Why to turn old clothes into something new
Every item in our closets has an environmental footprint. One doesn’t have to go thru the entire production process to see the impact. The most obvious are those related to the production of the yarn, washing and dyeing the yarn, and getting the sewn clothes into the stores. There may have been fertilizers and pesticides involved when the fabric is from yarns harvested from plants. It is well known that fertilizers and pesticides may affect groundwater. When the piece is from wool overgrazing may have occurred which may lead to soil loss, dust uptake and droughts. The material has to be washed prior to spinning. Thus, a valuable resource is used. Dyes may have toxic ingredients. The ready-to-wear clothes have to be transported into the stores meaning emissions.
When you want to reduce your carbon footprint, are on a budget or just love DIY, why not trying to “up-cycle” old clothes? In this post, I show how I made a silk infinity scarf from an old shirt. You can find tips on how to upcycle a sari or on how to revive old wardrobe favorites to look wow-worthy by dyeing in these linked DIY tutorials.
Up-cycling, recycling, consigning help the environment, budget, …
The longer a piece is worn, the smaller its environmental footprint per wear becomes over time. When a piece doesn’t fit anymore, or it’s not so me anymore, I always give it a critical look. Can it be worn by another woman a second time around? If so, these pieces go to goodwill, a consignment or thrift store. It depends on the brand of the piece. Medium prize brands sell well in consignment stores, and they provide you some extra money for your fashion budget. Low price brands do well in thrift and charity stores. Thus, donating them gives you some good feeling about being resourceful. When you live in a university town, there may be even a free market. When your girlfriends have a similar size, a clothes swap party may be fun.
… and can be chic and a great deal
I have made some great scores in consignments, goodwill and thrift stores. One woman’s trash, can be another woman’s treasure. Of course, one must know the brands, and be patient as one can’t go into such a store expecting to come out with a great deal dress when you are in the market for a dress. Thus, scoring high when shopping second hand can be time consuming. However, there are some time saving tricks when shopping second hand.
Check whether you can also upcycled pieces
Some pieces won’t sell second hand, or maybe just for a dollar at a yard sale, and only when you are lucky. These pieces may be nevertheless too precious to go to the landfill. My hubby’s silk Hawaiian shirt is one of these items. When decluttering his closet, this shirt didn’t make the cut to go back in. It was a right decision. I didn’t even remember when he wore it the last time. To be honest, I had already forgotten about the shirt. However, the silk fabric feels so precious and soft, I thought it would make a great scarf for staying warm. It wouldn’t add the bulk and itchiness of a wool infinity scarf.
Instructions to make an infinity scarf from a silk shirt
Take a straight hem men’s silk shirt. Measure the length between the shirts hem and the armpit. Mark the length over the entire shirt either with soapstone or pins. I did it with pins as my soapstone didn’t work on the shirt.
Cut along the marked line.
Cut off buttons, and if there is a pocket, split it off from the left side.
Fold the small side over along the full length of the former front and back of the shirt with the right side to the inside. Pin the hem along the cut line.
Sew along the hem line making sure that the former hem can’t be seen when you turn the resulting tube’s inside out.
Turn the tube to the right and iron the tube so the seam is in the middle. This side will be the left side of your infinity scarf.
Now pin the ends of the tube together as far as possible for sewing them together on the left side (see photo). Make sure that you pin the future outside of the scarf together first. This means aim for the seam along the long side of the scarf being where you can’t pin the fabric together anymore. Sew the ends together as far as possible. There are two possibilities to close the rest. You can do an invisible closure by hand stitching it or just sewing it together on the right side as I did (see photo).
Now your scarf is ready to go. Happy styling.
Do you upcycle old clothes? I mean besides using old T-shirts for cleaning the house and shoes. Let me know what you up-cycled. I am curious.
Photos of the DIY process: N. Mölders
Photos of me: G. Kramm
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