Saving Instead of Scrapping Old Clothes

Each time I donate bags of clothes to Good Will, there is a lingering pile of items that didn't make the cut. It consists of frayed jeans and torn t-shirts that can't be donated and are destined for the trash can. After talking with someone about her scrap crafts, I started to tally all of the items that I could create with the used clothing that was a bit too used. It seemed like the best of both worlds-recycling and free crafts items.


Old Yarn Is New Again

If your clothing is too worn to donate to the local Salvation Army, consider using it to make new items. After all, clothing is made of fabric and yarns. A skein of woolen yarn is expensive, but an old and worn woolen sweater is garbage waiting to be taken to the curb. Put your knitting, knotting, and crocheting skills to the test by un-weaving the sweater. With a few careful scissor snips at the knots (look on the inside of the sweater to find them), sweaters can be gently pulled apart by even the most inexperienced hands. Wind your yarn as you disassemble the sweater, and when you're finished you'll have a nice roll of yarn to use in a future crafting project.

Recycled Cloth

Older generations remember looking at their mothers' newest braided rugs and recognizing their siblings' old clothing patterns woven into the rugs. Why don't we share this tradition? If your daughter's stained, worn, and torn dress can't be worn anymore, who says it has to remain a dress? Cut the seams out of the fabric and create as many whole pieces of cloth that you can.


Make dolls, rugs, or doilies out of them. If your sports fans have destroyed their jerseys and team t-shirts, consider using the part of the fabric that sports the logo and creating a set of team placemats for your next party.

You could also create a crazy quilt style tablecloth by cutting the shirts into geometrical patterns and sewing them together to form one large piece. Patterns for these types of crafts can be found at websites such as and you know a quilter and you have some 100% cotton items laying around, cut the fabric into geometric shapes (cut the arms into long rectangles, leave the body of a shirt as a large square, etc.). Then, fold or roll it neatly and tie the rolls/piles together with a ribbon into a bundle of quilter's material.

Odds & Ends

Don't forget to recycle your odds and ends from your clothing. Grandma's button box didn't get filled with purchased buttons from the craft store. They were recycled from the clothing that became the braided rug. Look for all sorts of notions on your discarded items. Even a worn out dog leash has a solid metal clasp on the end that might come in handy somewhere else. Drawstrings make nice twine, and a pocket with a zipper could become a change purse. Keep your mind and your craft bin open.


Clothing to Crafts

If you would like to make your own recycled crafts, then there's no limit once you've recycled the basic supplies. An option for sentimental clothing items is to use them to cover photo albums. Select a hardcover notebook from an office supply store. Then, use your son's first t-ball shirt or the detail from the front of the dress your niece wore on her first day of school to cover the notebook. Lay the material flat and place the open binder on top of it. Using double sided tape or a hot glue gun, fold the material over the edges like you would cover a book or wrap a present. On the inside, adhere a piece of oak tag to cover the raw edges unless you've tucked them under as you work.

For more no-sew fun, create a tied wreath. Bend a wire coat hanger into a circle and add a circle hook at the top for hanging. Then, cut five inch by one inch strips of fabric from your worn clothing. Finally, knot the fabric strips onto the wire, pushing them close together so the knots don't show. You'll have a puffy, crafty wreath for your door in one evening.


Your limits are endless, and so is your supply. With some ingenuity there are no more expensive trips to the fabric store and no more landfills heaped with wasted fabrics and yarns.

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October 20, 20110 found this helpful

Great ideas there. We were always taught to use everything until there was nothing left. Removing hems to re-hem them required saving the thread from the original hem. Things are so plentiful now that people don't worry about pitching something because of a stain or a small hole.


Always good to hear someone has been frugal with their life style.
(I do not give to goodwill because we have a Thrift shop that supports the community. They do not pitch anything. Everything has a purpose and sometimes you'll find a bundle just for quilting.)

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October 20, 20110 found this helpful

I do this quite a bit myself. I re-use my old clothing, buttons from my clothing, packing materials from packages, and odds-and-ends like spools.

Sewing old receiving blankets into a flannel pillowcase for the now older child is a good idea. Keeps you from having to buy another pillowcase.
Unwinding yarn from a toddler's sweater to knit his new brother's booties and hat is also useful.

Sew a favorite shirt into a teddy bear.
If you can't do anything else, cut up the cotton clothes for soft rags.

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November 4, 20110 found this helpful

I was really amazed the 1st time I heard (years ago) to unravel an old sweater for the yarn - it was a "Why didn't I think of that!" moment! I am learning to save a lot of my old clothes to 'repurpose' instead of get rid of.


BTW- don't feel bad about donating clothes to Goodwill that aren't fit to wear. I asked them about that one time, because I had some things that were in bad shape, but I didn't want to throw them out. They told me that they tje anything. What isn't fit to wear is sold to a company that turns them into rags! So they make money off them after all! And I know in some towns, the Goodwill has a secondary shop that sells clothing by the pound & it's usually the stuff people won't buy.

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