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Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Oh, that old thing, I threw it out…… I cut it up for dust rags…… I cut it up for craft stuff…… Hubby needed oil rags…….

Words which send shudders through collectors and protectors of any kind of textiles, old and new. How many times have you heard the above phrases and cringed at the loss of what might have been salvageable goods. Well, in the broadest sense, the well-intentioned folks above actually did salvage. However, it is a foregone conclusion how much more abundant costume and quilt collections as well as general textile market availability might be today if common sense were used in conjunction with salvageable.

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

This Edwardian handmade batiste blouse was literally snatched from the hand throwing it into the wastebasket. The owner thought it unuseable due to a tear on the sleeve [green area]! Blouse will be donated to a local historical society for repair and display.

- Author There comes a time when a decision has to be made about what is worth saving totally intact or in part or what is justified in discarding or cutting up textiles just for the fun of it.

Most fabric collectors agree that because a textile is old or worn or ragged or not in the best condition or slightly damaged is not grounds for cutting it to pieces nor throwing it in the nearest dumpster. Among the many reasons for saving, historical value alone is desirable, especially in determining origins for instance of a quilt or garment, and as much as possible should be retained of the original for provenance and study purposes. So when is it not a sin to throw away or cut up the old – when damage is so severe that it renders total fabric useless for any cause – allover splitting, mildew, rust spots, pinholes, oil and other unremovable stains, permanent odor, mothholes and other bug infestation are justifible causes.

While it might be possible to rescue a few small scraps, there is little reason to keep mutilations unless the damage itself can serve as an example for personal reference and study groups. And there are some preservers who would argue this last sentence be stricken in the cause of preservation of all mutilations. The next decision is what to do with items in usable or salvageable condition that you do not want.

The following are some suggestions which will enable their longevity and bring literal joy to the receiver:

  1. Donate to local historical society or museum
  2. Donate to church group
  3. Donate to a charitable organization
  4. Donate or sell to or make a deal with quilt guild
  5. Donate or sell to or swap with friends and family interested in textiles
  6. Donate or sell to or swap with artisans and crafters.
  7. Sell to antique stores
  8. Sell on Ebay
  9. Place with consignment shop

Place a classified in local paper Undoubtedly you can think of other resources. But if you decide to keep the good parts of throw-aways, here are some ideas how to recycle them. My thanks to the following for sharing their creativity and projects:

Sharon Anderson
Email:  vintagererproductions@westriv.com

Pat Lynne Grace Cummings, Quilter’s Muse Publications
Website:  www.quiltersmuse.com
Email: pat@quiltersmuse.com

Judi Fibush, J.P. Enterprises
Website:  www.fibush.net
Email:  judi@fibush.net

Barb Garrett, With A Mother’s Love
Email: bgarrett421@comcast.net

Nancy Worrell, Nancy Worrell Designs
Email:  nowdesigns@earthlink.net

The Recycling Gallery – creativity generated by scraps Clothing:

Recycling Vintage FabricsRecycling Vintage Fabrics

Old ties of all descriptions form this Halloween vest in a crazy patch technique.
- Designed and created by Judi Fibush

Recycling Vintage Fabrics Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Delicate lawn c1890s-Edwardian has been enhanced to show a barely visible border motif and ground pattern reminiscent of early 1800s in pattern and color. The now nearly faded lilac and peach colors of fabric make it a perfect choice for an early 1800s day cap. Photo of cap made by Sharon not available; one shown is similar.
- Courtesy Sharon Anderson Pillows:

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

This flower girl’s collar is fashioned from a 1940s scalloped and embroidered napkin; neckline finished with lace. Collar appears in Beautiful Wedding Crafts [paperback version Handmade Wedding Crafts, both published by Lark, 1999 & 2002 resp.].
- Designed and created by Nancy Worrell

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

1940s cotton tablemats and runner are cleverly redesigned into a christening gown and bonnet and machine- embroidered. Both the runner and placemats were too small for a regular table setting, possibly they were used for afternoon teas. Gown appears in McCall’s Needlework, April 1994
- Designed and created by Nancy Worrell

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Another rescue operation — portion of 1940s candlewick bedspread was bound in kettlecloth and 1950s double eyelet trim for this bed pillow.

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Dream pillow cover made from a 1940s linen handkerchief and decorated with pearls and gold metallic thread along the edge of cutwork pattern. It is folded envelope style and closed with a button. Cotton pillow filling is a mixture of polyester stuffing and lavender seeds. Featured by Oxmoor House in its 1995 Sew Easy, Sew Now PatternPak.
- Designed and created by Nancy Worrell

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Just enough rescued from sun-damaged 1940s dobby textured cretonne drapes to make a pillow.

 Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Instant granny pillow –1940s linen handkerchief serves as textured background for photocopy transfer of Nancy’s great-great grandmother. c1950 crocheted doily and old buttons make the perfect frame. This pillow is featured in The New Photo Crafts, 2001, Lark Books.
- Designed and created by Nancy Worrell Animals:

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Irresistible patriotic bears and hearts from 1880s-1930s salvaged quilt pieces.
- Designed and created by Barb Garrett

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Silk bear front Patriotic bears from 1940s-50s ties, many with Smithsonian labels. Note planes, eagles, trains and 54 [on foot and arm] — the year Judi’s husband joined the Navy.

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

silk bear back – Designed and created by Judi Fibush

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

autumn bear front Autumn bear is made from a section of a 1900s cotton crazy quilt.
- Designed and created by Judi Fibush

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

autumn bear back

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Hopper is made from early 1930s cotton scraps.
- Designed and created by Judi Fibush Figures & Misc:

Recycling Vintage FabricsRecycling Vintage Fabrics

Father Christmas is made from parts of a c1900s log cabin quilt for his robe and recycled rabbit fur. All Santas have a tiny wooden mouse hidden somewhere on all my Santas. See if it shows up on either Santa. (I think it does.) somewhere on the body, one of Judi’s trademarks.
- Designed & created by Judi Fibush

Recycling Vintage FabricsRecycling Vintage Fabrics

This woodsman/walking Santa’s shirt and pants are from a size 6 Ralph Lauren wool slacks found at a thrift store. His vest and cap are made from pieces of a log cabin quilt pieces of a log cabin quilt which was beyond restoration.
- Designed & created by Judi Fibush Doll Clothes:

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

The Cirque du Soleil was the inspiration for this mime. It is made from old cotton scraps bought in the 1980s; headdress is recycled rabbit fur. Many gussets are required for limb and body shaping.
- Designed & created by Judi Fibush

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

This lacquered brooch was a gift to Pat from a family member about five years ago, and is an example of creative recycling. It is a piece of old quilt, batting still in place, cut and jazzed up to look like a birdhouse, with leather (or leather-like) trim added to form a brooch. Pins are designed by René and Lisa Mosely of Wearable Antiques and marketed under the name of The Ragged Quilt which strives to preserve the love and pride that went into making each quilt. Our wearable antiques rejuvenate vintage quilts that are no longer usable.”
- Courtesy Pat Cummings

Recycling Vintage Fabrics

There was just enough good sections of 1940s dotted swiss marquisette curtains and ruffles to duplicate an original dress for this 1936 Shirley Temple compo doll.

 Recycling Vintage Fabrics Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Pieces of 1890s-Edwardian lawn and batiste petticoats and flouncings were mixed and matched to make these christening gowns and bonnets for German bisque character dolls cWWI.

 Recycling Vintage Fabrics

A badly damaged Edwardian embroidered waist yielded just enough good fabric for yoke and sleeve cuffs. It complements eyelet piqué dress fabric, silk trims and silk satin ribbon, all cWWI, for a German bisque also of that era.

 Recycling Vintage Fabrics

A 1950s man’s blue chambray casualwear shirt damaged by oil stains was an ideal fabric for this Edwardian Russian-style boy’s suit made from original doll pattern of that era. Bisque doll is a modern artist’s rendering.

 Recycling Vintage Fabrics

Yarn should not be overlooked, either. An expensive Peruvian alpaca man’s sweater with a few cigarette burns and deemed unrepairable was unraveled to crochet coat and hat for this German WWI bisque. French angora yarn was used for trim. Suitcase and umbrella date between 1916-20.

- Author The arbitrary cut-off date for this Vintage Fabric column is 1960.

To stay within the scope of this timeframe, reference materials published up to that date are the prime source of information to more accurately capture actual thoughts of the time.

Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.

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