Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials
by Maya Donenfeld



Wiley, 2012. ISBN 978-1-118-07753-5.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 09/21/2012

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Arts/Crafts

Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials is an interesting craft and sewing spiral-bound book that really "brings it on home" for those living frugal and/or sustainable lifestyles. Raised in a family of artists and crafters, one of author Maya Donenfeld's favorite creative niggles states, "My grandfather always said that you could make anything if you had access to a library." This book is a library all in its own!

Nine chapters give you all the background and information on techniques that you should need. After Sewing and Printing Basics (chapters one and two), Donenfeld moves on to specific materials. There are four projects, with their patterns, in each chapter. Burlap seems to be one of her favorite materials with which to work, and the Onion and Garlic Sacks project, with stamped representations, looks like a great burlap reinvention project.

All of the projects are highly adaptable to the reader's interests, skills and needs. As always, I try to create at least one project in each craft book I review, so I can tell the readers about the practicality of making the designs.

For this review, I selected the denim chapter's offering of a Double Duty Oven Mitt. Each chapter begins with a brief section on history, sourcing, deconstructing, tips and environmental impact, and this chapter was no exception. Did you know "denim first gained popularity during the California Gold Rush when Levi Strauss used it to make 'waist overalls' for miners?"

Were you aware that "Jeans are designed to fit the form of your body...front and back of each leg are sized differently?"

This denim mitt uses wool as well. (There is a chapter on working with wool—buy old wool blankets at thrift stores.) The double-ended mitt includes a hand pocket at each end. Donenfeld stencils the ends of the mitt, and the striped back, with black fabric paint, and works with the reverse side (the lighter color) as the "right" side, to take advantage of the contrast with the black paint. The "pattern" really consists of directions for the cutting, with diagrams for each step. Easy to understand and execute! I liked the easy of making the mitt, and it's easy to find resources; denim is a really tough product as far as our resources and environmental impact go (1500 gallons of water are required, says Donenfeld, to make one pair!), so I was delighted to find uses for the jeans that have been piling up!

In the back of Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials, there are further reading resources, as well as the simple templates and stencils for the painted designs. Wool, linen, jersey and, unbelievably, mailers (the Dupont™ Tyvek kind) are amongst the included ideas for repurposing and "reinventing." I would have liked to see a section on "the care and feeding of completed projects," as I am not sure how to launder the mitt, made of both denim and wool...

A solid addition to a sewist's library, this book provides solid techniques and ideas to use as a platform for creating your own designs and projects out of recycled materials. If you have never considered deconstructing clothing and other items to create something new and beautiful, this book will help you get started.


Maya Donenfeld is a mother, artist, maker, gatherer, reinventor, who lives in rural New York with my two children, a cat and six chickens. Visit her active blog.

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