Recycling clothes and Fabric

What to do with clothes that are do not fit or are no longer in fashion? Donate them and recycle them. How to recycle clothing and fabric?

recycling clothes

When I keep aside my recently bought top that I do not like anymore, and go on to buy another one or many more, should I be concened  about the carbon footprint I am leaving behind or the fashion industry I will be helping with my consumerism and vanity? I really do not know!. But I do realize that throwing away my old clothes without a concern is somewhat reprehensible.

Fashion results in a colossal waste that is fast becoming a major problem- is it already one?. I read somewhere that over 100 million tones of clothes are made every year.

Where do they go after their use is over?

Are they all made of material which are bio-degradable or do they remain in the soil polluting the earth for years to come? Are some responsible people making use of old clothes?

When you are conscious of the problem, you can focus on the solutions. The first choice is to donate the old clothes; this way, someone else can skip buying the same thing at exalted prices.

The next choice is to re-use them in one way or the other – in short ‘recycle‘. Recycling is what you and I could do to take care of the textile burden for the world already reeling under the burden of many other wastes like plastic, electronics, etc.

Recycling is the term used for re-using old clothes in ways other than what they were intended to be. Here are some easy ways to prepare your old clothes to be recycled.

What to recycle?

Fabrics salvaged from old clothes, from old home linen,  are what we can expect to recycle. If you have a large project, you can ask your friends and relatives for old clothes. Or salvage from charity shops and jumble sales. Damaged clothes can be cut up to take out useful parts.

You can isolate embellishments like bows, beads, ribbons, buttons etc., from old clothes and keep them in a separate box for making fabric art or embellishing your recycled projects. Damaged or too-small clothes of kids are prime for recycling – even if the fabric is too flimsy to be re-used, these haberdashery items can be recycled for your recycled projects as well as for your new sewing projects.

Silk ties are great for making many things like woven rags, fabric belts.

How to salvage fabric from old clothes for recycling

Cut off all the trimmings and haberdashery items for later use. Remove the fasteners as well, if they are in good condition.

Remove collars, hems, etc., which are not needed. Remove the waistbands and the front fly in case of jeans and pants (unless you want to keep them for your recycling project)

Cutting long fabric strips

You can keep some of the seams where necessary. For, e.g., there is a way of cutting fabric strips from tubular clothes like T-shirts and skirts, bodices, and old bags. This method gives you long continuous strips of fabric. It goes like this –

First cut off the bottom edge and the top edge (of the t-shirt or bag or dress, whatever you have).

Cut the tube vertically from one of the side seams – do not cut the top seam. Leave 1 or 2 inches there un cut.

Open up the tube so that the uncut seam is open in front of you.

Mark diagonally between the cut lines as in the picture below.

Cut along the marked lines. 

If you have a lot of these bags or old t-shirts, you get a lot of long fabric strips this way. You can make them into rag rugs like this.

braided rag rug

Find the tutorial for making a rag rug here. 

Quilting and patchwork are age old crafts – the best ways to recycle old clothes. Here is a tutorial on this site to make blanket with patchwork pieces from old clothes.

how to sew blanket for bed

Alter and repair old clothes

Do not throw away clothes just because they have a small flaw or fitting problem. Repair and alter. You can find some tutorials here

Related posts: 10 things you can make from old jeans.; Make jeans bags ; Make bags from old t-shirts ; Cut out t-shirts to refashion them; Transform plain old black t-shirts

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.