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From Waste to a Work of Art: Upcycling Textiles

Posted by Ceri Heathcote Oxfam Fashion blogger

10th Jul 2018

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Have you ever wondered what to do with a lovely piece of clothing or home furnishing fabric after it reaches the end of its useful life? There really is no need to throw it away, it can be recycled into something beautiful, not only giving you a piece of art for your home but also an enjoyable activity in the process of creating it. Can't part with old clothes, or simply can't find the right material for your creation? Why not try your local Oxfam? Look out for striking colours, patterns and texture in materials or clothing to add interest to your creation. Not only does it spare you the expense of buying new materials but you are also supporting those in need. Here are a few artists that use textiles in their art work to inspire you!


David Agenjo specialises in layering texture and colour with a focus on the human body. This school lesson plan  on Collaboroo  explores art with materials and textures inspired by David and shows how a self-portrait can be created using upcycled fabrics and paint.


Louise Baldwin is a textile artist known for her combination of found imagery, colour and domestic packaging used alongside fabric to create rich wall hangings. She doesn't plan her design in advance, instead adding layers and manipulating and sewing them until they look right. You can see Louise's work on The Sixty Two Group of textile artists.


Mandy Patullo uses collage techniques in textile art. She is particularly interested in patching and piecing together fabrics or using paper ephemera and layering in her printmaking. She follows her own 'thread and thrift' vision by sourcing vintage fabrics and quilts to recycle into her own work.


Bethan Ash  creates bold, bright and eye-catching pieces inspired by relatable social and popular culture including consumer goods combined with abstract ideas.


Jo Deeley  is a textile artist who works with different textures and methods to create sculptural shapes and designs. She incorporates 3D designs into her work using traditional methods including weaving, knitting, plaiting and knotting, as well as more unconventional techniques like folding and pressing fabric.

Image of artwork

Top tips for upcyling fabric into art

  • Follow your instincts. There are no rules ­­­- you can combine your fabric with any other mediums and fix as you like using glue, staples or stitching.

  • Gather a variety of different textiles before you begin your creation. Old clothes and textiles from your wardrobe or your local Oxfam is a good place to start. Try asking at the till to see if they have any fabrics that would be heading to textile recycling that you could buy for a cheaper rate. 

  • Look out for interesting trims, threads, buttons and fastenings to add interest to textile collages. Check the Homewares section of your local Oxfam or Oxfam Online Shop too for extra sewing supplies and crafting materials. 

  • Consider different ways of manipulating textiles to create your art work. Gathering, shredding and fraying, knotting, plaiting, folding and layering will help you to create a 3D piece of art.

  • Use a sketch book to draft out your ideas before you begin but you don't have to replicate your initial images - a piece of art can develop as you work on it.

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Blog post written by Ceri Heathcote

Oxfam Fashion blogger

More by Ceri Heathcote

Ceri Heathcote