Monday, March 17, 2014

Going Green

Though Earth Day (April 22) is a little more than a month away, all of the "greenery" surrounding St. Patrick's Day started me thinking about recycling, re-purposing, and other reflections about....going green.

Did you know that old clothes represents one of the largest percentage of garbage polluting the landfills! According to the United States EPA Office of Solid Waste, American throw away more than 60 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, representing 6.4% of municipal solid waste from major cities. It is estimated that 2.5 billion pounds of clothes end up in landfills annually! This is largely the result of the glut of cheap clothing produced by mass market distributers who cater to our "Kleenex" society. Donating clothes to charities is one answer. But we'd like to offer another tiny solution as well.

Consider looking more closely at old clothes for your fabrics and trim resources before tossing them out. OR...consider thrift shops, garage or yard sales, or Salvation Army (Emais in France) or a similar charity organism when searching for interesting (and cheap) materials.

Lingerie is a great source for lace and trim.
Old petticoats, camisoles, bodysuits and even panties are great sources of lace and tiny elastic trim you can later use. Moreover. for the 12-inch doll, there is more than enough to make a spectacular evening dress. Remember the replica of Lupita's dress for Oscar night I made for my doll? I used an old, lace trim camisole of my mother's.

If the fabric is polyester or rayon and not very pretty, recuperate the lace then use the rest of the fabric for draping or trying out a new pattern. Sometimes I cut medallions or tiny rosettes out of the lace or a nightgown to applique onto another fabric. Old lingerie will also provide you with enough elastic lace for dolly delicates. And to be honest, instead of paying for 50cm of fabric in Paris, I bought a cheap pair of panties at the open air market which I cut up to make the Wrap Dress and the lace dress I made for the Gatsby series, last Spring.

Gatsby starts with a great stocking!

I also used part of the leg of a stockings for other Gatsby dresses. The material alone isn't always pretty, however, it can be shirred or gathered or beaded.

Richard in a sweater from dad's old sock.
Socks are also a great source. Wool or chunky winter socks make for great sweaters like this one we made for Ken or sweater dresses. Men's silky evening socks are good for slinky cocktail dresses for your Barbie.

Pocket Hankies and Scarves
Gail in mom's Irish linen hankies!
There's usually just enough fabric to make dolly a dress. Thrift shops usually have tons of these and some are even trimmed in English embroidery or needlepoint. I admit, I hate cutting into these. So feel free to drape a hankie or a scarf around your doll the same way you would for yourself. Add a belt, some jewelry and dolly's good to go.

Table Linens
Whether they are plain, embroidered or edged with a bit of lace, most table lines and decorative items like doilies and table runners are made from quality cotton or linen fabric. It probably won't be in the color you'd like, but there's nothing you can't fix with a little bit of dye and hot water.

Christmas Ribbon
In particular, Christmas Ribbon with the wire! Call it, Instant Couture. Don't toss it out after the presents have been opened. Reuse it! There are all sorts of things you can with this, starting with the addition of a nice perky collar or bodice added to a simple sheath dress. OR....a complete dress. I chose wide ribbon for this golden gown I created for a Doll Observers challenge. I made a simple, evening length skirt using an opaque gold ribbon. I played with the "outer" dress, stitching the sides together. I then played around with the effect, scrunching it into a side sweep effect or incorporating movement so that it appeared to be swishing around the doll's feet as she "walked."

Use Christmas ribbon for instant Couture!
The pouf and the little shrug around Arianna's shoulders was made by scrunching up the ribbon and bending it in place. It's not "serious" clothes, but it is sparkly, Christmas pretty and fun.

Gift Bags
You know those sheer gift bags that hold jewelry or slippers? The long, rectangular ones make gorgeous shawls!


Sissilie wearing a piece of dad's old jeans.
Skirts, shirts, pants or tops, there's plenty of fabric to keep you going for awhile. It's better if they are cut from natural fabrics because you can cut off what you need and dye it the color of your desires. Polyesters and synthetics are harder to work with. So you must decide if it's worth keeping and cutting up for doll clothes or donating in tact to be worn by a human. Worn out jeans will provide a lot of denim goodies for dolly. By the time the jeans are ready for the trash, they have been washed so many times, they should be soft enough to fashion into a garment. Old chambray shirts will still give you the look of denim without the bulk. Pictured here, I made this sheath dress using two pockets removed from my dad's worn out denims.
Use the fabric from old T-shirts to make new patterns.
Save old T-shirts and other men's underwear. The cotton knit in them can be used to drape patterns for stretchy garments as well as make T-shirts for the doll.

Zac's jacket & pants made from a vinyl belt.

The wide sash (self fabric) type belts are the best. There's usually enough fabric for a top, a skirt and sometimes even a pair of pants. That belt was made by folding the material in half and stitching down. Cut the belt open and press, then lay out your pattern. In fact, this guy's outfit was made out of a single, 3-1/2" wide vinyl belt.

As long as the yarn is not too thick, wool caps easily convert to simplified cocoon coats. Remember this furry cocoon I made a little while back? It's a cap!

An Added Bonus
My own clothing repurposed into doll fashions allows me to play and experiment with a lot more styles than if I had to purchase new fabric each time. And, some times, like many of you living in remote areas, I can't always get to a fabric store. My old garments provide me with a great alternative with an added bonus. When the garment is finished and on the doll, I can look at her and be reminded of the good times that me and my late mother had while wearing the same piece of fabric!

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Psssttttt.......For anyone that needed a little extra help with the Patrick Kelly Cocoon Coat....I have embedded a tutorial video on that page to accompany the text!!! I will be adding more videos in the coming weeks.

All photos and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2014. Please do not reproduce without prior permission. Thank you.


  1. Hi April, this is a great post! I'm all for recycling, I have a few silk ties and an old jeans my boyfriend gave me, waiting to be used for doll clothes :-). It's also great that you use your late mother's things so you remember her through the clothes. I'll for sure will check out the video, on this PC there's no sound available, so I will watch it later this week on one that has sound :-). LOVE all the clothes you showed here too!!!

    1. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes old clothes are a great source of material normally quite expensive. Ties, pocket squares and small scarves often have motifs and decals perfectly scaled to the doll!

  2. Hi April, so many suggestions! I was wondering how to avoid to go broke on my fabrics expenses!!!!
    Expecially the stockings....GREAT POST!!!

    1. Thank you Billa. We all know how EXPENSIVE this hobby can be if we let it. Between the dolls we buy, their shoes and accessories, there is fabric, trim and notions. If you do live near a decent fabric store, they often impose minimums and we also know how fabric can be expensive. That got me looking more closely at clothes I know I will never wear again as well as unorthodox resources and materials including stockings! Very glad to share these ideas.

  3. Shopping your own closet for fabric remnants to make doll clothes is genius! Most of us in the US usually have a pile of old clothes waiting to be taken to the next trip to the Good Will, but great idea to just give them the once over to see if they could be repurposed to doll fashions.

    1. Both me and my late mother were clothes hounds. I've given a lot of things away and I still have much to give away. But, one day, I had to stop and wonder why spend money on fabric when there was already so much around me. Glad you enjoyed this post.


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