Use What Ya Got

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is one of my favorite slogans. Of the three, “reuse” is probably the most difficult to incorporate, because getting something new is generally more enjoyable and many times just a whole lot easier. I have always found fun in scrounging up items for a Halloween costume or a play costume, but I am challenging myself to reuse and repurpose as often as possible in day-to-day life. I found a couple of opportunities to do so this past week.


I have been repainting our front room in shades of taupe and plum, and decided that it would look nice to replace the outlet covers and switch plates with oil rubbed bronze. I priced new ones at a local hardware store and found that it would cost $60 to replace four outlet covers, two switch plates and two blank wall plates. Sixty dollars! Sorry, not in the budget. Fortunately I still had some ORB spray paint left over from an earlier bathroom project, so I cleaned up the old covers:

outletsbeforeand gave them (and all of the screws) a couple of quick coats.


Presto! Designer plates at no cost. At some point I will likely pick up a couple of new blank plates, because these had been painted to match the previous wall color and the surface did not turn out as smooth as I would like. (While I had the ORB paint out, I gave the bathroom heating vent a quick touch-up as it had a small chip.)


The second project involved this wool jacket I bought during our trip to Alaska last year.


I had admired the jacket at a couple of shops in Talkeetna. It was warm and it was beautiful; it was also out of my price range. Back at our lodge, the same jacket – in my size – was on the clearance rack, marked down about 60% due to a defect. Upon close inspection I noticed that a single tooth was missing from the zipper, but it still worked perfectly. Score!

What I did not notice until I got home was that the sleeves were slightly shorter than I prefer. With gloves on, if I bent my arms there was a little bit of wrist exposed. I hate that. For a year the jacket hung in the coat closet. A couple of weeks ago Phil asked me when I was going to wear it, so I decided it was time to fix the sleeves. Problem was I had no idea how. My first idea was to knit a pair of cuffs, but I had no yarn that would match, nor did the local yarn stores. My second idea was to harvest the cuffs of an old sweatshirt, but I did not have anything in the right color and I did not think the textures would look right. But that idea led me to remember a wool sweater of Phil’s that had recently been subjected to an unfortunate accident.

  • Bad thing about wool sweaters – they shrink when they are run through the dryer.
  • Funny thing about wool sweaters – they don’t shrink proportionally width- and length-wise, so a shrunken sweater won’t fit anyone.
  • Great thing about wool sweaters – they have cuffs!

I had been thinking about brown cuffs to match the overall color of the jacket. Phil’s sweater was black, but the cuffs had shrunk just enough to fit snugly around my wrists so I decided to use them. The first – and hardest – step was to cut the sleeves off of the sweater. Silly, since the sweater was not going to do anyone any good.

jacket2Next, I measured 1.5″ up from the edge of the cuff, folded it over twice and loosely hemmed around the top folded edge. I might have been able to skip this step since the wool turned into felt in the dryer, but I prefer the neater look of a hem.


I stretched the hemmed top edge of the cuff around the bottom edge of the jacket sleeve, aligning the side seams, and sewed the cuff into place along the hemline already in the jacket sleeve.jacket6Here’s the result. No more drafty cuffs!

jacketafterSince the jacket and cuffs are both wool and the color of the cuffs matches the moose motif, it looks like the jacket could have come this way. Best of all, my wrists stay warm!


In no way should this post be interpreted as permission to use plastic grocery bags as a substitute for suitcases. That is just tacky, my friends. Repurpose the grocery bags to line the bathroom trash can. Better yet – stop collecting plastic bags and use reusable ones. I promise to overlook it if you use one of them as a suitcase.

1 Response

Leave a Reply