Tag Archives: upcycling old clothes

Re-thinking fashion for London Fashion Week

Rayon fabric

I’ve never been a “follower of fashion” in the usual sense of what I choose to wear, but I do like to take a peek at the catwalk fashion scene to filch ideas for my own eclectic taste. London Fashion Week has been in the news this week, including quite a few articles looking at some more sustainable facets of fashion whilst equally highlighting the huge environmental impact of fashion.

I’ve seen several designers who’ve created their collections from upcycled materials and also Hatton Garden jeweller, Rosh Mahtani, winning an award for jewellery incorporating recycled bronze.

Undoubtedly, the fashion industry does have a monumental carbon footprint but I do think this is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged, both within the industry and amongst consumers. With over a million metric tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill each year, this really is the time for action. It is good to see some positive steps on sustainability from the influencers in the world of haute couture.

Global Fashion Exchange is a consultancy that works globally on promoting sustainable consumption patterns and they were one of the organisers of a high end ‘clothes swap’ event at this week’s London Fashion Week. In a similar vein, Mulberry, the luxury fashion company, organised a secondhand handbag swap.

Clothes swaps have been around for a while, as some people have tried to move away from fast fashion and become more environmentally conscious consumers. People attend swap events with friends or other like-minded folk and literally take along items they no longer want to wear and swap them for something they would wear. I’ve not been to any swap events yet myself, though I am a keen thrift shopper in charity shops and have items I have ‘discovered’ in vintage clothes shops.

Purple rayon satin vintage shirt
Purple rayon satin vintage shirt (un-ironed! )

Recycling or re-purposing clothing is one way of reducing the amount that ends up in landfill. Several designers had created their London Fashion week collections from recycled or upcycled clothing or materials. Christopher Raeburn is a London designer who has been working in recycled and upcycled materials for a decade now. Another London designer, Phoebe English, has transformed the whole way her business operates in order to build in sustainability. Interestingly, she initially found that stockists were not keen to follow her lead into sustainable fashion until it became clear to them that this social shift was supported by customer demand.

Upcycling clothing items has been something of a life-long habit of mine. I’ve posted a few times here on my blog about some of my projects. This post is about a raggy old woollen sweater that had a second lease of life when I restored it back into a wearable state with some crochet flowers.

Crochet embroidery links the crochet patches
Stems and leaves in crochet embroidery link the crochet patches

The Hexagon Hat, made for my son from a pair of old trousers, is another upcycling project I’ve shared on my blog.

Hexagon hat - almost finished
Hexagon hat – almost finished

The upcycling project I currently have in progress, I have been working on for about three years now, so I think that rather takes slow fashion to a new level! This patchwork jacket is made entirely from woollen sweaters that my dearest had at various times accidentally shrunk in the washing machine!

Upcycled woollen jacket from felted woollen sweaters
Upcycled woollen jacket from felted woollen sweaters

However, the resulting felted wool could then be cut like fabric and the patches are sewn together by hand using binding made from old trousers. The jacket has sleeves too and a collar that I will attach in the next phase. My planned design has a full lining made from upcycled shirts too, but we will see what transpires on that part.

I’m really glad to see upcycling being acknowledged as an increasingly standard practice amongst the leaders of fashion design. I know that upcycling clothing has quite a healthy following globally – I’ve gathered some great ideas from others on my Pinterest boards. Now I hope we will soon see more sustainability spill over into the broader fashion scene.


Hexagon Hat - upcycling project header

An upcycled sun hat for Recycling Week 2015

The week from 22nd-28th June has been Recycling Week here in the UK.

Hexagon hat - upcycling worn-out cargo trousers
Upcycling worn-out cargo trousers into a sun hat

I’m a great fan of recycling and upcycling and my latest project has been an upcycled sun hat for one of my sons. I have refashioned this hexagon sun hat from a pair of worn-out cargo trousers.

Hexagon hat - hexagon shaped crown
The sun hat has a hexagon shaped crown

The crown of the hat has six segments with a flat hexagon-shaped top. I put together some scraps of heavy linen to stiffen the brim before attaching it to the crown.

Hexagon hat - cutting bias strips for hat band
Cutting bias strips for the hat band

I made a bias strip to catch up all of the seam edges and act as a hat band and I’m now just ready to stitch that in place.

To finish off the outer edge of the brim, I’m going to make a thin cord from thread and weave it in and out of the running stitches that are holding the linen brim stiffening in place. Then the sun hat will be complete – a free hexagon sun hat made from upcycling old clothing and scraps.

Hexagon hat - almost finished
Hexagon hat – almost finished

Now all we need is some sunshine 😉

J Peggy Taylor

Hooky mat chair seat cover - craft project header

Starting a new craft project: is it a rug? is it a chair?

We have a preference for pre-loved furniture in our house. For example, this means we have dining chairs that don’t match. The dining chairs themselves are all of the long-lasting wooden variety, probably dating from somewhere around the middle of last century.

Our pre-loved furniture
The wooden dining chair near our Beautility sideboard

Our dining chairs see very regular use, so you can imagine the seats of these chairs from time to time begin to show distinct signs of wear and need to be re-covered. One of the chairs is currently in this very worn condition and in dire need of repair.

Worn chair seat cover
Worn chair seat cover in need of replacing

Normally to mend our chair covers, I simply cut out a suitably sized piece of upholstery material and replace the old chair seat cover, restoring the seat padding at the same time if necessary. However, this time I decided to combine replacing the chair seat cover with practicing a new textile skill. When I say ‘new’ textile skill, I really mean ‘very old’ textile skill – it is only new to me, though I have been studying it for a while. Now I have the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a traditional rug-making method that could have quite possibly been practised in the homes where our old chairs started out more than half a century ago.

Will it work, using a rug-making method to create a chair seat cover? Well, I can only say I have seen it used this way in the hands of an expert, so I am hopeful 😉

The rug-making method I am planning to use was known locally in our area as “hooky mat-making” where strips of recycled textiles (usually old clothing and household textiles) were hooked onto a base of strong woven jute sacking that had been stretched taut onto a frame. In North East England the word ‘mat’ was used rather than ‘rug’. Hooky mats are one of the two main mat-making styles that were widely used right up to the middle of the twentieth century in North East working class households to create floor rugs, as bought carpets were unaffordable for many people. When completed, a hooky mat has quite a flat pile with short loops. The other style of mat-making was called a “proggy mat” and that results in a mat with a longer, softer pile finish.

Linen canvas stretched on the frame
Linen canvas stretched on the frame – this is the base for the chair seat cover

For my hooky mat chair seat cover, I have chosen to use some heavy linen canvas as the base and I’ve stretched this onto a large heavy-duty painting frame that I had conveniently available.

Hooky mat tool in hand turned wood
Hooky mat tool in hand turned sycamore wood

The tool I will be using to craft my hooky mat design is this wooden hook that I asked my son (the woodworker) to make for me to a particular size and shape. He began by turning a short length of sycamore wood on the pole lathe and then between us we carved the hook end to the required shape. The hook may need some more refining yet – I shall have to see when I put it to use.

My draft designs inspired by Rennie Mackintosh
My draft designs inspired by Rennie Mackintosh

Currently in my new craft project I am preparing the design that I will be working onto the linen base. While I was browsing for potential design ideas I was inspired by some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s flowers and Art Nouveau mosaics, so I decided to develop my design in this early 20th century style.

Hooky rug tool, textile strips and draft designs
Hooky mat preparations – tool, textile strips and the beginnings of a design

My colour scheme will be deliberately chosen from a limited palette of colours and I also want to keep the colours subtle rather than bright. Partly my range of colours will be dictated by the availability of suitably coloured textiles. I have begun preparing some textile strips in greys and purples so I will choose other colours to work with them.

Hopefully I will complete the design this week and perhaps manage to make a start on working the textile strips into the linen base. I’ll let you know how my latest upcycling craft project goes 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Measuring and cutting the grow-bag material to size

Upcycled plant pots with air-pruning in mind – Part 2

In my Part 1 post I explained how I had created my upcycled air-pruning plant pots from 4 pint milk cartons.

Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons - I decided to cut different-shaped vents in some of the pots
Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons – I decided to cut different-shaped vents in some of the pots

The next stage was to create some breathable fabric grow-bags to fit into the air-pruning plant pots … the whole idea is to allow air to reach the plant’s roots. In the video where I originally saw the air-pruning idea, they had made use of recycled woven polypropylene shopping bags. As with the containers, I needed something much smaller. And, as before too, I really wanted to use upcycled materials.

Old jogging pants were ideal to make grow-bags to fit the milk carton air-pruning plant pots
Old jogging pants were ideal to make grow-bags to fit the milk carton air-pruning plant pots

My solution for this part of the project was to use some of my sons’ old and worn jogging pants from my upcycling ragbag. The legs of these old cotton pants were just the thing to fit in my air-pruning plant pots.

Measuring and cutting the grow-bag material to size
Measuring and cutting the grow-bag material to size

I measured and cut off the required length, using one of the prepared milk cartons as a guide. This gave me a fabric tube which I closed at one end by simply tying a piece of cotton string around it. And that was it done! I had one simple and upcycled grow-bag ready to insert into its air-pruning plant pot.

I simply tied the bottom of the grow-bag together with a piece of cotton string
I simply tied the bottom of the grow-bag together with a piece of cotton string

In order to maximise the use of the jogging pant material I had available, I did resort to a little bit of sewing to create some of the tubes, but they all ended up roughly the same shape and size. The fabric grow-bags were then carefully inserted into each of the air-pruning plant pots.

I inserted the grow-bag into the air-pruning plant pot and secured the grow-bag to the pot
I inserted the grow-bag into the air-pruning plant pot and secured the grow-bag to the pot
I had made the tubes long enough so that they would amply overlap the top of the plant pots. My thinking here was that this would prevent the grow-bag from sinking down inside of the pot. To assist further with securing the grow-bags in position I made two small holes in the overlapping part of the grow-bag at either side of the milk carton’s handle using my stitch ripper.

I took another piece of string and threaded this as a doubled length through one hole, behind the carton handle and back out through the second hole. I removed the yarn needle and tied the ends of the string together firmly in a knot. I then created a string loop by threading the knot back through the loop at the other side of the handle to finish it off. As well as helping to secure the grow-bag in place, I thought the string loop might be useful when it comes to fixing the plant pot in place in my back yard.

My upcycled air-pruning plant pots are now fitted with their upcycled grow-bags and ready to be filled with compost. I’ll show you more on my air-pruning plant pots project very soon.

J Peggy Taylor