Thrift Store Thursday--Upcycle

*Photo and book at

Have you heard the term “upcycle?” If not, this is the definition…"The practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value". The term was coined in the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (

I love this word and I love the idea of upcycling just about anything. In fact, I have been practicing it for years and I didn’t even know it was cool and hip. You can be cool and hip, too. Next time you find yourself browsing through your favorite thrift store, ask yourself, “How can I make this item of greater use and value?” After all, there is no rule that says you must leave something the way that it came. In fact, it is a lot more satisfying to change things up and brand your thrifted items as your own. Would you like some ideas? Here are a few:

paint some furniture
change the upholstery
add cool buttons or ribbon
shorten or lengthen
cut the top off a dress and make a skirt
use pretty dishes to hold flowers or makeup or hair accessories
cut and sew vintage tablecloths into napkins or totes or headbands
frame cool pictures from old books

If upcycling feels a bit overwhelming, you can still hop on the cool and hip upcycle wagon by purchasing items that someone else has upcycled. Etsy is a great place for this…after a quick search I found over 3,500 items labeled upcycled totes, over 3,000 items labeled upcycled books, and over 14,000 items labeled upcycled clothes. That’s a lot of upcycling!

I upcycle a lot…I think it is good for my checkbook, the environment, and my creative spirit. Here are a couple of thrifted things I’ve upcycled recently:

Black Laces to Blue Ribbons

*Plain, black dress to something with pizazz…I bought a $1 headband
and carefully pulled the flower applique off the band and then basted it to the dress.

My changes were pretty easy. Look at what Liz did with her thrifted polka dot dress.

*Photos from Say Yes to Hoboken

I love this upcycle, Therese is using an antique glass cabinet, made to showcase books and pretty things, to store/show off her beautiful shoes.

*Photos from La Dolfina

Do you have any great upcycling ideas? Please share.


  1. Back when I was in high school, vests were very popular and I would go to the thrift store and by long skirts that I liked and cut them off. Then make a matching vest out of the bottom part I had cut off. I've been an upcycler for years and just didn't know it.

  2. Awesome post Lori!
    Upcycling is the best!
    Thank you so much for mentioning me.
    I wish it were complete, but I'll post it again when it's totally upcycled!
    You really have a wonderful blog full of great tips!