While there is no wheelie-bin for the creative cousin of recycling, ‘upcycling’ is practiced by many Ipswich residents looking to nurture the growing circular economy of fashion and pre-loved items.
Where recycling involves converting waste into new materials or items, upcycling creates new items from used or unwanted materials.
The materials, methods and use of items are completely up to the upcycler, and there are no limitations to what can be repurposed and saved from landfill.
Ahead of Sustainable Ipswich Month’s Clothing Swap on 11 November and Garage Sale Trail 13 to 14 and 20 to 21 November, local artist Rebecca Lewis has shared her upcycling tricks for items destined for the op-shop.
For those who aren’t familiar with your art, what is Little Brown Dog?
I create a mixture of hand-printed and collaged art works and homewares under my label ‘Little Brown Dog Workshop’.
I am particularly obsessed with Queenslanders and vintage patterns. Many of my designs and artworks feature either Ipswich houses or the fashionable ladies of vintage pattern books.
My aim is to work with either reused or natural materials which can be recycled or composted at the end of their life. I use water-based inks for my printmaking on both paper and fabric and print my designs on ethically sourced linen and clothing.
Living in Ipswich, what is your most important clothing item?
It has got to be a good collared shirt. It’s something you can dress up or down, throw on with jeans, tuck into a high-waisted skirt, layer it under a jumper or pinny in winter, and in the summer the collar helps keep the sun off your neck.
What is your favourite wardrobe item you’ve taken home after a clothing swap?
My favourite thing I’ve scored at a clothes swap has got to be a perfectly fitting high-waisted bottle green skirt, it’s become a real wardrobe staple. However, my favourite part of clothes swaps I’ve hosted has been playing matchmaker between garments and people. I’ll often take along items I don’t wear much with a specific person in mind to pass it on too.
What are your top tips for making the most of a clothing swap?
Think about what you’re looking for and head to that section first. Try to find items you know will fit with what’s already in your wardrobe, that way you will get wear out of your new piece straight away.
Think creatively about what you’re looking at – if you love the colour of a garment but the style is not quite right, think about what you could do to make it work for you. Does it just need the hem shortening? Could you take the waist in? Add outside pockets? The possibilities are endless, and simply require a little bit of time to execute.
What is the biggest mistake first timers make at clothing swaps?
There is no need to feel nervous about taking items, that’s why things are there! If you love it and are confident, you’ll wear it, then give it a new home.
“Sustainable Ipswich Month is a way for our community to learn from each other as we progress towards a greener future.
The variety of activities give residents many ways to kick-start their journey or be inspired by new and innovative ideas to reduce waste, reuse materials and help the environment.
This month of sustainable events and workshops is one of the ways we can learn simple and easy ways to make change and promote sustainable living in everyday life, all year round.”
– Environment and Sustainability Chair Councillor Russell Milligan
Why are clothing swaps so great for the environment?
Clothes swaps are just a small part of the sustainable fashion solution. It’s a first step that gets a conversation started and helps keep pre-loved but good condition items out of landfill by extending their wearable life.
The best thing we can do is to think really critically about what we really need, support companies doing the right thing and the innovators looking to build a truly circular fashion system.
What is the first step for Ipswich residents interested in ‘Upcycling’?
Check out our local op-shops. Seriously, we are spoiled for choice! They are a great source of pre-loved and inexpensive items just waiting for you to rehome, be creative with and rework.
You can also think beyond clothes as the source of rare materials. Vintage tablecloths, crazy patterned doonas, bed sheets and even linen tea towels can be made into the most extraordinary and beautiful things to wear or decorate your home.
If you’ve got lots of pre-loved items sitting around that aren’t in good enough condition to donate to the op-shop or a clothes swap, then you can book a clothing recycling collection from ‘Upparel’. For a small fee they will collect a box (or many boxes) of pre-loved items from your door, sort it then reuse, repurpose or recycle it.
Lastly, how do you decide which of the dozens of sales to go to as part of the two-weekend Garage Sale Trail?
It is easier than you would think! Jump on to the Garage Sale Trail website to see what’s happening nearby. Each seller provides a list of the types of items they’ll have available to give you an idea of the treasures you might find. If it is vintage you’re looking for then head to those locations where it’s listed.
Some sellers have pictures, too, so definitely have a good trawl through those if you need more information about what is on offer.
Clothing Swap – Event Space #3, 1 Nicholas Street, Ipswich City Council Building
6pm, Thursday 11 November
Participation is limited to ages 16 and over to ensure the clothing range meets the needs of the group.
Registration is essential. Admission is $10 – follow this link to book your place, and don’t forget to bring at least five items of clothing to swap!
Garage Sale Trail – various locations around Ipswich
13 to 14 and 20 to 21 November
Reusing old stuff is not only a way to make some extra cash, but also a way to help reduce waste that ends up in landfill. This year will see two big weekends of garage sales held simultaneously around the nation, with more bargains and more planet-saving fun than ever before!
Follow this link to learn how to host a sale and find locations in Ipswich.
For more information and to register for Sustainable Ipswich Month events, visit Ipswich.qld.gov.au/sustainability
Sustainable Ipswich Month is delivered through the support of the following partners:
Ipswich Libraries, Council’s Habitat Gardens Program, Ipswich Waste Services, Ipswich Nurseries, Council’s Active Kids Program, and Garage Sale Trail.