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Years ago, when the kids were little, I never threw out old clothes without checking to see if there was anything useful left to them. I learned this by watching my Mom, who tirelessly dismantled old clothes and salvaged parts of the fabric, buttons, trim,  patterns, and even took out the zippers. 

If it was a skirt that I especially loved the way it fit, I would take it apart, iron all the pieces, and use it for a pattern to make a new skirt. 

All these were expensive components to someone (that being me) on a very limited budget. I loved the challenge of making something new out of something "not so."  It was fun making designer clothes for Martha and Molly out of anything and everything, and I even made some "Oshkosh B'gosh"-like overalls for Noah when he was a toddler. (Remember those cartoonish bib jeans that were as wide as they were tall? Too cute!)

The weirdest thing I did was in 1970. Some friends had just reupholstered their couch and had given me the leftover fabric. I had just seen the first pictures of "hot pants" in Women's Wear Daily, or Vogue, so it was a new concept. I decided to make a pair out of some of that leftover velvet upholstery fabric. They looked great and I actually wore them to a wedding party at their house. (Luckily, I was nowhere near their new couch!)

Anyway. . .  I was thinking about these wonderful memories last night as I was trying to get to sleep. Then I thought . . .         

What if I "harvested" parts of old tangles,  re-purposed them and gave them a new life???  Of course this exciting new idea- didn't help me to get to sleep, but, hey, you do what you gotta do.

I went through my old tiles looking for salvageable parts that I could re-assemble into new versions of themselves. I came across some lovely Printemps, and thought, hmmmm. . . . what would these look like in 3-D from a side view? Or some Silly Putty(R)-ed cubine, stretched beyond recognition?



Maybe sew them together into a Renaissance "Ruff"?  Or,  if I sliced up a cool version of Huggins, hammered them into ribbons and edged it with some "beads".  If, over time,  I harvested and trimmed a "mess of wild and crazy mookas",  could I not crochet them into a lace of sorts? absolutely. . . . I must!



But . . .  it was only when I pulled apart the zipper, that I could really see . . .



. . . the sky was the limit in the world of Zentangle!

Maria Thomas


  • Hi Maria! Great stories from you, thank you very much. I remembered the hot pants days. I never learned to sew hut it’s never too late. Love the new gray tile idea. I joined the group on Facebook of Zentangle people & enjoy seeing & learning such great ideas. I am going through chemo & have two more to go. So as soon as I feel better, I hope to set up some classes here in Michigan!

    Jane Franco on

  • I am finding new inspiration all the time thanks to you, Maria, and all the Zentangle group… best thing I ever did was sign up for training which has caused me to ‘grow backwards’ in my brain… I’m now younger than I was a year ago and fortunately it is going to take me another 50+ years to outgrow the kid inside!

    Annie Sargent, CZT (33) on

  • Love tile recycling…building on the past, great ideas! Thank you Maria!!!

    Alice Roche, CZT 29 on

  • Omg! Maria, you are simply genius. I love your mind. I love how open it is to new concepts. I love thst you share them all so selflessly with us. I have been away from Zentangle for a long tome now due to my mental health but after reading this, I felt uplifted. You sparked something in my mind that got me excited for the first time in a long time about trying something new with a method that I so love. Thank you ❤🙏

    Angelina Arcari on

  • Playful and inspiring as ever Maria. I love browsing back through old tiles, old sketchbooks and picking things out and adding to them or retangling with more finely tuned tangle-skill. I might well ‘snip’ a bit of your Mooka lace, or borrow a Doodah zip for my own pieces!

    Jem Miller on

  • I love you, Maria! I have trouble keeping up with you, your eyes see so much and you process it so amazingly!

    Betsey Youngs on

  • Love everything up cycled, reusable and recyclable! Great idea Maria thank you!

    Manon Hughes on

  • I love, love, love this idea. I have been recycling and repurposing for decades. I too sewed overalls for my sons who were born in ’70 and ’73. Ah, such great memories. Thank you for the great trip down memory lane and for a different way to look at and transform past tiles! :o)

    Maureen Stott on

  • Hi Maria
    What a fabulous post! I used to do dpŕ

    Sharon Jerkovic on

  • Two of the most powerful words in my vocabulary are “what if”. Thanks for the time travel through memories! My mom never met a button she didn’t love. She had a can for each color! Thank goodness my sisters didn’t get the “frugal gene” that they teased me about. My inheritance of Mom’s button stash lead me to being a member of the National Button Society. Mary

    Mary D'Angelo, CZT on

  • Yeah!!! Don’t you love the way creative ideas keep you up nights?

    Debbie Shepard on

  • Isn’t it amazing how many people have been reusing, remodelling all their lives and continue to do so. My zentangles are often on the inside of envelopes!

    Noilin Dempsey on

  • Oh! How I love the way you think, Maria! And your ability to share and jog old memories always delights me. We are all so different yet the same.
    I also knew the value of frugality and creativity growing up in a large family. My mother was an amazing seamstress and taught me to use what you have. I loved her button box, helping her choose just the right buttons sometimes. When my own children were young, money was of course, very tight. But I did have a sewing machine. I used to go to the thrift store on Bag day…fill a bag for a buck, and get dresses that had lots of fabric, or clothes with cool buttons, everything I might need to make outfits, or costumes for my kids. Even doll clothes and stuffed toys.
    Thank you for today’s inspiration. 💖

    Nancy Roth on

  • Oh Maria this was such great fun to read🥰. I love your creative mind of thinking and your possibility of always looking at opportunities in every situation. It is a creative force beyond compare. Your blogs spread happiness into the world. Thank you 🙏 for sharing your thoughts. Have a great 🌞 day. Karin

    Karin Godyns, CZT Belgium on

  • This was so very much fun to read and now I want to put it all into practice! You are a genius, ZT Mom! Thank you so much ♥️ for all you write and draw.

    Kat Van Rooyen on

  • What a coincidence! Our weekly Zentangle class did not meet during the summer, but a few of us got together informally, every Friday to tangle, share ideas, finish projects, show and tell, etc. One of our ongoing discussion topics was repurposing old designs into new creations. As a consequence, all summer long, I have been creating new tangles using my old, “rejected” strings from a previous class project. Cutting and reassembling rejects or less attractive efforts was also suggested during our sessions. I attribute this creativity to a kind of universal “Zentangle” consciousness. “Great minds, (or tanglers), think alike” perhaps? Thanks, Maria!

    Jessica L Dykes on

  • I love this approach. Lately, I’ve been picking up old tiles and giving them new life in a journalling project I just started. I’ve really been pleased with the way it is turning out. It’s also been giving me renewed energy to tangle every day.

    Linda Dochter on

  • I love this approach. Lately, I’ve been picking up old tiles and giving them new life in a journalling project I just started. I’ve really been pleased with the way it is turning out. It’s also been giving me renewed energy to tangle every day.

    Linda Dochter on

  • Love how your mind works.

    Maria Vennekens on

  • I adore this recycling ideas! I love to apply this in my other art and now I also dare to do it when I tangle!!! Love your post and your recycling adventure!💗💗💗

    Anita A Westin on

  • Funness! Such an incredible outcome ; )


  • pure genius! what a terrific way to reinvigorate the art of zentangling, and to know that if a particular design doesn’t work, you can salvage it somehow in some way!

    Debbie G on

  • This is just too fun! I have a new way to look at tangles… yet again! 😍

    Kathy on

  • Thank you for this post. In this you have posited so many deep ideas so quickly that I know I will have to re-read this and try to tangle and re-read this and try to tangle several times to understand it. Thank you so much for the expansion of my son tangle practice. Probably everybody’s send tangle practice

    Lisa Hoesing on

  • I have cut up tiles I wasn’t overly pleased with and tangled on the other side of the cut up pieces, and carefully glued them together to make three dimensional “things”. Ornaments? Play objects on a desk?

    Susan Browning CZT 34 on

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