Somehow, broken or outdated stuff accumulates everywhere around us. Closets overflow with outgrown, out-of-style, stained or torn clothing. In our own homes or at thrift stores, we find zillions of unwanted things, from cassettes and old VHS tapes to forlorn handknits. Thrift stores also occasionally give shelter to stashes of vintage yarn or thread.
With every unwanted item you might encounter, there's always the possibility of upcycling it -- re-purposing that unwanted item into something better than it originally was. This page is dedicated to exploring ideas for upcycling anything crochet-able.
If there are any soda or beer snobs in your household, the chances are good you'll be able to get your hands on metal bottle caps from time to time. You can upcycle those bottle caps and put them to good use!
This snowflake bottle cap trivet is one example of an up-cycled craft project you can make that combines crochet and bottle caps. It's a really simple project -- so simple that even a beginning crocheter could make it. The idea: you just crochet the simple circle motif a bunch of times, then join the circles together with the bottle caps sandwiched in between. You'll end up with a really cute, sturdy trivet that's perfect for use during the winter months, especially during the holiday season.
In a "former life," these napkin rings used to be pull tabs on some cat food cans. Combine the pull tabs with a bit of colored wire, work a little crochet magic on them, and voila. They look great as a part of any place setting.
This attractive pouch used to be nothing more than some rumpled-up plastic shopping bags that came home with me from the grocery store. My kittens had chewed some holes in them, so they couldn't be used as bags any more, but after I cut out the chewed spots I was able to salvage enough material from the bags to make this nice little pouch. I think the pouch is a big improvement; if not for this project idea, the bags would have gone into the recycle bin. What a waste of perfectly good material that would have been.
Note: Unless you decide to give this pouch a lining, it's good for holding items that aren't too large to slip between the stitches -- things like a small collection of cat toys, bottles of nail polish, etc. I wouldn't recommend this as a pencil case -- for that, you'd need a lined pouch like this checkerboard pouch design. If you want to use it as a makeup case, it can't be trusted with your eyeliners and lip pencils, although I think it would be fine for holding compacts, eyeshadows, etc.
This is another plarn project you can make from plastic bags that have outlived their usefulness.
The main body of this pot scrubber is made from upcycled produce bags, the kind you can get either at the farmer's market or (sometimes, maybe) the grocery store -- or maybe at a bulk warehouse buyer's club type store. I recommend the farmer's market, which is where I got mine.
This pattern really couldn't be simpler; it's also really quick to do. You basically just cut and fold the produce bags and then crochet around them to make your scrubber. Unless you live next door to a store, I think making one of these is quicker than running out to get scrubbers when you run out of them -- and it's certainly less expensive, at least it is if you use scrap thread to do your crocheting.
The projects on this list could all be upcycled, assuming you use secondhand and re-purposed materials to make them (instead of buying all new fabrics at the craft store.) For example, rag rugs like this one were traditionally the "poster projects" for upcycling.
I did use new materials for some of the project samples on my list, thinking perhaps my project samples would look nicer that way. In hindsight, I spent wayyyyy too much money buying fabrics for these projects, and I could have saved a bundle if I had upcycled instead of buying new. I'm pretty sure my projects would have been just as nice either way. Lesson learned!
Important Note: Be aware that it's often possible for you to dye (or over-dye) used natural-fiber fabrics if the fabrics you are going to use are stained or faded. It's preferable to avoid this if possible, both from cost and environmental standpoints. But, if you have fabrics that are unusable otherwise, and they can be made useable with dyes, my opinion is that it's preferable to salvage them -- especially if you enjoy the process of creating lovely "new" colorful fabrics in the place of the old, faded stained ones.
Kathryn Vercillo contributed this project to our website; it's an upcycled shrug that she made from a crocheted pillow case.
I found this project inspiring; I think it is a perfect example of how, sometimes, you can re-purpose your crocheted items after they have outlived their original purpose. I think it would be a tragedy to just toss a crocheted piece into the trash, or donate to a thrift store. (I do buy interesting crocheted pieces at thrift stores, but I confess that it makes me sad to see them there in the first place.)