Reuse Before Trashing: A Lesson In Upcycle Crafting

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

I read an article recently on Huffington Post Parents that aimed at helping bring order to their readers’ homes by providing a list of things to throw out. Throw out? No! To be fair to the author, she did put in parentheses that the items could be donated or recycled, but for the most part, it was an article about trashing what you don’t need.  The lesson of a cluttered home should be to only take only what you need – be it pens from the bank, bags from the supermarket, or duck sauce packets from the Chinese takeout place.  And for those items you do take or purchase and end up not needing, try to reuse them before trashing them.  It’s a little hobby I like to call Upcycling.

Here are the top six items to trash, according to the HuffPost list (quoted directly from the article):

  • The near-empty ice cream carton in the freezer
  • The extra packet of buttons that came with a cardigan that you’ve since donated
  • Stained t-shirts you’ve had since college
  • The ratty towel you’ve been using in lieu of a bath mat
  • Holiday cards
  • The treasure trove of plastic grocery bags under your sink

Okay, I agree with the first one, toss that freezer-burned nastiness (yes, Mom, that means you), but there is so many things to do with the last five.  Make art with them!!  Let’s go through them, one by one.

Extra Buttons

That’s an easy one.  Glue them on stuff!  You can make jewelry and wall art, such as a gift for a new couple.  All it takes is a little scrapbook paper (I’m sure you have a stash that you’ve been saving for the right project), some glue, and your buttons:

goodness gracious living upcycle craft list

I used buttons from my collection.

goodness gracious living upcycle craft list

Arrange the buttons in a shape, say a heart.

goodness gracious living upcycle craft list

Voila, a lovely gift!

Stained T-Shirts

If it’s really stained and too gross to wear out in public, it may not be so gross that you can’t upcycle it into a bag.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lay the t-shirt out flat.
  2. Cut off the arms and the neck.  Use a plate or bowl to trace the curve if you are not comfortable going Kamikaze Crafter on it.
  3. Measure a straight line across the bottom of the shirt, 3″ to 4″ from the bottom.
  4. Make vertical cuts up to that line about 1″ apart.  You will now have strips in the front and the back of the shirt.
  5. Tie the front and the back strip together with double knots.  Do the same for all of the strips
  6. And now you have a reusable bag to bring to the Farmer’s market or craft store to get more stuff!
goodness gracious living upcycle trash

Do I need to explain why my daughter won’t wear this anymore?

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

Cut off the arms on the inside of the seam.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

Now it looks like a muscle shirt.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash craft

Cut vertical strips

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

Double knot the front and back strips together.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

A bag for your groceries.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash
Or turn it inside out and it’s still a bag.

If a t-shirt bag isn’t something you want to make, or there is too much nostalgia attached to it, staple it to a canvas and hang it on the wall.  But, if the  t-shirt is really ratty, cut it up and use it as a rag to clean your house. Speaking of ratty…

Ratty Towels

These are perfect for an upcycle project you can donate.  Take all of your old towels, sheets, and blankets and stuff them into pillow cases and sew them shut to make beds for the dogs at your local animal shelter.  Don’t have a sewing machine?  That’s okay!  Donate them as-is, your shelter can always use them.  What would be considered ratty to you would be a welcomed gift to a dog in need.

Holiday Cards

Holiday cards can be used to make… wait for it… other holiday cards!  Use scissors or paper punches to make shapes out of the cards and glue the pieces on to a piece of paper or card stock for a homemade card.  Or, just cut the picture into a shape, punch a hole in it and use it as a gift tag.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

A thank you card I recently received.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

Cut the written part off.

goodness gracious living upcycle trash

Fold the blank side in half and use as a note card.

Plastic Grocery Bags

If you are a reader of my blog then you know I have a special place in my heart for plastic bags.  There are so many things you can do with them!  I have some great ideas to share with my new class of Upcycled Crafting with kids (and to be shared with you in a future post), but last semester we used bags to make Parachute People.  You can also use them to stuff your handbags while you store them for the season, or actually reuse them to carry a lunch to work or your sneakers to the gym.

goodness gracious living parachute upcycle

Look out below!  Parachute Person coming through!

So the next time to make a resolution to de-clutter your home, don’t put all of your “trash” in the trash – upcycle it.  If you can’t think of a project, leave me a comment and I’ll help you out!





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57 thoughts on “Reuse Before Trashing: A Lesson In Upcycle Crafting

  1. I love your ideas! My husband is the “throw everything away” person and I am the ” Save this I might need it” person. I always want to upcycle but fail on the completion aspect of it. Glad to have connected from our SITS Blogging comment group today!

  2. I love the idea of upcycling things you already have on hand! However, I like the idea of making things you need out of things you already have, not just making things you don’t need into other things you don’t need just so you don’t have to throw them out, if that makes sense?

  3. Great ideas!!! I never know what to throw away or what to keep…always thing I use things and then never do. Sometimes it’s better to just trash stuff! But so many other times they come in handy. Love the t-shirt bags.

  4. You’re right! There are so many creative ways to use things. I think the secret to keeping things like extra buttons is to be very organized about it so that you can easily find them when craft time rolls around. And BTW – I use a ratty old towel in our basement bathroom for a bath mat and it works perfectly! I’m keepin’ it !!

  5. I love this! I am totally behind reusing, re-purposing or renewing older items. Buttons are great for craft projects, as are cards. But I never saw the T shirt bag before-pretty ingenious! I know there are some cool crafts from used sweaters. I bought a pair of cool mittens made out of one. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    • I’m glad you liked it Barb. I actually put aside some sweaters to make mittens, but my housekeeper asked for them for a friend, so donation it was! As someone else posted, it was a freecycle instead :-)

  6. I love to try to find ways to re-purpose items before getting rid of them. And by getting rid of them, I mean donating :) There is always someone who can use something that you no longer need!

    Thanks for sharing! #SITSBlogging

  7. Stopping by from @sitsblogging. I never throw out anything unless I am 100% sure that I cannot reuse it or up-cycle. I sew a lot, so there is no way I will throw extra buttons. I can always find out ways to use them. As for stained T-shirt I love the idea of making it into a bag…so creative.

  8. I am a huge fan of upcycling! Though I have had to learn that sometimes I have to admit I can’t make EVERYTHING. I’m not for throwing things out though – if you can’t use them, donate them.

  9. Love your upcycling ideas! Especially the tshirts. I just saw the suggestion to staple them to a canvas and hang them on a wall. This is a project I’m doing with my 8 year old as he grows out of some of his favorite character shirts! It’s such a great way to hang on to them!!


  10. I made all of my Christmas cards from old Christmas cards this year. Another idea that was cute to do with them for those of us that give away “things” (jelly, cookie mixes, hand scrub) in mason jars is to cut circles out of the cards and place it on top of the boring metal lid.

    The t-shirt bag is cute, but if it were a Justin Bieber shirt you bet I would be turning it inside out!

    great ideas, thanks for sharing. #SITSblogging

  11. I love these!! What clever ideas!! I love the recycled t-shirt -> bag trick! {And laughed out loud at the fact that it was Justin Bieber haha!}

    {Visiting from SITS!! We’re in the same comment love tribe! I love your blog!}


  12. I really want to get into upcycling as I think it’s great & Iove being creative. I’d love to upcycle an old tshirt or use old material to make a cushion cover. Coping with the Big C – The Sits Comment Love Challenge

  13. I really want to get into upcycling as I think it’s great & Iove being creative. I’d love to upcycle an old tshirt or use old material to make a cushion cover. Becki from Coping with the Big C – The Sits Comment Love Challenge

    • Making pillows with old t-shirts is a good one. Even if you don’t sew, you can make one. Just do the same thing to the top of the shirt that I did to the bottom of the shirt to make the bag. You can stuff with an old pillow or fleece pajama pants or any other soft materials.

  14. This post is amazing, full of inspiring ideas. I like upcycling too and have been doing it for quite a while. I have used all the old stuff around me and turned them into something new. I’ll try these ideas too.

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