About a year ago, I began to reach out to some bloggers that I looked up to in the realm of repurposing and what I like to call eco-crafting. With the DIY flame being rekindled these days (partly in thanks to Pinterest I’d venture), and the love that many of you share with me for upcycling and repurposing, I decided this would be a good place to resurrect this series.
Last fall, I interviewed my friend Amy, who used to contribute here on Simple Organic and is known for her writings at Progressive Pioneer. I love her simple, natural-parenting, urban-homesteading lifestyle, which is showcased in the types of projects she has featured on her blog over the years.
Nicole: What originally got you started in repurposing/eco-crafting?
Amy: I suppose I got started way back in high school. Thrifting was “in,” and many of my clothes came from the local Goodwill; I would cut, tie, combine, alter, patch and embellish things to get the look I was going for. Once you start repurposing and discover the joy of making something old come to life again, and enjoy such bargain basement prices (!) it’s hard to go back.
N: What are some of your favorite textiles/materials for crafting besides mainstream supplies?
A: Felted wool is, hands down, my favorite material. It’s just so deliciously snugly, solid and earthy. I love how great it is for baby clothes being anti-microbial and water resistant. I love how forgiving it is when you sew with it. And I love how abundant it is! I always scan the sweater racks whenever I’m in the thrift store and I have a whole basket of felted sweaters in my craft room.
Photo courtesy of Progressive Pioneer
N: How does eco-crafting fit into your lifestyle/life philosophy?
A: Quality is really important to our family, but we also try to be frugal, so thrifting and making things ourselves is really the way to go. Our general rule is to hit the thrift stores first and if after a month or so we can’t find what we’re looking for, we start saving for something new. But it’s pretty rare that with all the great thrift stores and online swap-it-or-sell-it sites to not be able to find something great. Often it takes a little elbow grease, paint or sewing to get something looking right, but by buying something used and then altering it, we often end up with something that’s much better quality than what we could afford if we bought it new. And once we’ve put our own mark on it whether that be by sewing something new out of old clothes or putting a new coat of paint on some furniture, we have something completely unique!
N: Who/what are some of your creative influences?
A: I enjoy looking to the past for inspiration. I really love how in the past children were dressed like, well, like children, not like mini-adults. So I often make clothing inspired by simpler children’s clothing of the past. I also love the more feminine lines of the 40s in women’s clothing. Textures also influence me. If something feels wonderful, that feeling alone might inspire me to make something with it, whether than be a sun-scoured piece of driftwood or a wonderfully soft yarn.
Photo courtesy of Progressive Pioneer
N: What’s been your favorite repurposing project?
A: I made my son a pair of pants that I love out of the sleeves of a felted, cable knit sweater and the cuff of a another pair of pants (the cuff made the waist on the new pants). I also used the same sweater to make him a hat that just melts my heart every time he wears it. I was originally trying to make a vest out of the sweater, but it was resisting my attempts. So I sewed up this double-pointed hat with a red jersey trim (from some other upcycled clothing) and it’s one of my favorite things to see him in. When he’s in the pants and the hat, it’s cute overload; I can hardly stand it!
N: How do you get your kids involved in this sort of thing?
A: Often my two-and-a-half-year old likes to just sit by me and cut up scraps. He also likes to knit, which means he takes a length of yarn and tosses it like spaghetti with a pair of knitting needles. Recently we made felt balls together and he loved the wet felting. I find that more than what he’s doing, it’s who he’s doing it with that is important to him. If I can find some small way for him to be involved and happily engaged at my side it just makes his day.
N: Do you have any recommended sources or advice for newbies?
A: The best advice is to jump right in. Materials are cheap when you’re thrifting and upcycling so don’t worry about “messing up.” If it takes a few times to get what you’re going for, no big deal! You’ll learn along the way and will eventually hit on some great ideas that you can bring to life.
Now it’s your turn, readers.. what’s your favorite repurposing project you’ve done? Who are some bloggers you look up to and would like to hear from about eco-crafting?