Will you be upcycling this year? Top tips to get you started

Will you be upcycling this year?

If you've watched any interior design television programmes in the past couple of years - or indeed, anything featuring Kirstie Allsopp - then the chances are you've heard of upcycling.

It's a growing trend and thousands of people around the country are getting involved in making new from old and taking pride in their crafty creations. But if you're not a fan of Ms Allsopp or you've never really paid much attention to this growing phenomenon, you're perhaps at a loss to understand the point of it.

To help you out, we've put together a little guide to upcycling and some ideas for projects that you could make a start on this year in order to give ordinary household items a whole new lease of life.

What is upcycling?

First things first: upcycling is the conversion of waste materials or useless items into something new or of improved quality. It's not recycling, which involves breaking things down into their component materials (glass, plastic, etc) and then reusing those as a whole new product.

Instead, upcycling involves refashioning objects so that they're either better at their old job or able to take on a whole new one.

Not a new trend really?

If this all sounds familiar, then that's because it is. Upcycling is pretty much just a new wave of the 'make do and mend' campaign that the whole of Britain had to get involved with - and really rose to the challenge of - during the 1940s when we were at war.

We may not be faced with rationing and shortages now, but it was austerity that gave upcycling a new lease of life - the recent recession resulted in a boom in people wanting to get extra mileage out of their things because they needed to save money instead of having to replace them.

However, it isn't just the financially savvy who are driving this trend. Since the boom years of consumerism in the 1980s, we have been living in a fast-fashion society that's taught us to keep on purchasing new things and getting rid of the old.

The 21st century has seen a rejection of these ideals and an appreciation of the individual over the mass-produced, leading us to want to put our own stamp on things. There's also the point that fast-fashion has a negative impact on the environment, something we're now more mindful of than ever as we try to be good global stewards for our children and grandchildren.

Find out exactly what upcycling is and how you can get started.

So, what can I upcycle?

If you're beginning to be persuaded about the benefits of upcycling as more than just a trend for hipsters, then you might be heartened to know that it can be as easy or as challenging as you want.

There are lots of projects you can make a start on without needing any special equipment, while others might require tools such as sewing machines and craft materials.

For beginners, why not take a look at an old piece of furniture you've been considering getting rid of and give it a fresh lick of paint and some new knobs or other hardware? This is upcycling, simple though it may sound.

To take it a step further, you could cover a table top or wooden chair seat with decoupage and varnish it, or make a mosaic tile surface for the former using offcuts. You'll have to use a tile cutter for this though, otherwise you'll end up with jagged edges that won't match or sit flat.

Have you recently bought and enjoyed one of our candles in a glass? If yes, then don't throw the empty glass into your green bin - get hold of some pretty Decopatch paper from a craft store and have fun turning it into a new ornament.

Old clothes are ripe for upcycling, with ideas including turning gloves into children's toys, jeans into handbags or holders for your laptop, pillowcases into garment bags and towels into cushion covers.

You can even upcycle items that might be assumed to have no further purpose at all. For instance, turn old pop bottles on their side and cut a piece out of them, as though you're making a tiny canoe. Fill them with soil and you've got quick and easy planters for your spring seeds.

Corks from wine bottles can be super-glued together to make a coaster for hot pans, while old paint swatch cards or out-of-date road atlases make lovely bookmarks.

Finally, anyone with children or grandchildren can make brand new crayons by collecting the stumps of old ones (keep them the same colour), melting then and then pouring them into silicon cake or biscuit moulds.

As you can see, all you need to do is look around you to find inspiration for an upcycling project - and then have fun showing it off to your friends.