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Recycling Fabric

Updated on June 16, 2012

Curtains, dresses, t-shirts, sheets and even bras!

I have got so much fabric stashed away in my little studio. Want to know the best thing about it? I hardly paid for any of it! It's amazing how much fabric you can find for free.

If you let people know that you can reuse fabrics then they'll inundate you with bag after bag of fabrics and clothes and old curtains. Particularly ask people when they're moving house if they have any fabrics they want to get rid of - I received two car loads of fabric that way once!

If you're a textiles artist then you'll always need little bits of fabric, not necessarily metres and metres of perfect cloth.

Old bed sheets can give you an excellent background to start with. Clothes with stains on them can be cut up and appliqued onto something else. You can even dye fabric and make them look completely different.

Here's a collection of textiles pieces I've made from recycling fabrics.

Melted Bra by MeltedRachel
Melted Bra by MeltedRachel

Sugar and Spice

Bra burning art!

Eurgh! Bras! You go to the ends of the earth to find one that fits only to then either gain or lose weight and need another one.

These are a couple of cheeky textiles pieces I made by melting some old bras and attaching them to a textiles background. The lace on them can look fantastic when it's distressed like this.

Sugar and Spice by MeltedRachel
Sugar and Spice by MeltedRachel

Pink Curtains

The base of many a Melted Fabrics textiles piece.

I had a lot of these huge pink curtains and I've used them in tonnes of projects. The back of them is my favourite side - with the delicate silvery pink. You can see above that this fabric works well in textiles projects - even melted ones.

MeltedRachel's Pink Curtain
MeltedRachel's Pink Curtain

But I Can't Recycle That!

Stains and holes.

When I first started making textiles using recycled fabrics someone asked me if that was a wise thing to do. I asked what they meant and they said they were worried that my textiles would fall apart!

Some of the fabrics I used are literally disintegrating but if you layer these up between other fabrics it's going to make everything much stronger. Seeing a layer of partially disintegrated fabric underneath a net or organza can give you a really interesting effect.

Stains are another thing that people worry about. Why? Just make sure it's covered up with another bit of fabric or embroidery, it's really not an issue.

You can make silk from a sow's ear!

Inspiring Skirt

What can I make it into?

Wowzers! This skirt is bright! I'm totally in love with it and looking forward to making it into something fabulous.

It's made out of manmade nastiness so it's going to melt like butter!

I'll let you know when I decide what to make from it!

Bright Skirt by MeltedRachel
Bright Skirt by MeltedRachel

Poppy

Melted Red Skirt.

The melted red pieces on this textiles piece were taken from a red skirt, the black is from a top I used to have and the pale background was an old sheet. Sheets are great to use because they're so big and also you can dye them or paint them.

Poppy by MeltedRachel
Poppy by MeltedRachel

Bones

Clutch Purse

The greeny-blue patterned fabric used in this piece was made from some very old curtains and the interesting fabric with the holes in it was made from the remains of the dress pictured below.

Dress Full of Holes

Taking revenge on that too-small dress.

This is another fabric I have used in so many textiles pieces. It was particularly prevalent in the Foundling textiles pieces.

Any fabric with holes like this is fabulous when you're layering up lots of different fabrics because you can see right through the holes.

This dress came from a thrift store that specialized in vintage clothing, before vintage was fashionable!

MeltedRachel's Dress
MeltedRachel's Dress

Textiles Wrap

Using old clothes to make new...

This piece was made using old clothes, old curtains, an old bed sheet, pieces of embroidered cushion covers, etc.

Textiles Wrap by MeltedRachel
Textiles Wrap by MeltedRachel

Quilt Blocks and Quilts from Your Favorite Fabrics - Recycling Fabrics as You Learn to Quilt.

Quilt Blocks and Quilts from Your Favorite Fabrics: Recycling Fabrics as You Learn to Quilt (Easy Singer Style)
Quilt Blocks and Quilts from Your Favorite Fabrics: Recycling Fabrics as You Learn to Quilt (Easy Singer Style)

This is an awesome thing to do- don't bother buying all those fancy cottons, make a quilt that's really personal to you!

 

Details

Found a piece of old embroidery?

I used this piece of embroidery (originally made by my mother) in my textiles wrap. This is a great way of livening up old pieces of fabric and adding detail to your textiles work!

Embroidery Fragment by MeltedRachel
Embroidery Fragment by MeltedRachel

Sew Vintage - New Creations from Found Fabrics.

Sew Vintage: New Creations from Found Fabric
Sew Vintage: New Creations from Found Fabric

This looks like a yummy book for recycling vintage fabrics.

 

Embarassed About Using Your Bras?

Then try recycling your socks!

Have you got a lucky pair of socks that you can't throw away even though they're mostly made of hole? Why not try making a silly art piece? That way you have an excuse for keeping them around!

Sock Art by MeltedRachel
Sock Art by MeltedRachel

Creative Recycling in Embroidery - by Val Holmes.

Creative Recycling in Embroidery
Creative Recycling in Embroidery

I love Val Holmes's books. I'm looking forward to rifling through this one!

 

Share Your Thoughts - Reader Feedback.

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    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 3 years ago

      @erin-fichter: Hi Erin, sorry for the delayed reply, sounds like a wonderful business! I think it's great to use whatever already exists - sure it might use up energy etc but it's stuff that's already here and if it doesn't get recycled in some way then it's just going to get chucked in a landfill. And if you're talking about man-made fabric in particular then when is that going to break down? Thanks for stopping by and I wish you success :)

    • profile image

      erin-fichter 3 years ago

      This is beautiful in so many ways. I am a fashion designer/ creative director and seamstress and have been interested in creating a fully recycled textile base company out of the bay area. I revamp hand-me-downs and vintage pieces, but I am now on the hunt for a recycled textile mill. My fears are, of course, the effects on the environment from the process to breakdown and rebuild the textiles. If you have any words of wisdom please share. And may the force of creativity be with you ;)

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      These are great ideas. I love to recycle. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Well, I have to get away from your lenses or I won't get anything accomplished today! You really have a great focus - fun, creativity, and environmental sensibility as well as thriftiness. I found you searching for green lenses. Angel Blessed!

    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @caffimages: Thanks so much :D

    • caffimages profile image

      caffimages 6 years ago

      What beautiful needlework! I do patchwork myself and have used a lot of second hand items over the years. I love your freeform designs, though. Gorgeous.

    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @jackieb99: Thanks :D

    • jackieb99 profile image

      jackieb99 6 years ago

      Lots of good ideas! Well done.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm sure - same way as recycling any fabrics I guess. Thanks for visiting :)

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 6 years ago

      This is a cool lens! :) Don't think I could put my bra on my artwork...

      blessed by a squid angel

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      hey, really creative ideas for using the waste. i would like to ask if there are any ways to recycle the waste of shawls.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Grasmere Sue: Thanks :D

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      I need to find someone like you who lives near me- I've got loads of "useful" stuff! Lovely lens.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @SoyCandleLover: Thanks so much for visiting and commenting :D

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 7 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      Beautiful textile art, as always, MeltedRachel! I love the recycling aspect you've highlighted, too. Can't say I've recycled bras, but many other clothing items have been reused in projects over the years. Lensrolled to Recycled Bridesmaid costumes with my thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thanks

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @CCGAL: Thanks so much! :D

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 7 years ago

      I love to recycle fabric, but I don't make fabric art. I like to use old sheets for testing my hand-drafted patterns and I like to make costumes. This was a very interesting lens to me, because I was unfamiliar with your work and it was fascinating to see how you use fabric to make art. Nice job putting in other lenses, too ... I am looking forward to visiting them.

    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @marsha32: Thanks :D

    • profile image

      marsha32 7 years ago

      some pretty cool stuff here...glad I happened upon it

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks so much :)

    • best-intentions profile image

      best-intentions 7 years ago

      Cool! I'm not nearly as artistic as you are, but I recycle fabric too. Moth eaten wool sweaters are my favorite...I love to felt. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Poppy (melted red skirt) is absolutely brilliant. The colours, the beads in her hair, the balance of the poppies with the smaller florals in the background, I love it all. She looks like she has a secret...This is simply gorgeous!

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @best-intentions: Thanks for visiting! Horray for recycling fabric. Felting rocks!

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Bendthelimits: It certainly saves a lot of money! Thanks for visiting :D

    • profile image

      Bendthelimits 7 years ago

      I love the fact that you use recycled materials! I often buy clothing at the thrift stores to use for other projects.

    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      [in reply to enslavedbyfaeries] Oops- late reply from me! Thanks so much. Good to hear about others' recycling! Thanks so much for the feature :D

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      [in reply to 2knights] Thanks for visiting! Excellent, hope you have lots of fun! :D

    • profile image

      2knights 8 years ago

      That's lovely Rachel, Thanks for your sharing. I am just starting into melted fabrics etc and am very enthusiastic about what can be achieved.

    • profile image

      enslavedbyfaeries 8 years ago

      I am in awe of your brilliant works of art! My daughters are both learning to sew and have come up with some creative uses for their own box of fabric scraps. I can't wait to share this lens and see how it inspires them. I am delighted to feature this on my Recycle & Reconstruct Old Clothes lens. :)

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      [in reply to hlkljgk] Thanks :D

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 8 years ago from Western Mass

      green are is great - well done

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      [in reply to ElizabethJeanAllen] Sounds creative to me! Thanks for sharing :)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      I recycle fabric into quilts and laprobes. Its not real creative but I have fun with it.

      Thanks for sharing

      Lizzy

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      [in reply to Laniann] Thanks very much :)

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 8 years ago

      Yes, another winner! Gorgeous fabric. 5*

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 8 years ago

      [in reply to Jimmie] Thanks very much! :D Yes, sometimes i think I take recycling clothes too far!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Another winner! Yes, I'd be terribly embarrassed to use my bras in art. But socks are a great alternative! LOL!

      I hereby bless this lens.