Recycled/upcycled/vintage challenges

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Original Post

satsumabug says

I'd like to connect with other artists who use primarily recycled/upcycled/vintage materials in their creations. What are some of the challenges you've found in sourcing, preparing, or using these materials? How have you dealt with them?

For example, I use fabric samples and thrifted fabrics and notions, and old magazines and books. I just learned how to use a match to test whether an unidentified thrifted fabric is synthetic or organic fiber (

I'd love to hear about others' challenges and tips!

If I'm repeating an old thread please feel free to let me know!

Posted at 6:35pm Feb 9, 2010 EST


I use almost all upcycled materials but sometimes I just can't find what I need at the thrift stores so I have to buy new. If I don't need the item right away then I will look here under supplies first. If it isn't here then I go to the store.

Posted at 6:42pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

freelion says

I upcyle/repurpose in making my bags and product packaging. I find fabric (mostly cottons or blends) for the linings from a variety of sources. Some come from the thrift zone and others from aging sewers who would like to pass on their fabric treasures to someone who will value them and put them to good use. Other pieces are either vintage or samples.

I also use interior design fabric samples swatches to make my product bags. These I source from Interior Designers or Architects who discard the sample books when the patterns are out of style/season.

And i find my bag handles from Army Surplus stores, complete with adjustable strap and hardware. I also repurpose straps from previously owned bags.

Thanks Satsumabug for starting this forum thread!

Posted at 6:50pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

*sidles in to lurk, because she wants to do more of this*

Fortunately, at the moment anyway, most of my recycling/upcycling materials are ones I used for another project and therefore have some clue about. But I'm all ears anyway...

Posted at 6:51pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

I LOVE upcycling, like felting old sweaters and repurposing thrift store clothes. The hardest part is finding the time to search secondhand stores for interesting fabrics and clothing -- it can take all day!

Someone just gave me a great idea that you might already know, but it was news to me. You can felt old wool clothing -- not necessarily sweaters, but skirts, pants, jackets. As long as the clothing is 100% wool, it turns out beautifully. (Well, one thing didn't felt at all, but it might have been treated not to.) That gives me more interesting material to work with than just using sweaters.

Posted at 7:14pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

I will buy ratty clothes if the buttons are good to salvage them- or use the old crochet and lace off of vintage nitegowns and pillows.

Posted at 7:18pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

We have a LOT of tutorials on how to upcycle that may interest you. Check out:

Posted at 8:10pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

SoSheSews says

Thrift stores are always bursting with great resources. The only "challenge" I see in it is deciding whether that object is better served as what it currently is or if I should take it and repurpose it into something else. A nice warm jacket, for instance, might be better served as a jacket for someone in need. But a vintage tablecloth with a few small stains that I could avoid in my projects is better to come home with me :) haha!

Posted at 8:14pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

satsumabug says

Thank you, everyone, for the comments!

Freelion, thanks for the tip about army surplus stores! I've always wanted to find one in my area -- now you've reminded me to look. :)

Naughtymonkey, I thought wool had to be knitted for it to felt. Is that what you've found?

Hag&Nag, that's something I'm just getting into -- salvaging buttons and lace :) There is a fabric museum and store near me, called Lacis, that sells a lot of vintage lace and doilies!

Gelt, thank you for the tutorials!

Keep the input coming! :)

Posted at 10:27pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

Hi there! My entire line of children's clothing is made from reclaimed/recycled materials. When I first started my shop I was working primarily with men's dress shirts and making each piece OOAK. That work flow didn't really get the results I wanted (i.e. customer wanting a similar piece in a different size... the challenge of finding duplicate materials). Now I work primarily with reclaimed sheeting fabric. I've found really beautiful colors of 100% cotton percale (I look for high thread count) and top sheets are almost always pristine. Plus, I stock up on .99 day, so I'm basically getting my fabric for about a quarter a yard. I DO still use new fabric for accents, but I've found enough color selection to get the job done. My new line of non-clothing items (in a shop opening this spring) is made from everything from Army/Navy surplus wool blankets (I LOVE these!), deconstructed men's wool suits, etc. I love thinking outside the box for my materials. It's just so much more fun that way!

Posted at 10:34pm Feb 9, 2010 EST

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