Re-Useful Skills

By Maura Sheedy – 12th Grade, Oakland Catholic High School

It is a rainy Thursday night in Pittsburgh (typical). Inside an old warehouse in Point Breeze, surrounded by what some people might call thousands of pieces of eclectic junk, kids light up with delight at learning how to make bags from their old t-shirts. It is a scene that could only happen at the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, located at 214 N Lexington Ave.

The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, located at 214 N Lexington Ave.


The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, PCCR, prides itself for its dedication to promoting reusing. It houses all kinds of items, from fabric to vintage records to glassware, that customers are able to purchase. These items, that would most likely have been thrown out in the trash otherwise, are available for shoppers to turn into whatever creation their heart desires. PCCR even hosts workshops to teach participants how to make different kinds of crafts if they need a little inspiration. They have recently partnered with Pittsburgh City of Learning to offer programs for to students to earn digital badges throughout the summer. I attended their “remakers” workshop last week, the second workshop in which they have offered digital badges.

During the remakers workshop, kids ages 9 to 13 had the opportunity to learn basic sewing skills as well as take a tour of PCCR to learn abut reusing. After they conquered the basics of sewing with help from PCCR employees and interns, they put their abilities to test by creating bags made from old t-shirts they brought from home. Most of the kids were familiar with the easy concepts, such as a run stitch, but they picked up a few new skills as well.

“I learned how to sew a whip knot… I mean a whip stitch,” Jack, 10, told me.

Morgan, 11, excitedly added, “I want to make a dress before summer’s over.”

Participants learning the basics of sewing

Participants learning the basics of sewing

The participants not only improved their sewing skills, but their eyes were opened to the ideas of reusing, reducing, and recycling. Many participants only had to glance around the store to come up with a myriad of ways to use the never-ending array of supplies and a long list of projects that will surely keep them busy this summer.

After completing their bags and taking a short quiz on what they learned, they were awarded their badges, along with a small sewing kit so they could practice at home.

With a little innovation and creativity, students combined items that were sitting around the house and old-school sewing to produce beautiful bags, each different than the next. The participants marveled at how many other projects could be made from their old t-shirts: headbands, backpacks, scarves, superhero capes, kerchiefs, and more. There really is no limit to upcycling.

PCCR's Mission Statement

PCCR’s Mission Statement

Maura Sheedy 1Maura Sheedy is a rising senior at Oakland Catholic High School who lives in Thornburg.  She previously has been a part of Young Writers Institute.  She considers random things she has seen on the Internet to be her muse for her writing. She enjoys lacrosse, cheer, dance, and blogging.


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