Upcycling: a new buzzword

Hearing this word more frequently these days, I asked Google what, precisely, it might mean:

upcycle

verb

gerund or present participle: upcycling

  1. re-use (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.”the opportunity to upcycle trash, or turn it into new products, was vast”

Well I never: what goes around comes around. Back in the day, when we were young(er), and desperately trying to make ends meet, Carrie had a brilliant idea. I think she’d found a set of velvet curtains at a jumble sale in the hall. ‘Why don’t I make a plush hat out of this material?’ she mused, and so she did.

The material was virtually free, after all, and there seemed to be plenty of it about: people were getting rid of their velvet curtains at a rate of well, a rate of knots. We didn’t know then that this was an upcycling process; we thought of it as recycling unwanted material into brilliant bespoke hats.

In time, the local jumble sales weren’t providing a good enough source of material, so we went further afield. Every Tuesday, since I was working quite near to Miller’s auction house in Newcastle, I would traipse over to check out the fabric offerings. I soon realised that a friendly porter would bid for me, if I tipped him kindly, and I only had to transport the acres of material home somehow. Nobody else wanted the stuff. And with perseverance, velvet curtains became velvet hats. After a while, Carrie had a couple of partners working with her, and we named the enterprise Trifells, after the three peaks represented by the three workers. And it was a pun, of course, though folks persisted in pronouncing it ‘triffels’ and not trifles.

Also, Carrie reminds me, she turned old woollen blankets into felted creations: hats and waistcoats and handbags and slippers. Such fun, but such hard work for such little return, as I recall.

Some kind soul, just recently, sent us a promotional postcard that we’d created to advertise the hats, and if I could put my fingers on it just now I’d put it up as Exhibit A. Maybe I can edit it in later, when I find it again. We started up an online store (this was in about 1995/96, so a very early pioneering internet enterprise) and sold a couple of hats to a computer technician in New York City. Amazing!

Anyway, the Trifells enterprise eventually foundered as the other partners went their separate ways, and that was the end of that. But it’s nice to think that once, once my dears, we were far ahead of our time.

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