How To Make Clothes Out Of Recycled Materials: Pros Explain

Do you love shopping? Who doesn’t like buying new clothes! But what about your old garments? Okay, tell the truth. How long was it since you last wore some of them? What do you do with them when you clear out your wardrobe? Most of us just throw them away in carbage. But is it the right thing to do?

A fabric bag with the recycling icon next to a pile of clothes on a white background

We need to consider our environmental impact. Well, luckily, in recent years most of us think more green. We have stopped using plastic; we try to upcycle our old furniture, use bikes and means of transport rather than our cars and so forth. The same applies to fashion. Many brands turn to recycled fashion. But how can we make recycled clothing out of recycled materials? Pros explain. Let’s find out!

What is textile recycling?

Textile recycling is the process of collecting old clothing and other textiles to reuse. Depending on the condition, fabric and value, textile waste is gathered and then sorted and processed. In simple terms, old garments and fabrics are collected, and then after a certain process, they are being reused.

Textile waste can be anything spun, woven and knitted from natural or artificial fabrics or plastic, such as clothes, shoes, bags, bedsheets, curtains, table cloths, pillows and cushions, towels and duvets.

What recycled materials can be used for clothing? 

Recycled clothing is a great option if you want more sustainable textile and minimise environmental impact. But, what are the materials used for recycling and turning them into something new?

Recycled polyester

Virgin polyester is the most usual material in the fashion industry. New polyester is made when combining coal, ethylene (which is derived from petroleum), air and water. All these materials, after a chemical reaction in extremely high heat, form polyester. On the other hand, recycled polyester is made from post-consumer recycled plastic waste, like plastic bottles, fishing nets, plastic bags, cutting down the need for coal and petroleum extraction. Instead of throwing empty bottles in the landfills, they are shredded into flakes by a machine and then are melted and turned into yarn. This yarn is then knitted, cut and sewn into new clothes

A T-shirt formed out of a plastic bottle

Recycled wool

Recycled wool, silk and cotton are made from pre-consumer waste. You may wonder what such waste is, but if you think about it for a while, you’ll understand its meaning. Pre-consumer waste comes from excess material created during material and product manufacturing, like selvedge from weaving, fabric from factory cutting rooms, excess production or unsold pieces from the manufacturing process or household resources like used apparel or home cloth products.

Recycled silk

Recycled silk is made from the waste silk from industrial weaving mills. The strangest thing with recycled silk is that if you get two skeins from the same manufacturer, you will never get the same hue as there’s no dye. And that’s what makes it amazing while using it. Everything you make from recycled yarn will look like a piece of art and be unique. 

Recycled cotton

Recycled cotton yarn is the result of converting cotton fabric into a cotton fibre. It’s also known as regenerated cotton, reclaimed cotton or shoddy. Recycled cotton is usually made from pre-consumer waste, like cutting scraps. More rarely, it’s made from post-consumer wastes due to the different shades and fabric blends.

How to make clothes out of recycled materials

Most fashion brands repurpose old garments and tonnes of consumer plastic water bottles, creating them into raw materials from scratch to create sustainable clothes. You can find sustainable leggings, activewear, sports bras, sweaters, swimwear, t-shirts and more made from recycled fabrics

The composition of each fabric influences the way of recycling. For example, natural fabrics are sorted depending on the colour and material. Then, they are torn onto sloppy fibres and combined with other fibres, they create a new recycled fibre. The process is different for polyester. In this case, firstly,  the zipper and button are removed, and then the cloth is cut into smaller pieces.

There are many ways to make clothes out of recycled plastic materials. Pros explain the ways you can reduce waste and keep landfills clean

Recycling bottles

It’s very difficult to make recycled clothing from plastic bottles on your own. However, many clothing brands have turned to this eco-friendly way to make sustainable fashion minimising their impact on climate change. They reuse recycled plastic bottles and create polyester fabrics.

They need about nine bottles to make just one high-quality T-shirt.  How do they do it? They collect plastic and break it down into flakes. Then, these flakes are heated to melt into tiny pallets. Then, they melt those pallets again, filter them and spin them into threads. Next, use these threads to make fabrics from swimsuits to dresses and socks.

A cardboard box filled with empty plastic water bottles ready for recycling

Old clothing

Another eco-friendly way is to get second-hand clothes. Or you can make new ones from old garments. Go through your attic, garage for old garments that are in good condition, dismantle them into pieces, wash them, iron them. Keep also reusable items, like buttons, zippers, lace embroidered decorative touches. Having them on hand, you can make from headbands and drawstring bags to a dress.

Crocheted plastic bags

Instead of throwing plastic shopping bags in the landfills releasing microplastics into the ground and the atmosphere, you can make something new. How? Cut around the bag to make a strip of plastic 1.20 to 2.50 cm wide. Then using a large crochet hook and any crochet pattern, you can crochet together the strips and make whatever you like.

Curtains and upholstery

If you don’t want to waste your savings and at the same time think green, a very simple way is to use your old curtains, sheets and upholstery. These are perfect for big projects as they are designed to cover large beds and surfaces. Use your heavy curtains and upholstery to make coats or bags, beach towels to make bathrobes, or blankets to make warm winter robes.

Recycling old garments

If knitting, crocheting and sewing isn’t your thing, the fashion industry has the solution. Many brands have recycling bins in their stores to gather old garments, turning them into new creations. Or you can go green by purchasing eco-friendly garments. Every time you go shopping, look for the “Eco-Index”, a rating system adopted by many brands and retailers to rate the sustainability of recycled clothing

Stack of old blue jeans cut in pieces ready for recycling on a white background

Why recycle clothes?

You know the benefits of recycling in general, right? As strange as it may sound, making clothes from recycled plastic materials has the same benefits for the environment and people. 

  1. We keep landfills clean of clothing waste.
  2. We reduce the ecological impact of the production of new clothes by using green materials, like organic cotton.
  3. By buying garments made from recycled plastic materials, we help to reduce the volume of fast fashion
  4. People are educated about recycling.
  5. There isn’t a great demand for dyes.
  6. Green clothing saves energy.

A close up of recycled clothes icon label

Recycled plastic materials can be used for many purposes. One is to turn them into clothes. You can either buy new garments made from recycled materials or reuse your old ones and make them into something new. It is easy to adopt this way of life, especially if you think about its benefits for the environment. 

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