Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I was setting up my deck last weekend, getting ready for a summerful of barbecues- kicking off this weekend with some friends and fried clams. I saw a huge hole at the top of my umbrella. Not a good thing to have in something supposed to protect you from the elements. I did what most of us would do, I checked my local stores for a replacement and when that failed, I went online to find the custom size I needed.

The cheapest model I could find would have been over $200 with shipping. Besides, I wasn’t sure how sturdy and reliable it would be. Our old umbrella has survived for 4 years and owes us nothing, but it really worked well and would be hard to replace. My husband started to dismantle it for the trash and discovered that the under layer was undamaged. It was only the top piece (18″x26″) that was torn.

Now I had a reusable solution in front of me. Instead of taking the umbrella to the landfill, I went to Joanne’s Fabrics and bought 1 sq. yd of Sunbrella fabric for about $10. I also bought a pillow form as I anticipated leftover material. When I got home, I took out my Singer sewing machine and got to work. In just over an hour, I had created a replacement top to my umbrella. My husband fitted a grommet on the top (coming up with that was a project of his own) and our umbrella was back in business. The next day, I made a matching pillow with the remnant fabric so that the furniture looks like a set.

Where did you get that awesome set of deck furniture?

Where did you get that awesome set of deck furniture?

The only part torn was the tan colored top. Don't you think this one looks better?

The only part torn was the tan colored top. Don’t you think this one looks better?

Now you may think that was pretty savvy of me, but it really seems like a natural thing to do. When I described my project to my mother she made me laugh by recalling one of my earliest “reduce, reuse, recycle” projects:

I was probably about 17 and I had a favorite pair of leather slippers. Over time, the insides had worn thin or torn. They no longer provided the warm, cozy feeling one would want in a pair of slippers. The leather soles were still in fine shape and I saw no reason to throw them out, especially given the cost of replacing them. I went to my local craft store and bought some fluffy faux fur for a few bucks. I tore out the old lining and stitched in the new one. I think those slippers lasted me another 8 years.

I still crack a little smile thinking about that project. But it is thanks to my resourceful parents and grandparents that I saw the value of saving things, by fixing and reusing them. From my grandparents I learned how to pickle and preserve food when my garden produces an excess. My grandmother and aunt taught me how to sew, which has allowed me to make everything from baby blankets to Halloween costumes. My parents showed me how to grow flowers and vegetables and instilled a sense of not wasting things. My sisters and I still like to tease our mother for saving wrapping paper to use over again.

This is a strong testament to how a family passes on its values from generation to generation. So even though I didn’t live through the wartime rationing, the energy crisis of the 1970’s made an impression on me. Nowadays, my own children are part of the generation to recycle waste and shop locally. They are both creative in their own ways, so maybe in a few more years it will become apparent how our family values manifest themselves as my children become adults. For now, I’ll just keep doing what I do and enjoy the sense of satisfaction of another successful project that saved both money and waste.

BTW, this pillow is more comfy than any of the store-bought ones. It will be my favorite spot to sit this summer!

BTW, this pillow is more comfy than any of the store-bought ones. It will be my favorite spot to sit this summer!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 16:48:01

    Good for you! In my younger days my sewing machine got a constant workout – this year when I discovered a rip in our gazebo canopy I hauled out the duct tape. I dunno, does aging breed laziness?

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  2. themiddlegeneration
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 18:19:11

    Why don’t we call it resourcefulness? It took you 5 minutes, me over an hour. I’m sure you were just as satisfied.

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  3. SuziCate
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:34:42

    It looks great! Love the pillow! I would much rather fix something than buy a new one (unless, it’s a pair of shoes, lol!)

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    Reply

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