Plastic reuse in Textiles

Beth Furini, Textiles

As I started my final nine-month textile project I looked back at my past three years at GSA, looking at what I enjoyed the most and areas I hadn’t fully explored yet. Throughout my time at GSA I have researched into sustainable textiles a lot in my essays, which had not fed into my studio work. I believe that sustainable practices are the future of textile design and are something I feel passionate about.

So faced with the longest project yet I wanted to push myself to design in a way I think is imminent. My specialism being knit I was slightly apprehensive that it would be a bit of a challenge. I looked a lot at circular economy – everything being recyclable and made out of recycled materials. I wanted to push the boundaries a bit to create fabrics out of unusual recycled materials. I thought back to the leather project I did in my second year where we used offcut leather to create new fabrics. This sparked an idea that I could contact companies to look at using offcuts of any materials I could get my hands on and integrating them into my studio work. I emailed around 20 – 30 companies/factories all over Scotland looking at anywhere that could have anything I could integrate into my knitting context. I got two replies: a foam factory just outside Glasgow and a under water wire company in Aberdeen. So I set off on two adventures to different industrial estates in Scotland. A few train rides, bus rides, miles walking and getting lost a couple of times later and I finally had a mass of materials. I got lots of sheets of thin foam in different colours from Glasgow and a huge tangle of varying types and colours of wires from Aberdeen. These materials are offcuts and usually recycled or sent to landfill – I wanted to find a way to use the materials while cutting out the extra energy used to recycle them.

So now I have my materials I have a new challenge: how do I use these unusual materials in a knit context? I did a lot of experimenting that started very DIY/ crafty looking but I kept pushing forward and trying lots of different techniques incorporating both materials. I finally started to produce fabric I was somewhat pleased with; so then I did a lot of refining and colour research. I wanted to create a range of interior fabrics embracing the qualities of the recycled yarns I was using with the salvaged materials. Finally I began making fabrics that look professional and successful all out of recycled materials.

This has been a really rewarding process and is definitely a way I will continue to work. I’d recommend other designers conscious about the environment and working in a way that is more sustainable to put yourself out there and look into using materials that would otherwise be wasted. Follow my journey on instagram @bethfurinitextiles