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There is one downside to de-cluttering your closet and hauling it all off to the thrift store: you miss out on so many creative ways to reuse perfectly good material. Just because an item of clothing is snipped and stitched into a particular shape doesn’t mean it has to remain a skirt, blouse, sweater, or sock. Look at clothing as textiles: those textures, weaves, and colors could be fabulous reborn as something else.

Get Your Teens To Dye It

Okay, so Mom isn’t such a great laundress and Dad’s white tees have yellow stains under the arm pits. Sure, you could bleach them white again, but here’s an idea that warrants consideration and keeps harsh chemicals out of the waterways: Use natural dyes to give the tee new life, and pass it on to the younger generation (unless of course Dad likes the new look).

And while we’re on the subject of teens, it’s trendy again for girls to rob Dad’s closet. If the man of the house wants to cull what he doesn’t wear from his clothes rack, the resident female fashionista would love:

• Large dress shirts to belt and wear over leggings (remove those extra buttons at the bottom of the placket)
• Ties can double as belts
• Cardigans and sweaters work well over leggings or skinny jeans

Holey Socks!

Aside from turning them into puppets or dust rags (which fit conveniently on your hand), holey socks can be trimmed of their holes and converted into many things:

• A multi-purpose bean bag: Sew the holey end of a funky patterned knee sock closed then fill with beans, lentils or rice. Sew the open end closed and you have a cushy wrist-saver for your computer desk, or a mock water bottle. Heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and use the bag to warm your feet, or place it on aching muscles. A smaller sock makes a cool hacky sack.
• Use the elastic band of cotton crew socks as wrist bands. They may not pass at the country club, but the upside is that if you’re only wearing them to cut the grass or work out at home, you don’t need to sew the raw edges – just let them curl up.

Tees You Can’t Bear to Part With (but shouldn’t wear any more)

There’s nothing like an aged-soft t-shirt, especially those with printed designs that recall fond memories. If you have just such a tee (and know your way around a sewing machine), turn that ultra-soft tee into a pair of knickers or boxers. Position the decal strategically on the back for a little bit of flirty fun.

Use tees to sit on in a more public way by reusing a large one (no holes) in a trendy color to recover a small chair with a cushioned seat. Remove the seat with a screwdriver, then place it over the unfolded t-shirt to estimate where the cutting will take place. You’ll need about four inches to fold and staple underneath. Once you’ve cut the correct size, place the cut section right side down on a table, then center the cushion with the underside facing up. Using a staple gun, secure each corner first, pulling the material tight. Continue stretching and stapling until all sides are neatly tucked and secured. Use a square of the remaining t-shirt material to cover the edges, or use a piece of felt, cut to size (a half inch short of the underside each edge). Craft glue or a hot glue gun will do the trick to adhere the square. Allow to dry, then reinstall the cushion into the chair frame.

Belt It

What to do with belts you no longer wear? Rescue a cane chair with a damaged seat from a thrift store and (assuming you would rather not re-cane it) use your collection of belts to weave a new seat. Belt the seat with the buckles positioned underneath. Whether you stick to one color or mix and match is up to you, but you will probably need to create a new buckle hole to make it fit. To do so, heat the tip of an ice pick with a butane lighter (adults only), then punch a hole in the buckle in a pre-measured spot (tight enough to hold taught, but with a tiny bit of give). It’s best to do the weaving first to get the hang of it, then mark the belts for new holes.

Wrap It

Any beautiful fabric can be repurposed as gift wrap, which unlike paper can be used again and again and again (by the giftees, of course). Once you’ve determined that an item of clothing is too out of date, or isn’t a flattering style no matter how much you weigh, the material could be useful. This is a great idea for those who aren’t crafty – with a few scissor snips and strategic tucks the material has new life. Use tape to secure material on boxed gifts.

Now that you’ve discovered that clothes don’t have to live their full lives as they were intended, you might come up with dozens of creative ways to repurpose your clothing. However, don’t feel guilty if these solutions don’t work for you. There are dozens of other ways to repurpose or recycle clothing, and if you can’t use it, consider donating your old clothing to an animal shelter for bedding or a thrift store. Shelters use clothing for bedding, and thrift stores recycle unwearable clothing.

by E. E. Kane

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