Upcycling for Beginners: Toolkit & Tips

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Art, Blog, Create, Fashion, Furniture, Paint

Have you been dreaming of upcycling but you’re just not sure where to start? We’ve got your back! Our guide to upcycling for beginners will help you unleash your inner artisan. Discover the joy of transforming old things into personalized masterpieces as we delve into the must-have tools, materials, and workspace essentials. From painting and printing to fastening and finishing touches, our comprehensive insights will equip beginners with the knowledge to upcycle any project with confidence.

Upcycling for Beginners: Tools

Before you start spending a ton of money on the perfect tools, it’s important to establish a solid upcycling mindset! That means letting go of perfectionism, trusting the process, and releasing preconceived expectations. The most important thing for upcycling beginners to remember is that EVERYTHING can improve with a little bit of creativity and some easily accessible materials. The key to the best upcycling projects is seeing the promise that lies in the heart of something. Where others might see junk, an upcycler sees an opportunity! (Not sure what to make? Check out this post from The Turquoise Iris Journal founder, Dionne Woods!)

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Upcycling Toolkit

You may want to print this out! This guide to building an upcycling toolkit for beginners is perfect for anyone looking to upcycle old things and turn trash into treasure. Whether you’re hoping to save money or make some extra cash by selling your upcycled creations, the end result is that you will hone your skills and develop your sense of style. This toolkit will give you the foundation you need to upcycle just about anything, but you may find yourself adding some additional tools and materials that are specific to your style, skills, or goals. Here is everything a beginner might need in their upcycling toolkit:


You’ll first need a container to hold all your tools and materials. Totes, three-tiered carts, tool boxes, and even tackle boxes work well to keep everything organized. It’s much easier to tackle a new Upcycling when everything you need is all in one place.


Here are some of the tools that will help any beginner build out their upcycling Toolkit:

  • Prep Tools
    • Safety tools
      • Eye protection
      • Masks & respirators
      • Gloves
      • Earplugs (for power tools)
      • Work boots
    • Drop cloth
    • Painter’s tape
    • Paint stripper
    • Sandpaper
    • Wood filler
  • Paint
    • Acrylic paint – Acrylic mediums can be added to acrylic paint for painting on glass or fabrics
    • Chalk or clay-based paint – Waxes are needed to seal these paints if they’re used on furniture
    • Spray paint
  • Brushes
    • Paint brushes
    • Foam brushes
  • Building Tools
    • Hammer & nails
    • Screwdriver & screws
    • Drill
  • Measuring Tools
    • Ruler
    • Tape measure
    • Level
  • Cutting Tools
    • Scissors
    • Utility knife
    • Paper cutter
  • Glue
    • Mod Podge
    • E600 glue
    • Hot glue gun
    • Wood glue
    • Glue stick
  • Fabric Tools
    • Seam ripper
    • Needle and thread
    • Pins
    • Dye
  • Marking Tools
    • Chalk, pencils, or other writing utensils to mark your patterns and cuts

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Below are some materials you may want to collect, organize, and store for future DIYs.

  • Scraps of string
    • Yarn
    • Embroidery floss
    • Rope
    • Jute
    • Ribbon
    • Twine
  • Scraps of fabric
    • Cotton
    • Canvas
    • Denim
    • Leather
    • Velvet
  • Paper goods & cardboard
  • Wood scraps
  • Jars
  • Cans

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Upcycling for Beginners: Tips

In addition to a literal toolkit filled with the items you’ll use to transform your next piece, any upcycling beginner will also develop a metaphorical toolkit of skills, knowledge, and experience to help you in your upcycling journey.

Lower your expectations… And your budget.

It’s not always a guarantee that our big ideas work out in our favor! Whenever possible, we believe that beginners should aim to find free or low-cost materials. This allows you to focus on the process of creating, rather than worrying about the price of your final product. As you learn from experience, you’ll be more comfortable working with higher quality and/or expensive materials.

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Create a game plan… But don’t be afraid to scrap it.

The secret to upcycling for beginners is striking a balance between planning and pivoting. The goal of any upcycling project is to take one thing and turn it into something new, better, and more suited to our tastes. This process of transformation often comes with some unexpected results, but it’s our ability to think on our feet (rather than digging in our heels) that produces the best results.

Keep inspiration within reach… While embracing your own uniqueness.

There is no shame in copying a look you love for your own home! However, if you plan on selling your upcycled projects then you’ll have better luck developing a style that’s uniquely you. Keep your inspiration handy (we LOVE Pinterest!) but feel free to ditch the designs and trust your gut.

Take notes.

Remember taking notes whenever you were learning something new in school? Whether you loved it or hated it, sometimes the best way for us to pick up a new skill is to keep track of what we already know and what we still need to learn. We suggest taking your notes a step further and creating your own DIY handbook! That might look like a Pinterest board featuring inspiration for upcoming projects or a sheet of paper listing your favorite places to find free furniture. However you like to store your ideas, keeping a set of organized notes will help you be successful no matter what your next project looks like.

Start small.

When it comes to trying something new, we are big believers that small wins build up to bigger wins! Start small with easy, beginner-friendly projects that take an afternoon before moving onto bigger tasks that may require power tools and a few days of your time.

The best thing an upcycling beginner can do is just get started! Need some inspiration? Subscribe to The Turquoise Iris Journal for quarterly tips, tricks, and inspiration delivered right to your door.

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