On Teaching Fashion: Recycling in the Classroom

The Fall semester is over and it is time to clean the sewing labs before I leave for the winter break. Before I just throw everything in the trash can, I try to think about recycling or reusing. I have a recycling bin for paper in the classroom that fills up quickly with discarded pattern paper during the semester. Unfortunately, the trash bin is overflowing with fabric and partially made garments or samples of collars and sleeves. There is a ton of fabric waste in the sewing lab trash can and I want this to change.


Apparel Design students practice sewing sample garments and this often results in multiple sewing attempts to get the right technique. The samples are often unusable as wearable apparel so we can’t donate them to a thrift store. In an effort to try to reduce fabric waste, I have been accumulating fabric scraps in a large bin to reuse for sampling and I now have a clutter problem since students are not using the scraps quickly enough. Unfortunately, students see that the scrap bin is full and throw their textile waste in the trash bin. I have been looking for a place to recycle fabrics for a few years now and just recently heard about Re-Sourcery. I contacted the Re-Sourcery president, Blythe Christopher de Orive, for an interview and I wanted to share this information with you.

Tell me about your organization? Re-Sourcery is an artists’ collective where we share materials, tips, how-to’s, and projects. We started Re-Sourcery.org to save textiles from our local landfills and give artists more reuse material. The average American throws away 65 pounds of used textiles a year and most of that amount can be upcycled. I would love to have folks think about upcycling first!

Why did you start this organization? I saw so much clothing and textiles being thrown away and going to landfills. Used clothing/textiles are a resource that we need to find different uses for. I am also an artist and realized how much of my “project” materials lay fallow and I wanted to share them with other upcycle artists that would use them. I started this for my city but am realizing that the desire to save textiles from landfills is universal.

Is your organization international? I intended Re-sourcery to be local to Austin, TX but we have members from Australia, UK, France, Netherlands and Liberia!  I think there is a groundswell of support for upcycling. My advice to anyone is to encourage more folks to belong to Re-Sourcery.org. We can make sub-groups on the site for cities, geographic areas. Or they can start their own sharing site or even an email list of interested artists in their area to start sharing.

How can teachers in apparel & textile programs work with Re-Sourcery They can post what they have to donate on Re-Sourcery.org (it is free to become a member) and our artists will offer to come pick it up.

Do you recycle more than textiles? We also upcycle home goods (small furniture, decorative items).

Do you recycle broken pins and needles? No, but that is a great idea. Let me do some research on how we could upcycle pins and needles and I will get back to you.

I plan to implement textiles, thread scraps, and pins & needles recycling in my sewing lab next semester. Bins will be clearly marked to make sure that the artists are getting what they have requested. I would love to hear from you on any recycling ideas used in your sewing labs. Do you have any policies in place for recycling in the classroom? Please share any tips for recycling in the classroom in the comments below.

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