Oxfam Ireland Homepage
Sue Bamfield, award-winning environmental artist
  • 2 mins read time
  • Published: 28th September 2023
  • Blog by Sue Bamford.

Making recycling beautiful

“It's a different way of thinking about fashion - not as trends, but old friends one returns to time and again.”


The window display in each of our shops is important. It invites people in to see what gems they can find inside. The Second Hand September window display in our Holywood shop featured a real example of how you can reuse and extend the life of materials.

Award-winning environmental artist, Sue Bamford created the beautiful dress that was the centre of the display. It was made from recycled old ties.

Sue is no stranger to the sustainable sphere, as in her art, she works with recycled materials to get people to reconsider what they view to be waste.

Sue moved from Devon to Belfast in late January. She had volunteered in the Oxfam Bookshop in Devon for four years, making props for window displays from the rag pile and unsaleable bookstocks. When she moved to Belfast she decided to volunteer with Oxfam Ireland.

Oxfam Holywood Second Hand September

“I have seen many dresses and skirts made from ties, and they all look the same - a 'sunray' of ties making use of the narrow to wide shaping. I wanted to do something different that made use of the beautiful silk textiles ties are made from but wasn't obviously ties at first glance. I believe that recycling has to look beautiful first, before the moral element, otherwise we won't attract the fast fashion brigade over to our side of thinking,” says Sue.

The project took months, as Sue collected the ties and created the piece.

“For maximum window-impact, I wanted a large Victorian/1950s bell-shaped skirt, made from ties patchworked together. This meant gathering a lot of ties, over several months, and deconstructing them. I used ties that were in “the rag”, as there is no point in using materials that can be sold as they are,” Sue notes.

“From the cleaned and ironed tie fabric, I cut out as many triangles as possible from the wide ends, then seamed the narrower leftovers together before cutting those pieces into more triangles. These piles of triangles were then seamed together into long strips. The strips were sewn together into

one big piece which was then gathered to a waistband to make the skirt,” she continues.

Sue notes that recycling pre-loved clothes requires us to adopt a different mindset when it comes to fashion.

“This does mean getting into a slower way of shopping, choosing to curate a wardrobe of great pieces rather than the instant buzz of a big haul that one quickly tires of. It's a different way of thinking about fashion - not as trends, but old friends one returns to time and again,” Sue notes.