Trash to flash: The Wasted Swap

Jenelle of TrashN2Tees is a recycling revolutionary who started by upcycling jersey tees and has by now diverted millions of pounds from the landfill. (Have you seen her Ida’s Garden Quilt? Fantastic.) So when she announced The Wasted Swap, I was in.


This is the first swap I’ve participated in. It really speaks to issues of reuse, waste, and consumption that I’ve been digging into. We are sewing a pouch or tote out of unconventional or upcycled materials. The point is for participants to “push past their traditional fabric choices and look at ‘waste’ materials in a new way—repurposing and reimagining items we might throw away.” Jenelle got us going by showing experiments in making fabrics using old mylar balloons and latex gloves.

The challenge really made me pause and think. I wanted to go beyond just reusing old clothing, since I already feel comfortable there. What was in my waste stream that could be rethought? I literally went through my trash cans, looking for inspiration. It took me a few days, but eventually I settled on:

  • A faded remnant of shower curtain liner, binned after I repaired the main part of the curtain.
  • A stack of tiny bits of fabric left over from cutting strips for a quilt. They’re pointy on one side, fringed selvedge on the other. They are nice and fuzzy and made of organic cotton, but I thought they had zero utility value.
  • The guts from men’s ties I’d disassembled for their more colorful and charming outer fabric.

Separately, these were all sad scraps. But together? I’m seeing interfacing and inner and outer layers. I still have some design decisions to make, but I hope to have something nice to send my swap partner come Earth Day.

Check out #thewastedswap on Instagram to see what people are up to for the challenge. Or tell me—what’s the weirdest material you’ve sewn up? What could you try next?


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