Hot Weather Upcycling?

When the hot weather we’ve been waiting for all year finally arrives, it’s hard to find the motivation to do much apart from eating ice cream and moaning about the weather.  Luckily, this project allows the sunshine to do most of the work for you.  If your kids are anything like mine…smuggle crayonsBut here’s a way to get more use from your pile if tiny crayon stubs:  rainbow crayons.

You’ll need:

  • old and broken crayons
  • silicone moulds for ice, chocolate or soap
  • a knife
  • heat (sunshine or an oven at 100 degrees)

Start by peeling off the wrappers if there are any left.  Break or chop the crayons into pieces and arrange them in the mould.

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Place the moulds in the sunshine and check periodically.

Beginning:

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After 2 hours:

IMG_2391At the end of the day:

IMG_2373When the crayons have fully melted, I find it’s best not to move them too much or they mix into a muddy coloured mess.  I try to leave them in one spot until they’ve cooled (usually after sunset) before popping them out.  And here’s what came out:

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They make great stocking fillers or party favours, and make a brilliant swirl effect when you use them.  Maximum coolness, all with minimal effort!

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Exciting Photo Ops PLUS a tiny tights tutorial!

We’re still all about bikes at the moment, and we are just so excited about the stuff we’ve made over the last couple of weeks!  (Ok, the 26 cups of coffee we drank while making it may have added somewhat to the excitement.)  In any case, here are some fancy photos courtesy of our very own photographer (and YouCanBike-erSarah Pledger, and thanks again to the guys at Outspoken for donating their old bike bits.

ring pull and bike chain bracelets

Making clocks

upcycled bike parts

Chain ring clock (I so love this photo!)

Chain ring clock (I so love this photo!)

Outside of the group, I’ve seized the opportunity for a little at-home-upcycling as well.

Question:  What do you do when your five-year-old manages to put holes in every pair of tights you buy, within an hour of putting them on?

Answer:  Turn them into funky fingerless gloves.

tights into fingerless gloves

Just cut off both legs below the hole and cut off the toes.  (of the tights. Not the child.  Just in case that wasn’t clear.)  Then cut a small hole in the heel for the thumb to poke through.  fingerless glovesNext, photograph your child wearing her new gloves.  Throw in some vintage photo effects to hide the fingerprints on your wall and Voila!  Instant Hipster.  We now have maybe 12 pairs of these gloves floating around the house, which is good.  Because after putting holes in her tights, losing gloves is my eldest’s next best talent.

Tie Dye Tissue Paper Tutorial

OK, as promised, (about two weeks ago!) here is your quick and easy Tie-dye tissue paper tutorial. It’s kid friendly, and makes a really pretty end product.

First question:  Why would you want to do that?

Well, it actually started as an accident.  As I was transporting supplies to the group one Wednesday, there was… an incident.  With my fizzy water.  It spilled into the supply box and things got a little sticky.  But, we later found that the moisture had caused our tissue papers (which we use to make jar lanterns) to bleed colour onto each other.  They looked amazing!  Later, I tried to reproduce the same effect at home–and ended up with a pile of soggy paper.  Which brings me to:

Second question:  How do you do that?

At this point, I did what any crafter does in their uncertainty:  I went to Pinterest.  From there, I found cool links like this one from Honest to Nod.  She and her kids did an awesome Tie Dye upcycle with their leftover packaging tissue.  The tutorial has great illustrations on how to fold the paper too.

Third question:  What does this have to do with upcycling?

Ahh.  Well.  The tutorial above used food colouring and liquid watercolours to dye the paper.  But then I had a handy flashback to my student days in the dorm and remembered what we used to make tie dyes then:  dried up old felt tip pens! (This is awesome for us, given that my kids are terminally unable to remember putting the lids back on their markers.)   Pair those old pens up with some used gift wrapping tissue and you’re set to make something pretty from a pile of old rubbish.

What you need

  • dried up marker pens
  • tissue paper
  • water

Step 1:  Fold up your tissue paper

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Honest to Nod gives instructions on how to fold into a neat triangle, but other shapes are just as good.

2.  Pull the centre out of your markers

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I used pliers to pull off the end of the marker.  Then pulled out the dye-soaked wadding in the middle and the tip of the marker.  Put those in a bit of water to soak.

3.  Dunk your tissue

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Soak the corners of your folded tissue paper in the coloured water.  You can use different colours on different corners for a fun effect.

4.  Try to avoid this:

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If you allow the dye to touch your hands, they’ll be coloured for days. (However, your kids may think it makes you look pretty).

5.  Put the dyed paper aside to dry.

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Optional: Drink copious amounts of coffee while you wait.  Also cake.

6.  Unfold

When the paper is dry, unfold it carefully and behold the glorious patterns you have made: tie dye tissue paper DSCN6448_3141

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You can put them aside for funky gift wrapping, Or <drumroll>

Visit  this tutorial on buttoneering.com to learn how to turn your tie dyed tissue paper into awesome jar and bottle lanterns like these:

Tie-Dye tissue paper lanterns

Extreme close up:

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So grab your kid’s old markers and go for it!  And while you’re at it, don’t forget:  6 days left in our Annual Christmas Crap competition, and our current total is a whopping 132 Quality Street wrappers in one envelope!  Keep that rubbish coming in!

Tutorial: DIY Cheerleader Pom Poms

OK, you may have noticed an increasing amount of cool stuff populating our shops over recent weeks.    (If not, why not? What are you waiting for, an invitation from the Queen?  Sheesh!)  But there is one special creation of ours that you won’t be able to pick up online. You can’t even buy them in person at one of our craft stalls.  Nope.  None for you.  I’m talking about these beauties:

Shabby Chic pom poms“But, why?”, you ask. “I also wish to be a sweet and funky non-conformist type cheerleader person.”    Well, it’s because this particular piece of awesomeness was an extremely limited edition, designed especially for this sewing-machine-snogging-vixen.

We’re not here to judge.

But don’t worry.  We’re not entirely heartless.  (Actually, I am, but lucky for you Jacqui isn’t.) We won’t sell you any, but we will tell you how to make them yourself and delight any small munchkins who happen to share your home.

It all happened kind of like this:  It was late summer, and in the run up to #wedstival2012, me and the guys were churning out miles of bunting like this:

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We worked around the clock, tying bunting until our hands were sore and eventually we were lashing together any random bits of fabric we encountered.  Every surface in my house was layered in piles of fabric strips, so much so that random cats were inviting themselves in to sleep on them.

bunting cat

Around that time, Sheri (our bloggy bff from Awesomesauce and Asshattery) sent us a “cheer up” package of personalized T-shirts with our logo (also by Sheri) and names (we already had those) in sparkly, bosom-enhancing print!

Behold:  The Sparkle Bosom.  (She really is going to kill me this time!)

Behold: The Sparkle Bosom.
(Jacqui really is going to kill me this time!)

I thought it was really amazing that we had happened across this Canadian expat powerhouse in Germany who was cheering us on with all the energy of a birthday party full of cake-high 4-year-olds.  I remember asking Sheri if they had cheerleaders in Germany, and being really disappointed when she said no.  In my sleep-deprived state, the idea of angry German-accented cheerleaders really tickled me.

Cheerleader:  “Und now you vill give me un ‘A’!”

Crowd:  “Yikes, ok.  A! Just stop yelling.”

And somewhere around my eleventeenth cup of coffee, my mission revealed itself:  There would be a cheerleader in Germany.  But how?  Luckily, my youngest was “helping Mummy” at the time.

silly kid

And I realized that we were already surrounded by the makings of a kick-arsch cheerleader set.  This is how we did it.

1.  Cut strips of fabric around 2 feet long. (or twice the length you want the finished pom poms to be.)  We used fabrics of different colours and textures for added sensory appeal.  Lay the strips together in a pile.

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2.  Use a thin ribbon to gather your fabric strips in the middle, and tie the ribbon in a knot.

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3.  Grab a nearby candlestick.

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4.  Make sure it is the kind that is hollow through the middle.

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5.  Thread the ribbon through the candlestick from bottom to top.

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6.  Thread the ribbon through some pretty beads, to prevent it slipping back through the candlestick.  Secure with a knot.

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7.  Submit the finished item to your quality control team for vigorous testing.

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8. Optional Wait until quality control team is sleeping before sneaking the finished product into a box and posting to Germany.

And there you have it:  a sweet surprise that will enchant budding cheerleaders everywhere.  And for extra fun, check out A Couple of Craft Addicts Scrap Skirt tutorial and make one of these to go with it:

Get Scrap Busting!  (Oh, and if  you see copies of these projects floating around Etsy in a few months time, do feel free to link to this post and taunt the vendors about their super-original ideas! Hee Hee Hee…)

A fulfilling photo round-up

I know, I know.  No blog posts in how long?  Did we fall off the face of the earth (unlikely) or become mired in the Fenland Fog (quite likely) or take a break from upcycling over Christmas? (As if!)

Actually, we’ve been working our little fingers to the bone and attempting to tackle a couple of thorny issues in the process.

  1.  We need more people to join the group.
  2. We need more local businesses and organizations to become our “partners in rubbish”
  3. We need to re-stock after Christmas and revamp our online venues.
  4. Whose turn is it to wash up the cups?

While we’re in the process of working these things out, here are some photos of the exciting bits we’ve been working on:

There were a handful of these:

bike marble ornament (3)

And there were tons of these:

bike star ornament

And there were quite a few of these:

bicycle bottle lamp

There were about half a dozen of these:

Re-Creations teacup candle

And we’re just getting the hang of these

Re-Creations bottle candle cover

And starting to work on these:

upcycled spoon necklace

On the other hand, there were also some of these…

DSCN6166_2497  DSCN6162_2493

But it’s probably best not to say too much about those.

So, in short, we’re still here and still upcycling.  Next post will feature some ideas for what to do when your kids leave the caps off all their marker pens.  How long the next post will take, more or less depends on how long the kids remain absorbed in their current game called “Flying Naked Barbie”.  But I’ll tweet when it’s coming so you can assume the prime, edge-of-your-seat position.

And Don’t forget our Competition!  Send us your rubbish  or tell us how you upcycle your Christmas packaging and you can win some upcycled goodness of your very own!  Mumsnetters have been on the ball, and our current winner sent in a whopping 132 sweet wrappers!  But there’s still plenty of time, so get posting…

Annual Christmas Crap Competition, Starting…Now!

It’s that time of year again!  We’ve finished feasting and opening presents, and most of us will have a few days before bin collections–plenty of time to contemplate the massive amount of packaging waste the holiday season creates.  So, what are you going to do about yours?  If you need a little inspiration or incentive to cut it down a bit, we’ve got ideas for you here.

If your kids are anything like mine, you may find the boxes are more fun than the stuff that came in them.  So we celebrate Boxing day by making something fun out of some of the leftover cardboard boxes.  Last year it was a cardboard robot.  This year… well, I’m going to have to see when the kids tear themselves away from watching School of Rock on the sofa.  If you’d like to try out some cardboard construction of your own, check out Red Ted Art’s Blog for 40 different ideas to create with your own cardboard boxes.

When you’ve finished playing with your cardboard, you can cut this year’s Christmas Cards into next year’s gift tags and maybe cut some of your prettier packaging into garlands for parties later in the year:

january 007

If you still have any energy after all that, don’t forget you can send some of your extra packaging our way!  Check out our donations page for items we can upcycle into cool jewellery and accessories.  As an added bonus (and because we really need the materials) we’re running a “Christmas Crap Competition” from now until 30th January!

The competition is in two parts:

Christmas Crap Conversion:
All readers are encouraged to try their hand at upcycling by converting some of their own packaging and Christmas Crap into something useful, beautiful, or just generally kick-ass.  Email your amazing creations or post links in the comments.  The best creation (chosen by most likes on our facebook page) wins:

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A ring-pull bracelet in the colour of your choice.

Christmas Crap Donations:

Once again, we’re in need of materials to work with. (We can’t eat all the Quality Street ourselves, you know!) So check out our Donate Materials page, rifle through your recycling bins, and get that stuff in the post!  (Or better yet, if you live in Cambridge, pop in!)  It doesn’t matter if it’s ring pulls, Quality Street Wrappers, or even bike chains…  Send us what you can, and we’ll keep it out of landfill and turn it to something cool.  The reader who sends us the most materials by 30th January will win:

sweet wrapper bracelets

A Quality Street Wrapper Bracelet in your colour choice.

You’ve got your mission–now see if you can’t cut down that mess of packaging before the bin men get here!

Oh, it is SO on! (buttoneering website launch)

Say, remember in my previous posts I mentioned the upcoming buttoneering website launch?  Well…

Hallelujah, People!

The time has come!  Today is the day!   But what the heck are we talking about?

Buttoneering is what happens when you round-up Stacy & Jacqui’s wildly acclaimed* Upcycling and Sensory parties, The Re-Creations team who brought you Wedstival 2012, and the can-do attitude from Mel and Lou of The YouCan Hub…  And then shake them all up and stick a button on it.  (these guys really like buttons…)

Buttoneering means you can have events you want in the way you want, however far off the beaten track it may be.  (Keeping within the laws of physics and current UK legislation, of course!)

Fancy dress wedding, or bride & groom want to splash down the aisle on a slip and slide?  Seems Legit.  Need a Starship Enterprise shaped pinata for your baby shower?  Of course, why wouldn’t you?  Maybe you’ve got big ideas for your kid’s birthday, but you’re not sure how to pull it off? We have lots of coffee and few inhibitions–get in touch!

The best part (IMO) is that all the proceeds from these amazing shindigs will help fund the work of TheYouCanHub and Re-Creations Project.  So while you’re partying down, you’ll also be supporting social enterprise and helping others achieve their goals–everybody wins.

So, in addition to the awesome upcycling you’ve come to expect from Re-Creations Project, you can also check out the Buttoneering Blog for how-to’s and posts on how to make your events as awesome as is humanly possible.  I’ll be offering my two cents worth on “Tutorial  Tuesdays” full of caffeine and sometimes messy DIY.  So without further ado…

Go check it out.  Follow the group on twitter, Like it on facebook and enter the launch competition for a chance to win one of 4 bodacious prizes!

A quickie for halloween

Living in a rural, agricultural area has some distinct advantages.  Tractors drop kids off to school,  a “traffic jam” often consists of a bunch of ducks in the road, and fresh produce is abundant at harvest time.  In fact, at this time of year, the sheer amount of fruit and veg running around the place is daunting.  Pumpkins, potatoes, onions and sugar beets bounce off overloaded trucks at every sharp corner or bump in the road, and my husband and kids return from walking the dog with a selection of vegetables they’ve had to dodge along the way. (Way more exciting than dodgeball, by the way.  I highly recommend Fenland vegetable dodging.)

In addition to the farm produce, every third neighbor has an allotment or vegetable garden and is perennially astounded at the yield of oversize courgettes and pumpkins.  You can’t visit a neighbor for any reason without them pressing their surplus gourds on you with a slight air of desperation, as their kitchen surfaces are obscured by piles of marrows the length of your arm.  And since waste is very uncool in this area, you’re forced to hit the internet in search of 165 new ways to disguise squash so that your children will consider eating it at every meal for the next two months.  (If you’re struggling with your own overload of pumpkins and marrows, visit my fellow mumsnet bloggers umisushimakes and hertfordshiremummy for some ideas!)

The result?  By Halloween, I am thoroughly pumpkined-out.  The idea of carving up one of the buggers for fun, just so it can glare at me malevolent from the windowsill while the kids crunch on its seeds and I attempt to make soup from its innards… it doesn’t appeal.

Just look at that smug little face…

So this year I’ve opted for less vegetable-based decorations for Halloween. They’re upcycled and re-useable but still sticky enough for the kids to enjoy making them.

What you need:

  • Old Christmas baubles or light bulbs
  • Tissue Paper (black and orange, ideally)
  • Glue (Mod Podge for the win)
  • Some string.

Method: 

  1. Snip your orange tissue paper into small 1-2cm squares and glue them to the bauble, overlapping until you cover the entire surface.
  2. When the bauble is covered in orange, brush a layer of glue over the entire surface to smooth down any bumps or rough edges.  Allow to dry.
  3. Cut small shapes from black tissue paper for the face and glue them to the bauble.  When the face is in place, brush with another coat of glue to seal.

Then once they’re dry, just string them up and enjoy.

Feeling extra creative?  Try using other colours to make monster faces.  Or maybe some blue and white tissue to make:

…some nice googly eyeballs.  Actually, I like these so much that I plan to use them to give my Christmas tree a funny face too.  And after that, I may just hang them somewhere random in the house too.  Like the bathroom cabinet.  That way visitors will look up and discover a pair of eyes peeking out at them while they pee.  That will teach them to ambush me with their vegetables!

Why social media vacations stink.

OK, so the blog posts have been nonexistent thin on the ground for a couple of months while I focused on some real-life issues.  The assumption was that by devoting less time to social media, I could be more physically present and get stuff done.  I could see it all: my house would be cleaner, I’d make lots of stuff, generate more income, and become a model of efficiency.  The reality?  Yeah, not so much.

A cleaner house?  See, when I envisioned all the free time I would have available for housework, I failed to account for one thing:  Procrastination.  85% of my domestic chores are completed when I’m actually trying to come up with a blog post, compose an email or some other online task.  Take away that “thinking time” when I’m physically cleaning the house, organizing uniforms and packing lunches and the housework disappears with it.  Instead I’ll fill the time by “doing stuff” which generally creates more mess.

Making more stuff? A really awful thing happened as soon as I started my blog vacation.  Crafter’s Block.  It seems that if I’m not blogging, reading blogs, commenting and linking to other crafting blogs, the ideas just dry up.  I turn into Chandler when he had to make a Valentine’s present.  

Generate more income? Well, yes and no.  I have picked up more shift work, which is helpful.  But shop wise, less blogging and less crafting means less traffic and fewer sales.  Not cool.

So overall, the blog hiatus has not had the desired outcome.  But perhaps the worst effect has been psychological.  When something happens in my life, good or bad, it passes through a sort of positive mental filter as I post about it.

For example, say my eldest oversleeps and mopes about, is late for school and at pick-up time I get a meaningful look and a note home in her bookbag– This is the kind of thing that  leaves me stressed, frazzled, and generally sure that I’m the worst parent in Reception year.  Then I tweet: “Doh! Last in the school gate again #caseofthemondays”.  Then I can post to the reception year parent’s facebook page: “We were even later than XXXX (tag) today–Do you think Mrs D will give me lines or the cane?”  (comment, comment, etc).  And by the time I blog about it, I can reveal the full contents of the note:

“When the class changed for PE, we discovered that in her haste to get to school, A forgot to take off her pyjama bottoms before putting on her uniform.  Please find enclosed.  PS: she’s not the first and won’t be the last! 🙂 “

So by thinking and writing about it, I actually manage to lift my own perceptions of the event by finding the funny side.  I may make someone laugh and in return I get to connect with other stressed out mums who have been there.  My siblings get (another) excuse to poke fun at me, and as long as I’m posting my mom knows I’m ok.

So I’ve learned my lesson.  Instead of abstaining from social media, I’ll be gradually ramping up the tweets & posts until next week and <drumroll> the Buttoneering Launch

That’s right peeps.  In addition to blogging for Re-Creations Project, I’ll be bringing our awesome upcycling action to the team at Buttoneering, creating more awesome events like Wedstival 2012. So stay tuned and keep your eyes open for Tutorial Tuesdays, where I’ll be showing you how to re-create some of our awesome stuff at home!