Things to save from secondhand clothing

The Native Americans and other cultures that had to do more with less didn’t waste anything. Bones became needles and beads, bladders became balloons. I admire that. I am always trying to find ways to use up every last bit of towels with holes, old sheets. and packing materials from when we order books on Amazon. That’s one of the reasons why my craft room so often looks like the asteroid belt orbiting a trash heap.

There are plenty of things we donate to Goodwill that have just been outgrown and would be a terrible tragedy to cut apart when someone who needs the bargain would love to find that article of clothing for $2 at the thrift store. But there are so many things that have holes, stains, missing parts, etc. that they just wouldn’t work as a complete article any more. These are the things that I cut up and save in bits and peices.

When you’ve butchered something keep the notions. Elastic can be saved and used again. Likewise, velcro, buttons, snaps, zippers, felt appliques. Those are obvious things, it seems, but so often end up in the trash. And keep in mind that not everything needs to be used as it’s original purpose. I made a quilted busy book for Elise’s second birthday out of fabric scraps and notions. There are zippers to pull, buttons to unfasten, buckles from overalls to work, laces to tie and belt buckles to fasten. She really likes to work on it, actually even Olivia really likes to work on it, and I didn’t pay for anything except the thread to stitch it together.

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Like I mentioned above, these are obvious things to save. But there are things that I use all the time that are less obvious repurposings. The batting for this busy book is a cheap and uncomfortable comforter that Rob and I got when we were married. It was such poor quality that it faded in the sun through our window after one summer. Lame.
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But the polyester batting inside is just as good as any that you’d buy in the craft store, and I’ve washed it clean so why not use it? I’ve used that polyfil for this busy book, raggy flat dolls, fabric ball stuffing, toy fabric blocks, and many other small projects. That’s at least 10 toys made from one comforter and I still have half of it left. So it is worth it to buy an ugly comforter at the thrift store for 3 bucks just to use the polyester fiberfil on the inside for crafting.

So the moral of the story is,  don’t throw anything away until you’ve decided it can’t be used in any other way. Maybe you’ll be living in a cluttered mess but you’ll never have to shell out 8 bucks for 4o oz of polyfil at JoAnn’s, and that nasty comforter (once washed) will be all manner of awesome play things for your kids and friends’ kids. Maybe someday I’ll even find a way to keep it all organized and when I do I’ll write a post about that, too. Then we’ll really be living!

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2 Responses to “Things to save from secondhand clothing”


  1. 1 Meredith January 24, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Love this post! Our rag bag is bulging. We buy almost all clothes used, and they often don’t survive a kid or 2 of wear.

    Thanks for the reminder that recycling doesn’t end at the Goodwill drop off.

  2. 2 Theresa K. January 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I used to do what you do in my 20’s. I got away from it as my kids grew older and handmade crafts fell out of mainstream favor during the excesses of the 90’s and early 00’s. One thing I can love about the economic downturn is the handcrafted is the new cool once again. I’d like to start crafting again to ease the (joyful) pain of my children becoming adults.


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Creating unique fashion from fortunate thrift store discoveries. And otherwise making our house a home, on the cheap.

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