All the items in my Naked Bison shop are ‘re-made’ from clothes. Items come from various sources: it could be that they are no longer fashionable and have therefore been cast from the wardrobe; maybe they no longer fit or suit their original owner; or maybe they are just not wearable anymore, e.g. ripped, torn in ‘unpatchable’ places or, as was the case with a sweatshirt I had, came too close to a bottle of bleach! A lot of this stuff either ends up in a charity shop or in the bin – textiles really don’t need to go into the bin, there is so much that can still be done with it before it turns to dust.
At Naked Bison discarded items of clothing are up-cycled into a variety of fashion accessories. From twisted fabric necklaces, named simply Strip T after its origins; the latest trend in backpacks, in the form of the That’s a Moray bag; reversible tote bags called Ana; massive sling bags called Celia and the much loved Bison Bum bag. The latter is the most simple of all to make (the first prototype was cobbled together while watching a fairly dull FA Cup final), but can be embellished with all sort of things left lying around in the bottom of a wardrobe, be that a belt, old necklace, scarf, whatever takes your fancy. You can also stitch on beads or embroidered patches; despite being pretty nifty with a machine already, I had no clue about machine embroidery until I made these, now I know what that odd looking machine foot is for!
But what else can you do with old clothes? Well the most obvious thing people do with old clothes is make them into new clothes. My great-grandmother was an absolute whizz at making little dresses for me and my sister out of big dresses either my grandmother or mother no longer wore. She was a seamstress by trade but her ‘make do and mend’ skills were put to very good use during WWII, when it was apparently not unheard of for her to whip up a whole new suit from a couple of old ones. And if you have never seen Gone with the Wind (shame on you!), you’ll just have to imagine what can be done with a pair of green velvet curtains; I am pretty certain there’s a similar story in my family history too! The point is this though: despite being made from something that had already been worn, all these items were new, fresh, bright and unique. Who needs mainstream fashion when you can have that? Set your own trends …!
One of the things I have found though, is that with all the snipping, chopping and re-cycling, I am still left with an awful lot of scrap material. There are plenty of things you can do with those scraps too though. For example, torn up scraps make really good cushion fillers and all that tearing is a great stress reliever! Longer strips, especially those strong denim and/or cords ones left over from making a Bison Bum Bag, can be used as boot laces – just make sure you hem the strips and treat as you would ribbon so they don’t fray.
Scraps can also be sewn up to make bigger pieces of material that can be made into bags, cushions and other accessories, just as if you were doing so with a single piece. Alternatively sew blocks for traditional quilting – patchwork is of course just a traditional way of using up bits of left-over material. It doesn’t have to be all log cabin and twee, check out this page for something a little less conventional – you’d be surprised ..
So, in short, get experimenting! There are all sorts of things that can be done with material: re-shape, re-think, re-make new things and be fashion instead of following it. And if that fails, pin bits to canvas, burn it, melt it, paint it, call it art – play with those ideas. Just don’t throw those clothes away!