It’s been a lo-o-o-ng winter here in Portland, Maine. Now nearly March, snow tickles the windowsills and blackens the streets. People warned us of the ugliness of this time when we moved here five years ago. They urged us to look inward, to remember that spring is on its way, to ignore the permafrost on every surface in this salt-lick of a city. But in truth, the snow itself, the mountainous banks lining every parking lot, even soot-gray, are a novelty.
There is something to be said for the beauty of wintertime, even its filthy, leftover state. The sting of arctic air on your face, its burn in your lungs. The complete silence of night (apart from the ever-present plows). It’s precisely this time of year when I find myself thinking thoughts both profound and plebian. And as such, have been finding new ways of not just amusing myself, but reusing some of the things I’ve come to love. So in full-circle fashion (pun intended), I just had to share.
When the crotch of my most favorite jeans blew out, and then ripped again (after the first mending), I knew they were not long for this world. But rather than toss them outright – perish the thought! – I carefully folded and placed them in the preserving sarcophagus that is the blanket chest at the foot of my bed. Where they lay, still as night, for the past ooh 2 months. But even out of sight, they were never far out of mind. Each time I reached for their lesser brethren, I thought about those jeans – oh yes I did, until finally, two weeks ago, I resurrected them in the form of a skirt.
It couldn’t have been easier, either. Take your jeans and cut the legs across – as long or short as you like, slightly longer if you’re going to hem your skirt. Next, open the seam along each leg, cutting up the leg all the way to the crotch, and across, and finally cutting the tiny front part that looks a bit like a profile nose. Lay the skirt flat. Open up the two cut-off pieces, and one side at a time, position the material to fill in the triangular opening between the legs. Pin into place. Cut away excess if needed (it can be a bit bulky), then stitch. Once the panels are sewn into place, trim the excess more carefully. Flip over and repeat. Hem, if desired. NOTE: you DO NOT need a sewing machine to do this. Although I have one, I actually prefer hand stitching because I’m more confident in the quality. Yes, it takes longer, but with all this freaking snow what else are you doing?!
NEXT! Before making my skirt, I’d actually reinvented my favorite green sweater, which had sprung an irreparable hole in the bodice. So what did I do, but cut off the sleeves and neck and stitch them onto a t shirt! Yes!!
Again, it was so (sew) easy. Simply turn your sweater inside out, so you can see the seams. Carefully cut the sleeves off, making sure to keep the stitched seam intact, but cutting close so there’s no excess. Then place over the short sleeve of your chosen t-shirt and stitch, seam to seam. I kept my sleeves inside out because I liked the look better. You may have a little extra sweater depending on how fitted the sleeves are. This project really works best with fitted sleeve sweaters. If there is excess fabric, however, gather the extra fabric at the top of the shoulder and carefully stitch small pleats if possible to achieve a princess type cap. I did it all by hand and it didn’t take long at all. I’m super pleased with how well it turned out – and it was so easy!! Cannot recommend it enough.
PS: I loved the first one so much, I went on to make FIVE more!!
So after crafting all these new t-shirt/sweater tops, I had a bunch of excess material. Being a thrifty gal, I didn’t want to just toss it. But what to do, what to do..? Well, my head sure gets cold in these below-freezing temps… how ’bout a new hat?!
Simply cut the turtlenecks off of two already-dissected sweaters. Turn the larger of the two inside-out, then carefully stitch the seam end shut. Place the slightly smaller one inside the other, stitching the seam end to the now closed top. Flip right side out. Turn up the cuff material. and POOF! Snug as a bug in a sweater-hat rug! PS: The crocheted roses were upcycled from another old hat and provide the perfect finishing touch. If you don’t have something similar, I’d suggest some feathers, a thrifted brooch, or even a felted flower made from.. you guessed it – another recycled sweater!
Last but not least, I used the remaining portion of one of the sweaters to make a fabulously functional pair of pink mittens.
To make the mittens, I laid the sweater bodice flat, and used a sharpie (in a similar shade) to sketch around my hand, starting from the gathered base. Remember to leave a space between your skin and the edge, so you have a good margin to stitch in. Pin the pattern in place – through both layers! – then cut carefully along the marker line. Turn inside or out, depending upon which side you want to show. I wanted my mittens to look “rustic” so I left them as is. Stitch along the edge, being careful to double-up stitches at the cuffs, so they don’t unravel when pulling them on and off. I made the cuffs of my mittens skinny for two reasons. One, so that they would fit extra-snuggly, keeping all the warm air inside against my skin. And two, because my daughters have a tendency to borrow (steal) my mittens, I wouldn’t worry about them falling off and getting lost in the snow. WIN!
Winter is far more than a time to hibernate, especially in the far northern climes. Much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, these months of isolation can stimulate new growth and enterprise. It can be a time of reinvention, of reuse, of creation in its purest form. And what better source for materials than things you already have on hand? Just because something springs a hole, gets pilly, or looks a bit outdated, doesn’t mean it’s lost its usefulness, form, or function. You simply need to think, to see what lies below the surface. And soon rebirth will come.