A Refashioned Purpose

I may be partial, but man, Midwest kids don’t get the credit they deserve, do they? Time and again, I’m amazed at the creativity that exists between the much-praised coasts, scattered among cornfields and cityscapes and cottages. We’re scrappy and resourceful, continually pushing the boundaries like the middle kid seeking a hint of the spotlight. Prime example? Milwaukee-based designer Janelle Gramling – who may not be a middle child, but most certainly is making her presence known in the Midwest and beyond.

Janelle first launched her reclaimed fashion line in 2005, eventually collaborating with other local artists and designers to open a local co-op and boutique named Fasten. From teaching monthly sewing classes to producing dozens of fashion shows, Janelle dedicated her career to fostering a community of Milwaukee-based creatives on the cutting edge of fashion, art and design. Now, a busy mother of four, she’s fostering that creativity in her own family with her latest design: a polyhedra collection that doubles as a show-stopping garland or grouping of soft toys for tiny tots.

“Watching my young boys playing with my prototypes, I can see that they make a unique toy because it doesn’t fit into a singular category,” Janelle writes. “My four year old plays with it like a ball, enjoying the rattle sounding off when he throws it against a wall. Whereas my two year old treats it more like a stuffed animal. Arranging them together, turning them around in his hands, examining the shapes and different patterns.”

Using her roots in textile design, Janelle sews each design together with used scraps from her former life. “If the fabric is really special with unique textures and colors, I can’t throw it away – no matter how small the piece is,” Janelle writes. “So here I am now, after collecting all this amazing fabric for over a decade – always trying to come up with new ways to use it.”

It’s a beautiful portrait of transformation – the realization that a pile of scraps containing memories and obstacles and achievements can be remade, woven into a new purpose entirely. And it gives me hope for my own journey to motherhood. Sure, my life looks quite different than it did pre-Bee. But those scraps I’ve saved throughout my years – the lessons and trials and perspective – can become the very foundation of something new. Something beautiful.

The collection is available for $75, or budding seamstresses can download the PDF pattern for just $8. In the mean time, Janelle is developing a kid’s fashion collection (I’m on the edge of my seat!) set to launch this fall. I kind of hope she names it “The Middle Kid.”

Image Credits: Janelle Gramling

p.s. More garland inspiration here, here and here.