May 14, 2012

Some Thoughts on Eco Friendly Crafting Supplies

There are many options when it comes to eco friendly crafting supplies.  Almost anything can be either upcycled or recycled.  There is literally no limit to what can be done!  I find that so inspiring.  I often refer to our team as a community of upcycling geniuses.  All you need to do is browse some shops and profiles and read the threads in the discussion forum and know that I am right.  Their thoughtful insights and one of a kind items will encourage you to rethink the way you look at ordinary and sometimes unordinary items.

While recycling is a wonderful thing, I believe upcycling is the better option when available.  When something is recycled in a manufacturing process there is still a lot of energy involved in recycling all of our incredible waste, upcycling tends to involve very little if any use of energy and certainly not in the amounts of something that is recycled.  The carbon foot print of artisans that do their work by hand isn't even comparable to the carbon foot print of a recycling facility.  As with most things, handmade is the way to go.

You can do a search on Etsy for upcycled supplies and find some excellent sources for materials.  One of my favorite eco friendly supply shops is Mike's T Shirt Yarn.  Mike keeps a fabulous selection of t shirt yarn.  He even makes crafting cords out of the tops of the t shirts so nothing goes to waste.  Mike does not dye his shirts so there are no chemicals introduced to the fabric during his process.  Who needs to use dye when your shop is this fun and bright anyway?  Mike has great taste in color.  Have a peek!

This fun tie dye t shirt yarn is available for purchase here.

Mike is only the beginning of what our creative and diverse team has to offer.  The diversity of our artisans only adds to the positive atmosphere of our little corner of the internet.  Upcycling opens new doors on what is and is not a crafting supply.  You can use any medium.  To prove this point, I decided to talk to some of the artisans on our team that use upcycled craft supplies.

Gray owns Knot Sew Trashy.  A very eclectic shop that I always have fun browsing through.  I asked Gray where she found her supplies.  She said, "I find my supplies almost everywhere. Really. I get supplies from all kinds of places; friends, family, freecycle/craigslist... My mother gave me all of her fabric scraps from making our Halloween costumes as kids. The thrift store here has a dollar room that's always full of fantastic things- and the money goes to AIDS research. A friend who volunteers there gives me some of the felted sweaters that come in, if I had them ALL I'd be drowning in them. I go to businesses and ask for things they are throwing out and they're happy to do so (Thanks to the bike shops!). I scored an enormous awesome bag of beautiful vintage yarn for 5$, and still do sometimes. It helps to look, ask, talk, and be resourceful. I jokingly pray to "The Trash Gods" in search of materials that I want. But my entire upcycling journey has been a big lesson in "Ask and you shall receive" Trust me, you shall!"

I think one of my favorite items in Gray's shop is her aprons.  So cute and a fabulous way to upcycle those large button up shirts!

This fabulous apron is available for purchase here.

I just love Gray's philosophy on upcycling.  Gray has such great energy that it is hard to not get excited and passionate about upcycling during every communication with her.  We spoke about philosophy and how we started down this path and she said, "Awhile back I started to see the excess around me and so I made it into things for friends and myself, which eventually became KnotSewTrashy! I feel that there isn't really much reason to buy new when there is so much possibility already there, waiting. Why use new resources? They're dwindling and we already have plenty! When you make something from upcycled materials its always unique. If you spend any amount of "extra" time preparing the material, it's made up for in costs, uniqueness, the environment, and the story. Old flannels make the softest hankies! With so many reasons TO upcycle, excuses NOT to just aren't in my lexicon. It just feels lazy now."

I couldn't agree more, Gray!  We are lucky to have so many talented artisans as members of our team.  Another artisan I would like to mention is Sarah from Sweet Someday.  She has a lovely shop of all upcycled materials.  Just look what she can do with a map and a license plate!

This lovely birdhouse is available for purchase here.

I just love Sarah's approach to gathering supplies.  I asked Sarah about this and she said, "I absolutely love shopping at thrift stores and rummage sales! I never know what new (to me) material I’m going to come across! I also often save items that most people would normally throw away and end up repurposing them. Sometimes I have leftover supplies from another project and end up making them into something completely different. I also have family members who do lots of building and woodworking, so I’m able to take their scrap pieces and use them. A lot of the time, I have materials saved up and don’t know what I’m going to do with them until much later. That’s the fun of creating!"

Sarah, I couldn't agree more.  I find that a fantastic approach to the creative process.  So often we get in a hurry to just get the finished product out there that we forget about the journey that our creative endeavors take us on. 

It is difficult to narrow it down to just a few shops, but this post just wouldn't be complete without mentioning Morgan from King Soleil, which currently has 3 upcycled lines running.  One for upcycled crochet.  Another for upcycled embroidery hoop art.  And finally her third line for upcycled children's clothing and accessories.  So how does she find all of her supplies?  I asked Morgan and she said, "My materials and supplies all come from different places and I feel like a treasure hunter each and every time I go on the prowl for new special finds. My local Goodwill, (well, any Goodwill within 40 miles, really) are wonderful sources and I visit them frequently. I especially like the Goodwill 'superstores' as they have loads of furniture, and I am currently building up an upcycled/refinished line for the nursery. I shop at local yard sales, tag sales, estate sales, and community sales. You can find amazing deals if you wait for the last day and haggle a bit. Usually everything is 50% off the last day anyway! Although, I never haggle at community sales where the money is going to a good cause. Another gold mine is fabric stores, upholstery shops, and interior design stores who are constantly updating their fabrics and have left-over or discontinued goodies that they will give away to save a trip to the dumpster. Oh, how it pains me to think perfectly lovely fabric samples books are thrown away every day! I am in love with fabric sample books!  I also pick through mom and pop consignment shops and vintage shops, but I don't get the same satisfaction upcycling these pieces. To me, upcycling is so much more than recycling; it is actually giving new life, a better life really, to a piece that was otherwise discarded. I try and rescue what no one else will give a chance.   My family and friends know their 'toss-aways' have to pass through me before heading out to the donation bins, and most of the time, they have nothing left to donate. There are limitless ways to use what you may already have in your home, or what people think have lost their luster. Reinventing, redesigning, and rethinking what each piece is, into what it could be, is the key to upcycling. And once you have unlocked that key, you will discover a treasure trove of possibilities! "

And just look what you can create with that treasure trove!

This beautiful flower girl dress is available for purchase here.

Even in my shop, I have been working on expanding my selection and am finding it very easy to do.  I thought being the upcycled craft store might be difficult, but so far the only difficult thing has been finding enough time to get things listed!  Every day I think, "Oh man, I should be carrying that as a supply!"  I have made lists and distributed them to everyone I know about what they must give to me and not throw out (everything from wine bottles to guitar strings gets saved for me to either use or add to my supplies shop).  I see a new supply everywhere I look and it is so fun and exciting.  I think today I will take Morgan's advice and go to some of my favorite thrift stores and stock up.  After all, a treasure trove awaits!  

Love and Peace,



  1. Excellent Article. Very insightful. Reading this article is an excellent way to become familiar with Upcycling and the many fabulous Upcycled items available.

  2. Great article!! I love reading about all of the options for supplies out there and the passion for upcycling! It's an honor to be included alongside such awesome upcyclers - thank you!

    - Sarah at SweetSomeday

  3. Thanks Mike and Sarah! And thanks to both of you for allowing me to include you! :)

  4. Can't get over that lovely t-shirt yarn! I'm always on the lookout for green crafting materials, and it's especially nice to find an ethical crafty yarn option in a large gauge.

    Thanks for the roundup of these interesting shops, I'm off to Etsy to check my fellow upcycler-seller's shops out :)

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  5. I am so glad you enjoyed the shops Gaia! Happy shopping in the upcycler-seller shops! We have many fabulous shops with a fantastic variety. I'm sure you will find all kinds of goodies! :)