My upcycling process & thrifting tips
Upcycling second hand and vintage textiles is a huge part of KATRINA & RE. I love to discover special vintage materials and breathe new life into them by repurposing them into something totally new! The concept of 're-use, re-love, re-born' is the whole inspiration behind my brand name.
My love of thrifting began when I volunteered in an Age UK charity shop as a teenager. I worked in this shop for a few years and collected some of my favourite pieces that I still wear today!
I'm a total magpie when it comes to upcycling fabrics and I find the best way is to continuously source interesting fabrics ahead of time as it's often when you're not looking that the hidden gems appear!
How do I source second hand fabrics?
I'll usually focus on sourcing a few similar fabrics to build a fabric story. Whilst sourcing I'll think about fabric weight, composition, texture, colour and pattern. As a huge colour and print lover, creating beautiful colour combinations is always at the forefront of my mind and I can't resist an interesting colour clash!
Once I have the fabrics home, I'll clean them and make any repairs if needed. I'll unpick any seams or hems to make the most of every inch of fabric! This is time consuming but the vintage materials I work with feel so special and unique that it's worth it.
Finally, it's time to lay out my patterns and start cutting! This often involves a bit of problem solving and panelling as it can be hard to find large pieces of second hand fabric. For my last Summer collection I've been using seersucker tablecloths and often I have to mix two together to cut out a full dress.
My top tips for thrifting:
⚡️ Get to know your local charity shops
Explore the charity shops on your nearest high street. I've done this in every new area that I've moved to and found it a great way to discover the shops that have high quality stock!
⚡️ Be honest with yourself
There's no use buying loads of second hand items that don't fit well or aren't your size if you know deep down you won't ever spend the time getting them altered. Be realistic about what you will use / wear.
My rule is always don't buy anything that you don't love or wouldn't pay a higher price for. Some of the high street garments are so cheap in charity shops that it's temping to buy everything but if you don't actually love it then chances are it'll end up at the back of your wardrobe forgotten about.
I've made errors on this one in the past! Something looks great in the dim light of the crowded vintage store and then you get it home to realise it's covered in moth holes. Always check the garment properly and in natural light if possible. For a good quality piece, some small holes or stains are definitely worth repairing and I've found adding tiny hand embroideries over any small hole is a lovely solution! I find @visible_creative_mending very inspiring for this!
Whilst upcycling definitely isn't the quickest or most straight forward route as a designer, it's so rewarding to know that I'm designing more sustainably and helping to reduce the masses of textile waste on our planet. I also find it a very creative and exciting way to work as you never know which fabrics you're going to find!
You can read more about the sustainability ethos and fabric choices behind KATRINA & RE here
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