by Ivory King
Upcycling is a smart choice for many different reasons: you make less trash, and you save money from buying something new. It’s also fun to learn a new craft! But many DIY tutorials you can find on Pinterest, or elsewhere on the Internet, are full of pretty unhealthy stuff: spray paint, glue guns, and other noxious notions. But don’t give up, we’ve put together some of our favorite, easy at-home crafts, and you don’t need to learn how to sew to do them (almost). If your kids are old enough, ask them to join you! You can rest easy when they go to town on these projects that they are non-toxic as well as non-polluting.
I don’t know about you, but I have tons of t-shirts from random places, and those are the kind of clothes that don’t sell well at a thrift store for the most part. Many of them actually get resold to other countries in bulk and are exported. But there’s a great way to transform tees and all you need are a pair of scissors and a bare floor. Though it’s a sewing blog, Liz from Sew4Bub has a tutorial on making a no-sew t-shirt rag rug. She starts with cutting the shirts into strips, then you do this weaving/braiding action to make a spiral out into a round rug. It makes a thick, squishy rug that would be great as a bathmat or bedside foot landing. Plus, it’s super washable!
While metal is usually recyclable, some of our kitchenware is coated in teflon and isn’t always accepted in curbside recycling programs. You may want to check on that in your area, but you could also make something with your well-loved cake pans. While there are plenty of project ideas for planters and autumnal decorations, my favorite is the tiered display or organizer option. This will work for springform pans, pie tins and loaf pans - or you could use a combination! You simply drill (or in a pinch, hammer a nail in) a hole in the middle of each, and use a dowel and hardware to hold them together, or you can use this glued method by the Crafting Chicks. Just use a non-toxic glue and skip the spray paint - the distressed metal of the pans and candle holders will look great!
Fabric lends itself to many options, but for pliable accessories you can also reuse leather. It’s probably perfect for this purpose, since well-loved leather is softer and more versatile. If you’ve got a wallet or clutch that has lost its hardware, or gotten too scuffed, you can cut a strip off, tie it around a hair elastic, and use it as a fancy ponytail holder. This will work for pleather, too; any of these non-woven fabrics work well without sewing since they don’t need to be hemmed to prevent unraveling. The tutorial from Cupcakes and Cashmere has some additional steps to make the tie look even nicer, but it uses newly purchased leather. And we know better than to spend money on that, don’t we?
If you do happen to sew, I greatly enjoyed Sew4Bub’s article on using thrift store sweaters when working with sewing patterns. This creates less waste and can be less work, and it’s much cheaper than buying a ready-made sweater or even buying the fabric from a craft store. Plus, she even positions the pattern pieces so that the ribbed edging stays intact - so much less work than making a sweater from scratch, and her daughter looks adorable in it! It’s a perfect way to have unique clothes and minimize waste! Liz has several posts about clothing that are relevant to how we think here at art & eden, like one where she buys a Fast Fashion shirt and makes a replica, then scores their performance after being worn several times by her preschooler. I’m sure you can guess which one won!
While some crafts have a high learning curve, these projects are ones that you can get done in a few minutes (the hair tie), an afternoon (the cake pan display), or a few evenings (the rug). If you want to get more ambitious, upcycling gets very rewarding when you learn how to knit, crochet, sew, or weave. But there’s something for everyone on Pinterest, and with the simple projects you can include the little ones too!