Name: Kelsey Underwood
School: Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
Studio: The Handwork Studio
Bio: My name is Kelsey Underwood and I am a second year counselor at The Handwork Studio. I am also a fashion merchandising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Passionate about eco fashion, I recycle old fabric and clothing by transforming them into new pieces.
As a child, I learned how to sew before I learned how to write my name. Since both of my parents worked, my grandparents looked after me during weekdays. My grandma often sewed and mended on her sewing machine. Sitting on the floor right at her feet, I would collect and quilted pieces of her scrap fabric together. My grandma taught me the beauty behind each fabric; telling me stories of when and where she purchased each one.
Fast forward 18 years, I am a two-time top gold Delaware State Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Recycle and Redesign STAR Event winner, 2013 gold National FCCLA Recycle and Redesign STAR Event winner and 2014 silver National FCCLA Recycle and Redesign STAR Event winner.
When planning my designs, I visit thrift stores to search for standout fabrics. When creating eco fashions, I find designing with an open mind is the best approach. Searching for reusable garments in thrift stores with very specific design expectations can cause frustration. The stories of vintage textiles inspire my creations.
A Vision in Curtains
While on a trip at the local thrift store, I spotted pink and silver floral curtains that had a purpose of becoming a chic, European cocktail dress. I am most proud of my curtain cocktail dress not only because it is award-winning, but also because I overcame several obstacles while working through the construction process.
Working with old fabrics definitely has its challenges. For this particular project, my first challenge occurred while still in the thrift store. The beautiful, pink curtain did not have enough yardage to construct the entire dress. After searching through numerous racks, I found a beautiful white curtain. During the construction process, while stitch ripping a seam, I soon learned that my sewing machine needle left permanent holes in the fabric. Thankfully, I could strategically sewed the new seam on top of the fine holes. This project definitely taught me patience, precision and perseverance.
As a busy college senior who studies long hours and serves as Collegiate DECA at VCU president, I struggle finding time to sew during the school year. However, my summers working as a counselor at The Handwork Studio are full of fun, sewing and eco fashion! I always encourage my students to recycle by transforming their scrap fabric into hair accessories, belts, scarves and more. I am so excited to work with such talented and inspiring students again!
To Future Eco Fashionistas
I advise kids who are passionate about both art and eco fashion to set goals, write them down, share them and take action. Your art and contributions, big or small, matter and make a huge impact on the world! Creating eco fashion projects is so rewarding and fulfilling. You not only reduce waste in landfills, but also create a unique, new look!
Be sure to check back every week to meet another amazing maker!