Thrifty approaches to textile reuse in Japan and UK

Becky Earley has been up in York presenting at the Japanese Sashiko textiles conference which coincides with a major exhibition of sashiko textiles at York Art Gallery. Becky presented her Top 100 upcycled polyester shirt project, which is currently on show at the Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution exhibition in Birmingham.

The word 'sashiko' means small stitches and the curator of the exhibition Michele Walker, had studied English quilting techniques and saw the similarities - both techniques had arisen out of necessity and had involved women who were creating new garments from old clothes and textiles, mostly cotton workwear. As Michele Walker explains, "Sashiko evolved from a need
to conserve and repair garments at a time when cloth was a precious commodity".

Becky's pioneering work re-using polyester blouses is set in a completely different historical and cultural context to Japanese sashiko, however the same motivations apply - how to reuse textile waste and to conserve resources. However, Becky has taken on one of the hardest challenges for a designer in the current context - how to re-use the excessive amounts of polysters which exist in the UK, as over 50% of the world's fibre production is petroleum based.

Becky's Top 100 work has also been made into a 'digital book' which is currently showing alongside the pieces in Birmingham, and the book will be available online shortly.