Give a darn about t-shirt yarn.

By: Laura Kraus, Spare Parts Volunteer Coordinator

One of the first memories I had of visiting my grandparents in California were the amazing t-shirt rugs made by my great grandmother. Spiraled up and tightly braided, they were multicolored, cushy things perfect for digging your bare toes into as you noted all the work that went into them. Of course, at the time I didn’t pay attention to the work. It was only years later, when I actually attempted to make one that I fully appreciated what goes into a braided t-shirt rug. And I’m not just talking about the braiding and sewing together of the t-shirt yarn! Have you ever stopped and thought about what goes into making a plain old t-shirt?

It takes about 400 – 600 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a t-shirt. This really surprised me, as well as scared me, considering how abundant t-shirts are in our society. That’s a lot of water. According to an article in the Economist, making 1kg of fabric of any kind generates 23kg of greenhouse gases on average. Further research on the website Mental Floss led to this surprising information about how a t-shirt is made and where all it has to travel to become the t-shirt that you see in a store: After the cotton is grown on a farm in one part of the world, a process that requires large amounts of water and pesticides, it needs to be treated, woven, and dyed at a facility, sometimes in a totally separate country.

Yes, this is depressing, but we can do something about it, and as a matter of fact, there are people who already are, like Alex Eaves, who made a business out of reusing old t-shirts. He even made a documentary called, “Reuse! Because you can’t recycle the planet” and Spare Parts is featured in it. Eaves prints his message on old t-shirts and sells them to help fund his cause.

What can you personally do about it? Refuse fast fashion. Reuse once you wear out your favorite t-shirt by making it into t-shirt yarn, using one of the tutorials in the links below. Tell your friends. Be social and get the word out on the “interwebs.” We can make a difference together. And don’t forget to tag Spare Parts on social media with a photo of your own reuse creation! #reusegotmethinking #reusesanantonio

Resources on how to make T-Shirt yarn
The Spruce – How to Make T-Shirt Yarn
Instructables T-Shirt Yarn


How to make T-Shirt Yarn

#Take5forSA virtual artist-in-residence Laurel Gibson

Laurel Gibson

San Antonio artist/educator Laurel Gibson was Spare Parts’ second virtual artist-in-residence for a #Take5forSA project. The challenge: for the entire month of February, post daily on the Spare Parts Instagram page five discarded items that would, at the end of the month, be creatively reused.

Interviewer Laura Carter delved into Gibson’s creative mind with a discussion regarding the nature of her art & the collaboration with Spare Parts.

When we first met at the Spare Parts Pop Up Shop at SoFlo Market, I asked you what you did for a living. And, you said enthusiastically, “I’m an artist!” Who or what has inspired or influenced you, creatively speaking?

Laurel: I have been making art as long as I can remember. My grandmother was a fashion illustrator for a newspaper in Illinois. My parents did not discourage me expressing myself through, sometimes very different, ways. As a young girl growing up in Arizona, I was fascinated with what I saw around me. I found I could express myself in art, in the act of being creative. I used to make designs from cactus needles, flower petals, things I found lying around. I found a broken watch & used it, with other found objects, to make a figure of a person. (This was the first thing that actually drew praise from my father.)  I liked drawing & making sculptures as well. What really influences my art is life. I enjoy the process of bringing an idea or vision to life—making it a reality.

When did you first realize making art was what you wanted to do as a profession?

Laurel: At the age of about 11 or 12, I told my mother I wanted to make art a career. Her response was that I needed to practice.  So, I did. I was obsessive in a way. Later, I earned an undergraduate degree in art in Arizona & a Master of Art in Ceramics from the University of Texas San Antonio. I like to challenge myself through artistic expression. Though my focus is ceramics, I work in a variety of mediums. I teach art classes at several different places, including Bihl Haus Arts. I take commissions & work on funded projects.

We are thrilled you chose to share your artistic reuse talents with Spare Parts. What was it that drew your attention to this project?

Louis Armstrong on piano roll paper by Laurel Gibson
Used coffee filters with embroidered design by Laurel Gibson

Laurel: About 50% of my art is created from reused materials. Taking found objects, leftover materials, trash even, for use in an artistic expression. For example, used coffee filters (right) or old piano rolls (left). I saw the first artist doing the #Take5forSA project & thought, “Oh, yeah, I can do this. The most challenging aspect was finding those five items for each day in February, was working it into my teaching schedule etc.”  When I took a vacation to Padre Island, I picked up some interesting materials on the beach. 

To someone who asks, “Just what are these #Take5forSA pieces used for?” Well, Gibson made unique refrigerator magnets. Great idea! We say it’s a plus the materials are no longer litter or in the landfill. 

What might be some of your next artistic challenges?

Laurel:  What really drives me is making something impossible happen. I have a commissioned project rolling around in my mind.  When I work on a project, I like to remain “ignorant” of what other artists have done with similar challenges so I can get my own inspiration.  I think I’d like to get back to ceramics for a bit. I’d like to do more collaboration with Spare Parts as well.

Retail Intervention: Marissa Ramirez

Thrifting and Me
How to thrift like a college student

By Marissa Ramirez, Environmental Studies Major, Oberlin College

I have been thrifting since high school to fulfill my need to have a unique sense of style that slightly reflected what my own grandma wore. My normal thrifting adventures for clothes included
searching through the vintage section at my local Texas Thrift Store. I always enjoyed finding crazy/interesting garments of years past and wondered how anyone wore these clothes. I also found myself supporting the recycling of clothes considering it takes about 400 gallons of water to make a new cotton t-shirt. Nonetheless, I had developed a new need to thrift that has carried on into my college adventures.

First things first college is expensive: whether you are referring to tuition, books and supplies and even dorm necessities. That’s why people normally seek out scholarships, but what do you turn to for other random essentials? Well, the answer can be found at any local thrift store. They are the perfect place to find random essentials for college. The thrift store is where people send their unwanted goods, but just because they are unwanted doesn’t mean they are useless. It does, however, take some time to browse through collections of stuff, but that is what makes thrifting fun.

What can you possibly find at a thrift store?

Many thrift stores have a wide collection of glassware to choose from. One tip is to look for old mason jars, especially those without lids which are for sure in abundance. These jars can serve as simple but cute storage spaces for anything such as pencils, markers, and brushes.

One of the best things about thrift stores is the ability to find unique and eclectic items, which usually become the best room decor items. Some of these items include vintage cameras which still look nice even if they don’t work, classic alarm clocks which are nice desk decor, and other college essentials you can find at thrift stores include:

  • General office supplies such as staplers, binders, dividers, and book holders
  • Water bottles
  • Luggage cases
  • Kitchen items such as mugs and plates

Sometimes you might even strike a goldmine and find perfectly good electronics. One major reason to take full advantage of the electronics thrift stores have to offer is to reduce the amount of e-waste. E-waste describes discarded electronics that end up in landfill and produce toxic waste. These items include old cell phones, printers, and computers. For example, I found this perfectly good printer which is better than paying for printing at some colleges.


And if you are going off to a college in where there winters are snowy and icy, thrift stores are the perfect place to stock up on warm clothing.
You can never have enough simple long sleeves to layer and keep you warm during the winter. The thrift store is also a perfect place to find great quality clothes for a fraction of the price, for example one of my staples to check for while thrifting is wool sweaters, which are the warmest things ever and are normally expensive when bought new. Other staple I search for a beanies, any gloves and scarves.

These are all pictures from my thrifting adventure with Spare Parts’ Mary Elizabeth Cantu in San Antonio, Texas. I volunteered with Spare Parts over my winter break (January 2017) and the last project of my time with them was to go on a day-long thrift store tour in San Antonio!

Spare Parts was so fortunate with work with Marissa and we look forward to keeping in touch with her!