More Scrapbusting (with style!)

This week will be a continued effort to chip away at the massive amount of scraps that the group has built up while working on the wedding.  If you’re anything like us, you may have a few bits of your favourite fabric lurking in the cupboard too.  We’ve found a few great ways to put them to good use!  Here are a couple of bits that we’re working on and several ideas we haven’t even started yet!

1.  Think Christmas.  (I know it’s August, but that’s one holiday with a nasty habit of sneaking up on us!  Luckily, Zakka Life offer this fab, kid-friendly tutorial for turning your scrap stash into holiday cheer!

2.  More wreaths. Whether its for Christmas or just a pretty decoration with some of your favourite fabrics, scraps can become beautiful wreaths.  You can even use the same technique linked above!    Handy tip:  Follow Rod’s example and use some leftover pipe insulation as a wreath form.  With some creativity (and electrical tape) you can create lovely shapes like his signature love heart.    Rod would also like you to know that his wreath (above, left) will be available in the group’s Etsy Shop later today.

3.  What, you still have more scraps?  Don’t Panic!  Over at The Cart Before the Horse, we found this amazing idea for a fabric scrap mosaic, created by Jo James.  I can’t wait to try one of these.

4.  And finally, if you still haven’t managed to bust your way through your scrap stash… Then it’s time to pull out the big guns.  Uber genius Suzanne Zing at Notes from the Patch posted this amazing tutorial on how to create this gorgeous shag rag rug:  DSC_2315dIt’s so fluffy, I just want to give it a hug!  So that’s what I’m going to be starting on, just as soon as i can get my hands on some plastic fencing.  Boy, and I thought my fingers were tired after tying the bunting!

5.  Scrap busting doesn’t just apply to fabric, either!  Remember these?

(I know, how can you forget when I keep showing them to you?) Anyway, you didn’t think we threw away the bowl part of the wine glass, did you?  Not when we could make these:

Now those are some serious glasses, for some serious wine!  And that lonely saucer in lurking in the cupboard?  Say hello to your new display piece!

saucer candleholderPhew!  After all that scrap-busting I have only one problem:  I need more scraps!



Pitfalls of upcycling at home

If you check out my right sidebar this week, you might notice a new “piece of flair”.  Yep.  A Mumsnet badge.  They finally let me join their blogging network.  It was the least they could do, given that their forums are the number one barrier to my productivity!  So just for the other Mumsnetters out there, here’s a post all about trying to work from home and some of the challenges  to getting the job done.

AIBU being my main challenge to getting the job done…

Even though Re-Creations main activity is helping people with disabilities through upcycling groups, sometimes (often) there is just more work than we can finish at group.  Which means Mummy gets to work from home.  And while I had visions of blissfully crafting away with the children, with a full pot of coffee on the go and maybe Pride and Prejudice on the DVD player, the reality falls somewhat short of expectations.

Children:  My last post illustrated exactly how my kids participate in the crafting process:

Taking mummy’s craft things and tipping them out on the floor is their main contribution.  This is especially helpful when everything has been pre-sorted by colour and size.  It does give me a warm glow when I hear them say things like,  “When I grow up, I’m having a hammer like mummy’s”.  (Take that, traditional gender roles!) But the glow tends to fade just a bit when you catch them “fixing” the TV with their toy mallets.  And Colin Firth on the telly?  Yeah, right.  With tots tumbling underfoot, the best you can look forward to is an endless loop of SpongeBob and Willy Wonka, which, lets face it, is one of Johnny Depp’s less fanciable roles.

Fuzzies:  In addition to the kiddiwinks, I’ve found that pets are also keen to join in the upcycling fun.  And not just mine.  Cats have been known to travel from 3 gardens over when there’s some scrap bunting afoot.


Cute, right?  Yeah, they’re not even my cats.  Mine is much worse.  He thinks he’s in charge of the proceedings, and has very strong opinions on how this bunting should be arranged.

Boomer, the frustrated bunting designer.

Storage: Every work-at-home mum has to deal with the issue of separating work-space from living-space.  With upcycling, this can become a challenge because almost any piece of trash has the potential to become your raw materials. If you train your brain to look at rubbish in terms of what you can make from it, it can get a little difficult to throw things out.  Sometimes, you might even seek out certain types of rubbish.

Like today, I bought some eggs at the supermarket.  No big deal, right?  Except I already had eggs.  I didn’t buy more just because of their super-low price or because I wanted to make hubby his favourite omlettes for tea.  (Shh, he doesn’t need to know that!)  I bought these eggs because they came in a green carton, which I wanted to make into flowers to add to my egg carton fairy lights.

upcycled flower lights

Totally worth it.  But it also means that storage becomes a major issue if you want to avoid being featured on Hoarders: Buried Alive.  There’s a whole other post coming on how to organize your crafting space, but a big part of the solution is to make use of all of your available storage space.  Last week that meant…

The Loft Hatch of Evil.  Some super-bulky and seldom-used items just have to be tucked up out of the way, where we keep the Christmas things and the spare spiders.  Entrance into the Loft Hatch of Evil is not to be taken lightly, as it requires climbing all the way up the stepladder onto the step that is not a step.    The spider-death ladder combination is a helpful deterrent to hoarding.  It forces me to ask myself the question:  “You want to keep that…enough to die for it?”

The Fridge:  Major occupational hazard when working from home.  Especially if you had something super tasty for dinner last night.  It’s crazy.  If I’m delivering workshops I’ll often skip lunch just to keep my rhythm going.  At home, I’ll find myself wandering over to the fridge just to see if any new food has grown there in the last half hour.  Luckily several of the guys in the group are skilled at taking very unflattering photos of my butt.  (No, I’m not posting them here)  But it’s helpful to stick them on the fridge as a reminder that I don’t really need any more junk in my trunk.

Housework:  I’m sure my other half would be happy to testify that housework isn’t one of my preferred occupations.  But give me some invoices or a funding application to work on, and I’ll be damned if my skirting boards don’t suddenly need a good polish.  And that kettle could really do with de-scaling and I’m sure it’s been ages since anybody thought to pair up the odd socks…  If the house is clean, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m putting off something super boring.

Spouse : Young couple just married  groom kiss his pretty bride after the wedding ceremony  she is blond and wearing a nice diadem  background red roses and foreground yellow bouquet roses

The Spouse:  For me, the biggest challenge to the work-life barriers when working from home is definitely the DH.  (Dear Husband, if you’re not up to speed on parenting forum lingo)  From his perspective, what I do when I’m working from home sometimes looks an awful lot like what he does when he’s “playing on the computer”.  So it shouldn’t be a big deal to stop what I’m doing and hang out some laundry, right?  Or take his dog to the vet?  “But why can’t you sort out my iTunes?  You’re home all day…”      At the end of a day when I’ve transformed 4 duvet covers into 20 metres of bunting with the help of 3 cats and two toddlers, through endless episodes of Spongebob Squarepants and while resisting the allure of a fresh packet of custard creams, the DH is duty-bound to ask “Why is it so messy in here?  Is there any dinner?”  At moments like those, the only thing that prevents me from introducing my spouse to the business end of my frying pan is the sure knowledge that upcycling at home is probably just a little easier than…

trying to upcycle in prison.  Happy Monday!




Scrap busting

Did you think we were going to be having a rest, recovering from our creative efforts of the weekend?  Yeah, we did too.  But after a several-week-long upcycling frenzy, apparently one’s fingers don’t just switch off and chill out.  Mine were twitching and I had to find something for them to do or take drastic action and resort to doing actual housework.

Luckily, I had plenty of Wedstival leftovers to work with.  Despite making miles and miles of scrap bunting, we somehow still had some scraps left!  Now, Thing2 had some big ideas for what to do with them…But I thought we could manage something a little more productive.  So I grabbed a worn out bike tire I had lying around and about a hundred knots later I came up with this:

Nice!  Definitely an idea for busting your stash of fabric scraps.  But I was still full of energy and looking for some other creative outlets.  Remember these from the wedding?

They were a huge hit.  But I still had a couple of bottles hanging out in the recycling bin that didn’t make the cut for the wedding since they just weren’t as pretty as the spirit bottles.  (Not yet, anyway)  The answer?  Stickers + Spray Paint = Awesome.

I really do like these.  But now I have a new problem.  I’m out of bottles.  My fingers are still twitching and I’m minutes away from tackling the housework and polishing the floor to such a high shine that family members fall down when they enter. Any ideas?

Lightning Round–Quick Update

Phew!  So much has been and is going on around here, that I’m way past due for a decent post.  However, so much is still going on that a decent post just isn’t going to happen tonight.  Instead, you get my super-brief news bulletin–Here’s what’s been happening:

  • The Women’s Social Leadership Awards that I posted (nervously) about were fantastically inspiring and motivating.  I did not fall over or spill anything.
  • The group has been working at fever pitch on wedding decorations for Wedstival 2012.  Apparently most of us have a frustrated wedding planner buried deep down  that has been itching for an excuse to spring out!
  • Parties, Baby!  Jacqui and I have been out and about doing a kids upcycling party, and having way too much fun in the process.  Check out our Parties page and we’ll be adding photos so you can see what the heck we’re talking about!
  • A great many pretty things have been made!  I don’t have time for the full tutorials,  at the moment because it’s very very late.  But here are a few that I’ve managed to photo thus far:

upcycled plastic hair clip, plastic bottle hair clip, plastic bottle flower

Upcycled paper necklace

I suppose you noticed that I used the big pictures to distract you from the overall shortness of the post…  But sadly, it’s two minutes to midnight and if anybody feeds me I’ll turn back into a pumpkin.

Upcycling Parties & Workshops

Seeing as we’re in party mode (in the UK at least) we’ve added to our Custom Workshops and Parties Page to include even more fun and games for all ages and abilities!  If you’re located in the East of England and fancy a more eco-friendly birthday for your kids or a crafty get-together with mates, check us out! Here’s a printable flyer you can pass on to your mates.  Ok, now you can get back to watching The Apprentice final and celebrating the Jubilee!



In which additional fun was had with bottle tops!

Well, in a week fraught with technical difficulties, it looks as though I may (at last) manage a post!  Wednesday group-ers came back from holiday this week, with energy to spare.  Which was good because (as you may remember from this post) we had around a thousand plastic bottle tops prepped and waiting for them!

bottle top craftsHaving already washed and dried them all*, we set about sorting them by colour.  Our first project was a simple one, inspired by this Urban Capping gallery on Fvue.  So everybody had a go at making bottle top flowers:

bottle top coasters, upcycled bottle top coastersSweet! The flowers are simple to make, by drilling holes in the bottle tops** and lacing them together.  Now, the urban capping guys made them for decorative purposes, but we’ve found that they’re quite functional as well.  Check it out:

upcycled bottle tops

Cute, and supporting my caffeine habit–just the kind of project I like!  But we still have a few (thousand) bottle tops to work with, so we moved on to something a bit more complex:  a doormat.  First we set about arranging the tops in different patterns.


We went for the love heart pattern (courtesy of Mr. Rod, of course) and got to work. First, we needed to drill 4 holes in each top.  (and of course we had gone and gotten creative with the angles, making it much more complicated!)  Then we threaded each row together, tying them off at the ends.  After that, we  ran the string through each column, making a sturdy mesh.  It’s a work in progress, but you can see the partially completed doormat here:

We’ll finish it off next week, before we get to grips with the next BIG thing.  Fancy a clue?  Well, check out these (amazing, stupendous, epitome of awesome) fly curtains!

*bottle tops are often surprisingly icky, and sometimes require scrubbing out with a toothbrush. Especially the blue ones.

**drilling holes in plastic tops will result in a dusting of tiny plastic flakes which embed themselves into all of your favourite crevices.  Safety goggles and mask are advised. 

Tutorial: jars and candy wrappers into lanterns!

Well, after a long wait, the hour is finally here–it’s tutorial time!  A couple of weeks ago I posted these photos as a sneak preview to this post:

jar candle holder, upcycled candle holder upcycled flower lantern, upcycled candle holder, jar candle holder, flower candle holder

There were lots of great guesses, but nobody managed to guess how we had done it.  So here you go, time for the big reveal:

They’re made with sweet wrappers! (Or candy wrappers in the US).  For us that usually means Quality Street Wrappers.*  We’ve worked with lots of different sweet packaging over the past year, and have found that Quality Street wrappers make the most versatile crafting material.  In fact, you can look forward to several more tutorials for Quality Street crafts over the coming weeks!  If you can’t get your hands on Quality Street where you live, you could try Brach’s wrapped candy which also has a translucent wrapper.

Now, for the how too: In addition to sweet wrappers, you’ll need a glass jar, clear-drying adhesive, scissors, stickers or masking tape, and spray paint.

Start by removing the label from the jar.  If hot soapy water doesn’t remove the sticky residue, you can try using a scrubber (like this one upcycled from fruit nets) and as a last resort I find that Avon Skin So Soft** can help to get rid of the gunk.

Mark out the area for your “stained glass” by covering with adhesive.  For these examples, I’ve used masking tape and stickers. (If using stickers, cut out the sticker’s surround and stick it to your wrapper.  This way, you can avoid having to trace the shapes in the wrapper later.)

If you have little ones, they really like to help with the sticking part.

When you’re all stickered-up, get ready to spray paint. (Remember to use a well-ventilated area, put down a drop cloth so your husband won’t get cross, and keep small kids well back.  Use gloves and goggles where necessary, and keep your camera far out of the way to avoid paint spray.)

Give them a good spray with the colour / colours of your choice, and let them dry.

Peel the stickers off of the jar.  (Kids like to help with this part too!) If you have used masking tape, I find it helpful to stick the used tape onto the sweet wrappers and cut around it.  This helps ensure your coloured shapes will be the perfect size.

Paint your adhesive onto the clear glass spaces.  You can use any clear-drying craft glue, but I my favourite is Mod Podge***.

Wet  your cut shape briefly.  This will relax the plastic and allow any wrinkles to fall out, as well as eliminating excess colour bleeding.  (When I did the flower jar at the beginning of this post, I hadn’t worked this out yet–so that jar has a much more crinkly finish!)  Dry it gently on a towel or some kitchen roll, and apply it to an un-painted space on the jar.  Smooth out the bubbles.

When the adhesive is dry, apply another coat on top of the coloured shapes to act as a sealant.
upcycled candy wrapper jars, upcycled wrapper candle holder, repurposed jar lanternThat’s pretty much it!  if the edges of your shapes are less than perfect, you can outline with 3D paint (we used Dylon) to hide any imperfections.  You can also coat with one or more coats of spray sealant or clear varnish to prevent scratches to the paint.  Here are your close-ups:

upcycled candy wrapper jars, upcycled wrapper candle holder, repurposed jar lanternupcycled candy wrapper jars, upcycled wrapper candle holder, repurposed jar lantern

Oh, and my daughter’s jars turned out pretty well too!  They opted for a contrasting inside/outside spray paint effect:

(strange reflections on the glass there, sorry!)  So there you have it:  an excuse to go out and get lots of Quality Street sweets in stock.  And don’t worry if you can’t use up all your wrappers on jars, there will be plenty more Quality Street tutorials coming over the next couple of weeks!

* The makers of Quality Street aren’t paying us to say we like their packaging, or promoting these tutorials in any way.  It’s a shame, as our group puts a great deal of time and effort into keeping these packaging materials out of landfills and trying to inspire others to do the same. Support from them could make a huge difference, both to the disabled artists who participate in our group and to the environment.  If you’d like to see Nestle take a greater interest in promoting ways to upcycle their packaging, please tweet about this post to @nestleukpress.  Tell them we sent you!

**Avon isn’t paying us to tell you that Skin-So-Soft is awesome.  It just is.  Google “uses for Skin So Soft” and check out what you can do with this stuff!

***Mod-Podge isn’t paying us to tell you that it’s our favourite decoupage medium.  But if they want to, we probably won’t protest!

A little more repurposed balloon awesomeness…

Whew, It’s been a long week since my last post.  If you remember, last week I had succumbed to the flu and was attempting to lay low and recover my strength.  I’m still not 100%, which leads me to believe that it wasn’t actually the flu, but the much more virulent “man-flu” strain.  One of the highlights for me was getting up the strength for a hot bath.  Unfortunately, I then lacked the follow-up strength to get back out of the tub, and then lay in a wrinkly heap in the increasingly tepid water. Meanwhile a pair of toddlers took advantage of my weakened state by traipsing plastic dogs up and down my goosebumped arms and legs until I had rested enough to fend them off.

But it wasn’t all bad.  While I lay on the sofa being subjected to Sponge Bob Square Pants on repeat (because a certain 4-year-old has learned to hide the remote), I did some more balloon jewellery.  Check these out:





repurposed balloon necklace, repurposed balloon flowersballoon flower necklace, repurposed balloon necklace







So how do you make your balloons more flower-like?  Just snip the closed end of the balloon down the middle, stopping when the balloon begins to narrow again.  Then thread your elastic through the circular opening of the balloons just like beads. It’s way to easy, isn’t it? It’s a great project to do with your kids, especially for a Hawaiian themed party.  (Of course, if you haven’t time, you can always buy one from our Etsy shop! We don’t mind, we’ll just make more.)

Now these make me really happy, but if you want some more repurposed balloon awesomeness, check out this post from Candoodles.  And, I’m sure lots of you have seen tutorials on how to make balloon stress balls.  But check out this post from Babble that demonstrates how to make a tactile matching game with balloons!

In addition to balloon awesomeness, there’s been all kinds of other shenanigans happening behind the scenes during our convalescence.  For example, Sheri from Awesomesauce & Asshattery has perpetrated some random acts of bodaciousness in our general direction–which shall be revealed tomorrow!  And the pretty stained-glass-ish lantern tutorial I promised?  ‘Tis forthcoming!  Way too much goodness is coming over the next few days–which means I now must go and rest to preserve my stamina.

Repurposed Balloon Necklace

Ok, here’s a little something for the weekend!  My posts haven’t been as prolific as usual this week, for a few reasons:

  1. I’m knocking myself out trying to drum up a few sponsors for our lovely projects
  2. With some guidance from the fabulous crew over on the Regretsy forums, I’ve been updating our Etsy shop.
  3. I have the flu.  😦

But while I’ve been sofa-ridden and regaled by the best of Britain’s Got Talent (can you believe a dog is the most talented citizen in Britain?) my nimble fingers have been at work with a kid friendly project for you:

rainbow balloon necklace,

I give you:  the repurposed balloon necklace.  If your kids are like mine, you know that balloons rank third on the list of World’s Most Fun items, right behind 1) bubbles and 2) mud.  With every birthday there’s a restock, and just when you’ve managed to get rid of them all your kids go off to other children’s parties– and bring home more balloons in the party bag.  This is what my kids like to do with balloons:

  1. Get mummy to blow up balloon
  2. Stretch the neck of the balloon so that it shrieks in mummy’s ear.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 approximately 500 times until balloon pops..
  4. Get mummy to blow up another balloon.
  5. Release balloon  and watch it fly around the room to accompanying flatulent noises
  6. Watch mummy try to retrieve the balloon before the dog eats it.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 approximately 500 times until the dog manages to eat a balloon
  8. Get mummy to blow up another balloon and tie it up.
  9. Rub it on mummy’s head and stick it to the wall
  10. Hit your sister with it until it pops.
  11. Repeat steps 8-10 approximately 500 times until you run out of balloons or mummy sends you to bed.

Now, as much fun as all of that is, sometimes I get a bit of balloon fatigue.  I wanted to find something a little different to do with the balloons and this is what I came up with.  All you need is:

  • lots of balloons
  • 1 piece of elastic
  • scissors.

Snip a small hole in the end of each balloon and thread them onto the elastic (or have your kids do it) and tie the ends together.  That’s it!  My two-year old’s verdict:  “Oooh, it has a rainbow.  That’s very beauty.”  Works for me!

If you fancy some more ideas for repurposing those excess balloons, check out this post by Candoodles.  The stools and benches just blew my mind!

Update:  Ok, so apparently some other groovy folk had the same idea.  And they wrote a tutorial with many pretty pictures–check it out here:  Michelle Paige.  Clearly, I’m going to have to ramp up my awesomeness if I’m going to be unique! 

Sneak Preview: Upcycled Jar Lanterns

Well, if anybody was hanging around the site on Wednesday, you may have noticed that I added quite a few more items to our galleries.  One of the photos I added was this one*:  upcycled flower lantern, upcycled candle holder, jar candle holder, flower candle holder

It’s a jar lantern that i finished recently using a new material, and I thought somebody might like it.  And boy, did they ever like it!  The image was pinned around 65 times in half an hour, and then I was bombarded with emails asking how to make it.  Well, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that a tutorial is coming.  The bad news?  Well, it’s just not ready yet.  Since I haven’t used this material with jars before, I’m still using a trial-and-error process to figure out the best methods.  But each attempt is coming out better than the last, so you can expect to read the full process, in all it’s awesomeness, soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this later attempt that I made in honor of the upcoming Queen’s Jubilee:

jar candle holder, upcycled candle holder

*Thank you for not commenting on the state of my dirty window.