Upcycling textiles

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master’s Programme in Contemporary Design
Upcycling Textiles is a project focused on utilising end-of-life textiles by building a hand-driven machine that turns textiles into ropes that can serve for a variety of purposes and products. Textile waste is a growing problem worldwide. Until businesses move from a linear to a circular economy, where production is based on a closed-loop system to reduce waste and consumption of raw materials, we need creative ways to address the problem on a smaller scale. Upcycling is one of the ways to minimise textile waste when modifying unwanted materials into items of better quality and emotional value. While it does not solve the general issue of textile waste, it can be beneficial for individuals, especially when textile donation or recycling is not an option. However, the method of upcycling remains difficult if the person has little knowledge and skills. Thus, the core of this thesis is to show the potential of unwanted textiles, provide consumers with a more convenient way of upcycling, and share that knowledge with society. The research consists of theory and practice. Various literature is reviewed to define upcycling and its origins, to provide current knowledge on textile waste and introduce the challenges of textile upcycling. The practical part of the thesis is conducted by observing similar upcycling and craft-based events in Finland. One thing these activities tend to have in common is community involvement, openness, and knowledge sharing. These qualities become the basis of the final work of this thesis. Practical research is also complemented by textile experiments that lead to rope making as the main method of reusing textiles. The design portion consists of prototyping. After several trials and errors, a modern version of the rope-making machine is built and some applications of ropes are explored. Finally, the whole project is shared and presented to society through public events. The project demonstrates the relevance of the chosen topic and the fact that ancient knowledge of rope making can be valuable in upgrading textiles. The hand-driven machine becomes a tool that connects people to the upcycling process regardless of prior knowledge or skill.
Lohmann, Julia
Thesis advisor
Giabardo, Gianluca
upcycling textiles, rope making, community, textile waste, sustainable design, DIY, crafts
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