Upcycling Love | Thrift Store & Consignment Shopping Tips

upcycled love thrift store items

Upcycling and recycling used items is one of my passions and something I do frequently. Thrift stores, consignment shops and garage sales are just a few places where you can find items to repurpose. In this post I am going to give you some awesome tips on what to look for, and some ideas on how to use the items you find.

Upcycling, recycling, repurposed; what does that mean and what’s the difference?

These words are thrown around all the time and in ways mean the same thing, however there are a few distinct differences. Let’s go over them.

RECYCLING

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. This process usually involves breaking the product down and making something else with it.

Some examples include: changing glass, paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, tires, textiles, batteries, and electronics into something else.

UPCYCLING

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming  useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value. The keyword here is TRANSFORMING.

I love transforming things! There is something so fun about taking an item that is normally used for one thing and using it for another purpose.

Some examples include:

Taking a wool sweater, felting it down and making mittens from them. The sweater was originally used as clothing to keep you warm, and the new product is still clothing, but now it is used to keep your hands warm. Another example would be to take a piece of furniture and changing the paint color or even altering its size or shape.

REPURPOSING

Repurposing is simply using a product to serve another purpose.  Some examples include:

  • Tin bucket as a plant pot
  • An old tin mug normally used for drinking and using it to put paint brushes or pencils in.
  • Using a metal garden rake to hang jewelry on.
  • A wire bike basket to store and display magazines.

What are the benefits of recycling, upcycling and repurposing?

  • Keeps the Earth beautiful
  • Conserves natural resources
  • Saves money and energy
  • Reduces harmful greenhouse gases

Although there are small differences between each of these processes, they all share a common goal of being environmentally-friendly. Upcyling and recycling will not only save you money and save the planet; you can add some cute authentic style to your wardrobe and your home.

Here are a few ideas and tips on how I go about upcycling and recycling.

BE SURE TO WATCH THE VIDEO FOR SOME GREAT UPCYCLING IDEAS!

UPCYCLING CLOTHING

It’s pretty obvious that you can take a used piece of clothing and instead of throwing it away; you can either give it away or sell it for someone else to use. On the flip side, instead of buying new clothing, you can purchase used clothing at a lower rate and save it from being put in the landfill.

Thrift stores, consignment shops and yard sales are all great places to shop for used clothing.

TIPS:

  • Look for stains, holes and strong smells, and avoid these items.
  • Check the fabric content. I personally avoid clothing that you have to dry clean.
  • If you need a pair of shorts, you can always cut off a pair of pants and hem them. (It really is quite easy to do) I have an old tutorial that shows you how. I will be recording a new tutorial soon, so watch out for that.
  • Look for unique style and colors of clothing. (The knit shirt in the photo above, has the cutest grommet snaps)
  • Thoroughly clean items before wearing.

USING CLOTHING FOR FABRIC

What? Yes, I do this all the time. You can simply take an item of clothing and cut it up and make something else with the fabric. Some examples:

TIPS:

  • The bigger the item of clothing, the better. Depending on what you are making, you are going to get more yardage of fabric if you buy the XL or XXL (if you’re lucky).
  • Check fabric content. If you are making a felted wool project, you’ll want to at least have 70% wool. Get more tips on that here.
  • Large dresses and skirts have a lot of fabric yardage.
  • Check clearance racks at stores for new clothing as well as used clothing. I buy a lot of nice new clothing that are on the clearance rack to make other things with. It can be cheaper than buying new fabric.
  • I recommend getting a large bin to put clothing you will be using for fabric and label the container so you don’t get them confused with out of season clothing.
  • Thoroughly clean items before disassembling for sewing projects.
  • Here are some more ideas for upcycled jeans.

HOW TO GET RID OF THRIFT STORE SMELL

Vinegar

Add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to your normal wash cycle, either hot or cold water. It will freshen and deodorize all of your clothing in your normal wash. If the clothes still smell, repeat. It may take a few wash loads to clear some smells, but it does work. (No worries, your clothes will not smell like vinegar once they are dried).

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is a great way to get rid of smells everywhere. (This is obviously okay for cotton and polyester, but you may want to do a patch test with other fabrics, such as rayon or cashmere sweaters.).

  • Lay the clothes on a towel or sheet, then sprinkling baking soda all over the clothing.
  • Add the piece of clothing to a large zip top plastic bag. Add baking soda to the bag, seal and shake to coat the clothes.
  • Leave the baking soda on at least an hour. Wash the clothes afterwards.

BUYING CLOTHING FOR ACCESSORIES

You can find some cool accessories on clothing to reuse. I’ve been known to buy pieces of clothing for the buttons, zippers, or even the trim. It doesn’t make sense to do this unless the item is on sale or free.

Before I throw a piece of clothing out, I always check to see if it has any cool accessories that I can take off and save.

TIPS:

  • Look for zippers that are unique. Zippers can easily be removed from items of clothing. Using a stylish zipper can really add a lot of charm to your homemade clothing and accessories.
  • Store disassembled hardware in a box where you can easily find them.
  • Keep button is a big jar. Not only will you have some fun buttons for sewing, but you can use them to embellish a lot of craft projects.
  • You can use the hardware from used purses and bags.

UPCYCLING JEWELRY & ACCESSORIES

You can find a lot of cute jewelry at consignment shops and even thrift stores.

This is a good place to find used belts and hats.

TIPS:

  • Look for items that are unique and good quality.
  • Don’t be discouraged by tarnished silver items because they can easily be buffed with a special cloth or liquid.
  • Thoroughly clean items before wearing or using.

UPCYCLING FURNITURE

I must admit that most of my household furniture is either upcycled or purchased on clearance or from the “scratch and dent” section. We always buy new mattresses, and couches, but almost everything else was a DIY or an upcyling project. I guess that’s what you get when you come from a family of ‘DO IT YOURSELFERS”.

My husband and I have transformed some pretty cool furniture over the years. I’m lucky to have a husband who is so handy.

TIPS:

  • Look for good quality both in materials and how it was made.
  • A lot of new chests of drawers are built so poorly and with cheap materials. That is one item that I like to buy used and refinish.  
  • Look for furniture that has “good bones”. By this I mean, has good form and style. It may not be the right color, but that is something that is can easily be changed.
  • If you don’t like the hardware on a piece of furniture, you can purchase new and change it out. Putting a new set of drawer pulls can really change the look of a chest.
  • My husband took this huge television cabinet and cut it down so it wasn’t so deep and made a cute cabinet for our bathroom. We put new handles on it and cut out a section in the doors, gave it a new color of paint, and look how cute it turned out. (The orange cabinet in the photo above).

KITCHEN GADGETS AND BOTTLES

There are a lot of fun ways to use old kitchen gadgets and bottles.

  • I used this old tin to put my paintbrushes in.
  • I have a thing for tall skinny bottles. They make really cute vases and can also be used to store small sewing supplies and office supplies.
  • Canning jars can be used for all kinds of things. In my kitchen, I use the pint size for drinking glasses. They also work well to store nuts, seeds and other pantry items. A pint size jar works well to store pencils and pens in. I have one on each of my desks.

TIPS:

UPCYCLING SHOES

I’m not one to buy a lot of used shoes. I know everyone has their own thoughts about this one. I will purchase used shoes that have been VERY lightly worn. You can find a lot of good, lightly worn shoes at a much lower price.

Where is a good place to shop for used items?

Some of the places to look for used items are: consignment shops, thrift stores, yard and garage sales.

Here is my receipt for my purchases at the consignment shop. (Watch the video below to see what good finds I found this day at the consignment shop).

  • 3 pairs of nice shoes
  • 2 adorable shirts
  • pair of aqua color jeans that I’m going to cut off and hem for shorts
  • 2 pair of earrings

Not bad! 

What is the difference between a consignment shop and thrift store?

THRIFT STORES

The majority of thrift stores are donation based and center on a charity or non-profit organization. Although donating truly ruined items is discouraged, damaged, heavily worn, and flawed items are relatively common. Items are sorted and priced by volunteers, then sent to the sales floor where they are bought by shoppers.

CONSIGNMENT SHOPS

Consignment stores are where members bring in gently used items for evaluation, and the buyers look them over to determine if they are likely to sell well from that particular shop. If the items are deemed a good risk, the shop will sell them and the shop owner takes a percentage of the sale.  Some shops will pay up front.

Play Video

If you’ve never been in a consignment or thrift store, I encourage you to open your mind and take a step inside. Upcycle, recycle and repurpose, you’ll be glad you did.

I hope this was helpful and that you have some new ideas for upcycling.

Please feel free to share some of your upcycled ideas on my Instagram. Tag it #fibersandtwigs

HAPPY UPCYCLING!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

My intention for this website is to share tips and tutorials that I have found on my journey of life that has brought me joy, improved health, and peace, in hopes that it will do the same for you. I hope you'll join me on this journey!

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Upcycled Denim Patchwork Quilt

Have you ever slept under a denim patchwork quilt? There is nothing better! There is just something about the heaviness of the denim and the coziness of a soft flannel fabric that just seems to tuck you in and comfort you. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how easy it is to make a quilt using upcycled denim jeans.

My sister-in-law gave my husband a denim patchwork quilt many years ago and it has been a family favorite. We use it to throw on the lawn for a picnic, watching fireworks, or just to add some warmth to our bed on a cold winters night.

I have been saving jeans for many years with the intention of making each one of my kids an Upcycled Denim Patchwork Quilt. I made my oldest son a
denim quilt when he graduated from high school, and planned on doing the same for the other two kids.

Last Christmas I made another quilt for my youngest son and now it’s time to make one for my daughter. So am cutting out denim squares again.

The quilt that I made was for a double/queen size bed. I ended up cutting out 132 squares. Whew! One night my husband, bless his heart, helped me cut. I opened up the jeans and marked them, and he cut. We had quite the process going. (He is a manufacturing engineer)!

A FEW TIPS FOR CUTTING OUT YOUR SQUARES.

1-  MAKE A TEMPLATE of the size square you want.

I found about the biggest square you can get out of most jeans pant legs was a 8 x 8 inch square. You could always make this smaller if you wanted. I like to use oak tag paper. Oak Tag is similar to poster board, except it is thicker and holds up better. You will see it used in a lot in packaging of clothing, and other items.

I always save it to use on pattern templates, stencils, and of course VALENTINES!

2-  OPEN UP THE PANTS 

 

 

Here is a video showing how to deconstruct a pair of jeans to make it easier for cutting out these squares.

Play Video

3-  TRACE AROUND TEMPLATE using a pen.

You can include the seam of the pants in one square if needed. This actually gives a little character anyway. To optimize fabric usage, butt up the edges of the square whenever possible.

Include a few pockets in your quilt, especially if you have a pocket with a good tag.

4-  COUNT OUT SQUARES BY TENS and place a scrap piece of paper with the amount of squares up to that point written on it, between the layers.

(That way you will not waste time counting over and over again to see how many squares you have). I used 132 squares for a double/queen size quilt.  11 squares x 12 squares.

SEWING THE denim patchwork QUILT TOP TOGETHER

  1. Place two squares  Right Sides Together (RST) and sew a seam using a 3/8 seam allowance. I used my serger which works really well if you have one. No worries if you don’t have a serger.
  2. Open the two squares up and place another square (RST) and sew that seam.  Continue in this manner until you have 11 squares sewn together in a long strip.  *Alternate colors and shades of denim to give it some character.
  3. Sew 12 strips.
  4. Now to join the strips:  Place two long strips (RST) and sew all the way down the one edge of the strip.  (Take time to line up the seams as you go).
  5. Open the two strips up and place another strip to the two already sewn together.  Sew that strip on.  Now you have three strips sewn together.  Add one more strip making a section of 4 rows of 11.
  6. Set that foursome aside and build another foursome in the same manner, until you have 4 sets of 4.
  7. Now to join them all t.ogether, place two of the foursomes (RST) and sew.  Do that again with the other two foursomes.

This gets a little bulky sewing it all together, just take your time and give yourself some room around your sewing machine.

Denim Patchwork Quilt Back

Instead of buying about 6 yards of fabric and having to piece it together, I have found buying a flannel sheet set is cheaper and you usually get a better quality fabric. Don’t settle for a thin piece of flannel, as you will want it to be durable.

 

I found this Eddi Bauer queen size sheet set at Burlington Coat Factory for around $39.00. It came with a flat and fitted sheet and two pillow cases. My son was thrilled to have a new bottom sheet and some matching pillow cases. It was a good thick flannel as well.

To Tie The Denim Patchwork Quilt

Choose a matching color of yarn to tie the quilt with.

Throw it on your quilting frames and tie away.

I tied this quilt at the corners and one in the center. There is nothing better than an afternoon with a friend, sitting around chatting while you tie a quilt. That is about how long it took the two of us, 2 1/2 hours. It was so enjoyable and relaxing tying the quilt!

Binding The Quilt

Binding quilts by hand is so enjoyable to me. I am not sure why? There is just something about it. It does take quite a bit longer, but I think it looks so much nicer and is good therapy.

You can use the sewing machine to bind it if you like.

I usually leave about an inch of flannel around the edge. Fold the flannel edge over 1/2 inch and roll again over the denim top about a 1/2 inch and sew in place.

I like to personalize my quilts with some kind of endearing tag.

Want some other upcycled jeans project ideas? Check out this post.

Have fun sewing!

 

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

My intention for this website is to share tips and tutorials that I have found on my journey of life that has brought me joy, improved health, and peace, in hopes that it will do the same for you. I hope you'll join me on this journey!

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Upcycled Denim Jeans – Ideas and Tips

Do you have a bin of denim jeans that you have been saving? It’s time to get them out and make something fun with them. There are so many simple things that you can make using Upcycled denim jeans. It is a durable fabric that can add a lot of classic style to quilts, bags and other fun projects.

Here are a few fun upcycled denim jeans projects I found on Pinterest.

This was one of my most favorite projects to make with upcycled jeans. I have made two of these. You can find the tutorial for the patchwork quilt in the link below.
Upcycled Denim Jeans

 Skirt

 

The list of things you can do with a pair of  denim jeans is ENDLESS.

Upcycled Denim : How to deconstruct a pair of jeans for recycling projects

Play Video

To get the most yardage out of a pair of jeans, I came up with a system on how to cut them open so they are easier to work with.

Lay the pair of  jeans out and cut along the inner leg seam, just on the outside of the seam allowance.

 

Keep cutting around the crotch and down the other side.

 

Now cut the front open, along the side of the zipper.

 

Cut the back open, cutting up along the side of the back center seam.

 

You will have two separate pieces that lay open and flat.

 

Now you have better access to cut out whatever it is you are making with your denim pieces.

I like saving the cute tags form jeans to embellish other sewing projects.

Simply unpick and top stitch on other projects.

Get yourself a bin and start saving the jeans that no longer fit or have a few stains or holes, and give them another life.

Keep Smiling,

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

My intention for this website is to share tips and tutorials that I have found on my journey of life that has brought me joy, improved health, and peace, in hopes that it will do the same for you. I hope you'll join me on this journey!

Read More