Nancy Laviolette said she grew up “with people who made things” — her mother, aunts and grandmother sewed and crocheted, skills that were passed down to her.
It's no wonder she became a maker herself. The semi-retired grandmother of three is now using her sewing skills in her project Fancy to a Tee.
Laviolette takes old clothing she either finds at thrift stores or gets for free from friends and family members who clean out their closets and repurposes them, turning them into kilts, skirts, dresses and tunics.
She's especially fond of using graphic t-shirts and plaids, giving her pieces a whimsical look.
If you'd like to check out this “upcycled” clothing, it's on display at Artists on Elgin for the month of February. The opening reception takes place Saturday, Feb. 9 from 1-4 p.m.
All of the pieces on display at the gallery are for sale, with prices starting at around $50. A changeroom has even been set up for those who want to try on one of the artist's pieces.
Laviolette said she remembers a time 30 years ago when she visited the dump, and came upon an area entirely filled with discarded children's clothing.
“Standing there in this field of clothing, it was shocking to me and very sad,” she said. “This was 30 years ago. I can only imagine what it is now. The stats are astronomical for the clothing that ends up in the dump.”
The incident inspired her to create a quilt made from her daughter's outgrown baby clothing and blankets.
The act of creating a quilt also connected her to her grandmother — Laviolette treasures a quilt made by her grandmother many years ago.
The idea of using something old to create something new obviously left an impression on Laviolette, who said she started her Fancy to a Tee project in 2017 to fill her time as an empty-nester.
“I like the idea of repurposing and renewing, because it's not just one life,” she said. “Somebody loved a t-shirt, and then decided they didn't want it, so now somebody else can love it, which is kind of cool.”
Laviolette said she's thrilled to have her pieces displayed this month at Artists on Elgin.
“My mind is still blown that my fancies are here, that I'm here,” she said. “I'm beyond proud and thrilled and honoured.
“I would never ever have thought any of this would have been possible. It's really wonderful to be a part of it. I never thought of myself as particularly creative or artistic, and I am, and it's cool.”
Artists on Elgin is located at 168 Elgin St., and is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.