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Originally published November 10, 2013 at 5:19 AM | Page modified November 12, 2013 at 1:12 PM

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Re-fashionistas: winning DIY looks from 3 local upcyclers

An announcement of the winning re-fashionistas of The Seattle Times/It’s My Darlin’ DIY Fashion Contest: Tracy Tran (teen winner), Kimmi McCormick (adult winner) and Bill Sanders (editors’ choice).

Seattle Times arts writer

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Genevieve Alvarez and Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

Today, we celebrate the upcyclers among us.

The knitters who pull apart old sweaters and refashion the yarn into scarves or shawls; the jewelry-makers who hot-glue old coins or hardware into pendants; the crafters who make handbags out of hand-me-down neckties — they all make the most of used goods by upgrading/recycling them into something unique.

Earlier this fall, The Seattle Times and Dana Landon’s style blog It’s My Darlin’ asked local upcyclers — or “re-fashionistas” — to share their favorite creations for a chance to win cash prizes. We drew nearly 200 entries.

Now, we introduce you to our three winners: Tracy Tran (grand prize, teen category); Kimmi McCormick (grand prize, adult); and Bill Sanders (editors’ choice).

Look for additional photos, videos and outtakes at and

Thanks to all for entering. And happy upcycling this holiday season.

The bargain hunter

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

A true DIY fashionista, teen winner Tracy Tran spent about 50 cents on her contest entry, taking an out-of-date print dress from Goodwill and turning it into something fresh and fun.

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

Tran, 18, made over a maxi-dress into a shorter style with a sassier neckline.

Tracy Tran’s winning dress cost her “about 50 cents.” A Liz Claiborne shirtdress, it was one of four garments that she chose from a bin at Seattle Goodwill, for a total of $2 — and it looked, as Tran’s brother first described it, like a dress for somebody’s grandmother. But Tran, who was drawn to its vivid blue print, took it home, cut “about a foot” off the hem, took in the sides, tightened the back, changed the elbow sleeves to cap sleeves — and the result was a perky, breezy summer dress, without a hint of grandma.

A senior at Kentridge High School, Tran initially learned to sew from her mother and enjoys customizing her favorite bargains. (Another outfit that she brought to our photo shoot: a Forever 21 maxi-dress transformed into a mini, with a floral skirt and a new sweetheart neckline.) She’s picked up techniques over the years, often from the Internet, to make her clothes fit better and to make her shopping budget go further. “I like working with my hands, the small details, knowing at the end that it’s my work,” she said.

Though Tran, who just turned 18, has always been “crafty” (in addition to sewing, she enjoys making cards, knitting, working with clay, and other crafts), she doesn’t have too much time for it these days — college applications loom. (She’s looking at the University of Washington and several out-of-state colleges, and leaning toward science/technology fields.) But the other three garments from that Goodwill shopping bag still beckon: two pastel blouses, and one long, loose dress with a rose print. They’ll be transformed, too, someday.

The smile maker

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

Editors’ Choice Bill Sanders caught the judges' attention with his entry — a party-ready blazer and matching cap, both made from vintage holiday tablecloths.

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

Sanders, shown here in a tunic crafted from various upholstery fabrics, says he loves bright colors and vintage textures.

“It makes people happy,” says Bill Sanders of his Christmas-party outfit: a loosely tailored blazer and matching hat, made from a pair of vintage poinsettia-print tablecloths. Indeed — you can’t look at him and not smile.

Sanders, who works for Seattle’s Human Services Department, estimated that he’s made, or remade, about 40 percent of his day-to-day wardrobe. He arrived for our photo shoot wearing a tunic made from several different upholstery fabrics in yellow/cream/black, a pair of bright-yellow pants (once white; he dyed them), and a multicolored bead necklace — and it all merged together in cheerful harmony. “I’m really not very interested in serious clothes,” he said, describing his love for bright colors and vintage textiles, often from the 1950s and ’60s.

With his partner of 24 years (and new husband) Guy de Beauchamp, Sanders enjoys scouring estate sales and thrift stores for vintage fabrics. Both men, who grew up with mothers who sewed, love to transform their finds: into hats (which they sell at Fremont’s Art FX), into garments for their dog Betsy (who has a Christmas coat to match Sanders’), and into beautiful clothes for themselves — including their August wedding outfits, in vivid hues of saffron, gold and hot pink.

With the holidays approaching, Sanders looks forward to trotting out his Christmas outfit. It’s made from a standard, slightly loosefitting jacket pattern, with a contrasting print (a second tablecloth) on the lapel and pockets and white piping; he wears it with something simple, like black pants and a black turtleneck. (He considered making pants to match the jacket, but it was just “too much.”) This will be its third holiday season, and Sanders wonders if it’s time for something different — but doesn’t Santa always wear the same outfit every year, and always look great? So, without question, does Sanders; just look at him, and smile.

The fabric whisperer

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

Winner Kimmi McCormick models a dress she re-fashioned by combining three pieces into a low-backed design with a flounced skirt, asymmetrical seaming and a fringed neckline.

Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

McCormick dyed an antique lace tablecloth and sewed it into a shapely dress, showcasing the lace's medallion pattern on the front. She's wearing a dyed vintage slip underneath.

The whimsical, autumn-toned dress that Kimmi McCormick wore to our photo shoot had its first life as a cardigan sweater, a “big, boxy” tweed jacket and a scarf — all thrift-store finds piled separately in her fabric collection. “You keep colors around long enough, they always go together,” she said, with a smile.

Now those three pieces merge as one unique dress, designed by McCormick, with a flounced skirt, dramatically low back, asymmetrical seaming (“all of our bodies are asymmetrical,” she says) and a fringe-trimmed neckline. The colors and textures, she said, “reminded me of fall.” She also modeled another of her own designs — a sleeveless purple dress, made from a vintage lace tablecloth that she dyed — and arrived in a plaid coat made by a friend, from a wool blanket.

McCormick, who lives in Columbia City, wasn’t able to bring her winning entry to the studio, as it was made for a friend: a short, ethereal wedding dress made of two different vintage lace curtain panels, as well as tulle from an old prom dress. “I’m really drawn to lace,” she said. “To me, a wedding dress has a lot of history already ... as does vintage lace.” It’s a dress that already looks as if it could tell stories.

Taught to sew by her grandmother, McCormick later attended design school in Texas and now has her own small label, Kimmi Designs, made from recycled and reclaimed materials. She loves the process of draping fabric on a dress form, moving and shaping and pinning as the garment’s design emerges — “letting the fabric tell me what it wants to do.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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