Old clothes happen. What are we going to do? Eventually, the t-shirt wears thin, the knees of our pants wear out and socks get holes. Still, there’s a lot of good material there, and it just seems a shame to shuck it aside. Surely, something can be done. Surely, there is some way to commemorate that old hoodie, the pair of jeans that has been around for the last five years. This stuff isn’t garbage, is it?
Now, most of us know enough to donate any kind of clothing that still gets the job done, and others of us know enough to buy said clothing secondhand. However, today we need to figure out what to do when clothes are too tattered for donation, when we’ve already restocked our collection of rags made of cut up tees. With a little craftiness, old clothes can make some pretty eclectic and useful things.
1. Make a Quilt/Blanket
Hey, at some point everyone who has made a quilt has done their first one, and while it may not have been a precision work of art at the end, that blanket probably served a proud purpose. All those patterns and pictures that once attracted us to buy a piece of clothing can be preserved in the form of patchwork quilt. By the end of the first, our guess is that those sewing skills will be much more fine-tuned and ready for the next one, after which the first one can be gifted out of sight.
2. Multipurpose Bag
A bag, from pencil pouches to totes, can always come in handy, and rarely do we have enough of them around. This is a perfect, relatively quick project for old clothes, and it works even better when old buttons and zippers are also repurposed as part of the bag. How many different types of bags could come in handy? Wine gift bags, a purse, a wallet, a reusable bag to hold all those bulk-purchase grains and beans, sewing kit, button bag, computer sleeve, to hold computer wires, laundry…
3. Throw Pillow
For those who lounge, and that earmarks just about all of us, a nice comfy pillow — something familiar — makes all the difference. Well, that old pair of pajama pants, the old shirt, even those super snuggly socks can be sewn together into an equally appealing pillow. What’s more all the scraps and other, less attractive clothing, can be thrown into the middle as stuffing. For the highly skilled, it’s also possible to make some really fancy pillowcases from old button-up shirts, using the buttons as, well, buttons.
4. New (Old) Clothes
One of the most popular ways to repurpose old clothes is to use them to make new clothes, and there are many, many options for doing this. Amongst my favorite of such projects are t-shirt slippers, which are essentially indoor flip-flops, perfect for staying in slippers in the summer months, when the fluffy version might be a bit too toasty. There are also scarfs gone to skirts, jeans turned shorts, and all manner of other ways to make the old things new.
5. Ruffle-y Rugs
Rugs, as we learned from The Dude, really tie the room together, and all we have to do to have some new, super cool rugs is to tie some old clothing together. There are many methods for making rugs from old clothes: knotting, crocheting, sewing, hula hooping. Yes, that’s right hula hooping. But, the short and easy of it is that clothing makes for great rugs, thick and luxurious, full of color and different textures to enjoy. Have one on the go that can just be continually added to until it’s ready.
6. Place Settings
These are great, imaginative additions to the dining room table, and projects can be much more versatile than simply cutting a piece cloth to put plates on. Seams can be rolled up into some pretty nifty coasters. Old pockets can work as a kitschy way for compiling cutlery, or strips of cloth can tie up napkins (if the material is nice enough, it can be the napkin). This can make for a truly unique way of fancying up a table.
7. Air Freshener
The irony of an old pair of socks is that they are more or less ready-made to be air fresheners. After washing them, salvage the parts of the sock with no holes. Fill them up with potpourri —make it yourself — and close up the ends. They are ideal for tossing into the corner of the closet, right next to the smelly shoes or in the cabinet next to the garbage can or atop the toilet tank or in a teenager’s room or in the car or in a day bag or wherever might need a little scent-ual pick-me-up.
Now Green Monsters, it’s doubtful that there will be much need for convincing you to use all-natural stuff, and clothing is no exception. Like any organic material, old clothes made from natural sources can be composted and/or used for sheet mulching when building a new garden bed. And, while this means the official end of an article of clothing, it also marks and effective of way of cycling organic materials rather than using up more landfill space.
So, we should donate what we can, wear things as if the resources and effort to produce them matters and, then, in the end, see if we can’t figure out a way to put them to some more good use. That’s how we can make a most personal of contributions to a world struggling to keep up with human consumption and waste.