Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas


Leggi questo post in: Italiano

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Welcome to the fall! Now that we’re starting up with rainy season, I’m starting to see a lot of this.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

And this. It drives me nuts. As you can see, I live in an area where people have no scruples whatsoever about dumping their trash all over the place and it takes many months (years?) for it to ever get cleaned up. So when a person is walking down the street and a sudden gust of wind blows his umbrella inside out or otherwise damages it, the umbrella tends to just get thrown down on the sidewalk right then and there. (Or hung on a tree, as if that were much better.)

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

For this reason, rainy season becomes a time of collecting broken umbrellas from the streets, something which unfortunately embarrasses my family no end. (But I will not take an umbrella if it looks like it’s been there for a while because that means that multiple dogs have probably peed all over it.)  Because, even if the umbrella frame is damaged, the fabric itself is usually still in perfect condition. So once you remove this fabric from the damaged frame, you can use it in all sorts of interesting and creative ways!

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Not sure how to remove fabric from umbrellas? It’s actually quite simple, so read on to find out!

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

You will need a pair of scissors and a seam ripper. If you don’t have a seam ripper, get one immediately. If you do any tiny amount of sewing, a seam ripper is essential to removing unwanted stitches and, trust me, you will have unwanted stitches more often than you’d like.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Open up your umbrella as best you can, which will probably depend on what condition the metal frame is in. I’ll first show you what it looks like inside a compact umbrella.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Start at the outer end of one metallic arm. The fabric is usually sewn directly onto a little loop at the end of the arm, at least in compact umbrellas. Stick your seam ripper between the threads holding the fabric on and apply a little pressure to cut them. Be careful not to rip the fabric with the seam ripper.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

You might need to do this a few times until you completely free the fabric from the frame in any given point.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Work your way inwards down the arm, cutting the threads that hold the fabric onto the frame. When you’ve completely freed the fabric from the first arm, move on to the next one. Be careful how you handle the umbrella, because sometimes the edges of these metal arms can be pretty sharp.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

When you’re done, remove the fabric from the center of the umbrella with your scissors, but make sure to get distracted by your cute assistant so that you forget to take pictures of that step. Oh wait, don’t do that. Luckily I took pictures of the whole process on a full-sized umbrella, too, so just keep reading on.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

People tend to use compact umbrellas more often, so I therefore find those more often. But usually full-sized umbrellas are more durable, lasting longer, and then when it’s time to remove the fabric from them, it’s actually faster and they provide more fabric than a compact umbrella. So I always do a little leap for joy when I find a full-sized one.

The fabric is usually attached to the tips of the metallic arms of full-sized umbrellas with a little plastic or metal cap. In this case, you can just pull it off. The cap itself will be attached to the fabric with thread. Removing the cap with the seam ripper will make the fabric lay more flat, but I often just leave them on until it’s time for me to use the fabric so that I don’t waste time removing them if I’m not even going to use the very tip of the fabric anyway.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Continue working down the arm, cutting through the threads attaching the fabric to the arm with the seam ripper, just like we did with the compact umbrella. The good news is that there are fewer of these threads on full-sized umbrellas, so this part will go very quickly.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

When you’ve removed the fabric from all the arms, you’ll need to remove the fabric from the center top of the umbrella. Pull the fabric upwards and away from the center, like you can see above.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Make a tiny snip as close to the umbrella frame as possible with either your seam ripper or scissors, insert your scissors, and continue cutting all the way around, again, as close as possible to the umbrella frame.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

When you’ve completed cutting all the way around, you can just pull the umbrella fabric off of the frame.

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Throw the remaining umbrella skeleton into your metal recycling, if your town allows it. Or pose with particularly mangled frames like a moron. (Totally unrelated, but these photos are from last summer, and I’m pretty thrilled to see how much my upper arms have slimmed down since then. Hooray for swimming!)

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

Now you’re left with just your wonderfully useful umbrella fabric! But don’t forget what nasty dirty place you found your umbrella in (unless you come across people who are kind enough to just give you their broken umbrellas without dumping them on the ground)! You need to give those things a good wash! Seeing as I use a lot of these, I just keep the fabric in a plastic bag until I have a bunch of them and then I wash them all together in the washing machine on a delicate cycle with liquid detergent and a good dose of fabric disinfectant. Another option is to just wash them by hand. Hang them to dry. I don’t have an electric dryer and have never attempted to dry umbrella fabric in one, so I have no idea what might happen if you do. (But if you do try, please leave me a comment below to let me know what happened!)

Tutorial: How to remove fabric from umbrellas | www.cucicucicoo.com

There is something strangely pleasant about seeing umbrella fabric hanging on my line to dry. Or at least to me there is, but then again I’m a little bizarre that way. I just love thinking about how I rescued something from a sad destiny and will soon turn it into some other marvellous thing. And heck, I’m always happy to have any type of rainbow outside my balcony window!

So, now that we have our liberated and washed umbrella fabric, what are we going to do with it? Ahhh, that’s the most fun part! But that’ll be for another day, or rather another two days because I have two tutorials coming up for you to use these things, so in the meantime start embarrassing your children and husband by picking up abandoned umbrellas (or start spreading the word around to everyone you know to give them to you) and preparing the fabric, and then we’ll start making some cool things!

Free Pattern! Introducing the Carry Everywhere Shopping Bag. Upcycle an umbrella or use lightweight fabric to sew a beautifully-finished shopper that can be stuffed in a hidden attached drawstring pouch! #carryeverywhereshoppingbag | www.cucicucicoo.com

Update: Here are two projects for using umbrella fabric: a Carry Everywhere Shopping Bag (with a FREE PATTERN!) and a waterproof picnic blanket!

Question of the day: How would you use umbrella fabric?

C’mon, let’s get brainstorming! There are so many great ideas out there on the web, but I want to hear your ideas! Consider the qualities of umbrella fabric: thin, synthetic, more or less waterproof… Consider the shape, the colors, the composition of eight (or more) wedges forming a polygon. How would you use these qualities to your advantage? Tell me your ideas in the comments below!


  1. I’ve used umbrella fabric before. Made a waterproof cover for my son’s bag – very useful. I’ve seen lots of old umbrellas lying around and very tempted to pick them up, but I’ve go too much junk in my flat already!

    • Agy, I just wrote a comment to you on Facebook before seeing this comment here! I love your backpack cover and still have it on my to-do list! I have way too much junk, too, but I figure that at least if I take the fabric off of the umbrella right away, that doesn’t take up much space and can be stored with the rest of my fabrics! (I always need justification to add to my massing fabric and/or trash stash! 😉 )

  2. Love the idea of recycling umbrella fabric. It never occurred to me before. I wish we had that luxury as California is in a drought and we haven’t received significant rainfall in over a year. We are in drought mode: short showers, recycle gray water to back yard, turn water off when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. We don’t water our yard, even though some of the neighbors do(Brown is the new green!). It should be done by hand even though some use their automatic sprinklers on a timer before dawn. As far as putting the fabric in the electric dryer, since it’s most likely nylon, I would be careful, perhaps put it in with towels not by itself but line drying it is prefect. Too hot a dryer, like an iron would melt the fabric. If you had several recycled umbrella fabrics they would look awesome in a picnic quilt as it is waterproof, but becareful about spilling oily substances as nylon would stain. They would make great mats for kids to sit on, in Scouts we called them “Sit-upons” We used vinyl scraps, lined with newspapers and bound with lanyard plastic. There were perfect for sitting on a log, grass or other outdoor surface.

    • Wow, I hadn’t realized that CA drought has been going on for so long. Eek!! You are thinking like me with your idea, but it hadn’t occurred to me to make “sit-upons” like you said. Great idea to line them with newspapers! What kind of vinyl scraps did you use that were big enough to go around the newspapers? You always have wonderful insights, Rosemary! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. I’ve been wanting to replace the fabric on my umbrella (using adorable elephant cotton material with vinyl over it) but for the life of me, I can’t get the metal rod/tip off in order to make a new one cover. I can’t cut a hole to fit over the tip because then rain would seep through any open spaces. Did you figure out how to take the metal tip off before recycling it?

    • Jocelyn,
      If you can get the fabric to stay up without putting it under the metal cap there are sealants you could use around the top to create a waterproof seal. Check with your local hardware store ( a small local shop not a huge retailer) and talk with them about sealants. I find they can be very helpful at problem solving.
      Good Luck!! If you find one that works please share your results.

      • Good idea, Cathy, to use sealant to create a waterproof seal!

        Unfortunately, Jocelyn, I haven’t figured out how to get the metal top off the umbrella to free the fabric underneath. That would be wonderful because it would make the fabric more useable, too, without the hole in the center. That would be so sweet to have an elephant umbrella! Good luck and keep us posted as to what you manage to do!

        • Thank you Cathy! I will be going to the hardware store tomorrow to see about the sealant. This particular store is a hardware store and a fabric store combined! So, hopefully they will be able to help and I will let you know the results. 🙂

        • So I went to the store yesterday. The man there suggested hot glue gun… I asked him to call the stepmother who is the one that brought the fabric part of the store for her suggestion. She said to make a button hole to go over/around the bottom of the metal tip and use a flexible vinyl and leather adhesive (also bonds to rubber, metal and plastic). So I’ll be working on the umbrella this weekend and let you know how that works out, although we kind of need rain to help, but the shower will work as the tester. 🙂

  4. What an absolutely wonderful tutorial! I think the fabric recovered would be great market bags or could be cut into strips and crocheted or sewn into throw rugs.. The thoughts are running through my mind…oh the possibilities!

    Thank you so much for sharing your info and inspiration,

    • Oh, Cathy, cute idea to crochet umbrella strips! And it would be so easy to cut the umbrella fabric in a spiral to get one long strip. Now *I’m* the one saying “oh the possibilies!” 🙂

  5. I made skirts out of old umbrellas!
    I made a mini skirt for a teenager out of a black one, with an elasticated waist and with a lace trim because the unpicked edge of the umbrella will never be perfect!
    I also used a bigger umbrella to make a longer skirt for me to wear to a 1950s/Grease party. I put in a zip and hook and eye, and again gave it a trim – this time from ribbon. I wish I still had that tiny waist now!

    • How wonderful, Miriam! I’ve seen pictures of umbrella skirts and they look fantastic! I particularly like them made from rainbow umbrellas. I’ve never done it myself because, like you said, I don’t think my waist would fit very well into one!

  6. Hi, When I tried to download the bag pattern, my computer said it has a threat which can damage the computer. So, I blocked it. Please look into it.

  7. Thanks to this tutorial, I saved the fabric from three busted compact umbrellas and have used one of them to line two crocheted projects, a full-sized tote and a small sewing notions bag. Have not attempted your market bag pattern yet as I don’t have a sewing machine right now (the crochet bag linings were hand-sewn too) but it looks like a great idea. Thanks again!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here