What Is Upcycling? 10 Easy Ways to Make It Happen (VIDEO)

You probably have a bunch of stuff lying around your house that isn't quite in good enough shape to donate or use, but is still decent enough that you feel weird throwing it out.

You can go all Ma Ingalls, mending tears in clothes and darning socks, or you can go all hip and Etsy-crafter and upcycle.

What is upcycling? This edition of MomEd: Green Living has all the details, but it's basically taking an old piece of clothing or knickknack, like a worn-out shirt or broken crayons, and turning it into something new and cool. 

The best part is, you don't need Martha Stewart-level crafting skills. In this episode, you learn how to turn a piece of fabric from that tattered shirt into a reusable sandwich bag, how to re-create old wool sweaters and turn them into soft toys, and how to make cool new crayons from old ones.

Want more? Here are 10 projects to get you started:


Old men's shirts can be fashioned into adorable girls' dresses.

You can also make some very Pottery Barn-looking throw pillows ... they could not be easier and you can even upcycle old T-shirts as stuffing material!

Another use for those well-worn shirts? Make them into sumo wrestling suits. Use pillows and sew the bottoms of two adult-size tees together to hold the pillows in place. My kids need these for when they are squabbling and driving me nuts!

Turn an old sweater and pair of flats into sweater boots.

Try this stylish cloche hat and mittens crafted from a seen-better-days turtleneck sweater ... this would be a perfect way to save the day if moths got to your cashmere!

You can felt old wool sweaters, which involves washing and drying them on the hottest setting to shrink down the fibers and make them really thick and strong. The strength is perfect for tote bags.

A cute way to use that felted wool is with felted wool flowers ... you can make them into brooches as nice little gifts for family and friends, or use them to embellish all kinds of things.

Have a bunch of old plastic bags lying around from when you forget to bring your reusables to the store? You can fuse them into fabric for other projects.

You can also turn plastic bags into yarn for knitting and crocheting; I've seen purses made out of this "plarn" at craft fairs and they're really cool.

And finally, do you have stacks of old CDs you never listen to because you've ripped everything onto an iPod, or DVDs your kids no longer watch? Add in some broken necklaces and you can upcycle them into surprisingly beautiful jewelry.

Ideas for what you can upcycle are limited only by your creativity and Googling skills. It's frugal, green, and fun.

Have you tried upcycling? What kind of projects have you done?

For more on living the green way, check out MomEd:Green Living on CafeMom Studios every week and subscribe to the CafeMom Studios YouTube Channel.

Image via CafeMom Studios

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