Round We Go Again; Coiled Basket Making and Garment Re-use.

I have been getting in a twist recently, developing new ways of working with strips of cotton fibre.

My coiled basket making approach is based loosely, and in part, on textile traditions, though I am using an experimental, recycled starting point with materials.
There are many approaches to basket making, I’ve discovered the work of Dough Johnston through the Sight Unseen blog, his work is based on working with cotton rope combined with the aid of an industrial sewing machine.
He produces fantastic work.
I realise that coiling something into a basket will look different to Doug’s very accomplished and masterful pieces. Though I have some novel approaches too.
I am using material, commonly available, to the point that a huge bulk of it ends up in landfill in the UK.
I’m working with the cotton t-shirt. I can’t really process the enormity of some of the statistics, but there is certainly alot of unwanted, discarded clothing around. Just take a rummage at the back of your wardrobe as a starting point.
Here’s one such statistic from;
Cambridge University shows that “on average, UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per capita to landfill each year”. An environmental select committee found that textile waste at landfill sites rose from
seven to 30 per cent in the last five years.
From Sustainable Fashion and Textiles, published in 2008, by Kate Fletcher;
‘ Only around a quarter of all waste textiles in the UK are reclaimed, with 13 percent going to material recovery and 13 percent to incineration. The remainder (30kg per person per year) goes to landfill, where textiles contribute to the overall environmental impact of these sites, including production of methane emissions to air and pollution of groundwater through toxic leachate.’
Sustainable Fashion and Textiles, Kate Fletcher.
Sustainable Fashion and Textiles, Kate Fletcher.
What am I wishing to achieve, with this recovery process?
I want to demonstrate that an everyday garment, one as unsophisticated as a worn cotton t-shirt has potential re-use value, that allows its lifespan to flourish again. My aim is to rescue a humble t-shirt from the short-sighted, linear route, that currently points to destination landfill.
It’s a humble enough starting point, one that I envisage will make a small contribution to hopefully solving a large problem. Using worn, charity shop t-shirts, I start with cutting the garment, looping the strips together to make balls of recycled, chunky cotton yarn.
On the market is Zpagetti by Hoooked a ‘branded’ cotton yarn product – Hoooked are based in Australia. I have been curious to read about the company history of their yarn, they don’t specify too much on the website, but I appreciate they embrace zero waste, by using surplus cotton in the cutting process for their chunky yarn. I think it’s fair to say that Hoooked are tackling a waste management issue, arising out of the cotton salvage, that falls to the factory floor.
It’s a recycling of raw materials.
In that sense, I think my efforts run in parallel, with the added effort of re-making by hand, a new product, keeping cotton textiles useful in a  re-used form for as long as possible.
 Zpagetti Chunky Yarn, by Hoooked, featured in Handmade Magazine
Zpagetti Chunky Yarn, by Hoooked, featured in Handmade Magazine
Here’s something from Hoooked:
‘Zpagetti expresses our belief that re-using and recycling materials could contribute to a more sustainable society. We also try to keep Zpagetti affordable so that everyone can enjoy the pleasure of creating their own craft items’.
It’s also offer free patterns via their website.
I like their macrame plant hanger pattern and the floor pebble cushions.
Here’s how my recycled cotton yarn looks:
Using t-shirts from high-street labels such as Topshop, George, French Connection and Marks and Spencer (a nicer cotton than the others).
Plentiful Cotton Basics, sourced from local charity shops, labels include, George, Divided by H&M...and more.
Plentiful Cotton Basics, sourced from local charity shops, labels include, George, Divided by H&M…and more.
 Now in chunky, recycled yarn form – the t-shirts look like this; a fabulous, colourful craft resource!
Hand spun, recycled cotton yarn from used garments.
Hand spun, recycled cotton yarn from used garments.
Chucky recyled, by hand, cotton yarn, ready to upcycle !
Chucky recyled, by hand, cotton yarn, ready to upcycle !
Here are some excellent thoughts, linking the skill of preparing yarn to a rejuvenation, from the blog of the textile arts centre:
‘Recently, I’ve been reading a really interesting textile history book, where the pro-union and early feminist historian, Louise Lamprey, delves into the history of spinning, and how it’s always been something that women did…never men:

“Spinning was so important a part of women’s work that one may say they spun their way into history. Girls learned to spin so early that they hardly remembered when they did not know how. They went on spinning, laying up store of thread if they had thrifty mothers, to be woven into their wedding outfit of linen, blankets, and coverlets. Spinster to this day means an unmarried woman.”

And since before the industrial revolution, machines have taken their place. In the past girls would spin raw material into thread to create textiles for their family and home. In this modern world exploding at the seams with overproduction and massive waste, I think it’s time to open all of our eyes to the inherent beauty in everything that surrounds us, and use our innate ability of love and creation to rejuvenate ourselves, our loved ones and our world.’

It’s no longer only women’s work.
Dough Johnston, Basket Artist.
Dough Johnston, Basket Artist.

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