Recycle,Restyle,Refashion – Part 2 – Luveta Nickels

Upcycle Recycle Logo & Definitions

Part 2 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 one month you will meet 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.


Luveta NickelsLuveta Nickels lives on a working farm & cattle ranch in South Dakota with her husband Steve. She started collecting jeans not knowing that someday . . . they would become her livelihood. Luveta says, “I’ve always loved the complicated workings of jeans — the zippers, tack buttons, rivets and all those flat felled, double-stitched seams. I experimented with ways to take them apart, and keep those wonderful details in tact while making something entirely new and different out of them. I would turn jeans into vests, jackets, skirts . . . .”

She owned a fabric store, and wearing her stylish wearable art around town sparked an interest with her customers. She started to teach classes about recycling jeans, and soon, sewing guilds asked her to teach techniques. Luveta found herself creating patterns for garments made out of recycled jeans. She closed her store because she was so busy traveling all over the country, sharing her love of recycled jeans!

Thick fabrics are easy to wrangle with the Big Jig.

Thick fabrics are easy to wrangle with the Big Jig.

Nothing is built like a sturdy pair of jeans, but many are afraid to sew on heavy denim. Luveta realized somebody needed to invent a device that would allow a sewing machine needle to easily pass through those heavy, reinforced seams. One of the original inventors of the “Jean-a-ma-Jig,” Luveta has gone on to improve the concept with her new “Big Jig” device. The Big Jig is easier to hang on to and features a much longer sewing groove for more efficient sewing over the thick seams. The Big Jig is available in two thicknesses.

Luveta turned her love of recycling jeans into a very successful career in the sewing industry. She is a respected inventor, an accomplished designer, and a popular teacher. For the last 30 years, she has been traveling all over the country, teaching classes and workshops at county fairs, sewing guilds, sewing machine conventions and consumer events. Luveta took the FEAR out of sewing on jeans. Her easy-going, approachable teaching style makes you believe you can do it, too.

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