How to Upcycle your Tote Bag in 4 Steps… Fashion Revolution Thailand at Wonderfruit Festival 2019

25 Apr, 2020 | Creativity & Craft, Style

I’m very lucky to have visited Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand in December; an incredible festival that prides itself on its ethical and environmental values. I didn’t know it then but it might have been my last festival for a long while! Here’s a quick post sharing some tote bag DIY ideas from my experience at the festival’s workshops but watch this space for the full festival review and guide which is coming soon!

One of my favourite workshops over the weekend at Wonderfruit Festival last year was with the Thai branch of Fashion Revolution. As you’ll know from yesterday’s post about Ethical & Sustainable Festival Fashion, Fashion Revolution is one of my favourite charities and spaces for learning more about the complexities of the fashion industry. So for a festival like Wonderfruit, which aims to ‘catalyze positive change through creativity,‘ it was a perfect match.

Wonderfruit Festival digital camera photos from Thailand

The ‘Re-Love, Re-Wonder‘ stall was in the Living Village area of the festival alongside some other environmentally conscious workshops like a plastic recycling machine! It was a really cute set-up full of easy to digest facts and with the super lovely, super knowledgable girls who run the Thai branch of Fashion Revolution on hand to help.

I was offered a choice of second-hand items to up-cycle or the option to bring my own. I chose a tote bag and then got to work on the various stages of jazzing it up! What was brilliant about the way that the activity was laid out was that it was designed to really get you thinking about the various processes that go into making our everyday clothes and the handiwork that is behind all the pieces that we wear or the accessories that we use.

“It’s just as important to mend our clothes as it is to mend broken systems.”


Ideas for How to Upcycle Your Own Tote Bag…

1. Dye It

We used a natural indigo dye to colour the bag. First, we folded it in a zig-zag style and secured it with two planks of wood and some elastic bands for a tie-dye effect. Then I dunked it in a bucket of the dye and tried very hard not to get it all over my white skirt!

You can try out your own natural organic indigo dye from Etsy here.

2. Print It

It dried quickly in the gorgeous weather and we did some screen printing on it next. First up was a simple speckled pattern in white over which we laid the iconic ‘Who Made My Clothes’ sign in navy blue.

I’d never screen printed before and I was pretty rubbish at it but luckily I had a lot of help! I absolutely love the effect though. I’m thinking about getting one of these mini screen-printing starter kits for myself…

3. Stitch It & Weave It

Weaving is how every fabric starts its life so this was a great activity for the workshop to get people thinking about the origin of their outfits. I found sitting in the sun and using the little mini weaving loom super relaxing! (I’m thinking of getting one of those too, ha!) I didn’t use my weaved square on my bag in the end but as I wove some strips of coarse fabric into it, it works really well as a face scrubber & face cloth.

weaving session at festival
Yes lads, that’s me… ‘Fast Learner from Bristol’.

I finished off my bag by stitching on one of their special ‘ReWondered by:’ labels and adding a few pretty cross-stitched and a blanket stitch around the top in colourful embroidery thread.

4. Flaunt it! (& Use it!)

1. Jumble skirt
2. Borrowed Retro Swimsuit
3. Dakota Rae Dust Earrings
4. Bag upcycled by me!

Pleased as punch with my new bag! It’s a great size so I use it all the time. I would love to see a Fashion Revolution stall at some UK festivals, I think it would be really valuable at Glastonbury & Boomtown to make festivalgoers more aware of the impacts of festival fashion on the planet… maybe I can run it?! There’s a goal for when festival season’s back on!

P.S If you’re not the crafty type then maybe check out my post on the best ethically made festival bumbags and let some independent designers do all the hard work for you?

‘Warning contains ideas’

Lockdown is a great opportunity to get on with some crafty stuff, I’m gonna try out some embroidery on a jacket that I’ve been putting off for ages – I might even add more to this existing bag?

I remember (back in 2009!?) I was so obsessed with this patchwork bag that a character called Naomi had in the third series of Skins – can anyone remember what I’m talking about? It was kind of Tracey Emin Quilt-esque with its letters. I reckon it might be my next project. After I’ve started that jacket of course… and bought my new screen printer… and my new weaving loom…

I’d love to hear about any upcycling projects any of you have got on the go, let me know in the comments!

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4 ways to upcycle a tote bag

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that I get a very small percentage if you choose to buy something – at no extra cost to you. As ever, all opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I didn’t think was great. Thank you for supporting That Festival Life!

1 Comment

  1. Kirsty

    Love this!! Any techniques to save textiles from landfill ticks all my boxes!! I collect unwanted tents from festivals and upcycle the materials into decorations and accessories and these workshops are so important to educate everyone in the value of the circular economy!!


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