Over the last 9 months, award winning south London music artist Loyle Carner, Timberland and the local community of Thornton Heath, have developed Ambassador House forecourt into a thriving community space.Read more
We all have a responsibility to do better when it comes to looking after our planet. Here, we’re talking about repurposing – or how to reuse everyday objects through simple upcycling projects that everyone can do.
Sustainability is really important to Timberland, and upcycling is a great way to slow down productivity and save energy and waste, but it’s also really fun. But just to get you started, here are a few ideas that have inspired us.
How to reuse everyday objects
The most important tool in your upcycling toolbox is your imagination. It’s about looking at every object that’s reached the end of its life and working out what other uses it can have. Can it contain, conceal, hold or stop something? You’ll be surprised which upcycling hacks you will discover.
Reusing everyday objects can be really easy. Take the humble tin, for example, the kind that holds soup or beans. Use a tin opener to take the top off, file down any sharp edges, soak the tin in water to remove the label and you’ve got a perfectly good tin for keeping pens, bits and bobs or anything else you always lose - it could even be the perfect place to house spare shoelaces, shoe care products or sunglasses.
Mending is better than ending
We’ve probably all seen the amazing invisible mending that can be done by the professionals (or not seen it if it’s really good). But visible mending is a creative, alternative fashion hack, where the patches and stitching are made to look like they were always meant to be there.
Everyone has an old favourite jumper that’s worn out, torn or full of holes. We can choose to throw it in the bin or have it recycled, but if 95% of it is still intact, a bit of visible mending for knitwear can work wonders and create a whole new look.
You could make use of another old sweater by cutting a section out in an interesting shape, secure the edges by darning or sewing, then sew it onto the damaged part of the jumper. And you don’t have to stop there – there’re no reason why you shouldn’t add a few more patches to perfectly intact parts of the garment to complete the look.
Gloves are notorious for wearing thin and coming undone, especially at the fingertips. Many upcyclers will convert them into fingerless gloves, which is great, but you could keep them toasty warm by fastening new material to them over the top. You can make any shape you want, or darn them in a new colour to get a stand-out pair of gloves.
Jeans are particularly easy to visibly mend. Plenty of people wear ripped denims, so it isn’t a huge leap to do some DIY on them. Add patches and extravagant hand embroidery to those worn out parts (or even a simple running stitch) to give your jeans a truly unique look.
DIY clothing upcycling ideas
From turning jeans into shorts to creating whole new garments out of multiple old ones, the sky’s the limit when it comes to clothes upcycling. You don’t even have to make them into new clothes, either – lamp shades, wall art, picnic blankets and toys can be born from rags.
A cool thing to do with old jeans is make a denim shoulder bag. What’s handy is that you can leave the pockets in place and you’ve saved yourself a bit of stitching while making some useful compartments. If you’re particularly adept with a needle, you can even turn the fly into a zipped pocket for extra security.
T-shirts can quite often look bedraggled after a few wears, but there’s loads you can do with them. Tie dye them and you’ve got a fab holiday T-shirt that you can wear at the beach before stripping off. You can also cut them up and use them as patches for other clothes.
But they don’t have to become new clothes. Bring out your inner textile artist and the fabric can be cut into strips and crocheted into fine rugs, mats or coasters.
Crop those tops
Old T-shirts are ripe for upcycling once you’ve got bored of them. The easiest way to crop a tee is to put it on, work out where you want to crop it (wear your favourite jeans or gym pants for a guide), and mark the length. Then it’s a case of cutting it along its width, hemming it up and you’re done!
You can turn tees into wraparound tops, vests, scoop necks, slash T-shirts and much more besides. If you’ve got a sewing machine it’s a lot easier to keep the hems from unravelling, but hand-stitching is fine if you’re only doing a few of them.
Turn men’s shirts into summer dresses
Men’s shirts that are designed to be tucked into trousers can be incredibly long, to the point where a woman of typical height can quite easily convert one into a summer dress that’s perfect for festivals and the beach.
Simply detach the sleeves and hem them up if you want a loose fitting dress, but if you’ve got some sewing skills, you can make it narrower around the waist for a different silhouette.
Old jumpers become cardigans
That old jumper that’s past its best can have a second life as a cardigan. It’s a great opportunity to re-use material from other old garments, as you’ll need to sew in a few more inches of width to accommodate the overlap where it buttons up. Alternatively, use hook and eye fastenings instead of buttons for a light cardy.
Upcycling for the little ones
Babies get through loads of clothes as they’re growing, but for the first year or two of their lives, they’ll be wearing baby-grows most of the time. Get yourself some press studs and with a bit of needlecraft you can turn old tops into grows pretty easily. T-shirts and sweatshirts are ideal, but you can also use hoodies – an insulated one could make a really warm baby outfit for when you’re out and about.
Thinking cap on
These are all just quick ideas, of course – you’ll know your own abilities when it comes to tailoring, and with a little inspiration, there’s no limit to what you can come up with. Just remember – you were about to throw those clothes out anyway, so it doesn’t matter if you mess it up. The material might be recyclable, so make sure you discard your disastrous attempts thoughtfully.
Give your old boots a new purpose
Good quality boots are made from very durable leather, so it’s a shame to throw them away for a small scuff of hole. If you cut them into their components with a knife, you can fashion straps and buckles, tassels and jewellery cord – or even bind books with them!
We’ve probably all seen wellies re-purposed into plant pots for a bit of quirky garden decor. But more or less any boot can be used. This inspiring video covers them in cement (see after 30 seconds), and when it sets, you’ve got yourself a pair of planters that look like they’ve been made in a potter’s workshop. Now you can make your Original Yellow 6-inch Boots into something even more original (remember to wear them for a few years first!).
Looking for something even more creative? Upcycle your boots by giving them a new lease of life with paint. What you design is completely up to you and you can really make them your own. No one will have a pair like you!
If you don’t fancy upcycling your boots into a plant pot, or giving them a lick of paint, Our Second Chance program is aimed at giving new life to discarded footwear. The programme was first launched in 2016 in Germany as pilot. Nine new countries and 1,700 pairs later, we’ve decided to expand on its success and bring the project to the rest of Europe, too.
Think before you throw
We hope we’ve given you a few handy craft ideas here. Your finished product can look just like you imagined, or it could be a piece of unique shabby chic. It really doesn’t matter – what matters is that your enjoyable craft project is saving some landfill and giving you potentially years of pleasure afterwards. Sharpen those needles – things are going to get crafty.