Junior Marissa Cheslock repurposes old clothes, posts her creations on her sewing Instagram

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Ray Mo

Junior Marissa Cheslock threads her sewing machine. When determining when do repurpose clothes or start from scratch, she said, "If it's something big, it'd be very hard to find something to repurpose for that because there's so much fabric involved."

Grace Xu

How did you become interested in sewing?

My grandma taught me how to sew, and I did sewing lessons with her for a while. I kind of did it because I thought I had to. Then I started taking sewing lessons when I moved here. I think just being in the fashion classes in school really showed me how much I enjoyed (sewing) because I was just surrounded by other people that liked it too, and I saw how it could actually be a career.

Ray Mo
Cheslock works on her Family, Career & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) project. “My collection specifically is clothes that women can wear to work but also to other things in their everyday lives so that they don’t have to purchase different clothing for every aspect of their day,” she said, “which is also focusing on sustainability and lessening the amount of things women need to buy.”

What is sewing to you?

If I’m bored, it’s probably what I’m doing. Sometimes while I’m (sewing), it’s therapeutic, but also at the same time it’s sometimes stressful if I need to get a lot of stuff done and I have a deadline. When I’m done, it’s always really nice to be able to look at how much—especially if I did it in a short amount of time—just how much I can get done and be proud of it. And every time I (sew), I know I’m getting better at what I want to do in the future.

Why did you start a sewing Instagram?

I’ve taken sewing lessons since I was 5 or 6 years old, so I sew a lot of my own clothes. My friends encouraged me (during) my freshman year to start posting (on Instagram), just to build up an audience just so I can have a portfolio of everything I’ve done.

What is your process like when repurposing or designing pieces?

Sometimes I see things on Instagram or Pinterest that I like and I want to recreate, and I’ll either look for a pattern or I’ll design my own pattern—and that’s where I start. If I’m re-purposing something, a lot of the times I use my mom’s old clothes. I’ll see if I like the pattern of the fabric or something, and I’ll try to think about things I can do with it to make it more modern.

What equipment do you use?

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Cheslock lays out fabric to work with. She said she creates a variety of products. “The bigger pieces, (they aren’t) really something I can wear every day,” she said, “but I can present (them) at things, and (they’re) a good example of the classes that the school offers.”

I use a Brother sewing machine at my house, and there’s a bunch of different ones in the classroom here. That’s the only equipment I use. I mean, I also use an iron, these scissors I have, marking pens and rulers for measuring things.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

Cotton is usually the easiest, just because it’s sturdy and easy to work with. I think some of the prettiest are satins and silks because those drape nicely. And then anything that’s embroidered or has beading on it, I find pretty.

What are your thoughts on the recent rise in sustainable fashion?

I’m able to see how long it takes, actually, for the whole process of making clothes. I personally do my best not to shop at any fast fashion because I’m able to see how much work genuinely goes into every single item. And I can’t imagine—if it takes four hours to make one thing and they sell it for $5, you’re obviously not being paid enough. So it really puts it into perspective for me.

What have you learned from sewing?

Every project I do at school, I learn new skills that I can put into my own projects that I design. And then also, the fast-fashion aspect, I’m able to see how much work goes into making clothing and advocate to others the importance of avoiding fast fashion and buying sustainable clothing. Sewing is just a really great skill to have, whether you’re going into fashion design or the opposite of that. If a button falls off your shirt, it’s a lot easier to go get a sewing kit and sew it back on than to worry about taking it to a tailor. It’s just (a) good skill for everyone to have.

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