Don’t waste your wardrobe

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on October 2, 2009 9 Comments
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Gabrielle and her faithful companion, Georgie

Gabrielle and her faithful companion, Georgie

We round off this wonderful week of guest posts with one from Gabrielle Utton, otherwise known as The Green Gal.

When she’s not writing for children’s newspaper “First News”, Gabrielle is growing her own veg, pondering over how to give new life to tired things and learning new crafts. Put simply, she’s trying to tread a little more lightly without returning to the dark ages.

An astonishing 900,000 tonnes of clothing is thrown away in Britain’s landfill sites each year and half the clothing bought by British women last year has never been worn.

Gabrielle provides some inspirational ideas for recycling and reusing old clothes instead of dumping them in the landfill.

What do you do when an item of your clothing has come to the end of its useful life with you? It may still have plenty of wear, it’s just that you aren’t going to wear it again, for whatever reason. Or it’s been loved and cherished and worn till there’s no wear left.

Whatever the state of your clothing, there’s no reason why any of it should end up in landfill.

Unwanted clothing has a multitude of uses. Here are a few ideas to keep your threads out of the bin.

  • • Make some money: if your clothes are in good nick and you think someone might be willing to pay to wear them, try selling your togs. Dress agencies take high quality, hardly worn clothing and sell it for you, usually taking a percentage of the sale price. Have a look for one on your high street. On the web eBay is a popular site to sell garments, particularly if you have more unusual items.
  • • Share the wear: give someone else the chance to wear your wardrobe while supporting charity. Every high street has at least one charity shop and as long as the clothing is clean and blemish-free they should be happy to take your donation. A simple way to decide if an item could go to charity is to ask yourself if you would consider buying it. You’ll be surprised at the state of some of the donations charities receive!
  • • Give it a second life: can a piece of clothing be made into something new? An old shirt can be transformed really easily into a cushion cover. The buttons act as the opening/fastening so all you have to do is measure the size and shape of your cushion, mark it out on the buttoned up inside out shirt, pin and sew all the way round. Open up the buttons, turn it the right way out, and pop in your cushion. The same method applies to a cardigan. Cut up jeans – fill the legs with smaller items of old clothing) and sew up to make a draught excluder, use the top section as a bag by sewing up the bottom and adding a zip to the waist. Wash a 100% woollen jumper on a hot wash to turn it into felt. You could even try unravelling a woollen jumper and knitting something new with the thread.

The satisfaction and sense of achievement you’ll feel when you’ve recycled an item of clothing into something new is great, I promise you!

  • • When all else fails, clean with them: my mum has never bought a duster in her life. No need – any item of clothing that is beyond all help can be cut up and used as a rag to dust or polish shoes with. Keep a whole outfit in a bag in the corner of your wardrobe for the next time you decorate or carry out a job likely to make you mucky.

I’ve just touched on a few ideas here, there are loads more ways to make use of old clothes. What do you do?

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. carol b says:

    A friend of mine organised a clothes swap a few weeks ago.
    We all took clothes we don’t wear any more, everyone showed what they’d brought, we made a note of the things we liked, tried them on and took home a whole new wardrobe.
    It was great fun, everyone took something home, and anything left over was given to charity.

  2. Hi Gabrielle – what fabulous tips and I must say your mum sounds like my kind of lady. You have both inspired me to make great use of an old duvet cover that has seen better days. It’s currently hanging out to dry getting ready to go off to the textiles collection….but now I’m thinking I could turn it into pretty t-towels, or keep bits of it saved for bunting. It’s at times like this I wish I was really clever with the sewing machine because I can even see the potential for a pretty skirt or a summer bag! I’m now regretting not having taken more interest in domestic science at school. One thing’s for sure, thanks to this article, it will be hanging around for a bit longer :-D

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks for a great article, Gabrielle. I certainly do the first 2, but would love to be creative enough to do more of the third. I have made a dolls skirt from Little Miss green’s favourite sleeveless dress – she had it when she was 18 months and it was below her knee. She insisted on squeezing herself into it until she was 7 when she wore it as a rather dodgy looking short top – how’s that for getting the most from a purchase!

    When it finally became too tight in the armhole she couldn’t bear to part with it, so I’ve made it into a skirt. I felt so proud because I’m rubbish at sewing LOL!

    I loved the cushion covers you made from pyjamas the other week – they were fab :) That’s the sort of thing I want to be able to do without having to think about it – you’re very gifted…

  4. Kirsty says:

    Brilliant post, Miss G, and love the ideas it’s sparked in the comments above, too.

    For me, dying is quite often a way of giving things a new lease of life, whether it makes me more likely to wear them again, or to re-use as something else. For convenience, I usually do it in the washing machine (honestly – don’t be scared to give it a shot!), although I have tried the greener alternative of making my own vegetable dyes in the past. Probably a bit hit or miss for larger items, but worth experimenting on t-shirts or children’s clothes. Beetroot and onion skin produced the best results for me – really beautiful colours.

    I also loved Mrs Green’s story about her daughter’s very long-lasting dress, and the idea of making doll’s clothes from well-loved children’s garments. :) If you can bear to cut them up, they also make really wonderful patchwork quilts or cushion covers. The end result will have all sorts of happy childhood memories and associations, as well as being of practical use.

  5. Sharon says:

    I’ve saved all my little newborn clothes for my daughter to dress her dollies with. (And because I’m a bit sentimental too!)
    I always cut buttons off things which are otherwise destined for the rag bag. A friend of mine was making bags out of old pillowcases but I have a bit of a sewing machine phobia so it’s something I’ve never tried!

  6. Alea says:

    I love the idea for the door stopper! I will be putting that to use very soon.

  7. thegreengal says:

    Of course, swishing, or clothes swapping, is a great invention! Don’t know of any near me though, maybe I’ll have to start one!
    Hugely impressed with everyone who makes or alters clothes, I haven’t ventured into that area yet, have bad memories of sewing at school. Don’t think I really came away from there with any proper sewing knowledge, I learnt more from watching my mum.
    Great idea to save buttons, zips, clasps, buckles, anything that could be reused. I think the original reason behind making a quilt was to use up scraps of fabric and in the process sew together memories and stories into an heirloom.
    I have some fabric dye to revive an old cord blazer when I get a mo, the idea of making my own veggie dyes is very intriguing!
    Do let me know how you get on with future clothing re-uses, I’d love to see the fabulous things you create!

  8. Always great to use everything as much as possible – especially in the clothing line. Anything I cannot give away to charity or friends I cut up as rags. First I take the buttons off to put in my ‘button jar’ – perfect when you need a matching button or a great way to amuse children old enough to play with them ( I spent many a happy winters afternoon as a child threading buttons onto a cord or arranging them into colours :-/ ) Then I cut any rag like material up into rags – squares for cleaning/dusting and the sleeves etc go to the bag for ‘one use rags’. Other materials like shirts etc can be used as fillers for things you are making etc. Another great one use rag are old socks, the cotton variety are good for putting your hand in to give things a bit of good old fashioned elbow grease!

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @logoscoaching: I MUST get around to creating a button jar! A friend gave Little Miss green some from her stash and she’s had so much enjoyment from them (mama too!) It sounds like you have a great system for using up old clothes in your home!

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