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!

Upcycled grooviness all for you…

Awesome people have been asking me where they can buy all the kick-ass stuff we make.  Well.  We do craft fairs whenever we can, but if you can’t wait that long…  We just made it easier!  If you want to get your hands on some cool creations, check out our shops where dozens of new items will be appearing over the coming weeks.  Enjoy!

Shops.

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:

etsy 020

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!

A Scrappy Weekend

Gallery

This gallery contains 12 photos.

During the preparations for Wedstival 2012,I posted this random photo of a DIY scrap lampshade, and promised a tutorial to follow.  Well, I’m just now getting caught up on my blogging backlog, so here goes!  The plan was to create … Continue reading

Tutorial: Milk jug flower lights

Egg carton flower lights

You may remember me showing off the egg carton flower lights that I made after spotting features like this one on Pinterest.  But perhaps you aren’t keen on eggs.  Or maybe you prefer flowers with a bit more variation in shape.  Either way, we’ve got you covered with these:  upcycled milk jug lights

And the best news?  If you’re a crafty so-and-so, you can make these flowers in an afternoon with some bits you probably have lying around your house.  You’ll need:

  • A clean plastic milk jug
  • Scissors
  • Pliers for gripping
  • A heat gun
  • A self-healing mat or other protective surface
  • Some LED fairy lights.

First off, use the scissors to cut out some pretty flower shapes from the milk jug.  It doesn’t matter how many petals the flower has.  The main thing to remember is that you’ll need one large flower and one smaller flower for each light.   Next, use your scissors to cut an X shape into the centre of each flower.  (This is where the light will poke through)

 

Grip the flower with your pliers, using the tips of the pliers to cover the “X”  and prevent buckling.  Use the heat gun to heat one petal at a time, until they become transparent and floppy.  The heat will help the plastic take on a natural, varied flower shape.

When the flower is transparent, quickly remove the heat.  Then you can use your fingertips to shape the petal (if you’re a hardened crafter like me) or press the petal against your self-healing mat (if you’d like to keep some sensation in your fingers) as the plastic cools and regains it’s white colour.  The petal will now hold it’s flower shape.

If you make a mistake, or aren’t happy with your flower, just reheat and adjust the shape as needed.  When you are happy with the shape of your flowers, insert each of your LED bulbs through the “X” of the larger flower and then the smaller flower. (It’s best to use LED as they give off much less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs, reducing the risk of fire and preserving the shape of your flowers) The X shape should hold the flower in place naturally, while allowing quick removal if you wish to change the look of your lights at a moment’s notice.  The finished result will look beautiful draped over a mirror or photo frame, woven through branches, or even just dangling in short strings as part of your eco-friendly party or wedding decorations.

upcycled milk jug flowers  upcycled milk jug lights

And if you like the flowers, but don’t have any fairy lights around?  Use hot glue to hold the layers together, and add a pretty button or bead to the centre. Attach your finished flower to a brooch back or  hair clip for permanent flower accessory!

upcycled flower brooch

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!

 

Wedstival 2012 Photos!

I know, we’ve been teasing you with previews of the wedding for ages.  And now its finally time for some of the photos from Wedstival 2012 to emerge!  The ones with the bride and groom are going to have to wait until they come back from honeymoon, but in the meantime we can walk you through the setup and shamelessly boast about all the prettiful things we made. What we love about this whole celebration and all the decorations is that it’s handmade, eco-friendly, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.  The cost was more in terms of time and effort than money, so it’s an effect that anybody could achieve.

For starters, here’s the view as you walk up the drive towards the Pavillion:

Check out all that lovely bunting, courtesy of our very own nimble fingers!  As you reach  the top of the drive, you begin to encounter some funky signs put together by the bride and groom:And some helpful instructions about what you should be doing:

And then you might go inside to check out the Pavillion.  And wow.  The first thing to discover inside is the amazing catering display. I’m not sure which was more incredible–the smell of all the amazing tea and cakes or their collection of vintage teacups!

We had a few tables set up inside, complete with the group’s handmade chair garlands and table flowers.

upcycled fabric flowers

Each of the flowers was upcycled from the same scrap fabric as the bunting and garlands, then attached to a brooch back or hair clip so they could be worn away as favours–beautiful and eco-chic!   The Pavillion was also the place where guests could place their cards and presents.

But one of my favourite views from inside the Pavillion, was actually the ceremony spot where the bride and groom would look out over their assembled guests:

I love the picnic blanket seating for the ceremony, and the “altar” made from apple crates that were borrowed from the awesome Ruth of the YouCanBike  project fame.  Exiting the Pavillion, one of the most noticeable attractions was Andy’s beautiful vintage photo booth. 

It would have been churlish not to have a go! On the beautifully papered walls, you can spot a selection of frames that were sourced and revamped by the fine folk at the Wednesday group.  And next there was a Polaroid “guest book” table where visitors could take photos of themselves with all the available props and pin them up with their advice and wishes for the bride and groom.There was a great under-cover chillout space next door where you could lounge underneath the fabulous bike-tire chandelier, and even more miles of bunting!

From there, you could watch the other partygoers try out some fun carnival games.

Or sit down to watch the ceremony with a lovely cup of tea.

And here are some of my favourite views and details from the day:

The Ceremony Spot

Andy’s funky leg planters

The garden party in the sunshine

guitar pick buttonhole, plectrum flower

The guitar-pick flowers we made for the groomsmen to wear, and

The miles and miles of upcycled bunting!

If you’re planning a celebration of your own and like any of the decorations or ideas you see here, there’s good news!  Follow @buttoneering on Twitter or Pinterest for news about the launch of a spanking new wedding/events service with workshops, tutorials,  prop hire, and custom-made swag for a party that reflects your own personal style.  Keep watching–this is going to be good!

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!