Archive for the "art & crafts using recycled stuff" category

How can I revamp some plain curtains with recycled/upcycled materials?

Following on from my recent “how can I revamp a kitchen so I don’t need a new one?” question, Janet has asked a similar (smaller scale!) question about curtains:

I have ordinary plain curtains that need to look snazzy. I like the “wacky” type of design,whether it’s adding on old buttons,bits of fabric etc. Any ideas? Many thanks,Janet.

I think you’ve already got a few good ideas on there: cover the bottom quarter/third of the curtains with a strip of contrasting fabric and decorate the join with a row of buttons (mmm, buttons on curtains) – or go shabby chic with a whole row/section of buttons and misc (badges, charms, pompoms, bows, rosettes – whatever you can find). Or use scraps of old fabric and yarn to make a bunting design higher up – old patterned clothes or bedding would be fab. I’ve seen curtains that looked like they had tufts/short tassels of yarn every 15cm/6ins or so in lines down the length of them, which would be easy to replicate. Or sew on ribbon/thin strips of scrap fabric to add stripes or wiggly lines – for thicker stripes, this chevron idea is nice and I’ve seen a similar appliqué idea using strips of a design cut from old lacey net curtain. Alternatively, you could make reverse appliqué patches – cut out simple shapes and add a contrasting shape/fabric behind to peek through (reverse appliqué tutorial). A simple no-sew idea is to attach ribbon/yarn/strips of scrap fabric to each curtain ring/clip – like the idea (about a third of the way down) on this page.

If the curtains are 100% cotton, you could try dyeing them – ombre/dip dye ones would look interesting (as if all the dye from the curtains had slid down to the floor ;) ) – or if they’re too dark for that, selectively bleaching them. (Obviously do try a test patch first.) If they’re too big to be manageable in a dye bath, you could try printing onto them instead (possibly using a linocut technique or an even simpler stamp for something like polka dots — or for a fun or kid-centric room, hand prints ;) ).

How would you revamp or embellished plain curtains using recycled/upcycled stuff? What did you do? Have you got any tips or suggestions for Janet? Any non-sewing idea or ones that use alternative materials to fabric/yarn?

Recycled Christmas Decorations: our favourite ideas for 2011

Who wants generic shop-bought Christmas decorations when homemade ones are so much nicer, cheaper and better for the environment? ;)

Our 2010 round-up of our favourite ideas for making upcycled/recycled Christmas decorations has been very popular this year and I hope it’s provided lots of people with lots of inspiration – but if you’ve still got a little space to fill before the weekend, here are some more last minute ideas:

Paper wreaths have been very popular over the last couple of years but I love this one from EcoEmpire because, aside from staples, it’s entirely made from reusing household waste – newspaper, cereal boxes and a little scrap of ribbon (Kat suggests the loops from clothes – I’ve got a drawer full of those!)

Sticking with paper crafts, I also love these paper ball ornaments – either as individual baubles or strung together into a garland. I also love the idea of using foil packaging to make silver or otherwise shiny ones.

These letter ornaments, decorated with scraps from old sweaters, would also work well on their own or as part of a garland spelling out a holiday greeting/special word. “Merry Christmas” if you’ve got a lot of scraps, “joy” if you haven’t ;)

If you prefer your decorations a little more natural, these mini Christmas trees made from twigs are just fab – a simple idea but really nicely executed.

The Crafty Green Poet also reminded me that you don’t have to just use special Christmas ornaments on your tree – any ornaments or little items that don’t usually see the light of day can be hung up on there – even earrings on smaller trees for a little sparkle/bead-y delight.

Finally, Deb/Urbanwide sent me this fun Nativity scene idea: the whole Nativity crew painted on champagne corks. Perfect if little ones want to play with the scene – although if you want one for this year, you’ll have to get working on drinking all the champagne ASAP ;) (A slightly healthier alternative – but one that needs nearly as much forethought – is to use Actimel bottles for the bodies instead.)

Anyone else got any fun recycled Christmas decoration makes or discoveries to share?

(Photos © EcoEmpire & MicheleMadeMe respectively)

5 fantastic things to do with old cutlery/silverware

Last week’s post about those little plastic spoons you get with children’s medicine reminded me of all the great things you can do with old metal cutlery – not the finest family silver necessarily but the stuff that manages to find its way into your cutlery drawer (or conversely – the remains that are left after everything else leaves and you get a new set!).

1. Reuse them around the home

Our cats have a dedicated old fork for their food; I have an old dessert spoon with a handle bent up at 90° for skimming misc and oil from the top of sauces; and, I have an old tablespoon in with my laundry stuff for spooning in wash boosters.

In our tool kit, we have a fork which can be used for holding nails in place while hammering, a(n admittedly more flexible than most) old butter knife for smoothing filler and several old spoons for stirring filler, paint and whatnot.

What do you reuse them for around the home?

2. Reuse them around the garden

They’re almost equally as useful in the garden too!

Forks are useful when transplanting seedlings – use them to lift the plant’s tender new roots out of their starter tray – and can also be used to temporarily pin thin runners in place if you want, for example, strawberries, to spread in a certain direction.

Knives and spoons also make fun row markers or plant labels in pots. Some people (like dkshattuck, who made the ones above) sell ready made sets for herbs , stamped with the names or otherwise labelled so they’ll last for years and years.

Do you use old cutlery in the garden? If so, what for?

3. Coat hooks and cupboard handles

Sturdy cutlery can be bent into fun coat hooks or key hooks like those pictured above. They’re by Jeremy and Jen Evensen, who sell via Etsy – such fun designs!
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How can I reuse or recycle novelty Christmas jumpers?

I got this email from Edie a few weeks ago but I thought I’d keep it until people were thinking a little more festive-ly — I hope it’s not too late for Edie now though!

I love silly Christmas jumpers but not to wear, god, not to wear! I’m thinking of getting some to make into Christmas cushion covers but thought I’d ask to see if you had any ideas for making other things from them too and the bits like the sleeves etc.

Some of the various sweater-to-cushion-cover tutorials I’ve seen have used the sleeves to make a flap like on a housewife style pillow. Another tutorial suggests making patchwork cushion covers – depending on the patch size/style, that could easily use up all the different bits of a jumper. Sleeves could also be used to make hot water bottle covers, with the cuff “hugging” the neck of the bottle.

Other ideas for the jumpers: lots of people make Christmas stockings out of old jumpers – the sleeves might be enough for that too. Could they also be cut up to make Christmas placemats or pot holders? If they’ve got a high wool content, they could be felted for extra heat protection (although that would probably distort the pattern). Or how about a skirt for the Christmas tree if it’s in a pot?

Any other suggestions for Edie?

(Photo by lisa humes)

What can I reuse or recycle to make soap moulds?

I made my first batch of cold-process soap earlier in the year – it took FOREVER to trace, but we’ve loved the resulting soap so I need to make some more.

Ever since I made that first batch, I’ve been on the look out for what I can use as moulds this time around. Last time, I had two old food trays for bar soaps, but when I ended up making a lot more soap than I’d originally intended, I grabbed whatever else I could find – some shaped fruit trays (small hand soaps), an old round ice cream tub (too wide when sliced into discs so had to cut them into semi-circles, which was a bit odd) and the square edged plastic bottles the olive oil had come in (nice size hand soaps, but it was awkward to get it out). (The latter two can be seen in the picture.)

All sorts of packaging has been subject to my “would it make nice soap?” eye. A few weeks ago, I was reading about someone else’s soap making on Simple, Green, Frugal and she mentioned using poster tubes (with the bottom sealed up) to make nice sized round soaps. As we’ve not had any posters or the like delivered recently, we haven’t got any of those but it got me thinking about similar cylinders: a litre-ish, straight-ish juice or pop bottles would probably about the right size, although it’d probably be awkward to get out like the olive oil bottle. That led me down another juice line: John has got a bit of an obsession with chocolate soya milk at the moment which comes in tetrapak containers – that would be a nice size for square bar soaps and be easier to cut out…

Anyway, long story slightly shorter, what else can I reuse or recycle to make either interesting shaped soaps or simple practical ones? If you make your own (cold-process) soap, what do you use?

Do you have any upcycled moulds that you can reuse again and again rather than destroying (like would happen with the poster tube or my juice containers)?

Or on the flipside, anything you’ve used that you’d urge other people not to use?

(A few notes for non-soap makers: the soap mix at the point of pouring is about body temperature for “cold-process” soaps so plastic melting is not usually an issue, but it is incredibly caustic at this point, and will react to metals other than stainless steel. It’s poured into the mould when it’s hit “trace”, a gloopy rather than full liquid stage, and left to set in the moulds for a few days, then popped out of the moulds to continue “curing” for a few weeks before use.)