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The Dos and Don’ts of Upcycling

Upcycling is now a well-established way of reviving much loved items around the home. From some stunning examples of clothing being completely re-worked on the Great British Sewing Bee to much simpler, yet as effective upcycling like reviving a tired chest of drawers with a set of new handles.

As with any idea that takes off (especially one that ends up with TV series devoted to it), there can be pitfalls for the unwary upcycler, and we hope that these simple guidelines will make the whole experience enjoyable for you.

Keep it Simple

It is all very well seeing these amazing dressmakers on the Sewing Bee completely transforming an elderly overcoat into a stylish woman’s suit, but these talented amateurs regularly display a jaw-dropping level of skill that is beyond many experienced sewing hobbyists. So don’t worry if the thought of transforming an old pair of jeans into a baby’s romper suit fills you with dread, make some funky faded denim bunting for baby’s room instead. Just as enjoyable, and you can’t grow out of bunting! It will be far more satisfying finishing a small project than having a large one sitting, unfinished, in the corner, making you feel guilty.

Make Sure it is Reversible or Re-usable

Especially to start with, keep your furniture projects reversible—paint can be rubbed down and changed, decoupage likewise. Cutting bits off can’t! Better still, drawer and door knobs can be changed and moved around, as can upcycled soft furnishings. With clothes, if they go wrong, there’s always smaller projects the cut fabric can be used for.

Do it For Yourself, Not For the Money

As often repeated on the Antiques Roadshow, buy things that YOU like, not things you think others will, with half an eye on the re-sale value. Real upcycling is all about doing it yourself, for yourself. The added cost and labour involved will never really justify the price you could sell your finished work for. Buying ready upcycled goods is fine, but it is so much more fun and rewarding rubbing down, waxing or repainting a bargain piece of neglected furniture than buying a finished piece.

The great joy of upcycling is that small luxury highlights will transform run of the mill items. A really stunning velvet collar for example, elevating a humble wool jacket, a set of vintage cupboard knobs updating an entire kitchen. Probably the most affordable and enjoyable makeover you could do this summer.

Mike Howell, Wordcrafting

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