Day 35:  For Grandma Ruth 5
All,  Refashions,  The 366 Day Refashion Project

Day 35: For Grandma Ruth

Day 36: Shirt is Skirt: A Men's Short Sleeve Button Up Shirt to Skirt Refashion
Day 34: Gladiator Dress

This is hopefully the hardest post I’ll ever have to write.

Today, I was woken up by a call from my mom telling me that my grandmother died.

She had been sick for a long time, and I knew this day was coming…but my heart is still broken.

My Grandma Ruth is one of my biggest inspirations, if not the biggest.  She came from the most amazing generation of Americans…those who saw the Great Depression and World War II.  She created things.  She made things.  She never stopped making.  She was clever and self-sufficient.  She painted, knitted, and crafted constantly.  When I was a teenager, I would see cool crocheted bags and knitted scarves with intricate patterns in catalogs that I couldn’t afford.  I would show her a picture of the coveted object, and in two days, she would have created an exact replica for me.

My Grandma Ruth volunteered for a charity shop in my home town.  She would pick out things for me that she thought I’d like…all sorts of crazy vintage dresses and butterfly collar shirts that were my uniform during my high school days.  Every few days we’d sort through bags and bags of the gloriously unique and tacky awesomeness that defined my style then, and continues to influence it today.

My Grandma Ruth gave me her favorite pieces from the 1940s…platform pumps, a real alligator skin bag, a fur coat, gorgeous bits of jewelry, and countless silk scarves.  I treasure these things.

My Grandma Ruth was a huge fan of my blog and this project.  She was proud of me, and thought I was clever.  And that meant the world to me.

About a month ago, her health began to decline.  I went with my mom, my dad, and my fella to see her in Indiana.  I held her hand and I told her how important she was to me…how much of an influence she’s had on my life.  I told her that she has been the inspiration for me to make and keep making.  I told her I loved her, and that I wanted to see her dancing at my wedding.

Now she’s gone…and my world is much sadder for it.

I’m continuing on with this project…Even on this incredibly painful day when I would much rather just stay in bed.  Because that isn’t what she would want.  I’ll make something today.  I’ll make something tomorrow.  I’ll keep making for her and because of her.

Today’s dress began as this muumuuish number:

Day 35:  For Grandma Ruth 6

I simply lopped off a bit of the bottom like so:

Day 35:  For Grandma Ruth 7

The polyester fabric was fray-proof, so I didn’t hem it.  I tossed on a silver belt and called it a day.

Day 35:  For Grandma Ruth 8

I’ll probably re-refashion this dress later into a strappy sundress.

But for today, I’m happy to have simply kept this project going.

Day 35:  For Grandma Ruth 9

Day 36: Shirt is Skirt: A Men's Short Sleeve Button Up Shirt to Skirt Refashion
Day 34: Gladiator Dress


  • Karan

    I just lost my aunt this week. She was for me like your grandma was for you. She taught me how to sew, how to craft and make all kinds of things. My summers were spent with her and my grandmother. They would take me to the fabric store and let me pick out all the patterns and fabrics for a new summer and back to school wardrobe, and she would spend days sewing for me. I learned how to make Barbie clothes with the scraps of the things she made for me. I’ve been feeling pretty low and sad, Looking through all your upcycled fashions has been very inspiring for me. Thanks for sharing your story. You’ve inspired me to go make something in her honor. Maybe it will help…

  • Alissa

    I am just now reading this post as the previous poster had been doing. I too am reading it backward and enjoying every minute. I recently lost my Grandmother Fannie on Feb 22. We were at her bedside and I totally understand your sadness. I got a very long time with her as she lived just shy of 99 1/2 years. That is a long time on this earth and I can’t even write everything that has changed since she graced this earth with her presence. My Grandmother too was a very crafty lady. Her spare bedroom filled with several sewing machines, patterns and much more. She sewed, painted and her and my Grandfather even built a doll house together. The entire family contributed to her many collections of miniatures, dolls, and then took care of it all as she aged in her home. I spent every other weekend with her for “girl’s night”, watching sappy, chick flicks and eating junk food. (I live in a house full of boys so this was a much needed “vacation” away from them.) We will miss her very much. My Grandfather has waited nearly 13 years for her to join him. (Even for a patient man, that is a very long time)
    Going through her home sorting her treasures has been fun and tearful. I cherish the clothing she saved more than most people would. (She even had 3 pairs of stockings we think from the 30’s). I also have a dream of a refashion clothing store or even just my closet would suit me fine. I was always excited at boxes of clothing from my 4 cousins would hand down to my sister and I. My sister detests “hand-me-downs” (being the bottom of that trail of 5 other girls) but I love them. Who couldn’t love “FREE”. My Mom was always altering and adjusting, even making special clothing for me since I was quite tall in Jr. High and they didn’t make “long” in any pair of jeans back in the ‘70’s.
    I digress. My Grandmother volunteered for every bazaar and craft sale that I can remember. I loved helping her and my Grandfather gather each item and bring them to a children’s home or a church. They were such giving people and I only hope I am half the woman she was and if I live as long as her, I have a lot of catch up to do.
    Our Grandmother Angels are smiling on us … I can feel it. You are such and inspiration and you have set a fire under me to get busy! (Big hug to you too!)
    Albuquerque, NM

  • Brittany

    I’ve been going through your blog posts for a while working my way backward and just made it to this post. My grandmother, Billye, passed away on August 19, 2011, shortly after your dear grandmother Ruth. Billye taught me how to sew buttons onto fabric when I was three years old (and that was how she would keep me entertained when she would take me to the bowling league games). I owe all of my beginning sewing skills to her. She was very talented and could sew anything you asked her. She used to handmake all of our Halloween costumes when my sisters and I were little, and before that she could recreate any high-fashion clothes my mom couldn’t afford in high school. Before she passed, one of my sisters inherited her in-table Singer sewing machine along with all of her notions.
    This past Christmas my sister gave me all of the notions that were in my grandmother’s sewing drawers- biased tape from the 1960s and on, ribbons, rickrack from my 3yr old Halloween clown costume and lots of lace. The most incredible finding of all were her collection of buttons. 25 years later and I still get joy out of picking through them and seeing what kind of creations I can make from them.
    Your talent and creative drive has rekindled the desire for me to continue creating and sewing since I started following your blog. Thank you for being The Refashionista! 🙂

  • furpurr

    A few months later but: my heartfelt sympathies on the loss of your beloved grandma!! I lost all of my grandparents by the age of 23 {& i am 51 now!}, so i do really feel for you, Jillian! My strong, wonderful grandmas both influenced me a great deal, too. Your Ruth was so very supportive of you, & so very generous; you were so blessed!! …But then, so was she, to have such a loving, admiring, talented granddaughter.

  • Ali

    I’m so sorry to read of your loss Jillian. After a week’s vacation I have tons of emails but am not missing one single Refashionista – my favorite! You were so blessed to have such a wonderful woman in your life. I am sure she was so proud of you and you can take solace in the fact that you are carrying on her inspiration through your work and your blog. My heart goes out to you. Ali

  • Kristina

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. You blog is a great inspiration to me to spend more time making and re-making. I’m sure your grandmother was and still is very proud!

  • tania

    So sorry for your loss. Your blog is fantastic and your grandmother must have been an amazing woman, use all those positive memories to help you get through this sad time.

  • Mikki

    I just stumbled across your awesome blog a few weeks ago, and I’ve been checking back in every couple days (you are SO VERY creative and talented, I love everything you post), so I’m sorry that I missed this post when you actually made it. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family during this time. It’s always so hard to lose a loved one, especially someone who was as amazing and wonderful as your grandmother obviously was. She has left a wonderful legacy in you. I hope you know her spirit lives on and that you will be together again one day.

    • ReFashionista

      Thank you so much. This blog post was actually read at my grandmother’s funeral today…something I didn’t anticipate…but it meant so much to me. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Julie

    You are continuing on her legacy. She would be so proud! You have certainly inspired me. I read your blog about every day, and if i miss a day, i go back. She is so proud of you and you are so strong and lucky to have such a positive role model. You look a lot like her.

  • Shay

    i’m so sorry for your loss but so happy for you that you had such an awesome grandmother. you look a lot like her in that photo of her =)

  • Claudia

    So sorry for your loss. But you keep up your Gramma’s spirit; she’ll always be remembered lovingly and her passion for creating wonderful things lives on in you. Hang on and take good care of yourself.

  • Terri Komer

    My heart goes out to you and your family. Your Grandma Ruth was beautiful and talented. I see her in you. This was a lovely tribute to her and you will be continuing your honor of her by making things, sharing, and writing. Bless you.

  • charityshopchic

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You were so lucky to have such an inspirational grandma. I know that she would be proud that you continue to be inspirational yourself and inspire others with your creations!
    Sending you virtual hugs from London. x

  • Sue

    I’ve been following your blog and am so inspired. I ‘ve been telling my 11 year old grandaughter that we need to try to do some refashioning. As your grandmother was an inspiration to you, you are to many, and I hope to be to my grandaughter. Your grandmother sounds like a phenomenal woman. You two were very lucky to have each other.
    God bless,

  • Laura Williamson Gonzalez

    Your Grandma sounds like the kind we all wish we had! It’s beautiful that you treasured her so! I’m sorry to hear that you lost her and I think continuing on this day means so much more. Her spirit obviously lives on in you and that is very awesome!! (((((Hugs!)))))

  • Cynthia Wilson

    I was so touched by today’s post. Thank you for sharing how much your grandmother meant to you and how she influenced you. I am a grandmother myself and I can already see that what grandparents do can have a tremendous influence. I am so inspired to keep introducing my grandchildren to the crafts and other things that I love and that have kept me going in rough times, just like your post today kept you going. God bless.

  • chicaandaluza

    I was so sad for you to read this. Grandmas are the best and it sounds like she had a strong and positive influence on you. Keep her memory alive with what you do, it sounds like that´s what you´re planning. And if you need to take a few days (or however long) out, no one will judge you or criticise you for it…look after yourself and take care.

  • plantsas

    So sorry to hear that. I follow your blog from Perth, Australia every day with great interest and I’m sure your grandma would be so proud that you have a devout following from around the world. You’re doing a great job and a great service to the recycling/creativity movement…keep it up.

  • sonya

    Sorry for your loss, Jillian. I know that you will miss her but her spirit lives on in you. And today’s refashion is pretty cool as-is I think! Congrats on keeping the project going!

  • alcessa

    I’m sorry you lost your beloved Grandma.
    According to your words above, she had a very fulfilled life and a granddaughter (a famiy) to cherish, among other things, which I think is the best one can get from life anyway … A good idea to keep her spirit alive through your own work …

  • Natalie

    I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad you have kept going, it sounds like she would want that. Your dress looks good too! Hang in there 🙂

  • Mairi

    So sorry to hear this. But wow, what an amazing privilege to have such a gutsy, talented, inspirational gran in your life! I’m sure she was immensely proud of you and I can tell her spirit lives on! Good on you for keeping up the project…

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