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Woman upcycles jeans in the best way

Words by Smiley Team

Nikki McMullen has shown that upcycling your clothes is the perfect way to reduce waste, contribute to the circular economy, and avoid the need to buy new.

The 30-year-old, from Bournemouth, recently had a photo of an upcycled pair of jeans liked by more than 1 million people on Twitter, turning an old, unused pair of jeans into her new “favourite pair”.

“It’s my second attempt at embroidering,” she tells Smiley News. “I’d asked for an embroidery kit for Christmas, which was basically the stitching equivalent of a ‘paint by numbers’. It was really helpful in learning different types of stitching and once I’d finished it – which was a very satisfying moment – I felt like I could handle a new challenge.”

Nikki was browsing Pinterest and spotted the floral design. “I later found out the design was based on a kit by RiverBirchThreads,” she says. “I loved it, and thought ‘it might be a little ambitious, but I have nothing to lose by giving it a go’.”

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It took her around 15-20 hours to complete the embroidery, over two weeks.

“I’d pick it up while watching TV in the evenings or relaxing at the weekend,” she says. “The nice thing about embroidery is that it allows to me to get into a flow state, where time, stresses and distractions just melt away. Plus, it’s nice to have a hobby where I can’t use my phone – that’s definitely been good for my mental health.”

Without upcycling her jeans, Nikki says they probably would’ve ended up in a charity shop or sold online. She loves buying secondhand, too. 

“I’m really grateful for second-hand clothing, as a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a Crohn’s disease, got really ill, and lost a lot of weight. I’m recovering now but my weight fluctuates, which means certain types of clothes, like jeans, have to be switched out fairly often (as they aren’t very forgiving when your size changes).

“I’ve tried to be more mindful about my wardrobe – cutting it down to key pieces I really like – and I think customising your clothes can be really helpful with that. It’s amazing how adding a bit of interest to an old pair of jeans can bring them to life and actually make you excited to wear them again!”

She was surprised to see how much the photo resonated with people on Twitter. “I certainly didn’t expect that level of positive reaction,” she says. “Some people told me that it reminded them of jeans they wore in the 60s and 70s. Some people shared their own embroidery projects, which I loved seeing. And then there were others who thought the jeans looked cool, and who wanted to give it a go themselves.”

Inspired to act?

TAKE PART: Learn the best ways to reuse old clothes with Less Waste.

DONATE: You can donate to Traid, and put your old clothes to good use.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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