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.
Cutting mat (or cardboard, plywood, some type of surface you’re willing to cut into and can damage just a little bit)
4 Safety Pins
So I’ve owned an over the door shoe organizer for awhile. I didn’t use it a lot because I didn’t have many pairs of shoes. When I started to declutter my life and minimize my possessions, I kept it because I still liked the design and I knew I could use the material to create something else.
Because I’m not a fan of keeping items out in the open, much less hanging them out in the open, I knew I wanted to upcycle this shoe organizer into smaller organizers. I personally like things to be put away. My minimalist, zero waste lifestyle lends my living space towards clean surfaces and minimal decor. So I wanted to create two smaller organizers which could be hung up in the closets.
The goal was to create two separate organizers that were each 2 pockets across by 3 pockets vertically on each side of the smaller organizer. So each side of the hanger would hold a grid of pockets that was 2 pockets across by 3 pockets vertical.
First I cut the shoe organizer in half.
I then folded each organizer in half (vertically) to find out where I wanted to locate the hangers.
I then placed each hanger on each organizer, as I wanted them to sit. I wanted to place each hanger so that the top bars of the hangers would still be protected by the fabric. I only wanted the neck of the hanger to stick up and out of the fabric so the fabric organizer would sit higher on the hanger. The hanger would have more control of the overall weight of the items inside each pocket when it was hung up.
I placed the hangers where I wanted each hanger to be located on each organizer and then marked the location of the bottom bar. I needed to make a mark at those locations, because that’s where the bottom of the openings for the hangers would pass through.
Using the X-acto blade, on the folded edge, I carefully cut a straight line of where the hanger would stick out. I cut along the mid line of the fabric grid pattern and only cut enough for the hanger to fit. You can sew the edges of these openings if you want a clean and sturdy structure around the edge of the opening. I suggest using a running stitch to do that, if you choose to.
Using the bottom of opening as a location marker, I sewed both sides of each organizer together. I wanted the backs folded and sewed to one another to create a more sturdy central structure. I sewed from the bottom of each opening, around and up to the other side, making sure I stopped at the other marker.
The idea was that I wanted to seal the two flaps of pockets to each other, but leave enough room for the hanger to slide in and out of the design.
Once the hanger is slid into place, the flap should allow the user to remove the hanger if necessary. I used a hem stitch to secure the top of the opening on the folded edge (see below). I did this because I know that the weight of the the organizer will tear the opening over time. I wanted to secure the top of the opening and reinforce the structure.
I stitched an extra line above the hanger (towards the folded side of each hanger), but underneath the pocket flaps, to reinforce extra support for the organizer.
Using a safety pin, I pinned the opened edge approximately where the top of the hanger was located on the opposite side. This way, the hanger can be removed easily when it comes time to wash it or put it away. The safety pin will act as a closing mechanism to hold the hanger in place.
So there you have it, this is how I upcycled my over the door shoe organizer. Although, I technically only created smaller shoe organizers, I had the idea that I could use these smaller organizer to store smaller items such as jewelry, scarfs, socks, etc., that can get lost in a closet. Basically, anything you might store in the top drawer of your dresser, you might use this for. I don’t use a dresser, so this product can be useful for me. Right now I actually use a few of the pockets to keep some running and workout items organized. I like this design for the fact that it’s double sided and it can be folded up and put away if it’s not being used. Hopefully this post might spark some organizational ideas for your life.
Although I do enjoy using a sewing machine to stitch together projects, I initially learned how to hand sew as a child. Hand sewing isn’t as daunting as it sounds, although it takes a little bit of practice, anyone can learn how to sew by hand. I hand sew items when I need a quick fix or a temporary fix. As a person who lives a zero waste life, repairing clothing helps in the fact that I can hang onto clothing that I still love to wear. Learning to repair items is essential to living a zero waste life for that fact that I simply don’t own that many items but also the fact that I don’t want to create more waste in the landfill.
Granted, once a piece of clothing or item is beyond repair, I will have to somehow repurpose it or it becomes trash. Even when I’m ready to donate my clothes and buy second hand clothes, I still prefer to repair the item before donation- there’s no reason that the next person should receive an unkept possession.
Sometimes I need to edit products for my daily needs so hand sewing is a better option than using a sewing machine. After I’m done, I simply add my leftover thread to my trash pile. Although the leftover thread is inevitable, it’s a better alternative than going out and making new purchases. I have quite a bit of leftover thread in my trash pile so I plan to find an alternative use for it.
I like to use the running stitch, hemming stitch and the backstitch. I favor the running stitch because it’s a simple stitch that is clean and easy to make. The hemming stitch is good for joining two layers of material together, when you want to hide the stitch seam. The backstitch is good for a more secure version of the running stitch. I use the backstitch on items that may have more weight on either side of the stitch, or when there s a chance that the stitch might come apart due to the materials being pulled in opposing directions.
There are many types of stitches to learn about and if you can master just one or two of them, you can save a great deal of time and money. Learning how to hand sew items is a skill that anyone can develop and learn, it is very easy once you understand how fabric is held together and why certain products use certain stitches. A lot of the times, picking out the right stitch is simple as just copying what the manufacture used on your product.