Ukay-Ukay Diving for Crafting Materials

In my last post I mentioned that in Tagaytay, we found this large, warehouse-like place that sells second hand clothes, shoes, bags and other miscellaneous items. These places are called ukay-ukay, and from my understanding the word ukay  (not sure which Filipino dialect this is from) means “to dig”. This is only my speculation, though, as it’s pretty close to the Tagalog word hukay, which also means to dig.

Before we left that ukay-ukay warehouse in Tagaytay, Dell had said, “Could we do a day trip one of these days, just to go back to this place?” I swear I saw the deep longing in his eyes o_0;

The connotations of the word are apropos, since you literally need to dig through racks of clothes to find really nice items – although most clothes are wearable, if you all you need is to find something to wear. But part of the thrill of going to an ukay-ukay is to find clothing that is fashionable, or retro, or quirky, or even with a top designer label.

The appeal of the ukay ukay, especially for Filipinos, is of course how cheap items are, especially if you are lucky enough to score clothing with a designer label that could fetch more than three times their retail price. I think the phenomenon of going to ukay ukays started becoming popular in the mid-1990s, and back then people went to Baguio City specifically, to find these treasure trove of second hand clothes, usually from first world countries. These usually ship in boxes, unsorted, and dumped into tight, airless shops (yeah, even the airconditioned shops are airless) and displayed in cramped racks. To go into an ukay-ukay is to dive through used clothes.

I never really got into ukay-ukay diving until fairly recently, mainly because I don’t really like the clothes you find in ukay-ukays — clothes in fashion from the previous season in the West. I mean, there are a lot of jackets in ukay-ukays — even thick, fur – or fleece- lined winter jackets that have no business existing in a tropical country like the Philippines. You can actually find them when it’s summer here. Dell said these Western trends usually come into fashion in our country a season late — so winter clothes from the West make their way here by summer, and summer clothes from the West make their way here by December (not technically winter, here, since we have only two seasons).

But I soon realized that an ukay-ukay shop can be a perfect place to find some materials that I can use for crafting – some shops have bed linens and curtains, and the one near our home actually has yards of unused cloth (though I’m not really sure if they were sourced abroad or locally). Fleece clothing in jackets, or faux fur are particularly useful as materials for stuffed toys. Here’s one I made for The Nephew, upcycled from a faux fur blouse:

Found at an ukay ukay shop, bought for about Php 40 (less than a dollar)

I turned the blouse into a furry bunny:

Meet Black Beard Bunny!

The bunny, by the way, was another flash procrastination project. I made it in one night, although the plan for it had been in my head for several weeks. I made this back in June.

The last thing I stitched on was the belt and buckle — I had lost steam by then. You can see that I had used a loose basting stitch on it, thinking I would use a more ‘finished’ stitch on it later. Never got the chance to finish it properly …

His face, the inside of his ears, his pirate banner, belt and buckle are made from felt. The red pants is made from red pranella (cotton) cloth.

I brought it along when we fetched The Nephew, who, at first, didn’t really know what to make of the bunny:

“Is this for me?”

I made him a bunny because my brother had mentioned that he, his wife, and The Nephew were all born under the sign of the Rabbit (according to the Chinese zodiac).

“A pirate bunny?”

I also remembered that growing up, my brother (The Nephew’s dad) had a favorite stuffed rabbit. But not really for cuddling — he made his stuffed rabbit an armored suit and sword from cardboard, and would play with it as if it were an action figure >_<

Not sure if pirate bunny makes sense.

I’m planning on making another stuffed bunny for The Nephew — this time a white, cyborg type one. If you look at the photo of the original faux fur blouse, right beside it you can see another ukay-ukay find — a jacket with mohair/yarn fur. That will be the main material for the cyborg bunny.

“Dad, this is mine!”

The Nephew did warm up to the idea of a pirate bunny and was a little possessive of it ^_^

So now I always look forward to going to ukay-ukay shops because you never know what you could unearth there that could inspire and spark crafting projects.


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