Recycle,Restyle,Refashion - Part 3 - Mary Mulari

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #47, November 2017. Written by Rita Farro.)

Mary Mulari, Upcycle, Recycle


Part 3 of the series: Recycle,Restyle,Refashion. For generations, women who sew have been recycling. They start with one thing and, with their sewing skills and imagination — a transformation results into a completely different thing. Patchwork quilting began because frugal women couldn’t afford to waste any bit of usable fabric. They needed to save money and had to “make do” with materials on hand. In the process, they created something useful and beautiful that would be handed down from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter. Over a period of four weeks you will have met four women who are as different as the things they choose to recycle . . . but what they share is the desire to give new life . . . transforming the ordinary and familiar into something extraordinary. There are as many names for it as there are different ways to do it. Whether you call it recycling, upcycling, refashion, or restyling — the desire to create something new from something old has always existed in the soul of women and men who love to sew. And it is truly the perfect way for the past to touch the present and the future. The added benefit is that when you start with something like a sweater that your mother loved, or a shirt your Dad wore to work, or a doily your favorite Aunt embroidered — the project takes on a special meaning. It becomes a labor of love and a treasured memory gift. ********************

Mary Mulari

Mary Mulari lives in the Minnesota Northwoods. In 1984, she got laid off from her teaching job. She started to experiment with various techniques for decorated sweatshirts and developed classes on that topic for community education programs in area schools. She couldn’t have known it at the time — but those early classes about restyling plain sweatshirts became the basis of a very successful career in the sewing industry. Mary is one of the busiest, most well-respected speakers in the country — and her seminars and workshops are often sold-out. She has written 20+ books on topics ranging from appliqué designs, zipper projects, machine embroidery techniques, travel gift ideas, and Sew Green projects. Mary became the most frequent guest on the popular PBS series, Sewing With Nancy. Her interest in recycling and upcycling has always been at the core of her love of sewing and creating memory gifts.

Recycling gives new life to memories.
Recycling gives new life to memories.
Mary has a hard time listing her favorite recycled project. One would certainly have to be the table runner she made out of vintage doilies. So many of us have our grandmother’s doilies, but they don’t fit in today’s world. But making a table runner brings them out of the drawers, and they become a topic of conversation. The handwork that went into making them is incredible, and it’s wonderful to be able to display and honor it. Last year, Mary wrote Second Chance T-Shirt Gifts — 15 projects, all designed to use a family’s collection of favorite t-shirts to make memory gifts. The ultimate, recycled memory gift is Mary’s unique spin on the ever-popular t-shirt quilt. Instead of trying to stabilize the t-shirts, Mary applied the technique of flannel ragged edge quilts. Because t-shirt fabric won’t fray — it is the perfect recycle marriage. Use flannel for the backside of the t-shirt squares, and BOOM — it’s an easy weekend project. You’ve turned those treasured t-shirts into a soft, washable, useable quilt, with almost no extra cost (no batting, sashing, or long arm quilting required).