Plastic seconds

posted in: Designing, Inspiration | 38

You may remember my review of Offset Warehouse fabrics. Charlie Ross, the director, invited me along to her launch, and since then I have followed her blog and Instagram with interest. Recently she covered the work of Maria from Plastic Seconds.  Maria Papadimitriou makes amazing one off pieces from rubbish, recycling plastic items into interesting and unique wearable pieces. Here are some examples.

I commented and then discovered I had won a wonderful prize – a piece of bespoke, recycled jewellery. To be honest I thought that I would just get something from the web site, such as one of the amazing items above! I hadn’t realised what I had won was an act of co-creation and I would need to collect some items for Maria to work with.

At first I looked around at my bathroom supplies and then at my pens to see if any of them were finished. But unfortunately I didn’t have loads of pen caps, for example. I thought about offering hundreds of metal fasteners I had recycled from work when we got rid of our old lanyards. I couldn’t bear for these to be thrown out so I have two large bags of them (do let me know if you have any ideas for these please). I found a pair of ear plugs (unused). This is one of the issues – I only recycle certain items, such as tooth picks, when they are used. But I wouldn’t want to wear a used one of these TePes in my ears, for example.

Tooth cleaners
Tooth cleaners


Then Esme came up with the answer. She had been sorting out her children’s toys and had a bag full of broken and lost plastic toys/rubbish – Happy Meals, free gifts, pound shop presents. I actually hate these sort of toys. I prefer hand made toys, wood, simple items or just adult things like pans and brushes (so middle class). But I have to admire the creativity of the people behind these goods and there is something compelling about all that colourful plastic. The green stuff, bottom right, is an orange bag.

Now I have posted my collection to Maria I just have to wait. I’ll show you what comes back.

Have you ever made something from rubbish? Or your own unique jewellery? I imagine wearing items like these would certainly stimulate a conversation – maybe that is the way to save the planet.

And from one lovely surprise in the post to a bit of a let down.

I bought 50cms of fabric from a small UK internet company called the haberdashery. When It eventually arrived (over a week later) I pulled a thread on the grain so I could even it up. Then I discovered that the fabric only measured 48cms! I contacted the company. Not because 2cms is that important, but I felt short changed as these arty Japanese fabrics are relatively expensive (£18 p/m plus postage). I complained that the fabric was short as well as late, but the proprietor said she had cut the fabric herself and she was “sure it was at least 50cms”.

Also considering “the trouble she had gone to get the fabric” to me I was being “unfair”. She would take the fabric back but would not reimburse either the original postage or my return postage. (2.95 each way). So do I lose £5.90 or 2cms? I also read their small print.

“We try very hard to ensure that our fabric is measured and cut to a high degree of accuracy but we do reserve the right for a 3.5cm margin of error on all cuts”.

If you buy half a metre this could mean you get only 46.5cm. Is this normal? My own experience – in real life stores – is that the cutter always cuts a little bit bigger, just in case they fail to cut on the grain. I was impressed by Ditto fabrics as she goes to some trouble to cut on the grain which is economical, fair and less wasteful. What do you think of this? Is such a disclaimer, and such a cavalier attitude to customer service, normal with internet vendors?


38 Responses

  1. Kerry

    We have had so many good experiences with internet vendors, their generosity and care in packaging and delivery and in valuing the custom, that it is often a more enjoyable and personal experience than retail shopping. Nope, not normal.

  2. April

    Such a pity as goodwill goes such a long way. Maybe they have had a negative experience in the past, however 3.5cms is a lot of inches (I only think in inches) to miss. There is no reason for them not to cut extra 3.5 cm though!
    If you have the time I would explore further, long distance selling laws, but it may not apply to fabrics.

  3. Pia

    My US fabric purchases in the past have all been on the generous side. When I started buying fabrics in the UK I’ve been alarmed by how stingy they are with the cutting – almost always exactly on the measured length & almost always without care to ensure straight grain. Granted much of this was in-store rather than online shopping.

    So I’m not entirely surprised that you might have been short changed after you straightened the cutting edge. Could be even worse – could be even shorter after prewashing!

    Not really what you want to hear I know. But it sounds like a grey case – perhaps it was exactly 50cm she measured, but she either has no proper understanding of sewing or she’s exploiting the situation. Either way definitely not a shop to buy from again.

  4. Jane

    Sounds like poor customer service to me. Most companies I have bought off have been very generous in their cuts. I dropped a note to fabric godmother once about some silk that shrunk a lot when I washed it and they offered to send me some extra at no additional cost

  5. Barbarags

    I am loyal to retailers who make an effort to ensure you are getting a good service. Gill at Ditto trains her staff thoroughly before allowing them to cut. Other good experiences in shops are those who always look at the fabric as they unroll it before cutting to make sure there are no flaws in the fabric before and offer the option of cutting it from another piece or some extra without cost. I have had one bad experience where I got not only short measure but there was a mark on the fabric, luckily I was still able to lay the pattern out so that this did not matter.

  6. AB

    Oh dear, that is rubbish service. Arrogant too. The online retailers I have used have all been really good and erring on the generous side and with friendly service.

    In response to your first topic in your blog, I have a small collection of jewellery and a bag made of ring pulls. Once people twig what my necklace is made of it becomes a talking pint and I rather like the idea that one person’s rubbish can be anothe person’s adornment. Plus, as they come from a charity based in the Philippines, the ring pulls have provided a much needed income. I will Instagram a picture later.

  7. Catherine Daze

    I haven’t had that experience with online vendors before. I notice many advise you buy 10% extra fabric to allow for shrinkage, but I’ve never seen anything about a margin of error for cutting before.

    I’ve shopped in a few bricks and mortar places in the UK where it pays to keep a sharp eye on the fabric for flaws as it’s cut though.

  8. Polly

    I have just had the same experience with my first online purchase of some expensive lace. It was supposed to be 1 yard but only measured 33 – 34 inches when laid out flat. The email reply I received was that I should hold the lace up to measure it not lay it flat on a table. Even allowing for some stretch it was not 36 inches and I won’t be cutting it out while holding it in the air !

  9. Maria Josephine

    I bought several lengths of fabric from Fabworks in Dewsbury a few months ago. I was very impressed by my purchases and their service, especially when I found that every piece was a generous extra few centimetres longer than I had ordered. It does take skill to cut fabric accurately and I’m more likely to return to a company that has a policy of erring on the generous side, rather than one whose Ts&Cs allows itself a shortfall of 3.5 cm.

  10. Kim Hood

    How exciting to have something made from the ‘rubbish’ you send. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
    The experience with the fabric vendor is sad. During the short time I sold fabric mail order I made every effort to ensure I cut on grain or generously when that was difficult. I hope you still have sufficient for your plans. I believe a massive error of judgment was made here – after all, which of your readers are going to buy from that source now?

  11. Cynthia

    I doubt the disclaimer is actually legal, it is like shops having a sign that you cannot have a refund on goods, when you actually can if they are faulty. Maybe a quick call to the Trading Standards office would be helpful. You contracted to buy a measurement of fabric, so in fact it is not fit for purpose. I would certainly argue with her.


  12. eimear

    Some years ago, I have gotten caught short by the local (and only) fabric store where they sold a polyester and it was being cut more and more off grain (even though it ripped across totally true) so by the time I brought it home I did not have enough – basically I was sold a parallelogram instead of a rectangle. I had to get some more, and I asked that they rip across to get the grain accurate so I could get the length I needed (I was charged for the extra!). Unfortunately the fabric store is part of a chain and it seems that they do not encourage staff to give the extra inch in a cut (I know as I have measured exactly the end of roll piece I bought once), nor is discount given easily on end roll. Its a pity, as the underlying meanness does little to encourage my custom. As you can imagine, I buy as little as I can from there, and get my fabric from another store in another town if I need to (which does not have the same work practice – thank goodness)

  13. Chris

    I like the colourful accessories made from plastics, although the pieces shown look to be made from shiny unused plastic, so maybe ‘repurposed’ rather than recycling! Also very poor service from the fabric seller, I’ve normally received a little more than I’ve paid for – although fabricland can be a bit hit and miss, but the low prices keep me buying from them. I go on abag- making spree once in a while + the metal clasps would be very useful for bag- making – either to attach straps,or as interior key holders.

  14. Cynthia

    You might like to look at the Consumer Contracts Regulations which covers online selling, and the delivery charge problems.

  15. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    That’s really crappy service- glad you named and shamed. Make sure you send them the link to this post so that they know too!
    My fingers are itching for some of those lanyard loop things…if you have any I’d be glad to repurpose a few…

  16. Mary Funt

    One of the chain stores here in the US, Joanns, is notorious for cutting off grain and they charge for every inch. I often get extra just to compensate. On the other hand the shops in NYC garment district are very generous and tear most fabrics so you get a true cross grain. The vast majority of sales people who work in the garment district shops have a fashion/sewing background and understand the importance of fabric grain.

  17. Annnieloveslinen

    Disappointing response from Habidashery, a company I shall avoid for sure. I’ve just read their t&c and it seems to me that they do cut slightly short. This is like a landlord selling short measures, would it be legal if they had a disclaimer over the bar? I’d send it back and demand my postage reimbursed despite what they say.

    I’ve had good experience buying online, I bought from an EBay shop a few weeks ago and the fabric had a fade line, I made the seller aware but said I would still use it, she refunded the full cost and I have bought from her again.

    A practice that really bugs me is charging by the quarter metre, a tactic that hikes up the total price and I won’t purchase from those sites on principle.

  18. Jane

    Your online fabric buying experience is such a shame as her website is lovely. Disappointing customer service.

    The recycled jewellery is a great idea – I’ve often looked at those little plastic fish filled with soy sauce that you get with sushi and thought that someone should come up with a way of recycling them. The bespoke service would make a great gift for someone – they could then choose what they would like to include. Can’t wait to see the outcome.

  19. Elle C

    The Haberdashery’s cutting policy is ridiculous, 3.5 cm error on a half meter cut is almost a 15% short fall for the consumer. If you bought 6 meters with a 15% error that would be .9 of a meter short, clearly not acceptable. Bad business practice. Good for you calling them out.

  20. Hélène

    Best ever online fabric seller is Miss Matatabi (through Etsy), especially for those precious japanese fabrics. The owner has a remarkable culture of customer service. There was a problem with my last order and she solved it in no time.

    These recycled jewels are truly wonderful! Can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with.

    • fabrickated

      Good tip Helene I shall try buying direct from Japan – many thanks. I had thought it would be better to buy in the UK, but sometimes very small companies find it very hard to compete so rather than valuing customers they blame them when things go wrong.

  21. Mary

    I just bought from Miss Matatabi. Arrived within 5 days, no tax to pay and the fabric was half the price of UK online sellers for the same thing. I also recently bought from Fabworks and was very disappointed. Fabric looked better on screen than when it arrived. I usually try to buy from online sellers I have seen at shows so can at least see the quality of the fabric they have first hand. As there are no stores near me online is my only option.

  22. BMGM

    I had a similar bad experience with Lincoln Fabrics in Venice Beach, CA. The roll of fabric had a huge swatch cut out of it on one end. Most retailers measure from after the cut, they measured from the unswatched end, so I ended up with a giant rectangle missing from fabric that I paid for. I never went back again. (UK visitors often stay in Venice or Santa Monica and end up at that store. STAY AWAY.)

    Most other US stores are generous in their cuts. A yard and a thumb width is standard (37″). Nicer stores cut a 39″ yard, which means you pay for 36″ and get 39″ (a meter.)

    Your necklace looks like it will be so fun.

    I make stuff from waste all the time. I wrote a series of blog posts about pre and post-consumer waste.

    I go to Trash 4 Teaching, a non-profit near LAX airport. They collect and sell usable waste from all sorts of LA-area manufacturers, including American Apparel and some premium jeans makers. We bought diodes for $1/pound instead of $2.50 each (at Radio Shack.) They post new incoming items on IG.

  23. Anne

    I’ve just read Communing with Fabric’s blog review of NYC museums; I really like the Coca cola can dress!
    I had a problem with short changing on expensive wedding dress silk. I didn’t buy it in person. The fabric was narrower than quoted and also shorter and I panicked that I might not have enough – buying more wouldn’t necessarily have matched and the sections I needed were long. I did have enough but not enough left over after dress pieces cut to do some of the things I’d planned.

  24. Michele

    I’ve had good and I’m pleased to say just one bad experience from on line retailers for fabric purchases. Usually they come beautifully wrapped in tissue paper but in the case I brought some linen from sew me so thing to make up one of their patterns that I purchased at the same time. I found what looked like a fault when it was dipped or a fade line right on the fold emailed the shop, chased up the shop via the phone, was told by the very helpful Saturday girl after contacting the owner, that I could send it back! No mention of how my postage was to be refunded nor any fabric being sent out in lieu. I have not made any purchases from there again and I couldn’t use fabric for the purpose that I brought it for and its still languishing in my stash.

    The fact you have a shorter length that you purchased I would say that’s a weights and measure issue and can’t the shop can’t use the disclaimer. After all beer glasses were changed to allow for the head and a full pint. Very annoying and especially if you feel cheated.

    Enjoy the jewellery.

  25. Joyce Latham

    It will be exciting to see what comes back to you for the prize! I have not ordered on line. …. Yet.
    I am just thinking now…that my fabric resource has most things on sale….some sort of percent off, and that would cover any complaint such as ” there is a fade line down the middle” which often comes with my purchases!! Being “on sale” they are covered for any flaw. Wow, I’ve often been curious why they have almost everything on sale…..and now I think I know!
    Good luck with your consumer rights Kate, I hope they eventually make up for their wrong.

    • fabrickated

      I often measure, not because I am distrusting but because I am always trying to squeeze a pattern out! And I usually use fabric in the stash rather than buy specially. And I invariably find the fabric is a little longer than I paid for.

  26. Mags

    I’m just surprised by the lack of customer service. Really she called you a lyer. It’s just taken me ages to sort out a problem with Sew Over It over some faulty material. I only spotted the fault after I had started cutting and at first they wouldn’t give a refund. They said I should check the material before cutting!

  27. Gail

    No its not normal. Your option is not to buy there again. They lose not only your patronage, but also readers who might have followed a positive recommendation.

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