Step away from the bin: 5 things you didn’t know you could upcycle

Easy upcycling ideas for your home and garden.

Updated

gray sofa with yellow and white flower cushion

Fancy a quick and easy upcycling project? How about creating original artwork out of plastic food cartons? Or a planter out of an old tyre? Take a fresh look at the things you usually throw away, because they can often be transformed with very little cost or effort. Without further ado, here are some of our favourite upcycling ideas for the home and garden…

Upcycling ideas for T-shirts

It sometimes feels like there’s a direct link between a food’s ability to stain and how likely we are to spill it on our favourite T-shirt. We’re looking at you red wine and tomato ketchup. You can find some great tips for getting rid of stubborn stains here, but if the marks just won’t budge, it might be time to get out the scissors.

Cut across the T-shirt from armpit to armpit. Turn it inside out and sew the top closed. Sew the bottom closed too, but leave a small gap. Push the T-shirt through the hole to turn it the right way round. Fill it with stuffing, sew the hole up and you have a cosy cushion to add to your collection (just make sure the stained side always faces the sofa).

You can also try this upcycling hack with old shirts. For these, you don’t even need to leave a hole, as the buttons act as fasteners. You might want to invest in a cushion pad, however, as the buttons tend to come undone and leak stuffing everywhere (take it from us).

Upcycling projects for old candle jars

Let’s be honest, we often choose candles as much for the pretty jar as we do the scent. It always seems a shame to throw them away when the candle is finished. So don’t. Some candle holders can be reused as drinking glasses. Make sure to give them a really good wash or your water might taste like geraniums and patchouli. Others are perfect for pen pots or storage containers. Even better, make new scented candles. If you’re feeling artistic, you could decorate each jar using glass paints or pens.

glass jar candle, blue ribbon and essential oils

Reusing plastic food cartons

For an easy upcycling project, cut different sized flower shapes from plastic food cartons. Go for rounded petals rather than pointed, as cut plastic can be sharp. Glue three or more of the shapes on top of each other using a hot glue gun, in order from largest to smallest. You can then use these plastic flowers to make brooches, key fobs and decorations for hair clips. Or, glue several onto a piece of coloured card in the shape of a heart or an initial. Add a frame and you have a one of a kind 3D picture.

Upcycling a cereal box

Want to keep your favourite magazines tidy? Take an empty cereal packet and cut the top flaps off. On the front of the box, draw a dot two thirds of the way down on one edge, and join it to the top corner of the other edge. Do the same for the back of the cereal box and then draw a line across the side of the box to join the two dots up. Use your pen marks as a guide to cutting the box. You should end up with something that looks very like the magazine organiser you can buy in WHSmith, only decorated with Tony the Tiger rather than oriental lilies.

Unless you’re a particular fan of cereal cartoon characters, you’re going to want to cover the magazine organiser with wrapping paper or wallpaper. Then just use washi tape to strengthen the cut edges, and sit back to admire your handiwork. Oh and the plastic bag you took out of the cereal box? Give it a good wash and use it to keep your bread fresh.

Reusing an old tyre

You can do a lot more with an old tyre than just making a swing out of it. Why not paint it with primer and exterior paint to create an unusual planter for the garden? Or how about cutting a circle out of plywood for the top and adding a cushion to make a stool?

Want to learn how to make a bird feeder from a juice carton? Check out these great upcycling ideas for turning trash into treasure.

Originally published