Tag Archives: repurposing

Amish-style wool sweater blanket

Not sure what I’m going to do when spring comes since I’ve become obsessed with repurposing and upcycling wool sweaters. This time instead of making a throw, I used merino wool sweaters from around the house, supplemented with some from ARC Thrift, to make this blanket. I threw them all into the washer and dryer, then used a rotary cutter to cut 6″ wide pieces of varying lengths from the sleeves and 12″ pieces from the fronts and backs of the sweaters, then stitched them into strips, serged the strips together, and serged all around the edges to finish. Part of my goal was creating something that would bring some color into a room that is pretty sedate (sage green walls and deep purple leather sofa)—one of my new year’s resolutions is: MORE COLOR!

Here is the result—the blanket, and the blanket draped over the leather sofa.

Amish-style wool sweater blanker


Six more reasons to love ArcThrift: 6 cashmere sweaters + 50% off = another cashmere throw

Cashmere throw made from six recycled sweaters from ArcThrift

There are lots of mission-related reasons to love ArcThrift, my favorite thrift store. It is a social enterprise, employing people with disabilities as well as immigrants and refugees, and the proceeds from the thrift stores support advocacy programs for people with developmental disabilities. And CEO Lloyd Lewis is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities.

And when you are recycling, repurposing and otherwise trying to be green, there is always lots of choose from in these stores.

But yesterday, ArcThrift rose to the top of my list of Denver area thrift stores again for pure design reasons, providing the raw materials for a cashmere throw for my mother-in-law, who really liked the throw I made for my daughter. As Nancy wrapped Jeannie’s throw around her, I kept thinking: I should make her one. But how? And with what? The materials in Jeannie’s throw had exhausted my personal supply.

Making the rounds of the ArcThrift to see what shirts I could salvage for the polyester chronicles, I came across a cashmere sweater. Examined it carefully. There were no  holes. Then another, then another. I ended up with six, and because it was the day after New Year’s Day sale, all were half price.

Everything was half off the tagged price!

The cache before cutting...

I threw them all in the washer and dryer, then cut as many large pieces as I could from the sleeves, fronts and back, serged them together, then serged all around the edges to finish it off.

Approximate time, including shopping: 3 hours

Love this new purpose!

Christmas 2009: Mondrian pattern cashmere throw and Coach Rockies wristlet

When my daughters were little, I used to make them clothes, little purses, toys, etc. And then they grew up, and Abercrombie always seemed more interesting than Mom’s creations.

This Christmas, I really felt drawn to making personal gifts—something that might outlast even the best-chosen mall gift. Here is what I came up with:

  • One daughter is an over-the-top Colorado Rockies fan, and also loves Coach purses. I repurposed a Coach® wristlet, painting most of the leather Rockies purple, and leaving the cream colored flap as is, except for writing “Go Rockies!” across it.
  • My oldest daughter is always wrapping herself with blankets when she’s home, claiming that we keep the temperature too low (we do!). I made her a throw from pieces of repurposed cashmere scarves and sweaters, serging the pieces together in a somewhat Mondrian pattern, then serged all around to finish off the edges.

Here are the happy results. I really had fun doing this, hope they enjoy the gifts as much as I did creating them.

Guiding Principles of New Purpose-ing

There are three guiding principles for our upcycling, repurposing and new-purposing projects at New Purpose:

1. You can abandon the project any time that you want. One of the most liberating books I read a few years ago encouraged people to stop reading when it was no longer interesting (NOTE: this does not apply to my daughters in school!) If you start working on a project and it starts draining energy instead of creating energy, STOP!

2. It can’t take a lot of time. There are so many things to do in the world; it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend 20 hours turning a $2 object into something else (unless you are really, really having fun–see guiding principle # 1).

3. You have to love it! Which means you need to love something about the fabric or whatever you are starting it, and have a wonderful image of what you can create that energizes you. If you don’t love the raw materials you are new-purposing starting out, the likelihood that you will love it later is pretty remote. Spend your time on what you love.

Repurposing seat cushion covers: Creating pillow covers from bandanas

Finished the kitchen seat cover project (see prior blog post here), and was left with my four mismatched bandanas that I bought on the Japanese island of Miyajima three years ago. After washing, started to throw them in one of my fabric-to-be-repurposed boxes, then realized they could be put to immediate use—covering some really ugly pillows in the room that I’m repurposing to a sewing room!

Here is the ugly pillow:


Here is one of the pillows covered with the repurposed bandana:


Total time: 15 minutes, including coming up with idea. This is a really easy way to make pillow covers.


Kitchen chairs, wine country and Africa

Less than two weeks ago, we were traveling through wine country on the west coast after dropping off our youngest daughter at college. After a terrific lunch in Healdsburg, CA (in Sonoma County) we walked around the square and found Circumference Imports, a wonderful little shop/social enterprise on the plaza that sells beautiful handcrafts purchased directly from artists or cooperatives in Africa, and run by a woman named Faya, who happened to be a graduate of the University of Denver’s School of International Studies, proving to me once again what a small world it is.

Anyway, there was a huge bin of pieces of African cloth, and it inspired me to once again try to recycle our kitchen bar chairs. They have already been through 3 cycles. Their original purpose, as we brought them home from Target (at 4 for $100 if I recall), was to provide a place for our young daughters to sit at the huge butcher block counter top in our kitchen and do homework. When the wicker seats became really tattered, I made some floral cushions for them. A few years later, the light wood of the chairs were covered with every imaginable marker, crayon and dog-chewing mark possible, I spray-painted them all black and covered the cushions with some assorted bandanas.

Almost three years later, those were now showing their wear, and I could see the glee in my husband’s eyes as he visualized placing them in the large item trash pickup, and replacing them with some new bar stools.

NOT SO FAST! The colors of the African cloth and the beautiful gloss of the fabric finish are taking those chairs to round 4 of their lives, and buying from a social enterprise has its own benefits as well: In this case, helping women in Africa with very little formal education and few employment opportunities make livable wages. A New Purpose!


This fabric helps women in Africa earn a livable wage.

This fabric helps women in Africa earn a livable wage.

Creating a repurposed fall wardrobe, inspired by DKNY’s Fall Sophistication

Fall=Back to School! And although I’ve been in Colorado now for almost 3o years, I still have that urge during Labor Day weekend to think about fall wardrobes. (This is not a Colorado thing, where hiking and bicycling weather may last through November, or where it may snow next week!) But since I am married to someone who thinks it’s absolutely insane to head to the mountains on the one weekend where everyone else will be as well, I get to hang out in our backyard, speculate on whether the tomatoes will ripen, get together with friends who are also in town, and pore through fall fashion magazines.

And here is what I love: DKNY‘s fall sophistication collection. Red coats, camel jackets, black and gray pencil skirts, a hint of leopard. And because we now have two daughters in college, I do not head to the store in Cherry Creek or online, but to my closet and fabric bins.  And here is what I find:

  • Vintage cashmere coat I bought on ebay several years ago and never wore because it looked like something I would have worn when I was 8 for Easter Sunday
  • Camel jacket with really big shoulders that Jen convinced me I should buy at Goodwill on one of our thrift store runs
  • A silk big-shouldered blouse from the 80s and a cashmere top from the same era that I should have retired years ago
  • The ugliest, most wrinkled long black-skirt with a big slit up the front that I can’t imagine I ever bought (it must have snuck into my closet)
  • A few other odds and ends

I hang them up on the clothesline in my backyard to see if in any way that they can come together, and set my project for the next month: I will convert all of these into a fall capsule wardrobe, kind of like those magazine layouts where 7 pieces will give you enough outfits for a month.

Some random pieces harvested from closet

Some random pieces harvested from closet

And I will document what I do so that others who like me think it might be a bit crazy to part with more than $100 for anything given job and economic uncertainty can come up with some ideas of their own. During the next few weeks, I’ll take one piece at a time and see how it can be new-purposed!