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Recycled Materials for Quilts, Art, and Craft Projects

"Making Something Out of Nothing"

Written by Mary Nelson Zadrozny
© 2006-2011 Just Imagine Design & Publications
Quilting is probably the ultimate process of "making something out of nothing". For hundreds of years, people have been making quilts with bits of worn out clothing, leftover scraps, feed sacks, and anything else they could get their hands on. Most often it was out of necessity to create warm, functional bed covers when fabric was scarce. Quilting was extremely popular during the Depression when economic times were tough. It was also an important part of pioneer life. (Can you imagine what those women would think of our fabric stashes we have today?)

Speaking of stashes, if you have extra needlework, quilt, craft or art supplies, there are many programs that can use your donations. See the "Helping Others" Article for a list of programs that may be able to use what you no longer need. You can also check with schools, senior programs and other organizations right in your own community.

rail fence quilt

Rail Fence Quilt made with recycled clothing and neckties, embellished with antique buttons.

Another popular trend in quilt making is the use of fabrics that are meaningful as a way of remembrance. For example, using pieces of childrens clothing they have outgrown is a way to create a keepsake that always brings fond memories. A quilt can also be made out of old jeans for a dorm room quilt. These memory preservation quilts are not just for clothing. I often use sections of my grandmother's old tablecloths and napkins (damaged ones only!) in my quilts, cutting away stained areas or tea-dying them to cover them. Not only do the linens give a wonderful look to the quilts, it brings the linens out of storage into every day life where I can enjoy them. See more photos of quilts made with recycled clothing, neckties and linens in the Gallery.

Besides quilting, I also create collage and mixed media art. You need a wide range of interesting materials when building unique projects and not just paper or fabric. Collage artists often find it difficult to throw things away- almost anything can be reused. Bottle caps, cardboard, wrapping paper, game pieces, keys, and wire are just a few of the limitless possibilities. One of the benefits of making art with items you might otherwise consider trash, is that we are recycling items instead of filling the landfills with garbage.

Dream's collage

Dream'n Collage made with hand-painted papers, magazine pieces, sequins, beads, shells, buttons, cardboard slivers, yarn, gift wrap, gold sewing needle and butterfly craft embellishments.

Although one day a year (April 22nd) is set aside to celebrate "Earth Day", many people believe in doing what they can every day to preserve and protect the valuable resources on this planet. There are a variety of ways to do this and have fun at the same time. There are lots of programs to get kids involved, places that help people either donate items or find items they are looking for, artists specifically using recycled items in their work, and Earth Day activities around the world. To find out how to get started, here are some interesting sites to check out:

Programs That Promote The Use Of Recycled Items
http://artmarketing.com/scrapsdirectory.html Listing by state of programs that recycle art supplies.
http://bostonkids.org/exhibits/recycle.html Boston area Creativity Center.
www.artfromscrap.org A great program in the Santa Barbara, California area that takes items that normally would be thrown away and donates them to school children for art projects. With more and more funding for art programs being cut, this is a win-win solution that helps the environment and schools at the same time.
www.cacvoices.org Creation Station; a store that provides an outlet for Arts and Educational Materials located in Lansing, MI. (Look under "Organizations in their site menu on the left to locate Creation Station web page.)
www.kid-at-art.comTeaching children to recycle by making art and having fun.
www.materials-exchange.org Workshops and a store located in Eugene, OR devoted to teaching others how to make art with useful items that normally would be discarded. They also have a great "Links" area on their web site that includes other Recycling programs, sites with project ideas, and sites with examples of art projects.
www.mfta.org Materials for The Arts is based in New York City, which helps artists, students and businesses.
www.recreate.org Where Creativity and Conservation Meet. ReUse and Art Center based in Sacramento, CA area. They even offer art kits made from reuse items.
www.redo.org Reuse Development Organization based in Baltimore, Maryland.
www.scrap-sf.org Center for Reusable Art Parts based in San Francisco, California area.
www.scrapaction.org The School and Community Reuse Action Project based in Portland, Oregon. Their web site also has a great "Links" area.
www.scrapexchange.org The Scrap Exchange Creative ReUse Center based in Durham, NC.

Web Sites With Recycled Arts And Crafts Project Ideas
www.hintsandthings.co.uk/musichall/cdroms.htm "101 Things to do with CD's"
www.kid-at-art.comTeaching children to recycle by making art and having fun.
www.make-stuff.com/recycling/index.html Lists projects by categories such as Things you can do with CD's, Things you can do with Cardboard Tubes, and many others. Great for kids.
www.packnboxnow.com/library/fun_with_boxes_cardboard_arts.htm Cardboard craft ideas for kids.

Materials Exchange Networks
Another aspect of recycled art is how to find interesting materials and how to donate items you no longer want. There are Materials Exchange Networks throughout the US and the world.

http://artsandscraps.org "Creating Fun with Castoffs" Detroit, MI location open to the public with children's programs and events. They also have a listing of other similar organizations throughout the United States (see "Other Organizations" in their web site menu.
www.calrecycle.ca.gov/calmax/ California program to help businesses, artists, and industries sell or find items that normally would be thrown away. Great links area also under the heading "Other Resources".
http://reuseitnetwork.org/ The ReUseIt Network is an on-line forum that serves as a tool to make connections between community members who want to help each other, themselves, and their environment.
http://sharingisgiving.com/ Sharing is Giving- alternative to Freecycle Network.
www.freecycle.org Individual groups around the world that have exchange programs.

Artists Using Recycled Items To Create Art
http://rubyreusable.com/artblog/ Olympia Dumpster Divers making art not waste.
www.bellsfromeverest.com Eco-friendly artist Jeff Clapp makes ornaments, bowls and bells from trash left on Mt. Everest.
www.bernierowell.com/quilts/found-materials Bernie Rowell - Quilts Using Found Materials
www.clvquilts.com See Carolyn Lee Vehslage's amazing work using computer parts and other unique items. In the Gallery under Computer Collages.
www.mamakamills.com Mamaka Mills; Alix Joyal creates contemporary couture quilts from recycled clothing and textiles.

Articles About Using Recycled Items To Create Art

Recycling Information

Earth Day Activities
http://earthday.envirolink.org Clearinghouse for Earth Day Activities
www.earthday.ca/pub/index.php Earth Day Activities in Canada
www.earthday.net Keep up with Earth Day activities and read the history of how Earth Day was originated.
http://holidays.kaboose.com/earth-day/index.html "Earth Day is Every Day" Ideas for Kids

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