Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What can you do with your old worn handbags and fabric scraps

My experiences traveling to the Northern Vietnam many years ago had taught me to not be wasteful and conserve even the most easily available resources in my daily life.   On one of my visits to Shawn’s home, a Hmong young girl, for sewing lessons for a few Hong girls in her village, I witnessed how the family treasured every little piece of materials.  It does not matter that it is new or old cloths; every tiny piece of materials were salvaged for sewing projects that are an essential part of the family income.  Resources are scarce in the mountainous region in Vietnam and people who live here learned to conserve every single resource that is available to them.   The other part of the world known these efforts as reduce, reuse and recycle; but it is a way of life for the Hmong just because it is necessary.

Recycle materials/accessories from your worn out handbags
I don’t’ usually buy products that are made with PU synthetic leather because they do not last very long.  But I somehow still have two handbags made with this material. As I expected, the outer layer of the handbags began to flakes off within two years of light use.  It is very frustrating and wasteful to trash these bags when other parts of the handbags are still in good condition.  The accessories on the bags are something that I can recycle and I especially like to keep the zippers which are not available for sales in regular stores.   So, I dismantled the zippers, hooks, rings and canvas slings from the handbags.  I can easily recycle these items in my crafting and sewing projects.
A friend of mine decided to give me her old handbags that she was ready to throw away when she heard about my good stories to recycle the parts.  Being frugal and resourceful, I examined her stuff and found two of the handbags are still in decent condition.  My weekly cleaner was happy to adopt them.  As for the rest of the bags that my friend gave me – I stripped all the parts off over a TV show.  These materials will reappeared in better forms in my new projects in the future.

Saving fabric scraps for new projects
I have the habit of keeping fabrics scraps but, in the past, I would usually throw away pieces that are smaller than the size of my palm.  Upon my return from Northern Vietnam, I started to keep even the tiniest fabric scraps from all my sewing projects.  Being a little OCD (!), I would organize the fabric scraps by the sizes and kept them in different containers for easy access.   These scraps come very handy for various sewing projects, for mending torn clothes, making collage artwork with kids, and more.  As for those tiny winy pieces, I use it to fill my hand made toys.
Obviously I don’t throw away old, torn or stained clothes.  I keep them in a box and use them for all kinds of projects,  I use fabric from my old Indian cotton blouse to me the faces of my “Bu Wa Wa” (Click here to see the article). 
So the next time you are thinking about throwing away any of your handbags, old clothes, fabric scraps or anything else, try to take another look of the materials and think of what you can do with it. 


  1. Been looking for ideas on what to do with my flaked off bags. Honestly, even if they look ugly already I still use them. But now, they're really no longer aesthetic. I don't want to throw them away as it will just add up to the garbage. But dismantling them will not also let me have them recycled. Hmmmm.. What to do? What to do? I hope I can also find someone who'll need this parts.

    1. If you do sew, make something. You can find ideas and tutorials online. Otherwise, give them to friend/s who sew.

  2. Can you describe some of what you've been able to do with these odds and ends? I'm at a loss as to what to do with them once I've dismantled the purses!