The 3 Rs and Crochet, Part 2- Reuse and Recycle
Our last post discussed a few ideas on how we can incorporate REDUCING in our crocheting and crafting. By practicing the 3 Rs we are not only helping the environment be greener but in many was, but you can save a little green too! So…
Let’s discuss REUSE!
Reusing can also be called repurposing or upcycling. This is my favorite part of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle waste hierarchy. Once something is no longer useful in its current state, see if you can find a new use for it. Let’s explore how we can do this with our crochet.
One of my favorite ways to reuse is to take a damaged sweater (sock, scarf, hat, anything) unravel it and knit or crochet it into something new (reclaimed yarn). Beth Graham (BethGraham on Ravelry) does this with hand knit socks and dishcloths. She saves the good bits of yarn from worn-out socks for darning and for sock scrap blankets and she saves the good yarn left from worn-out dishcloths to reknit fresh cloths. Check out this blanket she is working on where she recently added a square that was made with the yarn from the very first pair of socks she ever knit!
A few years ago I found a beautiful coral cotton Eddie Bauer sweater at a local thrift store. It was damaged so I bought it for about $1-maybe 50 cents-and unraveled it. I cleaned the yarn, removed the kinks, balled it up and then crocheted it into a market bag which I then gifted to a favorite teacher of my boys. This is a great way to get great yarn for next to nothing, if you don’t mind putting in a little effort to unravel, clean, and dekink the yarn. You can often find silk, linen and other expensive fibers for very little money. There is a trick to this technique though. You want to make sure you pick up the right type of sweater. Sweaters with selvage seams will not unravel. Check out this Reclaiming Yarn Handout created by Angelia Robinson (Quarternity on Ravelry). She wrote the step by step instructions when she taught a class on reclaiming yarn at her local knitting guild. http://www.quaternityknits. com/freebies/
Turning a damaged sweater into a market bag makes a unique gift most everyone will appreciate. Seriously, who can’t use an extra bag? And for fun, sew the sweater label in the bag. I bet the recipient will love it. And of course, you aren’t limited to crocheting market bags with reclaimed yarn. Knit or crochet scarves, shawls, hats, mittens, anything and everything. I have two damaged 100% cashmere sweaters in my stash waiting for the yarn to be reclaimed and crocheted into something beautiful.
We’ve all done it, whether on accident or on purpose. We have all shrunk a wool garment to teeny tiny proportions. No worries, that sweater can be repurposed into many things. In the past I have made lunch boxes, ice scraper mitts, a tea cozy and backed hot pads with felted sweaters. Check out this previous post about felting with a purpose. Many of the wool sweaters I find in thrift stores have accidentally been partially felted already.
What about a rug? Cut felted sweaters into strips and crochet them into a rug. I have two boxes of damaged wool sweaters collected over the past 5-6 years. 2015 just may be the year those sweaters finally turn into a kitchen rug!
Turn old, damaged sheets into rugs or baskets. Cut up damaged cotton blouses into strips and crochet them. I’ve seen jeans crocheted into rugs. There are so many crafty options to use our worn out or damaged fabrics. Think about it. Caroline Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie) didn’t run to Oleson’s Mercantile when she needed something. She saved all of her and Mary’s and Laura’s and Carrie’s and Pa’s old clothing and turned them into squares for quilts or strips for rag rugs. Here is a video on how to turn a sheet into a rag rug. http://startingchain.com/2015/03/scrap-project-learn-how-to-crochet-a-rag-rug-out-of-old-sheets-.html
Tarn = T-shirt yarn. Yup, you can use the old Ts too. I’ve started saving white Ts and undershirts once they are past wear-ability with a goal to crochet them into something. Don’t forget, it is easy to dye T-shirts. You aren’t stuck with dingy white. Remember summer camp and tie-dyed shirts? A little dye to transform them and you may have an awesome bright pink laundry basket crocheted out of your hubby’s previously dingy and underarm stained undershirts. 🙂 Here is a great tutorial on how to make TARN. http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2009/06/05/making-t-yarn-from-recycled-tee-shirts/
Plarn = plastic yarn. This is such a great solution to all the extra plastic bags you accumulated BEFORE you started using your market bags. Sure, we could always dump the extra bags in the blue recycling bin but recycling uses energy. If we can reuse that plastic, we can save energy. I made a bag and a trash can out of plarn. Because I bring my own bags everywhere, I don’t get a lot of disposable plastic bags. About 9 years ago I belonged to a knitting/crochet group. I asked if anyone had extra bags sitting around the house and one lady jumped on it. She came the next week with a lawn and leaf bag full of random plastic bags. It was gigantic and took up my entire trunk. I sorted, cut and wound the plastic into really large balls of plarn. Eventually some of the bags did end up in the recycle bin but I was able to use a lot of them. At the time my boys were in Tae Kwon Do and I would work with the plarn while they were in class. One day the instructor couldn’t stand it any more and asked what in the world was I working on that was so crinkly. After that I decided I better finish it up at home. Both the bag and the trash can were improvised, no pattern. I always get compliments on my bag and the trash can is used in our hallway bathroom. I’ve also seen people make doormats with plarn. Here is a great tutorial on making PLARN. http://www.thecrochetfoyer.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-to-make-plarn.html and another by RecycleCindy who designed the awesome Japanese Knot Plarn Tote Bag pictured here, http://www.myrecycledbags.com/tutorial-for-making-plarn-yarn/ for tutorial, http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2015/04/23/japanese-knot-plarn-tote-bag/ for pattern.
Save your scraps and turn them into MAGIC BALLS. A Magic Ball is when you take scraps of a few yards each, join the ends and then wind them into balls of yarn. Once you have enough, crochet something with it. If you do neat joins, like a Russian join, you can make anything and you will have a self striping ball of yarn. Or you can just knot them together securely with a square knot and not worry about the knots or the ends and crochet a dish rag. Let the ends poke out all over the place, who cares. This might even be an added benefit if you make a Swiffer cover. I suggest grouping yarn by type (cottons with cottons, acrylics with acrylics, etc). That way you know what you have and you can make cotton dish rags or an acrylic bag or wool pot holders. You can also group by color choice, all blue hues for example. You are in control of the striping and only limited by the scraps on hand. Here is a tutorial for a little more information on Magic Balls. http://www.scribd.com/doc/ 19680430/The-Magic-Ball-Tutorial This was a new concept for me and I’m so glad I found it while doing research for this post. I’ve started working on a lapghan made with lots of scraps using the Magic Ball method.
Save all the teeny tiny ends too. I’ve used them to stuff cat toys.
This suggestion came from Kaila via my Facebook page
“I save all my small scraps of yarn (like from weaving in ends) and the little pieces from sewing and put them in a zip lock. It makes a fluffy filler that my 8-year-old son has decided to use to make smaller pillows for people who sleep on the streets.”
What a sweet and caring little 8-year-old!
I’ve seen others put the tiny scraps out for the birds to use as nesting materials. I believe this is best for wool scraps. Acrylics and other synthetics should be avoided. Wool provides warmth and water resistance to the nest. I’ve read the synthetics can be dangerous to the birds’ respiratory system. I don’t know if it is true or not but makes sense. Wool is found in nature, fun fur isn’t.
Can you sew? I found this Craftsy class, Project Upcycle, Thrifty Sewing Projects. It is on my to-do list waiting for a day my sewing skills improve some. And Angelia has a great tutorial on how to add a fabric lining to your crocheted or knit bags. I bet you can find some fabric to upcycle for these awesome ideas.
The one thing I would like to stress when it comes to reusing is to make sure the item is no longer useful in its current condition before you reuse it. For example, if you decide to shop thrift stores for sweaters to frog or felt try finding ones that are damaged first. No one wants to wear a sweater with moth holes but that doesn’t matter for felting. Maybe you can talk to the manager of the store and get the damaged clothing for a discount or even free. And with plarn, please don’t buy plastic bags to crochet them. I have seen folks do this because they wanted pink or purple plarn. Or they go to stores and asked for a stack of unused bags. If that is what you really want to do then fine, just realize you aren’t “recycling” that way. It is the same as buying a skein of yarn.
OK, I’ve Reduced my waste, I’ve Reused as much as possible, now how do I recycle?
Wkikipedia’s definition of Recycling
Recycling is a process to change waste materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to plastic production. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” waste hierarchy.
Choose yarns and products made with recycled materials.
Unfortunately, it seems this must not be a profitable area for major yarn manufactures. Most yarns I found that contained recycled materials have been discontinued. I did find these. If you know of more, please let me know!
Berroco Remix is made with 100% recycled fibers.
Lion Brand Fettuccini is made from the remnants of garment manufacturing.
Red Heart Silk Sari is made from the remnant fibers from the manufacturing of silk saris.
I’m sure (hope) there are other, smaller manufactures of yarn that use recycled materials. However, if you don’t want to reclaim your own yarn, you can buy recycled (reclaimed) yarn and support some small business owners too. A quick Etsy search yielded many sellers of reclaimed/recycled yarn.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was stuffing my Bloodshot Eyeball Pillow with polyester-fiber fill that not only was stuffing made in the USA but was also of recycled materials. https://www.fairfieldworld.com/store/big-bag/poly-fil-premium-fiber-fill-32-ounce-bag/
Finally, when your crafted items (or any another clothing, fabric or scraps) are beyond repair or reclaiming for another use, don’t throw them out, recycle them!! Many of the larger donation stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army) sell the unsaleable clothing and fabrics by the pound wholesalers for recycling. Our little local charity thrift store does as well so check with the small ones too. Or drop them into the clothing drop boxes around your town. We have USAgain in this area of the county. http://www.usagain.com/ http://www.smartasn.org/ collectors/
And last, but not least, recycle the paper label wrapped around your skein!