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Stitch by Stitch: Passion for Circular Fashion


This is an article written by Kelly Khoo, our Store Manager a.k.a the mother hen and superhuman who is always multitasking in the Swap Shop. On her off days, Kelly is always thinking of creative ways to up-cycle fabric and work her magic with arts and craft!


Imagine if our clothes have a voice. How will they feel when majority of humans only used twenty percent of their wardrobe?


What about the neglected eighty percent?

Will they cry out with joy when we give them new homes or donate to charities? Or will they mourn with bitter tears when we choose to throw them away? Allowing them to be lying in Semakau landfill, helplessly waiting for their doomsday.


I think they might finally feel relived when circular fashion becomes the new norm.


Join me in this movement to save at least a small percentage of our wardrobe by prolonging the lifespan of our daily wear.


Working at Swapaholic has opened my eyes to a really serious issue in the fashion industry and I'm proud to be an advocate in sustainability while encouraging more people to be circular through clothes swaps.


During the Circuit Breaker, the team was given the challenge to upgrade ourselves while working from home. Having a passion for crafts, I was searching for new ideas to start a conversation on this really serious problem.


Putting my skills to use and with a little mental push, I challenged myself to up-cycle my old clothes into something trendy through inexpensive means.

I've chanced upon this amazing course, “Designing Handicraft Garments from Scratch” which is available on Domestika. The course was taught by a Mexican textile artist, Gabriela Martínez. She is the creator of the brand, Ofelia & Antelmo - a textile art project focused on hand embroidery to create unique pieces of textures and colours.



Gabriela is a wonderful teacher who explains her return to slow processes amidst this fast-paced world. A movement to remind us of the beauty when garments are done by hand.


Her online classes are amazing and it kept me busy during the Circuit Breaker. The lessons were straightforward and easy to follow. All you need is time and effort. From her teachings, I’m taught how to design, embroider and join textile pieces with my hands. All these without a sewing machine! The materials required are pretty basic which you can easily get from Spotlight, Art Friend or Chinatown.


Armed with needle and thread, I was ready for the up-cycling challenge. I settled on a denim dress which has been sitting in my closet for a few years, and decided to remake it into a cool blouse while keeping the unique frays at the bottom hem.


Following Gabriela’s step-by-step lessons, I planned out my colour palette and stitch patterns first. After which, I measured my body length for the blouse and cut out the denim fabric according to my size.



Among the three stitches I’ve learnt, I chose the rice stitch as it does not have a structure. Somehow the needle will find its own way as you start stitching. This rice stitch concept definitely creates its own originality.


The next step is to sew the hems at all 4 corners. This can be done by hand or via sewing machine to save time. I opted for the ‘hard labour’ as I wanted to try out everything by hand.


Now the final step is to join the pieces by using the union stitch. I’m intrigued with the union stitch as it can be part of the design. It does not take long, just make sure you have enough thread on hand.



After sewing for a few days, my blouse is finally completed! The process by hand was an enriching experience as it takes effort which one will truly appreciate. This blouse will definitely have a special place in my heart and I will make it last.


I hope my sharing inspired you today and I wish to send a parting message if you've come this far.


Do give more thought to our clothes when you are deciding whether to toss them out. They might have feelings after all.



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