Gratitude jars: a New Year’s twist on an old favourite craft.

Last year at Thanksgiving, interspersed with recipes for pumpkin spice everything, my Pinterest feed became peppered with photos of Gratitude Jars.  The Gratitude jar is a relatively new tradition in which you write down things that make you happy throughout the year and store them in a special jar.  Then when Thanksgiving, New Years or an Anniversary comes around, you have a special way to remember all the things that have made you feel grateful throughout the year.  A Pinterest search like this one offers dozens of ways to personalize your jar.

After the giving, receiving, and intensive shopping expeditions of Christmas and the January sales, it seems a lovely time to take stock and get back into the habit of being thankful for all the blessings we already have.  So we made our own Gratitude Jar from an old candle jar and tissue paper, following a colour scheme chosen by the girls.  The result:

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And just to make sure we don’t forget to add to it, we slipped some LED lights inside to be sure it will catch our attention, as well as doubling as a handy night light.

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Fancy one of your own?  They’ll be available in our etsy and ebay shops from next week, with the option to order one to match your chosen colour scheme.  If you fancy making one of your own, keep watching the blog for our upcoming tutorial.  Enjoy!

Photo Round-Up for 2014

This year has been light on the blog posts, for a whole variety of reasons. (Moved house, lost the camera, computer went boom, lost the replacement camera, can’t remember the password…) But we haven’t stopped going!  Just in time to go out with a bang, here’s a round up of what we’ve been up to in 2014.

Valentine’s Day

We kicked off using leftover cardboard and wrapping paper to help make decorations for the Valentine’s Day Funky Flamingo Club Night.

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Fabric Upcycling

And somehow that lead on to several months working through various ways to upcycle fabric.  We started off with wax and glue resist batiking.  Here’s the before:

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And the finished first attempts:

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And we kept getting better!

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Then we moved on to tie dye.

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We finished some great canvases to display our jewellery on the stall:

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And made miles of bunting to help raise money for aid to Gaza.

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Around Easter time, we tried out a new shaving cream “marble effect” technique on some eggs.  We found that it didn’t stick too well to the eggs, and so we chucked some leftover canvases in there to see what happened.

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It was Awesome!

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And we still had some leftover dye, (Why did we buy so much?) and so we made enormous amounts of rainbow play rice for a family event at the Buchan Street Neighborhood Centre.

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The rice is dyed with food colouring and we hide beads with various shapes and letters inside, so the kids have fun digging for the pieces they want to make up a bracelet or necklace.  (Apparently, when I’m bending over helping some of the kids dig, it’s also fun for three-year-olds to pour spadefuls of rainbow rice into my bum cleavage.  Pro tip:  wear a good belt and a long top!)

Spoons!

We were trying to find something cool to make as favours for the Misfit Conference in Cambridge, and we came up with… spoons. We salvaged some antiques and decoupaged the misfit logo for a sweet take-home memory.DSCN1146_4423

But we couldn’t stop there.  So we spent ages (and ages) working on spoon necklaces.

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And since we had made necklaces with all the spoons, we needed to do something with the handles too!

DSCN1846This one was my daughters, but we made LOADS of them.  And in the process we collected lots (and lots) of sticks.  So we sanded and oiled and used them to make these:10155721_729831870412689_6185878862423199815_n

And at that point we were pretty taken with the idea of “pretty hanging things” so we grabbed some old bangles and frisbees to make dream catchers too.

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And we still had some more canvases, so then it seemed like melting more crayons would be fun. IMG_1005

We tried breaking up CDs to use as mosaics:  Pretty, but gives you very sticky fingers.

IMG_1306We sold a few bits at craft fairs:

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And we filled some orders:

IMG_1529 DSCN1894IMG_1500We ate some lunch.

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Got a bit messy.

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And we may have mucked about, just a bit.

DSCN1705 DSCN1710 10167924_722401281155748_4617176801174456327_n 10350611_780965398632669_5736798957235553474_n 10522555_780965355299340_8359389315187485233_n 10603326_780965318632677_8210564902739723159_nWe had a great year, full of ups and downs as most years tend to be.  Coming up in the new year, we’ll be working with old keys to make some fantastic stuff.

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And now that we’ve got the technical side up and running, we’ll have regular jobs and full shops on Etsy and Ebay, so you can get your hands on some of our favourite re-creations.  See you all in the new year!

A word from some of our members:

I’ve done a project today with Re-Creations.  Today I’ve done a lovely drawing.  It’s nice, and I had fun and enjoyed it.  It was flowers of different colours.  I like art work and have fun doing it.  — Luisa.

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I tried to make a heart, but it came out as a funny shaped one.  I enjoy what I’m doing and had good fun.  I want to do it again.  I made two pictures.  –Rod

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Here are some of the finished pictures from our other members:

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Rubbish. What’s it worth to you?

While the world outside is  covered with fluffy, white & slippery stuff, indoors we’re getting ready for the spring and summer craft fairs.  It’s awesome.  While the world outside is frozen, we can just hunker down by the fire, throw on some Disney films and get busy making stuff.  (The kids are responsible for the choice of film, but I’m on board because every now and again they just randomly burst into song without realizing.) But once we have a pile of cool stuff to sell, we arrive at the crafter’s dilemma:  How much do we sell this stuff for?  We apply a number of different approaches to answer the question.

Creator’s pride: “It’s so pretty!  It’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever made.  One million pounds?.”

Logical:  “Well, if we take the cost of supplies, then break down how long it took to make it…”

Mates Rates:  “She’s our friend.  We like her.  How about one pound?”

More Logic:  “Don’t forget packaging costs, We need to buy boxes and bubble wrap.

Insecure:   “If it’s too expensive nobody will buy it –They’ll go to the pound shop instead.”

Artistic Integrity:  “We are way cooler than the pound shop.  These are like, limited editions. Fifty Pounds?”

Practical: “We just need to get it sold.  My husband’s gonna kill me if I don’t get this stuff out of his garage!”

Still insecure:  “It’s made from rubbish.  You know, the stuff people throw out because they don’t want it?”

Hungry:  “How much do nachos cost?  That’s how much we should charge. Plus an extra pound so we can buy a drink.”

This debate can rage on for hours without a conclusion in sight.  Apart from sorting out the tax returns, it’s the hardest part of our job. We just aren’t impartial.  Where a customer sees an end product, we see a whole windy afternoon spent picking up discarded ringpulls along the road, or a week spent mastering a new skill.

So, to avoid fisticuffs, we have to seek outside opinions.  This is where you come in.

We need feedback to help us decide how to price up our stock before we can sell it.  So we’re going to post photos and descriptions of our favourite upcycled items, and you get to tell us in the comments what you think they should cost.  Undiscovered masterpiece or garage sale fodder?  You decide!  And, if you’re a crafty so-and-so and have a particular system or handy tips for pricing up your stuff, we’d love to hear from you!

As you’re commenting furiously below,  we’ll putting sample items up for auction.  Although you can usually find our stuff on Etsy and DaWanda, this time we’ll be listing the items on ebay to get an idea of what the wider public thinks about them too.  All proceeds will go to the group’s “We want to eat at Nando’s fund”.  We’ll link to the auctions, so if anything takes your fancy you’ll have a chance to get your hands on it too!  So, without too much more rambling…

Item 1:  Bicycle Chain Ring Wall Clock

This clock was made by combining an 8.5 inch bicycle ring and recycled packaging materials with a new clock movement, for an end result that’s both functional and funky!  The clock runs on a single AA battery and has a hanger fitted on the back.  Because it’s made from used and upcycled materials, the finished clock may well have a few dents, scratches or imperfections–these are intended as part of the design.

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chain ring clock

 

 

 

 

Item 2:  Bicycle Chain Beaded Bracelet

This lovely piece of work is made from bronze coloured acrylic bicone beads combined with salvaged bicycle chain links.  The beads are woven onto four strands of elastic for a strong and comfortable fit.

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Item 3:  Ring Pull Bracelet

These bracelets are simply woven from discarded ring pulls and ribbon, and fastened with a single button.  We always have a variety of colours in stock, but we also make to order.  Bracelets can be customized  to your chosen colour and length.

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Item 4:  Stained Glass style jar lantern

Made from a combination of paint and sweet wrapper decoupage, these jars are one of our trademark creations.  Measuring 7.5 inches tall, this size works well as a vase or a tealight holder.

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5.  Wine Bottle Hurricane Lamp / Candle cover

Made by removing the top and bottom of a wine bottle, these are a beautiful way to shelter your candles from the breeze, and make a pretty decoration for your garden table.  Each comes with a terracotta base and the bottle on the left has been etched with a rose pattern.

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6.  Wine Bottle LED lanterns

Made by inserting LED fairy lights through the base of a used glass bottle, we make these in a variety of styles. Some bottles are beautiful in their original state and some take a bit of “prettying up”.  We can personalize with initials or pictures, as well as using tie dye and tissue paper to make a creation that’s entirely unique.

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7.  Bottle Cap Keyrings

Pretty self explanatory, our favourite version is set with a 2p coin and topped with a dome of resin.

bottle top keyringAnd last (but not least) our most recent endeavor:

8.  Tile coasters

Start with some spare/salvaged tiles, add felt to the bottom and cover with something pretty:  Book pages, maps and most recently wax-resist watercolours, we sell these in sets of 4 or 6.

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The photo above is what we got up to yesterday–these coasters are going to be so cool when they’re finished!  And there you have it:  some of our favourite creations for your perusal.  Please do let us know what you think.  If you were bidding on The Price is Right or had to run our stall tomorrow–how much would you sell these things for?

*ebay auction links will be added when the items go live

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.

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Making clocks

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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.

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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.

Sick of junk mail? You can upcycle that too!

Well we’ve been quiet on the blog front recently, our fingers have been busy, busy, busy!  In our ongoing search for upcycling partners, we decided to tempt them in by offering some amazing upcycled receptacles that they can use to round-up their rubbish.  We followed this tutorial from Craftstylish for making paper reeds and came up with these:

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Obligatory close-ups:

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Paper reed box 2

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Do you know the best part?  Not only are they gorgeous, but we got rid of a whole stack of leaflets and catalogs in making these.  Want one?  Live in Cambridgeshire?  Head over to our “Supporting Us” page and find out how to become one of our recycling partners, and one of these awesome creations can come live with you and eat up all your ring pulls and sweet wrappers.

We’ve also had bikes on the brain a bit lately.  We’re getting ready for Bike Week in June, so we’ve been trading ideas for more bike-based upcycling.  Lucky for us, these guys at Outspoken helped out with a lot of spare parts for inspiration!  (Imagine it:  a bunch of exceptionally fit cycle couriers who have extra gears for upcycling.  In the repurposing world, that’s like double Christmas with added tinsel.)

So with bikes on the brain, our paper reeds took on some new shapes:

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And finally we combined some old maps, and chain rings to come up with this little beauty:

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I sense a lot more of these clocks coming up before bike week!  (Sadly, the coasters may not make it up for sale.  My three year old has declared them “hers” and is now rolling them across the floor…) So what about you–any ideas for scrapping your junk mail or revamping your old bike parts?  Let us know what you think.

 

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!

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:

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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:

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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!

Flaming tutorials…

Hey, sports fans!  Remember the Pyrocrafting post I did in the run up to Wedstival 2012?  When we made that ginormous pile of flowers?
Well, guess what– The full tutorial is now on the Buttoneering Blog.  Check it out and get your jollies melting stuff with fire!

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!