How to recycle old clothes without a sewing machine

AAs we move away from fast fashion, it is becoming more popular to buy second-hand or eco-friendly items. And yes, you can buy bags made from sustainable materials like jute and vegetable-dyed suede shoes. But the most economical and sustainable option is to breathe new love into the clothes you already have. Instead of throwing out holey jeans or pilly sweaters, give them a cute and easy update.

Remade in Brooklyn, a remodeling space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is all about recycling. At their events, you can learn to mend, fold, and redesign your clothes, like I did during a session with Adriene Booth, a Remade in Brooklyn volunteer. She helped me hem and add a longer slit to a skirt that she had never worn because it never fit me. Since we’re all staying home now, what better time to pay attention to your old clothes? Booth, a seamstress and artisan who recycles secondhand jackets on her site Maybe is Now, shares her simplest tips below.

5 Easy Upgrades to Recycle Old Clothes Without a Sewing Machine

1. Resew or change buttons.

For this, all you will need is a needle and thread. Finding buttons you love can help spice up that old blouse that says it feels out of date. “If you’re swapping buttons, you can use appropriately sized buttons from another garment or buy special ones at sewing supply stores.” Booth says. She prefers sewing supply stores like those in New York’s Garment District to the big box craft stores, as the selection is so much better. Shop online or call a local store to see if they offer shipping and pay by phone.

2. Patch or mend holes.

“Tears in jeans and pants can be easily repaired with iron-on patches,” says Booth. Options like Loops & Threads Assorted Denim Patches ($4) provide plenty of options. “Choose a patch that is much larger than the tear and a similar color to the garment,” she says. “Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and iron the patch over the tear from the inside.” You can also have fun with it and hand sew on a contrasting fabric patch for a very Free People look, or add a novelty patch like these cactus patches ($8) to the outside of the garment.

3. Take off sleeves and collars.

As the weather starts to warm up, go through some of your old t-shirts and start cutting! “This works great on T-shirts because the fabric rolls up a bit, it doesn’t fray,” says Booth. Using a tailor’s chalk ($6) carefully mark where you want to cut. Using very sharp, clean scissors, cut slowly and carefully. (“You can always cut more, but you can’t put back what you’ve already cut,” Booth points out.) This is ideal for shirts with irreversible stains or sleeves that are too tight.

4. Use a sweater razor

Nothing is more annoying than a sweater covered in pills. If, like me, you have ever tried to take them all off one by one, the tedium is enough to give up and throw the sweater in the trash. Turns out there’s a tool for that. “Get a sweater razor to remove pilling from your sweaters and other woolens,” says Booth. “There are manual, electric and battery-powered models.” This Conair Fabric Defuzzer ($12) is battery-powered, has three settings to change shave depth for different types of fabric and a removable lint catcher.

5. Use dish soap to remove old stains

Booth says you can treat stains on clothing before washing to remove old stains and grease stains this way. “Always test the soap on a hidden area of ​​the fabric to make sure it doesn’t fade,” she says. And with that, you have a garment that is not just like new, it is better.

Here’s how to style your Outdoor Voices dress for winter, and these super cute, sustainably made leggings are just $25.

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