Sustainable Life: Easiest up-cycling ideas for clothes | HerCanberra

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Sustainable Life: Easiest up-cycling ideas for clothes

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In a world where most things are mass produced to be cheaper than cheap, unique items have special value. 

They speak of character and celebrate everyone’s unique personality, however, finding unique items can be a challenge. Unless, of course, you make your own.

Enter these five easy upcycling ideas. You don’t have to be a sewing expert or have a spare week to do any of these projects – three of them don’t even need a sewing machine.

Best of all, because these are upcycling projects, they’re a great way to enjoy the fabric and memories of your favourite clothes, long after the original item is worn out.

Cloth shopping bag

Old jeans or t-shirts make great shopping bags.  For the jeans, use the section between the waist and crotch. Simply cut this off above the leg line, put the ‘right sides’ together, pin along the crotch area to make the bottom of the bag and then sew and overlock around the bottom edge.  For straps, use the legs of the jeans to create straps.

For t-shirts, use the section between the underarm pit and the waist. Simply cut off the t-shirt between the lower edge of each sleeve, turn the t-shirt inside out and pin along the cut edge. Sew and overlock along the cut edge to create the bottom of the bag.  Create straps from the leftover fabric or use a thick ribbon.

Beeswax wraps

Beeswax wraps are great for keeping your bread fresh and as a substitute for plastic wrap.

You’ll need a light cotton fabric as the base material for the beeswax wraps. An old sheet or summer shirt are both suitable. A small wrap is about 18cm x 18cm. The only other ingredient is beeswax (about 15g for a small wrap). Beeswax can be sourced in Canberra from the Win’s Creek Meadery and the ANU Food Coop. To make the wraps, you’ll need a kitchen grater, old iron and baking paper.

Firstly, cut your fabric to sandwich wrap size. Then grate your beeswax, using a kitchen grater. Working carefully, place your fabric on top of a sheet of baking paper. Sprinkle the grated beeswax on top, so that the fabric is loosely covered in grated wax. Place a second sheet of baking paper on top of the grated wax. Run a medium iron over the top of the second sheet of baking paper to melt the beeswax into the material. Take care that the melted wax doesn’t drip outside your baking paper layers and onto an ironing board or your iron.

Flower with button

Cut a favourite piece of cloth in a circle shape, about the size of your hand with the fingers outstretched. Hand sew, with large stitches (about 3cm each), around the outside of the circular shaped cloth to create a drawstring. Instead of tying the knot, pull thedrawstringg tight.  You will now have a ball shape, with the draw string at the top.  From the top, squash the draw string ball so that it is flat.  This creates the flower shape. It’s circular, with wrinkles around the sides. Using small stitches, sew the middle of the flower (where the draw string is), to the fabric at the back.  To finish the middle of the flower, sew a fancy button over the draw string area so that the rough edges of the fabric are hidden. Attach a safety pin to the back, so that the flower can be pinned onto shirts or skirts. For a truly spectacular finish, consider making a few of the flowers and pinning them on to a shirt or skirt together.

Fancy patches on pants

This is upcycling for creative people, who are happy to wear their personality. Pants usually wear at the knee…unless they’ve been ripped somewhere in the buttock region. Instead of throwing them out, hand or machine sew a patch over the ripped section. Make the patch a feature by using bright or floral material. While you’re at it, add a decorative patch to complete the ‘look’. Consider hand sewing fancy buttons or even decorative flowers to make your personality shine.

Children’s 10 minute skirt from old t-shirt

Take any old t-shirt – larger shirts will produce fuller skirts. Cut the shirt between the underside of each sleeve. The bottom of the t-shirt will be the hemline for the skirt and your cut line will become the waist. Overlock the cut edges of the t-shirt. Then, fold and pin the overlocked edges of the fabric to create a 1 ¼ inch space for the elastic band around the skirt’s waistline. Sew along the pinned edges, leaving an opening of about 1 inch for threading the elastic. Measure and cut some 1 inch thick elastic to the length of your child’s waist. Using safety pins, thread the elastic through the skirt’s waistband.  Pin and sew the elastic, using a zig-zag stitch. Then, close up the 1-inch space in the waistband. Voila! Was there ever a child that didn’t need a new skirt?

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