A shirt story

Upcycled Tribal Cuff Bracelet by Bubblegum SassVictorian Upcycled Cuff Bracelet by Bubblegum Sass

I thought it was time to share my inspiration for the current collection of accessories that I’ve been making (and making, and making). The full unveiling is coming up at Make It on Thursday. Some of the items have been for sale in the Etsy shop this past year, but other designs, like the Upcycled Collar, will be on sale for the first time. I’m actually a little nervous, but hopeful, in how they will be received.

I started sewing the Upcycled Cuff Bracelets over a year ago, but my inspiration actually came a little over two years ago. I was facing the saddest moment in my entire life, the sudden loss of my oldest brother Blake. Through the course of that sadness, one of the tasks we took on was cleaning out some of his personal items from his house, to make room for a friend to live there until we could bring ourselves to sell it. My mom and I found ourselves cleaning out Blake’s big walk-in closet, folding up each shirt & pair of pants. My big bro loved clothes. He loved being fashionable and as such, he had an amazing collection of outfits. There were several items that we couldn’t bare to let of. My mom and I each kept a pile of things. My pile mostly consisted of dress shirts, some of my brother’s favourites & some that I simply adored. At the time, I kept thinking that I would make my soon-to-be-born baby a teddy bear out of various shirts, in memory of the uncle he would never get to meet.

Months past, and the pile of dress shirts remained untouched in my sewing room. They sat partly because I wasn’t ready to deal with them, partly because I didn’t have the time to sew (hello, newborn baby), but mainly because I couldn’t decide on the perfect project. Then one day, out of the blue, I found myself standing in the sewing room unfolding & re-folding the dress shirts. The next day, I took a pair of scissors and cut a off a cuff from one of the shirts. Then I just started grabbing bits & pieces of things from around my table, made a small pile and began to “play”. Before I knew it, I had a colour theme going and sat down in front of the sewing machine with that cuff and a handful of scrap odds & ends. I hadn’t felt that creative in a long time! I was so satisfied with the end result & eager to make more. Of course, it would be a while before I could really sit down to sew much, but gradually, as I gained more “mama time”, the designs started to flow.

Shabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, Sea Foam GreenShabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, Sea Green

Shabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, RaspberryShabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, Olive Green

When I first saved my brother’s shirts, I was keen to make something crafty in memory of him. Hence the teddy bear idea. But the more time the shirts spent sitting there in the sewing room & in the back of my mind, I had this nagging desire to make something funky out of them that I could wear. Something to capture my brother’s fashionable style, but with my own twist. I’m not too sure where the idea of using the cuffs & collars came from. It just sort of popped into my head. In the end, they have become the perfect way to pay homage to the shirt they were cut from, and an interesting canvas to design on. I love being able to use lots of scrap fabrics & notions & buttons! I try my best to use supplies I have on hand, since, let’s face it, I have a LOT of crafty odds & ends that have accumulated over my many years of sewing, but sometimes I see an interesting notion at the fabric store that I can’t resist. My fave find is coming across vintage doilies at the thrift store. All of these things get incorporated bit by bit into various cuffs & collars.

Some shirts get donated to me by friends, but most I pick up at the thrift store. There is one cuff sitting unmade from my brother’s shirts, the rest were used up long ago. I like the idea of being able to wear something of his, keeping him close to me. I often find myself wondering about the person who previously owned a shirt, when I’m making a cuff or collar. Did they give the shirt away because they were tired of it, did it no longer fit right or was it donated by their family after they passed away? I like to think that I’m giving new life to these shirts, but often wish I knew their story.

Shabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, AquaShabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, Plum Purple

Shabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, Dusty PurpleShabby Chic Upcycled Collar by Bubblegum Sass, Dusty Pink

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4 thoughts on “A shirt story

  1. Sarah, the collars look great! (and as you know, I’ve always liked the cuffs!)
    Good luck with Make It this week. I’m sure people will love your creations and I hope they buy them up like crazy!!!!

    1. Thank you Maribeth! I’ve spent so much time now, making the cuffs & collars, it is nice to finally share the actual story behind them. It was also therapeutic to tell the story to complete strangers at the show, not in a so-sad-for-me type way, but more of a there is an actual human being behind these designs. People appreciated that genuine element. Gave everything more depth. I will definitely let you know when I do a show in Calgary. Hoping to do a couple of spring shows, for sure!

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