zero waste

all posts related to the zero waste lifestyle and wardrobe

Turn a Shrunken Sweater Into a Retro Wool Beret

turn a shrunken sweater into a felted beret

While we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a very warm winter this year, the weather has turned cold lately, and it is definitely feeling like winter in Alberta again. Since it is only February (which means we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring) this is the perfect time to share one of my latest projects- a felted wool beret. Berets are not necessarily the warmest of headwear, but they do add a great vintage element to your winter ensemble, so I definitely consider them to be a fall and winter outfit staple.

While berets have risen in popularity the past few years, I have yet to come across one in brown. So, if you can’t find one at the store and you can’t knit or crochet one for yourself, what can you do? You can easily turn a shrunken sweater castoff into a felted beret!

I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because wool sweaters can be expensive and it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or that they are full of moth holes or runs, or even that they have stretched out of shape due to improper care, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new!

shrunken wool sweater perfect for felting

I found this chocolate brown sweater years ago, but hadn’t yet figured out what to make. Since brown berets have proven difficult to find, I thought that this would be the perfect way to get the colour I wanted.

To Make Your Own, You Will Need:

  • A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
  • Needle & thread/ sewing machine
  • Beret pattern- I used Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret. (Tanith gifted me that pattern several years ago. You can see the first one I made here). Edited to add: Another free beret option is this style from Brittani of Untitled Thoughts. She has a free pattern download, as well a sewing tutorial. 
  • Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice 
  • Elastic to make the hat fit tighter, optional

To Make the Hat:

My wool was already partially felted, so I cut the pieces out of the sweater and went from there, felting the final hat a little more at the end. After making this one, I was wondering whether you could also make it by cutting your pattern pieces out a bit larger and then felting the wool after you already have the hat sewn up. This might make the seam lines disappear a bit, and make the hat easier to form, but I haven’t tried it yet to know for sure.

But, in order to make the hat exactly as I have here, you are first going to need to felt your sweater, if it isn’t already shrunken. You can do this by putting the sweater into the washing machine with a little bit of laundry soap and washing it in hot water. It works better if you have a few sweaters in at the same time, so they can bump into each other and cause friction. You can also add a foam ball or flip-flop to help it felt even faster. Once you have washed your wool, take a look at it and see whether it has felted enough. If you want it to shrink a bit more, you can put it through the dryer, removing it before it is completely dry. Once the wool is good, let it dry.

wool sweater and sewing supplies

Once your sweater is dry, it is time to figure out your pattern. There are several different ways to make a sewn beret; I chose to use Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret, since I already had the pattern. This hat is made up of segments, giving it an octagonal shape. Her pattern has a more vertical shape to it and doesn’t lie flat, but since I wanted the hat to have a similar flat shape and fit to a traditional round wool beret, I made a couple of changes.

adjusting the pattern to make a flat style beret

To adjust the pattern, I made a sharper angle on the bottom segments so they would be narrower at the bottom edge. This way the hat would lay flat back on itself.  I measured the inner circumference of a beret that I already had and made the opening of my pattern add up to 20″ circumference. I actually should have made the opening a little bit smaller, since the hat ended up stretching quite a bit, so I would recommend that you go at least an inch or two smaller than you want it to be, to account for stretch. The other change I made to the pattern was using a facing, rather than a hat band. (More on that in a minute)

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, it’s time to cut it out. Watch out for where the seams are in the sweater, you don’t want to accidentally cut across them, or you’ll end up with a bulky piece. Also, look for any areas that may have holes or other flaws, since they won’t have closed up during felting. I cut my pieces out of the sleeve and around the neckline to maximize the amount of fabric I would have left over to use for future projects. I also saved the bottom of the sleeve pieces including the cuffs, since I might make a pair of matching mittens in the future using this method here.

Once you’ve got your pieces cut out, it is time to sew them. Since the wool is felted, you won’t need to worry about it fraying, so you don’t need to finish the edges in any way. Sew together your pieces of the hat, excluding the hat band, following the instructions of your pattern.

sewing the felted pieces of the hat

Make sure to use a zig-zag rather than a straight stitch when sewing, since this is a stretch fabric.

Instead of making a flat hat band, I decided to made a round facing. The advantage of a facing, rather than a hat band is that it flips to the inside, so it is completely hidden. This is just a style preference, you could also use a flat hat band if you prefer. To make my facing, I measured the diameter across of the opening of my hat, then measured out 2″ and cut out the circle pattern piece. My sweater had a large enough section left to cut the facing in one piece, but you might need to cut it in 2 pieces and sew them together. If so, remember to leave seam allowances!

making the hat facing

With right sides together, sew the facing to the hat.

Once you’ve got the hat sewn, it is time to form the shape of the hat. To make a form, cut a piece of cardboard into a circle the size you want your finished hat to be. I measured the beret I already had, to figure out what size I wanted. Since your hat will be wet, you need to waterproof the form, so place the cardboard piece inside a bag. I was originally going to use a dinner plate as a form (it was the exact size needed!) but then I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it out after the hat had dried without having to stretch the hat completely out of shape…or smash the plate! The cardboard turned out to be flexible enough to remove easily and it worked well.

hat all sewn up and ready to form

Now, fill a basin or sink with hot water. Submerge the hat so it is completely wet, and then slightly agitate the wool. Once it is fully soaked, take the hat out and gently press the water out. Don’t wring it, or it will stretch too much- the wool will be quite floppy! Roll the wool in a towel to pull out most of the water.

soaking the wool hat to felt

Take your cardboard form and place it inside the hat. Smooth the seams flat and shape the hat around the form. The hat will shrink as it dries, so in order to keep the opening of the hat from pulling back too wide, sew a stitch around the inner edge and slightly gather it in. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to let it dry. I placed my hat directly onto my drying rack, which ended up leaving some marks from the rods on the wool that I had to steam out, so I would recommend either letting the hat dry on a fabric mesh sweater drying rack, or placing a towel across the bars of a drying rack for the beret to sit on top of.

putting the wool beret onto the cardboard form

Once the hat is dry, you can snip the gathering stitch from the edge and then take the hat off of the form!

Not all of my seams dried completely flat, so to help shape it a little bit more, I used a tailor’s ham (actually a towel wadded inside an old t-shirt) to steam press the hat into a smoother shape. Then I pressed it flat. Make sure to use a wet press cloth, dampen the wool and lightly go over with your iron while it’s on full steam, so you don’t scorch your wool and make it go shiny.

steaming and shaping the beret once dry

Once you’ve pressed the hat into shape, it is time to tack the facing edge down, sewing through the seams to hide the stitches. After I finished the hat and tried it on, I discovered that the wool was a lot stretchier than my other berets and was quite loose. One of my other berets has a soft elastic around the edge which works well to keep the hat in place, so I added a piece of elastic along the edge of this hat. Place the elastic between the facing and the top of the hat and stitch in place by tacking it through the seams in order to hide the stitches.

sewing elastic along the edge and the facing into place

The final step is to add a button. You can either cover a button with wool, or use a decorative button. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use a covered button because the wool was so stiff, but I actually managed to push the back/shank onto the button form. If your wool is too thick to use the shank to cover your button, you can cut a circle of felt, run a gathering stitch around the edge and gather it in around the button form. (Like making a fabric yo-yo) Since it’s not a functional button, it doesn’t need to have a shank on the back and you can just sew it on like that, with the raw edges hidden underneath.

covering the button and adding it to the top of the hat

Once the button is sewn on, your hat is done. There you have it- a vintage styled felted beret, without even having to know how to knit or crochet!

the finished upcycled wool beret

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? It’s a lot of fun, since the wool is so easy to manipulate. We’ve got some more wool sweaters in our stash, and I am now wondering whether I should steal some of them to make some more hats….

Do you think you will try this and turn a shrunken sweater into something new?

wearing an upcycled wool Tanith Rowan Grevillea beret made out of a shrunken sweater

the finished beret

Last Minute Christmas Gifts: Homemade Body Butter

body butter gift under the tree, the artyologist

Is it really only one more week until Christmas?

I read a while ago that this year has kind of been like Rip Van Winkle and, for me, I would agree. While my daily routine has definitely slowed down, time seems to be rushing by, and it all feels a bit surreal. While we’ve already passed the halfway point for December, it still feels like this year has gone by so slowly. In some ways it does seem like I’m sleeping while the world continues spinning by…

Well, in case time has gotten away from you too, and you need some last minute gifts, today I am sharing a zero-waste inspired Christmas gift you can easily make in a few hours. The great thing is that it mostly uses items you might already have around the house! This is a bit different than the topics I usually discuss here, but I kind of like branching out into new topics, and this definitely fits into the “lifestyle’ category.

I don’t know where I found this recipe- I think from a zero waste blogger or Instagrammer, but you can easily find these sorts of recipes with a quick google search of “diy natural body butter”. This is just the one I make because I bought a huge pail of shea butter several years ago, and I am trying to work my way through it (slowly!).

Easy Homemade Natural Body Butter

1 part coconut oil

1 part sweet almond oil (or light olive oil)

2 parts shea butter

Optional: essential oil of your choice

I usually make this recipe with sweet almond oil, but since I used up all of my almond oil while making soap, I couldn’t find any more! Usually I would get it at the health food store, but they didn’t have any. After a bit of research it appears that light olive oil works as a substitute, and it seems to be working just as well. I would definitely recommend light, not regular oil, so there isn’t a strong olive smell.

Also, I used lavender essential oil, but you can definitely make it unscented.

I also saw several other recipes used cocoa butter instead of shea, so you could probably try that too. Basically the most important part is that you need to have equal parts oil to butter.

Heat your oils and butter in a double boiler until it is completely melted, then place in the refrigerator to cool. I forgot to take any photos of this process, but it is pretty straightforward. Once it has solidified (several hours depending on how much you have made), then take it out and immediately whip with a blender until it is white and fluffy. It’s like magic how quickly it beats up! Then add some essential oils, 4-5 drops, if desired and mix in completely.

I am sure there is a shelf life on homemade body butters (probably a few months?) but to be honest I haven’t had any problems with it going rancid. I keep mine in my nightstand drawer, and I have had this last batch for probably 9 months, and I’ve never had any bacteria growth or funky smells or anything. This is a very moisturizing (albeit greasy) body butter, perfect for winter dryness; I use it on my feet, or as a lip balm.

Once you’ve whipped up the butter, then you are ready to decant it into jars.

I have been collecting these face lotion jars for the past few years, because I hate throwing things out, and I was sure I could find a use for them, even if for just organizing/storage. However a few months ago, I thought of an even better use- to repurpose as gifts (a zero waste win!). I used nail polish remover to take the labels off, and then sterilized the jars by running them through the dishwasher and heating the lids with boiling water.

They worked perfectly to hold about 3 tbsp of body butter- the perfect amount to try it out, without having to commit to using for the next few years! Any small jar would work great, maybe a small spice jar? Or a tiny canning jar?

I also decided to include the recipe in with the gift. I purchased this recipe card printable in the spring from local-ish artist Jenni Haikonen, as it’s so nice to give people recipes written on a pretty card, rather than any old paper, isn’t it?

I wrapped the gift up in some brown paper bags I have had for years, tied them with some recycled ribbons and twine (I always save ribbons and string whenever I get a package etc. in order to reuse them) and added some homemade Victorian Christmas tags. And there you have a lovely little gift for friends, coworkers or anyone else you want to give a gift to this season!

Well, I hope you enjoy making this recipe, if you decide to, and also hope that you have a very Merry Christmas season!

How to Sew Your Own Mittens out of a Felted Sweater

Goodness, it’s been cold lately! It was -38 yesterday and this morning! I’m not used to it (am I ever used to the cold?) because we’ve had such a mild winter (so mild that I was wearing my raincoat in January, because my cashmere coat was too hot!)

But, this past week we got a huge amount of snow and chilly temperatures along with it- so it’s winter again in Alberta! All that to say- it seems like the perfect time to share a tutorial for felted woolen mittens! 

I made these mittens a few weeks ago for my best friend’s birthday gift (and I couldn’t post this tutorial until she opened them today!) I wanted to give her a pair of mittens, since hers have sadly reached the end of their life, but the only problem is that I don’t knit! I also didn’t think of giving her mittens a few months ago and looking at all the Christmas craft fairs, where I was sure to have found plenty. I didn’t want to give her “store-bought” ones, and I also didn’t have time to order any from Etsy or someplace like that.

So, what to do? Felt them! 

As I was figuring out how to make them, through much trial and error, I had the forethought to take a few quick pictures to share with you, so today is a tutorial on making your own mittens out of felted wool!

This is the first project I have ever made out of felted wool (I think. . . ) so it was a completely new experience. When I had the idea to make some mittens, I started looking for a pattern, but couldn’t find one that seemed to work. Many of the patterns I saw had the bottom of the palm and the thumb as one piece with a seam across the palm. I made up a test version with this style, and I didn’t like how it fit. There was a lot of excess fabric on the palm and the thumb was not off to the side enough to fit well.

So, as I was scrolling through pictures of felted mittens, I found a pair for sale that had a separate piece on the side for the thumb. I decided to attempt making this style, so I took a scrap piece of fabric, sewed a test mitten, created a pattern from it- and here is the result! 

You will need:

  • A piece of 100% wool, such as an old felted sweater. Check out the thrift shop for wool- just make sure it is 100%  wool content, so it will felt for you.
  • Lining fabric- make sure it is stretchy. I used a scrap of t-shirt fabric. For extra “eco cred”, you could even recycle an old t-shirt! 
  • Needle and Thread

Optional: 

  • Woolen thread of the same colour, for handstitching
  • Elasticized thread for sewing in lining, if you are lining them

STEP ONE:

Felt your wool if it isn’t already felted. You can put it in your washing machine on hot, with a bit of detergent and then wash as normal. If you put in a few sweaters, they will felt faster, because of the agitation. Check your wool once washed, and see if it is felted enough- if not you can repeat the process until it is. Then let it dry.

STEP TWO:

I don’t have an actual pattern to share with you, because as I was sewing, I changed things along the way, and had to cut out excess fabric etc. but this is the original shape that I started out with. Measure and trace your own hand to create a pattern that will fit you. I made the underside/palm of my mitten slightly smaller, so the seam wouldn’t show as much, but once I made them, the wool was so forgiving I don’t know if it made any difference. If you include a 1/2” seam allowance and start out with pieces shaped somewhat like this, you will have room to tweak as you go along! 

ps- this is the size I made it for my hand. The measurements might be different for you.

STEP THREE:

Lay the wool out flat, and decide where you want your mittens to be. Look to see if you can use some of the existing elements, such as cuffs or collars in the design of the mittens. If you have a patterned sweater, like mine, choose where you want the pattern to run. I ended up placing my pattern pieces along the hem, so I could incorporate the finished edge as a cuff. I also made sure to line up the edges of the pattern along the bottom, so the pattern would be consistent from front to back and across the thumb.

STEP FOUR:

Cut out your pieces!

STEP FIVE:

Pin along the top curve of the mitten and sew, either by hand or by machine.

Once you get over to the side, you’ll have to feather out your stitching, like a dart. If, when you turn the mitten right side out, the curve isn’t smooth, use a thread to hand stitch the pieces and soften out the curve and pull the pieces together nicely.

STEP SIX:

Sew the curve of the thumb piece. 

Try on the mitten, to see how it’s progressing for fit. If you need to make any adjustments to size, do so now. It’s easier to make changes before it’s completely sewn together.

STEP SEVEN:

Turn inside out and pin thumb to the hand piece. Line up the bottom edges and then sew together. You probably won’t be able to sew all the way around with the machine, because the pieces are so small. Finish attaching the thumb piece on with a hand stitch. I found it was easiest to put the mitten on my hand, right side out and then hand stitch the pieces together.

STEP EIGHT:

Turn the mitten inside out! 

If you are not creating a lining, then you are done! Simply tack the seam allowances down at the edge of the mitten, and steam into shape if there are any bulges etc. 

STEP NINE:

If you are creating a lining, repeat the steps with the lining fabric, but don’t worry about shaping (as long as it’s not too big), as it’s going to be hidden inside the mitten. 

STEP TEN:

Once you have finished the lining, leave it inside out, and fit inside the woolen mitten. Turn under the edge and then stitch to the outer mitten with some elastic thread. 

And there you have it!

The nice thing about making mittens out of felted wool is that the fabric is very moldable, so it will soon conform to your hand.

This was a relatively quick project. I finished them in several hours- and that includes the trial and error of fitting them. Now that I have sewn with felted wool, I am thinking up other projects I can make. . . earbands, slippers, baby boots. . . what else?

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? Do you think you’ll try making some mittens of your own? What other projects would be good to make out of felted recycled wool?

Sustainable Shopping: A Swedish Stockings Review

Sustainable Shopping: A Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist

Today’s post is brought to you by a combination of my favourite things: books, vintage, tea and ethical fashion! These pictures are actually from two months ago, but after a delay in posting, I decided that they were perfectly suited to Fashion Revolution Week, so here they are now!

It is so satisfying to create a completely ethically sourced outfit, but, unfortunately, that is easier said than done, isn’t it?

Since I started dressing ethically, a few years ago, the one thing that I am constantly reminded of when shopping is that it is so incredibly hard to do! I wish that I could just walk into any store, find whatever clothes I liked and that I wouldn’t have to ask, “Who made my clothes, were they made sustainably and are they made to last?” I hope for that day, and that is why I care so much about Fashion Revolution Week (which is this week in case you didn’t realize!) But until that day comes, it can be hard to figure out how far to take the commitment to shopping sustainably: Do you sometimes buy things that are not made ethically? Do you go without if you can’t find a sustainable option? Do you rely on secondhand for everything? What about basics? (like socks and underwear. . .  they are kind of necessary!)

Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist, books and outfit

When I made the commitment to dress ethically, I originally wanted to buy everything 100% ethically, whether it was secondhand, made by me, or bought from a fair trade brand. However, Canada, especially small town Alberta, is not a hotbed for ethical shopping. Some things are easy to find- you can easily source secondhand clothing, or even ethically produced clothing online, for example, but there are other things that are harder to find.

One such item is hosiery. I wear tights almost every day in the winter, and pantyhose other times throughout the year. But hosiery, especially pantyhose, is one of those fashion basics that is made very cheaply, and very unsustainably nowadays. It is one of the biggest fashion “consumables” that is contributing to making the fashion industry the second most polluting on the planet (after only the oil industry). I can find hosiery that is made in Canada, but it is more difficult to find good quality hosiery that will last more than a few wears without getting a run or pills. Nowadays, you are lucky to get a pair of pantyhose to last even a few wears, before you’ve got to throw them in the trash, and most pairs of pantyhose are worn only once. When I say that I want to shop “sustainably”, I don’t just mean that I want to buy “Made in Canada” (which is nice), but that I also want to buy items that aren’t creating a cycle of waste. Wearing something once, and then having to throw it out because it can’t be repaired, is not a sustainable way to dress. It’s actually ridiculous, when you think about it.

Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist

Enter, Swedish Stockings. My mom heard about this company and told me about it last year. I debated over ordering some pantyhose at the time, but as I had just stocked up, (on some cheap ones that didn’t end up lasting very long) I decided to wait. Well, in January, when my black opaque tights got a hole in them I finally decided to place an order.

This company is based in Sweden, and is the maker of “eco friendly pantyhose for women”, with a goal of revitalizing the entire pantyhose industry. In order to do that, they have come up with some great ways to make the hosiery industry more sustainable.

  1. They make their pantyhose from recycled nylon. Most pantyhose are made out of petroleum (aka: nylon and polyester) which is extremely polluting to the environment, both when it is made, and afterwards, as it doesn’t biodegrade. Yay . . . our throwaway pantyhose is literally covering the earth. Who else wants to live on a landfill? They use nylon industry waste, diverting it from the landfill, and their stockings contain 76% – 97% recycled content.
  2. The company has a recycling program to close the loop of stockings waste in the fashion industry, so you can send them any brand of old pantyhose and they will recycle them. They don’t make the old ones into new tights, as the technology to separate and break down textile fibres has not been invented yet (get on with it scientists!) but they take them and melt them down for fibreglass industrial tanks. In this way they have diverted millions of pairs of pantyhose from the landfills.
  3. Sending them your old tights to recycle is nice- but wait- it gets better! If you send in three or more pairs, you get a coupon to spend online! Now that is really a win-win situation, is it not? That’s what I did- and I also ordered 2+ pairs in order to get free worldwide shipping.

Anyways, they’ve got tons of more sustainability cred, but I won’t write it all out here. They’ve got a page here, with certifications and a bunch of other great facts- so just hop over there to read more, as it is quite interesting. It is so wonderful to find a company that seems to really get the whole sustainability thing- and is actually doing something about it.

Sustainable Shopping: A Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist, vintage style outfit

So, what did I think of the tights? I got the black opaque Lia Premium in both tights and leggings, and a pair of Elin Premium in the colour “medium”.

I am wearing the Elin tights here. When I took them out of the box, they were so tiny they looked like they were made for a small child. I was wondering if they would fit, as they were so small, but they stretched out fine. The yarn was thicker than regular pantyhose and it didn’t feel fragile as I put them on. They did have great elasticity, as when I took them off, they shrunk back down, and weren’t stretched out at all. But- this is an honest review here- I wasn’t as happy with the Elin as my first impression promised. The second time I wore them they got a run, and the fabric started pulling away from the seams in the gusset in the crotch. It was disappointing, especially since they cost more than a regular pair of pantyhose, so I decided to email Swedish Stockings and share my frustrations. Their customer service was great, and they said that the Elin is their most delicate pair of pantyhose, and so I decided to try out a sturdier pair instead. I am going to try the Irma, which is a 30 denier, and I am hopeful that they will be better, since I have tried “support hose” from different brands before and been happy with the quality.

As for the other pairs I ordered, I wore my Lia leggings and tights quite often during the winter. Now that it is spring, the 100 denier is too thick and opaque so I haven’t been wearing them anymore. I decided to get both the tights and the leggings, because in winter I wear boots all the time, and the feet on my tights always get worn out. I wore the leggings in my boots, since you couldn’t see that they were footless, and then saved the tights for open shoes. This way I preserved the feet on the tights, rather than wearing them out with constant wear. I am super happy with the Lia tights and leggings as they are very good quality. After a few wears, they started stretching out a bit, so I gently hand washed them and they sprung right back into shape. They haven’t gotten any snags or runs, and they haven’t started unraveling anywhere either. They are quite strong and are wonderfully opaque- although they are a little bit shiny- so if you want a matte stocking, these would not be the ones for you. For comparison, I got a pair of cheap footless tights last fall, and they turned out to be a total disaster. The Lia is high waisted, so you don’t have any lines under your skirts or dresses, but the cheap-disasterous-footless-tights were low rise, which was both uncomfortable (very bunchy feeling) and impractical, as you could see the line where they ended on my hip. The fabric on the cheap leggings also snagged very easily and the hem started unraveling the first time I started wearing them! So- all that to say that I am extremely happy with the Lia tights and leggings.

Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist

I will definitely be buying from Swedish Stockings again in the future. In fact, it will probably be difficult for me to not just keep buying! (They have quite a few that I love. . . the Rut Net is calling my name. . .) And, I will continue sending in all my old pantyhose too, in order to keep it out of the trash, in my endeavour to live as zero waste as I can. It is so great to find another company that I feel good about buying from; you’ve got to buy clothes, so why not buy them from a company that is doing something worthwhile, right?

As for the rest of my outfit, while it isn’t 100% ethical, I’m getting there. I would love to be able to know #whomademyclothes – all of my clothes- and not have to wonder whether they were paid a living wage or work in a safe environment. I hope for a day when I do not even have to ask this question, because it will just be given that all clothing is ethically sourced – but we aren’t there quite yet.
In the meantime, I do what I can: wearing vintage and thrifted clothes, making my own clothes, investing in quality and seeking out sustainable brands, like Swedish Stockings. Is my wardrobe 100% ethical? No, not yet, but small changes do make big differences!

I think that since this is my last post for this Fashion Revolution Week, I will close with this great quote by Orsola De Castro, the founder of Fashion Revolution.

I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% within (your) wardrobe clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, (at this point in time) but I think it is possible to make sustainable and ethical choices about all of the clothes you have in your wardrobe. So, somehow, you can refresh with love and turn them into something they weren’t originally. . . .

Have you ever heard of Swedish Stockings? Will you give them a try? What are your thoughts on balance in trying to shop ethically vs. also needing to have clothing even if it isn’t ethically made?

ps. I purchased the stockings myself, and haven’t been compensated in any way to write this post.

Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist, vintage books

Sustainable Shopping: A Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist, vintage books and outfit

vintage books, the artyologist

Sustainable Shopping: A Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist

tea and books, the artyologist

Sustainable Shopping: A Swedish Stockings Review, the artyologist, vintage style

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist

Today is the first day of Fashion Revolution Week 2018, so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about ways to refashion and recycle old textiles- since textile waste is a huge problem in the fashion industry today. If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “what on earth is Fashion Revolution?”, you can just click over here and read my post from last week which will get you up to speed, and then come back to this one once you know what’s what!

So, as I mentioned, textile waste is a huge problem facing us today as a result of the fast fashion industry. It is estimated that 10.5 million tons of clothing are sent to the landfill, in North America alone, and only 20% of textiles are recycled- with the other 80% being lost to the landfill or incineration. Of the textiles being thrown away, 70% of it is damaged, such as with stains, fading or shrinking- but even then, rather than being recycled, it is being thrown away. It is estimated that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter after only the oil industry. This is a rather abysmal track record, don’t you think?

A while ago I received a comment on my post about my Astra fur coat, where I was talking about how the vintage fabric is slowly wearing out. The lovely Mrs. Rat (of Mr. and Mrs. Rat Blog) said, “My favorite winter coat is going the same way—no matter how often I sew up the tears in the lining, they reappear somewhere else or next to the old ones. The exterior is also starting to look a little droopy and shabby up close. I don’t feel like I have any good way of knowing when a garment is ‘worn out,’ especially when it is one I am fond of. I also don’t feel like I really know what to do with a really worn piece of clothing except harvest the buttons for future sewing projects and feel guilty about throwing away the rest of it. Maybe that could be a good subject for a post for fashion revolution month? I always like to read what you write about ethical fashion and its practical dilemmas.

Thank-you Mrs. Rat for leaving such a great comment! That was a wonderful idea for a post, and it really got me thinking! And so, for today, I am sharing a post dedicated to 12 ideas for “what on earth do you do with previously used textiles?!?”  I’ve got links to some of my past refashioning projects, features on some small projects I’ve made in the past few years that wouldn’t be big enough to dedicate an entire post to, ways to mend old garments and several tips for what you can do with old clothing that isn’t in good enough condition to be donated as is, but also isn’t usable for much else either. Even though none of these projects are huge- every little bit, does truly help. If each person in North America chose to recycle or refashion just one garment each year, that would be 360 million garments diverted from the landfill! Here are 12 ways to do just that:

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, covering buttons

  1.  If you have a garment that needs some mending; maybe a hole needs patching, or a button needs recovering, take a look at the hem or facings and see if you can steal some fabric to do your repair work. Last year, I found a 1960’s dress at the thrift store which desparately needed a washing, so I carefully soaked and washed it in the tub, and laid it flat to dry. Once it was dry, I realized that the buttons had reacted badly to being washed, and all of the buttons now had a yellowish/green tinge to them around the edges. You can see the colour difference in the above picture, left. I tried to dye them back to a nice shade of blue- but apparently this fabric is not actually wool, since the dye didn’t absorb! Fortunately the dress had a nice wide 4″ hem- common in vintage garments- and so I was able to cut a 2″ strip all the way around, re-hem the dress and then use the scrap of fabric to cover all of the buttons in new fabric.

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, purse alteration

2. If only part of a garment has worn out, see if it can be replaced with new fabric or hardware. For example, perhaps a collar or cuffs have worn through or gotten stained, and could be replaced with contrasting fabric. Jackets with leather patches on the elbows were trendy a few years ago- which is just what professors used to do with the worn out sleeves on their jackets. I bought this bag from SmartSet years ago, because I loved the combination of cognac leather and stripes. It proved to be an invaluable bag-especially for commuting to work, or as an overnight bag. About a year or two after getting it, the faux leather handles and pulls all started cracking and flaking to pieces. The bag was cheap quality to begin with- but I didn’t want to just get rid of it, so I instead decided to replace the original handles with leather ones. I searched the thrift stores, until I found a cognac coloured leather coat. I made sure to get one that was either damaged or wouldn’t be useful for any other purposes, so I wasn’t cutting up a perfectly good coat. The one I found had a company logo on it- so obviously no one was going to be wearing it second-hand! I removed all of the faux leather pieces from the bag- traced them onto the wrong side of the new leather, and then sewed all the new leather pieces onto the bag. The new leather has lasted about 5 years, and I still have several large pieces of leather left to use on other projects.

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, pillows out of scraps

3. Lots of old garments can make great pillows- especially since they don’t require much fabric and are easy to sew. Two of these pillows were originally garments; the navy one was a short sleeved blouse that didn’t fit very well. It was such stiff fabric- and I loved the embroidery across it, so I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. Thus, it became a little pillow. The cream patterned pillow was a dress that no longer fit (and had also shrunk out of shape), which I then turned into a skirt- but it also didn’t fit well. I liked the fabric though- so I pieced it together into a square pillow. To make it more interesting, I did a chain stitch embroidery outline of the pattern for an added detail. The blue striped pillow was made out of a fabric remnant. With some strategic cutting and piecing, there was exactly enough to make this pillow, with no fabric waste left over!

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, bags out of scraps

4. Small projects such as tote bags or zippered pouches, can be made with small pieces of fabric. Here is an example where I am doing the opposite of tip #3- and am turning some pillows into a tote bag! I was hoping to finish it last week- but ran out of time, and so (on the right) you get a picture of the fabric pieces instead 😉 The khaki green fabric was originally a slipcover that got bleached by the sun, was turned into a pillow, and last week I decided I didn’t like it as a pillow anymore and so have turned it into the bottom of my bag. The gold and cream fabric is from some pillows I purchased a few years ago, but they no longer match my sofa and so I decided the fabric would be better as tote bag. I have not yet decided whether to make fabric handles, which will be good for laundering, or whether to make the bag a little bit more structural and add leather handles (made from the aforementioned coat). Another example of a bag that that is a bit more patchwork, is this 70’s inspired one, on the left, that I made quite a few years ago. I’m no good at quilting (as evidenced by the crooked patchwork pieces in this bag!), but even with rudimentary quilting skills, you can easily make a pieced bag.

grevillea beret, side, the artyologist

5. Now to address Mrs. Rat’s dilemma with her coat: worn out garments often have pieces of fabric that are still useable for small projects- such as making hats! I tried out Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret pattern earlier this year, and used some scraps I had leftover from making a cape. When I say scraps, I mean scraps: the fabric I used was only about 6″ wide, and I was still able to squeeze a hat out of it. In the Grevillea pattern, Tanith herself even recommends using an old coat, because even if some of the fabric is threadbare along the seams etc, there should be enough useable fabric to make a hat.

If a beret isn’t your style, how about getting a pattern like Vogue 7464?  You could make any of these hats out of scraps of wool or other fabrics. There are lots of other vintage hat patterns out there, if none of these are your style, or check out Tanith Rowan’s blog as she often shares hatmaking tips.

wardrobe-spice, canadian home journal, the artyologist

If hats aren’t really your thing, you could also try making some “wardrobe spice” accessories such as gloves or a jabot out of the fabric (as long as it isn’t too scratchy!)

The Big Reveal: The Refashioners 2016 and Gertie's Butterick, another portrait, the artyologist

6. A past refashioning project, is this top made out of old jeans. Any pattern that has princess seams, or lots of piecing is great for making out of old textiles- as you can fit the pattern into narrow pieces of fabric. This top was actually the bodice of a dress pattern- Butterick 5882– which makes a great playsuit top, and was perfect for making out of old jeans- as the pieces are narrow.

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, creative hands

7. Old garments are also wonderful for cutting down into new garments for children. Here are some tips from the 1970’s Creative hands books:

  • Be sure that the fabric isn’t too worn to withstand the tougher wear a child will give it.
  • Take the garment apart at the seams, and launder it, if it looks dirty. Sometimes when a garment has been taken apart, and the lining removed, the wrong side of the fabric looks brighter and fresher than the right side. Don’t hesitate to use the wrong side of a fabric if it appeals to you- it may even have a more interesting weave.
  • Adult coats: Garments made of tweed, woven wool, jersey, man-made knits and weaves, velours, doeskin cloth and corduroy will make children’s coats, jackets, teenage girls’ skirts and vests, girls’ and boys’ trousers and snowsuits.
  • Adult dresses: Garments made of woolens, jerseys, woven fabrics, man-made fibre fabrics, velvet needlecord, cottons, linens, etc. will make little girls’ dresses, skirts, boleros and sleeveless blouses, pants suits, shorts, and vests for both boys and girls. Knitwear will make pullovers, jumpers and romper suits for babies.
  • A more satisfactory remake job will result if a pattern is chosen with the same number of pieces as the adult garment and in a fairly similar style. By following this simple rule, you will find that there is enough fabric of the right shape in the adult garment for a child’s garment.

Refashioning a 1980's dress into a 1940's pinafore the artyologist

8. A lot of those tips for cutting children’s clothing could be utilized to cut down larger sized adult garments, into smaller sized ones; for example a large men’s coat could be remade into a women’s coat, (like women did in the 1940’s during rationing) and even a women’s coat could be made into a new vest. This gingham pinafore I made a few years ago, was made out of an old dress which was several sizes too big for me. I completely recut the fabric and made a new garment out of it. If you have a garment with quite a lot of fabric- a long dress or skirt, for example, it is often perfect for cutting out an entirely new garment.

the entirely repurposed and almost vintage skirt the artyologist

9. Old sheets make great fabric for projects! I made this skirt out of a vintage sheet- even though the project required some strategic cutting, since the sheet had been used as a dropcloth sometime in it’s past and had several paint stains on it. Vintage sheets are a great source of fabric for sewing projects, especially as most vintage sheets (at least fitted ones) don’t usually fit modern mattresses. This sheet wasn’t good for anything else- but I managed to get a new garment out of it. Vintage sheets are great for making test garments of new patterns, as they are relatively inexpensive and have a lot of fabric.

10. What do you do when you can’t refashion a garment/textiles? If a garment is ruined, such as with stains that won’t come out, or is threadbare along the seams, and it is 100% woven cotton, you could use it to make a quilt, or, if you don’t quilt, see if someone else would like it for quilting squares. Quilts originally were made with scraps, and as long as the fabric is not too worn out, it’s nice to get some free fabric. In the past, I made a lot of my dresses out of quilting cotton, and when I cut out my patterns, I saved all of the scraps, of a decent size, in order to use for future projects. I’ve got a suitcase full of fabric scraps, to make a quilt someday, and even though I’ll probably never actually make that quilt- it’s nice to have a stash of scraps to use for projects, such as the tote bags I mentioned earlier.

11. If a garment is completely worn out and it is 100% cotton, then remove the buttons and hardware and cut it up for rags. Instead of using paper towels or buying cloths, cut up old t-shirts and soft cottons to clean with. Soft t-shirt cottons work quite well for cleaning glass and mirrors as well as for dusting. As long as the majority of the fabric content is cotton or natural fibres, they work quite well. Synthetic fibres or blends don’t absorb liquids very well, although you can still use them for dusting, so avoid using them for cleaning rags.

12. After you have gone through all of these ideas, and still have a garment left- for example, old hoisery or a polyester blouse with snags on it- then the last thing you can do is remove the buttons or any other hardware, and send it to textile recycling. Although I don’t shop at H&M, they do have a textile recycling program, which our family has used several times. In many of their stores, they have a drop off bin for end of life textiles- you can find out more about that here.  Our family recently dropped off 5 bags of textiles at one of their stores. (The man who was standing in line was so confused to see us walk into the store, throw 5 bags into the textile recycling bin, and then turn around and leave the store without stopping to buy anything!) All of the textiles we sent were end-of-life textiles, which meant the fabric was ruined, unable to be recycled into a future project, or was of some kind of synthetic fibre and couldn’t be used for rags. Their program accepts all unwanted textiles where it is sorted into three categories:

  • Reworn- if it is in good condition
  • Reused- for cleaning cloths
  • Recycled- to be turned into textile fibres and used for insulation.

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Well, those are the 12 ways I have used up old textiles. It is nice to be able to repurpose and refashion as much as you can, isn’t it? It always makes me think of the Depression era women, when I recycle old garments and textiles into new projects! I hope these ideas have helped you to figure out how you can reuse your garments, rather than simply sending them to the thrift shops or textile recycling programs.

What creative ways do you refashion and reuse old textiles? Have you tried any of these ideas before? Are you taking part in Fashion Revolution Week this year?