My Crazy Granny’s house was filled with handmade rag baskets, rag rugs and quilts made from old clothes.  I remember her coming to visit and she’d go through our old clothes that were either too worn out to pass down, too small or held some kind of sentimental value.  The next time we’d see her she had cut them into little squares and sewn them in long rows, each row was initialed by the grandkid that had worn those clothes.  We’d marvel at those rows and the memories seeing those clothes invoked.  Without realizing or knowing it this is how I was introduced to upcycling.  This was my Crazy Granny.

wow..feels.  Yuck.  Anyways, ahem.  Man that picture of my Granny is getting to me.  I wish I had learned more from her when she was still us but she’s still teaching me.  Anyways, moving on!!  Upcycling is a new movement but it’s by no means a new concept.  Poor people have been doing it for generations.  Pillowcase dresses, rag rugs, compost as fertilizer, quilts and blankets made from old clothes just to name a few.  It’s a “greener” way to recycle, using no energy other than yours and no resources than yours.  There are staggering statistics and data on landfills & if I knew how to post links I totally would but you’re an adult so google it for yourself.  My favorite medium to upcycle is textiles and, again, there are mind blowing statistics on textile waste too.  What do you do with your old sheets, jeans, undies, jammies, threadbare towels, last season’s fashionista cast offs and the remaining sock the dryer ate?   I especially love old jeans and military uniforms.


What about all that junk mail we all invariably get?  Holiday and birthday cards, tissue paper,  magazines and books?  Old jewelry, handbags, brooches, glass and plastic containers?  Rusted nuts and bolts, broken electronics, used coffee grounds, broken zippers and old boxes?  Add all that up and how many garbage cans would it fill up a month, then a year, than add in the whole block.  That’s a whole lotta waste.  Here’s 2 old t-shirts and 2 shop rags that I made into a pillow.

Stocking made from an old pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans (I did say old), Messenger bag from BDU’s and flowers from old Harley accessory books that were gonna be thrown away.


Pretty cool, eh?  The possibilities are literally endless.  I’m working on a denim quilt (my third) using 53 pairs of blue jeans and a scrap quilt using only the smallest scraps.  The side seams from the blue jeans I’m using to make into rugs.  The hardware is saved and I actually made some blue jean extenders, used them in paper flowers, as holders for stockings and in purses, pockets are repurposed as pockets in other projects and make great potholders.  Old coffee grounds I use to make soap for my mechanics and as body scrubs because it not only smells great but is a great exfoliator.  It’s also stimulating and since my coffee would be watered down IN the shower it’s the next best thing!

So next time you’re fixing to throw stuff away take a look at it first.  That pile of junk mail combined with flour and water can become a decorative bowl and the leftover paper becomes plantable seed paper for your next party favor or thank you card.  Instead of donating those clothes to Goodwill make a blanket, some pillows or some hand bags.  If you can’t use them or give them as gifts donate them to the local women’s recovery center or battered women’s shelter.  We can all make a difference and curb the crazy a little bit by making things.


What do you do with your “junk”?

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