No negative connotation intended. I was referring to the World War II adage "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."
Historically, the needle arts have helped with that kind of thinking significantly. Of course, if you make your own clothing, you are more inclined to repair it when it gets threadbare. People have also been known to unravel old items and reuse the yarn (it's recommended that you wind the yarn into a hank and let it hang in a steamy room for a little while to straighten it out before reworking it, btw). Lace edgings have frequently been used to cover threadbare fabric and worn shelf edges. And in the world of sewing, people have long cut up old garments and such so they can reuse the remaining good fabric (see this post for an example).
Other modern examples can be found through a brief search of the Internet, or better, Ravelry. For example, people make scrubbing pads by crocheting cut up plastic grocery bags. In the absence of an appropriate yarn, Practical Crocheter has found a better material by using hardware store nylon twine to make net shopping bags.
Repurposing things that would normally go to waste is not only economical and environmentally friendly, it's incredibly satisfying and has a long and proud place in American history that's worth identifying with.