Up-cycling cloth – It’s not just good for the environment!


I made little fishes as part of a global up-cycling cloth project.

The Up-cycled cloth collective: The ‘back Story’

It started on facebook page, ‘The Up-cycled cloth collective’, started by Melanie Brummer. She was given a stash of fabric which she described it as ‘a motley collection of sizes, prints, colours, weaves and knits’. She transformed the fabrics, printing them with her hand carved lino stamps and everyday objects. She offered to send cuts to 200 fibre artists and manufacturers in the fb community, to transform into finished products.

up-cyclingWhen she made the offer there were about 200 people on the fb page. I was one of them. Not a fibre artist or a manufacturer, more a dabbler! I received 4 hand printed fat quarters. It was a mixture of cotton and brushed cotton (like pj material). The printing was beautiful and slightly sparkly. I had no idea what to do with it. I did nothing… for months and months!

Over the last year the fb group grew to 7000 people. Melanie’s ‘free’ fabric is in demand. She doesn’t sell it even though people would willingly buy it. It isn’t free though! It costs Melanie time to print and the postage from South Africa, in return for a commitment. I hadn’t paid! I’d done nothing.

She posted:

“We are co-creating content to drive our global message to show the world how collaboration and innovative ideas shared, can change the world in magical ways. When I send you the cloth, you have accepted my terms to complete something with it and show the pictures here.”

Not a lot to ask of someone when you give them hand printed art fabric – make something… anything… and take a photo! Yet, I still did nothing! I wasn’t the only one who did nothing. There were a few of us. We were named! Others in the group accused us of ‘stashing’ the fabric and demanded we send it on. I was shamed! I got arsy! I was ready to send it on to a protester and leave the group! Then someone wrote:

Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed Jane. Motivated is the point of the Collective. The whole goal of the upcycled fabric is to find a way, any way, to give it a new life. Big pieces, small pieces, scraps can all have a new life as we see every day through the postings. This, in turn, inspires others to do the same and share ideas we can all use. All 200 of us who were chosen to receive fabric took on that mission when Melanie entrusted us with her time, investment and creativity. Yes, there’s some pressure to create but we knew that when we each choose to ask to be included in this global project. No one is judging you or anyone else, but we are all curious to see what everyone does with the fabrics. Each new life of the fabric sparks us all in some way. Let’s keep the momentum going!

No pressure then! It made me cry! I was in a pub! I went home and finally I cut the cloth. I did something I had wanted to try for myself but hadn’t got round to it. I made fishes.

I posted to the group:

upcyclingMy sincere apologies. I was extremely lucky to receive some of Melanie’s amazing fabric. I wanted to do it justice and was waiting (or procrastinating) to find a special project… and I did nothing. The longer I left it the harder it got and the more pressure I felt to do something amazing and this paralysed me!
Quite rightly, I was reminded of my obligation to do something! After my initial shame and embarrassment and some kind words and support I have cut the cloth! I decided to keep it simple! I made lavender fish, using Melanie’s fabric for their bodies, an un-cycled maxi dress for the heads and buttons for eyes. They are filled with cushion filling and home grown lavender.
In worrying about ‘performance’ I had forgotten the spirit of this page. Here is what I am going to do: I’m going to make lots of fishes. I’m going to sell them at the local craft centre where the commission they make goes to help run local arts and crafts workshops for the disabled and elderly. I shall label them with a link to Melanie’s Academy and the fabric project so that it links back. I shall also volunteer to run a workshop at the craft centre.
Hopefully spreading the love and spreading the word!

I hope I have done the global project justice! I got an amazing response from the fb group from my simple fishes.

Melanie posted:

I LOVE your fish!
They bring to mind the biblical story of the meal of fish on the mountain. How they used what they had, to feed everybody there. Your small collection of fish, fed thousands of us here today with their magical inspiration.
Today you showed our group, how a few small pieces of cloth, can become a meaningful message for many people.
You also showed us all how to push through barriers of fear, to rise triumphant with a great idea, beautifully executed.

I don’t think I deserve such praise as the fish had more impact because of my inaction and subsequent strop.
I know only too well it is easier to do nothing than expose yourself to be ‘not good enough’. It is the driver of all my procrastination. I was ready to leave the project rather than do something. That would have been so bad for everyone who had invested in the project. It would have been even more disastrous for me.
Kind words reminded me of my role and the spirit of project. I didn’t have to make something amazing. I just had to make something out of an amazing idea and amazing fabric. I got so much out of making these little fishes. Not so much Dover sole as Droitwich soul!

I still have the scraps to use up! Watch this space!

I made 28 fishes. 8 large (28cm) and 16 small (23cm). Each have a 40ml scoop of lavender. They are tied together in sets of 3.
1 set is for my daughter to help her sleep at night and the other 7 sets (1 large and 2 medium) are for sale in The Ugly House shop.

10% of the price tag will go to my local Art centre Canal Side Studios.
10% will be donated back to Melanie’s Academy so she can cover her expenses to send out more fabric.

Melanie has a wide range of ebooks and courses for sale at her academy https://melanie-brummers-academy.thinkific.com/
Or see the fb page Up-cycled cloth collective

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