When I began to learn to sew, it was really tempting to dive into my nearest fabric shop and start buying metres of fabric “off the roll”. However, I soon realised that the textile industry is the second most polluting in the world, second to the oil industry. While you can buy “eco friendly” fabrics, such as that made from organic cotton or bamboo, there is still a huge environmental cost involved in making this fabric and shipping it around the world.
There are mountains of usable, beautiful fabric that is thrown away every year. In fact, globally 13 million tons of textile waste is thrown away every year and 95% of it could be reused. A lot of it is polyester or polyester mix, which is basically plastic and will take decades to break down. Have a look around in any charity shop, boot fair, secondhand shop or jumble sale. You will see piles of fabric, in the form of clothes, bags, and soft furnishings that have been donated or thrown out, long before they are worn out.
I search wherever I go to find beautiful fabric which is secondhand, unwanted or left over, and turn it into bags. It doesn’t really matter where it’s from. My only criteria is that it must be clean and/or washable. Because I only need small pieces of fabric to make bags, I can easily work with fabric which has small blemishes or marks, but I won’t use anything which can’t be cleaned.
I also sometimes find old handbags which might be damaged or worn out, and I take the hardware and zips off them to use on my bags before recycling any parts which can’t be used.
I try to use every last piece of fabric. Anything I can’t use, I recycle or donate to my local charity shops as rags which they receive money for.
Now I will be offering you the chance to build your own bag using upcycled fabric so that next time you need a new bag, you can be sure that you are making a choice that's kinder to the environment.