Recycling! Rubbish into toys

Natural Parents Network: Recycling Rubbish Into Toys for a ToddlerI wrote a post over at Natural Parents Network about recycling 'rubbish' into toddler toys.

However much we try to reduce the amount of packaging that comes into your house and waste that goes out of it, it seems that we are still constantly throwing things out. Meanwhile, the baby wants something to play with... In true permaculture style, I can solve two problems at once by diverting some of the 'rubbish' from the recycling bin to the toy box. Read on over at NPN for a few suggestions that have gone down well with Leon.

From skirt to (baby) trousers

Another round of decluttering recently unearthed a skirt that I made for myself many years ago, but have never actually worn. After seeing two posts about upcycled baby trousers, one from a T-shirt and one from trousers, I thought I'd see if my skirt could become a pair of trousers for Leon.

I used an existing pair of cotton trousers to cut a pattern. As with the above posts, I cut them with the side seams on the existing side seam of the skirt, and the bottom hem on the skirt's hem. No need to repeat work already done.

Baby trousers look very long from crotch to waistband, especially if (as here) you need to fit them over a cloth nappy.

denim material on desk, one leg of trousers cut and being used as pattern for second leg
First leg being used to cut out second leg.

Next, I pinned and sewed the front and back seams, and the crotch seam.

Pieces of trousers pinned together along front and back seam, ready to sew

Front and back seam sewn, trousers pinned together to sew crotch seam

They looked pretty good already at this stage. The beaded decoration was already on the old skirt (I'll take it off if Leon gets too interested in it as I'm not sure how secure it is.)

Trousers turned right-way-out, waistband still unfinished. Dark stretchy denim with beaded decoration on front left leg

I pinned and sewed a waistband, with plenty of room to feed some elastic through.

Trousers inside out again, inch-thick waistband pinned ready to sew, with white pin marking for centre front

Note pin marking the place at the front of the trousers where I was going to leave a gap for the elastic to be fed in through.

Waistband of trousers, right way out, gathered with elastic threaded through, unfinished at front

Waistband sewn and elastic threaded through on a safety pin and pinned to what I thought was the right length.

Elasticated trousers aren't that much of a fashion statement, but they're the easiest to get on over a baby bottom, having as they do no fastenings to do up while the baby is trying to crawl away from you. I checked the tightness of the elastic on Leon, then cut the elastic, took a few stitches to hold the ends together, and hand-sewed the gap in the waistband shut.

Sleeping baby on bed, wearing new dark denim trousers and white/blue/green stripy top
Sleeping baby, new trousers!

I'm pleased with that bit of upcycling, which took maybe half an hour all in, and may be repeating it with a pair of worn-out trousers currently lurking in the fabric box.

Freecycle, free shops, and letting things go

There's a couple of obvious advantages to using Freecycle (or Freegle, which is the new UK-based version).  Giving a home to things you don't want or need any more, rather than throwing them away.   Getting hold of things second-hand -- and free! -- rather than having to buy new and generate more waste.  (I got a stairgate from Freecycle recently when we acquired a new dog.) 

But I've found that it also helps with the process of deciding whether you really need to keep something at all.  I've been trying of late to move away from a policy of "keep it just in case".  As a policy, that leads to stacks of belongings festering in corners; reducing the space available for you and for the things that you genuinely do want and use.

Freecycle lets me have the attitude that if I need something at an unspecified later date, I'll be able to get hold of it again at that point.  If I send out into the wild the stack of paint trays and rollers that have been in the bottom of a cupboard for 5 years, then should I ever need them again, I'll be able to find another set.

Of course, that particular set of paint trays may never be in circulation again.  But the more stuff there is circulating in the free and second-hand un-market, the more likely it is that the stuff you need will be there when you need it. 

I've started to see "keeping things just in case" as a form of wastage.  It means that a useful thing isn't in use, so when someone else needs it, they have to buy another one.  As opposed to using the one sitting unused in my cupboard.   In a similar vein, I share a bike trailer and various power tools with other people: they're expensive things that we don't all need at once so why own multiple versions?  I can treat Freecycle and free shops as something a bit like a large and less trackable version of a lending library.  End result: less stuff in the world and in my house.