Old Clothes Find New Life as Animal Characters

A unicorn was the first scrap-fabric stuffed animal Bec Sloane created. Photo: Bec Sloane

A unicorn was the first scrap-fabric stuffed animal Bec Sloane created. Photo: Bec Sloane

It all started with a pair of pajamas.

New York–based production designer, prop maker and seamstress Bec Sloane needed a last-minute birthday gift for her young cousin. Buying something new from a toy store was out (“I wanted to make something personal,” she explains), so Sloane — who has always been interested in creative recycling and finding new uses for existing materials — hunted around her home for inspiration.

The creative light bulb turned on when the designer found a set of floral pajamas that she had worn as a little girl. With some cutting and stitching, she reimagined that childhood remnant into a one-of-a-kind stuffed unicorn. Sloane’s cousin loved it.

Two years later, the designer is still recycling all sorts of fabrics — everything from worn-out clothes and old blankets to graduation gowns and lab coats — into playful creatures and characters. Each piece is stitched by hand from old garments and materials given to her by family, friends and others who hear about her work by word of mouth. She encourages people to share the stories behind the materials they contribute: Who wore this? What makes it special? What does it mean to the person who owned it?

Next page: Creating a Character

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