REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
My passion for repurposing textiles in my colourful statement jewellery
HeLLO, I’m bec. As you may know, I make bright and JOY BRINGING textile jewellery under the pseudonym, dakota rae dust.
The colourful fabric and vinyl components in my statement earrings and necklaces are cut by laser or scissor snipped by hand, printed with bold, often fluorescent and glittery patterns then layered to give texture and depth. I believe ‘MORE IS MORE’ when it comes to accessories so many of my designs are adorned with shiny jewels, silky tassels or trimmed with a neon fringe. They’re proper party pieces but I encourage you to wear them whenever and wherever you’re feeling PLAYFUL or in need of a POP of colour. This is festival / feel good jewellery for anyone who loves to dress up and have fun.
The surgical steel stud posts, cords, vinyls and gems used in my colourful Statement Jewellery are NEW, but many of the fabrics are secondhand. . . .
I want to welcome you into my thread strewn studio and tell you about my mission to recycle/repurpose vintage and secondhand fabrics wherever possible. Hopefully giving you an appreciation of the magic and meaning that I feel their inclusion brings to my colourful creations.
My secondhand materials are sourced from charity shop sale rails, Textile Recycling Centres, jumble sales and via kind donations from friends and fellow makers looking to find a new home for their unwanted offcuts. Sadly the Bristol Recycling Centre no longer runs it’s incredible kilo sales, but I am still working my way through my personal fabric stash, which includes MANY recycling centre finds. Choosing to use textiles that might otherwise end up in landfill and reducing the amount of new fabrics that I buy is an easy way that I can limit the negative environmental impact of my business.
Working these pre loved fabrics into my colourful statement jewellery is much more than a guilt reducing good deed or green initiative. I truly LOVE fabric foraging and take great pleasure in giving discarded textiles a new lease of life. Whether I’ve found a retro print vintage curtain or a discarded high street Summer dress, they’re ALL textile treasure and equally deserving of the opportunity to be enjoyed again. I believe the history and stories behind these secondhand fabrics make the resulting pieces of lovingly hand crafted jewellery even more precious.
The limited quantities these foraged fabrics are found in mean each statement necklace or pair of dangly earrings are part of a very limited run or in many cases a complete one off. This allows me to offer fans of bold and colourful jewellery a truly unique and show stopping way to dress up and express their STYLE.
5 examples of Where (and why) I source secondhand fabric for my colourful statement jewellery
1. Charity shop sale rails
I LOVE a secondhand shop. While many people were rushing to get their first proper pint after months of lockdown I headed straight to the charity shops! Nothing beats the buzz of finding the perfect piece of fabric for an upcoming project . . . or the challenge of creating a completely new one, in order to repurpose something ‘off list’ but too good to leave behind.
Super bright plain fabrics are harder to pick up secondhand so when I do buy NEW it is often a fluorescent colour that I am breaking my repurposing rule for (see the necklace below). I find interesting patterned fabrics much easier to source.
The orange fabric in this Statement Jewel bib necklace was from my local fabric shop but the pink and white polka dot fabric was a lucky charity shop, sale rail find. Originally a loose fitting top, according to the price tags it had spent some time on display at a higher price before being reduced. When repurposing secondhand clothing I try to use discounted / damaged garments that have already been given plenty of opportunity to be used in their current incarnation. I try to avoid cutting up anything that could still be worn.
After being demoted to the sale rail, this polka dot patterned fabric is now enjoying a new lease of life in this limited edition ‘happiness is hot pink and orange‘ jewellery collection.
p.s For anyone worrying about ‘secondhand smells’, all my pre loved textiles are machine washed before being repurposed in my colourful statement jewellery.
Once the fabric has been washed and backed for durability I can begin cutting my jewellery components. In the case of this JEWELLED design this is done by laser. The base of this Statement bib necklace, just visible behind the orange scallop edged shapes and the backs of the matching earrings have been cut from this secondhand polka dot top fabric. The JEWELLED collection comes in an ever changing array of colour combinations inspired by latest fabric finds.
2. Donated damaged clothing
THE BEST feeling of all comes from repurposing something that I am confident would otherwise have been thrown away. This teal satin was originally part of a 1980s style ballgown with a black velvet bodice and puffy sleeves. (I am gutted that I didn’t take a photo of it in all it’s glory before I dismantled it) The teal fabric in the skirt was stained in places but the remaining unmarked material was PERFECT for an earring upcycle!
This dress was given to me by a friend hoping to save it from landfill and I was overjoyed to be able to give the undamaged teal fabric a new lease of life.
The fabric has been backed for durability and forms the base of the luxurious looking earrings below. I added a fluorescent pink (probably my FAVOURITE colour) print to the laser cut teal satin components, frills cut from scraps of an emerald green vintage dress fabric printed in glittery pink, dark iridescent jewels AND neon pink tassels. This style of earring is almost ALWAYS backed with a patterned secondhand fabric to add even more jAZZ to the overall finish.
3. Jumbles sales . . . and trails
These offer all the charm of a charity shop with the added bonus of getting to meet your purchase’s previous owner . . . and potentially learning some of your chosen fabric / item of clothing’s origins, making it’s story all the richer. The earrings below feature TWO secondhand fabrics, both of which came with a bit of background thanks to the Jumble sale/trail they were found at.
These decorative teardrop shaped earrings are what I call Jazzy Plectrums, due to their guitar plectrum like shape. This green patterned pair are an updated version of the early earring designs I created way back in Autumn 2017 when I first dabbled in jewellery design. The components are cut out by hand, rather than laser which allows me to use up my smallest fabric scraps. This pair have been cut from a vintage green and white floral dress fabric and a more modern floral print fabric. Each teardrop and scallop edged shape is vinyl printed, individually scissor snipped then machine stitched into place.
I found the green and white vintage floral print cotton (seen in the outer, larger teardrop) while rummaging at the BS5 Jumble Trail. Owner of local vintage clothing shop Rhubarb Jumble, Amy was clearing out some heavily discounted, ex shop stock from a rail in her front garden. It turned out Amy was a neighbour of my yoga buddy Kat who I had popped by to visit. I also picked myself up a pencil skirt for £3 . . . LOVE a jumble trail.
The second floral print fabric (seen in the smaller teardrop) was originally a beach dress with a small red wine stain. I picked it up at Bzzar Bristol Jumble sale in Stokes Croft from jumble sale organiser Beth. Keep an eye out for these if you’re in Bristol and like a rummage on a clothes rail. Last time I went I brought a giant jewel encrusted top for £15!
4. Donated textile offcuts from fellow makers and friends
ANOTHER of my FAVOURITE ways to source secondhand fabric is by repurposing unwanted textile offcuts from fellow makers and indie business buddies.
I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that I’ve saved this otherwise unusable fabric from landfill AND enjoy connecting with another waste conscious, colourful small business. The resulting textile jewellery is a unique collaboration between our two brands and has an extra special story to tell.
My latest batch of small business textile offcuts were donated by Annie of Raising Ravers. I first met Annie a couple of years ago when we were both trading at PEXMAS Christmas market but properly bonded over our shared fascination with fluoro in The Crafty Fox tent, while trading at We Out Here festival last Summer. The Raising Ravers pitch was (wo)manned by Annie, her partner Rich (A.K.A the tech department), daughter Seren (chief product tester) and Annie’s mum Leslie (or GAGA to Seren). They truly are a multi-generational family of ravers!
Annie makes INCREDIBLE colourful kids wear, (to be worn “from cradle to rave” !!) in the brightest, most joy bringing colours, so I was very excited when she offered me some of her left over fabric offcuts to recycle. Dedicated to finding ways to make her small business as sustainable and kind to the planet as possible, many of the fabrics used in this beautifully crafted kids wear, including this deep pinky red and metallic copper floral brocade are ex designer deadstock.
Deadstock fabric is any fabric that would usually be deemed waste, either by garment or textile factories because it has some kind of imperfection or as is often the case, is simply surplus to requirements. These fabrics can end up in landfill but with growing interest in sustainability they have become a popular choice for smaller fashion designers looking to add to their green credentials.
Annie spotted this floral brocade fabric in Hackney and loved it so much she snapped up the entire roll. I’m currently working with offcuts from the ‘Sweet Female Attitude’ kids bomber jackets she has been making with it.
This pair of Statement Jewel earrings has been cut from some more of that teal satin ball gown, printed in glittery red and adorned with a lilac and fluorescent pink frill, teardrop shaped hot pink glass jewels and backed with the bomber jacket brocade. I’m IN LOVE and have sent a pair to Annie to say ‘Thanks’.
THANK YOU ANNIE XXXXX
5. Repurposing ‘end of life’ garments from my own wardrobe
I’m going to feature my Embellished Sweatshirts in this example . . . not strictly jewellery, but as these were originally designed to combine all the glamour of a statement necklace, with the cosy comfort of a sweatshirt I don’t think we’re straying too far off piste.
ALL my garment embellishments feature a base layer of applique panels cut from second hand fabric and over the years I have used a wide array of gorgeous vintage prints and colourful ex high street, charity shop finds.
The vintage floral fabric below was once a Summer dress, picked up at a local jumble/kilo sale. It was 100% cotton, ‘just below the knee’ length with a low V at the back (basically PERFECT for hot Summer days) and I wore it myself A LOT until one sad day I tore a 6 inch split right up the front jumping off a stool while setting up my pitch at The Frome Independent. Unluckily for me it was the actual fabric that ripped, not a seam. So it joined my upcycling pile and eventually made a beautiful addition to these sweatshirt embellishments.
It makes me very happy to know this vintage turquoise, green, lilac and red paintily floral print lives on in these ornately printed and stitched custom garments.
Why I prioritise repurposing
Secondhand fabrics have always been central to my design process. I started my business by stitching preloved, found fabrics into statement clutch purses and rosettes, or including offcuts of my treasured vintage textiles in ornate garment embellishments. These fabrics are often the inspiration for my colour palettes and influence many of my designs.
A huge part of the appeal of using secondhand fabric in my colourful statement jewellery is the thrill of taking something old and unloved and giving it a new lease of life and opportunity to be enjoyed. I want to offer an alternative to the high street’s fickle and fast paced turn over by creating wearable products that are hand crafted with LOVE and made to last.
These are pieces of jewellery that are undefined by any trends and encourage people to appreciate the beauty of textiles we might otherwise throw away or dismiss as being ‘out of fashion’.
I love that the skill, raw materials and energy that were used designing a charming vintage print OR piece of short lived high street fashion will not be wasted just because one area of the fabric has been damaged or the garment is in last season’s style.
Once repurposed these fabrics are part of a completely new product and truly worthy of treasuring. I believe my already unusual statement jewellery is made even more special by the inclusion of these foraged fabrics and the stories they have to tell. Explaining the origins of each vintage or reclaimed fabric in a particular piece of jewellery to interested passers by is one of my favourite parts of in-person trading at markets and festivals.
From the careful and considerate fabric sourcing to the way they are lovingly cut, stitched and constructed. Each piece of my colourful statement jewellery is a labour of LOVE and a JOYFUL addition to any colour lover’s outfit.
Thank you for reading! To keep up to date with my latest fabric repurposing fun and next JOY BRINGING jewellery launches please sign up to my VIP mailing list and/or come and say ‘hey’ over on social media.