Renee Jones has always considered herself a maker. In fact, she’s dabbled in just about every medium, from ceramics and weaving to metal smithing. It wasn’t until she traded in her welding torch for a sewing machine — literally, after realizing her apartment didn’t allow torches — that she found her newest calling.
It all began in 2012 when the Colorado mom of two first taught herself how to sew; soon, she was hooked. “I started sewing my own clothing, doing my own alterations, and making scarves,” says Jones, who even made her own wedding dress.
However, during the process she also quickly realized how much was often wasted in the fashion industry, from leftover fabric scraps headed for the trash to trendy garments that were quickly consumed and disposed. “I started listening to this podcast about women, fashion, and sustainability and suddenly, I had a rude awakening.”
Looking for ways to be less wasteful, Jones began upcycling fabric scraps from projects into bags. In 2016, she launched her online business East and Market with a mission to make small-batch home and fashion items sustainably. "Then, I started to realize that if more people could purchase something that was really meaningful to them, they’d be more likely to keep it longer instead of tossing it out," says the 35-year-old. So, Jones began encouraging her customers to send in materials that were sentimental to them (a wedding dress, a baby’s first onesie, an old pillow cover) so she could upcycle the items into something new and memorable. Her customers loved it.
“One of my favorite commissions was from a girl who emailed me about a camel saddle,” says Jones. “She told me all about her grandpa who had traveled the world and found this amazing leather saddle in Egypt." With a few adjustments, Jones was able to transform the heirloom into a stylish and unique bag. "It's a way to restore materials that would otherwise be unused, and I see it as a way to let people carry their fondest memories everywhere they go."
Jones has created clutches, scarves, pillows, and bags from old jackets, dresses, old baby clothes, curtains, and even placemats. Prices vary for these one-of-a-kind items, but start as low as $15 for wallets and run up to $135 for a weekender bag.
During her process, Jones also makes extra efforts to create minimal waste. Sometimes, this means finding a way to turn the smallest scraps into accessories like keychains and tassels. When she's not working on commissioneed projects, Jones sources a variety of fabrics from second hand stores as well as scraps from leather and upholstery companies. And while this may be a rather time-consuming process, sifting through and sewing smaller scraps to make a larger piece of fabric, Jones says, "It's worth it."
Interested in turning a favorite garment into something new? Visit Jones and her entire collection here, where you can also inquire about comissions, then stay tuned with her stitchings at @eastandmarket.