5 Things you need to know about upcycling clothes

Upcycling Fabric

Upcycling is on the rise in the United States. The UK and Australia have been doing it for quite some time. It takes a combination of conventional sewing skills and free spirited or even renegade sewing! It is definitely thinking outside the box, or rather recreating the lines of the box. The thing I love about it is taking something that is classic and changing up the way it is, customizing it to its new owner.

When it comes time to go through your clothes and weed them out, if you are interested in learning new ways to recycle, you may want to think outside the box, too. Recycling fabrics can be done in more than one way.

  1. We all already know to re-home things via give-away’s, garage sale or donating to a thrift or charity shop.That is usually our first go to way of saving the earth from overflowing landfills.
  2. Simple alterations can be done to make a garment fit a new owner or a re-sized body.
  3. There is also clothing that is stained or has wear beyond your ability to make use of it. These types of garments  can still be salvaged by making it into a smaller size, a child sized garment, pillow/cushion, scarf or a purse/tote. I have a blog page on one thing that I made recently for someone else; a military uniform re-made into an amazing purse! Here are some others I have done (bear with my phone photo’s).
    Financial Peace envelope system upcycle
    Budgeting Wallet
    FPU envelopes DIY upcycling
    Budgeting Envelopes
    upcycling upholstery
    Sewing chair cushion

    upcycling torn tshirt fabric
    T-shirt yarn infinity scarf
  4. They can be broken down into even smaller usable parts both for sewing or for crochet and knit projects. Quilting originally was a way to re-use good parts of an otherwise unusable item. Look at this tutorial on how to make t-shirts into continuous parts to crochet with:

Then you can look up “T-shirt yarn projects. There is an abundance of things to find. Here is one example:

DIY: 21 INSPIRATIONAL IDEAS FOR USING T SHIRT YARN

Woven fabrics also can be made into yarn to use for crochet. In the short video below, it shows a very quick way to cut the strips. You would have to remove all seams before doing this, and make sure the fabric is evenly cut.

You can find many ideas for their use by searching “crochet fabric strips”.  You can also weave with it. There are rag rugs, baskets, purses and more. This provides an essentially free source for project materials, since you already own the fabric. The outcome of color is so different than the original look! You can also use smaller pieces to make a rag rug, using the very easy method of latch hook. This tutorial shows you how to do latch hook recycling or you can see the preview below.

Make: A Latch-Hooked Rag Rug

 

5. Finally, a great way to continue to use outdated garments is taking the fabric of the garment and giving it a complete make-over to where it is something completely new. There is a program that I would love to watch and wish I could find. It’s from the UK, called “This Old Thing”. It seems like it is referencing that old reply to a compliment on one’s clothing ; “This old thing? Why, I only wear this when I have nothing else whatsoever to wear!” The show’s host, Dawn O’Porter is a refashion sewer and she changes up vintage clothing that people bring to her. She does so because she has a love and appreciation for vintage clothing and has begun designing a new line of things that are stylistically vintage but have elements that make them more suited to today’s wearers, (pardon the pun). Check out this clip:

I so love this young woman’s reaction to what has been done. She can’t find what the hostess asks her, to find what is recognizable on herself. She totally cannot see the former, in the new item that she is wearing. 🙂

I find value in re-learning how to re-consider what to do with the things we weed out of our closets and drawers. Rather than just having convention give-away/garage sale pile, or a trash pile, perhaps we could add a couple of these new categories. Re-fashioning in order to fit ourselves without looking like we’re from another era,  or doing so to fit someone else is not a customary way of thinking but it might be worth your time and effort! Re-making items into something smaller, AND re-claiming the smaller parts of usable fabric from something for purposes such as quilting are ways to prevent total loss, and fully use that which is ours. Even if you are not a person who would get around to using the fabrics for craft purposes, maybe there is someone you know who would. If not, what about donating it to a local daycare center or other child care facility?

So next time you do a sort, try to think outside the box. What can be useful with what you have?

A Re-fashioned uniform

refashioned uniform

A re-fashioned uniform… a military wife asked me to refashion a uniform that she had into a new bag. Fun!! I was SO excited about this project. Sadly, I wasn’t able to start it right when I was ready to dig into it. I would have liked to! My already existing “to do list” prevented me from doing so. But onward, and forward! Here is what she gave me for the project.

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The photo below shows a judicious purchase (a thrift store bargain), that was acquired expressly for the purpose of lining her bag.

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From Military Shirt to Bag or Purse

She sent me a link to a photo of how it would turn out. It actually was part of a tutorial on how to make it, totally expediting my ability to make quickly the exact outcome she hoped for! Here is the tutorial. So, all I had to do was “commence” as my sewing machine manual calls it! lol I removed the pockets, pen pocket and sleeve tab. Wow, that is some industrial grade velcro on those pocket fronts!!

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Next, I cut the front and back pieces from the shirt, and the olive dress shirt.

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AND the straps.

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The assembly process was next and the bag… oh the bag!! It’s a pocket lover’s delight!! Every pocket came with velcro tough enough to keep a small anxious pet inside it. Inside, there is the really big pocket from the camo sleeve, which has a strip of velcro to hold it closed. Nothing is getting lost! Next to it is the pen pocket, with three spaces for pens. On the other side of the lining, is the olive dress shirt’s front pocket. The button area was sewn shut.

lining of bag

This bag’s bottom strip is four inches wide. It will have plenty of room for personal belongings. the front has pockets that velcro shut, and also have velcro loop tape on the front. The tab that was once the shirt’s sleeve closure, is not the bag’s closure.

Pocket Lover’s Delight!

re-fashioned uniform

The view of the other side.

Other side of bag

The pockets on this side were on this piece when I cut it off.  It was previously the shirt’s front. I also took some velcro from the sleeve and sewed it on here for the closing tab. THAT was a fun project! Many thanks to my friend for asking me to do this for you! Beyond that, many thanks to our military men and women for your service to our country, and to those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom. We appreciate you and are thinking of you all this Memorial Day weekend. You have our prayers.

Woven bag 2: project for a trip out of state

Woven Bag

A woven bag is one of the things I currently have going on.  I am also in the middle of my ongoing hand quilted, recycled denim project. I was going to cut out pieces of it to take with me on a trip out of state earlier this month, and quickly realized that all the blocks I have left need white denim. I was fresh out and had no time to look for some. I had to think fast about putting something else together to take along, besides reading. I decided on weaving another bag from re-claimed fabric. This one will be called the “Jeans and T-shirt Girl” bag. It’s nearly done. The weaving part takes the longest. Here is the humble beginnings with my humble phone camera:

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Woven bag: jeans and t-shirt

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These woven bags have been selling faster than I can stock them. 🙂  I am not sure when Jeans and T-Shirt Girl bag will become available, but watch for it in the products portion of this webpage. 🙂

 

 

Recycled denim quilt

Recycled Denim Quilt

I had decided to make a recycled denim quilt. At some point, after finishing the only project that I have worked on during rides in the car for twenty years, I decided I wanted to undertake another one; sewing this time! That pretty much put it into the hand quilting category. But why not? I had made several machine quilts already. I mean, yeah, they were simple four inch blocks, arranged in a pattern that suited me.

coruroy quilt

The quilt above was for a loved one who is cold easily. I chose corduroy remnants and reclaimables for it that my mom had been saving for years. In fact, the rust colored fabric is from a project I made when I was first learning to sew from a pattern. The middle is cotton batting, and the back is hunter green flannel. It is decidedly warm! Notice the crocheted blanket at the end? That is my Mom’s lovely work. 🙂

Calico quilt

The above quilt was made with calico remnants from my leftovers boxes. The person receiving it gets hot too easily, so it was made to be a lighter weight. The middle layer is a lightweight recycled blanket. The back is a lightweight cotton. The squares in the middle are indeed lighter than the rest, it’s not your eyes. 🙂 Notice the crocheted blanket at the end? That is my Mom’s lovely work. 🙂

So yes,…it was about time for me to learn to do quilt blocks. My mom had given me a magazine quite a few years ago, that taught quilting one block at a time. I told her then that I felt like I had too much when my children were little, but that I would do it later…in time. I pulled that magazine out. My new quilt work would be made for someone who likes to sleep with weight over top, so I chose denim. I will be on the lookout for just the right blanket to recycle for the middle. TBA on the backing. Here is the first ones. recycled denim quiltThe bone colored fabric is actually a light weight pinwale corduroy. I have one more block done since that photo was taken. Six blocks to go. I am looking forward to giving it to its new owner. 🙂

You make me weak in the knees bag

Weak in the Knees?

My “Weak in the Knees” bag, was what I came up with to find a use for ALL parts of denim jeans that need to be recycled. The holey knees were the only part I hadn’t found use for until this. Being that frayed denim is somewhat popular, I knew I *wanted* to create a use for them, but it just wasn’t happening.

My good friend Kelly likes to create… and is very creative. She designs fabric prints from home, using a website called Spoonflower, (link to her designs). She prints up samples to offer them for sale and shares some with me!!  After cutting up some jeans and having the square with the holey knee in it sitting around, I happened to notice that they bore some resemblance in size to the samples. That was the inspiration I needed as the impetus to work out what to do with the frayed denim.

Pi fabric wild aztec fabric fabric http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/weavingmajor pine cone fabric broken tv fabric Van Gogh inspired fabric

I also tend to buy up sewing supplies at resale shops. It sometimes lends itself to more interesting outcomes. Such was the case for this item. I had a pretty hip zipper that was perfect for the bag.

hipster zipper

Around the same time, I was altering casual dress shirts for one of my sons. The guys in my house prefer the “slim fit” over the “muffin top” look.  It just so happened that one of the shirts to be altered was in a color similar to faded denim. Soooo, I used the cuffs to make pen pockets atop the existing pocket that I added into the center of the bag.

I really wanted to use some of the original hems from the bottoms of the jeans for the top edge of the bag. As depicted in the picture above, some, but not all of the top seams worked out that way. For the remaining raw edges I used bias tape.

It is large. I almost wanted to call it a portfolio, until its current name came to me. The resulting bag is pretty exciting to me!

Weak in the knees bag

 

Tea Wallets and Business Card Wallets

Tea Wallet

A tea wallet? Something only a tea LOVER could appreciate. A favorite score for at a re-sale shop was some upholstery samples. Unsure of where they came from, I was SO glad to have found them. The only regret that I had was that I didn’t take both bundles. When I later went back to get the other one, it was gone. Well, hooray for someone else! 🙂  I didn’t get to use these right away, but now am so excited at the project that I have been using many of them for; a cute little place to tuck tea bags for the road.

Tea wallet closed

Tea Wallet open

More recently, I have discovered where the upholstery shop is. Frenchy’s has been recycling their scrap fabric for decades, before “recycle” was what we called it! That is because it was owned by more than one generation; starting with the generation that I like to think of as the original recycler’s. This one came from their shop, who called me to pick up their recycling. THAT’s a dedication to re-use! By the way, our little corner of the world has only been getting online for the past ten years, so many businesses have websites that are a mere online billboard. To learn more, give them a call or stop in. They are amazing!

tea wallet closed tea wallet open

This has been  a fun, fast project. I gave the one below to my friend. If it weren’t for her “English ways”, I don’t think this project ever would have caught my attention! I originally saved this project to make this for her. Glad she finally got one!! 😀

Tea wallet closedTea wallet

A variation on the tea wallet is the business card wallet. It is changed up a bit to accommodate a different content. It also has sewn in mat board to stiffen up the sides and protect the cards from bending.

business card wallet

business card wallet

There will be more business card and tea wallets available on the products page as time permits.

 

Puppets: Facilitating Imaginative Play

puppet like muppet

Puppets are a great medium!

I have always appreciated puppets! When my children were younger, I made a puppet show theater for them to use with the box of puppets I had available to them. Two spring loaded curtain rods in a door way with two black silky curtains was all it took.They were placed one above the other, with the top one draping behind the front one a little. The puppets came out from in between, and it served well as a theater.  They had hours upon hours of fun with it. They made up stories to go with the puppets, and they used the puppets to act out stories that we knew. Puppet play is a great way to bring about imaginative play. It is also a mode of creative expression. Sometimes, children love puppets but are unsure how to use them. Engaging them is as simple as using one to tell a story yourself. When you model the use of puppets, they will quickly be able to stretch what they have learned. If your puppets don’t match the story you want to tell, then improvise the story, the puppets or both. If you happen to have a sock monkey and a male puppet, you could retell the much loved story of “Caps for Sale”, as one example.  What better place to look for a story to use puppets for than you and your child’s favorite story books? This also enables your child to go from receptive to expressive communication. You can order puppets online, watch for them at garage sales, or make them for or with your child. One year we made finger puppets that were pre-printed “Peter and the Wolf” finger puppets while listening to the story, in preparation for an orchestral version we were going to be attending. Even simple color and cut puppets lent themselves well to imaginative play.

We attended a puppet show one year, that had first rate puppets! They looked like muppets and I SO wanted to learn how to make those. When I talked with one of the owners afterwards, I found out that they made their own puppets. The goods used to make them were apparently quite costly. I never did find help on making them until recently. I was so excited to find that tutorial. Yet, now there is even more available online about making muppet type puppets! When I did I was SO excited to make one. By this time, my youngest was almost past the age of appreciating puppets, but still did get some good use out of it.

puppet like muppet

When one of my sons started to teach music lessons, I made puppets for him as a teaching medium, for those moments when it was difficult to catch the attention of his young Suzuki students. There was one girl and one boy puppet.

 

Puppet girl 2Puppet guy 2

 

This month, I was trying to find ways to upcycle itty bitty bits of fabrics, as well as some mate-less gloves. I came up with glove puppets. I opted for good old fashioned fairy tales as the subject of my puppet project. I just so happened to recently have been asked to change out the zipper in a Carhardt jacket. The leftover zipper made a great wolf, (see photo below). Wolf is also dressed up as grandma. This one has already got a new home.

glove finger puppets

Depicted below, as my calligraphy tags are harder to read, since I enlarged the pictures, are Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and Peter and the Wolf. More zipper wolves! 🙂  Making puppets is very rewarding, and if you’re a diy’er, there are so many resources online to assist you. If you start out looking at what types of puppets there are, and decide what type you want to go for, it might narrow your search a little to then search up “tutorial ________” (inserting type of puppet). If you feel like it is hard to find the time to make puppets for your little ones, may I just say that if you press on and make the time, you will not regret it! It is so worth your time to make something that will provide hours of imaginative play. Of course, you might need to use the off button, on electric media in order to facilitate imagination, but that is a healthy limit to set. 🙂

 

puppet story assistant2

 

 

Pillow Case Dress ReFashion

 Pillow Case Dress!

Pillow case dress

 

A pillow case being used as something other than it’s original purpose never occurred to me. Living in a world of boys, (no daughters) I was not familiar with the concept of using them for dresses, until my friend introduced me to it. I totally fell in love with the idea! I made a point of looking for cute pillow cases on my next thrift shop expedition.  I found two identical ones in a cute print, as shown in the photo. . When I returned home, I followed a tutorial online and I was so pleased with how simple they are and appreciated the outcome. I gifted one each, to two friends, who benefited from me having no girls to make fru fru goods for.  😉

Since that time, I have discovered that pillow cases make wonderful cross body bags, as well. The tutorials for this were available since before the recent wave of bags now known as “cross body”. They are wonderful for balancing the weight of the bags’ contents. Hmm… might have to try those in the future, too! 🙂

I am wondering if there are other uses for pillow cases that I am unaware of. Do you have favorite uses for them, no matter if you refashion them or not….?

 

Denim Recycling 1: Girls Jeans Remake to Skirt

denim recycle

Denim Recycling: Jeans to Skirt

 

After the knees blow on a pair of jeans, there is still lots of life left in them to use for denim recycling. Some of my favorite recycling projects involves the use of  denim pants. I have made so many things with it, and have collected even more ideas than I have used. A friend asked me to do a make over on her daughter’s pants. This girl still fit her pants in the hips when the length was far too short. Her mom liked the pants and so they found a fabric that they liked, and asked for a skirt to be made out of it. I usually have a link to the tutorial I used, but in this case, what to do was obvious to me and I didn’t need one. Here is what I did: I cut off the excess denim at the hip region, below the button up area by a couple of inches. Of the purchased fabric for the project, I cut it to a measurement that would be an appropriate length for the soon to be wearer. I then pressed and sewed in a half inch hem. Then I stitched along the top edge without using a back stitch. I  gathered the top to precisely fit on the bottom of the pant, and attached it.

What Can the Leftovers Become?

Denim Recycling

I also used some of the denim leftovers, and some of the leftover fabric from the new skirt to make a little purse. I also decided to try a little beading, adding sequins in the mix, as well. I have re-beaded garments that were already designed, such as wedding gowns, and bridesmaid gowns, but I didn’t really know how to go about inventing a design. It was made with an eight year old girl in mind, and the design isn’t sophisticated. Even so, I am not sure how I would bead something that were made of a silk or silk like fabric. If there are any out there who have done some beading, I would love for you to post your project photo’s in the comments and how you went through the decision making process. I can look it up, but  then, would I find your projects posted? I know I have spent years perusing the internet and hardly a peep was posted on it from myself! 😉

 

 

 

Recycle T-shirts into Usable Goods I

t-shirt quilt

The Beloved T-Shirt Recycle Quilt

recycle t-shirts

 

I’d been trying to find a way to recycle t-shirts . If you’ve ever tried to repair at-shirt…. it isn’t very worthwhile. It lasts just a few wearings, disappointingly.   Yet, as many t-shirt wearers know, it can be hard to let go of much loved shirts. Such was the case here. My husband had his favorites and I mistakenly got rid of some, to his disappointment.

My friend Karen had made a t-shirt quilt like this one. Her squares were all the exact same size. Mine… were not.  I improvised though, as the picture will show. I bought batting to go inside and the backing is new flannel. It is absoLUTEly the go to blanket in the house. It is incredibly warm and we all love it.

If I had it to do over, I would put strips in between, made of woven fabric, like my sister-in-law did with her t-shirt quilt that she made for a friend. It seems sturdier to add a non-stretchy fabric between.

I have since finished a crocheted warm blanket that took me….. twenty <wince> years of intermittent work. lol Crochet is not my art, but I started this project at my mom’s initiation. She helped me pick out one that I would like from an old crafter’s magazine called “Annie’s Attic”. We went out shopping and got the materials. I worked on it little by little. She found it amusing when I showed the complete project to her 20 year later! Well, I did have six sons in between there! At least I finished it eventually. 😉

Winter Window

 

Does anyone know if Annie’s Attic has converted to an online edition at all? I was not successful at finding it.