Introducing 2014 Goodwill Re-Design Contest Winner of the Men’s Shirt Remix Category, Rebecca Botvin.

How did you get started in re-designing clothing and why do you shop at Goodwill?

Rebecca Botvin head shot I started redesigning clothing in college, long before Goodwill was cool! I was baby stepping into it and just learning how clothing was put together and experimenting to see what could and could not be taken apart and reconstructed. You learn a lot about sewing by taking things apart. I started “hard core” redesigning when my tween and I were having a hard time finding clothes that she liked in retail stores. The older she got, the smaller her choices were and the quality of the garments diminished in the Junior sizes. She’s learned that she can totally customize her clothing to not only her taste, but also to her size, and not spend a fortune doing it.

I shop at Goodwill because my money can go farther. Most items I buy are barely, if at all, worn. It really is my favorite store.

What Goodwill locations do you shop at and what items do you typically look for when considering a re-design piece?

I usually shop at the Shillington Goodwill. It’s large and the closest one to my house. When I’m redesigning a piece, I start with the foundation – do I need jeans or a top? There needs to be enough material, so the first thing I look for is the size of the garment and inspect it for any holes or stains. If the garment isn’t perfect, then I need to be able to work around the problem area. I only work with natural fibers (cotton, wool, linen), so I usually pull 2-3 different options and then mix and match them to work.

How do you create your re-designs?

Redesign Mittens
Botvin-redesign mittens

The mittens are created from 100% wool sweaters, lined with 100% cashmere sweaters. I felt the wool sweaters in my washing machine and then cut out the mittens. Depending on the size of the sweater after felting, I can usually get 1-2 pairs of mittens from 1 sweater. I use the same pattern for the outside on the mittens as I do for the lining, which I cut out of the cashmere sweaters. I hand embroider a design on the mittens and use different embroidery stitches to fit the cuffs into place. I swear, putting your hands in these mittens is one of the happiest feelings in the world!

Redesign Dress

This little girl’s dress is made from a vintage Smurfs bed sheet. This was a real find!

Botvin-redesign dress

The dress is a simple shift pattern that buttons at the shoulder. Since the bed sheet is very sheer, I made the dress reversible with a heavier solid cotton on the other side. The dress can be worn in the summer, or with a shirt and tights in the winter.

Redesign Pants

My daughter is petite. Many of the jeans I found in her size at Goodwill had a design on the bottom (frolicking kittens, flowers, etc) and I guess that isn’t cool to wear in middle school. I cut the offending design off the bottom and attached a linen ruffle to make up for the length. You can do this several ways, but I decided that pinch pleating the linen had a more finished look.

Botvin-redesign pants

The entire project – start to finish took about 1/2 hour. It’s a great first project for a beginning sewer.

Redesign Coat and Stuffed Animal

The wolf coat and stuffed animal were made out of a 100% wool felt blanket and women’s wool dress skirts. I had the items dry cleaned first, so I could inspect for any thin areas that I might have to work around. I worked off a commercial pattern and mostly followed the directions. The lining and toggle buttons were purchased because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted at Goodwill and I had an impatient seven year old.

Botvin-redesign coatstuffie

Redesign Class

I taught a beginning sewing class at the Yocum Institute for Arts Education last Spring. One of the project that the girls did was to make a skirt out of a men’s dress shirt.

Botvin-redesign class

They learned about basic cutting and fractions. They also improvised and made a few “scarf” accessories with the material they pieced together.

What was your experience like at the Goodwill Runway Show?

I had a great time at the Runway Show! I was impressed with how well-organized the entire event was – from communication to timing. The organizers made a real effort to include the redesigners in the show, and it was just thrilling to see the audience’s reactions to the items being shown. I brought a group of friends with me, and we had a fun girl’s night out – snacks, drinks, the show, and shopping…..really a fun time!

What advice do you have for aspiring re-design artists?

My main advice is to just buy something that speaks to you and take it apart. Don’t be afraid to cut or to sew. The most effective way to learn is by making mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are the most brilliant additions.

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