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Recycle Old Clothes

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Old clothing can be recycled in many ways. Years ago, every housewife had a ‘rag bag’. The rag bag held scraps of cloth that had been salvaged from old clothing. These scraps were used for everything from dust cloths to patchwork quilts.

There is a place in modern households for rag bags. As with yesteryear, old clothing with worn knees, rips and missing buttons can be recycled into useful items.


To recycle old clothes, use the following checklist:

1. Remove buttons.
2. Salvage all working zippers.
3. Cut cloth into workable sections.
4. Pockets may be cut away as a whole.

The size of sections cut will depend on the cloth that is still in good condition. If possible, rip out seams and cut away the damaged material. When removing pockets, leave one inch of material around the edges to allow room for stitching onto or into another project.

One of the simplest recycled clothing projects is to use old, worn out clothing as cleaning cloths. T-shirt material is soft and ideal for dusting, cleaning wood and caring for electronics. This type of cotton also works well when cut into two inch wide strips and woven into potholders. Children love weaving and can make colorful potholders as gifts for their teacher or parent. These make a great craft in or out of school.

A time honored tradition among those that recycle old cloth is the creation of braided rag rugs. Material is cut into two inch wide strips and braided together in long strands. These strands are then sewn together with a strong thread. Upholstery thread is the typical type used. Braided rugs may be coiled in an oval or circle. Advanced crafters have perfected rectangle and square shapes.

Patchwork quilts are an alternative to pattern quilts. In these quilts, cloth is cut into squares and sewn together at the edges. The material does not need to have a specific thread count, though using cloth that is close to the same type- ie: cotton with cotton, polyester with fleece- may help reduce bunching and shrinkage. The finished top layer is placed over quilt batting and a bottom layer, then sewn into place. An old sheet cut to fit may be used as a bottom layer.

Frugal homemakers have found a way to recycle old clothing into re-usable items that reduce their need for disposable items. Two of the most popular crafts in this category: cloth diapers and cloth menstrual pads. Diapers are cut from a pattern that can be printed or custom drawn from a disposable diaper. The same can be done with cloth menstrual pads.

Cloth diapers are constructed with an outer layer that resists leaks. Polyester fleece is a lightweight option that can be sewn in place or used as a separate diaper cover. The inner layers of the diaper should be of an absorbent material. Worn t-shirts that are stained work well. Snaps or Velcro salvaged from old coats are a great alternative to diaper pins. Menstrual pads are constructed in much the same way, the exception is that the polyester fleece should be sewn in place as a backing. Wings to help the pad stay in place can be added with snaps or Velcro.

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