Once again! Another composting question.

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by r.h. in okla., Sep 25, 2005.

  1. What about clothing material, can they be composted for gardening? I was looking at a old pair of bluejeans that I was throwing away and the tag says 100 percent cotton. Pockets 50 percent polyester. I threw them in the composting barrel just to see what happens.

    Today, I was over at my in-laws and they have a storage building just plumb full of miscellanious clothing that they are wanting to get rid of. So I'm wondering about making a huge compost pile that all clothing, cardboard boxes, big yard debree and such can go in. Just not sure about all clothing material. Polyester, rayon, etc.?

    Thanks for any info you can give me. RH. in Oklahoma.
  2. ChiliPalmer

    ChiliPalmer Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    Bwuh? Why aren't you making a quilt with all that material? If you really must find a way to turn it into fertilizer, I would say burn it all and use the ashes. Third option: cut the natural fabrics into very small strips and give it a try. You'll have to sift this compost before you try to put it on your garden; I can only imagine what a clump of denim would do in your carrot patch.

    Synthetics are not natural, made of god-knows-what combination of chemicals and plastic and I would keep that stuff away from the garden. Can't be good for it.

  3. Chillipalmer, I agree, why don't I save it for quilting patterns? I guess for one thing, I myself don't know a thing about making quilts, and my wife just doesn't get into doing things the old way. My mom and grandma use to make all kinds of quilts with old clothings. I would love to see my wife and daughters take it up but my wife just doesn't have it in her to take it up for a hobby. This is one reason why I'm trying to find an optional way of disposing the old material instead of the landfill.
  4. Kee Wan

    Kee Wan Well-Known Member

    Sep 20, 2005
    Perhaps you could go to "freecycle.org" and see if there is a freecycle group in your area. I have gotten rid of old, yet useful, stuff this way. Are there any amish in your area? They often will make utilitarian quilts from old fabrics (although admittedly, they are harder to find online....)

    As a chemist, I can assure you that I would NOT want to have decomposing polymers in my compost pile (that would be ANYTHING that is synthetic - polyester - poly, as in polymer - rayon, nylon, whatever.). I'd also be careful about the metal findings on some clothing - some of it isn't bad in solid metal form, but oxidized and rusted in the compost pile - the metal may not be very good for you and the plants may be able to easily take it up in an oxidixed or reduced form. Iron is one thing - but there are other heavy metals that are used in findings that I may want to stay far away from.

    Cotton and wool clothing should be fine though. One other thing - i'm not sure how fast the indigo dyes break down - you may want to leave things to bleach in the sun for a while....I jsut don't know....imagine what a bunch of indigo could do to your carrots..... :viking:
  5. dlangland

    dlangland dlangland

    Jul 7, 2005
    NW Iowa
    Try donating your fabric to the Senior Center in your nearest town. They love making quilts/crafts and are happy for anything free, but anything polyester is a man-made substance. Please do not compost it.
  6. Fine! I'll remove my blue jeans from the compost bin and forget about using old clothing for compost. Thanks everyone for the info.
  7. ChiliPalmer

    ChiliPalmer Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    Feh. Wife, schmife, you can make a quilt. It's dead simple, the hard part is making everything match up well enough and learning to keep your stitching small.

    To make a nine-patch quilt from the rag bag, first select out your material. You want blends of the same material so that the quilt wears evenly and doesn't have one patch shrink in the wash, which makes the thing look ragged. So pick out all of your denims, or all of your jersey knits, or all of your 100% cottons, or even all of your rayon/polyester blends. Sort by color if you have enough rags to be picky about a color scheme.

    Take your selected clothing and rip out the seams on everything. You can also cut along the seams. Either way, once the clothing is in pieces, trim away the stitched bits, any stains, any holes or otherwise blemished fabric. What's left is cut into squares (or triangles or squares AND triangles if you're doing a different pattern). The squares should be ALL THE SAME SIZE. Use a piece of cardboard as a stencil for best results.

    A nine-patch quilt is exactly what it sounds like. Each "block" is made up of nine smaller patches (squares) to form a bigger square - three on the bottom, three in the middle and three on top, thus a nine-patch. The most common size block is 12" by 12" but you can do just about any symmetrical measurement. For a 12" square block your patches made from rags should be 4" by 4" with at least 1/4 inch on all sides for seam allowance. So you cut your fabric into squares of about 4 and1/4" by 4 and 1/4 inch (I do 4 and a half, myself). Once you have enough nine-patch blocks you stitch them together to make your quilt top.

    To make your quilt top into a real quilt, baste batting to it on the wrong side. "Batting" is the stuffing which makes a quilt all warm and cozy. You can buy it from a fabric store but I hate that stuff; every time you wash the store-bought stuff it looses some of its heft. Anyway, once you have the batting tacked down to the quilt top, baste an old sheet which fits the quilt top to the TOP of the quilt. Baste only around three sides. Yes, you are sewing a sheet on TOP of the quilt. Once you've basted, stitch a nice blanket stitch (Google it) all the way around those three sides. Now, just like folding socks, reach in between the sheet and the quilt and grab the far seam. Pull it towards you until you've pulled it all the way through and smooth al the seams out. Now you have the quilt looking the way a proper quilt should, with the quilted top on top, the batting in the middle and the sheet lining the other side, with the stitching turned inward where no one can see it. Use a blanket stitch to finish off the last seam.

    You would think this was enough, and you would be wrong. Ha! It's serviceable as it is though, if you're thoroughly sick of sewing by now. Otherwise, for a good quilt, you now need to embroider it or tie it off. Either/or, doesn't matter which ('specially with a nine-patch).

    To tie it off, get some yarn and a yarn needle. Thread the needle with the yarn as you would any other needle. Starting by pulling the yarn through the back of your quilt (so the knot doesn't show), put in a big running stitch at the corner of each patch to your blocks. Do this across only, diagonal and down are optional. So, start at the top and stitch up at a corner, over to the next corner, back up again through that same corner then on to the next corner. Rinse and repeat. Like a typewriter, when you get to the end of the row, snip your yarn, re-thread and start over one row down. When you're done with that get out your scissors and cut each big "stitch" on top of the quilt right halfway between each corner. That will give each corner two strings, one from either end. Double knot those strings and you're done.

    To do the more traditional embroidery, use quilter's thread and a quilting needle and stitch a pattern in each individual square, all the way through the top, middle and bottom layers. Simple patterns are diamonds (tilted squares), triangles, an X, flowers, bunny rabbits, anything you want and have the ability to do. You can do each patch or leave a few patches un-embroidered for artistic purposes.

    Me, I yarn-tie or embroider with X's or diamonds. It's simpler that way.

    Some links to patterns other than the simple nine-patch:
    http://alexandersonquilts.com/blockparty/ (Note: "Fence Rows" is easy to do as one huge block with legs from men's denim jeans as the patches.)
    http://www.alanandmike.com/miniblocks/ ("Snail's Trail" is on my list of quilts to try next.)