Start a Fabric Stash of old, cast-off Materials and Garments!
Use old or cast-off garments, textile remnants, or pieces of upholstery fabric in your sewing to create original items. This is a low cost and environmentally friendly.
Recycling and repurposing fabric not only gives a free or low-cost source of materials, but it also provides the way to bring a unique perspective to your sewing and helps the environment. When working with old recycled materials you are sure that no two designs will be the same.
Any fabric is suitable for recycling – even old and worn fabrics may have areas that are still in reasonable condition and pieces can be cut out and used as patches, applique, or to make small accessories such as corsages. Great quilts and patchwork can be made from pieces of recycled material. Large pieces of fabric such as curtains or covers may offer enough material for a whole outfit. There are no rules when sewing – why shouldn’t upholstery fabric be used for a garment. It won’t make a soft draping blouse but certainly would make a great jacket or coat. Old placemats can simply be stitched into a purse, liven it up with a bright-colored lining, or lace trimmings.
Old garments can also provide a useful source of fabric. Look out for luxury fabrics such as silk, cashmere, or perhaps vintage laces. If the garments are in good condition then with some creative thought they can be adapted and updated to produce new one-of-a-kind outfits. Garments can be decorated with vintage laces or edgings. Even lace doilies could be incorporated into a repurposed garment with a little imagination to add a lacy touch. Take a look at this project which combines a range of fabrics including lace doilies. Even socks can be sewn into interesting soft toys.
Felt jumpers and blankets
Pure new wool fabric, for instance, knitted jumpers, blankets, or other wool items, is likely to shrink and felt. Felted items are very popular right now and a wool jumper can easily be reworked into a funky felted bag. The felted wool will be a more substantial and stronger fabric with less ‘give’ than the unfelted equivalent and therefore lends itself to larger bags. Once felted the fabric can be cut and manipulated without fear of it unraveling, so shrink the woolen item first before cutting. The best way to shrink and felt woolen material and items is simply to put it into a washing machine on a hot program with some towels. Note: Some wool is preshrunk so not all woolen garments or blankets will shrink and felt when washed.
Tips for recycling and repurposing fabric
- When working with fabrics from your recycling stash, remember to make a note of the fiber content if you know it and clip it onto remnants. For instance, if you are cutting up a silk blouse, mark this on the left over bits as this will be helpful in the future when you are combining textiles for another project.
- Fabrics of similar content can be dyed, so keep these together. Even patterned fabric can be overdyed to create a new effect.
- If you are unsure as to the content of the fabric, use a good all-purpose sewing thread to sew with.
If you are interested in recycling and repurposing things, then take a look at these Suite101 articles about repurposing jewelry and recycling family crafts.