The Polyester Project

Our Hive based Talking Textiles group meets weekly and have recently been busy investigating polyester. The Worn Stories project is investigating the period 1880-2015 and this particular project is addressing some of the issues connected to contemporary fibres and how we use and dispose of them. Polyester, a synthetic fibre, is popular but problematic as it could take 200 years to decompose in landfill. It is cheap to buy and is often disposed of quickly despite being hard-wearing and easy to wash. Inspired by the Top 100 project, and the work instigated by Rebecca Earley at the Textile Environment Design centre at Chelsea College of Art, the group has been challenged to upcycle a collection of polyester garments sourced from local charity shops. Many of the garments, mostly shirts and blouses, had been deemed too poor quality to sell. Disperse dyes, printed and painted onto recycled paper and then ironed onto the garments, embroidery and other embellishments have been used to transform these items. As a group we have been thinking and talking about how we can give ordinary garments more longevity.

Project participant Lynda commented about her project, a school shirt for a small child:

‘I used transfer paint on paper with discs from the honesty plant pressed under an iron, to create the design on this little shirt. I added gold couching [stitches] to give some definition – and a bit of majesty – to this humble, everyday garment.’