I have been living with guilt. For the past few years I’ve thought an awful lot about recycling and reusing. As an artist who paints on canvas, I had a real problem with what to do about putting more STUFF out in the world. In my personal life, I’ve always been good about recycling and not wasting ANYTHING. I recycle everything I can. I’ve purged so much stuff out of my life. I consider myself a minimalist. I only buy my clothes used at thrift stores, except for underwear, socks and sometimes shoes. I take my own bags to the grocery store. We compost our organic trash. I even save water as much as possible since I live in the desert.
In my art life however, I’ve been faced with a dilemma. Not only do I use brand new canvas and wood stretcher bars for my original paintings, I use toxic paints. This is not an eco-friendly way to be. I switched to water soluble oil paints over ten years ago. So, I no longer use the solvents needed for cleaning up after using regular oil paints. Still, I use wood from trees and the canvas is manufactured somewhere.
I have racked my brain for ways to reuse more and not use toxic substances in my art. I paint on recycled items, old vinyl records, beat up guitars, old furniture.
My recent change to sewing has helped so much with my new mind set. I reuse old clothing, upcycle sweaters into new items. Now that I’m making pillows and dolls I have to use something to stuff with that is soft and fluffy. I’ve done a lot of searching online and found so many different eco-friendly ways to stuff my creations! I never would have thought about stuffing my dolls with animal hair, or plastic bags?! Honestly, I didn’t think those were very good ideas. The animal hair? I’m allergic to it, and I know I’m not the only one! Plastic bags? Too much crinkly crunchy noise from the plastic! No thanks.
The one idea I really like is shredding old wool sweaters. I had one here in my studio from another sweater recycling project, so I decided to test the idea. I used my rotary cutter and straight edge to cut the sweater into strips and then cut crosswise to make little pieces. There was a lot of fuzz from those little pieces! What a mess! I made two small pillow forms and filled one with fiber-fill and the other with shredded sweater pieces. I washed the pillow with the sweater pieces to see how it held up.
I’m pretty impressed with how it came out. The wool pieces are a bit more lumpy than the fiber fill, not quite as fluffy and soft, but still a nice cushy pillow. My thinking is I’m making decorator pillows and not really sleeping pillows, so I don’t think they need to be super soft. What do you think?
The shredded sweater stuffing takes a bit more time and I think I can figure out a way to make it more fluffy. I saw a blog post about someone putting chunky fibers in a blender to make it more fluff, but I haven’t tried that yet.
What I like most is reusing something old (don’t worry I wash everything in hot soapy water first!) and making something new, pretty and functional. 🙂 Granted, I’m still putting more stuff out in the world, but at least it’s eco-friendly stuff that isn’t going into a landfill! 🙂