Perfect to wear throughout the year, a denim jacket is just like putting on your favourite pair of jeans. These jackets are so long-lasting that you can hand them down or pick them up second-hand in great condition. But denim jackets get even cooler when they're upcycled! Read on for our chat with Rachel, who loves to quilt, sew and upcycle.
So, why upcycle?
I think upcycling is an important part of being sustainable. Lots of items, especially fabric can have multiple uses before they’re unusable. Plus, I’m quite sentimental so I enjoy the idea of an item of clothing or a blanket that holds memories being used again in a different way. I have a quilt that my mum and auntie made me when I was about three and it’s very damaged but I can’t bear to get rid of it. One day I’ll take it all apart and fix it.
Who taught you to sew?
I’ve always enjoyed sewing and I learned from my mum, grandma and aunties when I was growing up. They each showed me a different type of machine sewing but I enjoy quilting and sewing clothing the most. I first started using upcycled fabric as a cheaper alternative to buying new fabric. This lead to me finding a huge community of upcyclers on Instagram who are so generous with sharing their techniques and inspiration.
How much do you enjoy the process of upcycling?
I really enjoy the process of finding items to upcycle. I can be a bit of a shopaholic which is a problem when you’re trying to become more sustainable! But trawling through eBay listings or rifling through my local charity shops to find items to upcycle is a great alternative.
I also enjoy coming up with new items to make. I’ve just started making some bucket hats and scrunchies from fabric scraps which has been good to use up a lot of my stash as the pattern pieces are smaller.
Tell us about the upcycling projects you're worked on as part of your job at a school!
Yes I’ve created a large “reading river” display (it ended up being about 10 meters long) of the River Tyne with the seven bridges which cross it in the city. I used donations of old jeans, curtains, shirts and duvet covers to create a patchwork river. Then I brought my sewing machine into school and some of the children helped me to quilt on top of the river. They really enjoyed using the machine and it sparked a lot of conversations about where our clothes come from and how much work goes into making them.
We do a lot of upcycling at school because, as with all schools, we don’t have the budget to buy a huge amount of resources. We did a recycled Christmas tree competition last year and we’ve done a buggy building day using recycled materials.
What inspires you when it comes to designing your upcycled denim jackets, badges, accessories?
I definitely started with the aim of customising denim jackets. I’d seen lots of people painting the backs of denim jackets and then it depended on the fabric I’d found. My favourite is definitely the birthday tablecloth because the lady I bought it from sent me a lovely message about how long she’d had it and how it had seen many family birthdays over the years.
After I had made a few jackets, I started to think about what to do with the scrap pieces I had left and that’s how I came up with lots of the patchwork items.
If you want to support a local North east upcycler, and you fancy treating yourself to some fantastic designs then head to Rachel's Etsy store.