At thredUP, we’re super passionate about creating a better, greener world with fewer landfills. For every clothing item kept in use, we lessen our impact on the planet significantly. That’s why we launched our Rescue Box program, which gives clothes that need a little TLC a second chance at life (whether in someone’s closet or as something totally different!). We also celebrate people who find amazing ways to renew their clothes over and over again, like our Rescue Team Lead, Autumn.
A super crafter in her free time, Autumn fuels her creativity with her favorite Rescues box, the DIY Denim Box. Read on to find out why she loves Rescues and see her jaw-dropping creations (we were shook!).
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at thredUP.
I’m an artist, designer, crafter, and avid DIYer! I love spending my time in nature and with animals, where I pull a lot of my inspiration from.
I lead the Rescue Team in the warehouse and assist in finding the potential in items we can’t post on the main store. So I guess that makes me a treasure hunter?! I love fashion and design, which helps when pulling items for our Rescue Customers. Because of my background, I have the ability to see the potential in flawed items, giving direction on how to clean or fix damages that come through.
Why do you think secondhand first?
It’s cost effective and it helps the environment by keeping usable items out of landfills. Plus, every secondhand item has a small history—I love a great backstory!
Also, I love secondhand because I love DIY! Thrifting my DIY materials is so much more affordable, and I feel like I’m helping the earth by getting the most out of every piece of clothing I find. That’s why I think the Rescues program is so important in keeping clothes in circulation, even if they’re slightly damaged. It’s a better option than items ending up in landfill or sent overseas.
What inspired you to create these pieces?
I love working with denim! The material is tough, resilient, and comes in sooo many amazing shades and washes. For my next project, I knew I wanted to use denim so I ordered a DIY Denim Box.
Before I received my box, I had some ideas of the pieces I wanted to make. A simple woven rug, some kind of zippered pouch, and I wanted to challenge myself with a portrait. Once I opened the box and saw the different shades, colors, and patterns, my mind was racing with ideas! I loved the variety, there’s just so many different washes and colors in the box.
The teal denim I got in the box screamed thredUP, so I made an “I love thredUP” rug, complete with a heart and touches of teal.
The peach-colored denim in my box was perfect for a couple of other projects, like a Georgia-themed art piece with a denim peach (so excited to mount it), to honor the warehouse I work in, and as great material for another bigger project, a Frida Kahlo portrait!
How many pairs of jeans did you use for each project?
I used about 15 pairs of jeans total. Some of the denim I used for multiple projects. The rug took up most of the denim, and I cut the legs so they would yield longer pieces to weave with. I had to be strategic with some of my cuts, so plan ahead when you get your denim box! Use a pen or dark pencil on the back to make guidelines.
We LOVED the Frida Kahlo Portrait, could you take us through your process?
STEP 1: Find a high contrast photo of Frida. You can adjust tones on a computer so all the lights and shadows clearly defined. Convert it to black and white and print multiple copies. Use a green sharpie for light areas, a red sharpie for mid-tones, and a brown sharpie for shadows to create a “map”. This will help guide you as you cut out the shapes.
STEP 2: Using one of the photocopies, cut around her head and shoulders and her hair to use as templates. Use the second photocopy to cut around her facial features—eyes, nose, mouth. Sometimes the lines can get blurry and you may get lost as you are cutting, I recommend outlining your cuts with a sharpie first.
STEP 3: Select four shades of denim—one for skin tone, one for highlights, one for shadows, and one for hair and eyebrows. Trace each template on the back of the corresponding fabric. Lay your template facedown so the head will be right side up when you cut and flip the denim over.
PRO TIP: Keep your pieces organized by laying them out as they would be in the final product. Keep your initial map to help you put the pieces together. It’s super easy to lose them or to flip them around so they won’t fit later!
Step 4: Once all your pieces are cut, start layering them. I used a simple craft glue stick to get my pieces in place. It was easy to use with some of the smaller pieces and they can be removed if you make a mistake. Use a little hot glue to affix some of the edges that might be curling up.
PRO TIP: Hot glue can get bulky. To avoid this, use a small dot of glue, and press it firmly to flatten it out. Be careful, and use a popsicle stick or another object to avoid burns.
Step 5: Frida Kahlo frequently wore a scarf braided into her hair. To get this look, cut two 3″ wide strips of the denim that’s going to be used for her hair, and one 3″ wide strip of contrasting denim (purple) for her scarf. Braid them together and used a clothespin to temporarily secure both ends.
Step 6: Position the braid on her head and use a needle and thread to secure both ends. Cut off excess material then secure everything with hot glue.
Step 7: To create the flowers, cut concentric circles out of the denim you’ve picked out and cut each one with different “petals” in mind. Stack the circles and pinche them in the center to create a cone. Then, with a needle and thread, stitch through the center of the cone and around the outside. Place the flowers and glue them in place.
Step 8: Choose a frame size and cut your background to fit. I used the cardboard backing of the frame to make a template. Add the portrait to your cardboard backer and secure in place with glue and affix your dry frame (when dry) to the cardboard backer. I also added some embroidered flowers that were in my box!
PRO TIP: Cut the denim for the frame a little bigger so you can wrap it around the cardboard backer. If like me, you’re having a difficult time wrapping the frame in denim, use acrylic paint in shades of blue instead to give it a denim look. Set aside to dry.
Any handy guides you’d recommend for beginning (and veteran) crafters?
Craftsmanship is always key for me. Take your time to do your best, and don’t give up on your project! There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a creation. With every minute you put into your craft, you get better, and better.
Inspired to create your own art from Rescues? We bet. Get crafty with our best-selling DIY Denim Box or get a little fancy with the DIY Designer Box, and share your projects with us in the comments below or on IG. Happy crafting!