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Welcome to the fall! Now that we’re starting up with rainy season, I’m starting to see a lot of this.
And this. It drives me nuts. As you can see, I live in an area where people have no scruples whatsoever about dumping their trash all over the place and it takes many months (years?) for it to ever get cleaned up. So when a person is walking down the street and a sudden gust of wind blows his umbrella inside out or otherwise damages it, the umbrella tends to just get thrown down on the sidewalk right then and there. (Or hung on a tree, as if that were much better.)
For this reason, rainy season becomes a time of collecting broken umbrellas from the streets, something which unfortunately embarrasses my family no end. (But I will not take an umbrella if it looks like it’s been there for a while because that means that multiple dogs have probably peed all over it.) Because, even if the umbrella frame is damaged, the fabric itself is usually still in perfect condition. So once you remove this fabric from the damaged frame, you can use it in all sorts of interesting and creative ways!
Not sure how to remove fabric from umbrellas? It’s actually quite simple, so read on to find out!
You will need a pair of scissors and a seam ripper. If you don’t have a seam ripper, get one immediately. If you do any tiny amount of sewing, a seam ripper is essential to removing unwanted stitches and, trust me, you will have unwanted stitches more often than you’d like.
Open up your umbrella as best you can, which will probably depend on what condition the metal frame is in. I’ll first show you what it looks like inside a compact umbrella.
Start at the outer end of one metallic arm. The fabric is usually sewn directly onto a little loop at the end of the arm, at least in compact umbrellas. Stick your seam ripper between the threads holding the fabric on and apply a little pressure to cut them. Be careful not to rip the fabric with the seam ripper.
You might need to do this a few times until you completely free the fabric from the frame in any given point.
Work your way inwards down the arm, cutting the threads that hold the fabric onto the frame. When you’ve completely freed the fabric from the first arm, move on to the next one. Be careful how you handle the umbrella, because sometimes the edges of these metal arms can be pretty sharp.
When you’re done, remove the fabric from the center of the umbrella with your scissors, but make sure to get distracted by your cute assistant so that you forget to take pictures of that step. Oh wait, don’t do that. Luckily I took pictures of the whole process on a full-sized umbrella, too, so just keep reading on.
People tend to use compact umbrellas more often, so I therefore find those more often. But usually full-sized umbrellas are more durable, lasting longer, and then when it’s time to remove the fabric from them, it’s actually faster and they provide more fabric than a compact umbrella. So I always do a little leap for joy when I find a full-sized one.
The fabric is usually attached to the tips of the metallic arms of full-sized umbrellas with a little plastic or metal cap. In this case, you can just pull it off. The cap itself will be attached to the fabric with thread. Removing the cap with the seam ripper will make the fabric lay more flat, but I often just leave them on until it’s time for me to use the fabric so that I don’t waste time removing them if I’m not even going to use the very tip of the fabric anyway.
Continue working down the arm, cutting through the threads attaching the fabric to the arm with the seam ripper, just like we did with the compact umbrella. The good news is that there are fewer of these threads on full-sized umbrellas, so this part will go very quickly.
When you’ve removed the fabric from all the arms, you’ll need to remove the fabric from the center top of the umbrella. Pull the fabric upwards and away from the center, like you can see above.
Make a tiny snip as close to the umbrella frame as possible with either your seam ripper or scissors, insert your scissors, and continue cutting all the way around, again, as close as possible to the umbrella frame.
When you’ve completed cutting all the way around, you can just pull the umbrella fabric off of the frame.
Throw the remaining umbrella skeleton into your metal recycling, if your town allows it. Or pose with particularly mangled frames like a moron. (Totally unrelated, but these photos are from last summer, and I’m pretty thrilled to see how much my upper arms have slimmed down since then. Hooray for swimming!)
Now you’re left with just your wonderfully useful umbrella fabric! But don’t forget what nasty dirty place you found your umbrella in (unless you come across people who are kind enough to just give you their broken umbrellas without dumping them on the ground)! You need to give those things a good wash! Seeing as I use a lot of these, I just keep the fabric in a plastic bag until I have a bunch of them and then I wash them all together in the washing machine on a delicate cycle with liquid detergent and a good dose of fabric disinfectant. Another option is to just wash them by hand. Hang them to dry. I don’t have an electric dryer and have never attempted to dry umbrella fabric in one, so I have no idea what might happen if you do. (But if you do try, please leave me a comment below to let me know what happened!)
There is something strangely pleasant about seeing umbrella fabric hanging on my line to dry. Or at least to me there is, but then again I’m a little bizarre that way. I just love thinking about how I rescued something from a sad destiny and will soon turn it into some other marvellous thing. And heck, I’m always happy to have any type of rainbow outside my balcony window!
So, now that we have our liberated and washed umbrella fabric, what are we going to do with it? Ahhh, that’s the most fun part! But that’ll be for another day, or rather another two days because I have two tutorials coming up for you to use these things, so in the meantime start embarrassing your children and husband by picking up abandoned umbrellas (or start spreading the word around to everyone you know to give them to you) and preparing the fabric, and then we’ll start making some cool things!
Question of the day: How would you use umbrella fabric?
C’mon, let’s get brainstorming! There are so many great ideas out there on the web, but I want to hear your ideas! Consider the qualities of umbrella fabric: thin, synthetic, more or less waterproof… Consider the shape, the colors, the composition of eight (or more) wedges forming a polygon. How would you use these qualities to your advantage? Tell me your ideas in the comments below!