Repurposing to Bring us Joy

Repurposing to Bring us Joy
By Laura Churchill Duke

How often do you look around your home and see things that you don’t use, but yet you love them so much, you just can’t bear to part with them?
Consider repurposing your items, starting with clothes.

Brenda Wilson of Aldershot, NS is an expert at doing just this. She creates memory quilts from old clothes. She started about 10 years ago, when she made a quilt for her daughter out of her old onesies. “I couldn’t part with them, so I turned them into a blanket,” says Wilson. “There was no point in keeping them, and they were good baby clothes that I could have passed along, but I couldn’t part with them.”

Taking quilt orders for others now, Wilson has created many blankets, including some for students who will be graduating from high school. Parents bring Wilson a stack of their child’s favourite t-shirts, which she then turns into a quilt with approximately five t-shirt panels across by six panels long and a polar fleece backing. So, approximately 30 t-shirts are needed for one quilt. “Parents are over the moon because they get rid of 30 shirts that they don’t want to store anymore, and the teens are happy because they are preserving their favourite t-shirts from their activities, trips, and tournaments that they can’t part with.” These make great gifts for a university dorm room, says Wilson, so are often used as graduation presents.

Kentville’s Tracy Churchill made a different kind of memory quilt for her husband when he was studying away from the family. She asked for an old pair of jeans from every family member and cut these up to create a jean-patched quilt as a loving reminder of his family back at home.

Another time to make these memory quilts, says Wilson, is when someone passes away. This is a common way to honour a loved one.

Angie McWaid has done just this with clothes from both her mother and sister who have passed away, giving a quilt to each family member. Cutting up her mother’s clothes to make these quilts, however, did not happen right away. It took McWaid almost 10 years to be able to cut up the clothes to turn them into quilts. She is so happy with the end result. Instead of having these clothes tucked away, taking up space, where you can’t see them, or getting rid of them, they are now on display for you to remember and to enjoy, says McWaid.

In the future, McWaid intends to take one of her father’s button-up shirts and turn it into a pillow. Wilson also suggests using that kind of shirt to make an apron, keeping the collar and buttons for the front, and attaching ties.
Besides clothes, it’s possible to repurpose old furniture, or even turn other items into furniture. Many times, we end up with family pieces that are no longer in fashion, or just plain ugly. Instead of taking it to the landfill, consider repurposing it. Change the upholstery and spray paint a chair, suggests Wilson, or change a shade on a lamp to give it a new look. Wilson says to just try. If you are getting something for free, from big garbage day, or a yard sale, then just see what you can come up with. Get ideas from Pinterest or ask others for help. If you need help reupholstering, sewing, painting, or with other handy jobs, a quick post on Facebook is bound to yield names of local people who can help you with your project.

Research conducted by Your Last Resort Home Organization shows that millennials (those born in the 1980s and 90s) are the most interested in repurposing items, perhaps as a way of saving money, or to fit in with current trends. Besides, this age group moves a lot and don’t want to invest in expensive pieces, nor do they have the same amount of living space as older generations. Having furniture that is scrounged and repurposed, and can be easily tossed again, works the best.

Millennials are also the most likely of any generation to take old family heirlooms and find new uses for them. Take teenager Gabriel Baker of Kentville, for example. He has found a way to repurpose instruments into coffee stands or lamps. “I love the feeling of taking something old and making it fresh and new again,” says Wilson. “Unfortunately, we are a throw away society that when we don’t want something any more, we just throw it out.” Repurposing helps to alleviate that. Recycle, repurpose, and bring joy into your home with a fresh new look.