Remember the 2 quirky Dutch women who performed on their bicycle-powered sewing machines at the Singapore Arts Festival? They held an intimate workshop on Monday with 20 enthusiastic participants. Buttons, trimmings and fabrics were strewn all over the place as the women and men rushed to revive their old pieces of clothing. Karin Arts and Mariken Biegman also helped sew with their one-of-a-kind sewing machines.

Here are some no-sew tips and techniques that I got from Karin and Mariken that you can try out at home:

  • Look at what item of clothing it is e.g. a t-shirt or skirt, and what kind of material it’s made out of, like thin flimsy cloth or a sturdier tweed. You won’t be able to decorate the former with heavier materials as the piece of clothing will go out of shape.
  • What’s your own personal style? Think about your favourite colours, fashion inspiration and more to channel into your work.
  • Start by buying all kinds of trimmings and fabrics. Karin and Mariken even made a trip to Arab Street while they were here.
  • Another tool to try: Fabric paints. You can also mix them for a unique colour. Before washing, place a tea towel or piece of cloth on top of the pattern and press a hot iron on it for a few seconds. This will seal in the colour so it doesn’t end up on the rest of your clothes.
  • Pair the use of paints with stencils and moulds – they come in all types of patterms. But do any sewing before using paint – you don’t want to get it all over your hands.
  • Cutting is often the simplest way to change the look of something – whether it’s to make a skirt shorter or to change a t-shirt to a one-shouldered top. And, don’t forget to keep the scraps as you never know when you might need them.
  • Try adding an accent to the necklines and hems of your clothes – ruffles made of chiffon or a soft material are pretty.
  • The back of a top is a good place to make a statement – try appliques of cross-stitched patterns since they’re usually quite colourful and already have an image on them.
  • Fabric glue is your friend. You’ll find them useful for placing small appliques onto clothing, especially if you don’t like sewing.

So why not follow the leads of these vintage and recycling lovers and dig out your old clothes? Mariken says "Don’t think too much when you’re creating your design. Going by your instinct can create a great result. And be proud to wear your creation!" although she cautions against going overboard by adding too much stuff.