August 28th, 2014

(Photo: A rainbow chandelier made of old bottles!)

I've been writing about upcycling a LOT lately, but I haven't really gone into why everyone at GREEN EILEEN is so into it. So, here it is--three great reasons to upcycle. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for 3 more reasons to upcycle.

1) Creativity...

But not just creativity. The process of upcycling stretches your imagination with possibilities and potential, of course--but it also exercises the analytical side of your brain. You can see in your mind's eye that that old dusty wood pallet would make a great and needed bed for your dog (so creative of you!). How can you best utilize the pallets angles? What adjustments do you need to make to accommodate your dog's weight and size? Where will you need to reinforce with bolts and screws? Upcycling is such a great exercise in coming up with a new life for your things, but it's also an excellent practice in developing the engineering part of your brain.

dog pallet bed

2) Saves money!

Reusing an item instead of buying new almost always saves you money.

Let's do a little case study here. Say you'd like a new table where you can do all this crafting and upcycling. A quick search on Craigslist shows a couple of these tables for $20. On the IKEA website, you can purchase this table for $34, not including tax (and delivery fee should you go that route). This may only be a $14+ difference, but the impact on your wallet only gets bigger as you search for nicer, sturdier pieces.

3) Adds character

No one else is going to have the same thing you have when you upcycle and make things yourself. The look of your piece is going to be completely original.

Case in point:



August 21st, 2014

Although our Chop Challenge is a month away, I wanted to provide some inspiration to our artists and crafters and you! You might not be able to participate in our event, but there are still many upcycling projects you can do--Pinterest is full of them. So, don't throw away that old t-shirt yet, try making one of these instead.


Rose Bathmat


Men's Shirt Skirt


Woven Placemats


Baby toys


Braided Rug

Show us your upcycling projects by using #everydayupcycle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!



July 24th, 2014

(Do not stick a child in a book, because that is not what I meant with this headline. I'm just really bad at writing headlines.)

GREEN EILEEN Seattle held a bookmark workshop for kids last week and the results were so imaginative! They took damaged fabric from used EILEEN FISHER clothing to create sharks, aliens, and other characters.

1-Recently Updated1

1-Recently UpdatedFor information on upcoming workshops in Seattle and NY, check out the schedule here.



July 17th, 2014

If it hasn’t been made clear yet, we are huge proponents of upcycling--reusing materials and giving them new life not only lessens our footprint, it allows us to exercise our entrepreneurial and creative muscles. So whenever I come across new companies popping up with quality upcycling at the center of their business model, I get really excited. Here are a few (led by women, no less!) that I’ve been raving about lately:

Raven + Lily


Raven + Lily is a women’s fashion company which employs underprivileged women in places like India and Ethiopia, many of whom have been affected by HIV. The goods they make are lovely--I’m a huge fan of the giraffe tank and the Tiffany Kunz fringe necklace made out of spent bullet casings. (Can we just talk about the poetry behind taking something that signifies death and destruction, and transforming it into a life-giving piece of art that gives women a way to support themselves and their families? So. Awesome.)

Sword & Plough


The About page for Sword & Plough really says it best: “[Growing up in a military family,] The Nunez sisters wanted to create something that would emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives and remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and servicemen face, and the power that every person has to help.” In addition to being gorgeous and utilitarian, the Sword & Plough bags are made 100% in the US by veteran service men and women. Social missions, they’re always in style.



One of the founders of TRMTAB grew up in her parents’ leather factory in India and wanted to do something about the leather scraps that are normally thrown away during production. The result is nothing short of luxurious--TRMTAB crafts the leather scraps into cozy sleeves of rich brown tones to protect your iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and Kindles. If you were able to help fund this company on Kickstarter, color me jealous because the sleeves are limited edition and I totally missed out on getting a chevron-patterned case (so dreamy!). I can’t wait to see where this company goes and what they’ll do next.

Do you know of other businesses focused on upcycling? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!




July 17th, 2014

It's summer in Seattle, which means GREEN EILEEN is gearing up for our second annual Chop Challenge! Don't know what the Chop Challenge is? Well, that's what I'm here for.

The Chop Challenge is an opportunity for artists, designers, and craft hobbyists to upcycle EILEEN FISHER clothing into functional items or works of art. The pieces are then auctioned off with proceeds going to support a community arts non-profit. This year, our non-profit partner is Arts Corps, an organization bringing hands-on arts education to children in low-income communities.

The auction is being held on September 21, 6-8pm at our Seattle location, and we would love for you to participate! If you'd like to create an upcycled piece or two, go here to register. Otherwise, show your support for the local arts by joining us at our auction on September 21st.

We also have this super slick video of last year's Chop Challenge, if you're curious about how the whole thing goes down.

And now I'm going to hand it off--if you have questions, please email Marnye -



July 10th, 2014

Just how I became interested in waste prevention is hard to pinpoint--it could be from my mom, who to this day still washes and reuses every resealable plastic bag in my parents’ house. I’d also be lying if I didn’t give a special early 90s shout-out to The Earth Day Special (available on VHS, you guys!). Regardless, I felt so strongly about the subject of waste that I went to grad school for it, which is where I came across this amazing video (it’s 20 minutes long, but every second is well worth it).

The Story of Stuff is the journey of how we came to accumulate so much… stuff! Our buying habits have changed drastically since World War II, to the extent that American houses have gotten twice as big to handle all the stuff we buy. And in the end, the more stuff we buy, the more stuff we throw out that ends up in landfills (not to mention all the other effects of our linear system of buying, as is so clearly explained in the video). So! In conclusion, for the sake of our communities, our environment, and our health, buy less and reuse reuse reuse!



June 26th, 2014

Seattle Central College’s School of Fashion Design and Development held their Project Repurpose fashion show on June 2nd. Each design was upcycled from damaged EILEEN FISHER clothing, sourced directly from the GREEN EILEEN Recycling Center. The focus for the students was on construction and functionality.

By tasking young designers with the challenge of designing into post consumer textile waste, we inspire the next generation of fashion influencers to think differently about the materials in the world around us. Thank you to Seattle Central for introducing this revolutionary way of thinking into your curriculum!


Some of these looks will be displayed in the GREEN EILEEN Seattle store in July, so if you’re in the neighborhood, come on in and take a look!



June 19th, 2014

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Sewing is a great way to not only prolong the life of your clothing, but also to create new wearables and crafts made especially for you (or for your friends)! If you’re petite, learning to sew and hem your pants is a great way to save time and money on professional alterations. Sewing often comes in handy at our Seattle GREEN EILEEN workshops, where we upcycle damaged EILEEN FISHER clothing into fun bags, wallets, and more.

But we know that learning to sew can seem like a daunting task, so here are a few resources we recommend to make it a little easier.

  • Tilly and the Buttons (

    Tilly has created an amazing online resource for people new to sewing. She goes over everything from getting to know your machine to different types of seams and stitches to simple tutorials by guest sewing bloggers.

    Everything is accompanied by clear pictures and illustrations, which makes following each step a breeze. Tilly even provides patterns and tutorials for her own timeless, vintage-inspired designs, like this delightful Picnic Blanket Skirt.

  • Your local sewing classes

    Seattle is lucky to have a wonderful atmosphere of bootstrapping and do-it-yourself energy, which means more opportunities to learn new skills. Classes mean instant feedback and help, and also comfort in knowing you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what a bobbin is! There are a plethora of storefronts offering sewing lessons for all skill-levels—a quick internet search should show you sewing classes in your area.

  • Friends & Family

    Fast fashion is truly a new phenomenon--it wasn’t long ago a snagged sweater or a ripped sleeve meant that, rather than tossing your clothing into the garbage, you got out your sewing supplies instead. Chances are, someone you know can sew! Pick a simple pattern, like this gift pouch, and find a friend or family member who knows how to sew to teach you to make it. Not only will you be learning a new craft, you’ll be strengthening your community along the way.


June 12th, 2014

GREEN EILEEN Seattle just completed another successful workshop, turning damaged EILEEN FISHER shirts and pants into fun, handmade wallets.

Here are some of our favorite masterpieces from this past Sunday:

Join us in Seattle or Irvington for our next upcycling workshop! Check out our Workshop page to learn about our upcoming workshops and events.



January 30th, 2014
I spend a lot of time thinking about clothes. Specifically, used clothes. Piles of them. Mountains of them. As team leader at GREEN EILEEN’s Seattle recycling program, I work with the women who sort donated EILEEN FISHER clothing. We’re often amazed by the longevity, quality and sheer volume of the incoming items.

But we know that Americans also clear out clothing they purchased from a lot of other brands. Some of it you’d happily buy at a thrift store. Some of it—that ratty college T-shirt—is pretty scary. So what happens to the clothing that isn’t destined for GREEN EILEEN?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American throws out 70 pounds of clothing every year. A staggering 85 percent ends up in a landfill.Let’s say you are part of the savvy 15 percent. You’ve done the right thing and donated your clothes to Goodwill or a similar organization. What happens now?“Most people think their clothes will be sold or given away to help people in their community,” says Pietra Rivoli, author of The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. “That’s very far from the truth.” Only a small portion of clothing donations—just 20 percent—ever hits the sales floor. The other 80 percent has a different, but still useful life. It is sold to professional textile recyclers who assign it one of four fates:

45% is resold to secondhand clothing dealers, primarily in foreign markets.

30% is cut up for the rags or wipes that are used by bartenders, auto mechanics, painters and a multitude of industrial workers.

20% is shredded for carpet padding, acoustical tiles, car sound dampening, denim insulation, recycled fiber for clothing and more.

5% is waste.

That ratty college shirt? Textile recyclers actually want it. “Worn or torn is the message we’re trying to get out,” says Eric Stubin, chairman of the Council for Textile Recycling. “People tell me, ‘Oh, I had a towel with a hole in it or a sock with a hole in it. I thought I had to throw it out.’ They don’t realize that it generates revenue for the charity when it’s sold to a textile recycler.”

Eric is president of a third-generation family recycling business, Trans-Americas Trading Co., which processes 16 million pounds of clothing annually. Sorting the vast quantities of clothes he collects is the key to his profits. Should an item be cut up for an industrial wipe? Does it have the right brand and the right colors to sell in Africa, Asia, Central America or South America?

Though buyers in these foreign markets often live on two dollars a day, they are picky about used clothing—sometimes very picky. As Rivoli reports in her book, Africans want only lightweight cottons, modest cuts (no shorts or miniskirts) and dark colors that don’t get dirty quickly. They’re particular about T-shirt images and slogans. “African customers… are every bit as fashion-conscious as the Americans, and know whether lapels are wide or pants have cuffs this year, and make their demands accordingly,” she writes.

Twenty years of falling clothing prices have created a glut of both new and used clothes. In 1993, the average American bought 30 pieces of clothing per year. Today, that number has doubled to 60.

I don’t buy nearly that many, partly because at the end of a long day at GREEN EILEEN, I am definitely not in the mood for shopping. But when I do need to buy any sort of textile, whether it’s a T-shirt, towel or curtain, I consider: How long will I own it? Is it designed to last? And what will I do with it when I’m ready to clean out my closet?

Republished from Fall 2013 Ampersand issue
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