'Making something out of nothing': Kemptville tailor transforms wool blankets into parkas as part of pandemic project

·2 min read

A retired Kemptville College teacher of sewing and fashion design has made more than 50 parkas from recycled wool blankets since the pandemic started in March.

“Creativity is a strength, it gives you value. I like making something out of nothing,” Janet Stark said.

A coat maker and a trained tailor, Stark explained that she wanted to keep busy, to “keep out of trouble” during the lockdown.

When her husband started working from home in March, Stark started sewing in her workshop as well, and showed her creations to her husband at the end of the day.

“I didn’t realize how many pieces I had done (until I looked) at the racks and they were full. It’s almost like the project was given to me. It didn’t seem hard. They just came out of my hands one after another,” she said.

Using blankets, scarves, shawls and afghans, Stark sources her materials from thrift shops and gives them new life by adding embroidery, appliqué, fur, leather and fancy buttons and trims to make each piece unique.

She laughed when she said her collection seems to be growing “and having babies.” Stark has been using a Linda MacPhee pattern for her parkas, one that she has used since 1984.

An intricately appliqued, hand-stitched adult parka takes her up to 15 hours to make, while a child’s coat takes about four to five hours. Her parkas sell from $100 up to $500.

“I really think that if people are spending that kind of money, they need to feel them, try them on and see them,” she said.

Stark will be selling and displaying her parkas at the Brockville Christmas Market held at 125 Stewart Boulevard in Brockville on Dec. 5 from 12 to 5 p.m.

She’s already looking forward to making more coats, as she has already started collecting blankets and shawls from Scotland, Ireland and Canada.

“I have 12 kits ready to go again. Sewing is a great stress relief,” Stark said.

For more information, call 613-258-3323 or visit www.facebook.com/JanetsArtisanCoats

This story is part of a series, COVID-19 Hobbies, featuring hobbies and unique projects people have taken on locally during the pandemic.

Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News