Someone else is trash is absolutely Scrapcycling’s treasure. See how maker Michelle started her business based off having just too many scraps! Refreshing & creative; we do love the eco-conscious give back models in this handmade world!
So tell us, what got you started?
I started Scrapcycling when working on my MFA in Fashion Design because I found myself with an excess of swatches from design classes and projects I’d worked on. Some were high-quality, designer fabrics that would sometimes cost $20 for ¼ of a yard. They were too small to make normal garments from but I couldn’t justify tossing them, so I brainstormed what to do.
I had been sewing for years before I started design school. I’d made a wide variety of things including patchwork quilts and have always been inspired by creatives who take worn out clothes or fabric scraps and transform them into practical, beautiful quilts to keep their families warm. These quilts were the definition of ‘sustainable’ long before anyone used it. I have always been interested in preserving the environment, and I wanted to use their example to match my desire to be resourceful with my skills and the materials I had on hand. I decided on the name Scrapcycling simply because I wanted to recycle my scraps: I thought about all the things I was recycling on a daily basis and wished I could do the same with textiles.
I decided to start with some small things like bow ties and Barbie clothes because they worked with some of the fancier fabrics that I had and didn’t take long to make, which is important. I also made linen napkins, a reusable alternative to paper towels, and sachets because one of my classes required us to make garments in white and brown linens, so I had lots leftover!
I picked Etsy because it had a complete platform with a secure retail portal. The setup was quick; edits are easy, and you only pay for what’s listed and sold instead of having to pay a flat monthly fee, whether or not I had sales. I also like how easy it is to put on vacation mode when I was too busy with school or other life things with no repercussions for doing so. Because it’s not a huge investment and it’s low risk, I’ve been able to try out lots of different items based on the materials I have on hand and what I feel like making in order to see how people respond.
What Do You Use?
It has to be something that is a scrap from myself or someone else. It can include a garment I’ve worn, found or been given. I never buy something that’s a fine, wearable garment and then dismantle it: I’d rather leave something affordable for someone who needs it. If it’s something like an old leather belt that could technically still be worn, I use it for a bag strap because it’s still quite durable and stronger than a fabric strap. This also adds another element of story and uniqueness and is transformed into something it wasn’t originally intended for.
Environmentally, you’re making a difference! How does Scrapcycling help?
I would say that the environmental benefits of how I work are several. First, I am diverting materials out of the waste stream. Because I often choose pieces of fabric that people other than patchwork quilters deem “too small” I am keeping them from the landfill. Then out of these scraps, the pieces that are too small or damaged for me go into my compost if they are natural materials like bits of cotton, linen, denim, wool, etc. Portland has citywide composting, and I’m sure that these things break down just fine in industrial composting facilities.
Items that aren’t scraps but are garments that are damaged or out of style get repaired for reuse or taken apart to be transformed, this keeps them from getting tossed out or sitting forever in a Goodwill until they do whatever they do with things that no one buys. The items I make are also sturdy, sometimes stronger than they were which means they do not fit into fast fashion, they aren’t following a fleeting trend, and they won’t fall apart and need to be replaced, they will last as long as someone takes care of them normally.
I’m also not buying new fabrics for my projects. The textile industry uses a huge amount of water, often pollutes water, uses a significant amount of electricity and causes other issues like the poisoning of cotton farmers in India and the heavy toll placed on the soil there and in other places where conventional cotton is grown. I lessen that burden when I don’t create more demand for it. I also hope that people I’ve never met will be inspired to try some ideas with the things that they have creating a ripple effect to reduce waste.
What is new about your shop today?
As I’ve been revamping my shop, I’ve considered opinions in various articles and videos about shop appearance. These opinions also affect things like Instagram profiles etc., and I’ve decided that even though I would prefer to have a wide variety of items in different materials and styles, the consensus of research says that having a consistent style and item theme that makes sense with the photographic style throughout. I’ve been retaking photos with a more “rustic” weathered wood background, including more model shots and paring down my items so that the ones that don’t necessarily fit in, like my dolls, are at the back of my shop and in my sale section.
I have also decided that one of the main components will be the Boro and Sashiko-inspired themes, specifically how it relates to handbags. Lately, I’ve been inspired by Japanese Sashiko stitching and the Boro style of patchwork which praises resourcefulness, discourages waste and turns scraps into garments and objects celebrating mending and the beauty that comes from everyday wear and tear. In that spirit, I look around my studio, through scrap bins, and other people’s discards and work with what I have to make sustainable pieces for you and your home. I also hope that people I’ve never met will be inspired to try some ideas with the things that they have creating a ripple effect to reduce waste.