Upcycled Accessories: Giving New Life To Fabric Scraps

By Laura Moffat
Upcycled Accessories: Giving New Life To Fabric Scraps

15-20% of fabric used to make garments ends up discarded on the cutting room floor (1). That might seem like a small amount, but when you consider the world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, then you can imagine that the number is pretty large. 13.1 million tons of textile waste is thrown away in the US every year (2). At Kirrin Finch, it is important for us to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly, so we knew we had to do our part to tackle this problem.

One way to reduce garment waste is to design a garment in a way that requires little to no cutting. This is called Zero Waste Fashion. For example, a piece of fabric can be folded and sewn in a way that creates a beautifully designed garment without any cutting. Every inch of the fabric is used and as such, there is no waste. 

In making button-up shirts it is almost impossible to cause zero waste, because shirts are made up of many differences pieces of fabric that are cut and sewn together. When cutting these different parts there is often leftover scraps of fabric. 

Another way to help offset this garment waste is to take the discarded fabric and repurpose it into something new and useful. This is called Upcycling. You might be wondering what's the difference between upcycling and recycling. There are a few schools of thought. In one interpration, upcycling takes discarded material and turns it into something of higher value, whereas recycling uses energy to break down waste into materials or products often of lesser value. It's the difference between taking garment waste and turning it into a beautiful hand made bow tie or a cleaning rag.

We wanted to give new life to our growing pile of cutting room scraps, but most of what is cast-off is small and misshapen pieces. This is why many companies just throw it away – it takes time and energy to recycle and upcycle. We think the planet is worth it. So we thought about what our customers were looking for and then mapped that onto what would be feasible with the scraps. We decided on bow ties and pocket squares. They are versatile and fun accessories that can bring any outfit to life, and they only require small quantities of fabric.

The pocket squares were constructed utilizing our larger pieces of leftover fabric. They are made into simple 11 “ X 11” squares with colorful stitching around the outside to give them a fun flair. They will be sold at popup events and gifted as part of our customer loyalty program.

With the bow ties we got a lot more crafty with our use of scrap fabric. In collaboration with our friend and designer, Abby Miller, we designed a collection of bow ties that utilize many of the small and misshapen scraps.  In many of our bow ties, we use larger pieces of fabric as the main fabric for the bow tie and then use the smaller remnants to make fun tabs and triangles on the tips.

Our talented sewer, Kaveata, is able to work with these tiny and oddly shaped pieces and handcraft them into beautiful bow ties with fun and unique details. If you look closely you will be able to see which shirt fabric was used to create each bow tie. For example, the Dietrich pictured below, utilizes fabric remnants from the Woodlawn and the Quimby. The Astaire uses leftover fabric from the Brewster and the Everdeen

Our first roll out of bow ties includes five ties, but the possibilities are endless. The goal is to continue to create limited edition, one of a kind, bow ties that help reduce the amount of textile waste. Get yours today! 

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