Sew Grammo Blog

It IS Easy Being Green - Stashbusting Makes Great Quilts

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t-shirt lap quilt

I grew up with a mother who lived through The Great Depression which, I’m sure, fostered her frugalness. Nothing was ever wasted. Even the cooking blunders had to be eaten.

Her family made a few pennies donating their cast-off clothing to the rag man. When rag men disappeared, old clothes were passed on to relatives or donated to thrift store like Goodwill.

Fast forward a few years and it doesn’t surprise me that I’m drawn to re-making clothes. I took men’s shirts and turned them into apron. Wool suits were transformed into handbags.

Then I got interested in leather handbags and used some recycled jackets to accent the wool suits. Somehow the suiting fell by the wayside and gave way to all leather. I started with partial hides and leftover pieces

In 2013 alone, Americans discarded 15.1 million tons of clothing and other textiles, and 85 percent of that wound up in landfills where they release landfill gas. Clothing can become anything from cleaning rags and carpet padding to rubberized playgrounds and insulation.

Luckily, some of the biggest offenders are allowing shoppers to donate bags of clothing, whether they have the stores labels on them or not, to exchange them for a discount on items of their choice. Other stores are jumping on the bandwagon by offering recycling sales events.

Planet Aid's yellow collection bins (popping up soon on a street corner near you) offer peace of mind with a convenience factor. The nonprofit sells collected textiles to vendors in developing countries and uses the profits to support sustainable agriculture programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Earth911.com is a one-stop-shop for recycling resources. Save time with their search engine that lists recycling centers by item type and zip code.

Some states are starting to offer curbside textile pickup. I’m hoping it goes nationwide.

I recently needed a costume for a performance with the dance group I belong to. It required something leather. I made the rounds of thrift stores and found a leather jacket that I made into a vest. I cut off the sleeves to make a belt and carriers so almost every part of that jacket was used.

Now, I have a client who wants to use her mother’s wedding dress for her upcoming nuptials. Since it isn’t her style, I’m taking all the usable parts of the dress to re-make it into something she’ll wear.

And, of course, there’s all those t-shirts one gets from races, or concerts, or your favorite team sports. I’ve been making quilts to help save the memories from those events.

There’s a huge problem with textile recycling. I sometimes feel that I could never make a dent in it. I heard that Goodwill takes scraps and gives them to companies who make insulation, etc. but I wasn’t sure even though I donated a few bags. Now I have a bin next to my sewing machine to save my scraps from quilts I’m creating, or any other project. When I get enough, I will make animal beds to donate to them shelters.

I feel like I’m helping the environment one scrap at a time.