Recycling old clothes: DIY rag cushions

Recycled fabric DIY cushions: A simple makeover for stools

When my desire to manage my waste, clothes included, met my “projects to do” list, I thought that a rag rug project would be the perfect idea for a pile of unusable clothes that I had cleared from my wardrobe.

I committed to this laborious task for the sake of making a promise to myself to be more conscious about consumption and waste management. Luckily, my friend Lucia offered to help. With some nice music in the background we had an amazing, pleasant afternoon: talking, sharing and laughing. As my friend Hind would say, we spent an afternoon in craft meditation. The results were: new cushions for my upcycled stools, a deal to repeat the same again (which we did as I had more scraps) and thoughts on how to do it even better next time.

Take this idea and your unusable clothes or textile scraps and make your rugs, bath mats, seat cushions or sofa throws… Maybe you even have a better idea. Send us pictures! There are many creative suggestions on how to use fabric waste on the internet. I chose some of the options I liked the most and shared them in the DIY IDEAS in this post. I also saved more examples in my clothes recycling ideas album on Pinterest. 

For the base of these cushions, we took bath mat material with holes in it and cut it in the shape of the stool seat. To make the scraps, we cut old clothes in pieces of aprox. 1.5cm x 12-15cm. Then we just pulled the scraps through the holes leaving both ends on the top side. Because the material was quite dense, we didn’t even have to make knots to fix the scraps in place. 

Having chosen a non-slip mat, there was no need to attach the cushion to the stool. It stays put. The disadvantage of using this kind of mats (other than them being made of a sort of plastic) is that you cannot sew it to another piece of fabric in order to add more volume or create a sofa cushion for example. Moreover, I would never suggest buying new material for a project that is supposed to be about recycling unless it’s absolutely necessary. Thus, I immediately started thinking about alternatives and realized that there are other good options: use any kind of available mash or fabric that has gaps or holes throughout.

I used an old sweater as a base for the next project. It was definitely easier to get the scraps through the holes. However, each scrap needed to be secured with a knot. In the end, the time I saved passing the scraps through I lost tying the knots. The advantage of using this as a base (besides it being a 100% recycled project) is that you can sew it to another fabric and also adapt it to different kinds of furniture pieces (and sizes). I will show the full HOW TO in that project post.

Photos by Mili


Commitment to a dignified end of life of my clothes

End of life of my clothes:  Commitment to managing my waste

Do you ever think about what happens to our clothes after we are “done” with them? Let’s be honest: most of us either do not consider this or choose to turn a blind eye. 

Besides being one of the most polluting, fashion industry generates a lot of waste as most of our clothes end up in landfills. While as (conscious) consumers we are only indirectly responsible for the former, we are fully responsible for the latter. To do better, besides thinking about impact of every purchase before, we need to be accountable for what happens at the end. 

Our options for a ”dignified end of life” of our clothes are anything but letting them end up in the trash and subsequently in landfills! Swapping, gifting, donating and upcycling are great options for decent pieces. I would save recycling for the most ‘pathological cases’ when all the other are exhausted. 

Recently I faced such a case. The result of my  periodical wardrobe clearing up, was a bag of used clothes, no good to be given away. I remembered this rag rug project, I had archived it in my ”to do one day” ideas pool. The pieces of puzzle connected and I decided to make projects using the scraps carpet concept.

After I had started these scraps projects, I thought that I should better invest my time in something less laborious and more productive. It took a while even to just cut the clothes in pieces. Still, I decided to complete them as a mere exercise of my waste managing commitment. I thought that putting effort and energy in this would make me think twice before buying something new. I wanted it to remind me that I will have to take care of it in a decent manner after I no longer need it. 

Commit to managing you waste: your old clothes included! In the RESOURCES section below, I’ve linked a few articles on the impact of our wardrobes and options you have for giving them a new life or a dignified end. If you are willing to take things in your hands in form of DIY, check out the DIY IDEAS section for inspiration and do recycle yourself.

Make produces bags following the tutorial from Delia creates

Make a rag rug or rag stool cushions like I did in this project.

Make a weave stripes and give some texture and fresh look to a jersey shirt. To do it follow the tutorial by Laura from Trash To Couture.

Make a completely new fabric with interesting pattern and texture. To do so you can find instructions in these tutorials: at Just Jude Designs and at Buttons and Paint.

Make party snack cups using fabric stiffener (starch). Instructions at page. I find it is a great idea to make from fabric tissues when making a party as it avoids using other single use items like paper cups. I will try to make it myself and do the the cups project seen above.

Make fabric twine following instructions at My Poppet. There is also a video how to do it. I loved the projects that Cintia made with this twine. You can do her completely recycled planter or use it for a different project. I absolutely loved Cintia’s amazing chair make over.  

Make a continuous yarn that can be used for crochet or many other DIY projects. There are many videos and tutorials that show how to do it

Use your handmade recycle yarn for a project. Crochet, macrame, weaving… I loved Laura’s market bag that she features here on her Trash to Couture web

Make cool hangers by covering plastic or metal hangers from dry cleaning. This example is from Remodelista (article written by Justine Hand).

If you’d like to browse for more inspiration, I’ve saved all these links and I’ll keep adding some more on my Pinterest page in End of Life of our clothes: DIY IDEAS album. 

For some facts check out the following articles:

Article about Facts about fashion from Sustainable Fahsion Matterz:

Article about Facts about fashion from Good On You:

6 Fake ‘Facts’ about the Fashion Industry

For advice on how to do better I would recommend the tips from Redress:

You can find those in their new book Dress [with] Sense:

For more advice on Zero Waste wardrobe check out the article by Lauren from Trash is for tossers. I find the latter one especially useful when it comes to finding places for responsible clothes disposing. 

Zero Waste Wardrobe: A Guide To Secondhand Shopping

How To Recycle Old Clothing (Even Ratty Ass Old Underwear)

DIY IDEAS section photos via corresponding web pages. Each photo is linked to article where found.

rest of the photos by Mili


From Waste to Wonder - Designs by Pepe Heycoop

From Waste to Wonder: Designs by Pepe Heykoop

”I work with leftover material a lot, not only because I like it, but as well because I feel the urge to review the way we make use of our resources and materials given by this planet. Creative thinking can lead to new discoveries that will give shape to our future, both physically and mentally.”

Pepe Heykoop

I first encountered Pepe Heykoop’s work in a gallery store in Berlin where I saw his Paper Vase Covers. I thought they were both beautiful and ingenious products: paper covers that turn any glass or bottle into a vase. While looking for more information about these vases, I found out that there was much more to them than meets the eye. An additional quality, one that is especially compelling to me, is that their production creates a positive social impact by empowering people and offering them a way out of poverty. Each vase is produced through the Tiny Miracles foundation which, as stated in their mission, “enables local communities to create their own sustainable livelihood through the manufacturing of Dutch design.”

All this triggered my curiosity even further, I wanted to find out more about this designer. I ended up on his website where I found many interesting ideas and products.

What resonated with me immediately was his philosophy ‘From Waste to Wonder’ since I myself have been very keen on adopting a similar approach in my life and in my creative thinking. Pepe’s ‘From Waste to Wonder’ mission is about working with available wasted materials and pieces and ‘elevating’ them into something useful and beautiful. 

If the interesting, creative trends that this artist sets through his designs haven’t made you browse off to his web already, I have added below a few more photos of his work, those that appealed to me the most. Since each project has not only a unique design but a really interesting concept and story behind, I recommend exploring Pepe’s web for more photos and project descriptions.  

Beyond its aesthetics, I loved the inherent social aspect, its sustainability and the conscious approach of Pepe Heykoop’s creative endeavors. I wish you will do too.

all images found at Pepe Heykoop’s official website 

photographed by Annemarijne Bax

Here is the link for Pepe Heykoop’s website where you can see more of his designs and projects:

If you liked the images, you can find more info about the photographer at Annemarijne Bax Photography’s website: