Handmade jewelry is a hot item for DIY bloggers.
Handmade jewelry is a hot item for DIY bloggers. (photo: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

If I see a cute tank top, my first thought is not about buying the tank, but of how I can make it out of a T-shirt that I already have.

— Justina Blakeney, designer and DIY blogger

With the economy still struggling and many of us trying to stretch our fashion budgets to the max, do-it-yourself style is more popular than ever. It's become all the rage to make beautiful new things out of affordable or recycled items. A slew of DIY bloggers have emerged, showing us, with some creative flair and resourcefulness, how to make our own designer-inspired clothing and jewelry, and how to craft our own jewelry designs using things we probably already own or can purchase inexpensively. Their creative ideas prove that it's cool to be frugal and find our own inner DIY designer.

Dollar Dressing

Lynch turned a plain, thrift store dress into a crochet collar blouse. (photo: Marisa Lynch)

What if you only had a one dollar a day clothing allowance for a whole year? For some of us, this has become an unfortunate reality, and for the fashionistas among us, a radically reduced retail budget can seem cruel. However, when Los Angeles-based Marisa Lynch was laid off from her job, she set about turning the situation to her advantage. Inspired by the film "Julie and Julia," about Julia Child and a cooking blogger, Lynch decided to start her own blog, Newdressaday.com, in which she would wear a different outfit and spend no more than $1 on her clothing each and every day for a year. Armed with her trusty sewing machine, Lynch repurposes used clothing with creative techniques to fit her figure and style.

Newdressaday.com, started in November 2009, has become a creative resource for those looking to squeeze the most from their closets. Certainly, saving money provides a better feeling than the guilt of buying something you genuinely can’t afford. "I've always repurposed clothes," Lynch said in an interview. "But I only did it when I had free time, which was every month or so.  Making a new piece of clothing daily clicked for me."

Lynch has loved DIY since she was young. "My first ever DIY project was the purse I wore to my senior prom," she remembered. "I found an article in 'Sassy' magazine with a DIY for a small handbag.  I didn't like any of the bags that were out there, so I got some fabric and ribbon and made my own. It was amazing; totally unlike any of the other ones and I adored it.  Of course, I still have it."

Now Lynch can count designer and TV personality Nate Berkus and actress Tori Spelling among her fans and has been in "Time" magazine and listed among "Los Angeles Magazine's" tastemakers. She was even featured on E!, making one dollar bridesmaid's dresses for the sisters in the Oscar-winning movie "The Fighter."

For those looking for extra DIY inspiration, Lynch says she gets hers mostly from magazines and classic movies. "I’m an avid magazine subscription holder and love paging through the latest issues of 'Vogue,' 'Lucky,' 'People StyleWatch,' 'Bazaar' and 'W,' " she said. "I tear out pieces of clothing, color schemes and accessories that I love and tack them to my inspiration board. I love seeing what celebs are wearing on the red carpets as well as looking at runway shows. I also watch old movies on Turner Classics."

Lynch's first book -- title to be announced -- is to be published in the fall of 2012 by Random House.

T-Shirts Reborn

Image from "Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-Shirt," by Megan Nicolay. (photo: Megan Nicolay)

Most of us have plenty of old T-shirts lying around. Maybe we sleep in them or use them for workouts, but after viewing Megan Nicolay’s blog Generation T (generation-T.com), you’ll be resurrecting your old shapeless, rejected tees and seeing them anew as treasures. "Generation-T.com is a forum in which to learn about and educate other like-minded individuals -- and T-shirt lovers -- in Zen and the art of T-shirt slashing," Nicolay said in an interview. "All of the projects are designed and created by myself or by readers and other rogue fashionistas."

Inspired first by her father, a potter and fine arts teacher; and her mother, a photographer and clothing designer, Lynch began her DIY T-shirt mission using batik when she was nine years old. In 2005, the now Brooklyn-based Lynch, launched Generation T.

Generation T shows you how to make every type of T-shirt from maternity styles to Halloween costumes. You'll also learn the art of arm-warmers and even how to embellish a picture frame. Since its launch, the blog has been so popular, it's grown into two books: In 2006, "Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt" was published by Workman Publishing Co., followed in 2009 by her second book, "Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-Shirt."

Home-Grown Style

Image of Justina Blakeney, editor of blog.justinablakeney.com. (photo: Justina Blakeney)

Looking for ideas to jazz up not only your outfits but your home too? Justina Blakeney has you covered with her blog, blog.justinablakeney.com. The Los Angeles-based Blakeney refers to herself as a "designer and maker" and spends her days consulting with clients on interior design, or art-directing photo shoots. That is, when she's not busy blogging.

Blakeney's blog is like an inspirational lookbook crammed not only with her own creative ideas, but also with snapshots of items and sights that inspire her. To that end, the blog is like having an ideas scrapbook on hand. Blakeney sources items mostly from flea markets, repurposing them in creative ways that are easily imitated.

For Blakeney, blogging has proven to be a useful creative process. "Blogging allows me to practice and share so many things that I love," she said in an interview. "from 'making' to writing and photography, graphic design and layout as well as styling."

Although she blogs mostly about home-design DIY ideas, Blakeney also turns her creativity to clothing. "Many of my project ideas come from seeing things that I like and then imagining how to make that same thing from materials that are readily available to me," she explained. "If I see a cute tank top, my first thought is not about buying the tank, but of how I can make it out of a T-shirt that I already have."

Repurposing and thrifting are mainstays of her work. "I adore bringing things into new contexts and looking at objects upside-down or backwards for a new perspective," she said.

Before her current situation, Blakeney and her sister Faith, also a designer, co-owned a boutique in Italy, selling recycled designer pieces. The pair also created their own eco-friendly recycled clothing line Compai, which was featured in "Vogue," "Glamour" and "Marie Claire."

"My first ever DIY project was making scrunchies for my Afro," Blakeney said. "I was about four or five when my big sister and I used to cut the elastic off of old panties to use for the scrunchies. We had so much hair we needed dozens of scrunchies."

Blakeney has continued to produce an extraordinary amount of ideas on everything from homewares to handbags, co-authoring four DIY books and contributing to several others. Her latest book, co-authored with Faith, is titled "Refashioned Bags, Upcycle Anything into a High Style Handbag," and is published by Potter Craft.

  • Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images Marisa Lynch Megan Nicolay Justina Blakeney
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