What is Upcycling?

upcycle meaning
Definition taken from Google

To upcycle or upcycling has become a pretty trendy thing to do but, when you think about it, generations before us have been doing the same thing over and over again.

To upcycle today has a huge meaning, from taking broken furniture and making it into something completely different (for example a chair turned into a side table) or just to sand something down and re-paint it.  Even repurposing things is a form of upcycling, like turning a dresser into a home office space.

Upcycling does not stop at furniture either, clothes can be upcycled from jeans and dresses into bags and tops, old blankets into cozy jumpers, plastic bags into rugs…the list is almost as endless as our imagination.

The definition talks about creating a product of higher quality or value than the original and the meaning of the word value is not one just of monetary value but of emotional value too, taking something that you dislike and adding your own touch to it and making it something that you are proud of and like, something that fits your life and style.

For me, upcyling is about adding my own personality to something, from chairs and lamps to my desk and storage space, clothes and accessories, and making things stand out, become unique and a piece of artwork in its own right.

What do you consider to be “upcycling”?

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Upcycle Project – Table Lamp

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I’ve been meaning to write a post about this lamp for a while now as it’s probably the one thing I get most compliments and questions about when people visit my home.  I was going to share how I upcycled the lamp from being a plain lamp to having a dinosaur fringe but it seems that, at the time I didn’t take as many photos as I should have.  The good thing is that I can still talk you through the process!

Items You Will Need

  • Lamp with shade
  • Dinosaur Figures
  • Pony beads
  • Jump rings
  • Headpins
  • Eye Pins
  • Round nosed jewellery pliers
  • Flat nosed jewellery pliers
  • Darning Needle*
  • Lighter*

*unless you own a dremel or other drill with a super fine drill bit….

Steps

  1. Using a dremel or other drill with a super fine drill bit, drill holes through all of the dinosaurs.  (If you don’t own a dremel or other drill, then you can heat up a darning needle with a lighter and use this to create a hole through each dinosaur…PLEASE be careful if using this method)
  2. Thread headpin through the created hole with the flat part to the underside of the dinosaur.
  3. Using the round nose pliers, create a loop at the top of the dinosaur with the excess headpin metal.
  4. Attach an eyepin to the created loop using a jump ring.
  5. Thread on a couple of pony beads before using the round nose pliers to create another loop at the end of the eye pin.
  6. Work out where you want the dinosaurs to hang on the lampshade and mark faintly in pencil where you want the holes to go that you will attach the dinosaur to.
  7. Using the flat nosed pliers, open up a jump ring and attach to the bottom of the lampshade.  I made sure that my jump ring went over the wire at the base of the shade.
  8. Before closing the jump ring, add the dinosaur bead loop to the ring then close.
  9. Repeat for all dinosaurs.
  10. Stand back and admire your work!

 

Upcycle Project – Artificial Flowers

I worked on this project for my Mum, she had bought a little pot of fake flowers to sit in her living room on one of the shelves but they were plain white with not much interest to them, and in her words “they look too fake…”.  After having a chat with her about what she wanted I said I may be able to help and dutifully carried them home to work on.

I thought about the best way to add colour to the flowers without it looking too bright, Mum wanted something a bit natural looking, and as these were similar flowers to a hydrangea I decided that I would use colours similar to those of the hydrangea.

I chose to use some of my excess hair dye – Bleach London dye and some Superdrug own brand dye, as I had used it for my floor lamp and it had worked really well and I knew I could control the intensity of the colour by diluting the dye with water and conditioner.

Here’s the before and after pics

I didn’t take that many pics during the process as it was a bit messy…each flower needed to be dabbed with dye using a paintbrush and I ended up with the dye mix all over my hands.  However, this was a really simple and easy upcycle project to undertake and Mum was really pleased with the outcome!

Here’s the rest of the pics I took…

Upcycle Project – Floor Lamp

I’ve had the same plain floor lamp for as long as I can remember and while I love the actual lamp itself I’ve not really been liking the shade.  I bought the lamp from Ikea years ago (so long ago that they don’t sell it anymore!), it has a fold out hinge so you can move the light around without disturbing the stand which I find perfect for reading under in the evenings.  The shade that came with it was cream and seemed to pick up dirt and dust really quickly and forever looked a bit grubby which I really didn’t like so I decided that I would make it into something that I did like.  I have to issue an apology now because I don’t have any proper “before” pictures except for this one where you can see the lamp in the corner behind my chair…

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The first thing I did was to wash and dry the shade after removing it from the stand.  I scrubbed it off in the kitchen sink with dish soap and a scrubbing-brush which seemed to remove most of the dirt and dust.  I left it overnight to dry off.

The next morning I decided that I was going to either paint it with acrylic paint or attempt to dye it.  As I was running low on paints I figured I’d have a go at dying it.  I had some leftover semi permanent hair colours in yellow, orange and pink shades so watered them down a bit.  I then began applying the dye in bands around the shade with a paint brush.

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I started with the yellow then worked my way down to orange before finishing with the pink.  I left it to dry overnight again before rinsing off any residue in the sink.  The colours blended together a bit and they faded down once rinsed and dried off again but I was happy with the outcome.

I then decided to add a beaded fringe so raided my bead collection for suitable beads

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I decided to use small pony beads and finish the fringe off with small brass bells.  I measured the circumference of the shade at its widest end, marked 1 inch sections and marked with a small pencil mark then, working from the inside rim, used a needle and thread to puncture a hole where I wanted the fringe to be.  I added beads then a bell before passing the needle back through the beads and back through the hole I had made, then moved on to the next 1 inch mark before repeating.  I worked this way, all around the rim before tying off and completing.  Once finished I reattached the shade to the lamp.

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What do you think of my handiwork?  What other uses do you think hair dye has?

Upcycle Project – Dining Chairs(Part 4)

I’m finally on the last part of the posts about my dining chair upcyle project (Part 1, 2 and 3 can be found in the following links – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 ) and today I will be sharing the finishing touches that I have added, lessons I have learned and how much the project cost per chair.

Firstly though, the finished chairs…

I finally finished the chairs, it took several weekends to complete but I’ve done it and am really pleased with the outcome!  The final finishing touch that I have added is some pompom trim that I used for the alcoves when I decorated the downstairs which I purchased from Amazon (if you missed that post you can find it here) .  I decided to add the trim to add a further element of co-ordination into the colour scheme and design of the room and I feel that it pulls all the elements together really well.  I like the idea that people will notice all the little touches and will allow their eye to investigate the room in greater detail.

This chairs project was really my first major foray into the world of upcycling and upholstery.  I have not worked on a project quite like this before and along the way have learned a few lessons…

  1. However long you think it will take, double it and add an hour.  Sanding the chairs was probably the longest part and I couldn’t believe how much time I spent clearing the old varnish from the frames of the chairs.
  2. Clearing all the varnish and stripping the frames back to bare wood is the best thing to do for the paint to adhere properly.  Failing to clear all the varnish, like on my yellow chair, has resulted in patchy paint and the colour of the varnish bleeding through all the coats of paint I applied.  It still looks patchy now and seems to be more noticeable at the bottom of the legs.
  3. Sometimes it pays to sit back and think a bit…I tried to create a fancy curved corner and edge on the first seat that I tried to upholster which didn’t really work and frustrated me when it didnt go to plan.  I should have sat and thought about what I was doing and ways to cover the seat before starting.
  4. Have fun with your project.  Think about what is fun and makes you smile and go with what you think will work.  The worst that can happen with a project like this is that you have to sand the chair down and start again.

And here are the costing calculations on the attached document…

Costings for chairs

So, in all the chairs cost £17.63 to upcycle which doesn’t seem too bad when you consider that I have bespoke, one of a kind, unique chairs that fit my home and style perfectly and I have had the experience of learning new skills along the way.  And I’m proud to show them off and say “I created these”.  I would recommend to anyone that can’t seem to find furniture that they completely like or keep finding thing that are not quite right to go out and see what is available for sale second-hand and try your hand at creating something that you love!

 

Upcycle Project – Dining Chairs (Part 3)

I have shared the first two parts of this project already, you can find the first post (about finding my chairs) here, and the second part (about preparing them and painting) here .  Todays post is about upholstering the seat part of the chairs.

I had decided to replace the seat part of the chair fabric with white vinyl and decided that I would replace the seat padding at the same time as the padding was fairly flat and on some chairs felt pretty non existent.  I decided to use a thick, 2 inch deep foam for the seat padding which I bought from Amazon.  I also needed to buy a staple gun and the vinyl material which I also ordered from Amazon.  As the width of the material I chose to use was 1.4 meters I purchased 2 meters in length which gave me enough fabric to cover all 4 seats.

The first task I had was to remove the old fabric from the seats once the seat had been removed from the chair frame.  Sounds fairly simple doesn’t it?  This task took an age!  The old fabric had been stapled to the seat base with about a million staples per seat, and it wasnt just the sheer amount of staples used that made it a lengthy task, the staples were really tough to remove, some of them embedded into the wood quite deeply.  I used a screwdriver to lever the staples out one by one.  Once the staples had been removed I could see that the seat padding was made up of bits of milled material and foam had been used around the edges of the seat to make them less hard.  The foam had disintegrated fairly badly and had in many places turned to dust.  I had to carefully remove the fabric and use a Hoover to clean up as I went along.

The foam pads that I had bought were slightly bigger than the seat bases which meant I needed to cut the foam down to size.  as the seats were not square I also needed to make sure that the foam shape matched that of the seat so I used the seat as a template and traced around them onto the foam with a sharpie marker before cutting the excess foam away with scissors.

Once the foam had been cut to size I then needed to cut the vinyl down too.  I cut the piece I had bought into 4 sections, one piece for each seat.  I then laid this down on the table with the facing side to the table and the underside of the fabric facing up.  on to this I laid the cut foam and then placed the seat on top.  From that point I was able to start securing the fabric to the seat using the staple gun.  I started in the centre of the front of the seat, then the back centre, making sure the fabric was taught and evenly stretched over the foam.  I then secured each side before trimming down the excess fabric and then continued to staple the fabric into place.  Once I reached the corners I chose to fold the fabric and tuck it in, creating a neat looking corner.  I had, on the first chair. attempted to be fancy and create rounded seat edged but it didn’t work particularly well and I ended up with excess fabric in one corner and an awkward looking seat covering.   In hindsight I think that if the foam hadn’t been so thick then that idea would have worked a lot better!

In the pictures above you will be able to see that I started with stapling the corners of the fabric first…this was the first seat that I covered where I thought that making the corners rounded was a good idea…it wasn’t!  And starting on the corners meant that the tension of the fabric was out which made it harder to get the fabric to lay nicely over the foam.  On the other seats I secured the fabric in the centre of the sides and worked front centre 0 back centre, then both sides in the centre before working my way along the rest of the sides and out towards the corners.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any more pictures of the full method I used….

Next week I will be showing you the completed chairs and the fun decoration I have added to the chairs!

Upcycle Project – Dining Chairs (Part 2)

In last weeks post I told you guys about my dining chair find and the idea I had for upcycling them, todays post is about prepping them and painting them.

I decided that I was going to paint the chairs in different colours and change the seat fabric to white instead of going with white chairs and coloured seats.  I wanted to match the colours of the chairs to storage boxes in my dining area – pink, blue, yellow and white, however, I thought that having one fully white chair may look a bit odd but I was not really sure what colour paint to choose instead.  I decided to head to B&Q and see what sort of colours they had and what stood out to me.  I chose B&Q Colours range and bought tester pots in Playful Pink, Buttercup Yellow, Tropez blue, and lastly, instead of white I chose Green Apple.

Before painting I needed to prep the chairs by removing the varnish from them so that the paint would adhere properly.  Unfortunately I learned this the hard way as all I did for the first chair I painted was to “rough up” the varnish rather than remove it completely, the paint didn’t take very well and still, in certain lights looks patchy now.  I decided to remove the seat to make the process of sanding a bit easier and managed to remove the seat from the chair frame fairly easily, all I needed to do was flip the chairs upside down and undo 5 screws then lift the seat off.  Once the seat was off I was able to start sanding the chair frame down.  I used an 80 grit sandpaper and sanded each chair back to the wood in the garden.  Sanding is a lot messier than I anticipated and after being covered with dust and having to wash so many clothes I figured it would be better to wear my overalls for the job!  I worked on one chair at a time so that the screws and seats didnt become muddled as I wasnt sure if all the screw holes would match up on each chair.

There are a few things I learned about sanding while undertaking this part of the project (aside from wearing overalls…) and one of them is to sweep up immediately after you have finished otherwise the fuzzy “helper” will go and lie in the dust you have created and get covered!  The other thing I learned was that sanding is a lot more time-consuming than you imagine!  I had expected to clear the varnish from one chair in around an hour… in reality it took more like 4 hours to remove all the varnish per chair.

Once the sanding was finished I was able to start painting.  I started with the yellow first as I was going to be using the same brush for all chairs and washing it out between colours.  Starting with the lightest colour first means that there is less likelihood of paint to be ruined through colour contamination should the brush not be cleaned thoroughly.

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Aside from the yellow chair needing several layers of paint and still being patchy now (due to the varnish not being stripped completely) I’m pretty happy with how the chair frames turned out and the paint colours I had chosen.  The paint is a matt finish and I used 3 tester pots per chair, did 2 to 3 coats per chair (the yellow chair took 5 pots and a lot more coats of paint) and they were fully dry by the following morning, touch dry within 20 minutes.

Next week I will be sharing the upholstering part of this project!

Upcycle Project – Dining Chairs (Part 1)

A little while ago I sort of, nearly finished a upcycle project I have been working on.  And when I say “sort of nearly” I just mean that the majority of the hard work has been done and to any other person the project would look to be complete, but, I have more teeny things I would like to do in order for me to feel that the project has come to a close.  The project I am referring to is my dining chairs.

When I moved in to my home I had a dining table but no chairs, which in turn meant nowhere for guests to sit should I decide to invite anyone over for food unless sitting on the sofa and balancing a plate on your knees is acceptable in any circumstances other than when you are alone.  I started searching on Facebook, (who happen to have introduced a nifty little feature called “Marketplace” which seems to round-up any selling adverts from groups and put them all in one place which you can search on by either selecting certain categories or adding your own search terms), for dining chairs or chairs of any kind that I could use as substitutes.  I found some pretty decent looking plastic school chairs that I thought would be ok, they were orange which I loved and free too!  I messaged the seller but he didn’t want to let me have 4 of them, he had 36 to get rid of and wanted them gone en-mass.  I contacted a few other people who had chairs up for free but either they had already been collected by someone else or else I had no reply.  I sort of gave up looking and had decided that eventually I would probably have to buy some which is when I found “the ones”….

I can’t remember what I was looking for on Marketplace, all I know is that I wasn’t looking for chairs, but an ad caught my eye purely because the chairs in question reminded me of the ones my Mum and Dad had when I was growing up…they had the same shape to them, the same fabric, the same colour varnish, the only thing that was different was the back rest of the chairs, the ones in the ad had low backs where the ones Mum and Dad owned had high backs.  Out of interest I clicked on the ad and found that the owner was giving them away for free!  I sent a message and collected them later that day.  1582

I’ve got a white table and the rest of the furniture in my dining area is white so having brown and orange chairs wasn’t really going to match very well.  I decided that I would re-paint the chairs.  My initial idea was to paint the chairs white with a possibility of renewing the fabric on the seats, I was going to pick out similar colours to boxes I have in my storage unit that are pink, blue, yellow and white.  I changed my mind about having white chairs with coloured seats as I found it hard to find fabric in colours I was happy with or that weren’t mega bucks and out of my price range.  After a bit of extra thought and research into costs I decided that I would paint the chairs different colours and chose a white vinyl fabric to do all the seats with.

Next week I will be sharing the first part of the project with you!