Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

UPcycleMN: From jeans jackets to Boomerang Bags April 27, 2022

The label that tags UPcycleMN products. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo April 2022)

REDUCE. RECYCLE. REUSE. Those three verbs theme an environmentally-conscious business established by a retired Northfield children’s programming librarian. Kathryn Ness, “CEO & Head Scrounger,” who holds degrees in Fiber Arts and Art History, champions those 3 Rs in UPcycleMN.

The UPcycleMN tent at Northfield’s Earth Day Celebration showcases jackets crafted from blue jeans. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo April 2022)

I met Ness at Northfield’s recent Earth Day Celebration at Bridge Square. A bold SAY NO! PLASTIC BAGS sign initially drew me to her vendor tent. There I admired blue jean jackets stitched together from used jeans. And I saw a basket filled with Take-n-Sew kits for Boomerang Bags. Ness was also giving away those cloth bags.

Kits to create Boomerang Bags. ((Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo April 2022)

A brief conversation with this artist revealed that she introduced the Boomerang Bags project (which originated in Australia) to the area while working at the library. At one time libraries in the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating system bagged patrons’ books in plastic bags. Today the libraries use locally-made cloth bags. In Northfield, volunteers have sewn 4,000 Boomerang Bags from donated fabric, according to the UPcycleMN website.

A jacket crafted from upcycled wool. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo April 2022)

Ness wants to eliminate single use plastic bags and also bring awareness to plastic and fabric waste in Northfield. But she’s not just making a statement. She’s doing something. Thus her UPcycleMN business focusing on taking a new or used item and creating something else from it to keep it out of the landfill. She collects fabric, upholstery remnants, curtains, old blue jeans and more to craft jackets, Fab-baskets, table runners, bags, totes…

Artsy fabric incorporated into a jacket crafted from blue jeans. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

She brings her artistic background and talents to her work, assisted by her daughter, Krista Ness Mullen. Her interest in the arts stretches back to junior high school art classes, where she learned batik, macrame’ and weaving.

A Boomerang Bag at my library in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2018)

Today, with a focus on upcycling and the environment, Ness is stitching a message of reduce, recycle, reuse into the fabric of the Northfield community. And beyond.

FYI: You’ll find Ness marketing her UpcycleMN products and her environmental-friendly message at places like Northfield’s Riverwalk Market Fair, the Rustic Mamas’ Market in Owatonna and the Northfield Garden Club Tour. Visit her website for more information.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Launching the Boomerang Bags movement in Faribault May 1, 2018

 

A May Day basket I received from a young family several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MAY DAY BRINGS thoughts of baskets hung on doorknobs or set on doorsteps. A gift to a friend, a family member, a neighbor. A little love on the first day of May.

 

 

Today in Faribault, the focus is not on baskets, but on bags. Cloth bags crafted from recycled materials to replace plastic bags. It’s part of the worldwide Boomerang Bags movement being launched locally at Buckham Memorial Library.

 

 

I read about this effort recently in the Faribault paper, then saw samples of the cloth bags at the library along with a notice about an informational meeting slated for 10:30 a.m. today in the library’s third floor Makerspace.

 

 

I like the concept of choosing cloth over plastic, of making these bags and then passing them along to people in the community. The boomerang effect.

All of this I considered while I checked out books and magazines at the library on Saturday, then waited while the front desk aide slipped my reading materials into a Southeastern Libraries Cooperating bag. Made of plastic.

TELL ME: What are your thoughts on the Boomerang Bags project? Have you heard of it? Do you already use cloth bags when shopping, etc.?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling