Ways to recycle old clothing

"There is no trash when it comes to clothing or textiles," says Celia Stall-Meadows. Donated items that cannot be resold are purchased by rag dealers and shredded for use as carpet padding, insulation and casket linings. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World file

It's usually a tough call.

Do you go ahead and add that bleached-out, ripped T-shirt to your donation pile? Or, do you tear it up for use as a dust rag — or just toss it?

Celia Stall-Meadows, an Oklahoma State University-Tulsa professor in the Design, Housing and Merchandising College, gave presentations at the Tulsa County Free Fair recently about recycling textiles. Her message was clear:

"I'm here to tell you: Don't throw anything away," she said. "I mean anything."

To find out what really happens to those clothes you donate to Goodwill or The Salvation Army, Stall-Meadows said she visited a processing center for The Salvation Army, where donated clothing is sorted for resale at area family stores.

"Most of what The Salvation Army gets for revenue for is clothing and bric-a-brac (or knick-knacks)," she said. "There's an economic benefit to the city of Tulsa and surrounding areas for this stuff."

Many people think their items are too damaged to give away, but otherwise, even an old T-shirt used as a rag "ends up in the landfill," she said.

Once clothes are donated, they are sorted and priced, then sent to stores for resale. If items aren't sold, they are purchased by rag dealers and then shredded to use as padding for carpet, insulation or even linings of caskets. Or, items are sent to developing countries.

"There's such a need everywhere. Just because we don't need it doesn't mean someone else doesn't need it," Stall-Meadows said. "There is no trash when it comes to clothing or textiles."

'Nest' steps

Have clothing you just can't seem to give away? Here are some ways to repurpose old clothing items from the blog Apartment Therapy's green section called "re-nest." For more, visit tulsaworld.com/renest.

Hang it up: You can display it. Old kimonos or vintage bathing suits are items of clothing that are often displayed. We're partial to displaying clothing we wore as a kid.

Box it: Displayed in a shadow box, clothing is elevated from "Oops, I forgot to put this away" to "I actually thought about this" status. This is especially effective if it's a well-edited collection of old clothing.

Accessories find new life: Weave belts into a chair seat, attach old watches to a drawer front to make a handle and make old sweaters into new pillows.

Mannequins and dress forms: Maybe it was too many '80s movies, but we love the look of incorporating old dress forms and mannequins into our home decor.

Quilt it: Old baby clothes can be turned into a quilt; try it with grown-up clothes, from T-shirts to sweaters, even those that are too torn and tattered to find a second home.

Pillows: From sweaters to ties, pillows are the easiest DIY project using old clothes. Even scraps of clothes can be used to decorate a plain pillow.

Chair seats: Use old sweaters to make new upholstered chair covers.

Pet beds: Your old sweaters can become your pet's new bed.

No sweat: Old sweaters easily find new lives whether used "as is" or washed and felted.

Kim Brown 581-8474

kim.brown@tulsaworld.com SUBHEAD: Better to keep old clothes in rotation, versus in the landfill

Original Print Headline: A sense of repurpose