I love activities that utilise the materials that we already have plenty of in the house. And I also hate throwing away items that I know can be reused instead of them going to landfill. So here are some great activities for upcycling clothes with children that produce a useful or decorative end product whilst using old clothing that you may have been about to throw away.
Why upcycling clothes with children
As a mum, I seem to be forever sorting out old, worn and grown out of clothes. Some of these can be donated. Some may even be good enough to be resold. But a lot are either too stained or too worn to consider giving away.
I absolutely loathe throwing away old cloth. Did you know that on average we each buy 27kg of new clothes every year? And that 235 million items of clothing get sent to landfill each year too? Well, I would rather prevent as much of that as possible. The more that we can reuse; the better it is for the planet. I intend to teach my little girl to do the same, and reuse as much of her old cloth and clothing as possible. So here are three easy activities we can do together.
Making a rag rug
This is a great project for school aged children up to teens. All that you need is a large piece of hessian cloth (or an old burlap coffee sack) and a large pile of old clothes. Jersey (knit) fabrics are the best for this, as they don’t fray, but you can use any fabric really. You also need one of those old long wooden pegs (or a custom prodder – which you can buy from Amazon) and some scissors.
Cut the fabric into long thin strips around 12cm long by 3cm wide. You are going to need a whole load of these!
It is probably best to hem the sides of the hessian piece. You can leave it with a raw edge, but it does also tend to fray. If you like, you can draw a design on your hessian or just go random.
Take the peg or prodder, and push a hole into the hessian. Take one of your pieces of cut strips and push it through to the underneath of the hessian. Then push a second hole in the hessian a few strands away from the first. Use the prodder to push the strip back up and through the top of the material. And repeat close to the first one – lots and lots of times! Soon you will start to see the rug building up, and before you know it you have a lovely decorative rug – made from clothes you were going to throw away!
Making a rag wreath
The second activity is making a rag wreath. This is a slightly easier activity than making the rug, as all you need to do is to be able to knot fabric.
You will need a wire wreath base, or an old wire coat hanger bent out into a circle, and some old clothes or cloth. For this activity, cotton or other woven fabric is fine; as if it frays it can actually add to the shabby chic finish.
Cut strips of cloth about 12cm by 3 cm, and start knotting them around the wire of the wreath base. Keep on knotting and pushing the knots together until the base is full. And when the base is full you have a pretty decorative wreath to hang on a door or wall.
I like to coordinate my colours, but you can just make one in random colours. Or why not make them with specific themes for Christmas or Halloween?
Making a collage
The final activity in upcycling clothes with children is making a collage using fabric scraps. This is probably the easiest activity to do at home, as all it involves is taking some small fabric scraps and sticking them onto paper for very young children. However older children may like to use the textures and colours to create more realistic images. And if your child is really creative, they could even hand or machine sew the small pieces of fabric onto a backing fabric to create pictures.
All of these activities are a great way to introduce children to the idea of saving and reusing fabric rather than just throwing so much of it away. Happy creating!
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My blog covers a host of sewing and sustainability subjects, with a smattering of parenting and lifestyle thrown in. There are a lot of ideas of how to save money and reuse cloth and other items from around your home.
Do you want more activities to try with your kids? Have a look at these.
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