COMPOS(t)E Collection

A few months back, I made a decision to stop buying new fabric for the collection. As I considered my own effects on the epic levels of waste created within the garment industry, even though these clothes are created in VERY small batches, there is still plenty of waste made in the manufacturing of the fabrics I had been ordering. You can read more about this decision in my previous post “What happened to the clothes you were making?”

This decision sent me to my own personal fabric stash, which is made up significantly of second-hand fabrics, to try and figure out how to make do with what I had.


Sounds like an easy project, but the personal nature of these fabrics, and their small quantities, has always made me hesitant to use them. I can barely even write about them without getting sentimental. To help paint the picture for you, the stack currently on my desk came from the following places:

  • hand-embroidered linens my aunt in Georgia sent to me, that she’d been saving in her own fabric stash for decades.

  • small cuts of yardage saved from the factories I worked at during my time in the fashion industry in LA - printed silks, leather scraps, and lots and lots of chambray cotton!

  • velvet and cotton from an older couple who owned a house we had looked at moving into, they were beginning to need more help around the house and were moving to their daughters neighborhood. I lit up when I saw the sewing room, and the son-in-law happily loaded a box of fabrics he would otherwise have trashed.

  • lace from a load of fabrics our mailman dropped off (he was one of our first friends in the neighborhood, a very sweet man who welcomed us to this rural community with a big smile and plenty of weather updates) The fabrics had belonged to his wife, who passed away nearly a decade ago, but he couldn’t bring himself to just throw out all her fabrics. When he heard I sew, he came by on a Sunday with bags and bags of fabrics.

  • tie-dyed cotton from my sister Akina’s “oopsies” pile. She began her own tie-dyed textile collection after I sent her my old synthetic dyes and a book on Shibori that I had doubles of. What started as me cleaning out my supplies lead to her discovering a new passion, so it seemed only logical for that to come full circle as I took her trial and errors and gave them new life.

  • old jeans from just about everyone in town whose ever seen my work, including but not limited to: Polly from Aaron Burr Ciders, the whole family at Majestic Farm Heritage, just to name a few.

  • a jacket I spent a week creating out of denim scraps for the final residency exhibition at Textile Arts Center in 2015. This jacket was very large and very expensive, and kept reminding me of the struggles of trying to live in NYC contrasted against the pure joy of finding such a solid community through my time at the residency. It is now being turned into three different jackets.


As I sorted through these pieces, organizing them by size, fabric, and color, I knew I needed to stop treating them as a museum (pretty sure that is where hoarding begins) and start actually allowing these fibers to live again.

Allowing them to become a part of another persons life.

Allowing the resources required to create them to not be wasted.

Allowing them to take the place of new materials.

I wanted to be sure these new pieces had a clear connection with my work as an artist: working with themes of unification and oneness, striking the balance of honoring the fibers beauty as they are now, while also breathing new life into them so that they may be revitalized.

As these new works evolved through the spring, we began the process of preparing new garden beds. The deep, rich humus from last years’ compost pile - developed over many months and many layers of food scraps, fall leaves, grass clippings, chicken coop bedding - were now being spread along the tops of the beds to nourish the soil that would soon nourish the food that will later nourish us.


Watching this cycle made it clear that the garden was not the only place that composting could take effect. So it is in honor of this humus, the decaying matter that feeds our soil, this completely natural cycle of death feeding life, the decomposition required to continue the natural order, that this latest collection has been made.

And just like the feeding of the compost pile, this collection is being added to bit by bit.

A few garments at a time.

Slowly release when the time is right.


This series of garments makes use of scrap fabrics collected over many years by transmuting this “waste” (generally discarded by manufacturers after the garment is cut out) into a valuable byproduct by patchworking them together into a new material of its own.

Creating from this recomposed fabric closes the cycle from fiber to garment and back again, and allows the process to be closer to zero waste, much like composting.

The wide variety of scrap sizes and colors also allows for the opportunity of new compose-itions to be discovered, and the quantities available inform the way the garment is constructed.

The first few pieces are in the shop now, stay tuned for the steady flow of new styles (like those reconstructed denim jackets, and collaged antique linens!)

christi johnson