Tips for Buying Materials to Upcycle

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This guest post was written by Jessica Hill from Mad in Crafts.

Today’s green crafting posts are sponsored by Eco Green Crafts! Check out how to enter to win a $25 gift card and you’ll also get a coupon code for 20% off your order!

Upcycling is good for the environment, the pocketbook, and your creativity.  It is so satisfying to take something that has outworn its use and give it new life with a bit of elbow grease and innovation.

If you are known to friends and family as “the crafty one,” you likely get regular donations of goodies from people saying, “I thought you could make something out of this.”  Ideally, you could always find items to upcycle without having to spend a dime, but occasionally hitting the thrift stores or yard sales can yield equally exciting materials.  Today, I am going to share some of my tips for maximizing your purchase of materials for an upcycling project.


Upcycled Door Coffee Table

When you are upcycling free furniture, you don’t need to be picky about whether it is particle board, laminate or veneer.  If you are going to spend money on furniture to upcycle, you want to look for real wood, if possible.  Wood holds up better to sawing, drilling, and sanding, plus it is MUCH easier to paint. has tips for determining whether a piece of furniture is solid wood or veneer.

When you find a piece of furniture at a thrift store or a garage sale, there is always a chance that not only is the piece worth buying in order to upcycle it, it may be worth buying because it is an antique.  In that case, you need to do some research before cutting it in half with a hack saw.  This article from TLC helps to determine if your new purchase is an antique or just old.

Don’t worry about hardware, color, or minor chips or dents as these are all easily fixable issues.  Plus, if you are doing a major transformation, you probably want to change all these elements anyway!

Upcycling Inspiration:

$6 Nailhead Side Table

Nightstand Turned Diaper Robot



Pop Top Lampshade

There are a few elements you want to look for in a thrifted or yard sale lamp.  First, check to see if the lamp shade is intact and in good shape.  For some reason, lamp shades are crazy expensive so if you can find a basic lamp base with a decent shade at a good price, that’s a double bonus.

Even if the lamp does not come with a shade, the piece may still be worth a few bucks.  Pick up the lamp and give the base a twist.  Does the base come apart into multiple pieces?  Many lamps are made of several pieces stacked onto a threaded post.  The more pieces the lamp is made from, the more opportunities you have for customization or new projects.

Don’t worry about if the lamp actually works.  Lamp kits are readily available at hardware stores, and rewiring a lamp can be a DIY project.  How Stuff Works has a great step-by-step tutorial for rewiring a lamp.

Upcycling Inspiration:

Typographic Globe with Upcycled Pedestal

Vintage Camera Tripod Floor Lamp



Pouf from Thrifted Blanket

The adage for linens is that the closer they will be to your body, the more money you should spend on them.  For upcycling, you have to determine the “ick” factor.  The closer the linen is going to be to your body, the lower you want the ick factor to be.

In other words,  buying a garage sale bed sheet and cutting it up to make yourself some undies is icky.  Buying a garage sale bed sheet and using it as a picnic tablecloth, is less icky.  Thrifted linens make excellent curtains, throw pillows, rag rugs, table runners, and more.

Upcycling Inspiration:

Crib Ruffle Turned Playroom Valence

5-Minute Placemat Pillows

Of course, these are all just hints and guidelines for shopping for possible upcycling projects.  If you find a piece you love that inspires you to make a fantastic project, it doesn’t matter what it is made of or what it looks like.  Just get out there and CREATE!

I’m Jessica Hill, the slightly-unbalanced blogger of Mad in Crafts. I used to spend my days teaching Shakespeare and Longfellow to high school students, trying desperately to make the classics modern for my students… or at least to keep them awake for the 45 minute class period.  Now, I teach readers how to combine classic style with modern trends in decorating, DIY, cooking, writing, and more!  And hopefully you stay awake in the meantime.


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Editor at FaveCrafts is a website with all the craft project ideas, tutorials, videos, and tips you'll ever need! We add new projects and tips every day. Some of our readers' favorites include Christmas Crafts, Free Knitting Patterns, Free Crochet Patterns and Crafting with Kids. You will find step-by-step instructions, videos and patterns to make it quick and easy.
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