If you read about my Fast Fashion post, it relates to this one. If not, please go check it out. Even though I do by thrift store items, I will still mend an item to save it from a donation. Sometimes I will mend my items and then I donate the item. For instance, I found an old shirt at my aunts house. It had a few holes in it but overall, I liked the color and I didn’t mind the cut of the shirt. The color went perfectly with my color palette for my capsule wardrobe, so I really wanted to save it from being donated. I just needed to mend the shirt, so it would be decent to wear.
Now I have an almost new shirt.
Whenever I upcycle clothing, I always keep scraps of the leftover clothing item. In my Reusing Fabric and Thread blog post, I wrote about keeping my fabric scraps in a small bag. I literally have a bag of scraps. I love fabric, and the use of fabric in different products, (depending on the thread count, material, and the way fabric is sewn together,) can be a very durable material.
Some shirts have higher thread counts, which lends them to become excellent candidates to upcycle into grocery bags, or other heavy duty bags. The smaller scraps that I keep, I always try to find a use for them. Whether it’s going to be upcycled into a small project or large project, the one thing I can count on is that I can throw it in the washing machine to clean it.
If I had a choice to make, with picking and choosing reusable products, I prefer to choose items that I can wash easily. I don’t like to buy items which require a special cleaning method or liquid to clean. I like to sew and mend items, because the product that I’m usually mending, only needs to be washed with soap and water.
If you reflect on the products that you use daily, the majority of them are probably sewn together: your clothes, handbags, wallets, car seats, bedding, upholstery, etc. Knowing how to sew and understanding how to repair fabric products has been a life saver for me. I actually learned how to sew by hand, and didn’t learn how to use a machine until years later.
Learning how to mend items can save you money, time and stress. Even the simple act of sewing on a button is helpful. You can save a simple dress shirt, like I did, from sending it to a donation station.
It’s interesting how we pick up habits from our parents or other figures in our lives. When the rain season comes, my mother has always wrapped an old towel across her car mats to absorb the extra water that would get dragged in by everyday use. To this day, I’ll see her break out the towels around the middle of October.
As for me, I never cared for my floor mats in my car. I honestly never liked my car. The car was bought without my input and I was stuck with it thereafter. But recently I did get new car mats, along with a new car, and since I didn’t want to drag a bunch of water into my car, I too, wrapped my car mats in towels. But I soon realized that the towels would get tugged and moved around from the daily use of them. I had to solve this issue. I didn’t want to constantly re-tuck the towels under my car mats, because sometimes they were already dirty and wet.
The front floor mats were a large size and I knew that bath towels would be a perfect fit. I decided to make some towel sleeves for my car mats. Since my carpet in my car is black, I knew I had to find black towels to create my towel sleeves. With the towels sleeves, it would be easier to catch the dirt and rocks that would be brought into my car, and the towels would be easy to clean, since all I had to do was take off the sleeves and throw them into the washing machine.
I found two bath towels that were 52″ long by 30″ wide. Since my front floor mats are about 31″ long and 21″ wide, I only needed the width of the floor mat sleeves to be about 22″ wide. the size of these bath towels would give me 26″ width. I didn’t mind if the towel wasn’t long enough to cover the length of my floor mat because the mat could stick out a little bit.
I folded the towel in half, length-wise and pinned the edges together, to prepare for the sewing process.
I wanted to leave one of the shorter edges open, so I could slide my floor mats in and out easily. In one continuous line, I sewed along the yellow arrows (in the picture below). For the corners of the towel, where the material was thicker, I angled the long sew line and continued on. I then went back and hand stitched the corners, so they would stay together better.
As you can see, the folded towel was still large enough to fit over my floor mat, and there was still extra room.
I placed each of the front floor mats into my car, and folded the edges underneath the floor mats accordingly. You don’t have to fold them under, but I chose to.
For the rear seat floor mats, I found eight hand towels to create the set in my car. My rear seat floor mats are 24″ long, by 16″ wide, so I found hand towels that were 26″ long and 16″ wide. The sewing process for these floor mat sleeves follows the previous steps for the front seat floor mat sleeves.
I stacked two hand towels on top of each other, making sure that the tag was facing inwards for both towels. I then sewed along the yellow arrows around the towels. I left one of the long edges open because I wanted to slide the floor mat in easily. For the corners of the hand towel sleeves, I angled the long, linear sew line to complete the stitch, and then I went back to each corner and stitched them together carefully. My machine doesn’t like it when the material gets too thick, because it can’t pass under the needle easily.
These rear seat floor mats had a lot of extra room around the edges, so I knew that I might have extra floor coverage.
This size hand towel seems to accommodate different car brands and the mats still fit really well within the parameters.
Now, when I need to clean my floors, I’ll just remove the floor mats from the towel sleeves and either wash them or shake them out. I might have to vacuum the edges, but that doesn’t take long at all. These towel sleeves makes my life a bit easier, by allowing me to keep my floor mats clean, and that’s always a good perk.
3-4 Cotton Handkerchiefs, pattern or color of your choice (Note: if you tend to use makeup/liquids that are oil or wax based, the substance will leave a slight film on the fabric, over time)
When I started eliminating single use products out of my life, I really had no need to replace all of the products with reusable ones. But as we all know, life changes, and we adapt to it. Years ago, I had used single use, cotton rounds to remove makeup and nail polish. When I transitioned to a minimalist zero waste lifestyle, I eliminated nail polish from my life and only used vegan makeup. My vegan makeup removal process does not require cotton pads to remove the makeup, just soap and water.
Recently, I was gifted a facial skin care kit and I had no cotton pads to use with it. So now, in order to use the gift, I needed to prepare beforehand, and sew a pack of reusable facial cotton pads.
So for this project, I took a shortcut in which, I used a few handkerchiefs I already had. I knew I only needed rectangular cotton pads about 2″ x 1″, just wide enough to hold across my three fingers when using them.
I know that the makeup industry standard is to use “cotton rounds”, but when I broke down the division of my handkerchiefs, it was easier to make cotton ‘rectangles’ instead. I took each handkerchief and divided it in half, then divided those pieces in half, and then divided those pieces in half, until I broke down my handkerchief into small squares, about 2″x 2″. These squares will be folded in half and sewed into rectangles. This way, the cotton pads with have two fabric layers.
Technically, the final size of the cotton pads is up to you, because if you end up with a larger square, that only means you get to use a larger rectangle surface to use on a day to day basis.
So I took one of my handkerchiefs and folded it in half and cut it. I then folded the rectangles in half, which resulted in large squares. I folded the large squares in half and then folded those rectangles in half to create the small squares.
Using my iron and ironing mat, I folded each small square in half, to create the crease for the cotton pads. This crease is where the rectangle shape starts to form, and to save time, I would iron the pieces four at a time.
In order for me to iron four cotton pads at the same time, I placed four cotton rectangles in a square formation, in which the edges were placed inward and then I would iron the creases across the mat.
I used my sewing machine to sew the open edges together and I chose to use the zigzag stitch and a universal needle for this project.
The most common use of a zigzag stitch is to enclose raw edges as a seam finish. As a seam finish, one edge of the stitch is sewn off the edge of the fabric so that the threads of the fabric are enclosed within the threads of the zigzag stitch and the fabric is unable to fray because of the zigzag stitch.
Be sure to sew in from the edge slightly. Then, trim away the excess beyond the zigzag, making sure not to clip into any of the stitching. You can also use two rows of zigzag for extra “fray-stopping” power.
I started my sew line from one open end of the fabric, and continued around the open edges.
I like to tie off my thread ends, but you can reverse the stitch so that it your sewing machine creates a back stitch. In other words, while you’re sewing the last leg of the fabric edge, slow down the speed of the stitch by backing off of the pedal. Slow to a speed in which you can spot each needle point going into your fabric. If you can learn to anticipate where the needle will land, then you’ll be able to get as close to the end of your sew path and create a tighter back stitch for your projects. So, as you get closer to the end of your sew path, press the Back Stitch Lever, and hold it down, so that the direction will reverse. When you’re satisfied with the length of the back stitch, let go, and the machine should continue to push your fabric back to the original direction. (Try to get as close as possible to the end of the sew path before reversing the stitch.)
Personally, I would only reverse the direction for about half an inch. Don’t go back too far, since this is such a small piece of fabric. This back stitch will lock in your stitch. Then simply trim the thread, and you’re done.
I brought home an empty coffee creamer container from work, since I liked the shape. I knew that this project was coming up, so I thought it would be a good container for my reusable facial cotton pads.
So there it is, this is how I created my reusable facial cotton pads. I hope that this post may inspire you to eliminate single use personal care accessories in your bathroom.
Living a Zero Waste life means that I create simple solutions for simple problems since I don’t want to go buy anything new or seek out another possession to take care of.
So I usually carry my phone around with me when I’m doing certain types of household tasks. These tasks don’t require a lot of vigorous movement, but I’m definitely moving around. A lot of the time it’s annoying to remember to carry the phone from one place to another when I’m running around the house and if my hands are dirty, I really don’t want to touch my phone. I needed a quick solution where I could carry the phone along with my keys without much hassle. I didn’t want to go out and buy a separate cell phone holder strap that would wrap around my arm. I have one for workouts, and that strap holds down my cell phone securely since I’m running. But I just needed a quick solution where I could carry around my phone and my keys easily for a few hours.
My quick solution was to see my t-shirt sleeve in half and create a pocket. my t-shirt sleeves are usually longer than I need them to be. This gave me the extra material to work with. I simply folded my sleeve in half and pinned the sleeve all the way around.
Depending on the width of your cell phone, measure that distance out on the top of the sleeve. Just make sure you divide the width of your phone in half and center the opening on the top of the sleeve.
For the other sleeve, I made the opening just about the same size since I knew I was going to use the other pocket for keys or my credit card.
Then just sew the sleeve from the front to the back or back to the front, making sure you still leave enough room for your cell phone. Then tie off the open thread ends.
If you put smaller items in the short pockets, they tend to fall towards the bottom of the sleeve. This can be annoying for some but for me it gives me a sense of security knowing my items won’t fall out. I just need to go fishing for my keys at the end of the day.
So there you have it. My quick and dirty solution to built in t-shirt pockets. I like to move the pockets towards the front of my body for easier access to my cell phone, but that’s simply more comfortable for me. I also will sometimes secure the t-shirt using a binder clip, that I’ll use to clip my t-shirt to my bra.
So I had a hanging fabric shelf organizer which I had replaced by sewing slim hanging organizers from pillow cases. You can find that blog post at Created Slim Hanging Organizers. But once I replaced the canvas hanging organizer, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I decided to create small fabric boxes with the leftover material. I first took it apart, literally took it apart piece by piece. I recycled the cardboard and I was left with rectangular pieces of canvas.
This project works best if you have perfect square material, but I didn’t want to waste any material so my pieces were left as rectangular pieces. Rectangular canvas pieces yield rectangular shaped boxes. Square fabric pieces will result in perfect square boxes.
So I first worked on the larger fabric piece. I first sewed the edges of the fabric so it wouldn’t com apart. I wanted these boxes to have a rougher look to them so I didn’t hem the edges. You can insert a fitted quilt batting piece in between your fabric pieces if you are using a softer fabric and if you want your box sides to be a stiff frame. I didn’t use batting because my material is canvas in this project.
I folded it in half (doesn’t matter which direction), and then I marked off a 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These triangle marks are the red lines in the photo. The larger the triangle, the higher the height of the fabric box will stand.
I opened it up and I folded the fabric piece in the perpendicular direction, with the first set of triangle marks still facing upwards.
I then proceeded to fold the fabric and mark off the second set of 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These are located with the blue lines in the photo.
From there, I sewed over the lines of where I had marked each set of triangles. I sewed the blue lines first. I then opened up the fabric piece, lined up the other corners in order to sew over the red lines.
Once you sew all of the four corners, when you open the fabric, it should look something like this. However, now you have to flip the box inside-out. Once you do that, the rectangular tabs you created should be on the inside.
With the four triangle flaps sticking straight up, fold them down to create a straight edge of the box. You can pin it down with sewing pins to watch the shape take form. Once you fold down all of the standing flaps, you should have a similar box like the photo below.
Now you just need to sew the standing flaps down to create sharper straight edges of the box and then sew the flaps on the inside of the box to keep them flat against the sides.
I’ve used the large fabric boxes to organize items in my linen closet as well as my camera gear items. Although these aren’t perfect squares, I like the idea that these fabric boxes are easily modified to most objects.
For the smaller piece of fabric, I hemmed the edges to keep the fabric together and then I measured a 2 inch margin all around the edges. Here, you can insert a piece of fitted quilt batting before sewing the edges together, to give your fabric box a more framed look.
I folded each edge over and ironed the lines to define the bottom of the box.
Using sewing pins, I folded in each corner and held them there. These smaller triangles will help define the corners of the box.
For each triangle corner, I found the center of the triangle and folded it in half. Once the triangle folded in half, the edges of the box came together naturally. I hand sewed these edges together by using a running stitch pattern. I sewed the running stitch in one direction, then simple went back the opposite direction to fill in the gaps in the pattern.
Once I sewed all four corners, I proceeded to sew the triangle flaps on the inside of the box to the walls.
I’ve used the smaller fabric boxes to keep smaller items organized that sit on shelves and table tops. So there you have it, these were very simple boxes made from the canvas material I had left over from the hanging fabric shelf organizer. You can use pretty much any fabric you want, but you may need to use quilt batting to strengthen the sides of the boxes.
This hack has been published before, but I made these years ago and I thought I would share it. Depending on the type of material the tank tops are made out of, the bags may be better used for carrying smaller and lighter items. These tank top bags stretch well, so a lot of items can fit into these bags.
First I turned the tank tops inside out and hemmed the bottom of the tank tops. I pinned the hemmed edge using sewing pins and tied off the thread ends.
I turned the tank tops inside out and that’s about it. Using the straps of the tank tops as the handles, the tank tops become small bags.
These are really simple and quick solutions if you have extra tank tops or shirts that you may not want to get rid of. For t-shirts, just remove the sleeves, and hem the existing openings of the shirts and you can use the collar opening to fill up the t-shirt bags. You can always repurpose items into useful items. Living a zero waste life doesn’t necessarily mean to live with only glass or aluminum items, it also means to repurpose items so that you won’t purchase unnecessary items as well. Considering where materials are foraged for the products we use, and how much clothing is donated each year, sometimes repurposing clothing just seems to fit better for some memorable pieces. It’s the reason why I tend to repurpose clothing items when I can.
For the clothing items that mean more to you than others, consider making it part of a quilt or a bag or even a pillow cover. You’ll be able to hold onto the items, and they will also serve another purpose as its initial purpose may have expired.
In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person. The EPA estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road. Trashing the clothes is also a huge waste of money. Nationwide, a municipality pays $45 per ton of waste sent to a landfill.