As I was clearing out some pieces of clothing from my closet recently, I finally decided to let go of a much-loved plaid shirt. It had a rip in the back that I had been ignoring for a while, but I just didn’t think I could fix it without ruining the pattern and making it very obvious. In addition, the cuffs were starting to wear and the buttons were starting to pull weird so it was time to stop wearing it. However, simply throwing it away just didn’t sit right with me so it went into a growing pile of fabric of shirts with stains and socks with rips that can’t be donated. I’d never had a solid plan on what to do with these pieces but adding in one of my favourite shirts made me more motivated to do something with it. Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly artistic or crafty person and I have not sewn a anything in many years. So, my first stop was the internet to re-learn a few basic stitches.
I followed a tutorial and practiced several types of stitches in rows. They did not look completely even, but for my purposes they would do.
I chose a few different projects that I had seen online that sounded like useful and doable projects for me. There were a surprising amount of ideas which require very little skill apart from a basic stitch. First off, I decided to sew a snack pouch to replace the plastic zip-locks I used to use. Maybe not the simplest project to start with but with some red thread used on the red plaid fabric, the uneven seams are barely visible! The button was an extra one that came with a jacket I don’t even own anymore and I learned that with enough thread most buttons will stay on quite well. This little pouch has now carried little snacks many times! The stitches might not be even but with some care while washing it they have not come apart yet.
The pouch was a project I knew would not take much strain on the seams as long as it wasn’t stuffed full. The next single-use item I had wanted to replace for a while would require stronger seams, so I was a bit apprehensive. The item was cotton pads, the usually round pads that are used once for makeup remover or toner and then thrown away. Since I often used (and threw away) two per day I knew I wanted an alternative. So, I cut a few circles of fabric and stitched them together. The challenging part is the binding strip that goes on after as it’s stitched in a circle around the edge and keeps the fabric from fraying. If you have good fabric available this step might be unnecessary, but mine was prone to fraying, so binding was necessary. Once that was done it was very sturdy!
The next thing I felt I should replace in my day-to-day life was tissues. I tend to carry them around at all times and use a few per day, so replacing them with handkerchiefs would save me money and keep me from throwing tissues away after a few seconds of use. A soft cotton sheet that had ripped (and I had kept mostly with the belief that my university days would include at least one toga party) was the perfect material to create some from. Sewing semi-straight lines is not too difficult, although I have troubles rolling the hems perfectly but practice will make this better, as I intend to have a few on rotation. Once used they can be hand washed that night in the sink, so no need to make lots. Monogramming might be in the cards for the future because who doesn’t want a personalized handkerchief.
The last item I decided to create I didn’t actually end up having to sew. Hemming materials with a looser weave such as the sheet I used for the handkerchief is absolutely necessary to prevent fraying. However, I found that while cutting up a sweater to use as scrub towels around the house that the weave is much tighter and holds together pretty well. I might sew these eventually, but even simply cutting up an undonatable sweater will give it a second life for a while and prevent you from buying single use paper towels to clean with.
I hope these small projects helped inspire you to do something fun and useful to you with the items that you cannot donate! Synthetic clothes are incredibly hard to recycle, especially blends, and even organic untreated materials don’t break down very fast in compost. Until this is possible, giving these pieces a new life within your own home is a great way to do something with them.
Blog Team Volunteer