Upcycling 101: Textiles

Upcycling is the process of taking something old (or useless) and making it new. In this case, our main method is sewing.

Introduction to upcycling with textiles

You've seen it on TV in recent years on fashion shows like Project Runway and Sewing Bee but the principle of upcycling was around long before it gained mainstream popularity. In essence, it's taking any old thing and repurposing it to create something new, something useful, something that's much more you. Typical techniques involve a bit of sewing, slicing, tying, dyeing, or even painting.

The great news is that you can upcycle just about any material, limited only by your imagination. For example, the team at Fabrications initially worked with old tyre liners, weaving them into cushions and fabrics.

So where might it fit into your life?

If you're a fan of secondhand and vintage, thinking like an upcycler will revolutionise the way you shop. You’ll start seeing potential in amazing finds you’ve been discarding because, for example, the fabric is great but the design leaves a lot to be desired. Learning to think creatively about repurposing your old fabrics (and anything else that piques your curiosity) is the best way to keep your home and wardrobe interesting and fresh, without giving in to the wasteful cycle of buying and throwing away. Think those curtains from Sound of Music, turned into play outfits for all the children.

What you need:

  • Scraps of fabric and thread
  • A sewing machine*
  • An iron
  • Scissors
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • A pattern to follow
No more starter packs
No more starter packs

Tips from our favourite upcyclists

"Everyone’s creative, it just needs to be drawn out. Getting the practical skills down gives you the confidence that you can take anything and turn it into whatever you want."

Barley Massey

"What is being thrown away into landfill is often beautiful and usable for designers who can approach such materials in a creative way.."

Orsola de Castro

"Upcycled products don't need to be compromised in terms of aesthetics, quality and desirability, if anything they should be more beautiful than new soulless items."

Max McMurdo

Handpicked projects to get you started. Share your creations on Instagram with #theobbies for your chance to win £30 worth of fabric and gear for your next project!

Want to contribute?

Our guides are put together by our community - get in touch and let us know your story.

Get in touch