A panel beater – Eliza Kelly

Slow clothing is a different way of dressing and thinking about clothing than the way most of the world sees it, says New South Wales teenager Eliza Kelly. “It is exciting to think that I can dress in a way that uses old, or out-of-fashion clothing to make something new. I love the way that I can create something original, unique and different. Isn’t it awesome when someone says ‘what a nice …… where did you get it?’ and I can say that I made it! It makes me warm on the inside when I know that I have recycled something and given it another life,” Eliza said.

Eliza Kelly from Parkes NSW wears her upcycled denim skirt for The Slow Clothing Project

Eliza Kelly from Parkes NSW wears her upcycled denim skirt for The Slow Clothing Project

“The attitude of the world today seems to be that ‘new is better’, and ‘more, more, more’, but I think that there is so much beauty, uniqueness and stories to be told about recycled and re-modelling clothing. There is so much to be gained by recycling and re-using the materials that we have been given, and changing things with older fit, style or fashion to be useable today and tomorrow,” she said.

Eliza believes there is huge value in using your hands to create. “It is not only the end product that is so worthwhile (which I totally agree holds its own value), but the process of using your imagination, creativity, and skills to turn a few scraps of fabric, some thread and a needle into something useful … turning not a lot into a new useful item! The actual act of creating a product also gives the maker satisfaction and self-worth – something that is being searched for in today’s society. Using your hands (whether it be woodwork, sewing, welding … whatever!) and taking the time to slow down, and put time and effort into making and producing something unique is rare in this day and age of consumerism where most things are cheap and bulk manufactured.”

She and her siblings were and are being home-schooled by their mum Jen at Trundle in central west NSW and Eliza has been sewing ever since she can remember, at about five or six years of age. “Mind you, all the word sewing meant was two pieces of material stitched together (no pattern included)! All that I know about sewing either my mum, or Grandmothers have taught me or I have learnt via the internet or experimenting myself. I can remember when I was only about 5 – whenever we had any visitors, my older sister and I would rush out to the sewing room, and make this guest a small bag out of whatever scraps we could rustle up. We were not tall enough to reach the pedals while sitting in the seat, so one of us would man the pedal while the other steered the fabric. I can vividly remember one time sewing over my sister’s finger! “

Eliza has sewn lots of different things – seat covers, dollies clothes, quilts, my own clothing, a ukulele case, beanbag, applique items, and bags among other things. “I tend to do a lot of modifications to my clothes. About 90 percent of my wardrobe is second-hand/hand-me-down and about 50 percent of that has been either remodelled, restyled, fixed up, or handmade. I have also just recently started exploring the world of leather and canvas work with an industrial machine and have made a few pocket knife cases and canvas bags for my dad and a few other people,” she said.

For the Slow Clothing Project, Eliza created a denim wrap–around skirt from pieces of old jeans, which she originally planned to make into a dress.


“I wanted to use old jeans, and I had a chambray shirt that I was going to make the bodice out of. First of all, I made the skirt part of the dress. An A-line pattern piece was made and 13 panels were cut from it out of the legs of jeans. These were then sewed together into one big circular piece. This was then going to be attached to the shirt, but after much consideration and advice from my mum and Jane Milburn (at a Parkes Shire Council upcycling workshop), I decided to make the dress into a shirt and skirt set instead. This would give me the option of wearing the skirt with other shirts, and create much more possibilities for use. The skirt then had a waistband and long ties added to make it into a wrap-around skirt, and some belt holders were unpicked from some jeans, and attached around the waist for the ties to be threaded through. The shirt then had the sleeves and collar cut off, and some home-made denim bias sewn around the neckline to match with the skirt.”

My favourite Eliza memory from the Parkes upcycling workshop earlier this year was of her helping others while capably managing and finishing her own project. Great to hear Eliza won the High School Functional category in the Parkes Waste-2-Art competition with this creation – named the panel beater!


Jen and Eliza Kelly, above left, among other denim upcyclers at the Parkes workshop earlier this year

Jen and Eliza Kelly, above left, among other denim upcyclers at the Parkes workshop earlier this year

So what’s next for Eliza? “I love to be outside. No matter what new technology and gadgets we invent, I think that getting outdoors, breathing in fresh air, and getting active is priceless. I find that when I go outside, and just spend time in nature, I feel small, and see that God is so big and in control of everything – it puts me into perspective. Another thing I do is cook. Not ordinary out-of-the-book, follow-the-recipe cooking, but radical, spontaneous, make-it-up-on-the-spot cooking. Most of my recipes are un-repeatable and consist of whatever I can find in the cupboard or the fridge, and (very generally speaking) turn out not too bad. I love the way that I am slowly learning from my past mistakes, and learning to create new and exciting tastes that are different and unique each time! “

As a creative maker, what advice does Eliza have for others just starting out? “Just have a go! It’s amazing what you can do with just a needle and thread (or sewing machine!). Let’s be honest… I find that often when I make my own clothing, it isn’t perfect or flawless… it’s handmade – and you can usually tell!!! They have a hand-made look about them, which makes them original. This can be off-putting for some, if they want their clothes to look ‘just right’, perhaps ‘normal’. But I remind myself that home-made clothes are not shop-bought, and we shouldn’t pretend they are. Making your own clothes is a journey, not a destination.”

What a great ethos – go Eliza!

Stitch then bundle – Wendi Trulson

No one is too old or young to learn a new skill. That’s why south-east Queensland textile artist Wendi Trulson believes everyone can learn to create their own garments by just giving it a go.

Wendi Trulson wears her eco-dye upcycled wool and cashmere swing top for The Slow Clothing Project

Wendi Trulson wears her eco-dye upcycled wool and cashmere swing top for The Slow Clothing Project

Wendi’s passion is bundle (eco print) dyeing because of its sustainable and earth-friendly.  It makes one think not only of the material waste but the chemical destruction that poisons the waterways of the world.

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Hand mind creativity – Sarah Lundgren

Sarah Lundgren believes creativity is important for wellbeing and good health – and is stimulated by the work of the hands and mind.


Sarah-Lundgren-wears-her-eco-dyed wool-garment-for-The-Slow-Clothing-Project

She learned the basics of sewing from primary and secondary school, having textile as a subject. Sarah’s grateful now that when growing up, her parents empowered her to mend and hem her own clothes. Reusing and recycling clothes was part of her upbringing, yet in recent years she has become more interested in learning how to make outfits and therefore her sewing skills have improved over time.
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Aussies send 85% of textiles to landfill

Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year and then discard 23 kilograms into landfill – and two-thirds of those discards are manmade fibres that take decades to rot.

Sustainability consultant Jane Milburn said Australians are the second-largest consumers of new textiles after north Americans who annually buy 37kg each, and ahead of Western Europeans at 22kg while consumption in Africa, the Middle East and India averages just 5 kg per person. These figures are sourced from north American magazine Textile World.

Textile World graphic of per capita consumption

“There’s been a transformational shift in the way we source, use and discard our clothing which has major social and environmental implications. Fast fashion produced from global supply chains is driving purchasing of excessive new clothing, often discarded after a few wears,” Ms Milburn said.

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Eclectic sustainable style – Kate Fletcher

Kate Fletcher from Tasmania has been involved with making and recycling clothing as long as she can remember. For the past 10 years she has organised a sustainable clothing show at the Local Sustainable Living event in Hobart, motivated by growing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the global clothing industry.

Tasmania's Kate Fletcher wears her story-filled garment hand-stitched as part of The Slow Clothing Project

Tasmania’s Kate Fletcher wears her story-filled garment hand-stitched for The Slow Clothing Project

Kate’s individual style is influenced by people at home and abroad, many of whom she is connected with through the volunteer program Willing Workers on Organic Farms.

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Upcycling activism – Cathy Stuart

Cathy Stuart from Newcastle in New South Wales believes that the act of making something, particularly from reused or old stuff, can create a deep sense of satisfaction, achievement and self-worth for the maker. Resourcefulness and resilience are enhanced. Being able to re-use and re-purpose an object is, in Cathy’s view, a key skill in becoming more environmentally sustainable. It reduces our need to consume new resources as well as makes us responsible for managing our own waste.

Jasmine wears an upcycled couture creation made by her mother Cathy Stuart for The Slow Clothing Project

Jasmine wears an upcycled couture creation made by her mother Cathy Stuart for The Slow Clothing Project

Cathy is increasingly disturbed by the new ‘normal’ in how our society of planned and perceived obsolescence operates, driving totally unsustainable levels of consumption. “We are somehow lulled into believing that this is the only way our economy and therefore society can survive. I worry about the world my teenage daughters are growing up in, where cheap fashion is close to worthless one season after it is bought, and op shops are even now struggling to cope with the deluge of clothing and homewares they receive,” she said.

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Shibori-dye revive – Denise Traynor

Brisbane-based textile enthusiast Denise Traynor believes that how we choose to spend our money ultimately has an impact on how things are made. “If consumers reject exploitative, wasteful production techniques, over packaging and excessive transport models by insisting on locally produced, fair-traded goods, we can lower our carbon footprint and reduce the demand for unfair wages and slavery used to produce them,” Denise said.

Mei models the dress and cardigan that Denise Traynor shibori-dyed to be a matched outfit for The Slow Clothing Project.

Mei models the dress and cardigan Denise Traynor shibori-dyed as a matched set for The Slow Clothing Project.

Denise also believes that reusing and remaking otherwise obsolete items helps to counteract the wasteful, mass production, mass consumption model that is causing so much environmental and social harm in the world. “I believe our disposable society has contributed to this harm. Plastic fibres, wearing clothes for one or two seasons, produced in third world countries with poor employment and environmental protection records, has made mountains of waste and other pollution.”

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Creative eco-fashion – Mariana Kirova

Mariana Kirova is a professional upcycler, an eco-fashion educator and an agent for change. She  transforms rescued clothing into unique timeless pieces through her Perth-based business Eco Fashion Sewing which she established after studying fashion design in Western Australia.

Mariana Kirova creates an eco-fashion statement ensemble for The Slow Clothing Project.

Mariana Kirova wears an eco-fashion statement ensemble she created for The Slow Clothing Project.

Mariana said it is sad to see lots of fashion students graduating in Australia each year yet only a few stay and work in the fashion industry. “If Australian fashion brands have their production at home, this wouldn’t be happening,” she said.

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Eco printing – Nina van Hartskamp

Nina van Hartskamp loves hand-made things and discovering natural treasures. “When you wear a piece you made yourself (or was made by a friend) it has a story. And I have a big love for natural fibres, which are expensive when you buy them new. Luckily there are op shops! I can spent ages in second-hand stores. It’s such a kick to find hidden treasures,” she said.

Nina van Hartskamp wears an eco-print wool jacket she transformed for The Slow Clothing Project

Nina van Hartskamp wears an eco-print wool jacket she transformed for The Slow Clothing Project

When Nina was a little girl growing up in the Netherlands, her grandma used to make her dresses and she loved choosing the fabrics and looking through pattern magazines.

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A statement jacket – Rozalie Sherwood

Rozalie Sherwood loves the concept of not having too much, especially too much clothing. She lived and worked in China for two years and during that period experienced the particular freedom that comes with not having too many possessions to care for. In addition, she particularly loves the potential for creating individual garments that become a statement we present to the outside world, as a reflection of who we are.

Olivia wears the jacket made specially for her by her mum Rozalie Sherwood as part of The Slow Clothing Project

Olivia wears the jacket made specially for her by her mum Rozalie Sherwood as part of The Slow Clothing Project

Jackets – the outer garments worn by both men and women – are her favourite canvas. Rozalie’s jackets are a comment on our accumulative and acquisitive society; we buy many cheap items and end up with a wardrobe of things we rarely wear. Whereas one beautiful, thoughtful, meaningful jacket can be worn forever. Rozalie made such a jacket for her eldest daughter Olivia – which now features in The Slow Clothing Project.

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