I call it recycling in place. It’s what happened when we bought the Saturna Lodge and I did an inventory of the bedding…shelves of mismatched, very old, very used sheets and pillowcases. Once I had extracted the usables I bundled up the rest—five pillow cases full of bedding, some likely dating back 30 or 40 years.
I paused before I loaded my stash into the van and Googled. I found out that the average Canadian throws away 37 kilograms of textiles and together we landfill 10 million tonnes of clothing a year and that textile dyeing and treatment contributes up to 20% of the total industrial water pollution. The fashion industry is the worst offender, and I couldn’t find facts about the bedding industry, but I felt a bit sick thinking about sending my bundles to the dump or even to a second hand–there is just too much of this stuff.
These weren’t linens or even cottons. There were some 100% cotton pieces but most of them were a cotton/polyester blend. These were also not cool designer colours. There were some interesting greys and greens but there were very few that I would have bought if I had the choice.
I didn’t feel like making any more braided rugs. I’d just finished two and they were brutally hard to sew together. Knitting was my obvious solution. Turn the fabric into knittable yarn.
I tore every piece into strips. The strange filaments from the polyester—like candy floss—stuck to everything (if you try it make sure you wear a mask).
At first the blankets I made were like a public service—doing my duty to recycle. Soon they became my works or art. Then the blankets turned into interesting and useful foot throws for the beds. It was satisfying keeping the circle so small—the sheets cycling around so directly back onto the beds from which they had come.
There was one random flannel sheet that I thought would make a good rug. At the second hand stores in Sidney I found other flannel sheets to augment the one I had. The Lodge’s downstairs rooms needed bedside rugs. Now my conscience-appeasing recycling venture got practical. This wasn’t just a duty I was now filling a need.
It’s muscular knitting at its worst. Old bed sheets do not make comfortable yarn. There’s no give. There’s no slide on the needles. It’s hard work. My hands ache after an hour or so but there’s comfort in the act of turning rubbish into something useable, turning the mundane into something interesting and turning the unattractive into something beautiful.
If you visit the Lodge make sure you check out the knitting and if you have any flannel sheets you aren’t using and if you are close to Victoria or Saturna I would be happy to take them off your hands and put them to good use.