David MacLeod of My Cloud Designs in the United Kingdom, incorporates material from recycled clothes into his bag designs.
Hi, let me introduce myself. My name is David and I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am a research scientist by training, but a lack of jobs in my field means that I am currently work for the Scottish Government and I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. Hobbies include sewing (obviously), model making (mostly boats and planes), painting, cycling, cricket (left arm seam bowler, if you’re interested), football, and the usual mixture of reading, cinema and music. I think I’ll leave it there for the introductions.
How did you get involved in sewing and producing bags?
This may take a while…. So, [wavy lines] back in the mists of time, the 1980’s to be precise, here’s how it all started:
I’ve always done craft stuff including sewing for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still have one of my earliest sewing pieces: a sampler I did at primary school aged about 7 or 8 I think, with different types of stitch on it. Whilst growing up, I progressed from doing cross stitch and making Christmas tree decorations, to making stuffed toy animals from little kits and then started to make little projects of my own. I found that if I could think of something to make I could generally think of a way to make it. I’ve found that planning and patience are key to successfully making your own designs.
Making bags started by accident really. I was given my Mum’s old sewing machine as I had the idea of being able to fix things. Shortly after I got the machine, I ripped a pair of jeans beyond repairing. I started to take the back pockets with the idea of using them in some sort of project and then thought about the material in the actual jeans. I took them to pieces and decided to use the material to make a simple tote bag for my wife.
Once finished, she took it into work and her boss liked it and asked me to make one for his sister. I did, but I wanted to make something a bit different. I ended up using denim and for contrast I used some cream upholstery fabric that had been used to package up our sofas.
Everything spiralled from there: I made another bag for my wife because she really liked the second one that I had made; then I made bags for myself, a couple of friends and my sister. Everyone loved them and suggested that I started making them to sell and that’s where I am now.
The majority of my materials come from cast offs from friends and family. People know that when they ‘kill’ an item of clothing they should see if I would like it before sticking it in the bin. There is a surprising amount of material in a single pair of trousers once you start taking them to pieces!
Most of the material I use for the bag outer carcasses is denim, but I also get thinner materials from shirts or blouses to make linings for the bags. Then some of the smaller details (such as the fish scales on my fish scale bag) have been made from fabric off cuts from other projects.
In addition to this, I do buy some printed material off the roll to add a bit of interest to what would otherwise be a fairly plain bag. I use upholstery fabrics as they are made to be durable and have found that Ikea is a really good source of bright, interesting yet durable and relatively cheap material. Additional details such as zips or buttons come either from my local fabric shop (LFS) or from an online wholesaler. I have found that the LFS near to me puts all of the odd buttons they have left over in a jar and you can usually find some really nice ones in there. I’ve started looking for buttons at flea markets as well.
Why is the use of recycled materials important to you?
The throw away culture that we live in today is unsustainable in terms of the use of resources and in disposing of the old items. I think it is quite worrying that when something that requires very little attention to be fixed or put to another use is merely thrown away and something new bought. You can see that this culture has had an impact on the quality of the items that are available for sale today because they are no longer designed to last. In turn, this has lead to super corporations who can mass produce cheap goods and has pretty much destroyed smaller companies that produce unique and interesting items. The world has become universal and people are starting to lose their individuality.
Your ‘fish scale’ bag in particular is very unique, where do you get your inspiration for your bag designs from
My designs go through two phases: design of the main bag structure; and design of the detailing. In designing the bag structure, I think of the overall bag shape, then the shapes that will be needed to produce the bag and how I will put the bag together. Part of the design process is to try and make the bag practical and useable in every day situations.
In terms of the detailing, inspiration comes from all over the place. Anything and everything that I see in my day to day life can be incorporated into my designs. I have designed bags with a Gaudi influence, in an art deco style, art nouveau style etc. I have been influenced by Bauhaus and the De Stijl movement in particular as a lot of these use simple shapes in order to design a functional object.
With the fish scale bag, the detailing design came to me after I visited a bag museum in Amsterdam. They had an enamel bag which was principally made up from a series of overlapping scales. I sketched this idea down with a view of using it in a future design. The main bag was designed to be put together simply and to be functional once it was finished. You may notice that it is actually the same bag structure as the red and purple art deco inspired bag that I have also made.
Do you replicate your bag designs, or is each one unique?
The designs I have made for people are one offs and all of my commission pieces will remain unique. I may take ideas that I have developed from these bags to use in other projects, but the design as a whole will remain unique. Furthermore, because my bags are handmade from recycled materials each bag will end up being different. That’s one of the joys of using recycled material: it’s next to impossible to find an identical material because of the wear and tear the material has already gone through in it’s previous life. On the whole I like to try different things mainly to keep me interested, so I will try something new over duplicating designs and mass producing (as much as one person can) a product.
I have some ideas for some new designs and I am thinking of branching out into making laptop bags in the future. I would also love to start incorporating leather into my designs, although that idea might take a while as I would have to learn the skills needed to work leather so that I can achieve what I want with it. Other than that, it’s business as usual.
How do you transform a pile of unwanted damaged t-shirts into a cute little skirt for a toddler? Use the LilyGiggle Rings of Ruffle t-shirt skirt pattern available on Recycled Market!
The LilyGiggle Rings of Ruffles t-shirt skirt sewing pattern is a PDF tutorial, which takes unwanted tees, and transforms them into little children’s skirts.
Turn a pile of unwanted t-shirts and jersey garments from this…
Suitable for beginners, with easy to follow instructions, and home printable pattern, no serger is required, this is a great way to upcycle old t-shirts and scrap fabric.
Pattern available to buy here
For little people
The Azalea Cloche recycled t-shirt hat pattern for little girls
The Rings of Ruffle recycled t-shirt skirt for girls age 6-10yrs
Costume cape pattern made from recycled t-shirts and scraps for boys or girls
Recycled t-shirt hat pattern and tutorial for boys or girls age 7-12yrs
Recycled t-shirt hat pattern and tutorial for boys or girls age 1-6 yrs
Girls tunic age 2-8yrs pattern and tutorial made from a recycled women’s skirt
Girls tie-front dress pattern and tutorial, sizes 6-10 years, created from a jersey bed sheet!
For grown ups
The Odelia recycled t-shirt skirt pattern for ladies
DIY mitten tutorial and pattern made from recycled sweaters
Eco-friendly fingerless glove tutorial made from recycled sweaters
Eco-friendly DIY coffee cozy made from fabric scraps
DIY cupcake pincushion tutorial made from sweater scraps
Necktie owl brooch tutorial, made from mens neckties (for little people or grownups!)
Save those damaged t-shirts, sweaters, bedsheets and neckties from landfill by turning them into something beautiful!
Fun Costume Cape pattern and tutorial, to make from recycled t-shirts, shirts and scrap material. SUITABLE FOR BEGINNER SEWISTS!
The Costume Cape is designed with upcycling a men’s dress shirt and fabric scraps! There is a safe & simple velcro-neck closure and easy-to-wear elastic arm bands. Each wing is decorated with pretty “FEATHER” ruffle layers. Sure to become a favorite dress-up for all! Can be created for either a boy or a girl, simply changing fabric choices.
The Costume Cape can be made to fit babies to adult sizing. Perfect for anyone enjoying a medieval festival…or just trying to flutter around being a fairy. Think about adjusting the colors in a brown color scheme to mimic a wise, old owl or go for a selection of greens and make your favorite fire breathing dragon. The possibilities are ENDLESS!
Wings for girls, or cape for boys http://www.recycled-market.com/CHICKEN-HILL