How to

29 November 2016

Project Repat: Turning Old T-Shirts into Quilts

Img source: Project Repat
Some people just have too many T-Shirts. First World problems, eh? They get old or tatty, so more and more get bought until the pile of un-worn tees is bigger than…a big pile of stuff. Usually, people decide they’ll donate their old T-Shirts to a charity shop: giving clothes to people who really need them, for free. The shirts usually end up on the backs of disadvantaged people in First World countries or disadvantaged people in Third World countries, and everybody’s happy. However, unfortunately, many also still simply throw their old clothes away. Indeed, 5% of all the planet’s rubbish is comprised of used textiles.

Whilst that’s a running battle for all of us, here’s a thought: what if you fall into the really specific bracket of people who have way too many old T-Shirts but are also shopping around for blankets? Indeed, what if you want a good-quality, warm spread which has instant sentimental value? Well, you may decide that, instead of giving them to charity, you’ll send your T-Shirts off to Project Repat, a US company which turns old tees into cool new quilts. Perfect bedspreads or sofa throws for winter time (albeit, with prices ranging from $75 to $290, not necessarily cheap ones).

The idea seems quite good, at first: something akin to tie-die clothing and the plucky make-do-and-mend mentality of….uh, the 1940s. Alright, when you think about it, it’s actually the opposite of make-do-and-mend for most people: you don’t need a $290 quilt as much as 64 less well-off people need a T-Shirt. But if you want a $290 quilt made of 64 T-Shirts, then of course you can have one.

Img source: Project Repat
In fact, they really are quite good. Each quilt is nice and warm. They’re made with two sides: the outside is comprised of a patchwork of your old T-Shirts, sewn onto a fleece (in any of seven colours) which comprises the snug inside layer. They’re most likely a great Christmas present, or tasteful addition to a shared house (although you might have to divide the quilt up when you move out).

But the company also wants to push the notion that it is ‘repatriating’ textile jobs to the United States. If that doesn’t betray the real misunderstanding of wealth inequality which seems to accompany the whole enterprise…well, it does.

In short, then, if you would like a quilt, this is prefect: in terms of functionality, Project Repat quilts really are warm, stylish, the works. But it is just a quilt; not a means to a wider social good – if anything, in fact, it’s the opposite of that. 

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.