Woman takes unwanted items, finds new ways to use them
Holladay resident knits blankets for homeless, bags for others.
Published: February 16, 2012 10:15AM
Updated: February 16, 2012 11:36AM
Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Jill Wilson, of Holladay, knits blankets and donates them to the homeless. She started early in life when her family had to make their clothes out of rags. She uses old yarn for the blankets and crochets shopping bags out of recycled plastic newspaper bags. She gives the shopping bags to friends.

Some might say Jill Wilson’s passion for recycling started so early in life, it’s become ingrained in her DNA.

The 77-year-old Holladay area resident vividly remembers growing up in England up as World War II was raging.

“We had nothing,” she said. “We didn’t have hardly enough to eat.”

She said her family, like most during that era, lived on ration coupons but still struggled so much that her stepfather would go out and collect rags. The family would sort through the rags, select the best, clean and darn them, and sew them together, making their own clothes.

“We learned you don’t throw things away,” Wilson said. “People just throw away so much stuff that they could actually use if they put their minds to it.”

It’s a lesson she’s carried throughout her life. Today, she’s putting what she gleaned during her childhood struggles to work for others.

When she learned that a woman in her ward had accumulated boxes of unused yarn, Wilson picked it all up. She’s used it to knit blankets for the area’s homeless residents and to make baby blankets. When the Holladay library had its fund drive at Thanksgiving, Wilson donated the blankets she made so the area’s poorest residents could sleep warmly at night.

She takes bits and bobs from just about anything that comes across her path — including used pieces of yarn — and devises a way to use them in a way that will benefit herself or others.

“I’m doing something different all the time,” Wilson said. “I don’t want to keep doing the same thing.”

She’s even managed to find a use for those pesky plastic bags that tend to accumulate after trips to the grocery store and from newspaper deliveries. She cuts them up into strips and uses them to crochet reusable bags.

Wilson said she once used old Walmart bags, but the plastic they are made of has gotten weaker, so she now uses the bags her daily newspaper comes in. While she’s given away many of the bags she’s crocheted, Wilson said she uses three of the knitted bags almost daily — two made of the old green Walmart bags and one made out of orange newspaper bags. She takes them shopping and to carry her pool items to the spa.

“You’d be surprised how much weight they hold,” she said. “[And] you can make it as big as [you] want.”

Wilson said she’s taught residents at the local senior center and many others how to make the bags and knit the blankets, and she was recently asked to show people how they can reuse items at an upcoming event.

“Anything that you can make people do instead of keep throwing away all of those bags, it’s a good thing,” she said.

jstecklein@sltrib.com Twitter @sltribjanelle