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Be Green

Keep Your Clothes On!


Okay, if you've been reading this blog you know that:
The average Quebecker buys 23 kg of clothes a year.
(not the end of the world, right?)
Umm hmm, until you consider that that same average Quebecker THROWS OUT 21 kg of that 23 kg PER YEAR!
That'sTHROW, not donate or reuse or recycle.
That's bad. Because a lot of the fabric is still good. And with a little time and creativity, it can become something totally funky.
That's the credo of a pair of Genevièves:Geneviève Dumas and Geneviève Flageol who opened an 'eco-fashion' boutique on St Denis called Moly Kulte
All the wild and funky clothes and accessories in their store come from donated or salvaged materials. And these ladies are SERIOUSLY fashionable. So I went on down for a primer on how to reduce and reuse by recycling my threads.
Of course, we're not exactly going to learn how to make a gorgeous skirt like this one. It's entirely possible and truth be told, not that hard, but it DOES assume basic tailoring skills and the ownership of a nice sewing machine. I preferred to go with something simple and no-fuss. So Geneviève Dumas suggested the sweatshirt bag.
It's simple, chic in a grungy, punky sorta way and certainly practical. The project will probably take you less than 15 minutes to finish if you have a machine and less than an hour if you're sewing by hand.
And you don't have to have any prior experience with a needle and thread. What a perfect way to save that beloved sweatshirt that's too threadbare to wear!
Watch the video here

Next up I wanted to try something for the home. So the other Geneviève (Flageol) offered to show me how to make the ultimate recycled pillow (not the ones pictured above, but just as cool, I promise!)
Here's what you have to do:
1. You take some firm material (i;e. not stretchy knit material like most T-shirts. You want woven fabric like old bedsheets, a silk dress, denim or curtains)
2. You'll also need fabric scraps and or old socks, soft scarf-type material and that sort of stuff to ... well stuff your pillow.
3. A sewing machine helps, but isn't vital.
4. A needle and thread (to close the hold from stuffing).
If you need directions, check out the video link posted above.

The finished pillow that I'm holding in the piece also has some awesome silk-screened detail on it. Don't know how to silk screen? Simply crack out the fabric paint or Magic Markers and go wild. This would be a great project to try with kids.

The recycled sweater bag

Handcraft in a hectic world...
Okay, I'll admit that this pair of bags is what got me on this whole recycling kick in the first place. There's a wonderful free tutorial on how to make one of these from a thrifted sweater in under 30 minutes. Check it out at whipup.net (I love her tagline: handcraft in a hectic world)

You can also make a pair of lovely fingerless mitts (or handwarmers, if you prefer) by felting a pure wool sweater (you HAVE to make sure it's pure wool that's not marked "superwash"). Felting simply means "shrinking on purpose" and can be achieved with any top loading washing machine (or even with a bucket and some muscle).
You have to use hot water and a little natural fabric detergent..oh, and an old pillowcase to keep the wool fibres from clogging up your machine. What happens is that the heat and wet and slippery soap makes the wool fibres open up. In the machine (or with a wooden spoon if you're felting by hand), the agitation then causes these fibres or hairs to knot together. This shrinks the fabric and makes it thick and very warm. It also allows you to cut knit fabric without it unraveling.
You can get a more sensible tutorial here.
For those who are very crafty and would like to take felting to a whole new level, you can try needle felting. This looks a little like embroidery and can be used on a sweater that you've felted by machine. Check it out on Youtube here. Warning, if you're offended by the word "titty", you might want to give this a skip. Otherwise, it's pretty G rated!
Other techniques include this one that you can use to embellish jeans and bags.

If you're crafty and are bored by the basic stuff I've described here, considering trawling through Etsy pages. That's what I do when I'm looking for inspiration for recycled projects. Watch out though, it's addictive and can cost you a fortune in clever, handmade recycled goodies!

So, today's question is this: Do you or have you ever recycled or modified your clothes? What did you do? Do you have photos? What sort of stuff do you like to do? Tell me all and send any photos to geeta.nadkarni@cbc.ca

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Comments (5)

Manon Gagnon


Hi Geeta,

Great idea for recycling clothes (bag & pillowcase).
My way of recycling is to bring unwanted clothes every season to SOS Depannage in Granby where they have a general store.
That way some people can benefit at a low cost.
It's called "pass it on ".

Thanks for your chronicles & keep up the good work.
Best regards, Manon

Posted May 12, 2008 07:32 PM

Susana Trindade


One of my favourite uses for old clothing and scraps of fabric is to make clothing for my kids -- I only need only small amounts of fabric and the projects are done in no time.

Posted May 13, 2008 11:14 AM

Sharon Fewtrell


Thanks, Geeta,
For doing the Be Green show.
Having a large bag of discarded clothes in my 1 1/2 room apartment, I'm particularly interested in learning what options there are for items that are absolutely falling apart and of no use to anyone as clothing. Landfill is a last resort.
Moly Kulte sounds like a good, conveniently located solution for some things, for some people, and I intend to check it out.
What about other options for fibre reusing or recycling?
I think we need more, convenient, advertised places to deposit used clothing (the stuff beyond wearing). The quantity ending up in garbage must mean it includes even very wearable clothing, that charities would appreciate. This is very discouraging.

Posted May 13, 2008 01:08 PM

Geeta Nadkarni


Hi Sharon,
Actually, the recycled pillow is the perfect option for stuff that's too scrappy to wear. You can use it as fill for toys, cushions, dog beds--anything that can benefit from stuffing really.
And the good thing is that THIS way, you won't be using polyfill and other commercial stuffing agents that often contain harmful off-gassing chemicals (like flame retardants) or are made with un-ecological practises.
Hope this helps. Hang in there! If all else fails, take a trip down to Molykulte and ask any of the folks who work there. Their creativity blew me away and I'm sure they'll have tons of ideas for your scraps.
Take care and keep writing!

Posted May 13, 2008 01:23 PM

Daniel Anaka


Hi Geeta, I just wanted to let you know that I just dropped off 6 HUGE garbage bags of fabrics off at MolyKulte. I had seen your blog post about them last year. I have a drapery company and I always have tons of left over fabric that I have been hanging on to, hoping to find someone to give it to. Genevieve was very happy to be on the receiving end today.
Thanks for a great blog. D.

Geeta says: Hey D, thanks so much for writing. Am so glad you managed to find a good use for your fabric. I'm sure the ladies at Molykulte will do something wonderful with it.
You can also try La Gaillarde. They supply discount recycled fabric to any Montreal designer who wants to work with it. And they're lovely.
Here's a blog post about them:http://www.cbc.ca/newsatsixmontreal/begreen/2009/03/ecochic_on_a_budget.html
Good luck!

Posted May 29, 2009 03:44 PM

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