You may have heard the term before but recently the concept of Upcycling has been gaining a lot of attention. Upcycling is the process of taking used materials or products and turning them into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. This differs a bit from the traditional model of recycling, sometimes called downcycling, where materials are reused but in a way that decreases their value and only puts off their disposal for a little while. The classic example of downcycling is how plastics get melted together to make type 7 plastics that can not be further recycled.
When it comes to textiles, upcycling is not really a new concept. People have always mended and remade clothing to get more life out of them, during WWII there were campaigns such as “Make Do and Mend” and “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Or Do Without" to encourage people to fix things due to rationing.
While neither of those slogans may sound very glamorous there is no reason that Making Do can't mean Making it Awesome! The easiest way you can start upcycling right now is to make over items in your own closet or give new life to items from your local thrift store.
Often the first place to start with a used garment is to over dye it and brighten the color back up. Sometimes that is really all an item needs and you can keep wearing your favorite shirt for years to come. With Dharma's selection of dyes for almost every fiber out there and wide color range you can be sure to find a color that will do the job.
Once you have brought some color back there are endless possibilities for embellishing your garment. Stenciling, stamping, screen printing and embroidery are all great ways to add unique details and make your garment rival high end labels. Many folks are even turning upcycling into their business model, like our friend Ashley of Lil' Blue Boo who makes some of our tutorials, but also has patterns for making children's clothing out of old but "refreshed" adult garments. If you sew, the possibilities are endless!
Reasons We Should Upcycle:
During the past 35 years, the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled from 2.7 to 4.4 pounds per day. The most effective way to stop this trend is by preventing waste in the first place when we can.
Reduces the need for landfills and incineration.
Recycling diverted over 72 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2003, up from 34 million tons in 1990—doubling in just 10 years. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources.
Saves energy and conserves natural resources.
Helps sustain the environment for future generations.
IT SAVES MONEY! You can re-dye goods at a fraction of the cost of new goods.