Repurpose old clothing into scrap quilts, rugs and upcycled clothing to reduce waste and give fabrics and fibres longer life and new beauty.
Are you wondering what to do with those clothes in your closet that no longer fit, or you don’t wear anymore? Three easy solutions are to pass them on to someone else, sell them at a yard sale, or donate them to a charity. All three options will declutter your house a bit and keep useful garments out of the landfill. Reduce waste, reduce waste, reduce waste! However, if you really like the fabrics and have a creative streak, why not repurpose old clothing to serve a new function?
My mother and other women of her generation were skilled at knowing how to repurpose old clothing into scrap rugs and scrap quilts. After I returned from South Africa in late December, I sorted through my clothes. Some, I set aside to donate to charity. Some, I set aside to cut into squares for scrap quilts. In the photo above, two of my simple scrap quilts rest on a much more complex wedding ring scrap quilt made for my mother by a friend of hers. Some of the fabric pieces in the wedding ring quilt were taken from dresses my mother wore, so the quilt is not only attractive and functional, it’s also precious to me. The squares in my quilts were cut from old skirts, a pair of pants, a dress, a pair of shorts and leftover fabric from a vest I had sewed for my husband.
My mother braided the scrap rug at the top of the photo below. The other two rugs were made by her quilting friend. Now all three brighten my home and cushion my feet. I haven’t yet tried rug-making, but a braided rug made from strips of old blue jeans appeals to me.
With a little imagination, you can also repurpose old clothing into new clothing, grocery bags, doll accessories, cushions, mittens, hats, aprons, toys…you name it, the sky of your imagination is the limit. The Sewing Loft and Good Housekeeping together offer more than a hundred suggestions and links to tutorials on how to repurpose old clothing. To find other possibilities, type “repurpose old clothing” or “upcycle old clothing” into your online search engine.
I recently unravelled a White Buffalo yarn wool sweater and a pair of socks I had knitted for my husband decades ago, which he no longer wore (I had his permission!). My plan is to use the yarn to knit a cozy sweater to wear while I’m writing in my office, which is cool in winter.
However, the white and grey/white colours of some of the wool didn’t suit me, so I decided to repurpose old yarn by dyeing it to new hues. I visited Janine Guinan of Give It a Whorl Fibers in Truro, Nova Scotia, and we transformed old into new.
Janine dabbed some test colours out for me to see, and I chose orange and turquoise as the shades for me.
We used niddy noddies to make loose skeins of wool from the tight balls and divided the yarn in half by weight. Janine wet half of the wool in a warm bath, with a little dish soap added to remove grease, and a cup of vinegar added to help set the dye. Then she added orange dye solution and vinegar to a large pot of boiling water and cooked the yarn in the dye bath for 30 to 40 minutes. Amazingly, the wool absorbed every bit of orange dye, leaving the water clear. Janine used the same hot water for the turquoise dye bath, and after dyeing each batch of yarn, rinsed it in warm water and spun out the water using the spin cycle of her wash machine. Voila! The end product was vibrant yarns that I can’t wait to knit into a gorgeous sweater.
If you have a favourite way to repurpose old clothing, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!