How to Recycle Old Clothes

Where to find Used ClothingShort of grubbing about in the rubbish, a good place to find second hand clothes is in your local charity shop, or if you live in the USA, your local thrift store.Another excellent source is local jumble sales and boot sales. The clothes here are often the cheapest and there are many bargains to be had.And in Spain many of the markets have stalls that sell second hand clothing for just a couple of euros.Let all your friends know too that if they are throwing anything out to throw it your way.What to look forWhen you are hunting for suitable items there are a number of things to check:1. How worn is the fabric?Try to find items where the cloth itself is still in good condition. Different fabrics will wear at different rates. Cotton and linen always wear well. The amount of wear a garment has had will also impact on the longevity of the cloth. Examine places like the crotch seam in trousers and the linings in skirts, as well as the front on ladies clothing – this is often where you will find small pulls caused by jewellery..2. What is the fabric composition?Some fabrics are easier to work with than others. Sheer fabrics are usually the most difficult, but knits can also be a challenge if you don’t use an overlocker. Pure wools and silks will need special washing care. Pure wool knits can often be felted by washing in very hot water if this is an effect you are after.Cottons and linens are usually pretty easy to work with, and will often fray well for that shabby chic look. Viscose is very common and fairly easy to sew.3. Is there any major damage?Check the garment for tears and rips, and for cigarette burns. If you plan to incorporate the zip or button fastenings into your re-design make sure the zip is not broken, and all the necessary buttons are there.4. Are there any visible stains?Perfectly good clothes are often discarded because of a stain. Sometimes these can be washed out but it’s always a gamble. If it’s in a place that won’t affect what you want to do with the fabric then there is no problem. I usually weigh up the value of the good parts to decide on whether to buy a stained item.Underarm deodorants also cause some stains on certain fabrics – check the underarms for signs of this.5. How much haberdashery can be salvaged?Zips and buttons alone can be worth more than the cost of the whole garment! Buttons can cost you over £2 for 12 – the average number needed for a shirt.Then there is lace and ribbon, braid, embroidered motifs, metal fittings and buckles. Lace trim on the hemline of a full skirt can be up to 3 metres in length. All can be salvaged and used elsewhere.Bringing Home the SpoilsFor a small outlay of cash you should come home with a nice collection of useable fabric.When I first started recycling I would take my finds home, wash them, and then religiously unpick every seam.That took hours so in the end I had a conversation with myself. Was it worth all that time to gain a couple of millimetres of extra fabric? The answer is a big fat NO so now I just take a pair of scissors and cut away as close to the seam as I can – much quicker!!However if there is a zip in the garment I will unpick that for future use. Also any lace trim or ribbon needs to be carefully unpicked.Any embroidered motifs can be cut out and backed with Vilene then used as a motif on something else.So finally you should have a good stash of useable items. Try making items in patchwork, or use them for fibre art, or to make bags of all sizes, anything that doesn’t need yards of the same fabric. Not only will you have created something for mere pennies, but you will also have done your bit to help save our planet from being drowned in rubbish.

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