Sustainable Sewcialists: Keira’s Ocean Trash Upcycle

Hi Sewcialists!

I live in the Caribbean on a small island called Barbados. Because of our location and ocean currents, we feel the impacts of global pollution directly. Environmental groups organize beach clean-ups every so often because lots of trash washes up all around the island. To us, global plastic pollution seems like a big bad wolf that we will never be able to conquer. It’s very easy to feel defeated; to feel like there’s nothing big enough we can do to make a change. But as we say here in the Caribbean, “One one blow does kill old cow!”


Did you know that we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste globally every year? That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population! Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Obviously, it may not be possible for us to cut out plastic in its entirety. I mean, I personally still use a plastic toothbrush and my bread comes in a plastic bag from the shop; I even have one or two sodas every now and then. What’s important is how we choose to dispose of our plastic waste.


Some countries have recycling plants and that is awesome! But did you know that you can also do your own recycling at home? We all have various super cool talents! That means we can channel our creativity down a path that allows just a tad of recycling here and there. It really doesn’t matter how small a project; all efforts count and contribute to making a change. As creatives, we hold so much power in our hands without realizing it. So think long and hard about how you can use your talent to #beatplasticpollution.


My name is Keira and I am a trashion designer. Trashion (a portmanteau of “trash” and “fashion”) is a term for art, jewelry, fashion, and objects for the home created from used, thrown-out, found and re purposed elements. I’ve made outfits completely out of recycled materials, but the truth is, sometimes these pieces are not suitable for everyday wear, but rather for runway shows and exhibitions.  For this project, I wanted to demonstrate how a little garbage can spruce up a plain blazer, and at the same time, not take away from its ‘wearability’.


I used the Mimi G for Simplicity 1167 pattern to make my blazer. The fabrics are stretch twill for the body and crepe backed satin for contrast.  The embellishments which take this blazer up a notch are made from glass beads, sequins, home-recycled plastic bottles, and plastic marine debris/ocean trash! Can you believe it? I used the soda bottles to create delicate and beautiful flowers that resemble embroidery, and now they feature in this piece of wearable art. One thing I love about trashion is how unique the pieces turn out; I mean I’ve never seen a blazer with 3D embroidery like this before! It’s just stunning!



Here are the instructions to make your own plastic bottle embellishments:

  1. Wash your bottle and take off the label.
  2. Print or draw flower and leaf templates in different sizes
  3. Cut the smooth flat part of the bottle using a blade or scissors
  4. Trace your templates using a marker or pen
  5. Cut out your traced templates
  6. Hold them over a flame to curl the edges. We don’t want to melt the plastic so don’t hold it too close nor too long.
  7. Use a heating tool or soldering iron to poke holes in the center of your flowers and stem of your leaves.
  8. Stack a smaller flower onto a larger flower and attach to your garment using needle and thread and a bead to hold it in place.
  9. Attach the leaves using needle and thread as well.




I felt like such a #bossbabe in this blazer! Not just because it’s a black blazer of course, but because I had the luxury of choosing the embellishments. I was in control of the materials. I held the power in my hands and I realized it! There’s just this amazing and unexplainable feeling you get when you couple your talent and creativity with your power of choice to do something so great; to do something that fuels change; to do something that sparks meaningful conversation. The same way we proudly wear commercially branded apparel, we can also wear clothing that promotes a message for sustainability. How will you use your talent to influence change? Let me know in the comments below!




P.S. Follow me on Instagram @islandsewcialist and visit my blog to see what crazy ideas I think of next!

Be sure to tag your sustainable makes with #sustainablesewcialists in Instagram!