4 Retro Items to Upcycle

Time to Scour Your Attic or Local Thrift Stores
Time to Scour Your Attic or Local Thrift Stores

You don't have to be a pack rat to appreciate good, old stuff. Yes, stuff. Sometimes old clothes, kitchen supplies or trinkets get inherited and the thought of throwing them away tugs at those heart strings. The good news is, you don't have to say goodbye to those cherished artifacts. In fact, maybe it's time you gave them some new life. Try a few of these crafty ways to upcycle those retro goodies. Have fun repurposing some treasures of the past! 

1. Boxy Suitcase
1. Boxy Suitcase

Hard shell suitcases used to be all the rage. Now, they're nearly impossible to drag around an airport. Travel has become so much easier and more luxurious with beautifully wheeled luggage, but who can deny the charm of an old, boxy suitcase? No need to toss—it's time to upcycle! Try these easy projects to jazz up Grandma's old carry-on. Photo via Homedit.

Cat Bed

Loosen up the hinges of the suitcase and get creative with the filling. Either stuff a cushy pillow in there, or get some memory foam and cover it with a cool retro fabric. Add legs to keep the suitcase from slipping or scraping the floor. You'll have a cat napping in no time.  


Tired of the old wooden shelf? Get some sturdy brackets and use the suitcase as the shelving. You can remove the hinges and have a shelf that doubles as a trunk, or use the flat side to rest a few vintage trinkets on. Great for souping up the travel bug's room. 


What's cuter than a little shop that uses a suitcase as a sign? Simply use acrylic paints and get creative. Consider using this as a wedding decoration for the travel-loving couple.

2. Grandma's Clothes
2. Grandma's Clothes

One of the number-one items you see piled up at garage sales and thrift stores is clothes—but maybe you don't love the idea of wearing someone's old clothes. Or, maybe you love your grandma's beautiful silk blouses, but they don't quite fit. Consider using clothes of all different materials in these upcycling projects. Photo via Craftster


What better way to stitch together a history of fabrics loved by the family than a quilt? Quilts can be highly technical, but they can also be as simple as a few lines of sewing. Making quilts is a great opportunity for a personalized gift.

Eco-Friendly Produce Bags

To do this, simply cut up an old t-shirt so it has breathable holes. Snip off the sleeves, invert the shirt, and sew the area you cut off. Cut two handle holes and more down the body of the shirt if you want extra breathability and voila—you have an upcycled produce bag to use at the farmers market!


If you have a baby you know bibs are in constant rotation! Homemade bibs are easy to craft from old shirts and have personality and charm! 

3. Mason Jars
3. Mason Jars

Maybe you love to can vegetables from the garden or make pickles, but sometimes a giant box of old jars clanks down the attic stairs and the idea of reusing them for a project just seems silly. Don't be so quick to toss; mason jars are great for upcycling projects! Photo via Etsy. 

Outdoor Lighting

Great for a night out on the lawn, bring your old mason jars down and place candles inside. Use these to light a pathway or place around tables on a deck. 

Wrap in Twine

This is a simple and affordable way to dress up mason jars for party favors. They can hold candles, flowers, candy—you name it. A jar wrapped in twine provides some rustic charm and can bring together a theme with burlap and chalkboard accessories. 

The Power of Spray Paint

Chalkboard paint is a new item on the craft scene, allowing you to write on your jars with chalk markers. This is a great gift item for teachers. Metallic spray paint gives a simple jar some sophisticated charm to any home decor. A simple arrangement of metallic bottles and jars can really jazz up a table or shelf.

4. Film Reels
4. Film Reels

Be sure to take any actual old film to a company that can modernize the material on the reel. You never know what family stories and treasures might be found on that beautiful old material. The reel itself, though, is prim upcycling real estate. Photo via Thriftyfun

Picture Frames

You know those pricey frames that allow for multiple pictures? What if you could make one all your own? Use a film reel to fit in a collage of images. This makes a great gift for recent film graduates, or just a charming frame that's easy to hang on the wall. 

Table Centerpiece

What better way to organize a few table essentials than on an evenly-spaced platter full of creative potential? If it's too tricky to use as an organizer, simply make it a decorative structure for a movie premier or film on the lawn party. 


Plants are adaptable. With a little bit of soil and care, many plants can live in any structure. Pot in some herbs or annual flowers and place them in the reel spaces for a unique DIY planter.