Sustainable Living: Thrifting Fabrics

I am pleased to present to you A SMILE EACH DAY‘s very first Sustainable Living post!

When the ball dropped this past New Year’s Eve, millions of people around the world made their annual New Year’s resolution. I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions (after all, who says we have to wait for a New Year to make changes in our lives?), but this year I decided to take on the challenge of making a change. Although the typical “exercise more” and “eat less” resolutions could be beneficial for me (let’s just say I’d rather be knitting than attempting to balance on a giant yoga ball), I wanted to attempt something that would not only challenge me but also test my creative energies.

As a result, I committed myself to at least one year of not buying any new clothing. I am a self-professed shopaholic, so this challenge seemed daunting at the turn of the new year. But there are a few reasons for my decision to do this.

I believe in justice. I have been reading a book (you can expect both a review and recommendation of it when I finish) about what it means to truly extend love to other people in this world. The author notes that justice doesn’t just mean “punishment for wrongs” but also means “healing and restoration”. I am privileged and lucky to live in a free country where the value of my labour is appreciated, but not everyone in the world has that privilege. Many children, women, and men are treated improperly and violently as they create the many “things” that we, North Americans, consume. I believe that if I have the privilege to live in a country where I have the freedom to choose what I consume, I am responsible to understand the effects of that consumption. This can be hard to do, but it is a worth-while process. I want to show love to the people who are often forced to make the clothing that I purchase for such a “cheap” price.

Another reason why I chose to take on this challenge is for environmental reasons. I am not a perfect environmentalist, but I think that being conscious about the impact our choices have on the natural environment is important. Our earth is a shared space–it’s selfish to have a “consume consume consume” mentality. The earth is our temporary home and we need to preserve it for future generations.

Finally, I took on this challenge for creative purposes. I have always been a craft-enthusiast and hands-on kind of person, but this challenge has forced me to take that to new levels. I have learned how to knit (after all, I need to feed my scarf addiction somehow), dabbled in sewing, and even took on some re-fashioning! My challenge even inspired me to start this blog and share my creative endeavours in the cyber-world.

So, that leads me here. In taking on my challenge, I set a few parameters before I began. First of all, I set myself a small budget for emergencies. This can be used to buy things that are absolutely needed, such as a work uniform. Secondly, I am allowing myself to buy new undergarments and shoes. This doesn’t mean that I will be buying a ton of these things, but for sanitary reasons, I don’t want someone’s old shoes or undies. Finally, I am allowing myself to thrift shop. Although this is buying clothes, it is also recycling. Not to mention, most thrift shops are operated to support charitable organizations. So after the longest intro ever (sorry about that!), let’s get to what this post is actually all about…

 Thrifting fabrics is something that I have just recently been exposed to. Although it is a somewhat new concept for me, I have fully jumped on the bandwagon. It is inspiring, thrilling, and (as this post’s title suggests) sustainable! So I have written this post to encourage a little fabric thrifting on your part. That is, if you are willing to open yourself up to it.

Thrifting fabrics is exactly what it implies–finding pieces of fabric from a thrift store and using that material to make your projects. This includes any material you may find within the walls of a thrift store, such as clothing, table cloths, towels, bags, blankets, bed sheets, curtains, or even just old scraps of material that someone has donated.

  1. THE THREE R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle): The process of thrifting fabrics is fufilling all three of the well known R’s. You are reducing your consumption of new materials, reusing someone else’s waste, and recycling what was old and making it new! These three practices are environmentally friendly and all three of them are preventing those items from finding their place in a landfill.
  2. TREASURED GOLD: In my opinion, thrifting fabrics is like being on a treasure hunt. You know there are treasures out there but you just have to find them! Entering a thrift store is exhilerating because it is up to you to locate the best find. Scrounging the clothes racks for the best patterns and materials is exciting. When you find that perfect fabric your mood is instantly elevated to a point that can only be surpassed after you realize the piece is only a couple bucks (which leads me to my next point).
  3. COST EFFICIENT: Let’s face it, fabric can get pretty pricey. But when you thrift an old shirt or a lace tablecloth, you are getting a major bang for your buck. Most thrift stores just want to keep their items circulating. They price things appropriately to keep the goods selling.
  4. CREATIVE CHALLENGE: Thrifting fabric can sometimes put you in stressful creative circumstances. You have to understand how certain items can be used to maximize what they have to offer. This is a positive challenge though. It helps to get your creative juices flowing and keeps you sharp on your problem solving skills!
  5. GIVE BACK: Most thrift stores are operated by non-profit organizations or at least strive to give most of their profits to a worthy cause. As opposed to putting your money in the hands of big-time corporations, wouldn’t you rather that your money helped someone or something in need? As far as I’m concerned, thrifting fabrics kills two birds with one stone–it serves your creative itch AND does a little good.

There really isn’t a lot of skill that goes along with thrifting fabrics, but I thought I would share a few of the tips and tricks that I have learned through my experiences…

Know What You’re Looking For. Either make a list or mentally remember what projects you want to tackle. This will allow you to have a direction to your hunting. It is easy to go into a thrift store and waste hours scrounging every rack. But if you have a direction, you are less likely to waste your time and energy. Consider what types of fabrics you are looking for how they will be used. In the end, this will save you both time and money.

Bigger Really Is Better. The bigger the piece of fabric is, the better the deal. Look through the table cloth section and the plus-size section. These pieces are great for re-fashioning and for larger projects that require more material.

Be Picky. If something isn’t quite what you’re looking for, don’t get it. Some questions to consider are “How can I use this?”, “Is there anything I don’t like about this piece of fabric?”, “How will the material hold up if I cut through it/will it fray?”. If the fabric isn’t exactly what you want, don’t buy it.

Set a Limit. I usually set a financial limit of four dollars on any one single item. Sometimes you find an awesome item but it is priced at $9.00 or more. This is NOT worth it so move on. Also, set a limit on the number of items you can buy. It is pointless to buy lots and lots of items if you don’t have a purpose for them in mind. Don’t over-do it.

Always Wash Your Finds. It is a myth that thrift stores are “festering with bed bugs and diseases”, but still take precautions and wash your items before you use them. Sometimes, your item may have a stain on it and washing it helps to get that out. It’s just easier to work with items that you know are fresh and clean.

The More You Go, The Better You Get. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find any great pieces right away. Keep going back and challenging yourself. On any given trip you will not be able to find all of the items on your list. But keep going and learn what processes of hunting work for you.

Understand Your Thrift Store. Do some research about the thrift stores you are choosing. See what organizations they support and choose whether that is something you want to put your money towards. Sometimes, smaller thrift stores give more of their proceeds to a non-profit. Be choosy about what you support.

Try your hand at one of these DIY’s or UPCYCLE’s featured on my blog using thrifted fabrics.

    

There you have it. I hope that after reading this, you feel more confident about thrifting fabrics and the possibilities that it can bring to your crafting and re-fashioning endeavours. Don’t be afraid to give it a try. Crafting doesn’t have to be expensive. Instead, it can be cost-efficient, thrilling, unique, and sustainable! There are ways to have creative hobbies and still be conscious of and sensitive to environmental concerns. And that is one of the most important things as inhabitants on this planet. After all…

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” (Native American Proverb)

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope that you are willing to adopt sustainability in your hobbies. Many blessings on your future projects!

3 Comments

Filed under DO IT YOURSELF, STYLE, TIPS & TRICKS

3 responses to “Sustainable Living: Thrifting Fabrics

  1. Something that I did years ago with recycled clothing – I made a quilt for a girlfriend for her wedding, using clothing from all of the university roommates and some of her family and friends. I had everyone mail me something and cut it up for a scrap quilt. Turned out beautifully. I made up a paper legend that told her which piece of fabric came from which friend or family member.

  2. Pingback: “Mission: Parachute Pants” is Complete! « A SMILE EACH DAY

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