Monster Tooth fairy pillow

Making Monsters!

It seems so long ago that Upcycled Fashion teamed with WESST to teach product development to 22 ladies here in rural NM.

As the director of Upcycled Fashion, I have spent years thinking through the most efficient way to create a design. We think about time (less time more money for our ladies per item), and what makes our products stand out as professional with attention to detail? So, in the Earn to Learn program, I decided as a teacher, I should also be a student.

Here is my very first two attempts at the Monster Tooth Fairy Pillows.

My intention was not to make a monster pig! Note to self, stretchy material is not appropriate for these little guys. After about 10, I found what is the quickest assembly, and a big duh, the pocket goes in the back.


  1. It takes some skill to appliqué circles quickly and consistently, practice, practice, practice! Soon the slight manipulation of the fabric and controlling sewing speed will be natural.
  2. Another discovery, sewing buttons on with the machine takes about 4 seconds. I just wasn’t use to machine sewing buttons. I think of the lost hours I painstakingly hand sewed them on. We will have a tutorial on that later.
  3. Another tip, change the color of the thread and accent the button.
    For example, use black thread on a green button to create more contrast.
  4. Additionally, which fill we use makes a difference in getting just the right fluffiness. Being Upcycled Fashion, we thought recycled! But, we decided to compromise. It is more important to recycle all we can, AND still have a product our fans love. (We use a simple Poly-Fill).
  5. Regarding stuffing, our favorite tool is this surgical tool. The Poly-Fill comes with a stick, uggghhh. The clamps help fill perfectly down to these little monster toes.
  6. This little guy asked if he could learn to make one out of his pillowcase. We love teaching! So, he made one for himself and one for his 4 year old cousin (I sewed, he picked colors, buttons, and stuffed them). He has become an expert at turning them right side out and stuffing, so much so, that he helped make a dozen more.

Market research was important. We have taken hundreds of Monster Tooth Fairy Pillows to shows and the little ones let us know their preference. They like the little toes because they feel cool. Fabrics with textures were a hit. They have been a great grow with you toy. Most kids just liked lots of color. Some of the boys really liked camouflage. Some people bought them for their adult friends…

Here are some samples of what we have lately.



Where Does All the Clothing Go?

Many of us are interested in new, trending fashion, and there’s no shortage of it.  Just head to any department store or mall and you will find enough clothing to cover everyone in your area a few times over.  And that’s just for each season.  After garments go stale at full price, you’ll find them on the sale rack and then what happens?  A lot of clothing that doesn’t sell is shipped back to the manufacturer or sold to outlet malls or discount stores like TJ Maxx or  Some of it never goes this route.  Instead, the products that don’t sell often get destroyed.

Why would a company choose to destroy unsold product versus selling it at half price or giving it to charity?  Brand protection is your answer.  Many high end brands do not want their items for sale at a discount because if it was the norm, their items would likely never sell at the high full price.  

What does it truly mean to recycle clothing?  One direction in recycling clothing is taking unwanted items to a local thrift store.  Many of them are charities such as Goodwill, but many are also for profit such as Buffalo Exchange.  Many cities and towns across the country have for profit thrift stores that are owned by local residents which therefore contributes to the local economy differently than a chain thrift store.  In Taos, we have Rethreads which is owned by a local family and Community Against Violence Thrift Store which helps support our local efforts against domestic violence.  

Another direction for recycling clothing is to cut up old, stained t-shirts for household rags.  My partner uses them a lot for working on his cars and motorcycles.  I also use them for wiping my dogs’ muddy feet.

I also like the instate the fourth “R” in the chain.  Reduce, reuse, recycle and repair!  Many items have a minor problem like a seam that comes open, a broken zipper or a missing button.  With a little research on Youtube and a quick trip to the local fabric store or, you can easily repair many items that seemingly become useless otherwise.

At, we take it to another level.  We completely deconstruct thrown out garments to create entirely new fashions.  Trust me, there’s no shortage of desirable material out there.  We’ve got people giving us velvet, wool, linen, silk, rayon, denim and much more on a regular basis.  In fact, we all have storage areas in our workspaces just for all the incredible textiles that are donated!  We give people in rural areas a chance to make a living with the valuable skill of sewing.  We put people to work from home and are able to sell one-of-a-kind garments made from perfectly good recycled fabrics.  

So the next time you consider buying a brand new, full price item at the store, think about where it was made and how many of the same item could be available at a local thrift store.  Or perhaps you have something similar at home already that doesn’t fit quite right, but could be altered to the way you like.  Do it yourself or employ a local seamstress.  Help us make the world a better place one conscious decision at a time.

Keeping Rusty Patina

We love updating well used, functional, and vintage items.

This tool box is about 40 years old. It has slight dents and a bit of rust. Just enough to make it interesting but still have integrity to become the next unique home decor.

Wouldn’t it be a great surprise to redo Dad’s tool box or some other cherished item?

Tips on how to redo your own:

Wash with soapy water. (We have great “green” cleaner if there is any sticky residue.)

  • Steel Wool is your friend. If there is an area that has heavy rust you need to start with a medium steel wool, if there is light rust go for a fine steel wool so there isn’t scratching on the paint. We like to use it wet.
  • Rinse and dry.
  • Use a clear coat spray paint, with a UV protectant and non-yellowing. We like Krylon. Of course you can choose glossy or flat depending on the look you want. This tool box we decided on glossy because it compliments the glossy bright orange on the inside.
  • Adding additional touches like making sure the bottom has a felt or similar material to keep it from leaving any scratches if it is moved about. This also gives it a professional look. We added the same material on the bottom and part way up the insides giving it a finished look and extra protection for whatever is housed inside.

Lastly, be proud that you or someone else will continue to enjoy your vintage piece and it’s history in your family.

Trash to Treasure Man’s Dresser Caddy

Finding this old rusted piece, I knew I had to make something from it.
I had just watched a marathon of Flea Market Flip
and I have had a love of transforming things since I was a child.
This was a vintage department store display.

This is the before piece:

Upcycled Man Dresser Caddy

Learning what a valuable tool steel wool is was wonderful!
It comes in lots of different grades like sand paper.
It brought out what was left of the lettering
and the paint without stripping it too much.

I added vintage keys for a bit of extra,
then clear coated the entire unit so there will be no more rust.
The bottom has been lined with black felt
to keep surfaces free from scratches.

Vintage Man Dresser Caddy

This is a great way for a guy to organize his things at the end of the day.
Change in one space, watches in another,
cologne has it’s own place.

What a steal… This one of a kind piece retails at $46!
It will be featured at our next trunk show.
If you would like to purchase before hand, contact us.
Shipping for all items, one, or twenty is a flat rate of $7.95.

WEARhouse – Yes, that’s how we spell it.

A warehouse seems like such a commercial thing…

Our WEARhouse is all about what can still be worn, shared, changed, transformed, passed on and such. It has been a huge undertaking to save literally tons of garments from the landfill. A very small team of volunteers (Mainly Jean Nichols from Art for the Heart Gallery and Studio) have made the effort to sort through bags and bags and boxes of donations to send them in the best direction.


Best direction? First, Clothing Helping Kids is a great non-profit in NM. They resell clothing we and many others donate to them and offer grants and scholarships to children for various programs. Ours, Art for the Heart, supported a violin school, summer camp and kids portion of the Annual Glam Trash Fashion Show in Taos (going on a 13 year tradition).

Secondarily, we have artists who are creating a vintage apron line, weavings, quilting, assemblage art submissions, the list goes on. Managing what we send where and making sure we are thoughtful of the few items we do actually send on to the transfer station takes a good deal of effort.

Who helps volunteer? Theater groups. We help supply costumes for 3 local theaters in our very rural area. We are blessed to have so many talented people choose to move here and keep arts alive. Additionally, designers and anyone who needs work clothes can come and help. At the end of the day, they have found some treasures and we have sorted through many more donations.

Below you will see Bette Bradbury and myself. Bette has been an amazing mentor from WESST. She came to see our site and was overwhelmed at the amount of sorting we had at hand (View the background!) She took away with her several outfits for inner-city school teenagers in the Business Program they support. The bottom photo is the cast of a play looking through the thousands of outfits for costumes for their next play. 


This is a labor of love. A big part of that love is love of our environment and the arts. None the less, Jean and myself are dedicated to finding ways to keep great donations coming in and making sure they are passed to the appropriate resources.

If you want to see the operation in person, have ideas or resources, please use our contact page to send on your ideas and thoughts.