This post was sponsored by OCRRA as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Making precious and personalized rag dolls out of no-longer-used textiles is such a sweet way to hold on to those baby clothes you don't want to get rid of! Besides rag dolls, there are many ways that textiles can be given new life. Read on for our free tutorial below, along with some great information about recycling in Onondaga County!
I have always been an avid recycler. Since I was young, we always had a recycling bin that rivaled our trash bin in size on pick-up day. I hope I've successfully carried these earth-friendly practices into my own home, but after years and years of assuming I knew what was recyclable and what wasn't, I've only recently discovered that I've been doing some things totally wrong! I've also been guilty of "wish-cycling" -- carelessly putting things in the recycle bin that seem like they could be recycled, but actually cannot.
I can relate to those of you who are unsure about the latest recycling rules and just want to throw everything out. Recycling is no longer happening in many areas of the US because their materials are too contaminated to be marketed or it is too costly to justify, but it is still so important to incorporate recycling into our lives! With a little recycling education about what should and shouldn't be recycled, we can each "Save the World a Little Each Day" and do our part for our posterity. Leading by example is the best way to teach these practices to our children!
I'm excited to talk about two specific items that need special attention: stretchy film plastics and textiles. I used to be horrible about how I recycled film plastics, but now I know what to do with them. As for textiles, I'm crazy excited about how I recycle them! First of all, I used to think that all plastics were equally recyclable. OCRRA (a not-for-profit public health benefit corporation) has completely enlightened me and has a fantastic information page with all the details on How to Get Rid of Plastic Bags.
The OCRRA website is so user friendly and designed with great graphics that spell out what should and should NOT be recycled, especially when it comes to these plastics.
Remember that plastic bags and film plastics CANNOT be recycled in the blue bin! They will only contaminate the other good recyclables. Below are the types of plastic bags and wraps that can be recycled at most big box stores, supermarkets or chain pharmacies:
Textiles should also NOT go in the recycle bin. They can and should be taken to a donation center, regardless of their condition! Remember that they don't have to be wearable or usable! As long as they are washed and dried, they can be donated and live another useful life even if they have a stain, hold, or broken zipper. I learned that clothes that may seem unwearable can be used for other purposes like rags, or be broken down into smaller fibers that get turned into insulation - but that can only happen if they get donated. OCRRA.org has another useful page on How to Get Rid of Textiles that includes donation center locations.
My baby is growing out of some of her cutest clothes and I've been having a hard time deciding what to do with them. Many of them have stains or holes, so they're not quite nice enough to sell or exchange. These are exactly the kinds of textiles that can be donated! Even if clothes aren't in great condition, they can be donated because even clothes with rips, stains, or things like broken zippers are accepted and appreciated! As long as they are washed and dry, things like linens, blankets, drapes, towels, footwear, stuffed animals, hats, and gloves can be taken to donation centers.
Notice the yellow stains on the onesie, the food stain on the shorts, and the holes in the pajamas. These are still acceptable to be donated! Instead of putting them in the trash or a blue bin, I'm taking many of these textiles to a drop-off point near me, but some of my favorite pieces were made into doll clothes!
This is my very favorite way to recycle textiles: making something new and personal from something old and worn.
I've given some suggestions on how to make these outfits at the bottom of this post, but first, let's make some rag dolls to go with these adorable outfits! You simply need some stuffing and some scraps of muslin and felt. A 12" x 18" rectangle of felt was all I needed for two dolls, and I recommend premium felt because it is thicker and will pill less. Don't forget tiny pink felt circles for cheeks and thick black thread for features.
The first step on your rag dolls is to cut 2 of this larger (black outline) figure in muslin. To get an accurate size similar to my rag dolls, just make sure you print this pattern full size on a regular print page (8.5"x11").
After you've cut out the two bodies (front and back), you can trim the pattern down further to just show the hair, following the red or green guideline I drew for you.
Cut one front and one back (which is simply a completed circle) out of your premium felt.
I chose to hand-stitch the felt onto the body, but you can also do with with your machine. This is the time to add facial features with your thick black thread. Don't forget those cute pink cheeks!
Next, cut 4 of each arm, leg, and pigtail pattern piece. Again, print this image full size on 8.5"x11" to get an accurate size.
Sew them right sides together and stuff with batting. If you sew close enough to the edge, you'll avoid having to do any clipping on the edges.
If you'd like to make the cute little braided bun, cut three strips of felt 12-15" long. Braid the pieces loosely, but pull the right side a little tighter as you braid so that it gently curls.
Coil it into a little ball and secure with hand stitches. Sew the raw edge into the doll when you sew the front and back pieces together.
Secure the arms and legs, then fold them inward while you sew the front and back together. Leave an opening at the bottom where the legs are to turn the entire doll right side out.
Fill your rag dolls with stuffing and hand sew the bottom shut. Look at those sweeties!
Every doll outfit you make could look a little different, based on what you have to start with. Save yourself some time and use some of the details on the original garment. For example, on this poppy dress, I cut a large rectangle out of the front of the dress, using the original neckline. I then cut out tiny arm holes and used the entire original hem, only gathered to fit the smaller circumference.
Notice how I used the cuffs around the legs on these shorts to be the new neckline on the white shirt. Anywhere you can use an already-finished hem saves you so much time! Also, turning baby bloomers into a skirt is as easy as cutting out the elastic leg holes and cinching up the elastic around the waist.
These button details were on the back of the original romper and the skirt was made from one of the leg holes!
Sleepers are a great place to find large pieces of soft fabric which are perfect for doll cardigans.
Below is the shirt pattern for the leopard shirt. Print full size (8.5"x11") and remember to cut one side on the fold.
I'm so excited for my girls to have these rag dolls forever, especially because they have been made from recycled textiles! As they grow, I'll point out that we reused clothes that might have been thrown away, but have been used again in a new and meaningful way. I hope these rag dolls remind them to think first before they throw out textiles that could be repurposed and recycled!
If you'd like to learn more about recycling in Onondaga County, I strongly encourage you to visit OCRRA.org! Their comprehensive searchable lists are super helpful if you want to know about what to do with a specific item such as motor oil, old luggage, microwaves, etc. OCRRA has excellent award-winning programs for hard to manage materials such as household hazardous waste, fluorescent bulbs and other mercury-containing devices.
Feel free to share with us your favorite ways to recycle textiles! There are so many incredibly darling things you can make from old treasures!