“Upcycling” is the act of giving a new life to something old. We’re usually thinking about furniture and other items that we can reinvent, but something to keep in mind is using old textiles to make something creative and fun.
My upstairs neighbor recently went on a quilting tear. Her daughter is settling in, buying a home, and making a new life for herself as 30 approaches, but she spent a few years traveling around the world.
What was her mom’s brilliant idea? She took all her daughter’s travel t-shirts from her world adventures and turned it into a giant quilt. She’s not the first woman to make a quilt from t-shirts, but it’s a super-personal gift, a great way to reduce clutter, and a smart way to put a whole lot of memories into one useful, cozy place.
This got me thinking about what textiles I have that are personal to me, and what could I do with them? For me, my departed mom was a big collector of scarves. Maybe, I thought, there was a way I could turn some of her scarves into something beautiful to enjoy while having a useful memorial to a loved one. Maybe for you it could be something like taking your father’s old lumberjack shirt and turning it in a funky pillow cover for your reading nook, or turning a sweater into a pillow.
Today, let’s talk about ways to make easily-adaptable scarves into lots of great new items, from lampshade covers and art through to ottoman upholstery.
Quilting has been the go-to way to use scraps and significant pieces to make something everyone loves, a nice blankey. Using scarves for quilts is brilliant, thanks to the larger format than you’d normally find in quilting panels. Think of nine large scarves making a beautiful king-size quilt filled with color and pattern, completely unique to you and your life. That’s what quilting is about. It’s for reuse and creativity, personification and celebrating your life.
A lot of quilting examples still follow the older style of chopping larger fabrics into smaller panels, but I really love the whole-scarf-panel quilt found on this site, which includes a few other great ways to upcycle scarves.
Scarves as art
Scarves come in incredible patterns and styles, with great designs you just won’t find anywhere else. Meant to be a fashion statement, the colors and styles can be powerful and original. Incredible scarves can be found cheaply in thrift stores, or might be a more affordable way to collect artisan designs from local craftspeople.
There are all kinds of reasons to love a scarf but not want to wear it. Having it framed might be the perfect way to make a statement in your room. Keep in mind that fabric tends to fade quickly, so you’ll want to be quite vigilant about avoiding direct sunlight. Simply mounting the fabric smoothly over acid-free foam or mat board and using acid-free linen tape or other fabric-friendly tape might be the way to go.
What about this over-the-top “scarf wall” as avant garde decor? It’s big, brash, and bold, and certainly not for every space.
There are so many ways to use scarves on furniture. Reinforcing it with some good canvas can be the perfect cover to an ottoman or a less-used focal-point chair for a corner. A fantastic way to use them is in those old glass-panel tables you always see discarded — the ones with the tempered glass that somehow broke, leaving just a table frame. Create a cut-to-size board mounted into the table frame, upholster it with foam and the scarf, put your glass in place, and suddenly your table is dramatic and cool, not a 1970s holdover. Or try tying your scarves around your dining chairs for a different look, like this blogger did for a Turkish tea party.
Shine your light
Lampshades are really easy to make and modify, and with a great scarf you get a funky light source that will throw your chosen colors and patterns all over your room for a moody, personalized lighting scheme.Simply draping your scarf over a lamp has always been an instant mood-shifter and very popular by way of Hollywood and the romantics, but it’s also a fire hazard, so be careful to explore safe ways of incorporating your scarves with lighting. From this hippy-dippy scraf-tied-lamshade frame through to more distinguished styles, there’s a world of scarf-covered lamps you can style your place with, especially if you’re willing to get crafty.
With a very light workload, it’d be simple to sew together a few large-format scarves to create a fun-but-sheer curtain when you need some privacy or a divider in a quirky, cool space. From large single-color blocks through to crazy paisley and more, you can really get inventive by pairing scarves together to make a simple curtain. You can even pair some like-styled scarves together and make some Roman blinds or other more finished looks. Keep in mind, they’re going to fade in the natural light, unless you use quality backing, so you’ll want to use scarves that aren’t emotional favorites or expensive.
A longstanding favorite use for scarves is as a nice tablecloth or a long runner. If you want it to seem more homey or upscale than gypsy, consider looking for classic white linen tablecloths (often found for a fraction of the cost at thrift shops) for under your scarf. If bohemian-gypsy is the look you’re after, put your scarf on the table, head straight past go, and collect $200, because it’s a great look as-is, especially with large block-printed scarves and sheets, like the ones in this photo.
That’s a wrap
The genius is upcycling is that it’s about solving your needs by getting creative. It’s about realizing there aren’t that many rules and things are good for many things beyond what they were invented for. When it comes to scarves, including large block-printed ones, there are so many we inherit, we acquire ourselves, and that we can find quite easily.
Scarves have been enormously popular for centuries, thanks to being a way for artisans to explore color and design on a smaller scale. There are so many incredible styles, patterns, and colors you’ll never find in other textiles. Scarves deserve to have a greater place in our aesthetic life, and hopefully these are a few thoughts on how you can incorporate them in yours.
How about you? Have you ever used scarves in a creative, inventive way to enrich your surroundings?