Go to any craft fair, fashion expo, or design show these days and you will undoubtedly find upcycled clothing. Old garments, say for example a beautiful coat or sweater that developed wear and tear over the years, could be combined with another garment to be new, fresh, and exciting.
In Montreal, there is a hip shop in the St Henri neighbourhood that caters to this idea. La Gaillarde features finished clothing by Montreal designers, as well as sewing/alteration classes in their sewing room. They also sell fabric remnants and used garments that are ready to be worn as-is, or upcycled into something more enticing.
At the Biodome in Montreal, every winter there is a craft fair that features crafts and clothing and all sorts of exciting things made out of over 75% post-consumer waste. Many of the offerings I saw last year were of better quality, more stylish, and clearly more functional than their brand new counterparts.
This article in the Guardian newspaper outlines some of the challenges that manufacturers and retail stores face in regards to textile waste. The manufacturers must be more responsible, and we as the purchasers of garments must be more accountable for what we do with them as we finish. It does take an effort. As the article says;
“…the various fibres that comprise clothing make reprocessing and recycling a challenge. Some materials such as cotton and linen can be composted, but petroleum-based fibres such as polyester have little chance for reuse. Few municipalities accept textiles into their recycling programmes… the result is a resource that is not as easily recyclable as aluminum cans, glass, or even plastic.”
The ability to truly recycle textiles is rare. We will donate unwanted (but still wearable) clothing to charity, but what do we do when there are too many holes or stains? We usually throw them into the landfill… Though I am not anywhere near perfect in this regard, I have tried to save fabrics from this fate.
I make felt wool scarves, and have been incorporating bits of used fabrics into them. Also I like to take unrecyclable (yet durable) materials, such as plastic/foil catfood bags, and use them within the scarves, too. This is more fun than anything, but I hope that my efforts have diverted yet more toxic landfill from accumulating!
Check out some of the DIY ideas we posted over the last while on Fleurbain… you can use old garments for these things, too!
And have some fun while you’re at it!
Natasha Henderson, Montreal