As a child, I was fascinated by patchwork. I borrowed endless books on the subject from the library and started lots of different projects. (I was never much of a finisher though). Part of the fascination lies in seeing what I can make from scraps and old clothes. The art of creating something from nothing.
I love mending clothes and keeping them in circulation for longer, but sometimes you have to let go. Making one pair of jeans into a work of art with mending so dense that you can’t tell where the jeans end and the repair begins is all well and good, but maybe you don’t need several pairs like that. And, maybe your family aren’t as keen on the visible mending thing as you are.
Whatever the reason, sometimes we all have clothes that are past their best. Clothes that are either unrepairable or that we just no longer want to repair.
What to do with them?
Our council takes discarded clothing with the recycling collection, but I’m always dubious about where it will end up.
Plus, so many well-worn textiles carry the story of our family along with them, and sometimes it’s nice to hold on.
Have you got an overflowing ragbag? Or piles of old clothes you don’t know what to do with?
Here are some ideas for you.
Quick And Easy Projects.
If you’ve got a dog, or know someone with a dog, then this could be the perfect quick-win stash-busting project.
There’s something very satisfying about making something so quickly and easily, and when it lets you use up a few of the old t-shirts lurking in your rag pile, then so much the better.
Click through to Everyday Dog Mom for the (super-easy) instructions.
The perfect use for t-shirts that you’re not wearing, but also not quite ready to part with yet.
This Instructables project shows you how to make a simple grocery bag out of a t-shirt.
I’ve done this with favourite t-shirts my kids have outgrown. They make super-cute little bags, perfect to use as gift bags for other kids.
I also made one out of a tabard my husband wore for an event – he wanted to hang onto it, but it was never going to be worn again, so this was the perfect solution.
If you’ve ever chopped up jeans to make something, you’ll know the hems and seams are pretty tough to work with.
It’s a shame to throw them away though, especially when you’re working hard to make use of the jeans rather than just discarding them.
That’s why I love this little bracelet project.
It’s a super-cute piece of fabric jewellery, that carries the laid-back vibe of well-worn denim, perfect for summer casual wear.
The instructions make it really clear and easy too.
Ragbag Projects That Take More Time.
So, here’s what to do with all your old jeans.
You can even cut up jeans that have been patched within an inch of their life. The more worn and mended the better for this boro-style patchwork tutorial.
Jeans work especially well because they’re made from such a sturdy fabric already – perfect for making a strong tote bag.
You could definitely try this technique with other fabrics too – maybe old men’s shirts?
I have several of the Alabama Chanin books, and I adore pretty much everything in those pages. I’ve tried a couple of projects myself, and there are definitely more in my future.
I have a particular soft spot for the projects that use recycled fabrics, like this corset top made from old t-shirts.
There are a lot of variations on this project from the Alabama Stitch Book scattered around Pinterest, but I picked this one because it doesn’t scream ‘upcycled t-shirt’ at you.
Also, I’m a bit in love with those circles.
Perhaps the most obvious thing to do with old clothes is to make them into quilts.
There’s a long tradition of using fabric scraps in this way.
It manifests differently across the world, but in essence, it’s the same thing. Sewing smaller pieces of fabric together to make a larger piece.
I love the frayed edges on rag quilts, and I love the look of faded denim.
The post gives a very clear, detailed tutorial, and it’s definitely a project you could tackle even as a beginning sewist.
Rag rugs could go in the section above, with the other projects that don’t fall into the ‘instant gratification’ category.
The trouble with that is that I didn’t want to pick just one kind of rag rug. In fact, maybe there’ll have to be a whole other post just about rag rugs later on.
For now though, here are a few of my favourites.
This tutorial actually uses bought fabric to make the rug, but the instructions definitely work for genuine ‘rags’ as well.
One of the best sources for strips of fabric to make a rag rug is old bed linen. This is the perfect use for sheets that are thinning a little, or old duvet covers.
You can even dye the fabric before ripping it up, to get colours that suit your decor.
Imagine sinking your toes into this!
There’s a shop near me that sells rugs made of fleece scraps, and they’re the softest rugs I’ve ever come across.
My 15-year-old owns fourteen fleece blankets. Really. He’s obsessed. I’m wondering whether he’d miss one or two?
Making a hula hoop rug is pretty high up on my list of must-try projects.
I’ve seen versions made out of coloured yarn, and long strings of finger-knitting.
I love this one though. It would be the perfect way to use up a whole pile of old t-shirts.
You know, the ones where most of the fabric is still fine, but there are those annoying little holes springing up, or random stains and faded patches.
(Tell me you’ve got a pile of t-shirts like that too? I’ve got five kids, it’s an occupational hazard.)
Beyond The Rag-Bag.
Usually, when clothes are too worn out for the charity bag, I just cut them up for rags.
A lot of things get spilt in our house, so it’s useful to have a healthy pile of rags. There’s only so much space in my rag drawer though.
I’m feeling inspired to pay closer attention to the old clothes we’re discarding and to try something a little more creative with them. How about you?