Tips of the Trade

Compai are authors of the books "99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Trim and Tie your T-shirt into Something Special," "99 Ways to Cut, Sew and Deck out Your Denim" and the forthcoming "99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Tie and Rock your Scarf".

We believe that anything is recyclable. However, there are several things to consider when sourcing clothing for the purpose of reconstruction. Material that does not fray, such as T-shirts and sweatshirts are great for beginners and master recyclers alike! The stretch facilitates a nice fit.

Make the best of what you've got, figure out what it is that you like, and what it is that you don't like about the garment. Is the fabric amazing and the fit hopeless? Put the clothing on, and pin the clothes to the desired fit while looking at yourself in the mirror. Sometimes cutting a couple of inches from the bottom of a dress, changing the buttons and accentuating the waist with a new belt can transform a former closet ghost into a prom queen.

Don't be afraid to take garments completely apart. This is an excellent way to learn patternmaking and get a better understanding of how clothing is constructed. Work with materials that you can afford to lose. Unleash your creativity and experiment. Thrift shops and garage sales are perfect for recyclers. Sometimes a one-dollar find can metamorphose into your most prized item.

For best results, avoid clothing made of fine silks, cashmeres and leather, or anything that is lined. Beginners may also choose to steer clear of anything that frays easily or is made of thick fabric. Remember to keep scraps and leftovers! The scary gold buttons from your grandpa's blazer might be the cherries on the cake of your newly recycled sweatshirt jacket. Mix and match the accessories of your clothing. Switch buttons, belt loops and pockets around to add flavour to your garments.

Try pairing the unexpected--Opposites attract! Combine lace with chunky knits, jersey with pearls etc.

• Invest in a good basic sewing machine (check out Janome's Magnolia line!).
• Get yourself a good pair of scissors (ever tried to cut pumpkin with a butter knife?)
• Pin before you sew, this will help you to keep the fabric in place and avoid sewing wrong sides together.
• Combine hand stitching with the machine stitches to get a real home-made/vintage feel.
• Look out for workshops and sewing classes in your area, or events like the Swap o Rama Rama to watch and learn!
• Find plenty of online tutorials for free! Check out for bi-monthly DIY projects by COMPAI. is also a great resource for online tutorials. Recycling experts (like us!) are also a great resourse--we hold workshops on the regular basis—email for more information.

Compai is a green design studio run by three women who share ideas, philosophies, space and resources to promote innovation, creativity and environmental awareness. Our designs have been published and exhibited worldwide and have appeared on NBC´s The Today Show, on the pages of publications like Vogue, Glamour, Venus, Velvet, Sportswear International and the San Francisco Chronicle. We make limited edition clothing collections from recycled and eco-friendly materials. Our Publications: "99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Trim and Tie your T-shirt into Something Special," "99 Ways to Cut, Sew and Deck out Your Denim" and the forthcoming "99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Tie and Rock your Scarf" empower people to take a leap and begin recycling garments otherwise destined for landfills.

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