Downsizing By Up-Cycling Textiles

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Last month, I wrote about downsizing by getting rid of what no longer serves you (click here to read). I mentioned that there are other ways to organize and de-clutter and one was a creative way. Up-cycling is something I’ve been experimenting with.

Up-cycling is another word for reusing something that is worn or no longer needed in it’s current form and repurposing it into something new and useable. It’s good for the planet because it diverts objects from the landfill and it can be good for your finances by helping you avoid buying new things all the time. Textiles are one area that causes a huge amount of waste.

“In Canada, the average person throws out 81 pounds of textiles annually, while North Americans send 10 million tonnes of clothing to the landfill every year — most of which could be reused or recycled, according to statistics compiled by Waste Reduction Week in Canada.*” 

Textile Up-Cycling Ideas:

Here are some ways you can deal with your old clothes, bedding, table clothes and other textiles that you no longer need. There are interesting new skills to learn and explore while being creative and taking care of the environment.

1. Visible Mending

I’m experimenting with up-cycling my used clothing by doing visible mending. Years ago, people would darn holes in socks to prolong their use. The darning would be done in a colour of yarn as close as possible to the original item to avoid drawing attention to the mending. Now, there is a trend to make those stitches as colourful and obvious as possible. They become a lovely addition to the item. The visible mending can be done by weaving colourful threads across the frayed collar of a sweater or it can be an embroidered design covering a hole in a shirt. There is also the traditional Japanese art of mending called sashiko (click to learn more) where cloth is quilted in geometric patterns on top of the area that needs mending. 

2. Quilting

This is also a great way to re-use fabric and old clothes. Your quilts don’t need to be traditional. You can make your own fabric from small scraps (click here to learn more.) If you are not a quilter and are not interested in learning, you may be able to donate fabric scraps to a local quilting club/group. 

3. Felting

Photo by Dom J on

I have tried this with old wool sweaters. It’s easy to felt them in the washing machine and dryer. Then you can cut them into new items. I made mine into mittens.

4. Rag Rugs, creating fabric twine (see video below) and making t-shirt yarn are all ways to reuse textiles and make them into something creative and new. A rag rug can be handy by the back door or to give colour to the floor in a washroom. Fabric ropes can be sewn into colourful baskets, coasters or placemats. T-shirt yarn can be knit or crocheted into bags, or braided into rugs. YouTube is full of instructional videos on these projects and more. It’s worth looking to see what appeals to you. Try a few different things.

How to make fabric rope/twine

Recycle and Donate

What if textile up-cycling is not your thing? Then divert your fabric from the landfill by recycling it or donating it. If you wish to recycle your clothing there are many clothing donation bins dotted around the city of Markham, Ontario. They accept any type of clean textiles including clothes, pillows, bedding, shoes and bags.** If you are donating your clothing to a charity for re-sale, make sure that it’s in good condition. Another way to donate your clothing is to ask a friend or family member if they’d like to “shop your closet.” Business clothes that are no longer useful to you as a retired person, may be much appreciated by someone still working. There’s no reason that any textile should go into the garbage bin.

*Click here to learn more about textile waste.

**Click here to learn more about fabric recycling bins in Markham, Ontario.

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