How can I reuse or recycle clothes patterns?

Carol sent us an email explaining:

I often see huge bins of clothes patterns at thrift stores. Most helplessly outdated or missing instructions. I have used them in the past as packing material but was wondering if there was any other uses. Seems like there has to be some use for the tissue type paper.

I’ve only just started making stuff from patterns but I’ve already built up a little stack of dressmakers’ tracing paper squares from the excess bits of paper from around the edges of the pattern. If I was more artistic/less clumsy, I’d imagine that I could make an interesting (low-power) lampshade by layering them around a frame or even a privacy shade panel for a window – but since I’m not, I’ll keep them in an envelope pocket in my sketch book for when I need to trace.

Lots of people seem to use them for decorative decoupage projects – for example, decorating little boxes, gift tags or furniture (I can’t find the pictures now but I’m sure I’ve seen a sewing table covered in an old pattern). Just remember to use some sort of sealer so they don’t get wet and/or tear.

They also be used for just about any tissue paper craft – the only “problem” being the somewhat muted colour compared to most bright tissue paper. That doesn’t mean they can’t look great though – pale flowers can still look fantastic whether as a bouquet or as mini fairy lightshades.

More practically, I do like Carol’s idea of using them as a packing material and they could also be used as delicate gift wrapping paper for handmade projects.

Any other suggestions?

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7 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle clothes patterns?”

  1. If the patterns are pre-1985 or very popular but out of print, they may still be worth selling. I was mildly horrified that one of my 80s dress patterns was worth $10, poofy sleeves and all.
    Also, older patterns that are missing pieces may still be useful; I know that many people are searching for missing pieces. The vintage pattern wiki has lots of good info and a forum for discussing.

    • Do they really go for that price or are the listed as such cos I was watching for a while as I have some post war patterns and right up to present day but they did not seem to be selling despite being listed…also curious as to why there seems to be such a market in the states and not in the UK. I think we have moved away from al lot of these more traditional skills which are still alive in North America…I have lived in Canada where dressmaking is still very common. Some clothes shopping is so cheap here in the UK and people are so time poor, that is is not worth investing all that time anymore in creating a fashion item that may be out of date by the time it is made….sad really…but then I don’t make either. I buy second hand…win win situation – I don’t feel guilty about where the items were made, pay an okay price and give back to the community I like in by purchasing.

      I would use the spare bits of tracing paper with lots of PVA glue (white glue) and create a wire frame over which you can stretch the paper, once dry you could put lights inside. These are how the lanterns are made such as for the Liverpool Lantern parade every year for Halloween

      I have used a similar technique for making masks or hats and have even used old IKEA paper lamp shade (ball shaped) cut them in half and revamped them, building them up with scrap thin paper (like tissue or pattern paper) See my photo from when I was at college 20 years ago

  2. claire says:

    Thanks for linking to my flowers!

  3. Rondee says:

    I saw a home improvement show where they used the old patterns much like wallpaper in a closet. It was super cute.

  4. dyan logan says:

    I painted mine and used it as a trellis for a climbing rose and a second one which I laid flat on blocks about a foot above ground and trained my cucumbers to grow on top letting the cukes hang down through the holes yet keeping them off the ground

  5. georgene says:

    I have patterns from 1949 on. My mother made all our clothes, male and female, adult and infant and all in between. The patterns are cut to size…with directions and other pieces not used. Is there a market for these? Email me at gmw096ATcomcastDOTnet.

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