Updated: Jul 16
To start will pull out the worst pieces, damaged, torn, marked, scuffed fabric all the things that really cannot be mended. These are items that can’t be altered or restyled by you and consider that they could be used as resources. If a garment was a larger size the usable fabric could be cut away and used as test fabric or fabric to make children’s clothes or other things. Trims, buttons and zips etc. can be cut off and reused. These items are not waste they are precious you paid money for these items, these are your Bag A items.
Now Bag A can be a very emotional bag as favourite clothes tend to be the ones that will wear out beyond repair and you will want to hold on to them, all I can say is if it is too damaged why are you even wearing it when you can make one similar and have it looking nice and smart and hopefully even better quality fabric and construction. Be strong!
Bag A is basically a big project bag and over time you will have different ideas of how to use the resources within it (do not be tempted to put things back into the wardrobe!). Items can be made into gifts or you can use items for experimentation and testing and practice stitching, or you could swap items with friends or if someone needs something then just give it to them! Here’s an idea why not have a Bag A swapping party with friends.
Here are a few ideas for projects things you can make out of your bag;
Washable Cleaning cloths for cleaning pet areas, cleaning the car, floor cloths, just use the appropriate sized of fabric and sew the edges with hand stitches or overlock if you have an overlocking machine or use a zig zag stitch on a sewing machine.
Make up a pack of scraps of cotton to go under your Coverstitch machine needle if you have one.
If appropriate put the clothing into a child’s dress up box.
Nice fabrics can line your Storage Shelves, drawers.
Line your pet beds to make cleaning easier.
Cut up, join and resew to make new fabric for use in dressmaking (or think bandage dress).
Cut up for learners to use to learn how to sew – teach someone or your kids how to sew on a button or take up a hem.
Cut up into useable patchwork strips see below for more information about strips and offcuts * and use for bibs for baby’s if soft enough, or when you have enough for cosy blankets for sitting by the fire or to put in the car for picnics or the beach or to lay the baby on the ground.
Patterned fabric can be lovely to use as applique patches or shapes (applique of any type usually looks good on denim to upcycle a different garment).
Make Cushions for a sofa, bed, seats for the kitchen table or other home décor project
Rugs for the kids playroom, pets, bathrooms etc., by creating fabric yarn and either knitting, crochet or weaving to make the item. This is a great idea for upcyling old blankets.
Make Zip pencil cases for any kind of storage, pens, projects, gifts, storing bra straps, makeup, wash bags, sewing projects, travel bags.
Making reusable bags for shopping or for storing your out of season wardrobe clothes, or make multiple ones to organise your fabric off cuts!
Use soft cottons (as it is absorbent) to make makeup remover pads rather than using disposables, make washable panty liners or sanitary towels. Lots of people around the world use cloths and water instead of toilet paper and say that it is a better and cleaner option and also better for the environment (to date I have not been brave enough to try it but never say never).
Bag up all of your tiny off cuts and pieces left over to take into a school for kids to use for art pieces etc. schools usually appreciate any resource they can get their hands on – every single part is recyclable.
*A little note here about off cuts – I save all fabric leftover from a sewing project and cut into strips of 1 ½”, 2 ½”, 3 ½”and 5” and squares of the same sizes – they get placed into boxes of like sizes and when the boxes are full I use them to join together to make patchwork (and practice a number of techniques) and then use the fabric for a variety of projects and add quilting or applique or embroidery. Any scraps smaller than 1” wide I will give to school for art work, but keep the selvage pieces as they can be used as trims or stays for inside garments.
For now bag all of these clothes up into Bag A and diarise a day to sort through it for example plan an evening by the fire while you watch your favourite television show to cut off all reusable trims, ribbons, buttons, lace, beads, and zips which are useful when making muslin tests at a later stage. Another idea for a day to plan would be to make uplift gifts, where you make a selection of zip bags using just what is in Bag A, if you don’t have enough zips use buttons or lace or strips of fabric as ties, make these bags beautiful to give to your favourite people when they are having a bad day.
If you actually write project days in your diary it will sit on your conscience as a job to do and won’t just be another bag to throw away or just as bad, to be thrown back into the wardrobe to cause you stress in the future.
Aim to use up as much as you can before you do your next wardrobe clear out and don’t forget you can give some items away to a friend if they can make use of it better than you and likewise ask your friend if you need something from their bag for a small project before you go out to buy anything.
If you put Bag A in your sewing area you are more likely to start your projects, don’t throw it back into the wardrobe.
Next pull out what you no longer like, or purchase mistakes, items you believe that you are never going to wear again. Be brave and be honest its ok to not like something that you made, if you made a mistake now release it and move on. If you have not worn it for 12 months then who are you kidding!
As these are perfectly good clothes for someone to wear bag them up in Bag B. Things you can do with items in Bag B include;
Sell them, especially if they have tags on – most people still have tags on at least 1 item in their wardrobe and it has never been worn. There is a minefield of places on the internet where you can have a go at selling your clothes.
Give or swap your item with a friend, giving them also the instruction that they are not to throw it out if they change their mind. Ensure that if you take something from them that it is going to fit into your capsule wardrobe we will be determining this design at a later stage.
Last course of action would be to take it to a local charity. It is a shame to cut up a perfectly good garment so I prefer not to do it. A garment item that is in very good condition is likely to be sold by the charity locally, therefore assisting the charities coffers and also enabling someone locally to buy an item of clothing at an affordable price because it is second hand – not because it was made by placing the workers under the thumb. This is especially a sensible thing to do for oversized clothing as it is a difficult thing for oversized people to get good quality clothing that they might like so having a choice is a good thing.
Wherever possible Diarise where and when you need to hand off these items, again to set up your tasks to deal with it all until Bag B is empty – let’s not pretend that these simple jobs don’t take time and effort, so organise it now while you can and you are more likely to actually do it.
Anything that is so fashion crazy or embarrassing that you feel you simply cannot hand off (yep usually something I have made!) then all is not lost either assess if the item can be saved and altered into something you will love (add to bag F) or if you must then add it into bag A, the prints might make things interesting.
Next start trying the garments on to find anything that no longer fits and that you don’t think that you can alter. In your wardrobe you need to have clothes that fit you now, not what size you wish you were, you are not going to wear any of these right now so they are redundant. If the garment is too big and you are never going to be that big again (an issue I had with 3 pregnancies, each time) then add the garment to Bag B.
If the garment is too small, time to be honest with yourself are you really going to be this small again if the answer is yes (really!) then place the item in Bag C ensure the bag is sealed as you don’t want any horrid little mites getting in and place it somewhere in your house storage, ensure you add a little note in the top of the bag that describes what size clothes are in there for future reference.
If you have more than one size clothing to store then use multiple Bag C’s it is a good idea to group like sizes together then if you do start going back down in size you can quickly grab a group of one size garments. If you think that it’s too unrealistic to fit back into them then it’s Bag B for those garments.
Just be realistic. Also remember that each season you should go through these clothes again with the same system, you will soon get sick of storing these clothes if you don’t change sizes!
Next pull out any sentimental items of clothing that you own because although you may never wear them again they may have some memory value for you and you just simply don’t want to let them go. Place these items in Bag D and seal up and store in the house if you really must. But again each season force yourself to revisit these clothes and ask yourself do you still feel the same way about them and do you still really need to store them.
Now we are getting down to it, the pile should have reduced drastically. Next pull out all items that are not in season.
Living in Queensland in Australia I find this the hardest step to do because I actually wear similar clothing the whole year around apart from about 4 weeks, 2 weeks in summer where swimwear is the most comfortable option, and 2 weeks in winter when I have to wear a cardigan.
On the whole a simple Summer clothes versus Winter clothes system works for most climates, I used this system in the UK where I lived for 40 years.
If you have more than one season you would like to store for then use more bags and label them, but be realistic you don’t need to create more work for yourself if you don’t need to. Bag up your out of season clothes, seal up the bag and place into your house storage ready for you to go through this process again next season. Diarise the time to do this for later in the year prior to the next seasons start.
For the garments that are left, go through and identify any items that require mending or altering.
Some of your favourites clothes that you wear often have made it through to this point and they are the ones that potentially have the most wear and most likely to require mending. Anything looking less than presentable find another bag category to put them in – they might be your favourites but really! Have some self-respect! Remember you can make/buy something similar and if you are making it you can consider how to make it last better in the construction and fabric quality.
If this is going to leave you naked then hold onto them for now and these items are going to be the ones you prioritise if you determine that you need them in your capsule wardrobe, but once replaced recycle as soon as possible into an appropriate bag.
Place your items into Bag F.
Diarise an evening of mending/alterations or more than one if you have a few items that need work. When the garments are mended/altered make sure you assess the piece, does it have a place back in your wardrobe or does the item need to go into a bag (the Capsule Wardrobe Assessment Table will help you with this). Have a mending night in with friends, you can swap mending/alteration knowledge.
If you don’t know how to mend or alter then learn or if all else fails get your mum, friend or dress maker to mend and alter for you.
Refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Fabric - Different Stitch Types to see how to do some basic stitches. © 2017 Threadelicious. All Rights Reserved.