Upcycling, Small Business Ownership, and Teaching Children to Care for our Environment: An Interview with Faith Delozier of Faithfully Yours Atelier

The internet is a crazy place! I’ve met some friends through Instagram, and I honestly can’t remember when or how exactly we connected. Faith Delozier is one of these people. We both have small, handmade businesses and have been chatting back and forth for the past few years regarding sewing, small business, up cycling, and being a mom. I asked Faith if she would be willing to be a guest on my blog due to the nature of her business. Faith’s sews, crochets, and creates upcycled products from thrifted and donated goods. Her makes range from sustainable scrunchies to shirt-sleeve pants to crochet crowns to satchel bags. She also offers alterations and repairs in her home studio.

Faith is a genius when it comes to making something both practical and beautiful out of something that would otherwise be thrown away. Her passions for educating and caring for our planet are apparent in her work, and I learned so much about upcycling and reducing waste from my conversation with her.

Can you tell me more about yourself?

I live in what the people from the city call Upstate New York. I’ve lived in this general area my whole life. It’s a nice place—I have a lifelong trajectory of friends here, and there are a lot of outdoor activities to do here.

In high school I thought I might be either a fashion designer or work in early childhood. I dipped my toe into fashion design and realized it wasn’t for me and that it suited me best as a hobby. I decided to go the early childhood route. After college I taught preschool for ten years. When I had my daughter I realized I couldn’t do early childhood while raising my own kid. I left to be at home full time. This gave me more time to focus on my sewing business. I had started it a long time before but never given it a lot of direct attention. While being at home with my kids, I wanted something on the side that gave me an opportunity to use more than just the caregiving part of my brain. I’m a whole person and I need to be able to have an outlet to express other aspects of myself. I started by offering sewing lessons and doing alterations and repairs. Overtime, it grew into what I am [now] doing with upcycling.

When the pandemic came I also had my second baby that April. I struggled a lot with the lack of support during that time and it definitely postponed a lot of plans I had with Faithfully Yours. At the end of 2019 I was trying to get more involved with markets, and obviously a lot of in-person stuff was no longer happening. I finally got a chance to do [markets] this year, and it’s been great!

What are some things you are passionate about and why?

A lot of what drives me centers around environmental awareness and sustainability. I think that’s what makes me passionate about early childhood as well, because you can help children fuel their love for the natural environment. If they have experiences in nature early on, they learn to love the environment or care about protecting it when they are older. Being environmentally friendly in my life and in my creative business is important to me so our kids have a beautiful world to grow up in. [I ask myself,] what’s a small way I can make some sort of a difference for us now and for our kids in the future? Upcycling is just one small way I can do that.

Are there things you have done with your own children to teach them about the environment?

We spend a lot of time outside. My daughter goes part-time to the preschool where I used to work, which is now exclusively outdoors. On neighborhood walks, we talk about what we notice outside, flowers we see and birds we hear, making a point to notice the little things that get easily overlooked and appreciating their beauty and uniqueness. We also do a lot of garbage walks and talk about why there is garbage and why it’s not healthy for the earth to leave garbage on the ground and how we can be responsible by picking it up. It’s building the idea of the natural balance of things: if the earth is healthy we are healthy, and we as people have a large part to play in that.

When did you learn to sew and how did you learn?

My mom taught me. I couldn’t tell you exactly when because I’ve basically been sewing my entire life. My mom did a lot of sewing for us when we were kids. She was a stay-at-home-mom and homeschooled us through 12th grade. She sewed a lot for us, partially because of the thriftiness of it. It was more economical back then, but it isn’t really that way anymore. I think sewing was part of our homeschool curriculum pretty early on. I’ve always had a creative bent growing up. I remember taking fabric scraps and yarn to make little dolls. During highschool I took some pattern drafting classes, so I have some basic knowledge which helps me understand patterns better and allows me to do some simple pattern drafting or altering when I’m designing projects. I have also self-taught a lot through research and trial and error.

What is the meaning behind the name of your shop?

Faithfully Yours started when I was having a really dark winter and coping with depression, and I needed something to pull me out. Sewing has always brought me joy and helps me clear my brain and quiet the noise that is always going on in there. I came up with [the name] Faithfully Yours because my friend at the time always called me Faithful. I thought it sounded really sincere and personal. Especially when you create something, put it out into the world, and people bring it into their lives—it is like sending a little note. When I rebranded last year I added the word Atelier which is the French word for studio. It’s a nice all encompassing word that keeps me from feeling creatively restricted if I ever want to redirect the studio.

How did you start upcycling and what was your purpose behind that?

I started playing with upcycling in my younger twenties. To a certain extent, it was a thrifty option. I could pick up a skirt with a fun textile for a few dollars at Goodwill and recreate it into something I liked. I love seeing potential in unexpected or discarded things and transforming them into something special and unexpected. One of the things I got involved in when I left my job was a local group that was trying to form an artist/maker collective. This is where the seed was planted for creating a shop with products made mostly from upcycled and repurposed materials. The founder of the group was interested in starting an upcycled children’s line which I really connected with. Together we imagined the idea of the button down shirt dress and sleeve pants, and for me, that was just the beginning. Something clicked and I realized I just loved this! I saw something in [upcycling] and a purpose in it. I’ve grown the idea beyond just kid’s clothes, because that felt too restrictive to me because I have so many other ideas! 

What materials do you look for when thinking of an upcycle project?

At this point in time, I’ve been using a lot of button down shirts and denim. I love working with denim—it’s so versatile, you can do so many things with it! And it is one of the top pollutants of clothing  because of the amount of water it takes to produce, the chemicals involved, and because people buy so much denim because jean styles are always changing. This is also why jeans are a big factor in the textile waste issue. T-shirts are a similar problem but are also very versatile for upcycling. It’s even possible to make t-shirt yarn out of them! It’s a special way of cutting a t-shirt in a continuous strip which can even be used to knit or crochet with. I’ve made a bunch of t-shirt yarn and haven’t done too much with it yet, but I have been playing around with t-shirt yarn coasters. 

Do you get most of your items at Goodwill?

Our local Goodwill closed during the pandemic so it’s not as convenient to get there now. There are some local thrift shops that I go to sometimes. People also donate clothing and materials that they are looking to discard. At this time, a majority of my materials are donated. 

What is your favorite item you sell in your shop?

The shirt-sleeve pants! They are what helped me get started with upcycling, so they have a special place in my heart because of that. Also, they’re super cute!

How do you balance life as a small-business owner and being a mom to toddlers?

I’ve learned to adjust my expectations about productivity and using available time where I can find it. My oldest has loved “helping” me in the studio since she was about 18 months old. She’s four now and understands the expectations about being in the studio when I’m working. She likes to sit next to me in the studio cutting scraps, and pretending to sew which helps me be able to make progress on projects when she’s around. Since having my second baby, it’s been more difficult to balance working with 2 kids. I thought I might never be able to find the time to sew again! I did have to take about a year off after he was born, but I know I need the opportunity to create and respect the part of me outside of being a mom. Sewing is important to my mental health and how I manage my stress and anxiety, so I prioritize finding the time. Even if I can only snag three minutes to work out an idea or sew a little bit, I grab those three minutes and make the most of them.

What advice do you have for somebody who wants to try upcycling?

Kids clothes are a great place to start because they are small. Choosing your materials is really important—working with something like a t-shirt or denim is a good place to start because they are versatile and the material isn’t too challenging. If you work with denim, use a strong needle! Ultimately, there’s no wrong answer! When you’re up cycling, let your creativity go and just try things! Play with it, try it, see what works, see what doesn’t work.

Can people send you donations? If so, what items do you need?

I would love that! Any of the materials mentioned above as well as towels, plastic netting from fruits/vegetables, and flannel. All donated materials should be clean and in decent condition. Small holes or stains are acceptable. {You can email Faith about sending donated items at faithfullyyoursatelier@yahoo.com}

I personally feel pretty intimidated by sustainable living because I feel like I still have so much to learn. What advice would you give to somebody who is trying to start out?

First of all, I’d say that you are no worse-off in your sustainability journey than anybody else. Everyone who prioritizes sustainability is just doing their best to figure out what that means. Living sustainably is going against a culture that is extremely saturated in consumerism. That’s literally how our country functions. And we are fed that all the time, so to be going against the cultural norm is hard because there is minimal support. For my own journey, I also feel overwhelmed and unsure. I still have a lot to learn and many ways I could be better. However, I believe if you wait until you feel like you’re ready, you’ll never take any steps. If you wait, it will never happen. The best place to start is to look at your lifestyle and habits and ask, what is one thing I can change right now? Start small and don’t take on too much at once because it has to be a sustainable change, something you can carry through as a new habit. Trying to take on too many changes or too big a change is setting yourself up for frustration. I feel like there is so much more I could be doing as a small business or in my personal life, but I think the key is remembering that this is a journey and there is no magical point at which we will have all the answers and do it all right. I think granting yourself the grace to make mistakes is key, and instead of beating yourself up about it, realize that you are doing the best with the information you have at this time. 

Have you ever tried an upcycling project? I hope that today’s interview with Faith gives you some ideas and inspiration for creating something new out of something old.

If you would like to support Faith’s business you can check out her website, her Instagram, or you can email Faith about sending donated items at faithfullyyoursatelier@yahoo.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: