Handmade Holidays Nov. 28: Upcycled Gifts

on November 28 | in Handmade Holidays, Sewing Inspiration, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 93 Comments

 Some of the ideas listed below are a creative reuse of items you already have and some use scraps of fabric or felt left over from other projects. All of them should inspire you to look around the house and make something great!

Today’s Guest Curator:
Sarah E. White from Our Daily Craft

From Sarah:
Sarah E. White is a freelance writer, editor, crafter and mom based in Arkansas. She writes about creativity for moms and other busy people, crafting with and for kids and creating the life you’ve always wanted at Our Daily Craft and loves creating with her seven-year-old daughter, who just got her first sewing machine for her birthday.

I love making as many holiday gifts as I can, and it’s always great when those gifts can include an element of upcycling. I’m working on a quilt for my daughter made out of some of my husband’s old shirts, which inspired me to investigate other DIY upcycled gift ideas.

Make It


Upcycled Denim Apron
There are so many great ideas for using old jeans, but I really love the look of this denim apron from Vicky Myers Creations. Using wide-legged jeans and some additional fabric for a pocket, this easy project comes together in about an hour and is sized for kids up to adults.


T-Shirt Pillows
I have a box of old T-shirts from my youth that I’ve intended for years to make into a T-shirt quilt. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll bet I could manage a T-shirt pillow like this one from Kelly’s Classroom. Make one for your child out of a favorite old T-shirt, or scour the thrift stores for fun shirts you can use to make pillows for friends.


Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket can help kids (or anyone) with sensory issues to calm down and feel more secure, but they can also be really expensive. Teach Me Mommy has a great tutorial for making a weighted blanket using a comforter you already own, which makes the process a little bit easier.


Upcycled Sweater Owl
This sweet owl made out of an old sweater from Rainy Day Mum is a great introduction to the process of using sweater material to make toys and dolls. Take this idea and cut out any shape you like for a softie any little one will love.


Woodland Play Mat
This lovely little small-world play mat from Adventure in a Box was done in a no-sew version (she used needle felting to attach scraps of felt to a felt background to make pebbles, flowers and a pond), but you could sew these little embellishments by hand or machine if you’d rather. This idea is a great jumping-off point for lots of different scenes you could make, such as an ocean or forest. Make it for a favorite little one or an early-years teacher.


DIY Ocean Ceiling
Another fun idea for kids, which uses scraps of fabric and ribbons, is this cool ocean “ceiling” cover for a table from Little Worlds. Even if you didn’t do this as an ocean theme, wouldn’t it be a fun alternative to the busy blankets and such that are so often given as baby gifts?

Related tutorials you might enjoy: Dinosaur Sweatshirt Upcycle and Repurposed/Upcycled Gifts 2013

Win It

Comment on today’s post for a chance to win one of these prizes!
Tip: If you’re hoping to win a prize that notes “US shipping only,” include your state in your name (i.e. Beth in WA) so we can confirm residence and avoid any disappointment on your end. Shipping range is determined by the generous companies that contribute prizes.

Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart

Author: Maria Alexandra Vettese
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

An exploration of 365 days of shared experiences between two friends on opposite sides of the country, inspired by their blog, 3191 Miles Apart.

Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes share a love of art and design, handmade pleasures, and a well-lived domestic life. Almost a decade ago, they began their first year-long project together, posting a photo from each of their mornings on their blog, 3191 Miles Apart, named for the distance between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon. 3191 Miles Apart quickly acquired a worldwide following of readers drawn in by the delicate intimacy of their shared experiences.

A Year Between Friends celebrates their most recent project together—a visual representation of 2015, month-by-month, side-by-side, but miles apart. In addition to 400 photographs recording their daily inspirations and creative undertakings and a foreword from New York Times bestselling author Molly Wizenberg, this unique collaboration expands on their prior work with over 25 handmade crafts and seasonal recipes, notes on simple living, and personal stories that follow the tide of a year filled with new life, change, and loss. It is an intimate joint portrait revealed through photographic snippets—mending a sweater, making a mobile from a cherished collection, creating fabric dyes from natural materials, baking scones—that defies distance through the celebration of shared moments of calmness, warmth, and family.

Both aspirational and down-to-earth, A Year Between Friends is an inspiring visual love letter to friendship and creativity, a timeless reminder to appreciate life one day at a time, to slow down, to cherish simplicity, and to make the extra effort to do things with care and with the people we love.

Sew Illustrated – 35 Charming Fabric & Thread Designs: 16 Zakka Projects

Author: Minki Kim and Kristin Esser
Publisher: C&T Publishing / Stash Books

Use free-motion stitching and appliqué to embellish charming handmade gifts! Make and share 16 small projects in the popular Zakka design style, including bags, coasters, pincushions, a cosmetic roll, and a mini sewing kit. Learn how to transfer and sew any of the 35 adorable sketches–printed on iron-on transfer paper–or branch out and try sewing your own doodles (or a child’s!), a stamped image, or a traced photo.

The Mighty Lucky Quilting Club Subscrition

The Mighty Lucky Quilting Club is the first monthly subscription club of its kind that focuses on challenging you with design concepts in the quilt making process. It’s like a gym membership for quilters! From playing with surface design techniques to improvised quilt (and quilting!) designs to finding inspiration …and everything in between… you’ll be challenged each month with a new skill to try, with pages of instructions, examples, and inspiration from one of your favorite quilters.

Check out our 2015 Handmade Holidays list for more fun, creative ideas.

Here are our 2016 themes:

November 27: Sweet Softies
November 26: Luxe Gifts
November 25: Gifts for Crafters
November 24: Gifts for Fitness Lovers
November 23: Wonderful Wreaths
November 22: Gifts for Design Lovers
November 21: Bags to Make and Give
November 20: Lacey Christmas
November 19: Gifts for Artists
November 18: Scrap Busters
November 17: Gifts for the Dapper Gentleman
November 16: Gifts for the Girl Boss
November 15: Easy to Ship Gifts
November 14: Table Runners
November 13: Gifts for the Cook
November 12: Gifts for the Entertainer
November 11: Quick and Easy Gifts
November 10: Gifts for Book Lovers
November 9: Heirloom Gifts
November 8: Fast Projects for the Holidays
November 7: Gifts for Babies and New Parents
November 6: Gifts for Geeks
November 5: Stitched and Sewn Stocking Stuffers
November 4: Gifts for Playtime
November 3: Gifts for Four-Legged Friends
November 2: Gifts for Travelers
November 1: Gifts for Students

We respect the copyright of all crafters. All photos are used with permission from the artist.

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93 Responses to Handmade Holidays Nov. 28: Upcycled Gifts

  1. Jamie says:

    Hmmm, my daughters would need several of those owl softies! We have that same book, too!

  2. janice in IL says:

    Mermaids are all the rage at our house now, what a clever imaginative play scape to make an Ocean ceiling!

  3. Rose in MN says:

    My daughter (age 3) would love the denim apron! She just started to help me cook.

  4. Jeanne says:

    Oh my gosh…was just thinking about a weighted blanket for one of our toddlers who cannot seem to settle at nap-time! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Lori Kay says:

    thanks for doing these special events. I love seeing all the great ideas.
    Lori in MA

  6. Tracy Thompson says:

    Great ideas ??

  7. I’ve been wanting to make a weighted blanket for a while.

  8. Mary Beth says:

    The woodland playmat is great!

    Mary Beth in MO

  9. Laurie in CO says:

    Wow- the denim apron would be a great gift for my hubby- he cooks a lot more than me.

  10. Judi B in VA says:

    Love the idea of the ocean under the table activity mat…great jumping off point for gifts.

  11. Amber says:

    some really great ideas! i love the owl. it is a perfect use for my old sweaters.

  12. DeborahGun says:

    The DIY Ocean Ceiling is such a fantastic idea!

  13. Shannon in WA says:

    Clicking through on the weighted blanket . Thanks for the link…

  14. Claudia says:

    I like the ocean ceiling

  15. Sandy in Ohio says:

    The ocean ceiling is such a fun idea!

  16. Rebecca says:

    There’s a lot of really fun ideas!

  17. Delia in VA says:

    I like the woodland play mat.My son would enjoy it.

  18. Lee in MI says:

    Great up-cycling projects! Love the owl!!

  19. Cyrus says:

    I love owls, and that sweater owl is adorable!

  20. Emma in FL says:

    Such great ideas! I would also love to win a book 🙂

  21. calypso says:

    The woodland play mat is a great gift for toddlers!

  22. Lulu says:

    Love the up cycled denim apron!

  23. Ruth L from FL says:

    I look forward to your Christmas Gift idea posts all year long – You always come up with really wonderful ideas! I love Zakka style sewing projects and would be excited to dig into this book! Thanks again for inspiring my sewing!

  24. Kathy Slaughter Cummings says:

    Great ideas . I’m making that apron! Thank you.

  25. Amy says:

    Love the playmat and stuffed owl. Thanks for sharing these!

  26. Eleanor says:

    I love the ocean ceiling!

  27. Morgan D. in CA says:

    What a cute idea for creative play!

  28. […] November 29: Totally Tropical Gifts November 28: Upcycled Gifts November 27: Sweet Softies November 27: Sweet Softies November 26: Luxe Gifts November 25: Gifts for Crafters November 24: Gifts for Fitness Lovers November 23: Wonderful Wreaths November 22: Gifts for Design Lovers November 21: Bags to Make and Give November 20: Lacey Christmas November 19: Gifts for Artists November 18: Scrap Busters November 17: Gifts for the Dapper Gentleman November 16: Gifts for the Girl Boss November 15: Easy to Ship Gifts November 14: Table Runners November 13: Gifts for the Cook November 12: Gifts for the Entertainer November 11: Quick and Easy Gifts November 10: Gifts for Book Lovers November 9: Heirloom Gifts November 8: Fast Projects for the Holidays November 7: Gifts for Babies and New Parents November 6: Gifts for Geeks November 5: Stitched and Sewn Stocking Stuffers November 4: Gifts for Playtime November 3: Gifts for Four-Legged Friends November 2: Gifts for Travelers November 1: Gifts for Students […]

  29. Catherine. Ca says:

    Cannot wait to try the weighted blanket

  30. Jenny says:

    Oh, I adore both of those last ideas! My girls are fixated on tiny dolls at the moment, and that playmat (or something like it…a wee house should be doable in felt) would be great for them.

  31. Jolyn from FL says:

    Fantastic projects!

  32. Terri NJ says:

    Favorite post yet! I love up cycling!!!

  33. Mandi in CO says:

    fun!

  34. Christina in VT says:

    Love the upcycled jean apron idea, thanks!

  35. Diane in VA says:

    Sarah, wonderful to meet you via this post and thank you for curating today’s post too.
    The Ocean Ceiling is just spectacular…it looks just like living on the ocean as I do here. I will be planning this for my grandchild, what a great escape for book reading too.

  36. Kerry in HI says:

    I like the ocean ceiling idea!

  37. Gia says:

    So many great ideas!!
    Thank you for the round-up and thank you for the amazing giveaways!!!

  38. Beth T. in OR says:

    A t-shirt pillow is also a lovely idea for someone whose family member has died. Thank you for sharing this, and for today’s prizes, each of which is quite a treat.

  39. Linda L. says:

    That play mat is very original.

  40. Jodie in CA says:

    Those are so cute!

  41. I make most of my gifts and these are some great ideas to use what you may have already.

  42. Love that upcycled denim apron!

  43. Deb Martin says:

    Love the denim apron idea.

  44. Barb K in NE says:

    The Denim Apron is very cute and also useful!

  45. julie says:

    These are all great ideas. I love upcycling!!!

  46. Shannon says:

    Always love a t-shirt pillow!

  47. Kathleen in WA says:

    Need to work on some denim aprons!

  48. Marian in GA says:

    Need some new inspiration!

  49. Chiska says:

    I love the ocean ceiling!

  50. Sarah J in OH says:

    Great ideas! I just started saving some old jeans to be upcycled!

  51. Sherry Jagels says:

    I love to recycle in my crafts and sewing! And i would love to win a prize!

  52. Patty says:

    Love the denim apron

  53. Lisa in MA says:

    The play mat is so beautiful!

  54. Charlotte in GA says:

    I love to repurpose! Thanks for the ideas

  55. Anne in tx says:

    Love the woodland playmat.

  56. […] November 28: Upcycled Gifts November 27: Sweet Softies November 26: Luxe Gifts November 25: Gifts for Crafters November 24: Gifts for Fitness Lovers November 23: Wonderful Wreaths November 22: Gifts for Design Lovers November 21: Bags to Make and Give November 20: Lacey Christmas November 19: Gifts for Artists November 18: Scrap Busters November 17: Gifts for the Dapper Gentleman November 16: Gifts for the Girl Boss November 15: Easy to Ship Gifts November 14: Table Runners November 13: Gifts for the Cook November 12: Gifts for the Entertainer November 11: Quick and Easy Gifts November 10: Gifts for Book Lovers November 9: Heirloom Gifts November 8: Fast Projects for the Holidays November 7: Gifts for Babies and New Parents November 6: Gifts for Geeks November 5: Stitched and Sewn Stocking Stuffers November 4: Gifts for Playtime November 3: Gifts for Four-Legged Friends November 2: Gifts for Travelers November 1: Gifts for Students […]

  57. Suzanne in IN says:

    I really like the idea of upcycling for gifts. Thanks for the apron tutorial link.

  58. Jayne - TN says:

    Thank you for the weighted blanket tutorial! I’ve been curious about making one!

  59. Cindy in MI says:

    The weighted blanket is a wonderful idea to share. I know a young boy that has benefited greatly from having one. Thank you for sharing that!

  60. Margaret says:

    Love the t-shirt pillow idea!

  61. Kristin says:

    That woodland mat is a masterpiece! Great theme. I’ve been wanting to check out the 3191 miles apart book!

  62. Barb B in BC says:

    Thanks for organizing a whole catagory of upcycled gifts.

  63. Margo in WA says:

    Very fun ideas!

  64. Bekki says:

    I’ve made a few softies from old jumpers. It’s good fun.

  65. Melwyk says:

    What a fantastic idea to have some upcycled gift ideas to share — I love that denim apron!

  66. Cinnamom In MN says:

    The Sew Illustrated book looks enchanting.

  67. Ramona in MI says:

    I am absolutely in love with the ocean ceiling and the woodland play ma! These ideas will be great for me to make for my daughter’s classroom!

  68. Gweneth says:

    Love the woodland play mat it would be fun for my grandkids

  69. jessicac says:

    I know someone who would love the ocean ceiling, thanks for the chance!

  70. L says:

    Oooh, I’d love another year’s subscription to Mighty Lucky!

  71. Amy in IL says:

    Love all these ideas. May need to pull out old jeans and make an apron.

  72. Heidi in WA says:

    Wow! The ocean ceiling is magical! Thanks for the great ideas!

  73. SS in NH says:

    T-shirt pillows – what a great idea!

  74. Jess in WA says:

    I like the forest play mat idea; it should work well for some of my younger family members.

  75. cecile in MN says:

    Thank you ! Those are the best: a way to re-use, and nice gift ideas. thank you for all the ideas you put together.

  76. Rebecca Kuck says:

    Great projects!!

  77. Susan M in AK says:

    There are some really creative ideas here! I just saw something about weighted blankets last night.

  78. Mama Squirrel says:

    This is my very favourite of the posts this month! The fairy landscape is very Rumer Godden-esque.

  79. Wendy in MI says:

    I love the pillows and the playmat!

  80. Kate in MO says:

    Great ideas!

  81. Renea says:

    Thank you for the wonderful giveaways. My kids would have loved the ocean under the table.

  82. Kathy L in VA says:

    So many great ideas! My ocean obsessed daughter will love the ocean ceiling and I am making t-shirt pillows for those friends who felt I could whip them out a t-shirt quilt in no time!

  83. Erin D says:

    Thanks so much for sharing our Upcycled owl stuffies! We had a lot of fun creating them. 🙂

  84. clara says:

    Will probably try a bunch of these.

  85. Anne Marie says:

    Thanks for all the great ideas.

  86. Tammy in SC says:

    The jean apron looks like a fun project.

  87. Kara says:

    The ocean ceiling is so adorable!

  88. asteride says:

    I like the T-shirt pillow! We have so many beloved T-shirt of my girls that do not fit anymore and would be great for this project! Love the prize too! A year between friends looks like a great book!

  89. Barbara says:

    You can never have too many aprons… Great project!

  90. Lydia R. in WA says:

    I like the idea of the denim apron. Sturdy and not fussy when baking.

  91. Kay says:

    I love the idea of the soft toys made out of favourite sweaters that the children have outgrown. x

  92. Marilyn in WA says:

    Love the ocean ceiling

  93. Oh the dream worlds……and so much more attainable when upcycling!!! Dreaming Dreaming….

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