Upcycling For Beginners

In war time Britain, the government issued a pamphlet about how to save money, it was called Make do and Mend. While it’s nostalgia from a bygone era of austerity, it’s also phrase that’s becoming more popular as Britain’s recession continues as reported recently in an article by the Daily Mail.

Whether due to tightening global purse strings or simply a passing trend, the last few years has given rise to an increased interest in crafting and repairs that has bought the old ‘make do and mend’ attitude back with full force.

Browsing blogs, Pinterest boards and even The Huffington Post you’ll see a proliferation of crafters photographing their latest project and sharing their fix-it wisdom. From crocheting with rags to creating pieces of furniture, more and more crafty people are turning their hands to revamping and recycling a whole range of odds and ends that would otherwise be on the scrap heap.

A New Word In Town

There’s a word for this trend and that word is upcycling. Different to recycling, which is simply re-using something, upcycling is when you take something that is broken, useless or ready for the rubbish and turn it into something else, something better. The person who coined the term, Thornton Kay, stated, ‘it’s where old products are given more value, not less’. Instead of being smashed to pieces and reabsorbed into the environment, the items are improved and reappropriated.

In this economic environment where consumers are struggling to keep their bank account in the black, buying new is not just out of reach, but out of fashion. The place where upcycling has the most potential for the average punter is in the home. There are so many ways to take advantage of this sensible trend without having to spend a lot of money. After all, it’s not about the dollar value, upcycling is about creating practical and aesthetic value in previously worthless items.

It’s The Small Things

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can have the biggest impact. Buttons seem to have strange powers of accumulation. Everyone keeps the spare buttons from clothes and they end up becoming part of quite a large collection in most people’s sewing box.

Buttons can be turned into jewellery, hung off chains and earrings. They can be coloured coded and stuck to a canvas and called art, or you replace the buttons on an old piece of clothing and give it a whole new look.

Crockery is another one of those house hold items that can be transformed into something new with a little bit ingenuity and a lot of hot glue. Old tea sets and pretty plates can be glued together to form a cake stand or smashed up to form the basis of pendent jewellery.

Why not hang on to old clothes like men’s shirts, out of fashion tops and skirts to create something new. Baby’s clothes are small enough to make using scraps and even a novice can put together some baby’s bibs.

Even old cutlery can be put to use for some clever crafters. Bend the tines of a fork to create a bracket for pictures, place card holders or coat hooks. Old jars can be painted from the inside to create colourful canisters to hold pens, paint brushes and tools.

Rescue And Repair

The beauty of upcycling is that anyone can do it, even the big stuff. In fact, there is an abundance of information available online and in workshops for those wanting to try their hand at upcycling a piece of furniture. Perhaps you’ve got an old chair you’d like to paint or a dresser that needs rescuing. Here are some tips to get you started.

Tips For Upcycling A Piece Of Furniture

  1. Remove all dirt and grease with sugar soap.
  2. Prepare by de-bristling brushes and stirring paint
  3. Apply a paint like Annie Sloane along the grain for a professional look.
  4. Allowing enough time to dry is essential for the best outcome.
  5. Apply a natural wax and let dry. Apply again and buff for a shiny result, or move on to distressing.
  6. To distress the surface, use a 100 – 120 grit sandpaper and only work on areas that are exposed and would naturally wear down like corners, handles and doors.
  7. To give more aged appearance, apply some dark wax like dark oak. Apply with a brush very lightly to places like crevices and detail ,with a few random strokes thrown in for good measure.
  8. Apply a final coat of clear wax and let dry, buff with a cotton or wool cloth.

By following these handy tips, you can be upcycling in no time, making your home and indeed your life, a more beautiful and meaningful place.

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