U is for . . .

Lu A Z Words Cropped 48

Taking something that is old, or broken, or even just a bit ordinary, and turning it into something new and wonderful – that is the joy of upcycling. It can be energising, utilising creativity and even problem-solving skills, and there’s nothing more satisfying than finishing an upcycle project and being proud to say, ‘I did that’. So, today, we’re going to give you a few tips on how, what and why to upcycle…

Let’s start off with some inspo

Upcycly Inspo

If you’re embarking on an upcycling journey for the first time, then we recommend Recycle Devon as a great place to start. Their upcycling pages (link: https://www.recycledevon.org/reuse/upcycling) are busting with handy tips on getting started, different techniques and there’s even a gallery for inspiration.

And speaking of inspiration, there are a few places on the old ‘gram that we’d recommend as well if you’re looking for ideas:

· @mycolourfulupcycle - for lovers of colour and pattern, this account is dedicated to upcycling home and furniture items in bright, bold and creative ways.

· @upcycleyourunloved – another account for home and furniture upcycling, but this time with a slightly more neutral and chic twist for the more subtle amongst you.

· @upcyclethat – From old jars and bottles, to trucks, crates and surfboards – if you own it, @upcyclethat are on a mission to prove that it can be upcycled into something useful, beautiful and unique.

· @lucidseams – run by the lovely Nell, Lucid Seams is a great place for fashion upcycle inspiration. Nell also has a brilliant website where she shares tips on upcycling, sustainability and even take bespoke upcycle commissions.

Where to find upcycle items

If you’d love to have a go at upcycling something just for the fun of it, but don’t have anything in your home that you want to work on, there are definitely places you can go to find upcycle projects.

Facebook market pace and charity shops are always a safe bet for finding hidden gems at low cost – sometimes even for free!

(Of course, during lockdown and covid-19 restrictions, some of these places are open, so bear with us!)

Choose one item and experiment

Upcycled Book Tags And Bows Etsy

One way to start your upcycling adventure is to choose one item and experiment with different ways of transforming it. This is a great exercise in creativity and is perfect if you have multiple of something hanging around that you want reuse instead of getting rid of. This is a perfect method for things like old clothes or jewellery, or even books! Just take a look at The Organized Mom’s blog to discover amazing book upcycles that you can try at home: 12 ideas for upcycling books. Top tip – lots of these ideas also work for newspapers, magazines and old wrapping paper!

Books, but make them extraordinary

Upcycle projects don’t have to be permanent. Sometimes you can breathe new life into things by just finding a new purpose for them. You could use an old sheet to make a den, cardboard boxes to make a fort or, if you’re James Trevino, you could use books to create whole other worlds!

James is a ‘bookstagramer’, meaning his nearly 250 thousand follower strong account is all about a love of reading (can you guess why he appeals to us here at the library?!), which he expresses through amazing artwork made from books. James says his images come from “a combination of two things I love: reading and drawing”. His love affair with reading began when he was about 13, when his dad left him alone to wander in a bookshop and choose whatever he wanted to read. And now he expresses that love by creating mind-blowing scenes with his vast book collection.

If it’s broke, don’t fix it – upcycle it!


Broken plate or dish? Don’t throw it away – turn it into a beautiful mosaic! Mosaic is a great way to use up unwanted or broken glass, china or pottery items.

Devon-based mosaic artist Kate Rattray’s has created an online resource and set of courses for beginners called the Imaginary Mosaic Café. This includes a free taster course, where she’ll teach you all the basics you’ll need to start making mosaics.

Visit the Imaginary Mosaic Café page on her website to find out more.