Worn Again: Rethinking Recycled Textiles

Date: 2005 – 2010

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Earley

Funded by: AHRC

The Worn Again project aimed to investigate textiles recycling, looking to the textile design researcher/practitioner to propose significant change through the creation of high quality artefacts.

The project offered the research community in this field a model for practice-based research for the upcycling of textiles.

Twelve designers were asked to create recycled textile products that would have value added to them in the course of recirculation. The project intended to explore both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ aspects of eco textile design, with the established principles of material and processes being considered, but also the technical and conceptual ideas. At the outset the project was concerned with incorporating four eco design strategies: Ethical Production; New Technology; Long Life / Short Life, or ‘Fast’ and ‘Slow’ Textiles and Design for Systems and Services.

Murray (2002) states that upcycling is about ‘not merely conserving the resources that went into the production of particular materials, but adding to the value embodied in them by the application of knowledge in the course of their recirculation.’ So, if one can add value – economic, intellectual, emotional, material – to a product through the process of reuse, it can be called ‘upcycled’. During the early stages of this project the aim became to upcycle rather than recycle textiles, thus exploring the potential to create an economic argument for a practice that could also benefit the environment and our current landfill burden.

The particular knowledge that only a design researcher can bring to the process of design-led upcycling can be seen as instrumental in this practice, and was demonstrated throughout the project’s three stages. In Stage 1 the designers were introduced to the key sustainable design ideas through workshops that culminated in a final ‘Synergies’ workshop, which began to show how to interconnect or layer the different strategies together. Stage 2 saw the designers develop new work for the Exhibition and in Stage 3 the designers reflected on the feedback from the exhibition, and reworked their concepts using adapted co-design techniques in a further series of workshops. A theory for upcycling textiles began to be developed and disseminated, which centred on interconnected design thinking for upcycled textile design, explored through workshop scenarios with a range of external participants.

Project outcomes

Earley R., Worn Again: Rethinking Recycled Textiles Project Report (2005 - 2009), 2011 Download →
Earley R., Ever & Again: Experimental Recycled Textiles - Exhibition Catalogue, 2007

Ever & Again exhibition, 19 – 25 October 2007 | Ever & Again is an AHRC funded group research project ...read on →

Ever & Again Symposium, 17 July 2008 | This Symposium was one of the key outcomes from the ...read on →


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