Greeny Crafter - Lisa from Cucicucicoo

Another busy weekend for me. I took part in World Arduino Day and displayed my wearable electronics - blinky bike bag, smart bib necklace and also a twinkling dress. I only managed to catch my breath today, and I'll blog about the event soon. But first, it's Greeny Crafters time!  Lisa from Cucicucicoo.com shares her story. Don't forget to check out her leggings made from turtlenecked tops.  

Tell me a little about yourself and your refashioning

My mother taught me sewing basics when I was young, but I didn’t really sew much until getting pregnant with my first child. I was born and raised in the United States, but now live in Italy. I find it hard to find fabrics that I really like here and anyway they’re much more expensive in Italy than in the US. So I started using old clothes for fabric.

I didn’t do actual refashions until relatively recently because at first I generally only sewed non-clothing items. The first time I sewed with upcycled fabric was in 2009 to make my cone-shaped potholders. I cut up the legs from a beloved, but worn out in the butt, pair of lobster pajamas, and pieces of an old linen jacket. Five years later, I still use them every day! 
That year I decided to make some Christmas gifts with upcycled clothing fabric to save money. I made more of those potholders using good parts of one of my mother-in-law’s stained aprons and ripped jeans and a couple of pillows from t-shirts stuffed with scraps. One of these pillows had a removable pillowcase made from a zip-down fleece sweater of my husband’s. 

After having made the pillowcase, I still had the sleeves left. I realized that they were the perfect length for a pair of super cozy pajama pants for my daughter, but I wasn’t totally sure at that time how to make them into pants. I sewed, unpicked seams, fiddled with elastic, tried them on my daughter, sewed again, tried on again, sewed again, tried on again, ad infinitum until I had a really annoyed daughter but also a pair of pants that fit her properly! To make her happy again, I hand-sewed on a couple of little hearts from scraps. That was my very first refashion. As time went on, I learned more sewing techniques and felt brave enough to attempt some clothes. It was only then that I began regularly raiding our closets and transforming our unused clothing into new refashioned treasures!

I’ve always loved brainteasers and logical puzzles. For me, refashioning is like a puzzle to solve. First of all, you have to look at the item that is no longer loved in its current form and assess its qualities. What type of fabric is it? Does it stretch? What other properties does it have? What shape does it have? Where are the seams? Is there anything unique about it that could be useful? Then start brainstorming ways to use those qualities that are particular to that specific garment. Think outside the box! And if the idea doesn’t come to you right away, just wait and it’ll hit you sooner or later. (It took me a year to suddenly realize that I could make animal hats and scarves from some hooded towels.)  Then the final part of the puzzle is to figure out how to work with the shapes and pieces of fabric that you have, as opposed to a big piece of flat fabric.

One of my favorite projects, which has also been a favorite of my readers, was making leggings from long-sleeved viscose turtlenecks. They were in good condition but I didn’t wear them because the material made me sweat. But they were so nice and stretchy and I wanted to use the sleeves. I thought and thought and then it occurred to me to pull the sleeves over my legs. They fit snugly, exactly how leggings should be. I had already drafted a leggings pattern, so I checked to see if the remaining part of my leggings would fit onto the torso. I used up all the fabric of the original piece, taking advantage of the stretchiness of the material and shape of the sleeves. And the remaining turtlenecks? Those could be used as waistbands for young toddlers or for headbands. It feels great to create something cool that will get plenty of use out of it from materials that nobody cared about anymore. And saving money is a fantastic plus, too!

How do you juggle between making things, work (if you do) and being a mum?

That is an excellent question that I often ask myself, too, because it’s just not possible to fit everything in 24 hours. Unfortunately I can’t do what many mothers do, working late into the night, because I really can’t function without enough sleep and in any case by the end of the day I’m too tired to be able to concentrate enough on a project. I tend to use that time to either relax, knit or tidy up our apartment. I’ve recently started making strict schedules. Every evening I set three important tasks that need to be done the next day. While my kids are at school in the morning, I crack down and get the most done possible with email and Facebook off to avoid distractions. I try to do all household tasks after my kids get home and don’t need to concentrate as much. 

I also make a monthly schedule. I break down all my goals for the month into bite-size steps and write them into each day of a calendar. I have the nasty tendency to procrastinate or get overwhelmed by everything, so I find that putting each step down, pen on paper, really helps me tackle each one.

Having kids is just wonderful and can really open your mind (not to mention give you all sorts of excuses for crafting or sewing), but they obviously cut way back on your time. Also, keeping a tidy home is far from my top priority. My sink is usually full of dirty dishes and the floor covered in toys. I’d just rather spend my time either creating or spending time with my family.

What's your biggest refashion boo boo, and what did you learn from it?

Oh, there have been so many! Refashioning is not a science and is different every time, which means that sometimes it can really be hit or miss. Most of the hits end up on the blog. Most of the misses end up in my scrap pile¬ and I do my best to just forget about them. Last summer, when I was making my newly potty-trained son’s new underwear, I decided to use the sleeves of a stretchy 5% spandex thrifted t-shirt that I’d used for the waist and leg bands to make my son some stretchy legging pajama pants. I still hadn’t quite perfected the whole sleeves-into-pants thing and I ended up with pants with an insanely tight waist opening. While I was sewing, I *knew* that I was messing up, but I just continued in good faith. Who knows why, it hadn’t occurred to me that you need WIDE sleeves to make pants that way. So I chopped off the top, right above the crotch, to make a wider opening. But I still needed a waistband. If I’d been thinking, I would’ve used one of the turtlenecks from my shirt-to-leggings refashion, but instead I decided to make a tube from another stretchy t-shirt used for the underwear. Worried that it might slip down, I inserted a strip of thin elastic into the bottom hem of the second shirt. I attached the tube to the legs. Oh, the horror! Not only did I sew the tube on crooked, it was also too high. Then when he wore them, at first glance it looked like he was wearing white underwear over his tanned little legs. To sew this quickly, I’d just zig-zagged the fabrics together, but the seams started ripping out after a little while. Overall it was a disaster. But you know what? He just kept on wearing those pants to bed anyway! 

So the lesson learned? When you get the feeling that what you’re working on is just not going right, whether it’s sewing or crafting, just STOP. Take a break. Go back to it the next day and think it through with a clear mind, otherwise you’ll just keep making mistake upon mistake. When your mind is clear, things will probably come together somehow and all sorts of new ideas will come up!
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  1. Thanks so much for having me, Agy! I'm so happy to be a part of this series that has so many other talented greeny crafters! :) Lisa

  2. Hello to you in Italy:) Cute leggings and love the lobster potholders! Pinned:)