Recycled art: try weaving your waste


By Suki Baynton

With global focus finally turning to our planet, we are all looking for ways that we can make changes in our everyday lives to create even the smallest positive impact. Naturally we have started to see more eco-friendly and innovative workshops arrive on CraftCourses. So, when I saw Sarah Cooke’s 'Weaving with waste' workshop in Bristol, I knew it was something I needed to try! 

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

As a smallholder I am particularly creative when it comes to recycling waste, largely because of the sheer volume we have of it. 

If you came to our home, amongst other things, you would find a large array of reused animal feed bags - afterall, what is a feedbag if not a cheerfully colourful rubble sack, flexible storage or makeshift weather protection? Also, if you don’t have at least 50 ways to reuse baling twine, then what exactly have you been doing with your time?

We’re not just talking about belts for your work trousers a la Compo (Last of the summer wine, ask your nan); we’re talking fence holding, animal managing, shed building, gate shutting, bean pole connecting, tomato vine supporting, boat winching, tree training, cable pulling... the list really is endless.  

So, I immediately signed up and started gathering my baling twine with a little heads up to my husband that he can now look forward to baling twine in the house as well as the garden and the field… 


Woven bag made from recycled waste




Colourful weaving full of waste


Arriving at Alchemy in Bristol, it was immediately clear what kind of day this was going to be:

A quirky, friendly café, bags and boxes bursting with more colourful and sparkly “waste” than a mischief of magpies could dream of, and Sarah laughing whilst showing off her “rubbish” top that she made for Christmas.

I ordered my posh tea and plastic-free lunch with a smug feeling of saving the planet and then got to work. 

The sheer joy of this course from start to finish was how accessible it is.  Sarah made the frames and collected the waste that we weaved with.  There is almost no need to purchase anything if you have a few pieces of spare wood hanging around, a little bit of know-how and a penchant for posh crisps. Blue Peter eat your heart out. 


One homemade frame and a packet of crisps...

Starting with our home-made frames, we learnt how to warp thread (this is the thread that is strung over the loom vertically and holds the tension while you weave).

Naturally I made sure mine was so tense that I wouldn’t have been able to weave air through it, let alone waste, so Sarah kindly loosened it up with the knowing smile that she would be back, for my next instalment.  

Next was the fun bit...

Wading through glittery ribbons, shear fabrics, old wires, shredded crisp packets, bubble wrap, jewellery, rubber and much (much) more; we started building our pieces and not one was the same. 

I declared I would be making an egg bag: what better way to pick up eggs than with a vessel made from the old feed bags and straw bailing twine that we use to feed and house them?

I chuckled as I wove silver threads into my design, because chickens love a bit of sparkle, and listened intently as Sarah showed me how to make a base for my bag using old sea rope.  

After my deliciously sin free lunch, I soon realised that my dreams of egg bags with woven bases were a little naïve given the time we had remaining, so I soon declared I would actually prefer a wall hanging *cough cough* and searched for even wackier colours to add to my slowly growing piece of art.  


Weaving in progress on a hand-made frame


Finished piece: a waste-filled wall hanging


This now hangs pride of place in my hallway, where everyone will see it and no dogs can reach it...

It may not seem much to some, but to me, this is the ultimate reduce, reuse, recycle project. From our everyday lives we can divert waste from landfills and oceans and get a great deal of pleasure in the process.

I would rather see this colourful, shiny (petite) weaving, hanging on my wall than scattered across a beach. 

Well done Sarah, an innovative and fun way to spend a Sunday and a little inspiration for the rest of our waste. 


If you want to try something different, something with a bit of heart and that might just help to reduce your footprint a teenie tiny bit then why not give it a try? Weaving with waste, with Sarah Cooke  

Or try another course focused on sustainability and green living >


If you enjoyed reading this you might like our others articles on living a more sustainable lifestyle >

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