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Guelph woman recycles and upcycles old fabrics into new outerwear

'The coolest pieces are already out there, so why not give them a new life?' said Shelly Thompson, owner of The Muse and I

To counteract fast fashion, a Guelph woman is turning old quilts and afghans into new clothing items to help reduce waste.

Shelly Thompson is the owner of The Muse And I, an online clothing brand focusing on recycled and upcycled fashion. Recently, Thompson took her brand one step further, offering outerwear she has made from old textiles. By sewing the garments herself, Thompson said each piece is sustainable and one of a kind. 

“I always wanted to make my own clothing, but I started doing it slowly,” said Thompson, who was inspired after seeing quilt jackets for sale on Instagram. 

When it comes to second hand items, Thompson said there is so much out there that people don’t want and can’t think of a use for. She hopes her work will inspire more people to try making their own clothing by re-purposing or reusing old items.

"Maybe people aren’t into an old quilt for their bed, or something," said Thompson, "so there’s so much out there that’s great to use rather than this new stuff, and it's affordable and easy to access, and the coolest pieces are already out there, so why not give them a new life?”

Besides quilt coats, Thompson also offers tops and jackets made out of former afghan blankets, which her mother helps her make.

“We’ve got the quilt coats, the afghans, and in the summer I’m going to do some dresses and tops made from tablecloths and old linens,” said Thompson. “We’re really trying to create this brand of reusing all old textiles.”

Not all jackets are made the same, adds Thompson. For one jacket, she said it can take between four to six hours to make.

“I source the patterns, I make the quilts, I cut them and sew them," said Thompson. “I look at a piece, look at how thick it is, thin it is, where it needs mending, and I look at one and think, ‘Oh that one could have a collar,’ you know? Or, ‘That one could be harder to sew, so that won’t get a collar.’ Seeing what piece presents and what it could become.”

With 13 years in the vintage fashion industry, Thompson said she got her start working at The Patch in Sauble Beach. From there, she said she became a buyer for the company, travelling around the world to buy vintage clothing.

"It just became a lifestyle after that," said Thompson, who is also a manager for Wild Rose Consignment Clothing on Macdonell Street.

In 2017, Thompson started The Muse and I as a hobby, offering recycled clothing and clothing with small custom designs she added, from patches to acid wash and more. She said this year is the first time she is offering quilt coats and fully upcycled pieces.

"I really didn’t think I would be here, especially at the beginning of this year," said Thompson, who calls the response to her upcycled outerwear 'exciting.'

“I did a market at the end of October, and that’s the first market I had done with the handmade pieces, and the turnout was so great, I had so many new connections, and I got a lot of quilts from someone at the market," she said. "It’s a push to keep going and keep creating."

Those who are interested in checking out The Muse and I can find the clothing brand on Instagram.