Global Recycling Day: Poetry from our Haus of Kraft writers


For Global Recycling Day, we're sharing three new poems penned by writers working on Haus of Kraft

Exploring the human and environmental impact of fast fashion, Haus of Kraft has brought together local artists and makers to investigate creative solutions to the problems it causes. 

In Coventry, a group of women have been upcycling waste materials into imaginative new outfits, working with Jeanefer Jean-Charles and Marsha Roddy on Beneath the Seams, a spectacular runway show coming to Assembly Festival Garden on Tuesday 26 April. 

Meanwhile, local poets have also been collaborating with international writers, based in countries where many of our clothes are produced. Through online conversations, the writers have delved into the issues at play, each one producing their own written response to the subject. 

Below you can read the poems written by Coventry writers Kim Hackleman, Diana Roor and Alex Johnson, as well as watching two films of the writers reading out their poems. 

The Roll of Cloth

by Alexandra Johnson

The silkworm ate the mulberry leaf, making his silken fibre, soft strong and beautiful. The fingers grasped the cotton tuft and separated it from the plant. The mill grinds on with belching steam, gobbling water, fibres, and people.

The fabric rolls from the teeth of the loom, piles folding and rippling as they spool. The cotton coils and pools. And the sections are cut with the thrust of the blade.

And the whole becomes the parts, which divide and stand alone.

This piece, the lining of the delicate robe, part of the layette of a not yet born child. Washed and pressed, hemmed, and adorned. Folded tenderly and waiting to be worn. Added to the drawer with all the ephemera of the new life. Ready to enclose the little soft body safe, secure, and warm. Little fingers will explore the dress, comforted by the thin satin ribbon on the edge. Growing ‘til the seams will constrict and it will be washed and put away for the next cherub.

The next piece the shirt for the city boy, cocksure and arrogant. Insecure and brash, absorbing the sweat as he wheels and deals. Catching the drips of the froth from his pints. Cuffs slowly wearing and fraying, gradually losing its brightness as the collar grimes and the buttons pull, stretched across the girth as it grows.

The next piece becomes the tablecloth at the greasy spoon. Absorbing sauce, oil, ash and egg yolk. Listening in to the words and they fall. The confessions, the plans, the fears, and the triumphs. Under the Copper’s quiet cuppa and the young girls’ frothy coffee.

The next piece is the sheet under the woman. As she contracts too early, it soaks up the spill, absorbs the red as she cries for the child that is lost. Grips it through the contractions as it wipes her tears. Until in exhaustion she sleeps only to wake to remember her sorrow, painted on her bedding.

And the pillowcase that holds the head that dreams for so long that the seams start to perish and it finds itself in a box under the sink. A rag to wipe and soak. Softened by wear and washing to the texture of gossamer. The knarled old hands wring and rinse it, wiping the table where he sits alone to eat and read. No visitors to clean up after just him and the dog, as grey and arthritic as each other. The rag boiled once a week until one week it sits grubby and dries on the drainer, yellowing in the air. And he sits motionless at the table and the dog quietly whimpers until she falls silent forever. Until they are found in months to come, a sad reminder of the isolation of old age. Another lonely pensioner who everyone forgot to remember.

That strip the sheet that becomes the bandana on the man who sweeps. It holds his head, soaks up the sweat of his toil and cradles his thoughts. He remembers the mangrove and the sun and the salty wind from the sea, and his heart aches for the lost opportunities and the girl he left behind, the woman he settled for and the children who ignore him. And he sweeps and remembers everything he tries to forget.

The final piece the altar cloth, draped with reverence, holding the chalice and candles that they use to praise their God. White and bright and ironed and trimmed. Revered for its closeness to the body and blood, holding the transubstantiation and the blessings. At least a century of use and awe.

A Recipe for Coventry Blue with a Hint of Sweet Honey and a Dash of Heart

A Recipe for Coventry Blue with a hint of Sweet Honey and a Dash of Heart

by Kim Hackleman

1. Harvesting

July and August are the best months for harvesting woad in the UK. Woad is considered a noxious weed in Montana, USA.
In Thailand, the summer period is from March to June.

2. Tearing
Do not tear them too small.
Do not make pesticide-sprayed woman toil.
We are shocked, saddened, sickened, they said.

3. Steeping
Water from the Sherbourne,
Water from the Wabash,
Water from the Chao Phraya River.

4. Cooling
This appears to prevent the woad from breaking down. Women doing piece work to specifications,
What will prevent them from breaking down?

5. Straining
The spent leaves can go on the compost. Spent garments go?
Spent women?

6. Adding
Or you will destroy...the blue.
And my thoughts are voiced in song; are my hands clean? And she taught her to dye and changed her.

7. Aerating
To my surprise, can you Adam and Eve it, can you believe it? And my thoughts come out in her black and white words:
We haven’t gone very far from where we were three decades ago.

8. Settling Pounds, Dollars, Baht.

9. Concentrating
One last time...

10. Drying
Siphon away as much as possible.
Reaching across the miles, she says to them: You’re going through what I went through years ago, And I see a light go on and at the same time I know, someone somewhere is paying.

The First Stitch is the Hardest

The First Stitch is the Hardest

by Diana Roor

Part 1

The earth depleted;
drowning in fabric and the ashes
of the clothes we waste.
Taken the most of those
who desperately need it.
Drowning in what once was
a desire to create, to empower,
to connect.

I want it back.
I want to run my fingers over the seams
and for it to be, exactly what it seems
Every stitch made with love
every colour,
a reflection of the maker, the creator, the designer.

Nothing can be finer
than a handmade piece
A handmade, eye to needle,
stitch to thread,
full chain garment.
The soul of the sower
forever a part of the fabric and
transferred to the garment’s owner.

Because how can we feel more alive
When what we wear, is dead
No soul left, just money in the creases
Full of pain, hardship and diseases
Of the people that made
Every individual part
Working for money that doesn’t even
Buy us a set of needles
And that’s only the start..

How can a garment be alive
If the people that made it can barely survive
How can clothing be whole when
Nothing is left of it’s soul
When the makers, don’t even know
what it is that they make

See here’s what’s at stake
Dead clothes, dead resources, dead earth
No money is worth
Not having a life to spend it on
No money is worth
Claiming the souls of the people we depend on

It needs to stop, it needs to stop fast
This fast industry isn’t built to last
It isn’t built to sustain
So let us ask, again and again,

How can we return what has been lost?
How can we undo the damage already done?
How can designer, maker and wearer,
become one?

Part 2

The first stitch is the hardest
I don’t even know where the start is
But I know we must start
Start to slow down, look at the ground we’re standing on,
growing seeds we can later depend on,
growing seeds that make clothing last,
have wastage be a part of a dark and unsustainable past

Makers remembering that their vision is divine
One of a kind designs, reflecting their soul, life and culture
Exposing their identity and gifting the clothes their authenticity

Because a gift it is, making something unique
Putting heart and energy into every cut
Putting a part of you in every piece
This can’t be taken for granted
This can’t just be devalued
By making everything cheaper than cheap.

The prices are there for a reason
Not just to buy everything that is “in season”
but to buy what really gives you joy
A piece of clothing that shows a little something
of the person that chose it.
It can be sentimental, expressive or aesthetic
But whatever the message
Let’s make sure it’s conscious and authentic

As buyers, consumers, wearers
We are the bearers of real change
We have the power to empower
Those who make.
We have to heal the parts of us
That use clothes to fill the holes
That should’ve been filled by connection
We have to say no to those
Who tempt us to go for fastness
For cheap fabric made with loss of morality
Because that is the reality

We the consumer have a choice
not to bow down to a toxic modality
But to support makers
That bring us quality
Uniqueness and garments that each
Have their own identity
We the consumer have a choice
To raise our voice
And say, I will not wear anything
Unless it’s the ethical choice.

The first stitch is the hardest
But the second gets better
We are the game changers
The generation that becomes the green-trendsetter.
Let’s join our efforts
Let’s sow the seams of change
And build a sustainable future

Haus of Kraft presents: Beneath the Seams takes place in the Queen of Flanders tent at Assembly Festival Garden on Tuesday 26 April. 


Haus Of Kraft Presents: Beneath The Seams

26 Apr
Spectacular. Sensational. Sustainable.

Come dressed to impress. Thrift it, borrow it, fix it, or come as you are!

In response to the global impact of fast fashion, the Haus Of Kraft Coventry collective team up with artists and writers from commonwealth countries to create a catwalk like no other.


Primary School Showcase and Secondary School Competition.

Junk Kouture is a recycled fashion competition which challenges young people to design, assemble, create and model high end couture from everyday junk! It takes in elements of fashion, design, engineering and environmental sustainability and transforms them into a creative contest like no other!