I have been an ardent collector of curios and the second hand for many years. My main thrill is to rummage and forage through other people’s trash to find an item I can refashion and treasure. I am not ashamed to call myself a skip surfer, car boot obsessive and charity shop aficionado.
What started as a means of buying cheap second hand clothes and furnishings as a student became a lifelong obsession with all things old and vintage. Old and abandoned objects have a story to tell, they connect us to the past, and I am naturally drawn to the nostalgia and style of bygone times.
In this disposable and consumeristic world where ‘old’ is considered antiquated and unfashionable I see an opportunity to breathe new life into things which deserve a second chance. Once restored or up-cycled I have the privilege of owning something that is often unique and well – crafted whilst having all the pleasure and satisfaction of having added my own creative flourishes.
Over the years Leeds Libraries have been an amazing resource for books on art and design , interiors and crafts, all of which excite and inspire me. More recently there has seen a blossoming of publications on upcycling. Below I have listed some of my recommendations. Some of the projects I have undertaken at home to good effect, others are on my ‘to do list’ when I can find the time. Some of the books just beckon to be borrowed as the pictures alone are enchanting. You need not be an expert crafter or sewer; all of the projects have easy to follow instructions. and require very few tools. it’s amazing what you can do with a staple gun alone.
I hope you feel inspired to give it a go. Enjoy!
Thrifty chic: interior style on a shoestring by Liz Bauwens
‘Thrifty Chic’ shows you how to revive and revamp to create an eclectic and unique interior style on a shoestring. I particularly like the idea of a striped hand painted staircase. Best to use a quick dry paint for this one and wait till the kids and the dogs are out of the house.
In this book you’ll find rewarding and money-saving recycling projects. My favourites include lighting made out of old kitchenaliia. It also contains a great chapter on creating jewellery out of old jigsaw pieces, thimbles, typewriter keys and watch faces. A must have ‘book to borrow’ for any Steam Punk fans out there.
The repurposed library by Lisa Occhipinti
A celebration of the possibilities that books have to offer as an art material. This book takes my passion for books one step further, It includes 33 projects to make out of books, my favourites are: a lettered wreath, a literary lampshade; and a book ledge made from beautiful old hardbacks.
Revive!: inspired interiors from recycled materials by Jacqueline Mulvaney
This is the only book where more advanced sewing skills than my own are required. This would suit an intermediate or confident sewer. Whilst I have tackled some basic upholstery in the past I haven’t quite mastered some of the more advanced features of my sewing machine. However, I do have a growing collection of fabrics which are in need of refashioning and embellishing. This book shows you how to make and decorate throws, cushions, curtains and blinds. The Inspiration Board featured is an art piece in itself.
Creating the vintage look: 35 ways to upcycle for a stylish home by Ellie Laycock
This book offers you simple step by step guidance to create unique homewares. It makes you to look at unloved items in a totally new way, and encourages you to think before you throw.
It is a good starting point for anyone new to up-cycling . It is the answer to all your birthday and Christmas conundrums, as from now on you can just DIY it. My favourites are the stamp collection placemats ( I have done this myself with great success ), the cheese grater pen pot, the tea set bird feeders and the dish towel curtain to name just a few…..
Recycled home: transform your home using salvaged materials by Rebecca Proctor
This book features 50 stylish craft projects using salvaged materials, with step-by-step illustrations to guide you through to completion . No special skills are needed.
My favourites include the cosy hot water bottle cover and patchwork book wallpaper. The rag rug bath mat is an on-going project I have yet to complete at home. My main advice to aspiring be rag ruggers is firstly just Do It! Basic rag rugging is really so simple and can even be done in front of the T.V. It is an ideal hobby for all finger twitchers, nail biters and smokers will miraculously cease as they become totally immersed. Alternatively, use it as part of a regular meditative practice whilst listening to music or an absorbing audio book. A tip for free is to start small don’t be overly ambitious in size or scale as in my case it will take forever to finish.
Flea market chic: the thrifty way to create a stylish home by Liz Bauwens
This book is on my Christmas Wish List, it is crammed full of eclectic interiors which mix the old and new to create a totally unique look. I am particular drawn to the shed and cabins section as my long term ambition is to make the ultimate downsize and move into one!
‘Flea Market Chic’ will show you how to spot the clever find in a pile of junk, where to look and how to negotiate. Sourcing materials need not be expensive or difficult, if you ask around. start with family and friends, use recycling sites such as Freecycle or use the Freeads on Gumtree; Visit your local scrap store whether that be Scrap Shed in Leeds or the Cone Exchange in Harrogate. Start using your local charity shops, for a few pence you are supporting the developing world or helping good causes nearer to home. Even better why not volunteer? Try out online auction sites such as Ebay, bargains are to be had with a little research and patience. Look in roadside skips I’ve always found people are happy to give you things would otherwise have gone to landfill.
Fine little day: ideas, collections and interiors by Elisabeth Dunker
Take a peek into the fascinating life of Elisabeth Dunker: blogger, writer, stylist, designer, photographer and artist. This is a woman of many talents, and the book showcases her unique skill and style. Her handmade pot holder blanket is an inspiration to behold. This book makes me want to move to Scandinavia and live in her cabin!
Cheap chic: affordable ideas for a relaxed home by Emily Chalmers
Just a lovely coffee table book, enjoy flicking through the pages for the sheer pleasure of it
If you are in need for inspiration then Pinterest is the answer to all your dreams. If you have a smart phone or IPad/tablet download the Pinterest App and create your own pin board of ideas.
If you want to have a go selling your handmade wares or turn a crafting hobby into a living then check out crafting websites such as Etsy and Folksy to see what you can sell. They each employ a basic level of quality control so a bowl made out of play dough whilst fun to make probably wouldn’t cut the muster.
Rediscovered treasures by Ellen Dyrop
This book is a ‘must read’ for anyone hoping to style their own wedding as there are centrepieces and accessories that you can make that would add an air of romance to any humble village hall. On my wish list to make is the family heirloom cushion using old transferable photos and would make a thoughtful and memorable present for your nearest and dearest.
50 thrifty DIY lampshades by Adeline Lobut
I’ve never understood why lampshades so expensive to buy when the principle is so easy. What’s more you can use a fabric of your choice and add as many embellishments as your heart desires. The market has begun to recognise the upcycling trend and there are now DIY lampshade kits available to buy. Alternatively, borrow this book from Leeds libraries and have the pleasure of making one from scratch. I love the idea of using old books and men’s ties to create a stand or shade. If you want to show off your eco-friendly credentials there are even instructions for making a living lamp made out of green foliage.
Homespun style by Selina Lake
This is book once borrowed I had to buy..
Indeed why all these books beckon to me is they inspire me to be creative. I hope you are inspired to have a go too!
Angie, Assistant Community Librarian