As a parent, there comes a point in time when the learning curve switches its angle and begins to turn the other way, when parents learn from their kids. This happened in our household. I was chatting with my daughter on the phone and I asked her if she had any ideas for my weekly GREEN column.

Sarah is a creative person, an interior architect, who lived in London for five years, New York City for six, and now, thankfully, has returned to the Midwest to be closer to family. We share many passions, including gardening and crafting projects.

“What about making the most out of the clothes you have?” she said.

I encouraged her to continue.

“You know,” she said, “like those favorite clothes you have not worn in awhile because they do not fit here or there. Why not alter them so they do fit.”

Ever the pragmatist, Sarah can make some things sound so easy. She has the opinion that if you really like that pair of pants and are storing them in case they will fit again someday, then get real. Either have them altered so you can enjoy them now, or give them away.

Sarah continued, “Remember when I was in college and knitted scarves and things. I couldn’t afford expensive yarns, so I bought sweaters at thrift stores and took them apart for the yarn.”

She made the most beautiful scarves and gave them as gifts. Great for her threadbare college budget and fabulous for those who received her works of love.

“There’s a new rage in fashion called upcycling,” Sarah said. “People go to thrift stores, or their own closets, and take clothes apart and make them into something completely different.”

She explained to me, “Like you take a pair of men’s pants, take them apart and use the waist band as the top of a strapless dress, fashioning the remaining pant fabric into the rest of the dress. Or, you take several different pieces of clothing, take them all apart, and use a blend of these fabrics to make one article of clothing.”

It sounded fairly unusual, so I Googled “upcycling” and found a plethora of images, ideas, articles and websites. Fascinating!

There were knee length sweaters made from three to 10 different sweaters. The sweaters were taken apart and put back together in an altered shape and pattern using all of the sweater parts. Dresses, handbags and all sorts of other items where creative people let their imaginations flow. I will admit, not everything was on my wardrobe “want list,” but there were some cool pieces and ideas.

Winter is the perfect season to clean out your closet. We find ourselves cooped up inside for days on end. Why not have a project to work on. With Valentine’s Day around the corner and birthdays at every horizon, surely there is a needed gift in your future.

The search did inspire me to open my closet and look at my wardrobe in a whole new way. Who knows. A colorful sweater may be hidden in the folds.

Thanks for the lesson, Sarah! Keep the creativity flowing!

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at