Upcycling and Repurposing with Fiber Arts

What do you do with clothing and other fabric items you no longer need? If you are an average American, those items could amount to seventy or eighty pounds per year! Our March program presenters shared ways we can repurpose and upcycle textiles in imaginative ways.

Linda Miller utilizes a variety of fabrics for her woven rugs including old chenille bedspreads, used bath towels, blankets, and denim jeans. She prepares the fabric by tearing or cutting it into strips. To determine the best width for the strips, Linda suggests twisting the fabric. A pencil-sized twist usually works well. Then she joins the strips together before weaving.

You can make rag rugs even if you do not have a loom. Other techniques include braiding, crocheting, toothbrush, and knotting. A quick Google search will result in detailed tutorials for you to try.

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Gail Murfey searches for treasures to upcycle at thrift stores and yard sales. One of her favorites finds is t-shirts. Gail demonstrated how one shirt can yield up to thirty yards of yarn.

Click here for a tutorial so you can make your own t-shirt yarn.


This yarn was made from a tie-dyed t-shirt.

Gail also keeps an eye out for wool sweaters which can be repurposed into hats, mittens, bags, pillows, scarves, and toys, to name a few. She shared some very cute accessories which had been transformed from not so attractive sweaters. Gail suggested that we look at the inside of an ugly sweater. It might actually look nicer than the right side.

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Wool sweater fabric can be felted, used as is, or the sweater can be unraveled for its yarn. Gail scored a pink cashmere sweater which she unraveled, skeined, and soaked to remove the kinks. Using her spinning wheel, she plied it with a soft gray merino wool to make three skeins of scrumptious yarn.

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Just a word of caution: beware of moths. Put unknown wool in the freezer for a few days just to be safe.


Sweater Surgery is a valuable resource for repurposing sweaters.

Gail sometimes buys items at thrift stores just for their uniques buttons and closures which can be used in other projects.

Thanks, Gail and Linda, for inspiring us to look in our closets and cupboards to find treasures of our own to repurpose and upcycle.


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