How do you use recycling in your sewing?

comments (32) January 18th, 2010     

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_nikki_ Nicole Smith, contributor
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How do you incorporate recycling in your sewing?

Whether you're cutting up old garments or using scraps from old projects, share how you stay green in the sewing room.

posted in: SewStylish, Sewstylish conversation, sewstylish question

Comments (32)

NubianGoddess writes: I used denim fabric scraps to make my dog a mat for his kennel/pen.

Since I have an extensive fabric stash,(lots of stuff that I can't remember the original plans for) I used thick durable non-stretch polar fleece as a batting.

My daughter had a ruined batik skirt that I cut apart and sewed onto denim patches and I sewed the top of the mat into a quilt of sorts, embroidered my dog's name onto the middle patch and attached the body to another piece of denim.

The mat is very durable,easy to clean and my mutt can lie on my deck on chilly mornings, he's more inclined to stay out longer when he's not cold.
Posted: 7:25 am on May 25th
FrancesC writes: Older bath towels get used as spare towels or they get cut up into hand towels for the kitchen. Clothes are worn for years then go into the rag box to use as cleaning and cleanup cloths. Old sheets get turned into pillow protectors and sometimes pillowcases. Good sized dressmaking scraps are made into aprons. Some zippers get re-used. I make my own oven mitts and replacement covers - they are smaller and a bit stiffer and I find them easier to use. I keep the buttons from old shirts and blouses. I have made various holders for household storage. I use strips from my husband's worn out pajamas to tie up my tomato plants; each year I retrieve them from the dead vines and wash them for re-use. I'm currently remaking a dress into a tunic top. I use some of my husband's old shirts for protective smocks for dirty work. I used leftovers from his fleece dressing gown to make a winter hood for myself.
Posted: 10:18 pm on January 23rd
agatha44 writes: I reuse unique zippers and buttons of useless garments and reuse fabrics of garments for craft items and new garments. I have some pale green linen pants that I am presently making into a springtime pillow.
Posted: 9:46 am on January 22nd
alicehakes writes: Hi. I go to a share shed a place where people drop stuff off before going to the dump. I have repurposed shirts from there to pj tops and bottoms for my youngest. I also use my fabric stash to make the bottoms. So far 2 complete pj's. Some nights she just can't decide over winnie the pooh or spongebob. Have a few more to go.
Posted: 7:08 pm on January 20th
mamacache writes: I have the pleasure of working for a textile mill that makes alot of packcloth and jacket fabrics. Alot of these mill ends and samples are thrown into the dumpster. I met two nice ladies that belong to a charitable sewing group that makes all kinds of clothing, string bags, etc for people and kids in need in our area and I'm happy to donate the fabric that normally would go to the landfill. My stash already has way more than I could ever use.
Posted: 4:14 pm on January 20th
sewold writes: Outworn clothes have always been recycled - to the next child! Of course, sometimes they were cut up, reworked and used that way. I have recycled many pieces into pajamas, with a patchwork effect: one piece for each sleeve, one (or two) for front, one for back, etc. One of my best recycles is using bib overalls for duffle bags. The bib and straps are used as is, the rest comes from whatever is usable. Another favorite recycling project is making pillows or stuffed animals from favorite old clothing. Many times I have made these for families who have lost a family member. The stuffed projects make a good remembrance gift. I also use polyester scraps as stuffing for them - another way of recycling. Old quilts that are beyond repairing make attractive stuffed animals and really small pieces can be used for Christmas ornaments.
Posted: 11:53 am on January 20th
Happydayone1 writes: Ops, meant to say 1920's.
Posted: 1:50 am on January 20th
Happydayone1 writes: I do a lot of recycling in the old farm tradition of my family. Whether it's repurposing an old but still useable blanket as a quilt batting, creating new garments or accents from older fabrics (some of the fabrics in my stash date back to the 1020's, and are from my grandmother's collection), patching, repairing, or simply reworking a garment into a new peice (shirts are great with added embellishments, a new neckline or redone sleeves). And most of the scraps end up in quilts of one sort or another or throw pillows. I also do hand embroidery, crewel work, beading, ribbon embroidery, crochet and filet crochet, and I use all these techniques to construct or embellish my creations. And quilts don't grow old here, they just get patched, adding some wonderful charactor to them.
Posted: 1:49 am on January 20th
sewingbilly writes: I do alterations and repairs, and even the smallest offcuts get reused in some way. Nothing from my workroom ends up in landfill. Denim scraps and suiting offcuts are put aside for repairing other customers' jeans and trousers. The scraps I don't need are either snapped up by keen Freecyclers for making rag rugs or felt, or are taken to a local recycling centre called Scrapstore, which collects stuff primarily for use as creative material for children's projects. Little bits of cotton, wool, viscose/rayon and other natural fibres go on my compost heap, and anything left over goes to a charity (thrift) shop who can sell it by weight to shoddy and mungo merchants. Clothes that are not saleable in the West are sold in Africa and anything else is turned into other textiles, such as insulation material, cleaning cloths, carpet underlay, rugs, etc, so nothing is wasted. Broken zips and metal trims go in the metal recycling bin collected by the local authority.
Posted: 4:40 pm on January 19th
AkuTyger writes: I reuse everything, even scraps get used for my son's art or for stuffing. I like to upcycle things too - see my blog post from today.
Posted: 3:32 pm on January 19th
sewnutt1 writes: I do alterations and repairs for customers. I reuse all those plastic bags I get for trash bags or, small ones, for items to return to customers. I reuse all thos credit card "blanks" I get in the mail to mark or cut into width guides. I alter for a police department so I save ALL buttons, slips, sometimes zippers and pulls, and definitely anything I cut from pants that are shortened. Often I have to extend the length of a hem and the hem width scraps make handy facings. I have used wedding gowns to make much cherished Christening gowns. I have turned my own prom gown into a formal skirt. And what little girl doesn't like new doll clothes or a 'ball gown' to play with.
Some of the most interesting sewing I have done personally is the remodeling of garments for myself....a jacket into a vest, removing a collar or hood, slacks into capris, getting rid of shoulder pads and making sleeve tops more current and then taking in an shortening appropriately. Making a garment totally sometimes results in design or fit that just doesn't work whereas updating an existing garment gives you a head start on overall design.
Posted: 1:36 pm on January 19th
jacigh writes: I think heaven is the second hand clothes store. All the possibilities! I can buy something for the buttons or color of fabric alone!
Sweaters with a bit of fleece are great vests.
Old bras are wires, hooks and straps for a new design.
Slips find new life as camisoles.
The lace on old wedding or prom dresses decorate many a piece of lingerie.
Say you want sleeves on a dress that has none? Think arm "gators".
Posted: 1:32 pm on January 19th
Tana55 writes: I use my scraps to piece quilts for my family and for charity. I also use old quilts where the batting is still good to make new quilts. I trim off the worn fabric and make a new cover, top and bottom. I use the old quilt for the batting and tie with crochet threads. (#10) I use old jeans for piecing as well. I also have a friend who sells my quilts at her shops. I save the bottons off unrepairable clothes and sometimes make jewelry. My grandchildren love these. I buy thread on cones, when they are empty I give them to my friend who decorates cakes. She uses them for forms to make trees.
Posted: 11:43 am on January 19th
billysmom writes: I make quilts and do a lot of cutting out pieces. When my cutting mats get worn mostly in the middle, I cut them into templates for quilt pieces. I use a pair of heavy kitchen shears. Usually, my husband helps with this as I don't have the hand strenght anymore. I hated to throw away these mats so was very happy when this idea came to me.
Posted: 10:29 am on January 19th
Cuada writes: My favourite recycled piece is the Christeneing robe I made for my first nephew. I used the communion dress which had been worn by my three sisters and I! It has now also been worn by 11 babies on their christening day :)
I often use old belts as straps for bags - and reuse pockets from old clothes as bag pockets.
I use old newspapers as pattern paper, as the sheets are a good size.
I keep old curtains - especially the lining and use it for muslins or as a stabilizer. I often dye faded curtains to use again.
My friends & family keep their broken jewellery and the spare buttons from new garments for me to use as embellishments on projects.
Posted: 5:52 am on January 19th
hotinaz writes: Our group makes pet beds for the animal shelters. We save all of our cuttings from seams, thread snips, fabric we have left after we cut out patterns, batting. We scour garage sales and rummage sales for old quilts which we then cut up and all is recycled into making pet beds and stuffing them. Nothing goes to waste. If we don't have enough fabric to make a bed, we sew several small pieces of fabric together and then make a bed out of it. The dogs and cats are not fussy about what the bed looks like, but are very happy to have a bed to help them stay off the hard floor. But best of all, the friendship that develops as we make these beds is priceless.
Posted: 4:26 am on January 19th
sewhappy1221 writes: I recycle containers for storage in my sewing room instead of buying more plastic.
- The clear plastic "towers" that hold 50 or 100 blank DVD's make great storage for zippers, elastic & lace - wind around the center spindle, secure with a pin. These then store nicely stacked in metal mesh storage cubes.
- The cute little wooden "crates" from clementines at the produce store stack 3 high on the same shelves, and hold painting, dying & embroidery supplies. In a single layer, they hold sewing patterns.
If you want to be fancy, they can be painted or covered with fabric scraps to match your decor. I simply cover the end with an adhesive label to show what's inside.
- Empty copy paper boxes from the office (or local copy shop) make terrific fabric storage boxes - small enough that they are not too heavy when filled. And - FREE! - so I can have one for each category or sub-category of fabric. They stack neatly in the sewing room closet, and on top of the metal cabinets in my laundry and keep everything out of the light & dust-free.
It is a challenge to find ways to organize without spending a lot of money.

Another way I recycle - I draft many of my own patterns, and often use them dozens of times. I trace the patterns on used manila folders that my office is discarding (simply tape together to get the right size.) These are punched with a hole punch & hung on shower curtain hooks in the closet - sturdy, neat, accessible & free!
Posted: 12:25 am on January 19th
KJRas writes: When making purses and bags, I use the stiff (but flexible) strapping that comes around many shipped packages to give strength and body to the handles. Just sew over it carefully.

Posted: 10:58 pm on January 18th
Sewing2enjoying writes: I love visiting the local resale stores for many items to be re-fashioned or re-made. It gives me a kick to be able to make something very useful out of something discarded by someone else. I especially love making over sweatshirts. I enjoyed very much felting wool I found through the sweater aisles and making many cupcake pin cushions for Christmas. Pink, brown, and white made them look like the three most popular ice cream flavors. At a homemaker's special meeting last year, I made one of those little zippered "boxes" from a 2-liter bottle and displayed it as a little sewing box on the "recycled" table. I have made gym shorts into pillows, all sorts of found fabrics into rag quilts, and I am always anxious to visit again to find notions, fabric, or even special items for an idea. I have a button collection I keep separate from my mother's really old collection. I have a ton of t-shirts cut and ready to make into quilts. These shirts have a special meaning to many of the young man's friends to whom they belonged. He was a huge t-shirt collector, especially of musicians. He unfortunately passed away at an early age, so his friends will be receiving quilts and/or pillows from the collection which I was fortunate enough to have been gifted. I also have huge bags (2) of old jeans. I have several ideas for them, but so far have only made purses.
Posted: 10:48 pm on January 18th
MessyONE writes: I use vintage patterns - truthfully because they look better on me and the garments are built MUCH more solidly than most current patterns. Give me a shirtwaist dress pattern from the '40s any time and I guarantee the finished product will fit better than a new one.

I use cotton scraps to make dresses for my 2 year old niece and try to buy the minimum I need for the project I'm doing. Also, I've been using old fur coats for trim, hats and lining. It's the best, warmest thing around and it's 100% biodegradable when it finally ends up in the landfill.

Posted: 10:39 pm on January 18th
PICASEW writes: I have always loved the colors and motifs in men's silk ties. Fortunately several friends gave me old ties which I experimented with, as they do require a bit of TLC. Then a friends' father passed away and I suggested she let me create a memory quilt from his shirts and ties. Since that first quilt project, I have since created pillows, purses and additional memory quilts from recycled ties. It is truly a win-win way to recycle!
Posted: 10:28 pm on January 18th
Spiritpeh writes: I have always taken every usable part of a garment off of it; ie. buttons, workable zippers, velcro, pockets, trims, etc. Then, I take the garment down to useable pieces and make other things.
As a child and teen, I'd restyle clothes given to me by my mom's friend and make complete outfits for myself. Then,
when my daughter was little, I make shorts out of long pants for some friends, took the legs and small scraps and make coverall skirts for her. Everybody wanted to know where I found such cute outfits.
I told them from Singer. Since they didn't know that brand, I smiled and told them that was the brand of my sewing machine.
Posted: 9:59 pm on January 18th
dormery writes: I recycle fabric scraps into patchwork shirts and jackets, and also into original artwork. I'm attaching a picture of one of the latter here. I think it's quite possible I got the idea for the technique from Threads sometime in the 90s.
Posted: 9:26 pm on January 18th
Judywan writes: My current recycling/sewing combination is to convert some unattractive nighties into panties - and a well-worn tshirt into the crotch lining for these panties.

In my to-recycle stash are several pairs of old jeans - my plan for them is to combine the fabric with flannel and make a cuddly quilt.

Posted: 8:44 pm on January 18th
smith501 writes: I like to buy old men's sport coats made of camel hair, solid or tweedy wools. I cut them up and make Father Christmas dolls. I try to preserve the original pockets in the cutting of the robe side fronts and fill with miniature toys. It shows the wear and tear and that the coat was loved by someone. Each Father Christmas is one-of-a-kind, unique and great gifts to give during the holidays. I also often use the lining of the coat to make the tunic under the coat and/or a toy bag for him to carry.
Posted: 8:39 pm on January 18th
lucygirldesigns writes: I use old jeans to make purses. When I am finished shaping the top into a purse, I use the legs to make more purses from patterns. Then I use the smaller pieces to make patchwork to make more purses. I use worn blouses, flannel shirts, sheets, etc. to make the linings. The leftover pieces are used to make quilts and the last small pieces are used to make crazy quilt pieces for more purses. I also recycle the buttons from worn clothing for decoration on my, what else, ---purses! To make felted purses, I use wool sweaters from the thrift store. I also unravel thrift store sweaters and re-use the yarn, but that's another topic.
Posted: 8:34 pm on January 18th
luvstosew writes: I inherited lots of wonderful cotton damask table linens from my grandmother, mother and mother-in-law. I use them for all sorts of things from making muslins, to lining things, to covering pillow forms or using them as backing on pillows. It's like sewing family history into the things I make.
Posted: 8:34 pm on January 18th
MarilynJohnson writes: Really small scraps I bag up and give to my sewing machine repair guy for his repair work testing. Depending on the size and shape of the scraps I make tote bags and other small projects, box up to use with my students' projects in my sewing school, donate, use for appliques, piece for quilting projects and now have so much I sell by the pound or colorway.
Posted: 8:09 pm on January 18th
416 writes: I purchase fabric from the thrift stores to make linings for my purses. First I wash them, then I paint circles, squares, triangles, etc. on the fabrics. I press them to set the colors. These fabrics make unique linings and I've only spent a fraction of the cost. Since I am learning free motion embroidery, I save all my used needles to practice sewing on paper before sewing on fabric.
Posted: 8:04 pm on January 18th
maryannet writes: I take left over scraps from garments the same weight and washing instructions piece them together like pieces of a quilt block into a large rectangle. After making the pieced rectangle I fold it following directions for bias folding in Threads
Posted: 7:51 pm on January 18th
Bats1980 writes: I use old clothes to make doll clothes(once they're so worn the fabric is thin and hangs better), or cut down large worn t-shirts to my size.
Posted: 7:51 pm on January 18th
marycozzens writes: as a teacher for 6th grade religious ed, I have made puppets from old garment pieces and scraps of remnants for my class to use in telling bible stories to the younger classes.
Everybody loves it.
old sleeves and cut off legs from old pants make the bodies and heads made from felt with yarn hair complete them.
Posted: 7:32 pm on January 18th
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