If you’ve already been purging unnecessary items from your life this year, we commend you! You’re starting 2016 on a lighter, more positive note. Now here’s another way to cultivate joy this season: finding new ways to use your old things.
Here’s why we’re advocating for this minimalist approach to holiday gift-giving:
- To help decrease landfill waste. According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States increases about 25 percent during the holidays (between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day). To put some perspective, that’s about 1 million extra tons.
- To encourage creative ways to reuse secondhand clothes. Our mission involves partnering with artists and makers of all kinds, in order to cultivate a thriving marketplace for these kinds of "new" used products. What a more perfect time to start than with this holiday season?
- To build a community of collaborators, artisans, and advocates. We want to gather together those who share our passion for radically changing the secondhand clothing trade in the States. Learn more and join us at blog.wovin.org!
So instead of buying new, uninspired gifts for peers and loved ones, let’s work toward giving more meaningful presents. Get rid of your secondhand stuff, while also doing more with the items you have--such as old t-shirts, jeans, fabric scraps, rags, and other items that you may not be able to donate.
In the spirit of giving, we at WOVIN have collected our favorite repurposed gift ideas, drawn from some of the web’s most creative, thrifty, and resourceful artisans and makers (and including some of our own projects as well). All you’ll need is some secondhand clothing material, simple sewing skills (though not required for all projects), and a good amount of holiday cheer (the last one being absolutely essential!).
WOVIN’s Top 10 Repurposed Gift Ideas
1. Fabric ornaments
Here’s a take on those snowflakes you used to make at school using construction paper. This idea is inspired by the same concept, except it uses secondhand clothes instead of paper. Starting with a circle of fabric, create unique patterns as your artistic mind sees fit. Note: sturdier fabrics work well, but a different take on this can be done with lighter fabrics (i.e.: lace) too.
Here's another take on the fabric ornament from Martha Stewart (substituting used fabric for doilies):
2. Holiday cards
Using die-cutting and simple card stock, you can make your own unique holiday and New Year cards! Here Darius of WOVIN demonstrates this with his own line of greeting cards:
Use holiday-themed colors such as red, green, white, silver, or gold. Try playing with different textures of fabrics as well. Add jewels, glitter, beads, and whatever else you’re inspired to include. The possibilities are as vast as your imagination!
3. Used t-shirt quilt
Here’s an idea if you’re not the crafting type, but want to create a special gift made up of nostalgic t-shirts/items that the recipient probably won’t (or can’t) ever wear again (for example, that baseball jersey from 2nd grade that they can’t bear to part with). You can send their pieces to Project Repat and the company will sew together a memorable blanket for you.
Not only will you get a great product, but you’ll support an awesome company with a strong social and environmental impact. For instance, the fleece used to fill your blanket is made of recycled bottles. In addition, all blankets are made in the United States by workers who earn fair and living wages. Blankets start at $90, but the nostalgic value (and potential for impact) is priceless.
4. Scrap fabric twine
Did you know that if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields? Repurposing gifts is wonderful, but don’t forget about how you’re packaging your presents as well.
5. Scrap Map
If you’re looking for a different kind of children’s gift, consider creating an educational tool out of your colorful clothing scraps. Make a map of the States using different leftover fabrics! Not only does this provide a lesson in geography, but also of recycling economics.
This project is a little more involved and requires a bit more time and skill. However, The Little Green Bean on Hometalk does a great job of explaining! Find her instructions for the “Scrap Map” here.
6. Rag rug
This project also requires a little more skill and involvement, but is a classic way to reuse clean clothing rags (plus, it would make a great gift for the shabby chic decorator in your life). Check out the tutorial on how to make your own at Pioneer Settler.
Alternatively, if you aren't able to make your own, consider buying from The Vermont Rug Farm. This husband and wife team create all kinds of rag rug products! Visit their Etsy shop to purchase their products directly.
7. Denim Holiday Baskets
Instead of packaging holiday candies in wasteful (and boring) plastic, check out these crafty holiday baskets made out of used denim cuffs, thought up by Pam of Threading My Way. Suggestion: fill them with packaged caramels and chocolates and gift them to your children’s teachers, your colleagues, or your neighbors. Learn more here!
8. Decoupage coasters
If you’re in the mood for a fun craft that requires no sewing skills, create coasters made from fabric from your old clothing. This would make the perfect gift for a newlywed couple or as a housewarming holiday present for a recently moved friend.
This idea is adapted from Christina Dennis on The DIY Mommy, and as she demonstrates, is an enjoyable and easy project to involve your kids in as well! Start replicating her idea using the tutorial on her website.
9. Easy bookmarks
Here’s a resourceful gift for the literary lovers in your life (which you may want to pair with a book of his/her liking). It’s super simple to make and you don’t have to know how to sew. Get started with this tutorial from Tana Cox of Little Bird Seeds.
10. Drawstring Business Card Bag
Last but not least, for the new graduate in your life, give/make them something they’ll actually use (also a simple no-sew project). These inventive business card bags also make excellent holiday gifts for recently promoted or hired friends! Check out The Happier Homemaker for instructions and details.