Recycle Dead UMBRELLAS Into Great BAGS of All Kinds




Introduction: Recycle Dead UMBRELLAS Into Great BAGS of All Kinds

About: Aiming to get a Show and tell maker fair going in March 2009. Anyone in UK or willing to travel, please let me know.

In this Instructable I will show you how to make use of all the dead umbrellas that lie around the city in wet windy weather.

I guess Instructablers are really green generally so you will like this way to recycle the dead umbrellas and at the same time have handy compact shopping bags so that you never need a plastic supermarket bag ever again. They roll up so small you can keep one in the pocket of each coat and handbag.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Obviously, you first need a broken umbrella that is beyond fixing.

These are very easily come by, especially in city centres in wet windy weather. In one week I gathered over 30 umbrellas on the 2 minute walk from my home to the station and the 10 minute walk from the station to my office in the city centre. I just helped myself to the umbrellas jammed into the public waste bins.

Here in Glasgow the small, telescopic umbrellas are popular and the majority of that type are black. I ended up with loads of them and, to avoid making a million small black boring bags, I used a lot of them either for lining some bags or for making handle strips. If you dont do that then you will need something to make handles or straps from: tape, bootlaces, string even.

Step 2: Preparation

Terminology I will use (probably not the official umbrella-makers' guild approved words):
Skin: the fabric of the umbrella
Struts: the metal or plastic rods that make the umbrella's skeletal shape under the fabric.
Ends: the little plastic thingies which are sewn onto the fabric and fit over the ends of the struts.
Handle: the whole thing from the bit that you hold, right to the ferrule.
Ferrule: the little end piece (metal or plastic)that makes the pointy bit on top of the open umbrella.

When you find the dead umbrella it is almost certainly going to be sopping wet ('cos its raining, innit?) and possibly grubby too, so you have two choices:
carry it home in a bag you carry with you for that purpose,
Strip the fabric off right there and then. You can really only do this with some of the big "golf" umbrellas. Due to the way they are made, you can slip the stitching over the struts and pull it straight off over the ferrule.

You cannot do that with the telescopic ones though, because the stitching is more complicated. I always have a penknife in my handbag (as in NCIS Gibbs' Rule 9, but i have always done this as you never know what you may find in your travels)and am shameless about stripping the skin off an umbrella in public.

Most umbrellas' end bits just pull off the struts, and are still sewn onto the fabric edge. If not you will have to cut them off with scissors. Then you have to cut the thread that sews the struts to the fabric - usually 3 or 4 points per strut. Lastly you have to cut around the ferrule to get the whole skin off the struts.

Now wash the fabric. It will dry very quickly. If you want to iron it smooth, be sure to use a cotton teacloth or something similar between the umbrella fabric and the iron or the fabric WILL melt excitingly.

Step 3: Cutting and Sewing

Now you need to use your imagination (or my ideas in the final step) to decide what bag you want. I first started doing this to make shopping bags to replace plastic supermarket bags. We have lots of lovely cottom bags etc in the house but I always forget to have one with me, especially for small shopping.

Umbrellas are either 8 skin panels (octagonalwhen you lay them flat)- picture 1, or6 skin panels (hexagonal) - picture 2. This affects what you can do with them.

The basic shopper is made by cutting the skin in half - pictures 3&4. Then you fold one half in half again, with the right side inside - picture 5.

From an 8-panel skin this gives you a shape which has the former edges of two panels at the top of the bag and a steep point for the bottom of the bag. Sew up the side and put some handles on and thats you done.

I do all my sewing with an old hand sewing machine I got out of a skip (dumpster in USA) so the bags are totally carbon neutral.

If truly desperate you could probably assemble these with staples and duct tape.

Step 4: Bags Galore

Instead of contributing to this disgusting plague of plastic as in the first picture you can let your imagination and creativity run wild to make all sorts of bags:
Beach bags
Shoulder bags

Step 5: Skeletons

I now have a lot of umbrella skeletons.The lengths and materials vary from steel to plastic to aluminium and some a long, some very short and jointed.

Anyone got any ideas for the struts?



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    25 Discussions

    Good instructable! Wow, I had a similar idea a month ago so it's good to see that someone has already thought of it. I'm in San Francisco,CA and happen to see lots of discarded umbrellas on the street during rainy season. When I was younger I thought to myself if only someone who enjoyed hand sewing could find these tossed umbrellas on the street and super sew them so they wouldn't fall apart so easily to be resold again, there'd be less of these things ending up in the landfill. Here's a few of my suggestions for what else they can be turned into, hope nobody thinks I'm a

    Poncho or Windbreaker, Dust cover for furniture, bicycle or car if enough are collected, sunshade for a backyard, gift wrapping, shower curtain, laptop case if you add padding inside, seat cushions and pet beds for dogs/cats (use old pillows or stuffed animal plush's interiors for stuffing).

    Wooden ones as replacement handles/knobs for drawers, furniture feet, door stops, wind chimes, picture frame of some sort, fixtures on a wall to hold up a shelf, jacket hangers on wall, seat for a swing. Plastic hook ones could be made into the outer rim of a seat or attached to baskets for the purpose of hanging the whole thing onto something else.

    Perhaps a diy tv antenna, framework spine for a kite someone suggested, sculptural art.

    1 reply

    Yes, good instructable and thank you for you ideas too... I'll probably make something with.

    Hi there, I'd love to try this out. I live in London and see lots of discarded umbrella's during the rainy season (all year round). I think I am more of a 'bag them discreetly and process them at home' kind of person. How did you wash them? Can the skins be put on a cold wash in the washing machine? Some of them are lying in muddy puddles so I am keen to make sure they are clean and disinfected properly before using them for groceries etc. Thanks!

    2 replies

    Umbrella fabric is pretty tough stuff. I would expect it to be fine in any non-boil wash temperature but do NOT tumble dry as it melts really easily, e.g. if you tried to iron it.

    Best of luck.

    Umbrella fabric is pretty tough stuff. I would expect it to be fine in any non-boil wash temperature but do NOT tumble dry as it melts really easily, e.g. if you tried to iron it.

    Best of luck.

    You could make a lamp stand from the struts: this site has one that is made out of recycled bits and pieces:

    thank you so much for this great idea.
    I'm sure mother earth appreciate it more...

    What a great project! I fished four umbrellas out of the trash this afternoon and might turn some of them into bags. As for the struts...I agree with KD1UC - the struts can be used for kites made out of the umbrella fabric.

     Ooooh, now I really want an ex-umbrella for a skirt!
    Waterproof and semi-fasionable!  WIN!

    This must be a European thing... I have lived in 9 major US cities, and many more smaller cities, and never once have I seen a dead umbrella on the streets...

    Wow! I never would have thought old umbrellas can have another use...(though I've also seen then in the street in rainy days) Next winter i'll give it a try.

    OMG!!! How clever ar you guys who contribute - I would never have thought about using an old umbrella for anything!!! I'll never throw one away again!

    1 reply

    Once you start to notice them on your city streets, you will find they really stack up. I have loads in the house now and am at last starting to find uses for the handles and spines. Instructables to follow when our local maker fair is over, as I am organising it and it naturally takes a fair bit of leisure time to do.

    these are great! Have you thought of selling them online, perhaps on Etsy or Folksy? Very good idea and top marks for recycling. I may have to follow your lead! Best wishes for 2009! Joey x

    Brilliant! hehe I can see these in my future... Thanks!

    WE use them here to make rosaries. The strut is just the right size to help tie knots in the rosaries. I've been collecting them for years. Now I have a use for the skin, that I have built up! I sometimes make rain capes for little children with them, but this idea is more versatile.

    I totally love this idea ! Thanks so give us this great instructable!!!

    I read on another site about adding a new cloth to the skeleton, adding christmas light and having a kind of lamp. The site used it for a garden but I was going to make one for my dorm.