Once again Oxfam is promoting their Second Hand September campaign and is challenging us to buy only pre-loved clothing and homeware all month. The trend for shopping more sustainably is ever growing as we become more aware of the issues fast fashion causes. But Oxfam isn’t just encouraging us to buy more, they are also encouraging us to take better care of our clothes and to love the garments that we already have.
If like me you have sorted out your wardrobe over lock down and have bags destined for the charity shop, I encourage you to take a few minutes to think about what you are donating. Charity shops can only accept items that are in great condition. Any worn-out clothes can be put in the textile recycling collection bin, but if the fabric is still OK why not consider reusing it first?
Could that old t-shirt be repurposed as a cleaning cloth? Or used to make a face covering ? If you have a larger piece of fabric, could you get a bit more creative? You don’t need any fancy equipment or expert sewing skills; YouTube has so many sewing tutorials for beginners that you’ll know a hem from a raw edge, and blanket stitch from running stitch in no time at all.
In my wardrobe clear-out bag, I had a second-hand skirt which was worn out and shrunk to the point that it was not able to be donated again. But the fabric is a beautiful paisley patterned wool blend that I love! So, I took my limited sewing skills and, armed with cotton thread, scissors, a needle, and some pins, I got creative. My aim was to re-use every scrap of fabric from the skirt for a variety of uses, to give you some inspiration for your own projects.
By re-using the skirt’s lining material, I was able to save another skirt from the clear-out bag; a win-win situation! The skirt kept rucking up on other fabrics, so it needed a lining to fix this. I had no idea where to start, but by studying another garment I was able to work out how to attach the new lining. Because it isn’t visible from the outside, it doesn’t matter that the colours don’t match or how wobbly my work is!
My second project was to create a cushion cover from the paisley woolen material. I had an old cushion that needed a new cover, so it was simply a case of measuring and cutting out a rectangle from the skirt material that was slightly larger than the cushion. I hemmed the raw edges and then sewed along the open sides with blanket stitch (you could add a zip or buttons here if you wanted a removable cover). I have even added some decorative pleats as a little nod to the fabric’s previous life.
All that now remained was the waist section of the skirt. I saw the potential for this to become a pouch style bag as the zip was already in place. I will be using it to keep smaller items separate in my backpack; now I won’t have to rummage around to find a pen or my phone (which inevitably make their way to the darkest depths of the bag)! I turned the fabric inside out for this make and sewed the raw edges together before turning the whole thing out via the zip. By sewing edges together inside out, you can create a seam that looks very neat from the outside even if, like mine, your stitches are not so neat!
Even if sewing really isn’t your thing, I hope this project prompts you to consider other uses for your old textiles before they are consigned to the recycling bins. Maybe you have a friend who is into crafts and would appreciate the fabric for a project (or who might make something for you)? Repairing and reusing our clothing is, after all, far better for the environment and our wallets than recycling and buying new!