It used to be very common to use and then reuse items until they were quite worn out. Today however, in our throw-away society, where most people simply buy new, the art of reclaiming discarded items and turning them into useful things is a very novel idea. Over the years we have stumbled upon some very practical projects made entirely from rejected clothing that we pick up free or very inexpensively at second hand stores. Wool is the main fiber we seek due to its high price at craft and material stores which effectively removes new wool materials from our reach.
Sarah has provided us with some insightful information about the process whereby yarn is reclaimed.
Yarn is expensive and wool yarn in particular. We use the natural fibers God make for our clothing and household items as much as we can, so we are always watching for cotton and wool yarns. Some can be found at second hand stores in skeins and balls but there is a far more common article than these found in such stores. We only recently realized the wealth of materials to be found in sweaters. Many sweaters in thrift shops have hardly been used and we have found that certain ones can be unraveled and the yarn used for our own projects. The biggest issue to be discerned is whether or not the sweater has been washed and machine dried, thereby shrinking the sweater and
Once we have a sweater we want to reclaim, we begin by carefully cutting the yarn used to sew the pieces together at the seams. Care must be taken to not cut into the pieces themselves or we will have more loose ends to tie. Once the pieces are separated we begin at the top of one looking for the end of the yarn. Of course it could be at either side, it's usually not obvious so it takes a bit of cutting to find it. We know we have it when we pull and it unravels across the top in a long, kinky strand. At first there was a lot of cutting and knotting but once we got used to what we were looking for it became easy.
The collar or neck band can be hard to get off, so if it's necessary we cut if off. This leaves many cut ends with little strands that need to be removed. Eventually we find the appropriate end. Once we have located it the whole piece will unravel with very little difficulty. I think it is probably easier for a knitter to do this because they know what they are seeing, but anyone who is willing to give a bit of time and figure it out can have a wealth of inexpensive yarn for their projects.
As you would expect, yarn, once reclaimed, can be used for any project you desire. Clothing usage, on the other hand, is somewhat more limited since the size of the cloth is predetermined. We have discovered two projects that use smaller wool pieces. Surprisingly most wool garments seem to follow the style trends. Although we occasionally find well worn garments, most are virtually new, since they go out of style quickly. Then few people want them and large quantities turn up in the dollar-a-bag sales at our local thrift shops.
Regular-weight suit coats, pants and skirts are perfect, once felted, for making hooked wool rugs. Hooking wool rugs is an old art which almost died out. Recently it has regained popularity and several books can now be readily found on the topic. Most modern rugs are made from yarn, old-style hooked rugs differ in that they are made from thin strips of felted wool cloth. When choosing wool for this project we look for cloth that is soft and fuzzy, these tend to felt very well. The coarser and more thread-like the individual fibers are, with few or no fuzzies protruding from them, the less likely the cloth is to felt. Felting wool cloth is actually very easy. Last time you accidentally washed and dried your new wool socks and they came out four sizes too small for you, they were actually felted. (This shrinking,
When it comes to cutting the garments apart, pants and skirts are the easiest, suit coats with all their odd shapes, iron on interfacing, button holes and liners are much, much more difficul- though they do come in much broader color ranges.Tip: We have learned that older garments are best. Many newer items have heat set plastic stiffening that makes the cloth unusable. When possible look between the garment layers to see if the stiffening can be easily removed. This is especially true for suit coats and winter coats.
For cutting the cloth into strips, I have used scissors, a rotary cutter (this wears it out real fast) and best of all a (borrowed) little machine made especially for this purpose.
Putting the actual rug together takes some good planning. The chair seat pad that I hooked went pretty quickly due partly to the fact that it was small and partly to the fact that the pattern was so simple. Books provide good patterns or you can make your own.
Heavy wool coats are the material base for our last project. Finding many long lady's dress coats in several of the homes we cleaned out (some of them had 6-8 coats each), we began plotting what we could make them into. The weight of the material was just like a blanket which sparked the idea which turned into the products pictured below. Using the same technique for wool rugs, we felt and then dismantle the coats. Many newer coats have foam heat-bonded to the inside of the wool so it is imperative that we find appropriate coats for our projects. Carefully felting the material is very important because we
I find that once you get the idea a little creativity will take you a long way! Over the next few years we collected a new set of wool coats with which Sarah has been working diligently. She is expanding on my original patterns adding more and more animals to the collection. I look forward to seeing her finished blankets. It is so nice having others to help expand a particular skill set. Their added creativity, energy and time accelerates the progress. Not to mention the fact that working alone gets very tiring.
Reclaiming wool can be very rewarding. When I think of all those hundreds of thousands of virtually new wool garments that get thrown away every year it makes me glad to know that a few of them at least are going to good use. The God of creation, Who Himself owns the sheep on a thousand hills, has in His great loving kindness provided a way for those of us with limited funds to make hope chest items out of the highest quality wool material available today. It's amazing what God, who delights in blessing us, provides when we let Him do so!
Reclaiming belly wool was another fun and interesting experience. The wool that grows on the sheep's belly is shorter than the rest and therefore less desirable. Having obtained some discarded belly wool, we cleaned and then felted it into wool balls. Normal length wool probably felts a little better but we didn't have any real trouble with our wool. We started by layering the wool into an even shaped ball which we then alternately dip in hot and cold water. Using plenty of soap, we messaged and rolled the balls between our hands until they were felted. They make really great balls for babies to play with. Mom had purchased some when Jeremiah and I were little so all of us children enjoyed them in turn.
Although we do some reclaiming of cotton material, it is on a much more limited scale. Heavy cotton stretch knit material in the larger sizes of ladies skirts and dresses, particularly those where the front is one piece and the back is one piece, are very useful for making baby hats and sleepers (if you want to go to all the work).
Sheets are the other thing that we reclaim. Readily available to anyone who cleans out old houses, we have inherited piles of good sheets that don't fit any bed we have. Hating to waste new material, we use these for trying out new patterns. When it's all done a little dye turns even a white sample dress into a lovely product and you'd never guess that is was made from a sheet! Be creative and if it looks like its new don't hesitate to turn it into something usable to you or your family.
Another form of reclaiming takes place when you mend or alter a garment. This can be done in a whole variety of ways including both simple and elaborate fixes. For us alteration mainly includes dresses which have neck lines that are too low for comfort. A really easy fix, especially in the case of denim dresses, is to simply cut off the sleeves and turn the dress into a jumper!
Mending an item falls squarely into the reclaiming camp since without the fix it is useless. Fixing a knit sweater is a seldom thought of example. I first tried this out years ago when Dad had several wool sweaters that he used when he worked outside. Frequent snags resulted in broken threads and runs in the knitting. With the help of a crochet hook the dropped stitches can be picked up and returned to their starting position, where they can be securely bound off. Just like with everything else, the sooner we catch the problem the easier it is to fix!
I am sure there are lots of other good examples of reclaiming products, many of which you are probably familiar with. The above list is definitely not a complete compilation, rather it's simply the commonly used techniques at our home. Your family probably has some favorites of your own.
"What ever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."
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