31 October 2007

Waste not, want not

The beautiful quilt pictured above is one my sister, Tricia, is working on. She usually gives her quilts away but this one will be kept and used in her new home when she moves next year. I love this quilt. It's called a scrappy quilt because scraps of fabric leftover from other projects, and old pieces of fabric that previously had other functions, have been used in the making of it. You might not be able to see it clearly (click on the photos to enlarge them) but it is constructed of a small table cloth, some old doilies, strips of fabric, blocks of embroidery, pillow cases, rick rack and old buttons. It's far from complete, but I love it.

Tricia has used the colour red to tie the whole quilt together but within that colour scheme, she has used what she loves and what appealed to her, and, importantly, her leftovers. We have very similar taste so I adore this quilt and when I suggested a few things when it was laid out on the bed here, she liked what I suggested and they will be included in the quilt.

I am showing you Tricia's quilt because it illustrates very nicely that the leftovers we all have - all those things like old clothes, buttons, pillow cases, doilies, rick rack from other projects, half completed embroidery squares and ribbons - all have a place in our lives if we think creatively about them. We can create beauty and function from what many would consider "waste".

So it's not just the food leftovers we have to be careful with. As Kim said in her comment, she doesn't waste much at all because she grows her own food and she sees first-hand how much time and work goes into the production of it. I think that's a really good way of looking at what we might once have thought of as waste products. If you think about the production of a pillow slip, for instance, from that cotton growing on the bush, the people who pick it and those who sell it, to the processing plant where it is cleaned and woven into fabric, the man who transports those rolls of fabric to the factory where it is cut and sewn by women, just like you and I, before it goes on to a wholesaler who sells it to a retailer where you buy it - that, my friends, is quite a story, even before the product is used for the first time.

Imagine that you use it for a year but it is ripped and you can't use it as a pillowslip anymore. In days gone by you might have thrown that pillow slip away to rot in landfill, now you stop to consider its future. Now you give it a new life, sure it can't be used as a pillow slip, but the fabric is still good so it can be made into something else. You might use it now as a cleaning cloth, to patch something else, as a baby doll blanket or for any number of things. Or, you might use it to create something of beauty that will be functional and help you carry out your rolls of homemaker, nurturer and family accountant, something like a scrappy quilt. My next project, after my kitchen curtains, will be exactly that.

I want to challenge you to think creatively about your damaged possessions. Think carefully before you throw anything "away". "Away" doesn't make it disappear, it moves your problem somewhere else. Take responsibility for what you buy and use everything until it can't be used any more. Even then, all natural products can be composted in your own backyard. So if that pure wool cardigan is going to be felted and made into a bag, or you're going to rewind the wool for another project, remove the buttons first and start your own button tin. If your old dress is going to be part of your scrappy quilt, remove the zipper or buttons, so they can be reused. Stop thinking that what you own only has one use - fabric is fabric, no matter what it's been made into and a button will continue to function whether it's used to fasten a blouse or as decoration on a hand bag.

Think creatively about everything in your home, get the full value of everything you own and that will help you get the full measure of every day you live.

This is just a quick picture of my ginger beer plant that has started fermenting - it's the fourth day today. It smell delicious, even if it looks pretty ghastly right now. LOL If you've never made ginger beer before and the weather is starting to warm up where you live, this makes a lovely drink on a hot summer day.



  1. Kim's comment really spoke to me too. What she said is true.

    In all areas, there is room for improvement! One combined goal I have for entering the slow lane is to be less wasteful over all and take far less for granted. (Just like your post today states!)

    Tricia's "scappy" quilt is lovely! She & you obviously have good eyes for design.


  2. Thank you Rhonda for your pearls of wisdom. I have realized that pretty much everything can have a second "life". I just have to be creative in how I use it. Fabric is something that can be used pretty much until it begins to fall apart and then, it becomes filling for a quilt, a pillow or a draft stopper roll.

    Food is where, I think where most women waste the most. I have learned that I can make what I call "the clean the refrigerator stew" from all the leftovers that are not enough for a full meal. My children and hubby love it. Make fresh biscuits and you have a good meal.

    Thank you again for sharing!


  3. Rhonda - you've got us all thinking along the same lines! Hurray!! Just this weekend I decided that I will try to think of at least one other use for an item before it is thrown away. I don't have a lot of garbage anyway because I have a compost pile & I recycle as much as I can, but I'm talking about scrap paper (envelopes from junk mail, sheets of paper that have a blank side, etc.), wax paper liners, the impossibly long & skinny plastic bags the newspaper comes in on rainy days - this sure gets the ole creative grey matter working!!
    Carla in No ID

  4. So true Rhonda. I have only recently realised how much I have wasted in the past in areas other than food and I have been trying to change that.

    I've bought some pieces of clothing from op shops rather than new and I've unpicked knitted garments that are old fashioned so that I can re-use the wool. As my sewing skills improve I plan on remaking and repairing as much as I can too.

    Tricia's quilt is lovely. I've always preferred quilts made from scraps. They are full of memories.

  5. Rhonda,
    Have you posted a recipe for the ginger beer? I've looked around the site and found the bread recipe along with some others but can't seem to find the ginger beer or sourdough starter.

  6. Thank you Rhonda

    Just yesterday I "made" a new maternity dress. I didn't have enough new fabric for a complete dress. So I used the high bodice of another dress (which was several years old and my 5 months-pregnant tummy had just outgrown) and attached a lovely skirt section from the new fabric. It looks even better than if I had made the entire dress from the new floral fabric. I am now so pleased I didn't have enough new fabric.

  7. Rhonda, I read a lovely story the other day about a lady who pegged an old, vintage pillowslip on her washing line. She noticed it had a hole in it, but thought she would recycle it somehow. Later in the day shw saw a little bird sitting on her washing line, inspecting her pillowslip, then working on the hole until he had a thread in his beak, and off he flew. He flew back and forth with pink threads in his beak for over a week, and she didn't have the heart to take the pillowslip off the line. There must be a lovely pink nest somewhere that the pillowslip helped make. I thought this was a lovely story but probably not quite how she thought she would recycle her pillowslip!

    Thanks for making us think again! I've been recycling last year's Christmas cards into this year's gift tags.

  8. Rhonda the quilt is just beautiful.Tricia has done a wonderful job. Does she have children or grandchildren who appreciate such things who she can hand it down to.

  9. Hi Rhonda Jean :) I love Tricia's quilt - those reds! I have three treasured quilts that my Granny Pearl made. They have flour sack backing and are made from her old dresses. I love to look at the materials and imagine her wearing some of the patterns :)

    Thank you for another excellent post. Love, Q

  10. Hi wildside, you have some wonderful goals.

    Maria, yes, food is a big problem for some folk but as you say, pretty much everything can have a second life.

    Hello Carla love. We shred almost all our paper and it goes in the compost or in the chooks nests. If you come up with any good ideas for recycling that "junk" let me know and I'll tell the other readers.

    Polly, you are a beautiful knitter, I bet you make some beautiful things with that reworked wool.

    Tami, here is the ginger beer post: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/search?q=ginger+beer I'll be writing about sourdough in the next couple of days and starting a new one.

    abuntently, how fabulous! Well done. : )

    Awww, nice story Briget. It's nice to think of that little pink nest sitting in a tree somewhere.

    Jenny, Tricia has four sons but no grandbabies yet. On each corner of the quilt, she has embroidered the name of each of her boys. I'm sure it will be a treasured heirloom in years to come.

    Hello Quinne dear. Granny Pearl's quilt sounds wonderful. How nice to have that piece of your family history.

  11. Hi,
    I Love the quilt.
    I have a Memory quilt my Mom when I was a kid, its from different clothes us kids wore.
    I recycle alot in my doll making . Recycling has always been a way of life for me even before it became so popular.Friends kids me and tells me I never see things as they are only as what they can become.
    Have a great week.Blessins', Lib

  12. Hi Rhonda, our church recently had a "Swap Shop." You brought items you no longer wanted and swapped with someone else. It was such fun! I swapped for a beautiful table cloth and made several tote bags from the fabric -the original owner was stunned! I always look at any fabric as a"raw ma terial." Thank you so much for your wisdom, Dee

  13. Thank you Rhonda Jean

  14. Good post. Man you should see the things I have to make good use of.

  15. Hi
    We also make ginger beer - have shared our bug & recipe on our blog.

    Love Leanne NZ

  16. Beautiful quilt. Your posts, most of the time, give me food for thought.

  17. Tricia's quilt is really going to be a masterpiece when it is finished!! Sharon

  18. Good morning Rhonda-your sisters quilt is lovely. It actually looks quite Victorian. How pretty! Blessings, Rose

  19. What a beautiful, gorgeous quilt. After reading your post and thinking a bit I understand better why Mom and Grandma are such pack rats ;) They lived most of their lives in a country where it was difficult to *find* anything - I'm not talking about buying! If you found some decent fabric, you'd be smart to buy it right away because there might be none tomorrow.

    I try to declutter, but I don't throw things away. My clutter is someone's treasure, and the other way around too! In college, we had a free exchange fair: we brought our old stuff, and freely browsed and took whatever we wanted from others' stuff. I got some very decent books and decorative items!


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