Monthly Archives: June 2020

Reduce, Reuse, Re-animate!


Why upcycle clothes?

  • Less clothes heading for the landfill is a good thing.
  • Buying less clothes means saving money
  • Upcycling can bring new life into old items of clothing.
  • Upcycling is great when the fashion industry doesn’t cater to your body shape/gender/disability
  • You can create unique items that reflect your style


Most of the upcycling tutorials and vids I’ve seen seem to run along these lines:

“Buy an ugly oversized garment, and then cut a pretty dress out of it!”

This kind of thing counts on the upcycler  being thin, having access to sewing tools, and money to buy a garment in the first place.  

Making new clothes from old & worn out clothes you already own is a better way to do things in my opinion.


I made this dress out of 3 t-shirts.

You can use alternative fabric you may already have at home like:

Net curtains make a cheap source of lace or mesh

Fabric from broken umbrellas to make waterproof items

Tea towels, tablecloths.


I did sew this piece of cloth on a sweatshirt, but fabric glue would work just as well.

I can’t or am unable to sew!

There are plenty of no-sew resources and tips to use. Fabric glue can withstand a washing machine, and hemming tape can work wonders on altered garments.

Anarchy in the UK!

Go for a late 70’s punk look and slap safety pins on everything you wear! And if your Priest/Rabbi/Imam gives you an odd look, don’t worry. I’ve got pics of them in a mosh-pit at a Poly Styrene concert back in 1979 before they found their calling! Blackmail is the accessory of the season!

Iron-on patches are your friend.  And if you don’t own an iron, I’ve seen a YouTuber put her hair-straightener to good use. It was an ingenious way to get into awkward spaces on clothes.

Adding studs to clothes are another great no-sew way to revamp items. As a teenager, I would pin cheap costume jewellery earrings over my old jacket.

Are you a Hippie at heart?

A bleach solution is a cheap way to decorate clothes. If you carefully pour the bleach into an old squeeze bottle, you can be more accurate in your designs.  A less hazardous way to upcycle your clothes with colour, is to use natural dyes. Beetroot will stain every light-coloured garment with ease.  Wild flowers and acorns are just some things to try.  And if you have money to spare, you can buy fabric pens, paints and dyes online or in most general and fabric shops.

Are you a poor fashionista?

Distressing denim and other cotton-based garments means your creations can look like designer pieces that cost a bucket load of money.  I’ve seen Upcyclers use graters, scissors and knives to distress denim.

For a truly versatile garment, there are a zillion ways to use a scarf as an outfit.

Link to scarf video

Make the leap into Upcycling!

T-shirts are a good way to begin, as they’re generally cheap, and the fabric doesn’t fray when cut.

Make a crop top from a regular t-shirt by simply cutting the garment in a straight line through both layers.  Start at where your navel begins.  If you want it shorter, cut another inch/2.5cm off.  You can always remove more until you reach your desired length, but it’s a lot harder to add more fabric on if you chop off too much.

Once you feel more confident, try something else, from halter tops to waistcoats, all no-sew

A good example is below:

13 ways to upcycle a t-shirt:

T-shirts can also be made into no-sew cloth bags.

This link has a tutorial, as well as 38 other ideas!


Fat-Positive upcycling

Buying plus-size clothing in the UK is expensive, and the choice in the high street is limited at best.  There are more online options every day, but you can’t try these on to see if they suit, unless you want to pay return fees if you don’t like it.  Charity/thrift/second-hand shops are rarely our friends either.  I’m a size UK24/US20/EUR52.  In over thirty years of going to these shops, I’ve only found five items that fit me.  But when you shop with the mindset of upcycling, charity shops suddenly look a whole lot more interesting.

Gender is a construct, and that goes double for upcycling. Go to the Women’s section and take flowy skirts and dresses that are too small, and cut them into manageable lengths of fabric to use in an upcycling project. Go to the Men’s section for smart outerwear, t-shirts and jumpers.  Ties can be used for your own genderqueer looks.


I cut the circle from a t-shirt with a big stain on it. I then attached it to the back of a waistcoat.

Online articles for Fat thrifting and upcycling (in English & French) 




Jessica Kelly


Instagrammers Who have great upcycling posts









Pinterest is good for ideas, but is very skewed toward fashion for young, thin white women.

Whose Black Life Matters?



I was born in 1969, just as the UK switched from Imperial to the Metric system.  One half of my old family were stuck with inches, yards and shillings.  The other half of my family used millimetres and kilograms.  I was stuck exactly in the middle. I learned how to be familiar with both, but I was never really comfortable.

This kind of straddling two worlds reflected itself in other ways.  The place I was born had a huge Black Caribbean population, but I still felt like a minority because the white voices were very loud and pretty racist. I was not supposed to mix with white kids.  I was not supposed to make friends with them.  I seemed to have missed that memo however, and so I was called “Coconut” from the time I was five all the way until I was in my forties.  I was never considered a “proper” Black person.

Feeling unwelcome in either world was something encouraged by my violent and abusive family – it seems a common thing that many survivors experience.  Having no trusted friends meant having no source of help or support.  I was totally dependent on the people who made my life a misery until I ran away from Tottenham.

I realised I was bisexual after a memorable episode of Star Trek the Next Generation.  As I took in the bridge crew of the Enterprise, I knew I was sexually attracted to almost all of them – men, women, alien and android.  My initial joy was short lived though. Bisexual was an orientation that was unwanted by everyone: from my straight white boyfriend to the rest of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Gay and Gay) communities.  Black and fat was unwanted by most of the white bisexual community too. It was almost five years before I met a Black bisexual woman on holiday.  I tried to straddle two worlds once again, however I was considered too straight by Black gay men to even hold a conversation with, let alone be friends.  I was downright shunned by Black lesbians, presumably for ‘sleeping with the enemy’ twice over.  White queer folks were openly racist.  Once again I belonged nowhere.

I became an activist a few years after coming out.  I fought against racism in the LGBT communities.  I joined DIY groups that wanted fat liberation.  I put a word to my romantic feelings: Polyamorous.  I became vegan. I felt like a powerhouse!  And then the bricks started to crumble away.  Racism and Fatphobia in veganism was massive – and still is to this day.  Fat liberation was a complete blizzard when I joined, and remains so in the UK.  I was treated as if Black people were not really human in the first place, unless it involved sex.  A high percentage of the white bisexuals and polyamorous people who were accepting of me, became distant and cold outside of the bedroom*.  There was no place I could feel at home.  

Now in 2020 I see everyone on this planet stating Black Lives Matter.  Countless numbers of Black Trans women and Black sex workers are brutalised and murdered around the world every day. The perpetrators sometimes include Black men.  Nobody goes on marches for them, or  acknowledges that they were even part of the Black race.  Black women are mistreated and murdered, by racist violence, the police, and often times by Black men they know.  Very few people say their name.  Even less want to look at the reality of living in a body that is supposed to shut up and put up with everyone else’s pain.  Black Lives Matter, but as a fat, bisexual, nonbinary, disabled Black person, I have rarely felt like my life held any worth.  I have lived with trauma, abuse, violence and my own self-hate for most of my life.  I have been so desperate that I self harmed as a way to cope being an abuse survivor with several mental health illnesses.  My first suicide attempt was when I was eight years old.  Everyone says Black Lives Matter, but the reality is unless you’re a cisgender straight man living in America, your Black life doesn’t mean that much at all.

I do not feel hopeful for the future.  I have seen the way older people without a family are left to rot by systems that are supposed to care.  When I was last in a mental health hospital, the fact that I had no family meant I was destined to stay there for good, despite being assaulted twice by other patients in just eight days.  It was my white friend with a posh accent, who called the secure ward and convinced them to let me out and into their care.  As grateful as I am to my friend, it saddens me to know the hospital medics would rather listen to a white middle-class person they had never met, than listen to my pleas to be discharged before I was assaulted again.  Medical racism, biphobia and fatphobia is literally life threatening for me.

Does my Black life matter to you? If you are white or a non-black person of colour, are you only concerned with Black folks murdered in the U.S, while ignoring those Black people being killed the next street over from you?  If you are Black, do you only care about other Black folks who look like you?  Do you ignore the most vulnerable Black lives because they are also queer, old, fat, disabled, homeless, or a sex worker?  Do you pick and choose which Black lives matter to you?

There are some worlds I can straddle, but many more I cannot when I am shoved between the cracks.  If the only way my Black life matters is to keep my sexuality a secret, ignore my gender presentation, and pretend I’m just like you, then my life never mattered to you in the first place.

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