Sunday, October 26, 2008

What to Do with Old Pants: Coloring Tote

This project involves making a bag just the size for some activity books and coloring books along with crayons out of the butt of a pair of men's chinos. These are size 36 waist pants. Anything smaller might not yield a bag that can hold coloring books, but might be fun just the same.

Here's how you do it:
  1. Cut down the side seams of the pants, so you are left with just the back side.
  2. Fold in half (top to bottom) and cut off any excess on the sides to make sure it will be square.
  3. Cut across the butt allowing the height of the bag you want plus 1-inch for a seam allowance.
  4. Sew across the bottom of the pockets (on the inside) so that they are at a desired length. (I like them just tall enough to hold some crayons, but so that the crayons can still pop out the top).
  5. Fold in half side-to-side and inside-out.
  6. Sew across the bottom of the bag.
  7. Sew across the open side 0f the bag. The top will be very thick, so be careful there.
  8. Make the strap:
    • Cut a strip from one of the legs that is ~4 in. across.
    • Fold in half long-ways and sew up the side leaving 1/4" in. seam
    • Turn the strip right side out and sew up both sides with a 1/4 in. seam to keep it nice and flat.
  9. Now attach the strap to the bag by sewing at the waste-band.
Now you have a nice kid-friendly tote. Get's dirty? Just throw it in the wash with your clothes. Decorate it up however it seems interesting to you. If you try this yourself, send me some pictures or techniques.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What to Do with Old Pants: Special Bags

My boys all have to wear khaki pants as part of their school uniform. Three of my oldest son’s pants had been worn through the knees (or cut with “safety” scissors). Rather than just getting rid of them, I thought I’d alter them in to khaki shorts. No problem… just snip, snip and hem. I hated to just throw out the bottoms of the pants, but I couldn’t justify adding to my “scrap fabric for creative projects when I have the time” pile.

I got the idea to turn the pants legs into a “special bag” for each of them. Kids, especially ones with siblings with whom they must share everything, love to have something “special” made just for them. Here’s how I did it
  1. Turn pant leg inside out.
  2. Sew a Seem down the un-hemmed side
  3. Optional: (to give it more depth) Rotate to the side and sew a line forming a triangle (do the same on the other side.

  4. Flip right-side-out. Cut 2 slits in the existing hem on the inside of the bag
  5. Using a yarn needle, take some scrap yarn and work it all through the hem and out the other slit. This will form your draw string
  6. Tie a knot in the string and voila, you are done!
You could also finish them off by needlepointing their names on the bags – or even just writing them with a fabric marker.

These bags can be used for snack bags or storage. They are a great reusable alternative to Ziploc bags for that kind of thing. But, when we are going somewhere and the kids want to bring toys, I like to tell them “Get your special bag and you can bring whatever can fit in there.” They love to spend time choosing the toys they want to bring with them and gathering them all up. Last time we went hiking and rock climbing as a family, they brought their special bags full of dinosaurs. My 5-yo did not like to have to carry the bag, so he had the idea of getting a stick and hanging the bag on the stick while resting it on his shoulder. Of course, as soon as he had done this, his little brothers wanted in on the action. Before you know it, we had a parade of boys Tom Sawyer-style hiking up the mountain with their sacks. We got a lot of adoring looks on that hike!

  • Keep Puzzle Pieces Together - Those cardboard boxes don't last long in my house. Using these little bags lets you throw multiple bags of puzzles into a drawer or a basket without getting all the pieces mixed up. Plus, it looks nice.
  • Lunch Sack - this is a great reusable little lunch bag for bringing on hikes or to the park or even to school.
  • Toy Sack - Let your little ones stuff as many toys as they can into the bag to bring with them to a friend's house or their brother's soccer game or rock climbing!
  • Travel Organizer - When packing for a big trip (or even a little one), these little drawstring bags are great for putting like things together. For our annual trip to the beach this year, I packed up one bag with all the spices we would need (so I could save $$ on shopping while I was there). I put all the kids toiletries in another one.
  • Gift Bag - Rather than buying a gift bag at the store, these make excellent gift bags for smaller items. And it is something that the new owner can reuse or re-purpose.
  • There are infinite uses. Do you have some other ideas?

What to Do with Old Pants: Uniform Shorts

So, my son had worn through the knees in most of his school pants, what to do? I know it is pretty obvious to say "make some shorts". It is so much better than giving them or (gasp!) throwing them away. All it takes is an easy hem on the sewing machine and it saves me plenty of money for buying summer uniforms for my three boys (who can all wear the same size shorts). This was project #1 with old pants.

Here is my method:
  1. Cut straight across the legs right above the hole or worn part of the pants (making sure that both legs fall even). This will ensure that the shorts would hit right at or above the knees.
  2. Fold 1/2 inch under and iron around for the hem. Fold under again 3/4 inch and iron (this way, you don't have to use hem tape or fray-check or anything.
  3. Using your machine, stitch straight around1/2 inch above the bottom of each of the legs and you're done. (If you prefer, you can hand stitch it as well).
Don't throw away the bottoms of those legs, there are great uses for those as well!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What to Do with Old Pants

After seeing how much of the clothes that we donate still end up in landfills, I was reluctant to just get rid of all the outgrown or torn khaki pants without a fight.I started with thinking about some of my simple living goals and what I needed to meet them. One was to buy less clothing and household items. Another was to really cut down on my use of plastic bags. So, my remaking of old khakis turned into four small and easy projects.

  1. Uniform Shorts
  2. Pant Leg “Special Bags”
  3. Personalized Travel Pillow Cases
  4. Pocket Activity Bag

I’m sure there are more great projects out there for pants. Anyone have ideas to share?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reusing Tissue Paper as Gift Wrap

I love a beautifully wrapped gift, but I hate all the expense and waste that goes along with it. Much of it goes directly into the trash within a few hours of wrapping the gift. Many of us reuse gift bags as long as the hold up rather than throwing them out, but what about reusing the tissue paper that invariably goes with them?

Tissue paper as gift wrap is so easy because it is already cut for you. If you can’t find scissors or tape (a typical situation in my home as was the problem when I wrapped this gift), you can use tissue paper to wrap a gift without these. Just fold the tissue paper to the size you want, wrap it neatly around the gift you want and secure with a pretty piece of raffia, ribbon, or even a piece of twine or yarn. It makes a colorful and beautiful presentation with little effort. Also, it’s recreating something that may just have been trash otherwise. By skipping the tape – you also allow for it to be reused again.

What goes great with a tissue paper wrapped gift? A homemade card. My boys were very into sunflowers at this time since they had been growing their own in the garden. I just took a scrap of card stock and drew a simple sunflower on the front. My 5-yo colored it in to make it a personalized card for his cousin’s 1st birthday present.