Recycling, upcycling…..and how one thing leads to another

Recycling, upcycling…..and how one thing leads to another

It’s that time of year when there are lots of Christmas fairs coming up & I need to make some festive items. 

Recently, I picked up some Christmas-themed small wooden blanks (for tree decorations, or maybe gift tags) very cheaply in a charity shop. I started doodling on them with acrylic pens and found I was enjoying myself – it made me think about the recent popularity of adult colouring books.  Good for mindfulness.

Some examples of the painted blanks – there was quite a variety of shapes.

I know these aren’t fibre-related but it set me off thinking about doing something similar with felt. I bought some bauble-shaped wooden blanks online and after colouring a few in (colouring in is a little addictive) …..

 Some of the painted baubles

….. I decided to make a sheet of white felt, decorated with bits of vintage lace, old tatting and shadow-work embroidery, all bought in charity shops. I have a box full of old strips of hand and machine made ‘lace’, old dressing table doilies, bits of fine crochet….anything I think might felt. I thought this was an ideal opportunity to do some creative up-cycling. 


As I was making the felt it struck me that I have lots of handmade felt off-cuts, test pieces and samples that I could use in a similar way. A good opportunity to recycle work and release a little studio space. To continue my recycling theme, I even used charity-shop-bought crochet cotton for the hanging strings. 

These were cut from square samples I made during Fiona Duthie’s Ink + Felt class


Left, some more ink + cloth samples. Right, samples I made for my ‘hippie’ bag earlier this year

Left photo: Top left a nuno sample I made using recycled linen; the others were off-cuts from other projects

Right photo – the yellow was a coaster I made with coloured yarn; the green and pink are nuno samples, the blue is an example of paper felt with some acrylic pen

Finally, I painted some of the wooden bauble-shapes white, and married them with a broad strip of black vintage lace. 

So, the chance purchase of second-hand wooden blanks led me to upcycling vintage textiles and recycling some of my own felt off-cuts and samples. I love seeking out and using second-hand materials, especially small hand made things, usually made by women, that tend to be disregarded by many people. Often they are from something that has worn out, like a pillow case, or is rarely now used, like dressing table sets or antimacassars.

I have one particular piece of embroidery on fine silk that I couldn’t bring myself to use. The work is so fine I endlessly marvel at the skills of the woman who made it. It’s so intricate and beautiful with such tiny stitches it makes me feel slightly sad.  I bought it in a charity shop for £2. To me it’s a disregarded masterpiece.

Silk and embroidery (hand / finger included for scale)

The silk is starting to disintegrate and I’m really not sure what to do with it. Any suggestions? 

29 thoughts on “Recycling, upcycling…..and how one thing leads to another

  1. Love the upcycled baubles – very pretty! Much nicer than shop bought – and fun to do!

    The black vintage lace baubles have a bit of ‘ooh-la-la’ about them.

    I agree with Nancy’s idea to preserve the embroidery.

    1. Thank you, Lyn. I agree about the black lace ones, maybe a hint of stocking top!

    1. Thank you. Yes, they’re all double sided though 2 the sides are similar, not identical

    1. Thank you, Leonor. Someone bought the 4 shadow-work embroidery ones today so I’m pleased that other people like them too.

  2. What a great set of ornaments! I love that they are all different and the upcycling is definitely a bonus.

    I think the lace would be lovely framed. If you cut the backing fabric larger, you could stitch the lace to the backing fabric and then stretch the backing fabric around a backing card/matte. Then you could frame it easily. It might help to block the lace piece first to get the wrinkles out and gently stretch it into shape.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ruth. I’m glad you like the baubles.

      Re the embroidery – I’m not sure whether it’s visible in the photos but the silk fabric is already tearing in places. I like your suggestion but I’m not sure if it would withstand being stitched to a backing. Maybe I will try just sandwiching it and consider stitching if that doesn’t work.

  3. I love the baubles, ingenious idea for doing them. The black lace ones are brilliant, and I am sure that loads of women would love to have one.
    I do so agree with you about work that must have taken hours/days to make, mostly by women, and it ends up in a charity shop for pennies. I agree that it should be framed, but I would place it over a piece of black velvet, and no shine glass – if there is such a thing. It is truly lovely.

    1. Thank you Mariees26 for your kind comments. I agree about the monogramme – definitely an M, not sure whether there’s another letter or not. Difficult to tell. And yes, I’d have thought weeks of fine work.

  4. I can see an ‘M’ monogram in the centre of the silk, but not sure if there is another letter; this could have been part of a lady’s trousseau. So sad that the silk is beginning to disintegrate, even so It would look lovely in a frame on a black background.

  5. Great ideas Lindsay. The black lace ones look very “Aubrey Beardsley” especially his trees. I have actually seen some real ones in Cornwall which could have been his inspiration.

    Would you mind if I passed a link to this post on to Inspirations magazine? Their weekly newsletter on Friday had a question by a reader about what to do with some vintage crochet work. I’m sure they’d be very interested in your post.

    As far as the beautiful silk embroidery is concerned, I do think framing it would be the best idea, whether or not any disintegration is visible; it would add to its attraction I think if it was. Whether you frame it or not though, the crease across the middle needs to be (gently) ironed out because the fabric will go faster where the threads are bent like that. You also need to make sure that any mount card and/or tissue paper involved is archival standard and acid free. Then once your piece is framed at least it will be protected from the atmosphere, if not from UV light. You’ll need to hang it in the shade! It is so beautiful though it would be a shame for it to deteriorate any further.
    The V&A, or The Lace Guild may give conservation advice, and there is the Textiles dept at the Maidstone Museum which might help.
    Best of luck with it.

    1. Many thanks Ann. You’re very welcome to pass on the link. I’ve got other (I think better) examples of things I’ve made incorporating old lace (eg some nice bookmarks) so if the person wants to message me or join a chat on the forum I’d be happy to do that.

      Thanks for your great suggestions on the fine embroidery too. Lots of good ideas there. I’d wondered whether I should iron it and store it flat rather than folded and I can do that easily. The rest may take longer but I’ve got plenty of ideas now.

  6. The Victoria and Albert Museum has many videos and resources for textile restoration. Perhaps the Embroiders Guild has some resources and here in the US the Winterthur Museum has a large collection. Many of the Interfacings are adhesive by “iron on” or other means, but which one? I might suggest a backing of silk organza but yes, how to attach it. Perhaps some of the mentioned resources will have a good idea.

    Best Wishes and Thank You for caring to preserve it.

    1. Thanks very much Kathleen lots of good suggestions. I will look at the V&A site first I think.

  7. I am glad that you were the person who bought that beautiful piece Lindsay. It is a masterpiece and I agree with all suggestions that it deserves framing and to be put in a prominent place (out of the sun of course!) when you can admire it daily.

    The little wooden decorations are great bases for creativity. There’s a high degree of sophistication, especially in the black lace ones. They immediately reminded me of the main lace room in the Bayeux museum. Curators have rather cleverly shone light through the lace, projecting the shadows onto ceilings or walls very effective. And what a great way to use up your samples. They should all sell like hot cakes, if that is your plan.

  8. Thanks so much, Helen. I’m so glad you appreciate that beautiful embroidery as much as I do! And thank you for your comments on the baubles. The light shining through lace sounds fabulous. Did you recognise the dark green nuno felt bauble as an off-cut from the Christmas tree card I sent you in the holiday exchange here on the F&FS forum last year? I just found your card to me and will be displaying it again this year.

    1. I missed that Lindsay! but I did hold onto your beautiful card – it will take a place of prominence again this year. Extra special now that I know the maker!

  9. Great way to upcycle. The ornaments are lovely. I wondered about over dying after he felt is made. The different fibres would take up the dye in different ways or not at all making for an interesting look. the embroidery is so pretty. Silk does deteriorate over time but I thought I heard of something new about how to keep silk. It was on one of the science/museum type shows so maybe the museum is the way to go.

    1. Thank you Ann. Great idea about over-dyeing, I think the might bring out the textures really well. As a new & infrequent dyer, it probably won’t happen any time soon, but I like the thought of it.

  10. Lindsay your baubles offer a variety of choice for would be new homes. What a terrific way of using up the blanks & reducing your stash of samples – I certainly recognise a few pieces. The black lace baubles are beautiful and amazingly matched.

    As others have said – the silk embroidery is beautiful & deserves to be cherished for its workmanship. Thankfully it will be so in your guardianship. The museum route has already been suggested. Consider also conservators net which is very fine and may add the much needed strength.

    In the monogram I can see an ‘O’ in the middle….or is that my imagination?

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Antje. I’ve not heard of conservator’s net and will look into it. There’s definitely some extra twiddle in the monogram bit – I’ve considered various possibilities (an O, a C and reverse C) but actually I think it’s just extra decoration. Her needlework was so good I think an additional letter would have been clearer. Unless it was a secret inclusion…like a secret love or unrequited passion…I like that idea!

  11. Liking the baubles Lindsey, particularly the black ones. That’s a great way to recycle your felt. You’ve reminded me that I bought several packs of wooden circular blanks from the NEC a few years back I and had forgotten all about them!
    Your charity shop find is exquisite.

    1. That’s very kind, Sandra. There are two small photos next to the layout photo in the blog that show the finished lace felt baubles. I have to say they looked a little better in person than in the photos – the lace is better integrated than the pictures suggest. Having said that, maybe I should have gone for more contrast between the colour of the wool and lace. I will try that next time.

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