Upcycling is a buzz word at the moment, but Gin Lawson, of Gin’s Running Stitch, talks instead about “repurposing”.

“I take what people aren’t using, for whatever reason, and make something they will use.”

It sounds so simple but how many of us have received race t-shirts that just don’t fit. We still accept them and then they live in a cupboard under the stairs.

“It all started with making some bits for friends,” said the enthusiastic home sewer. “Then I got a Trail Running Association t-shirt that was just way too big for me, it was massive.

So I made it into a really nice running skirt and just popped it on my social media. The response was really positive. All of a sudden an item of no use was one of my favourite running items.”

And this is how the high quality cottage industry was started. Helping friends and thinking outside of the box with a massive t-shirt. “It was my husband who came up with the name, Gin’s Running Stitch and it was perfect”.

Making things useful

The business started in October 2018 and has since made bundles of runners happy. This includes British international Ali Young who has two of her favourite t-shirts made into a functional running skirt.

“As many runners know, we have drawers full of running gear we never use,” said 24hr runner Young. “There are some race t-shirts we refuse to part with due to sentimental value but are not comfortable to run in so they stay in the drawer. Gin turned my Spartathlon & MDS t-shirts into wonderful skorts I love to use.”

Photo: Ali Young

Ali isn’t the only fan of Gin’s work. You can tell the pride when Gin says “about twelve months after setting up online Charlotte Jalley, of ReRun clothing, got in touch to say how much she loved the skirts and if I’d be interested in collaborating?”

“Gins running stitch gives the opportunity to prolong the life of much loved and cherished, but unworn race memorabilia by transforming it into something usable to that person,” said ReRun’s Jalley. “She’s saving it from a life in the back of the cupboard or box under the bed. So thank you Gin!”

ReRun’s main purpose is to raise awareness of simply just how much waste there is in the running industry. By partnering up with people like Gin they hope to show better options than just constantly buying new products.

If the material for your new favourite running kit is already in your house then why not use it?

“It’s not just about recycling what you have though, it’s also creating something memorable from your race t-shirts,” smiles Gin. “Many runners, especially females I find, just can’t wear the race t-shirts they’ve worked so hard for.” 

High quality matters

“I’m just trying to show people what’s possible”.

The majority of race t-shirts are uni-sex at best and we all know that just means it’s a man’s style. A decent fitting women’s race t-shirt is becoming more common, but it’s certainly not a given at the finish line.

Whereas Dan and Charlotte deal in huge volumes of unwanted t-shirts, Gin is more focused on helping individuals repurpose loved items into something actually useful.

“At first I would be really scared to cut into someone’s beloved t-shirts. I knew they’d worked so hard for them. Things like a Spartathlon t-shirt or Centurion 100 mile finishers top aren’t easy to get, and they trusted me to cut it to pieces.”

One thing that is clear from speaking to any of Gin’s customers is that this concern comes across in the form of extremely high quality work.

Ali Young concurs. “The care Gin took in transforming my MDS & Spartathlon t-shirts into skorts was second to none. As an Ultra runner herself she understands the effort gone into earning those tshirts and 100% cared about the outcome.”

Durability comes from caring abut your work

“I’m just a small cottage industry and the concern is that your work won’t hold together as well as the big professional sportswear makers, but actually the durability has been just fine.” said multiple marathon finisher Gin. “

At the Running Show one runner came up to show me a bag I’d made and told me she’d used it every day for a year. It was still in perfect condition”.

Funnily enough we assume higher quality with bigger industry but it’s the care and dedication of a single worker that can really make the difference these days. Gin’s is a real cottage industry and at every stage it sounds like the kit has to pass the quality control of the boss herself.

Not just running skirts

If the running skirts were the initial showcase piece for Gin, it’s certainly not the only product she makes. The “showstopper” title might have shifted to the Runner’s Poncho.

Made from 32 different panels you need to be a serial racer to own one of these but it certainly turns heads. Each one is handmade and takes 4-6 weeks for delivery, such is the time and effort put into making them.

Alongside there are also men’s shorts, running beanies, gaiters and a host of other useful running accessories that can turn unwanted kit into something you can’t do without.

Another recent collaboration was with Centurion Running, for whom Gin created beanies, gaiters and drop bags from unused t-shirts.

“Teaming up with Centurion was a dream come true, as they’re such a great company in the running world and when James [Elson – race director] got in touch I was really excited.”

Centurion have repeatedly been trying to reduce their own environmental impact over the years, from cup-less checkpoints to offering the option for runners to have “trees, not tees.”

Everything is personalised

So if you have those running t-shirts that aren’t being used, but you still want to remember your greatest achievements then get in touch with Gin.

“Everything I do is personalised. Even if two people sent in the same t-shirt there would be two unique skirts or hats at the end of the day,” insists Gin, who is a keen ultra-runner herself.

“No two pieces are the same. I want to create something that each person is proud to wear and take a lot of time and effort with each item.

The pride Gin takes in her work shows in the high quality end product, turning treasured, but unpractical, keep sakes into loved running kit that can be used every day.

To see the full range of what’s possible check out Gin’s Running Stitch online. There are also some products made from her own brightly coloured fabrics and beautiful mementos, like the Memory Bear, that can be made from your old tee shirts too.