Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sewing Day: Things to Never Discard

   Today I am spending most of my negotiable time upstairs in the sun filled Apartment, sewing and sewing and designing and sewing and crafting and stuff like that. I am having so much fun and am knocking out orders and gifts left and right! This makes for a good Wednesday, you guys. On a quick brunch break (on solo days like today I skip breakfast and don't really need lunch), I thought I'd share a few thoughts on resourcefulness. With Christmas right around the corner, if you are anything like me, you can use a little encouragement in this area.

   Thanks to my sweet Momma, the Queen of the Art of Leftovers for Dinner and the world's original Re-Purposer, my habit has always been to use found fabrics and materials, recycling stuff as many times as possible before resorting to purchasing anything new. I prefer to collect old things and make them into new things and try to put a new spin on classics before dabbling in a trend. This leads to a lot of, umm, stuff piling up. Some people call it hoarding. I call it stockpiling on the cheap. Thank goodness for excess storage space, right? So my sewing caverns are full to bursting with old castoff fabrics originating anywhere from bed sheets to beach towels and everywhere in between.

Remember when Handsome built me these colorful raised garden beds?
They're made from all reclaimed lumber from the kids' old playhouse, 
which was itself built from stockade fencing we had found on someone's curb a thousand years ago.
Then we filled the raised beds with shredded office papers for soil building.

Zero waste. Unless you count the manure. Technically, that is waste.
But we used it, too. I mean, whatever...

   Okay, the animals and gardening are an entirely separate conversation about resourcefulness. I could talk about composting and healthy diets and cheap, old fashioned organic farming methods for hours and hours. Like, for longer than I could talk about running. But not today.

   Today, back to sewing.

   Some things in this beautiful world translate to re-imagination better than others, and that's kind of what I want to share with you today. These are just my own thoughts and experiences, so take them with a grain of salt (collected frugally from the counter top, of course; no need to waste NEW salt!). And please share your own re-purposing ideas too!

The Lazy W List of Material Things to Never Discard

  • Jeans Any denim, especially once it's broken in, is easy to press flat and sew with and combines really well with all kinds of cotton and chenille, etc. PLUS the pockets are usually fun additions to aprons, etc. The possibilities for reusing denim are endless.
  • Sweaters Sweaters might be slightly less enthusiastic than jeans about being cut into new shapes and sewn in with other fabrics, but if you can handle the pilling and stretching, they make luxurious textures for new projects. One of these days days I'll show you the blanket I'm working on using old, mismatched sweaters. Pinterest is filled with mitten-making tutorials too! Have you tried this? I'd love to know how it goes.
  • Men's Oxford style shirts Again, endless possibilities. The fabric is usually super smooth and often has nice geometric designs which make cutting straight lines a cinch. I really like to reuse the pockets. And I have found that one men's shirt, butchered carefully, can become a ruffled half apron in just a couple of hours. If you don't need the buttons right away, remember to save them! That's what Mason  jars are for, ladies.
  • Bed sheets I can't even describe to you how sad it makes me to think of people throwing away bed sheets. I mean, obvious hygiene requirements aside, sheets have built-in straight edges, generous yardages than you can't buy at the fabric store, and that smooth cottony-ness that makes any sewing project wonderful. SAVE THEM. Some of my favorite projects have been made form a stack of sheets passed down from my Grandma.
  • Worn out bed pillows. Lumpy, yellowed, or otherwise just not fit for slumber, bed pillows can be cut into smaller squares (or left whole, I suppose) and recovered easily for throw pillows, etc. Pillow forms are expensive. And I don't know about you, but in  my book free is a lot cheaper than expensive.
  • Beach towels So far I have only used beach towels as a quilting-type filler, but I know there are millions of other possibilities hanging out there in the universe just waiting to be lassoed! 
  • Canvas-type (muslin) drop cloths My personal fave way to use this little textile treasure is as a table cloth base. I let it fall flatly to the ground then add more colorful things on top, like silk scarves or ratty lace or actual tablecloths. But drop cloths also make excellent window treatments (they ruffle and embellish easily), place mats (because they are sturdy and bleachable), and pillow covers. You might say that these heavier duty sheets of neutral colored fabric are blank canvases for your fertile imagination. PLUS they are pretty cheap and come all hemmed up already. Not bad, folks.
  • T-Shirts Oh my goodness. Scarves, quilts, tote bags, drawstring tank tops, wall art, you name it. If your family collects sports team or charity event t-shirts like my carpets collect stickers, then you will always be supplied with free craft material. The weirder or more sentimental the shirt, the better. Don't toss these, man. Just fold them neatly somewhere until you can spend the day with some scissors.

   The items pictured here were all made exclusively from found materials...

Okay, I did purchase the black and white striped dish towel new.
Everythinng else is reclaimed. The hot pink floral apron used to be a sundress.

Again, the onesie is new but embellished with found fabric.
I had SO MUCH FUN making this scrappy little gypsy tutu for my cousin's baby!

This half apron is fully up-cycled.
The waistband and some of the autumn leaves are made from
part of that bed sheet collection from my Grandma.

Kind of a dark photo, but this is an example of a t-shirt scarf. 
I love these so much, planning to make a bunch this winter!

All reclaimed cotton tote bag.
The floral pattern is really, really old. Like, vintage old.
The striped pocket is just lifted from one of my husband's old shirts.

Brand new cotton tea towel, embellished with ruffles made from an array of very old garments.
You absolutely cannot beat the texture of old, well worn cotton.

A crib quilt made exclusively from found fabrics.
Again, why not surround a beloved infant with old, cherished scraps 
that not only feel better to the touch but also
are drenched in memories and wisdom from decades past?
Even better, use those old pieces and discreetly label some of them
so the provenance is not lost.

   So my brunch break is over now! I am headed back to the Apartment to finish a certain list of projects before the sun warms the horses enough to welcome my brushing and the water hose doesn't mind doing a little trough filling. I would be so happy if you shared your inspiration for reusing perfectly good castoff stuff!

Waste Not, Want Not!


  1. I am a sucker for any piece of old lumber that is laying around. There is ALWAYS something to do with it!!

    1. Yes Sir you are!! LOL Yay for barn storage too!! xoxo

  2. Great list of ideas, Marie. Wish I was in your sunfilled apartment sewing along with you.

    1. How fun that would be, Heather!! But I would also very much like to be in your basement painting furniture! xoxo

  3. I am glad I'm not the only one who stuffs old clothes and linens away to use for later. A large men's shirt makes one pair of baby overalls, complete with pocket.

    Also, the sheets you used for the tote bag? I used to have those on my bed when I was a kid. Old. Way old.

    I love your creations. Just another way that you inspire me. xo

    1. WHAT. You had those sheets?! They were my Mom's first! I think they were curtains in her room before I was born, maybe.
      Baby overalls?? That is so cool. I didn't really know you're a sewist!! : )) Yay! And how cool that the men's shirt manufacturers saw into the future to provide just the right amount of fabric. So cool. xoxo

  4. Absolutely brilliant! I often wish I had the time to sew. Or a sewing machine...
    And I don't have the space/like to stockpile on the thrift....
    But you have done some wonderful things here I have to say. Inspiring. Just not sure yet if it is inspiring enough


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