26 Mar

Am I Missing Something?

As I throw out the umpteenth stained, faded, T-shirt, I wonder what people touting saving the planet by keeping old clothes out of landfills are thinking.

I know that I’m supposed to pass on gently used clothing to those less fortunate (and I do), but in actuality, the majority of the clothes my kids wear have been passed down from friends who themselves got the clothes from the thrift shop. My husband and I buy new, but tend to keep the same clothes for many, many years. I buy one pair of jeans a year. Really. Is it then OK to throw away the clothes if they are beyond what any reasonable person would actually wear?

I know there are lots of great projects to be made from old clothes — but the you noticed the they are all made from vintage cottons, airy linens, or soft felted wools? I don’t know about anyone else, but the closets at our house are filled with jeans and T-shirts — with a good measure of jersey dresses and pants in my daughter’s wardrobe. I have yet to see attractive “reduce-reuse-recycle” projects from old T-shirts and saggy cotton sweaters.

I am saving all our jeans to make a rag rug or something, but at a rate of one or two adult pairs a year, and the occasional kid’s pair, the landfill will never miss what I’m not adding to it. Oh, and how many T-shirts as rags can one household use? Hubby’s Army undershirts alone have given us a lifetime supply of boot polishing, furniture waxing, general dusting, cleaning, wiping up, rags. Add the kids’ dingy, worn-out knit clothes to that and I’d have to get a bigger house just to store the rags.

Am I missing something?

15 thoughts on “Am I Missing Something?

  1. Just stumbled on your blog from a link to your log cabin challenge quilt from Lazy Gal Quilting.

    Do you knit? If so, check out Mason Dixon Knitting (the book) for “calamari knitting” to make old t-shirts into bright and colorful rugs. Since out family is two people who really hate shopping and don’t have a lot of clothes, it would take approximately forever for me to have enough t-shirts to make a rug, but it’s always been on my to-do-someday list.

  2. I don’t think you’re missing something. You can’t reuse every piece of old clothing. I think people who re-purpose just try to make something fashionable for today with out-of-date or ill-fitting items.

    If the clothes are 100% cotton, they’ll break down and leave less of a mark in the landfill — compared to something that is synthetic.

    – Jen

  3. You can cut up t shirts and use them to hook rugs (in your spare time, of course!). But, like you, by the time I throw out said t shirt it is so thin, stained, and repulsive that it doesn’t even make a good rag. Since I hate to shop for clothes I figure I help the enviroment by not driving to the mall to buy clothes that were shipped here from who knows where. Wishing you a happy Spring day and a little creativity too. Cheers.

  4. My thoughts are along the same line, either knit/crochet a rug or hook a rag rug although most of our old t-shirts seem to end up as polishing rags for the bikes, especially the well washed cotton ones

  5. I’ve had the same feelings, and a very similar stash of old and unappetizing t-shirts and turtlenecks. I finally decided to steel myself and toss them (both the clothes and, as much as possible, the feelings), then go out to the Dig and Save—just about the end of the line for donated clothes, next stop either Africa or the landfill—and rescue lots of other people’s stained, frayed clothes, in colors and fabrics that I like and can turn into rugs and quilts. I like to think that I end up more than compensating for what I dumped. I hope so.

  6. FYI – you can’t recycle everything. If you want to assuage your guilt, drop them in the corner clothes box and let someone else make the decision.

    As far as the jeans = they recycle into great bags and backpacks (you know someone who makes great bags…..)

  7. I think I’d end up like the people who have stuff piled up to their ceiling in their houses!! There’s a whole sub-culture of re-cycle artists out there..I think it’s a very interesting idea. Goodwill and Salvation Army are usually my recipients.

  8. Just looping around the blogosphere today. I don’t know where in the world you are, but here in Wisconsin in the States, my local Goodwill store is anxious to have all our scraps of used up clothes (even old socks, the woman told me on the phone), because they make money selling them as rags. I take things to the shop in bags marked “salvage”, and am happy not to be putting them in the landfill. Call your local thrift shop to see if they do the same.

  9. I think rugs for tshirts or giving them to a charitable organisation for rag reselling are both great ideas, but I woiuldn’t feel guilty about not being about to pass them along to be worn again. Children’s clothes are not often gently worn, and there is no sin in that – it is just a part of being a child.

  10. Susan is right. Good will takes everything. It just feels good not to throw stuff in the trash. I am facing getting rid of a lot of stuff, soon. I am not going to keep the fat clothes around.

  11. Martha Stewart or Real Simple had grocery bags made from old tees. cut off the sleeves. cut diagonal from just outside the collar to just under where the sleeve was. on one and cut the opposite on another. Put one inside the other and sew the bottoms together. You’ve now got a bag. the shoulder seams are the handles.

    They still recycle and reuse rags in europe. ask around. I remember putting things in the Altkleider Samlung.

  12. Nope, you’re not missing anything. Total reuse/recycle is impossible. And some things — um, yeah, aren’t worth saving (says the woman who just threw away about 20 pairs of my daughter’s old socks last week and is trying not to feel guilty about it!). Some things do serve their purpose and then are done.

  13. I thought the same thing. Sometimes, it is just not worth it to hang on to every scrap. Then I saw my first Project Alabama coat, made with recycled t-shirts.
    In the beginning, they used old t-shirts from thrift stores and vat dyed them. They then used the cloth for reverse applique garments. They are beautiful.

    Natalie Chanin sold Project Alabama and the new owners moved production to India. She has reopened as Alabama Chanin.
    She wrote a book about her philosophy and techniques, with patterns.

    I have been saving my t-shirts ever since.

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