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Upcycling Ideas

Updated on January 10, 2014

Upcycling is using something that would be thrown out or recycled for a new purpose. A common upcycling activity is to use disposable objects to create crafts and useful household items. I am far from an upcycling diva, but I enjoy using certain items that would otherwise be discarded.

While upcycling can help the crafter save money, some people will spend money to create altered bottles and other upcycle projects. I will often use scrapbooking embellishments and papers to decorate the item. However, I would rather use bits of ribbon or paper to create an attractive container that has personality rather than buy a plain, plastic container.

There are no rules. Do what you like to make things your own. Here area few of my favorite upcycling projects.

Altered Bottles

I enjoy making altered bottles. Friends will save wine bottles and other types of jars and bottles for me to use. The white bottle was from salad dressing. I coated the inside of the bottle with white acrylic paint to give it a milk glass appearance. The pink and white painted bottle was painted on the outside of the bottle. If you apply paint to the outside of the bottle, I suggest coating the dry paint thoroughly with varnish or Mod Podge afterwards to help prevent scratching.

The bottle in the back features a seascape that I painted on canvas paper. Inside that bottle, I rolled up aged paper tied with twine and added a small key. Though the paper doesn't show any writing, I wrote John 3:16 on the paper before I rolled it. I have not sold any of my altered bottles yet, but I have given them as gifts.

Paper Beads

Another favorite upcycling idea that I use is making paper beads from magazines. I used to hold onto magazines for months. Though I enjoy getting magazines at times, it seems like I lose interest in them very quickly or they arrive when I'm focused on my work. So, I'd set them aside thinking that maybe in a week or so, I'd want to look at them. More often than not, a week turns into weeks and then months. Next thing I know, I have a stack of 5 magazines that I haven't really looked at. It's a good thing that the magazine subscriptions that I get are free.

In the past, I'd get sick of looking at the small stack of magazines and throw them away. After I started doing altered bottles, I wondered if I could use the photos in the magazines for those. However, magazine paper is thin, very glossy, and not really well suited for most crafts. I found one craft for which to use old magazines: paper beads. I've found this activity to be very satisfying. Instead of paging through the magazine with no real purpose, I now look through them, make note of anything interesting, and consider the colors and how well suited the page would be for paper beads.

This bracelet is made with paper beads made from a magazine page as well as a shell and small spacer beads.

Upcycled Containers

Where do I keep all these paper beads? I have used a few upcycled containers to organize them. This container is a International Cafe coffee container that I covered with burlap ribbon and red ribbon holding examples of which beads are inside the container. Now, I can look at the container and know right away which beads are inside of it. Also, I think the containers are cute enough to sit on a shelf rather than being tucked away in my craft bins. The original label is somewhat visible through the burlap. If that bothered me, I'd cover it with a solid colored paper before adding the burlap.

I don't find wide-mouthed jars as attractive for altered bottles, but these jars can serve many purposes for organization. I use this painted jar to hold some brushes and palette knives.

One thing that I am cautious about is gathering and storing too many items with the intention of using them in crafts. I have limited space, so I only save items for which I have a use in mind and know that I can use it in the near future. When my friends save items for me, they ask if I can use the items and I'm honest and don't accept things that I know I can't put to good use rather quickly. It would be too easy to become a bit of a hoarder if I took in everything that I could possibly want somewhere down the line but have no concrete plans to use them.

There are many interesting upcycling ideas and projects. I'm sure many people who will read this have their own upcycling projects that they enjoy. Please share in the comments if you have a favorite upcycling project.


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