Between fast fashion and the many types of synthetic fabrics we wear today (we're looking at you, polyester), textile waste is negatively affecting the environment through dirty manufacturing processes and microplastic leaching.
What’s more, even when we think we’re donating clothes to re-use shops in our local communities, often times they’re exported thousands of miles across the world to secondary markets in the Global South.
The better alternative? Making conscious and sustainable fashion choices in the first place. But inevitably, linens and garments wear out; they tear, thin, stretch out or simply reach the end of their wearable lives. Before you turf your old T-shirts, curtains or bed linens, why not upcycle them into some of these fun DIY projects?
1. Pin cushion
Pin cushions are so easy to make and they’re extremely useful if you’re going to make the other things on this list. I remember when I took home economics classes way back in high school, the first thing we made was a pin cushion so we could keep our pins organized while we worked on future projects.
2. Reusable grocery bag
One super eco-friendly thing you can make with scrap fabric is a reusable grocery bag. The benefits are two-fold: Save your old clothes from ending up in the landfill while reducing single-use plastic bag waste at the grocery store.
There are many different ways to sew a simple tote bag and free patterns abound on the Internet. One popular method is to use an old T-shirt.
Click for the tutorial:
Origami Bag Tutorial: Easy to Make Market Tote Bag
How to Make a Market Tote Bag
3. Reusable snack bag
Another thing you can make with old fabric are reusable snack bags. Use them for dry snacks in lunchbags, purses, backpacks or in the car.
Again, there are plenty of patterns out there, some that involve buttons or zippers and others with velcro. Whichever design you choose, reusable snack bags will save you money on unnecessary plastic Ziploc bags.
4. A fabric bookmark
These are such an easy gift to make for your favourite bookworm; you can even design one with their name on it or add some decorative ribbons. Personally, I love the idea of giving bookmarks to people in their stockings at Christmas, as party favours, with the books I lend or alongside a gifted book.
5. Cord organizer
If you crave organization, these cord organizers are the perfect antidote to birds nest-type cord chaos. Not only do they wrangle unruly cords, but they’re also super cute and can be used to identify which electronics they belong to.
6. A beverage cozy ("koozie")
If you’re like me and you don’t want to buy pricey coffee tumblers or fancy reusable water bottles then it’s likely that Mason jars are your best friend. But there's a downside: Holding them without a koozie when filled with a hot drink can be uncomfortable on the hands.
Mason jar koozies are easy to make. You can make them with scrap fabric, as long as there’s some stretch to it or by adding some buttons. You can also fashion them with leftover yarn from knitting or crochet projects.
7. Custom camera strap
Custom camera straps are both fun and functional; they keep your hands free between snapping the perfect shot while adding a spash of personality. They also make the perfect DIY gift for the shutterbug in yourlife. Make this accessory with fabric scraps or old scarves.
8. T-shirt quilt
Old T-shirts often carry with them a sense of nostalgia. Think: Band and concert tees or university or sports team jerseys. Items once worn with love—that you can’t bear to part with—might find a new life as a blanket. Sewing them into a quilt will help you (literally) hold onto those memories. This is also a wonderful way to make use of the clothing that once belonged to loved one who has passed away.
9. Pencil or cosmetics case
Pencil cases and makeup pouches can both be made following the same or similar designs. The great thing about them is that they’re always useful. Craft one for yourself, for the makeup guru in your life or for kiddos starting a new school year.
10. Holiday ornaments
When it comes to the holidays, consumerism rages at an all time high. The amount of plastic used during the Christmas season in particular, is astonishing. One way to celebrate an eco-friendly holiday is to make ornaments from fabric scraps. Ornament design is only limited by your imagination, but homemade and handmade decor is sure to add a dash hygge to your holiday tree.
PS: Ever consider your laundry waste?
Did you know that annually more than 750 million plastic laundry jugs end up in our landfills? Tru Earth has the solution.