimensions. If I wanted to make something I’d start chopping things up, attempt to put it together, and then run to my mom to help me solve the problems I created if my project wasn’t working out (which was more often than not).
I made a few denim projects back then since my family’s old jeans were readily available as a free fabric source, but most of my creations are no longer with me. I recall a skirt I made by opening up the legs of a pairs of jeans and adding some fabric in the middle of the overlapping legs. And I know I made a cute denim bag with sea creature lining (leftover from a baby quilt my mom made) where the back pockets were on the sides, the corners were accented with denim triangles, and the waistband was the purse strap. (I can see this bag so clearly, and hope I created a somewhat accurate mental picture for you. I’m fairly certain that this bag was handed down to one of my younger cousins who likes to raid my purse stash).
I know my mom was in favor of me making this denim bag from store-bought fabric and a standard pattern because she just had to help me understand the directions and didn’t have to come up with creative problem solving solutions. (I didn’t believe in seam allowances back in the day, which created a whole host of issues. Plus I rarely had as much fabric as I should have for the project I was trying to make.) I do like this bag, and I’d like to fix the few fraying spots to preserve it and hand it off to another cousin (possibly when I see my family for Easter?). This bag was one of the most professional looking projects I sewed in those days. That front pocket was a very snug fit for my cell phone back in high school and the antenna (!) would stick out on the top a tiny bit even when it wasn’t extended.
This next bag is the bag I was thinking of when I started this post before my mind ran off to tangent land. These denim cargo pockets (seriously!) were from a pair of my jeans in high school. I went through jeans quickly because they tended to fall apart; I think I bought a lot of poorly manufactured clothes back then. Anyone else have that experience with Mudd Jeans? Those things would disintegrate. So I took the pockets from my super cool cargo jeans and made a purse.
So the single purse I intended to write about in an extremely short blog post to share with Pillows A-La-Mode has turned into an essay on the denim recycling I did in high school. I’d mostly forgotten about my refashioning/upcycling days back then, but I loved cutting things up and trying to put them back together again in a functional way. I’m glad I’ve taken some notes from my mom and (most of the time) I start planning before I cut, but I still enjoy having to improvise and make adjustments to my project as I go (as long as it works out…).
I couldn’t have done most of my sewing projects without my mom’s help. She was busy being a mom of three active kids, working nearly full-time, and doing everything else she did (including cooking dinner for the family almost every night!), but still found time to help me with my projects and even made me two winter formal dresses based on my dress design ideas. I could tell she enjoyed working with me (when I wasn’t being whiny and defeatist… I had a flair for the dramatic.) and assisting in making my ideas a reality.
I asked my grandmother a few weeks ago if she still had a sewing machine. She’s more of a yarn person than a fabric person, but she said she thought there was one in her basement somewhere and started reminiscing about when my mom was back in high school. My grandmother said my mom and her sisters had two sewing machines set up and they were usually both occupied. I can only imagine how fun that must have been to have sisters to sew with since people often say sewing is a solitary activity. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of their sewing room!
Thanks to Pillow A-La-Mode for inspiring this post and an unintended trip down memory lane!