Re-using old or unwanted textiles came as second nature to all previous generations, and in many parts of the world it still the only way of doing things. Perhaps especially with respect to textiles, waste was unheard of, and re-cycling until there was no more life left in them was part and parcel of the rhythm of life.
This morale helped the development of exquisite sewing skills and traditions, such as rag rugs, sashiko, patchwork, applique, quilting , emboiodery and kantha work. All of these techniques make use of old clothing–dresses, saris, kimonos, sacks, cart covers, rugs and bedding. Knitted items would be cut down or unravelled and re-knitted into smaller items or into squares for patchworked pillows and bedcovers. Wool fleece, cotton lengths and hair were all used to pad and insulate, quilts.
Nowadays, soft-furnishings–particularly curtains, which might be taken from house to house or suffer discolouration on the hems–can certainly be adapted: shortening is easy, and lengthening by joining to another fabric, applying braids, borders and edgings is not difficult either; in fact, such enforced problem can very often lead to more imaginative solutions through combining and mixing several elements.
Our weekly ‘From the cutting room floor’ series shows many low intesity ideas, how we re-cycle the scraps and offcuts from our workroom into useful, well designed products.
Although far from being main stream, it’s quite possible to find fabric lengths or home furnishing items that have been created whole or in part from all manner of refuse: old plastic bin liners, plastic bags, bottle tops, and beads bottles of even flip flops.