There are many ways to save, but few, according to my wife, are as fun as upcycling. She sees value where others see garbage, and she has learned to hone her creativity creating fun and folksy fabric art.
My wife, Lindsay, is a reluctant hippy. She doesn't smell like patchouli oil or listen to jam bands; I've never seen her in a tied-dyed t-shirt and she doesn't know who Jerry Garcia is, but hippies and earth-friendly philosophies seem to cohabitate peacefully. The benefits of recycling have been preached for several decades, but upcycling is just starting to trend.
Lindsay did not know she was upcycling in 2004 when she started ripping apart old jeans, curtains and my dress shirts to create purses, aprons and bags. Honestly, we were just poor, and she wanted to sew. She had a machine, but she didn't have any fabric. (I've been to craft stores more often than I'd like to admit. I'm pretty sure a bolt of fabric rivals the cost of a barrel of oil.) Her designs began as simple pouches made from the pockets of jeans into more complex and interesting designs; large library bags with owl faces, and small purses built with complex geometric shapes and multiple colors and textures.
"I use clothes, sheets, shower curtains, belts and thrown away scraps (from other crafters) for all of my sewing projects," said Lindsay. "I put the word out to some of my friends that I was looking for old clothes. They started bringing me the bags intended for donation. I also have some friends that quilt and they will give me the scraps of material they no longer want."
Upcycling for Lindsay was always a creative endeavor, but it has also saved our family a lot of money. "I save hundreds of dollars. I usually only buy thread from the craft store, but I will go to garage sales and Goodwill to find fun things to add to my designs, such as buttons, lace, belts and other odds and ends." Not only does she save money, but she has even begun selling her designs to friends and family who are willing to pay her to create unique pieces they keep or give away as gifts.
Lindsay's particular way of upcycling has affected our family life. Not only are there usually bags of clothing heaped up in the dining room, or a shirt I thought had some life left in it invariably gone missing ("It had a hole in it," she said. "You looked fat in it," she said.), but Lindsay's passion has permeated into our children's lives. Upcycling has also become a hobby and fascination for our 3 daughters aged 4, 7 and 13. My girls love to make things out of things like toilet paper rolls and I to reuse jars and cans for crafts and for storage.
Lindsay has noticed kids enjoy being a part of the upcycling process from the cultivation and discovery to the design and fabrication. Our oldest has even started upcycling beads and charms to create jewelry.
Upcycling is a great way to teach kids the benefits of recycling and combat the feelings of unchecked consumption and entitlement that trouble so many young people today. Not to mention, you'll have a little extra coin in that upcycled purse.