Upcycling Is Hip | 5 Innovative Ways To Recycle Items Around Your House

UPCYCLING IS HIP

For those of you who follow me know that I love Upcycling! For some reason, I get a thrill out of taking something that is no longer wanted and giving it a new life. In this tutorial, I show you 5 innovative ways to recycle items that you have around the house.

What Is Upcycling?

According to Wikipedia: Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value.

 

UPCYLING IS HIP

I use a lot of wool sweaters for my projects, but there are a lot of other ways to upcycle all kinds of items around the house.

5 Innovative Ways for Upcycling

  • CLOTHING
  • HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
  • GARDEN TOOLS
  • FURNITURE
  • CARTONS & CONTAINERS

1- Upcycling Clothing

Oh boy, there are so many ways to upcycle clothing. You can reuse the fabric, buttons, zippers, and trim from a lot of clothing items. Here are some fun examples of how I used different things to make this cross-body bag.

upcycling sweaters

SWEATERS

Although a lot of my projects use felted wool sweaters, there are a lot of other projects that you don’t need a wool sweater for. Here are a few examples: Hats, Mittens, Stuffed Animals, Slippers, Toys, and so much more. You can locate all my patterns for many of these projects HERE.

Be sure to check out my post on how to felt and store upcycled wool sweaters. I also have some YouTube videos showing you how to make a lot of these projects.

Upcycled denim quilt - youmakeitsimple.com

JEANS

The fabric from a pair of jeans can come in handy for so many things: Quilts, purses, patching holes, and anything that you need to make that needs a little more durable fabric. I have a big bin of old jeans ready to make another denim quilt for my daughter. This is an easy beginner sewing project. You can read more about it HERE.

I have some projects coming up soon using upcycled jeans, so don’t throw those old jeans away. Here is a tutorial on how to easily cut up jeans for upcycling.

upcycling t shirts

T-SHIRTS

T-shirt fabric is one of my favorite ways of upcycling. The stretchy fabric makes it useful in so many ways. Here are some ways I have found to use it: shoelaces, face mask ties, crochet projects, t-shirt yarn, baby clothes, headbands, hats, and so much more.

Read this post for some great tips on upcycling t-shirts.

2- Upcycling Household Items

This is another fun category with endless possibilities. Although I have only posted on a few ways to upcycle household items, I have a big list of things I want to share with you. So stay tuned. Here are a few things I have repurposed.

 

TIN CUP PENCIL/PAINTBRUSH HOLDER

I’m a sucker when it comes to old tin cups, buckets, and other unique containers. Look how cute and functional this tin cup ended up working out to hold my paintbrushes.

 

MASON JARS

Oh, the random ways you can use a simple mason jar! We use mason jars in our home a ton. Not only for canning (which I don’t do much of anymore), but for storing all kinds of random things. Just add a lid and you’re good to go. 

Without a lid, you can use them as a vase, pencil holder, drinking glasses. Seriously, we use the small jars as drinking glasses in my kitchen. 

I’ll be posting some specific tutorials just for mason jars here shortly, so stay tuned.

 

GLASS CONTAINERS

You gotta love this round jar with a flap lid. I’m not sure exactly what this was used for before, but I found this at a tag sale and had to have it. I found the perfect use for it in my laundry room. It holds the bulk laundry soap in my laundry room. Check out my laundry room tour here.

3- Upcycling Garden Tools

Here are a few ideas of how I’ve upcycled some used garden tools. 

GARDEN RAKE/NECKLACE  BRACELET HANGER

My dad was a gardener and having a garden tool displayed in my home brings sweet memories of my dear pa. I found a fun way to use this old garden rake to hang my necklaces and bracelets. I have a few other old rakes waiting to be used.

You could hang all kinds of stuff from this rake mounted on the wall. Wouldn’t this be really cute in the kitchen/pantry to hang aprons!

GARDEN BUCKETS AND BARRELS

There is something about the look of old galvanized buckets and barrels that I love. I think they can add so much character and charm to your home.

Use them as containers for plants, flower arrangements, and other random items. I have used this quaint bucket many times for plants.

In the picture above, I brought my rosemary plant inside and placed it in this bucket. Not only did the rosemary plant look beautiful, but I also had fresh rosemary to use in my cooking.

4- Upcycling Furniture

It’s so fun to find an old piece of furniture and not only refinish it, but TO USE IT FOR ANOTHER PURPOSE THAN IT WAS MADE FOR.

CABINETS

For example, this cute cabinet that I painted orange and put in my bathroom used to be a television cabinet. My husband cut it down so it wasn’t so deep and put a new back on it. So cute!

WICKER BASKET/DRAWER

This nightstand has a weird, deep shelf that was not functional and hard to use. So I found a square wicker basket and added a drawer knob. Now it functions as a useful drawer.

Get the instructions here.

5- Upcycling Containers & Cartons

Many items that you buy come packaged in containers that can be repurposed and used in other ways. Here are a few examples.

UPCYCLED MILK CARTON SNACK/DRINK HOLDER

Here is a fun way to upcycle a milk carton spout. These little jars with a small screwable lid work really well to store all kinds of snacks (nuts, seeds, and even liquids).

Get the whole scoop and detailed instructions here.

SHOPPING BAG DISPENSER

Here is a way to upcycle two items: shopping bags and a tissue box. This is another quick and easy project that works like a charm to help keep those obnoxious grocery bags organized. Check out the tutorial here.

METAL BIKE BASKET

I turned this metal bike basket into a quaint and functional magazine holder for the bathroom. Simply apply a piece of felt to the bottom of the basket so it doesn’t scratch your floor.

There you have it, 5 ways to upcycle that are hip and unique.

Start looking around your house and at the thrift store for some fun items that you can upcycle. 

I hope you found something inspiring and useful in this tutorial. Feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments below. 

HERE’S ANOTHER POST YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:

Upcycling Love | Thrift Store & Consignment Shopping Tips

 

Happy upcycling!

 

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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How To Easily Make a Snack and Beverage Holder With a Simple Recycled Milk Carton

Recycled Milk Carton Spout Snack and Beverage Holder juice

I love to recycle when I can and this simple recycled milk carton spout makes a great snack and beverage holder. It’s a quick and easy project and you’re going to love the simplicity of this little container.

Items Needed

  • Glass jar/any size and any size opening
  • Pencil/marker/pen
  • Paper scissors
  • Recycled milk or beverage carton with a plastic spout
Play Video

What to put in your recycled milk carton spout jar?

Of course, you can put whatever you want in these little jars, but here are some ideas that I use them for. I keep a jar filled with sunflower seeds and it makes it really easy to shake a bunch on a salad or for snacking, the same with nuts. When we travel it makes it easy to throw in a few little jars filled with snacks into our travel bag.

These recycled milk carton lids also make a great little beverage holder. Just unscrew the lid and take a sip. The lid seals well and does not leak! They make a fun little sippy cup for the little ones.

  • Nuts/seeds
  • Liquid beverages
  • Seeds
  • Dried fruit

Instructions

Recycled Milk Carton Spout Snack and Beverage Holder

Take an empty recycled milk carton and rinse it out well. Using a pair of PAPER SCISSORS, poke a hole in the side of the carton about halfway down. Continue to cut around the carton. Open up the carton and flatten it out.

Recycled Milk Carton Spout Snack and Beverage Holder tracing jar

Decide which size of jar you are going to use and trace the top of the jar. Offset the spout so it’s close to the edge, but not right against the edge, because you need to give it a little space from the jar ring as indicated in the photo above.

Recycled Milk Carton Spout Snack and Beverage Holder

Cut along the traced line and discard the rest of the container.

Recycled Milk Carton Spout Snack and Beverage Holder

Apply the lid on top of the jar and screw on the ring. Tadah!

Now you’re ready to fill your jar. I have several of these jars and whenever I buy milk to make my Instant Pot Yogurt, I save the recycled milk carton spout for another lid.

Recycled Milk Carton Spout Snack and Beverage Holder

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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Cool Zipper Upcycling

zipper recycling youmakeitsimple.com

As many of you know I’m really into upcycling and recycling items, and clothing is one of them. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to deconstruct an item of clothing for some really cool zipper upcycling.

Benefits of Zipper Upcycling

  • You can save a little money
  • Avoid a trip to the fabric store
  • Recycle material (which is always a good thing for the planet)
  • You can have a better selection of zipper colors
  • Add a professional and unique look to your sewing projects by using zippers with zipper pulls that have a little character and charm. It’s hard to find zippers at the store with cool zipper pulls.

What Kind of Zippers To Look For

  • As mentioned before, look for zippers that have unique ZIPPER PULLS.  (There are some cute vintage, leather, metal, beaded, and fabric pulls out there on existing clothing). Keep your eye out!
  • Unique colors of zippers    
  • Good, sturdy zippers for projects that require a DURABLE ZIPPPER
  • All sizes of zippers (short, long and extra-long)
  • Zippers that are in good condition and are free of stains
  • Separating zippers and non-separating zippers

Items To Use For Zipper Upcycling 

If you are getting rid of an item that you no longer want or need and it has a COOL ZIPPER in it, save it!  I have been known to buy items at the thrift store just for the zipper. YEP! There are all kinds of items that you can find a zipper in.

  • Clothing
  • Bags & purses are a good place to find heavy-duty, DURABLE ZIPPERS.
  • Couch and chair slipcovers have LONG ZIPPERS.
  • Jacket & Coats
  • Sweaters can even have fun zippers in them

How To Deconstruct Clothing For Zipper Upcycling

All you’ll need is a pair of FABRIC SCISSORS, a SEAM RIPPER, and YOUR ITEM OF CLOTHING.

  1. zipper upcycling cut out of clothesCut the zipper out of the clothing. This makes the process so much easier! There is less bulk to work with and if you don’t feel like unpicking right then, you can save it in your zipper bin and unpick it later.
  2. zipper upcycling seam rippingTake the end of the zipper and pull the fabric away from the zipper to expose the stitches. Slide the tip of the seam ripper into one or more of the stitches and cut the threads. Pull the zipper tape away from the fabric to expose more stitches. (The first stitches are the hardest to navigate).
  3. Zipper upcycling unpickingContinue ripping threads and pulling all the way down the zipper. (Sometimes you can rip both sides of the zipper seam at the same time).  Remove any cut threads that are lingering on the zipper and place the zipper in a bin or use the zipper straight away on a fun sewing project or craft.

Zipper upcycling is the BEST! Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing some fun ways to use your upcycled zippers both on sewing and craft projects! 

Play Video

Happy Upcycling!

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Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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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

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More