3R-recycling-sheetsWhat do you do when your sheets get a rip in them? For most of us, the first reaction is to throw them away and buy a new set.

Maybe, if we’re feeling industrious, we might tear them up and use them for rags. Almost no one repairs them anymore. And even less people use all that material for something else useful.

And yet, there are so many things you can do with sheets that are past their used by date, from repairing them, using them in quilting, or making entirely new items. Essentially, a flat sheet is just a large piece of seamless material, and a fitted sheet isn’t much different. And pillowcases have their own potential as well!

mending-sheetExtending the life of sheets is fairly easy. The wear of a sheet is predictable. Bottom sheets wear much faster than top sheets, and mostly in the middle. In days when material was scarce, they used to cut a worn sheet in half, and sew the outsides together, putting the worn areas to the outside, and the stronger areas into the middle. Simple tears in otherwise strong sheets can be easily repaired, prolonging the life of the sheet.

layered-skirtOnce a sheet is past the point of repair, there is still usually a lot of usable material left in them, especially around the edges. I’ve previously used sheets to make long skirts, my favourite piece of clothing! I made this one out of two contrasting sheets, and wore it until it wore out! The long pieces of material required for this project suited the nature of worn sheets perfectly.

An advantage of using sheets for clothing is that they’re already soft and already pre-shrunk. Some of these older sheets have lovely patterns too. And if you’re wondering, no one has ever guessed that they used to be sheets!

pillowcase-dressesThe soft nature of the material means it’s perfect for children’s clothing or toys. These cute little dresses are made from pillowcases, and require very little sewing. Nice and cool for summer.

I’ve also used sheets for making cushions, shopping bags (even more eco-friendly than the typical ‘green bags’ you can buy at the shopping centre), and patchwork floor rugs.

For me, making things out of old sheets is a fun exercise in creativity and recycling. A hundred years ago though, it was necessity. New material was hard to come by, and expensive, so it made sense to use it as many times as possible before it was turned into rags.

For the characters in my novel, Reckless Rescue, it’s even more necessary. Stranded on a planet, with no contact with the outside world, they can’t buy new sheets, or skirts, or quilts. So every piece of material they bought with them is exceptionally valued, and used many times.

Have you ever considered recycling sheets? Or is there anything else that you’ve discovered a cool new use for?