Skirtains, Anyone?

Alchemy Arts - cover
Alchemy Arts: Recycling is Chic
MacKay and Jennings

This book was recently weeded from a medium sized public library for a complete lack of check-outs. It’s not awful, exactly, but definitely a little weird. The examples are described in general terms, but there aren’t really exact directions or patterns or anything. I think it’s meant to inspire more than instruct.

Books like this are confusing to me. They’re interesting for creative types, I suppose. They just don’t seem very practical. Do people really wear playing card hats (below) and dresses made from ties (also below)? The word “recycling” in the title is definitely going to garner attention, since that’s something we can all get on board with.

All you crafty/sewing types, please weigh in! Wonderful or weird?


Alchemy Arts - back cover

Dress made of ties

Plastic army men headband



Hat made of playing cards

Make a dress from a Christmas tree



  1. Definitely weird, unless you’re a fashion student taking a specific class in either recycling or “found” fashion (and that would presumably be to enhance your skills in working with odd kinds and amounts of material, and to inspire creative thought).

    1. That’s what I was going to say. I’ve seen people wearing skirts made from ties, and they’ve looked really cute. (It’s a pity I didn’t start seeing them until after my father retired and his vast collection of neckties got weeded down to three or four. He had some great ties.) The rest of that stuff I wouldn’t want.

    2. So have I. The rest of the ideas seem really out-there, but tie dresses are definitely a thing. The girl who took Grandma’s lace curtains and tied them around her waist, however…

  2. I haven’t seen anyone wear the tie skirt in public, but I have seen a lot of teenage girls who’ve made one posting the pictures of them wearing it on Tumblr. They also make vests and shirts out of ties as well.

    However, I haven’t seen one where they actually open the tie up. They usually just sew the ties together as-is.

  3. Holly might not say awful, but I will, despite the fact I now have an outfit in mind for the next holiday office party.

    1. I REALLY want to see the dress made out of a Christmas tree. We have an ugly sweater contest every year at our library, and the bar is set pretty high. I think wearing an entire tree would guarantee my victory,

  4. actually…my teens who are super into cosplay love weird stuff like this for ideas to make some of their more…ah /interesting/ characters

  5. When I saw the word Skirtains in the title, I was expecting curtains made of old skirts.

  6. Even the models look depressed! The only thing that seems kind of sane there are the skirtains and that only because they’re basically starting with fabric already. ..

    1. The models look to me as “ladies of easy virtue” .
      Oh! ” The joy of working with ready made curtains” reminds me of Carol Burnett’s sketch of “Gone with the Wind”.

  7. Looks like a British book, with words like “dandy-horse” (= “hobbyhorse?”) and “frock”

    1. Those words haven’t been used this side of the pond for decades. Certainly not in 2010! Frankly I have no idea what a dandy horse is :/

      I agree – those models look like they straight out of the 70’s. I’m all for recycling and DIY fashions, but these things just look garish.

      1. Just for the heck of it I Googled “dandy-horse”. None of the hits I got had anything to do with fashion (although yes, I do know about the terms “dandy” and “clothes horse” for a fashionable person); most of them referred to an old-fashioned type of pedal-less bicycle, or to cycling in general. (There were also a couple of hits about Jim Dandy, a 100-1 shot horse who beat Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga

        1. Oh wait, they are talking about “dandy-horse” in the bicycle sense: “transform[ing] old bicycle inner tubes into a stand-out necklace”. Never mind

  8. If they intended this as a book for Halloween costumes it would make sense. . . I think. Pretty strange stuff, especially the Christmas tree “frock.”

  9. The “skirtains” made me think of “Gone With The Wind” and Scarlett O’Hara wearing the green dress made from the drapes! Other than that, I would say that much of this would only work as Halloween costumes that were to be worn once and tossed!

    1. I was thinking of the Carol Burnett Show take off on that where she’s wearing the dress with the curtain rod! The skirt on the right wasn’t so bad until I notice they used the part of the curtain with the grommets!

  10. Burning Man? Cosplay? Comic-Con? If you have a population into these things this book might have an audience. Everyday wear? not so much

  11. The skirt with the metal grommets reminds me of Carol Burnett’s “Went With The Wind” where Scarlett’s skirtain is still attached to the rod.

  12. So, I’m not at all a crafty type, but I have to select things for that section in collection development. I tend to keep a sharp eye out for specific patterns and clear instructions – preferably with lots of illustrations of each step. Am I being ignorant? Because I see something like this as a complete waste of time, but I suppose if you already knew what you were doing, all those instructions might seem annoying and unnecessary.

  13. NOW I know what to do with my old plastic cowboys, Indians, and little troll dolls! Glue them to my headband! That’ll upgrade my look with the students!

  14. Love the skirt made of the ties. Lots of other real possibilities there. The skirts are pretty, too. I remember an old segment on the Today Show, many years ago, that showed a quick skirt made from a pillowcase. For a VERY slender girl. But, several pillowcases are a possibility. Even mismatched. For a seamstress, fabric is fabric; if its clean and in good shape, why waste it?

    This book would be a great jumping off point for a program or series of programs. I would have checked it out. I like it more than the ones on duct tape clothing, clever as those are.

    1. People regularly made quick skirts out of pillowcases at my college, where we all had to wear white outfits on some end-of-school-year occasion. Most everyone had a white top, but white pants or a skirt, maybe not. I think some wearers even repurposed the skirts back into being pillowcases afterwards.

  15. Speaking as someone who had a skirt made of ties (also one made from a lace tablecloth; yes, I wore both) and has worn hats almost that strange in public, I think it’s great!

  16. I work in a design library. We would not keep a book like this. It has no directions. Its more inspirations. Our students would never check it out.

  17. The playing card hat would be great at a party…but what then? Now you have to store it so it doesn’t get dusty or crumpled. All that fuss for one wearing?

  18. Skirts made of ties are very popular at music festivals. I’ve also purchased skirts made out of curtains at music festivals–very fancy. And that card hat would have been just the right thing to where at a themed party last year at a…wait for it…music festival. All that being said, craft books without patterns and instructions aren’t very helpful..

  19. I’m crafty/costume-y and I think it looks interesting. But I agree that it should have instructions to be useful. I would probably buy it at the library sale, anyway. If it were $1 or less.

    1. Not necessarily so, Usually experienced crafty people can figure out how to make a pattern, by looking at the picture of the craft, but sometimes they ran out of ideas; so this book could be useful to them, if they are into quirky stuff.

  20. @Flowcoef I was hoping you’d notice that. I tried to repost as a direct reply but it didn’t work.
    Also, those mannequins look sad.

  21. I had a skirtain once! I loved it. I was in about the sixth grade. It had been the curtain on the front of my mother’s college bookshelf. (Strange custom, that…) Pre-hemmed and just the right length for me. Maybe it was the right width, too, so that all she had to do was sew on a button?

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