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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


  • Thanks so much for this post. I laughed when I read it. My 30 year old nephew is returning to school in my city and has come to live with me. He needed a container, so I led him into my cold cellar and told him I rarely throw out anything useful (a primary teacher’s habits are hard to kick even when you retire – lol). Also … I thought of our tangling community when I went to the Harrow Fair (165th). One of the quilts was made entirely from pieced together lace doilies. It was gloriously beautiful!! Can you imagine all the tangles in that quilt? I’m going to go and do some cut and paste with pieces I like from my old tiles. Thanks so much for the idea!

    Jill Barber on

  • This made my day.

    Natalie Kessler CZT XIII and 34 on

  • p.s. I have my mother’s sewing notions in little throat lozenge tins and plastic boxes. Zippers, hook-and-snap, a jar full of buttons, my dad’s naval uniform buttons from WWII, hand-sewing needles in their original paper sleeves….

    Ginger White CZT 34 on

  • Another idea would be to “recycle” your tiles by exchanging parts of them/whole tiles with another tangler! Can you just imagine what creations we could come up with, then!

    Ginger White CZT 34 on

  • What a concept..that would be a GREAT project pack!
    I pictured a tiny version of you frantically running through an antique sewing box working as quickly as possible to get all of the ideas out.
    You are a genius Maria :)

    Jody Genovese on

  • Maria, you never cease to amaze me with your glorious ideas about how the Zentangle Method relates to our lives. Thank you for being such a sharing mentor. Love this blog post!

    Brenda Shaver-Shahin on

  • Great idea, I LOVE it. My mom has also teached me to keep and re-use lots of things like buttons (still got the full box she had) and zippers. We also kept old underwear ‘for if there comes a war again’ was the message. Still do that 😱, only not because of an eventually coming war.

    Annemarie Huijts on

  • The scissors are antique, I inherited them from one of Rick’s aunties. I love the feel of them and they cut like a dream. Google antique embroidery scissors and see what’s there

    Maria Thomas on

  • Wow.. wat a energy booster at the end of day this is… This is wat I feel n say it, zentangle is always inspiring n you can never cease to learn new things /thots, it is a never ending learning journey once u start…

    Maya Czt 34 on

  • Wow.. wat a energy booster at the end of day this is… This is wat I feel n say it, zentangle is always inspiring n you can never cease to learn new things /thots, it is a never ending learning journey once u start…

    Maya on

  • I just thought of something else… I have taken photographs of my non-zentangled artworks like paintings or collages. I have then cut these photos apart and reassembled them into a new painting or collage. What a great idea for zentangles too. Thanks.

    Kim Gangwisch on

  • Hi, I love the inspiration however, I LOVE the cool and gnarly scissors!!! (Do you recall where you found those? If so, please share with us.)

    Kim Gangwisch on

  • I don’t sleep well and it’s the best time to be creative. I think that’s why I don’t sleep! This is such a creative share. I’ll remember this tonight. Thank you.

    MKay B B Watson CZT 17 on

  • Maria,. Thank you for a very inspiring idea for an unused “chotchke.” It’s all very Zerendipitous!

    Jfe on

  • So beautiful!
    I have some gorgeous handmade lace I harvested off a set of worn sheets and will NOT throw a button away ever. (Drives my hubby nuts!) I’m glad I’m not alone!

    Kelley Kelly on

  • I absolutely love this! The way this story unfolded into the last tile… we just have to pull apart the zipper to see a world of possibilities! Thank you for sharing… this was my exhale moment today :)

    Heather Moffatt on

  • This is lovely!

    Katrina Thiebaut on

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