Recycle,Restyle,Refashion - Part 4 - Gail Yellen

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

Gail Yellen, Upcycle, Recycle



Part 4 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 the past four weeks you 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. ********************

Gail Yellen

Gail Yellen is one of the most popular speakers on today’s sewing circuit. Inspired To SEW has featured Gail before ( … and, at this point in her accidental sewing career, is considered THE Serger Guru. Her book, Serger Essentials: Master the Basics and Beyond, published by Fons and Porter, gets rave reviews from serger owners, new or old. Her mission was to demystify the serger and help sewists get the most out of their machine! One of Gail’s early successes was a project about recycling sweaters . . . well, we’ll let her tell it . . . . Of all the projects and garments sewn over the years, this one is the nearest and dearest to my heart. My mother died in November 2008 and as my sister and I folded her clothes to donate to a local thrift shop, I looked at the stack of wool sweaters — a lovely palette of beiges, creams, whites, and taupes. A recycling idea began to take shape. I was fascinated with felting wool knits. The process is fun, uncomplicated, and produces amazing results. Felted wool is easy to sew and embellish, and the warmth of a felted garment is a big plus during Connecticut winters. Why not take four or five sweaters, felt them, and create a collage jacket? I had recently designed the Counterpoints Jacket and it was perfect for this project. The collaged surface design became Template Set 1 in a series of three.

Counterpoints Jacket
Counterpoints Jacket
In 2009, the American Sewing Guild announced a contest — Remake, Reuse, Restyle. My jacket met all of the criteria. I filled out the contest application, sent the photos and it was one of the three winning entries. (I like to think that my mother had a hand in that!) All patterns, interfacing, and template sets are available for purchase on her website.