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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Repurposing and Upcycling

eSheep Designs
Blue striped faux suede drapery panel from Jysk...
If you paid attention to my last project, you may have noticed a new addition to my supply of unconventional fabric: the blue striped faux suede drapery panel ($8 from Jysk). I recently read that blue and brown are a hot decorating colour combination, so when I saw it, I knew I could make it work with my existing brown material. I was originally thinking of the other drapery panel that I bought from Jysk (as featured on one of my Bella bags), but that old brown skirt of mine has now found new life in three of my sewing projects!

Which makes me wonder: how many people sew with clothing discards?? Do crafters routinely go through their "to be donated" pile of clothes and rescue those that will look good as a purse or a pillow or whatnot? In this day and age of rampant consumerism, it's admirable to look at things with an eye towards repurposing and upcycling. I must admit that I donated a few items last summer that I later thought, hey, I could have made... with that.

So the last time I talked about this, I listed some unconventional sources of fabric like kitchen linens (table cloths, tea towels, and — I'm sure — napkins and placemats), bedding (sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases), and the afore-mentioned draperies.

But what are some specific items of clothing that might be useful sources of fabric?

Well, how about hospital scrubs? Many of them have fun prints; for example, here is a holiday themed scrub from Walmart...
Clearance holiday themed scrub from Walmart...
At $9 (US) to $11 (CDN) for a 2XL size, it's not exceptionally cheap, but it's not a bad amount of fabric. And it's unencumbered by fancy tailoring, since scrubs are — by nature — simply constructed. Obviously the lower the price point that you can find these at, the better.

Then, of course, there is the old standby favourite of blue jeans... I think we've all seen our share of denim sewing projects. My friend Colleen makes and sells patchwork style blankets out of discarded jeans.

One of my favourite examples of upcycling is this bag made from men's ties, posted to Craftster.org by rickrackruby:

Paisley necktie purse...

Unfortunately, I only saved one of my dear dad's many, many ties after he passed away (figuring that donating them would put them to better use). Maybe someday I'll create a bag featuring just the one tie that I have.

Speaking of bags, guess what else might be fun to upcycle? That's right, old bags. I've already spoken about culling hardware from bags that you absolutely do not want, but I'm talking about those that you want to still use as a bag. I have at least two in my collection right now that I hope to take apart and create new looks for, mainly because I like the fabric/material but the designs themselves no longer appeal to me. If and when I do something with them, I'll post the results here.

Finding new life for old stuff is not only satisfying in the sense of not creating more waste for landfills, it helps to preserve and create new memories. I'd love to hear about some of the interesting ways that you have found to upcycle or repurpose.


  1. I completely agree with your way of seeing the recycling. I try to make the most of all the fabrics I find and return to create bags and clothes. By the way, I want to congratulate you cause I love your blog. (Sorry, my english is horrible...)

    1. Thank you for commenting; your English is perfectly fine! And thank you also for the compliment about the blog. It's a highlight in my day when someone expresses enjoyment for what I've been doing!


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