I love fabric and materials, I recently tidied out my sewing box. I call it a sewing box but it’s more like a large toolbox with its various compartments and places for all my bits and pieces, anyhow it was in the bottom of this box that I discovered I am a hoarder of textiles in lots of shapes and sizes. I have had to move a large number of scraps and lengths of fabric and wool to a larger storage facility located at the bottom of a wardrobe in a spare bedroom. I can pick up textiles from my many forrays into charity shops, car boot sales, antique fairs and just wandering around a local fabric mill. There is a large fabric and haberdashery mill quite close to me, it even has a cafe and coffee shop on-site, I can spend half a day in here very easily. I very often don’t have a specific project in mind but just collect these bits and pieces like a magpie would with shiny objects. The staff in my local charity shops all know me and if they come across something they think I will like, they will keep it to one side so that I can have first dibs.

Collecting fabrics and textiles is one of the best forms of recycling. Nothing goes into a charity bag in my house without me first going through it to make sure there is nothing I can make use of. You can reuse old Woollen textiles in many ways, one of which is to turn it into felt. Use a garment with a wool content of at least 20% if you wash it on the highest setting and then run it through the dryer a couple of times you will see the material shrink quite considerably and become dense, it has now been felted and can be used in many other projects, cut up into coasters for example. Salvage the yarn by snipping the seam and unpicking the stitching then begin to unravel the wool from the cast on edge rolling into new balls as you go. With the new balls, you could make your own dryer balls, these work like dryer sheets fluffing the laundry without the use of chemicals. Take a ball of wool about the size of your fist, insert into the bottom of a leg cut from a pair of tights and knotted above, you could do 3 or more balls with each leg. Now all you need to do is felt them as above and once you remove them from the hosiery they are good to go, try a few drops of essential oil to fragrance your laundry for added luxury. Other things to try with old jumpers could be to cut the cuffs off the sleeves and use to decorate the base of a pillar candle and create a unique decoration for your home or even using the felting technique above which will prevent unravelling you could cut shapes out of the newly created felt and use as embellishments on anything and everything.
The fabric pieces that you find can be used for almost anything. If you come across a particularly splendid piece of fabric but its too small to do a large project, then how about adding a small section across the end of a couple of pillowcases to turn a plain set of pillowcases into a special gift. If you have sufficient fabric then do something similar across the top of a matching duvet cover and hey presto a complete set, now who wouldn’t want to receive such a unique “designer” gift.

One particular piece of recycling that gave me a great deal of pleasure was to re-use my wedding dress to create the most beautiful christening gown for my newborn daughter. I carefully removed the outer lace layer from my dress and set that aside. Using the plain satin fabric that was underneath, I made a very simple pinafore style dress which fastened with press studs on the shoulders. I then followed a shop-bought pattern to cut out and sew a dress using the beautiful lace that had originally been my wedding gown. I Used more of the lace to trim a pair of satin booties. Result one original, extremely beautiful christening outfit which was very much admired. After the christening, I boxed the outfit in fine tissue and presented to my daughter when she was 18 with the hope that one day the same gown will be used for a future grandchild and who knows it may go on to become a family heirloom.

One thing I find very useful is fabric dye. The types of dye available are many and varied, you can find them mostly in hardware stores and often in larger supermarkets. I haven’t tried myself but natural dyes are also very popular using flowers, roots, bark, berries, nuts and leaves. I would advise doing some online research before trying. It’s quite surprising what a difference a change of colour can make to an old piece of fabric which you can then convert into something new and stylish. So whenever I am looking around charity shops and car boot sales I have always in the back of my mind the knowledge that anything I spot doesn’t have to remain the colour I see so something really special doesn’t get overlooked because its the wrong colour or shade.

There are so many things you can do with textiles old or new, I hope I have given you just a few ideas and maybe inspired you to open your eyes to what is available and the various places you can source the many and varied textile items.

We have in Britain a great tradition of textile production, currently producing over £8 Billion worth every year. Being a Lancashire Lass myself, seeing the weaving industry decline over the years I feel very strongly that we should support our British textile industry and would encourage everyone to buy British whenever possible.

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