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  • Camilla

Why I Started Stellen, by Kate (@stellen_uk)

Hi, I’m Kate the designer maker behind @stellen_uk. I make jewellery from waste materials, currently I use ex-bouncy castle PVC scraps that I get from Wyatt and Jack ( which are off cuts from their fabulous bags. I also use t-shirt yarn, which I crochet into necklaces and sometimes bracelets.

I started Stellen back in 2016 after a trip to Elvis & Kresse left me inspired to do something about waste, but my background was in Theatre and, before I had my children, I had most recently been a Drama teacher, so I didn’t really know what I would actually do, I just knew that I wanted to try and make a difference. With my youngest about to start school I felt it was the time to get started and see what happened. I have always enjoyed making things, from paper finger puppets when I was 5, to sewing some long sleeve tops for my children a few months ago. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a crafty mum! When I worked doing Community Theatre and Youth theatre, with very little budget for props and costumes, I would always say I was pretty good at making something from nothing, so I just started with what I had to hand.

The first thing that I did was to learn to crochet from a couple of YouTube videos, and I made a small and quite wonky crochet square from a kids' t-shirt that was full of holes - it was immediately taken by my daughter to use as a toy blanket. Next I turned one of my old and worn t-shirts into a yarn and made a necklace for myself, because I do love a fabric necklace, and started wearing it on the school run. Soon people were asking me where I got it from, and it went from there. As I was looking for other t-shirt yarn ideas I discovered that you could actually buy t-shirt yarn on bobbins; it is brand new fabric, but it is the ‘waste’ from garment factories which would otherwise get sent to landfill, and there are several companies that rescue this waste and turn it into useable yarn, such as Hoooked, Bobbiny, Tek Tek, Retwisst and Welcome Yarn. I bought a couple of bobbins and started making plant hangers and necklaces, and within a couple of months I had booked my first market.

I really like to crochet with t-shirt yarn because it is so big and chunky you get results very quickly, which suits my impatient brain very nicely! Last summer I made a garment by hand for a subversive catwalk project run by local activists a:dress ( I called it the ‘waste’ coat, in order to highlight the pre-consumer waste produced by the fashion industry, as I believe that post consumer fashion is talked about and seen, in terms of what people do (or don’t do) with their clothes at the end of their lives, but there is so much waste that we don’t see before the clothes arrive in the shops - and t-shirt yarn is made from that waste.

If you haven’t had a go, or think crochet isn’t for you, get yourself a big hook (somewhere between an 8-12) an old t-shirt, and a youtube tutorial and you could make yourself a coaster within an hour!

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