My Recycled Plastic Skirt (yes, really!)

THIS SKIRT IS MADE FROM RECYCLED PLASTIC.

My understanding is that the manufacturers melt down loads of old plastic before stretching it out into super-fine threads, before weaving them together to make fabric. I mean, I am completely FLABBERGHASTED by this, and yet really, I wish I wasn’t. Because that’s the way it should be, right? Plastics which aren’t bio-degradable should be reincarnated as beautiful, durable items that we’ll wear time again, instead of filling up landfill and the oceans. How great would it be if recycled fabrics weren’t surprising, but the norm?

Those of you who follow me on Insta might remember that I first posted about this fabric when I bought it back in June. It came from Fabrications in Hackney, which is a great little place offering classes in sewing and knitting, repurposed fashion and home accessories (who knew there were so many things you could make from old shirt sleeves?!), craft supplies and ethical fabrics supplied by Offset Warehouse. It was also a total bargain as it only cost £5 a meter, meaning I could also treat myself to some red organic cotton denim which is still in my stash. I was even given a free cotton tote instead of a carrier bag for my purchases, so they scored bonus points for their green credentials there too.

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It’s a recycled polyester which gives it the most beautiful shine and really makes the colours pop. I’m not normally into pink, but combined with orange, red and black in this design I think it’s completely irresistible. I love the print too – it’s irregular and requires no pattern matching (win!) but doesn’t have the saccharine sweetness of pink florals. Moreover, it hangs beautifully. It’s got a really lovely drape that looks like silk, and it’s got a nice lot of movement.

I spent quite a while deciding what to use it for. I toyed with shift dresses, vintage-style pussy-bow blouses and culottes, but couldn’t get the idea of a gathered skirt out of my mind, so eventually decided just to embrace it. A gathered skirt really is one of the simplest garments you can make, but I’ve been trying to challenge myself with more difficult makes lately and didn’t want to succumb to the quick-fix instant gratification of a skirt you can whip up in an afternoon. But in this case, the temptation was too much.

As with other gathered skirts I’ve made previously, I used this tutorial from By Hand London as a starting point, except that instead of an invisible zipper I made a lapped zip and two button fastening to make use of what was already in my stash. Construction went very smoothly, and the only difficulty I encountered was that the fabric moved an awful lot (which is great for wearing it, but a nightmare when you’re making it!), so I had to use plenty of pins and add more basting than I normally would. I also used bias binding to create a faced hem, firstly because I love the high-quality finish it gives but also to help weigh the skirt down a bit. It’s very lightweight and catches easily on the wind, resulting in a few Marilyn moments (and the potential that some of the people of Walthamstow have now seen my knickers…!).

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I’m really pleased with this one! It’s really flattering, drawing attention to my small waist and away from my ginormous hips, and even creates the illusion of me being quite leggy (I stress that this is very much an illusion – despite being tall, I actually have an unusually long torso and relatively short legs. Weird, I know). And I really love telling people that it’s basically made from old plastic bottles! It’s a great talking point, and makes me feel much better about having to wash up old plastic packaging before it goes in the recycling bin!

Has anyone else worked with different kind of recycled textiles? If so, please do get in touch, because I think it’s a great idea and would like to incorporate them into my wardrobe a lot more. And if you’ve had successes (or disasters…hopefully no disasters…) with gathered skirts, I’d love to hear about that too!

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