Boost Your Wardrobe with Recycled Jewelry

Mixed-media art and recycling, upcycling, and repurposing were made for each other. The Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine features a fantastic recycled jewelry project from Debbie Blair that incorporates altered game pieces and rubber washers, plus tons of great jewelry techniques. Debbie’s piece inspired me to dig through my stash and channel my creativity to see what I could transform.

No doubt you have fun components in your studio right now that you can turn into beautiful recycled jewelry.

I started with game pieces. Debbie alters checkers in such a way that you don’t even know they’re checkers, becoming such a fun and unexpected component to her necklace. I found some vintage wooden bingo markers that I thought would be eye catching. I made two pilot holes with an awl at the top and bottom of the pieces, then drilled through them. This allows me to easily connect the pieces with other elements.

Drilling into these vintage bingo markers took just seconds, but it’s still important to follow all safety precautions.

The edges of the markers were painted with acrylic paint and a flat brush, but a paint pen would work well too.

Use acrylic paint with a small brush (or a paint pen) to alter found objects for recycled jewelry.

Buttons always work well in recycled jewelry, so I chose a few vintage ones, leaving some as is and coloring others. This time I used Prima Art Alchemy Metallique Wax in Aged Brass. The mother-of-pearl buttons were first sanded to create some tooth, then the wax was applied with a brush. When dry, the color is permanent. I love the vintage patina it gives.

Always test a color medium before committing to it to make sure it works with your item.

Time to start assembling. I used Debbie’s wire wrapping technique to connect the pieces, also incorporating pearl and bead stations. If you haven’t tried wire wrapping before, be prepared—once you get the hang of it, it’s completely addictive. And don’t worry if you don’t get it right away. Like anything else, practice is key. I hadn’t done this technique in a while, so I followed Debbie’s steps and eventually got back in the groove. But it took a little wire to get there, as you can see below from my mangled pile of failed attempts. So don’t lose hope or get frustrated—just keep at it. Remember, repetition is the key to mastery.

If at first you don’t succeed, keep wire wrapping until you can do it in your sleep!

Here are the components joined with wire wrapping; I made two pieces for each side of the necklace. Check out Debbie’s article to see the other techniques she incorporates for her recycled jewelry: stamping on metal, wrapping rubber washers with ribbon, and doming metal blocks. They’re all doable and can be used in a variety of combinations.

As this piece of recycled jewelry came together, the individual elements worked harmoniously with each other.

I wasn’t sure what to use for a focal piece, so I rooted through my stuff again and found the perfect item—a vintage spool of mending thread, barely ¾” high. I decided not to alter this piece, since it already had great texture and color. To complete the necklace, I added two more wire—wrapped buttons at the top and bottom of the spool, then created a tassel using pearl cotton embroidery thread. Debbie’s tassel instructions made this a breeze to finish, and I love the way she wraps wire around the top—such a great detail that really sets it apart.

Tassels are easy to make, and a big trend in jewelry.

Metal chain was added to the top of each wire-wrapped piece to add length, and I attached a closure. My necklace was ready to wear! I’m now hyper-focused on what else I can adapt to become recycled jewelry. Artists are natural out-of-the-box thinkers, but sometimes we all need a little inspiration. That’s why articles like this are so helpful—they teach us new techniques and help us see things with fresh eyes that can spark incredible ideas.

Give your wardrobe a boost with handmade recycled jewelry!
Give your wardrobe a boost with handmade recycled jewelry!

Don’t miss “Game On” and other fantastic art projects and features in the Fall issue. Get a preview with our lookbook, which features beautiful photos of the projects!

Did you know that you can use quilled paper to make jewelry? Ann Martin, author of The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry, goes over the basics of this gorgeous technique in this blog post.

Recycle! Upcycle! Repurpose! The Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors is all about giving items new life through mixed-media art.
In Semiprecious Salvage by Stephanie Lee, you’ll discover how to give beautiful forgotten objects a new life.
Learn how to make resin-filled bezels and feature favorite finds in Romantic Bezels: Mixed Media Jewelry from Found Objects, with Kristen Robinson.
Incorporate metal into your recycled jewelry using the easy techniques in Making Metal Jewelry by Jen Cushman.


Art to Wear, Blog, Mixed-Media Jewelry, Mixed-Media Techniques


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