We are excited to continue our weekly series, FeelGood Features, with fiber artist Tara Glastonbury! FeelGood Features will showcase artitsts that work primarily with upcycled/recycled and sustainable materials. Because it’s not only important WHY we quilt, but it’s also important HOW we quilt. Our hope is that this series will introduce you to artists that you will love learning about and demonstrate the ways in which you, too, can incorporate sustainable materials into your craft. Thanks for being here!
I’d always been fairly conscious about doing my bit for the environment, but I hadn’t really considered how my wardrobe was part of the problem. It wasn’t until I started studying textile design as a way to get some creativity back into my life, that I really learnt about the shocking consequences of our culture of fast fashion and disposable clothing.
This led to a number of years of not buying any clothes at all, and during that time I began to reflect more on my purchasing habits for quilting fabric as well. It actually helps being in Australia, as we often don’t get access to all the ranges available in the US, or we wait so long for them that something else has come along in the meantime – so I just stepped off the quilting fashion treadmill. And you know what? Using upcycled textiles really suits me. I love that the quilts I make won’t look like anyone else’s even if I do choose to follow a pattern.
On Working With Perennial Fabrics
It’s not to say that I don’t use any new fabric, but I try to stick to perennial ranges or ones that support a living textile tradition. For me, perennial means ones that are always available so that the supply chain – that is the people involved in making it – is guaranteed ongoing, consistent work.
I source secondhand fabrics in a number of ways – sometimes it’s clothing from the thrift store, some textiles I am given – either stuff that is worn out and no longer wearable or from people who are downsizing and need to get rid of their stash, and the last place I source is from deceased estates.
On Working with Upcycled Fabrics
I haven’t found working with upcycled materials too different in terms of process. Yes, there is some variation in the thickness of the fabric which you don’t get working with quilting-weight cotton, but nothing that makes a difference to the final outcome. I’d encourage anyone who is interested, just to give it a go. It’s really quite liberating.
One thing I do struggle with is the fibre content of some of the materials I’m given. It would be great to say that switching to using secondhand fabric takes a weight off my shoulders but ending up with a load of polyester is something I find quite stressful. What to do with it? In general, I don’t like the feel of synthetic fibres and wouldn’t choose them intentionally. If I put them in a bed quilt and then wash it, I’m contributing to microfibres in the oceans, but if I don’t use it, then where does it end up? In landfill? That’s no good either. I’m yet to find a solution to this particular problem which sees me becoming quite the hoarder…
At the moment I’ve just finished another quilt pattern using upcycled shirts and an old doona (quilt) cover. I started it during lockdown in Melbourne last year and needed something that wasn’t going to require too much precision or concentration. I cut the shirts up with scissors and even ripped the quilt cover into strips, roughly guessing the widths I needed. I think it’s given the quilt a lovely wonky, vintage feel and I definitely want to try the approach again on another upcycled quilt.