Craft & Design Energy & Sustainability
Tina Sparkles Q&A And Little Green Dresses Giveaway

Austin designer and garment sewing guru, Tina Sparkles shares her flair for eco-conscious fashion in her new book, Little Green Dresses. The book is filled with 50 fashion projects, all centered around using reclaimed or refashioned materials. Tina’s fun, edgy and very cool aesthetic is evident throughout the book, and her skills as a seasoned sewing instructor make for clear step-by-step instructions and handy tips for each project. Tina took time to talk to CRAFT about her desire to get people to rethink their wardrobe and take steps to a more socially responsible approach to fashion.
And, if you’re in Austin, you can join Tina for the Little Green Dresses Book Release Party at the Stitch Lab Sewing Studio on Saturday, September 18.
What do you hope people will take away from reading Little Green Dresses and completing projects from the book?
I really hope people feel empowered and inspired after reading the book and trying some of the projects in Little Green Dresses. That is how I felt when I started making my own clothes and it is so thrilling to be able to share that with everyone. Taking control of your wardrobe and creating an alternative for yourself from mainstream mass production is really powerful and exciting.
When/How did your interest in using “green” materials develop?
It all started around 2005 when I started hearing about sweatshops. It led me to do some research on how and where clothes are made and from there I went down the rabbit hole. In addition to learning about factory conditions overseas, I found out about fiber and fabric production and the whole supply chain that takes a piece of clothing from start to finish. It was really overwhelming and shocking to realize that something like clothing could have such a huge impact, not just on people, but on our environment and our resources. Since I love fashion so much, I wanted to be able to feel good about my clothes, but it was hard and frustrating to do that with most of what was being offered, so I decided to quit buying brand new clothes and see if I could be happy and fashionable by making my own stuff and shopping second hand. It was a little hard at first, but after the adjustment period I knew I would never turn back.
What serves as inspiration for your designs?
I am easily inspired by vintage shapes and details so a lot of times, the old garments and fabrics that I uncover from thrift and vintage stores will speak to me about what they want to become. I love math and geometry, so sometimes I just mess around with flat pattern drawings to see what I get and go from there. I also love looking at current runway fashions, old album artwork from the 80’s and art in general. Right now I am really into colorful geometric and optical art from artists like Mary Heilmann, Kandinski, Victor Vasarely, and Henryk Berlewi. Oh also, I think about the type of girl who might wear my designs….its so fun to have a specific muse!
What are some of your favorite projects in the book?
I have lots of favorites! The rompers for sure, the Disco Shorts, the Peek-a-boo Jumper, the Criss-cross Jumper, the Wedding Cake Dress, the Cha Cha Blouse, Peggy Noland’s Caged Hoodie, OMG, I pretty much want to list all of them!
What’s the most unique material you’ve worked with when creating a garment?
I guess that would have to be the computer wires that I used this summer to make a dress. That was really a crazy process and working with the wires was like nothing I have ever done before. It took me a few months to get the project finished up because I needed to take long breaks in between sewing sessions since the wires were kind of a pain to sew. In terms of really wearable everyday materials, I’ve come across some really wild and unique prints and textures from the past. I recently found an acid washed denim trench coat with white lace trim that I am excited about refashioning for the fall!
Have you had any experiences with materials that didn’t end up working out for sewing?
Oh yes and I have photos! I once tried to give new life to an old, tattered hot pink vintage fur jacket. I first spotted it for $12 on the discount table at the City Wide Garage Sale on a Saturday. I didn’t get it because I felt really weird about working with real fur. That night I had dreams about the pink fur jacket and the bunny that it used to be. I felt compelled to go back the next day and save it from possibly going to the landfill. It was in pretty bad condition with tons of gross stains and mats in the fur, so its no wonder I found it on the same table, marked down to $6. So I bought the pink fur and walked around to check out some of the other vendors at the garage sale and guess what I found? The SAME EXACT hot pink vintage fur jacket in mint condition for $300. It was really weird. Anyway, I took home my non-mint version and starting making plans for it. I looked into getting the fur cleaned, but everything I read pretty much said that I would need to take it to a special furrier to clean it so I decided to just fluff it and lightly vacuum it a bit and work around the really stained areas. Since a lot of the fur was unusable, I only had a limited amount of material to work with, so I decided to make a bunny shaped plushie to be adored – I was really into the idea of a bunny resurrection of sorts and making this project as a statement about the use of animal fur in fashion, which I am against. I started out by drawing my pattern shape and made a lining for it out of some recycled cotton fabric, then I spent a couple of hours deconstructing the coat, cutting apart the usable areas and arranging them on the lining pieces. That was it for one day of work and then the next day I woke up with an itchy, painful rash all over my hands that lasted for several days. Either the fur was covered in dust mites or I was allergic to the chemicals that they put on the skin side of the fur. I read that you can put fur in a freezer for a couple of days to get rid of dust mites, so I went ahead and did that, but after the itchy hand incident, I didn’t really want to touch the fur ever again and I thought it was a sign, since I never really felt 100% OK about the whole thing anyway. Total FAIL.
What’s your motto/philosophy for/on crafting?
I think crafting is a really powerful activity. It is therapeutic, brings people together in community, encourages awareness and appreciation for objects, it is a creative form of expression, a means to live, an avenue for exploration of ideas and on top of that it is just super fun and personally rewarding!
If someone is new to creating garments from recycled materials, where do you suggest they start?
I suggest they start at a cheap thrift store. Grab a couple of items with interesting fabrics and just go to town on them. It is good to start with items that you don’t have a huge attachment to otherwise you might be paralyzed with fear over cutting them up. Just start experimenting, have fun and see what happens. Perhaps another one of your first projects might be to find a really big mumu, long skirt or XL item that has tons of fabric and then take it apart completely to use the fabric with a pattern. One of the reasons I love refashioning with patterns so much is that you can add a bit of certainty to what you are doing and you can do just about anything imaginable.
Any favorite crafting tips you’d like to share?
When I learned this sewing tip, it changed my life: When you are sewing together a lined, sleeveless bodice or dress that has a center back or center front opening, you can stitch the lining to the outer fabric along the neckline and the armholes completely (do not sew the side seams yet) and then pull the center openings through each of the shoulders to turn it right side out. Once you get it right side out, you flip open the lining along the side seam and stitch the side seam of the lining and the outer fabric together in one continuous stitch crossing over the intersection of the bodice and the lining. Brilliant!
What’s your can’t-live-without craft tool?
I would not be able to live without a seam ripper, especially in the world of refashioning and I also really love my pinking & regular rotary cutters.
Book Giveaway Time!
Two lucky CRAFT readers will each receive a copy of the book, Little Green Dresses. Just tell us why you would like this book in the comments. All comments will be closed by Noon PST on Monday, September 20, 2010. The lucky winners will be announced later on the site. Good luck!

159 thoughts on “Tina Sparkles Q&A And Little Green Dresses Giveaway

  1. Okay, so I’ve taken a class from Tina and LOVED it! I learned so much, I feel I’ve been given this crazy freedom to take my ideas from imagination to construction, though I’m hardly a pro… yet. Also, I heard the story and saw the itching caused by the pink rabbit coat. I’m so sad it didn’t work out.
    So, I would LOVE to win this book. Every project is to die for. And, with everything I make, especially from scratch, I learn more and more, which fuels my little imagination, and gets my heart a-pumpin’ super-fast.
    Also, I’m in total agreement with Tina’s views on fashion. After being vegetarian for 10 years, I’m hard pressed to put and animal on my back. I adore vintage fashion and have had quite the collection, but never knew how to alter or restyle it. I’ve been recently looking into modern fashion shapes and styling and slowly trying to alter my 1950’s Texas taste and 1980’s Prince obsessions into modern day wearable garb.
    I need the help. And I know for sure, Tina’s the girl to help me. So, I would love to win this book, no doubt.
    But, if I don’t, I’ll just buy it anyway. I feel strongly it’s the exact kind of book a girl like me needs.
    Yay Tina!!

  2. the reason i would like this book is because i like to learn. learning how to make my own clothes is one of my personal goals.

  3. love the idea of refashioning and creating alternative from mainstream mass production. have tried on my own but i’m not very experienced in sewing and need more instructions – this book is perfect!

  4. I would love a copy of this book! I go thrifting regularly, and I often find clothes made of great fabric but that aren’t cut right for me. I’m always looking for more ideas for repurposing these pieces (cause I can’t always resist buying them!)…

  5. this sounds like an incredible book! i’ve had a pile of “to be revamped” clothes in my room or a while now, and it’s only getting bigger and bigger. i haven’t bought anything new to wear for around 2 years now. this book will definitely put a spring in my step, give me tons of ideas and inspiration, and help me keep up my recycling ways.
    if i’m not lucky enough to win, this book is definitely one to be purchased!

  6. I would love this book, because it would help me take back my wardrobe.
    I’ve been reading a lot of sewing blogs lately like and
    These blogs have inspired me to start sewing my own clothes.
    A book like “Little Green Dress” will give me the inspiration to refashion clothing. I LOVE what I read in this post and can only imagine what I will find in the actually book! If I don’t win it, I will certainly buy it!

  7. I recently finished school and since I’ve been working instead of doing homework, I find myself having a lot more free time after 5 pm. I love to sew but haven’t done it in ages because I just haven’t had the time or resources as a student. Now, I have time and I’d love to have this book.

  8. I’d love this book – pick me, pick me! I have several garments I’ve thrifted with the idea of re-purposing them, and would love to have some of Tina’s patterns to work from. Usually I just try to make my own patterns up, which sometimes does not work out too well…

  9. I’m scared of learning how to sew my own clothes…refashioning thrifted clothes seems like the perfect way to get started!

  10. I’m very interested in sewing with less waste (I’m thinking of the botched cutting jobs, a couple of ill-fitting garments I made last winter as I was just learning to sew, an all the oddly-shaped pieces of fabric you’re left with after cutting out a pattern). I’d love to learn more about recycling, reusing, revamping, and repurposing textiles!

  11. I recently went on a massive purge of my closet, forcing myself to be “realistic” about which items I liked, which I didn’t, and which were over the hill. However, rather than migrating to Goodwill, they migrated to my fabric stash, awaiting a repurposed life as glamorous new dresses, quilts, bags, and tops. This book would so give me the inspiration I need to make my old wardrobe into a sexy new wardrobe.

  12. I already plan on picking up my own copy at the release party. I think it would make a great gift for a friend who loves to sew. Can’t wait to get my own!

  13. I would be very happy to win Little Green Dresses because I have old clothes/dress and fabric around the house but I don’t know how to use it. I also don’t have the money to buy new clothes, so learning how to make my own would be helpful in many ways.
    Thank you!

  14. I’m on a limited budget after being out of a job for a little over a year. I’m now employed but I already buy most of what I wear second hand. I’d love to learn how to jazz up what I buy or what I already have… also, I’m a fellow Austinite and will now be looking for Tina’s classes as well.

  15. I would absolutely love to win this book. I’ve worked hard to lose two stones in weight this year in order to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. I look and feel great about myself but unfortunately I am unable to fit into any of my old clothes. This book would be a joy to have as I’ll be able to refashion my old clothes and make it even more special! I am a big supporter of all things green and this would be a great starting point into sewing as I’ve never had the courage to make clothes. It would be the biggest reward after working so hard and a great inspiration to have. Thank you!

  16. I would absolutely love to win this book. I worked really hard to lose two stones in weight this year in order to live a more happier and healthier lifestyle. Winning this book would be the best reward! I feel great but unfortunately all my old clothes doesn’t fit me anymore. I support all things green and love the idea of being able to refashion my old clothes and make it special. I never had the courage to sew clothes but this would be the best starting point for me. Thank you!

  17. I’d love to go through the book and get ideas for using up my stash of fabrics and secondhand clothes that I couldn’t throw away ’cause they’re still perfectly good fabric. Then I’d most likely give it to my sister so she can do the same.

  18. I picked up 4 vintage coats, a dress made of awesome navy chiffon with white polka dots, and the ugliest pants ever made in a really cute cotton daisy print. All are screaming “Remake me!” and I could really use some help in the process.

  19. I love making things with recycled materials–I have done it with knitting and other crafts but not yet with sewing clothes– this book looks so inspiring!

  20. I have a load of clothes I am planning to reinvent and this book would surely help me! It looks wonderful. If I don’t win I will scrounge up the money and buy it.
    Thanks, Tamara

  21. I need the book because in one week I will be moving into my very own apartment for the first time in waaay too many years (no more shared houses!) and I am very excited to be able to spread my crafty projects all over my space! Also, I really need to start making some rad, unique clothes and the “green” way is the best way!

  22. I love this book! I NEED this book!
    Right now I spend 9 months out of the year living in Colombia. Not only are the clothes in South America ridiculously expensive, let’s just say Shakira is a not my style. They also seem to run about 4 sizes smaller, except in the chest of course. Anyways my blathering is an attempt to tell you I never buy clothes. And buying fabric to sew, well even bad synthetics can run one day’s pay a yard!
    I used to have enough clothes. Or at least just enough clothes. But now I lost 84 lbs and have a lot of clothes and nothing to do with them, so there’s all my yardage….now I just need the education!

  23. I would love this book! I love to sew, and I love to refashion, but I’m not very good at it, and I need more ideas. I’m planning to look for this book in our local bookstore!

  24. I’d love this because I really want to be able to try my hand at clothing and the designs look great!

  25. I have a lot of clothes that I have been saving for reusing and making into something new. So this book would come in handy so that I would have lots more ideas for reusing them in new and cute ways.

  26. This is something I’ve been wanting to learn, but have had a little trouble teaching myself. This sounds like a fascinating book. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it near me!

  27. I’ve been looking for a book to re fashion some of my old clothes for awhile, since my pocketbook has been quite at a minimum. also just looking at these photographs, the clothes look really cute and would fit my style… so
    i think this book looks like it would definitely help me out.
    **crossed fingers and toes**

  28. I have bags full of second-hand clothes that I’ve received from friends and thrift stores. This book would give me some ideas on what to do with my bags of clothes. Please please please pick me!

  29. B/c if I could, I’d wear a dress every single day of the year! I need to move to a warmer climate. This books looks great!

  30. I NEED this book…i have two sewing machines but haven’t touched them in about a year. I really need patterns that inspire me to sew, and these patterns look amazing. Also, I am all about doing things the “green” and efficient way. I have been a fan of Tina Sparkles since I started watching “Stylelicious”. She was in line in front of my husband in line when we went to see “Handmade Nation” last year in Austin and she gave us her extra tickets when we found out tickets were sold out. We had come all the way from Houston. She is awesome.

  31. I’d love this book! I’ve been trying to thrift, re-fashion, or make all my own clothes ever since I learned how much pesticide goes into cotton and other fibers grown for clothing. The thing is, I don’t really know much about sewing. I’ve been trying to teach myself, so a book with some new ideas and patterns would be great!

  32. I have been in the process of repurposing a few old dresses from garage sales and such. Oh this would help soooo much!

  33. I’m so so excited about this book. I am a serial hoarder of vintage tablecloths – how perfect would this book be, to transform them into gorgeous GREEN dresses!
    I cannot wait to ROCK the fabulous clothes in this book >_<
    Rin <3

  34. I would love to have this book to help me transform those old clothes that I have found in op shops made of awesome fabrics into something I can wear. I would also love to learn some new sewing tips and tricks!
    p.s. I love the name Tina Sparkles, always reminds me of the movie Stricly Ballroom.
    Luv Jessica!

  35. I have been wanting to start repurposing my clothes and those I find at thrift stores. This book would be the inspiration I need to get past the fear and JUST DO IT! Thanks :)

  36. Hi
    so why i would like this book is the question?
    well my answer to this is that i am loving learning to sew at the moment, i usually use old deconstructed clothing and make something new.
    i would also love this because the clothing is slightly vintage
    thank you for the chance of winning this
    sam XXXXXXX

  37. Of course who wouldn’t love a fantastic how-to pattern book using recycled materials! :) I try to live as sustainably minded as possible and, honestly, I find inspiration in ‘old’ things. So it would be so fun for me to learn how someone else does it, too!

  38. I try to live as sustainably minded as I can, and I honestly find inspiration in reusing ‘old’ materials, so this book is perfect for me! :)

  39. Well because I only have a few years left to learn the art of dress making before I make my wife to be her dream wedding dress (which she’ll only let me do if I’m good!).
    So I need all the practice I can get!
    Making clothes, dresses is something I’ve always been interested in but I’ve never got too far, now is the time to change all that.

  40. I would like this book because it’s great to be able to re-use and refashion old clothes. It’s cheaper too. :)

  41. I have been refashioning for years. I have 4 daughters and was always updating/changing/redoing outfits each time a girl grew into them. With the popularity my grown children now say I am almost obsessive with refashioning items. Socks have been made into a skirt. Baby dress 30 yrs old now fashionable ruffled purse. Have had date marked on calendar for months with release date. Plus I have live in Austin, TX and have seen Tina’s clothing on runways.

  42. This looks great! I’m a weaver/quilter/fiber artist wanting to gain more sewing skills to put my growing collection of textiles and old clothes to good use. But I’m also a grad student writing my thesis on the possibilities and limitations for social change that exists in the growing interest in handmade textile/garment production. So in addition to being a fun resource for my own sewing, Ill put it to good use in my research and writing.
    Thanks for the consideration!

  43. As a beginner level sewer and thrift store addict, this would be perfect! It’s not often that I actually like the clothes in refashion books, these are so cute.

  44. I am a big fan of Tina, and I am also teaching myself to sew. I would love to have this book and work on some very fun and beautiful designs!

  45. Amazing book! I’m a vintage addict and an art therapist, just starting my business = POOR!
    I could spread the love in this book far and wide over the years. I’m a beginner sewer and need help myself to make work outfits! Thanks for the opportunity

  46. I just would like to have this inspiring book, with all the beautiful projects waiting to be done and wore…
    Thank you Tina for your book!!!

  47. this looks like a great book to have on hand. i love sewing clothes and i think it’s really exciting to re-purpose something so that it fits you, your needs, and your style perfectly. Thanks Tina!

  48. I LOVE repurposing! I buy sweaters from the thrift store & unravel them for the yarn, & this would be a great complimentary craft for my sewing itch!

  49. Needing creative input!
    I have been sewing & altering things for people to earn some money, as my health prevents me from getting even regular part time employment.
    This little green book would help me to use my skills to help others with their sewing needs.
    Great book, thanks!
    Susan Noonan, aka DragonTat2

  50. That computer wire dress is soo cool! I’ll definitely check this book out in my book store, but it’d be great if I won!

  51. OMG!!! This is so great! I’m already sooo inspired by looking at the pictures that you posted I can’t even imagine how inspired I would be if I had a free copy!

  52. I love the idea of repurposing and giving new life to unloved clothes. I’d love to try and do that myself.

  53. I would love this book because the designs look great. Tina’s computer wire dress is absolutely amazing. I haven’t made much in the way of clothes because I’ve found it really intimidating. I should take her advice — find something I’m not attached to and just go for it already!

  54. I’m always looking for new, hip things to sew and this book seems ripe with possibilities! I would love to have a copy for myself.

  55. I would love to win this book because I’m a big fan of Tina’s design philosophy. Plus I’m already inspired from the images already and would love to improve my just-beginning sewing skills. I can see how a book like this will encourage me to sustainably sew and be more creative! :)

  56. wow i would love this book as i’m always upcycling my charity/thrift shop buys into something beautiful. This would help give me a fresh inspiration to try and make everything within it’s covers.
    Pretty please x

  57. i would love to make quite a few things from what i have seen in your review, this could help give me some fresh inspiration for my charity/thrift shop finds x pretty please x

  58. I would like to win this book because I have trouble finding ready-made dresses that fit me, so making my own would be great! I also think I’m pretty good at picking out thrift store finds with good fabric, but then I never know how to remake them into clothing, so I end up making bags.

  59. I am just getting into refashioning and I need some cool ideas. I think I’ll buy this book even if I don’t win. Thanks so much!

  60. If I win, I will make every single project in the book. I think I’m in love with it already, a i want it so much, please let me win!

  61. I am totally into the recycyling, upcycling, organic, green things and have set up clothes swops in the different places I have lived. I recently took up sewing (with the aim to mend and make my own clothes) and have had a few lessons. I can’t bring myself to buy new material, just feels wasteful. But now at the stage that I feel a bit intimidated by patterns and how to make sense of the sweetshop that is the thrift/charity shops. This book sounds like exactly what would inspire and empower me to move forward. I have inspired a number of friends to do a bit of sewing with the basics that I have learnt, and really feel that more people would make their own clothes if they felt they could make funky stuff. Plus I work teaching people how to grow food, so could do with some non-scruffy clothes. And what better than some sassy designs from Tina?

  62. I like to win this because as a seamstress I can make just about everything I want to do except make clothes. This seams (hehe) like the perfect thing for me to learn and help guide me. Not to mention, as a regular thrift shopped I’m always finding amazing clothes that I love the fabric, hate the cut, and I could finally put them to use! :)

  63. Being 4’8″ and curvy, I don’t have much opportunity to find cool, cute clothing. Clothes in vintage shops never even come close to fitting me. I’m mainly relegated to the rather dowdy petites department of a corporate mall store. (sympathy vote!) These clothes not only lack character, but I also hate the idea of buying clothing from “sweatshop labor”.
    I recently took an intro sewing class so I could make my own funkier clothes. I’m totally hooked now, and I really want to make more designs, especially out of repurposed clothes and materials. Tina’s designs look super-cute, and her instructions look clear and detailed enough for a novice sewer like me.
    I promise that if I won this book I would not only use it, but also cherish it and love it!

  64. I’d love this book since I’ve just gotten into refashioning. I’ve picked up a few button downs from Goodwill and have some old clothes as materials, but I’m a little torn about how to proceed. This book would be great inspiration.

  65. I’ve been trying for some time to convince a good friend that crafting is the bees’ knees — but she is stuck in the “crafting is your grandmother’s sport” mindset and not yet sold that funky awesome stuff is not only possible to make, but all kinds of fun too. Since she is SERIOUSLY into fashion, this book could seal the deal and bring her squarely into the world of craft, forever. It’s a worthy pursuit!

  66. My insanely active outdoorsy friend just dislocated her hip from a biking accident, and has taken up a new hobby: sewing! This book would definitely make her days go by quicker :)

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