Greenpoint Resident Designs Line of 'Upcycled' Sweaters
by Sarah Tobol (Sarah.Tobol@brooklyneagle.net)
GREENPOINT Do you have a sweater sitting in the back of your closet
that you can't bear to get rid of, but it's too small or out of
style? Kat O'Sullivan has a solution for you: cut it up and make a
O'Sullivan visits thrift stores she has a route of about eight, all
on Long Island and buys old sweaters. After washing them,
O'Sullivan sews pieces from several recycled sweaters together to
make new clothes. She crafts patchwork sweaters, sweater dresses and
Her designs are bright, colorful, whimsical and one-of-a-kind. Most
of the sweaters have hoods and some have zippers. "They have so much
more character because you get pieces that have stories it's like
saving orphan clothes."
It's also "environmentally friendly to re-use clothes," she said.
"It's a nice little way to recycle."
In her own life as well, O'Sullivan is conscious of the environment.
"I try to consume a lot less, and bring bags to the grocery store,"
she said. "I don't buy anything new furniture or clothes." She also
hitchhikes when she travels, which she does frequently. O'Sullivan
has been to Ireland, Ecuador, India, the Philippines and many other
places. She toured with the Grateful Dead, accompanying them on 200
shows. In a couple of weeks she will go to Mongolia, where she will
hitchhike around the country.
"I kind of throw myself in and let the waves tumble me," she says of
But it was touring with the Dead where O'Sullivan started selling her
clothes, making patchwork dresses. Over the years since then she has
continued sewing clothes but started making her patchwork sweaters
only three years ago.
She calls her line of recycled sweaters "upcycled" clothes, which is
a term for the process of taking waste items and turning them into
items of greater value.
These days, when she's not traveling, O'Sullivan sews out of her
Greenpoint home. She has lived in many places before even in her
"crazy school bus," which is completely furnished but will now be
in Brooklyn for the long haul. "I was living in Manhattan," she said.
"Coming to Brooklyn was such an exhale."
She sells her sweaters exclusively online now; on the handmade online
marketplace Etsy and through her own web site, www.katwise.com. But
O'Sullivan used to sell her sweaters out of her bus in Manhattan's
East Village, which she called "awesome," until the police shut her down.
"It's really fun to bring things back to life and then send them out
to the world," she said. "I'm triumphant that I've given something new life."