A quick word from one of our group members


Hello, my name today is “Tom Riddle”. I like to tell you what we’ve been doing today in our Team. Making bracelets from ring pulls, and clocks from bike stuff and cd’s. We will sell them at a craft fair to get money. When we have enough money, we will go to Nandos. (They have chicken.)


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!

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.

Women’s Social Leadership Awards 2012

With all the talk about awesomeness around here recently, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what’s happening tomorrow.  You see, at hub Westminster Central London, the 6th Annual Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards will take place.  If you aren’t familiar with them, Ogunte is a Social Innovations Development Company that focuses on social ventures led by Women.  Each year, they host these awards to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women both in the UK and abroad whose leadership and innovation have made a positive social impact. In other words, these women are heavy hitters who take awesomeness to a whole other level!

There are 9 finalists in three areas:  Leader in the Workplace, Social Business Leader, and Campaign Leader.  In addition to the awards, there will be a number of inspiring speakers, including Melanie Stubbing of Weight Watchers Europe, Diane Verde Nieto of Positive Luxury.com, and Laura Haynes of Appetite, UN Women, UK National Committee and Design Business Association (DBA).  Phew!

But, why am I all fired up about this? (Apart from the fact that these are all just generally cool people doing great things?)  Because…   I get to go there!

It just goes to show, that when you associate with groups like The You Can Hub, cool things tend to happen to you.  And as a result is I’ll be travelling down to London with YouCan’s own Lou Shackelton to cover the event on Twitter, while Mel Findlater provides remote social media support.

So,  I get to:

  • a) work with the YouCan guys,
  • b)meet amazing, inspiring women, and
  • c) tweet the whole time without being considered rude.

If we could throw in an upcycled bike tire somewhere, I’d be in Nirvana.  (The state of profound peace, as opposed to the grunge band. Which would cool in a very different way.)

The only drawback to the event is that standing alongside such accomplished and talented people gives you an amplified opportunity for… appearing a doofus by comparison.  While I’m covering the proceedings and using all the right twitter handles and hashtags, a special part of my brain will focus on not falling down, spilling stuff or breaking things.  If you know me in real life, you know what a challenge that is!  Gravity, it would seem, has a rather special interest in me.

I urge you to take a look at Ogunte’s website and Scoopit to find out more about how they support and recognize socially innovative women.   Also, check out You Can’s Pinboard of all the WSLA Finalists.  I’ve been really inspired reading about  their accomplishments and wish them all a safe journey and good luck for tomorrow night.  Provided I escape any embarrassing catastrophes, you can watch events unfold by following @ogunte and #wsla12 on twitter.  With any luck, the people I meet will perceive me as a talented tweeter–instead of a twit!



Fighting the Good Fight

Working in social enterprise can be a heady business.  When I spend time networking with other social enterprises or fellow UnLtd. Award winners, I’m surrounded by people who have stepped out of the traditional “9-5 employee” role and devoted themselves to social good.  They’ve spotted a need in some part of the community, and used their passion and ingenuity to set about filling it. And they’ll keep going just like the Energizer Bunny, because their success won’t all be measured by profit–it will be in the names and faces of people whose lives are improved as a result.

Re-Creations also has the the added bonus of associating with the Arts and Crafts communities who exhibit endless amounts of creative genius and inspiration every day.  Like Regan Kerr and her Upcycled Prom Dress, or Garth Britzman with his amazing car park roof.  Or even my sister & sister-in-law, who made an amazing art car with bottle-caps!

And then you’ve got the “Change the World Gang” at The You Can Hub, who are celebrating their first birthday today.(A very happy birthday, guys!)  Together, they bring the best in creativity, empowerment,, “buzz”  and square-framed specs to bear on the challenges they encounter.  I can’t confirm it, but it is rumored that these ladies wear their pants on the outside, in true superhero style.

Surrounded by such passionate, inspirational people, it’s easy to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.  It’s tempting to assume that everybody’s honest, that people who work hard will succeed, and that the good guys will always win.  And it sure is nice to forget that accidents happen, that bureaucracy can be impenetrable, and  that sometimes people screw you over.

But then sometimes reality can bring you back to earth with a bump.  For me, that’s what happened last week.  A combination of red tape, sad news and some utter human badness left me feeling like this:

As i drove my battered ego home on Friday, I found myself listening to Janet Devlin’s cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”.  That first line, “when you try your best but you don’t succeed,” echoed in my ears for ages afterward.    Because despite what Hollywood might like us to believe, doing the right thing doesn’t mean we’ll come out on top.  Outside of primary school, nobody takes home a ribbon just because they took part.  Inevitably, shit will happen, and working hard or being a kind person is no guarantee against being kicked in the teeth.  In fact,  some people view “kindhearted”  as code for “easy target” and will be happy to lie, cheat, and steal from you if it gets them what they want.  (Like I said, it was a rough week.)

So why carry on?  Why invest your blood, sweat, and tears (and innumerable cups of coffee) in improving other people’s lives–especially if it may not pay off in your life?  How can you make yourself keep going with no clear path ahead, or get back up when life has knocked your feet from under you?  And what happens to the nice guy who finishes last?

These were the questions I mulled over this weekend, between playing Peppa Pig Dominos and never-ending episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants.  For a little while, I thought about chucking in the towel, and what life would be like if I went back to the regular 9-5 job and focused on earning money like most people do. But then two things happened.

The first was an unexpected parcel in the post:

Unlike most of Re-Creations post, this one didn’t contain rubbish for upcycling.  Remember Sheri from AwesomeSauce&Asshattery, and owner of the attractive Mensch T’s logo on our sidebar?   She used her super-secret-ninja-powers of awesomeness to make a surprise gift for each of the Re-Creations group members.  One that I know is going to make their day.  (I’m not going to tell what it is until after the guys have all seen them!)  She’s never met the guys.  Actually, she lives approximately 561 miles away, in Berlin.  But she woke up one morning and thought “Dude* What shall I do today?  I know, I’ll do something Awesome for these guys in England.  After all, I am the Awesomesauce”  (*may not have been her exact words)

The result:    

And the other thing that happened?  My husband disappeared for ages, late in the evening.  Eventually he walked through the door, cradling a dripping wet, flea-ridden and rather smelly old cat.  It wasn’t our cat, and the husband has never really been much of a cat person.  But when he heard that a neighbor had suddenly passed away, leaving a pair of elderly cats stranded outside in torrential rain, he couldn’t rest until he knew they were warm and fed.  In all, he spent over an hour outside  in the storm, coaxing the cats into trusting him and coming indoors.  He had nothing to gain from it, apart from the expense of feeding and flea-treating a couple of cats who would moult on his furniture and quite possibly leave hairballs on his pillow by way of thanks.

So in the midst of my crisis of faith, these two events showed me a couple of things:

  1. Good stuff can happen, even in the middle of a big, fat, stormy suckfest.
  2. Awesome people just can’t help being awesome. Across different species and great distances, and with nothing to gain, awesome people are just compelled to do awesome stuff.

So when everything hits the fan, instead of asking “why do I bother?”, the real question I need to ask myself is: “Are you awesome?”  Because if you’re awesome, you keep chipping away at the problem, even if there’s no end in sight.  You can’t help it, because the awesomeness is just part of who you are.  Think about your heroes for a minute.  Do you admire them because of their easy success?  Or is it because they busted their butts in dismal circumstances, and fought for what they believed in against all odds?  There’s a reason we’ll remember Martin Luther King Jr forever, while we’ve already forgotten last week’s lottery winner.  Without the struggle, there can be no heroes.

And meanwhile (whether you know them or not) all around the world there are other inspired people chipping away at  problems and committing random acts of awesomeness.  When you add all those people and all their efforts together, the result is that

If sad things or wicked people catch us unaware, we may lose a battle.  But that doesn’t make our good deeds any less good.  And awesome people will still be working, fighting the good fight because that’s who we are.  So next time I feel like giving up, I’m going to be thinking about Sheri & her Awesomesauce.  And then I’m going to start channeling Barney Stinson:

Now where the hell is my cape?

Help! We need your ring pulls!

Ok everybody, if you remember a few weeks ago I posted about the materials that we are collecting for our Cambridge group to work with.  Well, we have a more urgent update!

One of our group members, “Jack” (you can check out his bio on our About Us page) has an idea.  An ambition, if you will.  And we’re here to help him realize it.  He wants to make something special, something bigger than anything he’s tried before.  I don’t want to give it away, because he wants it to be a surprise.  But I can tell you this:  We’re going to need a lot of ring pulls.  Many, many hundreds of ring pulls.

Unfortunately, the task of drinking that much fizzy drink / beer / energy drink is more than we (and our bladders) can take on alone.  We need your help!  If you drink canned drinks, take off the ring pulls before you recycle the can.  When you have a few saved up, you can either drop them off at Buchan Street Neighborhood Centre or pop them in an envelope and post them to us at:

Re-Creations Project
77 St Peters Road
Upwell, Cambridgeshire
PE14 9EJ

We’ll be collecting from now untill the end of June.  If nothing else, it’s an excuse to treat yourselves to a beer or fizzy drink!  It’s hot outside–come on, guys:  Let’s get drinking!

And if you fancy doing something stupendous with the rest of your can, check out these tutorials!  Gingerbread Snowflake makes a butterfly mobile , and CraftStylish shows how to make sweet flower pin all from cans!

ETA:  Or, holy awesomesauce, batman–Check out this Grist article! That girl is a new upcycling hero!

Check out the Awesome(sauce) T-Shirts!

So if you’ve been reading a while, you may remember that a few weeks ago I nominated Sheri from Awesomesauce & Asshattery  for a Kreativ Blogger Award.  Because her blog is awesome & full of creative goodness.  (Check out the play kitchen she made for her wee one, just for a start!) But posting a Frank Sinatra clip on her page in return just wasn’t enough for Sheri.  Oh no, she had to go and ramp up the awesome-ness to an unprecedented level by designing and making us T-Shirts!  We test-drove them during yesterday’s group session to critical acclaim, and even attracted compliments from random members of the public!  So without further ado, behold the Mencsh T’s Creations:

Group members reported that the inclusion of a teapot and the reversed colouring of the shirts were works of genius.  My four-year old was delighted that there was a flower on my boobie.  And I concluded that unless I could find a way to donate several excess chins to charity, I needed to sign up to Sheri’s “Baby Weight Be Gone” Quest.  (I know, my “baby” is two.  Shut up.)   So consider me signed up, and I’ll update on my progress whenever you see this button:

Awesome Sauce and Asshattery
(I just posted my first button!  Awesome!*)  So if you see me munching on junk food, you’re authorized to yank it from my hands and slap me around the head with it, forcing me to flee and thus burn calories.  My plan is to shrink my waistline until my kick-ass new T-Shirt starts a baggy new trend.  And if you want to bag your own groovy T’s, visit Mensch T’s to check out their selection, or click their logo on our sidebar ———–>
* I know I’ve used the word “Awesome” an excessive amount in this post.  But I’m an American of a certain age, and vulnerable to these transgressions.  Be glad the post wasn’t liberally peppered with “Dudes”.

Introducing: Re-Creations Cambridge Group Members

Today’s session in Cambridge turned into a bit of a creature feature–in a good way!










We spent some more time working on bottle top magnets (practice makes perfect) and things definitely took a turn towards the “monstrous”.   When we were finished, some of the group members took some time to write introductions for us to post on the site.  Check them out here.  Now you can find out about the people behind our crazy creations and see their favourite work in our galleries.  We’re so proud of the work they’ve done over the past several months!  Have a look, and let them know what you think!



Milk tops for charity: Urban Myth?

Yesterday, the sky over Cambridge heaved with rain and our Wednesday group had to come up with an alternative to our scheduled spray-painting activities. Luckily, a solution quickly presented itself in the form of 3 bin bags stuffed with plastic bottle tops.

These have come to us and the Buchan Street Neighborhood Centre from a variety of sources around the country. Helpful people have collected them for one charity or another, but when the time came to deliver the tops no one could take them. Luckily, we have a group of willing individuals whose response to a towering pile of plastic lids was “Oooooh, fun!” And it really was! We spent the morning sorting and separating all the lids into piles by their type and colour. What did we learn?
* hundreds of bottle tops make a cool noise when you dig through them
* There’s a lot of variation on colour, even among similar types of lids.
* When grouped together, the range of colours is quite pretty
* People in the UK really like semi-skimmed milk.

Now that all the different lids are separated by type, our next task will be to wash and dry them. I have no idea how we’re going to manage that! My biggest concern now is what to do with them once they’re all clean. Don’t get me wrong, there are dozens of cool ways to upcycle them. But I strongly feel that if anyone can actually get a wheelchair in exchange for some of these lids, then their need should take priority over our urge to make cool stuff.

My searches have turned up a number of people who have responded to appeals for “milk tops for wheelchairs” or “plastic lids for prosthetic limbs” which ultimately were revealed as hoaxes. Does anyone in the UK (especially in Cambridgeshire) know of a charity that is really and truly collecting milk tops? If you do, please get in touch–we have bin bags full, that sorted and ready to go!

Or, have you been left holding a bag of tops? Check back here and I’ll post updates with whatever I find out. In the meantime, we’re going to work on upcycling all the non-milk lids (believe me, we’ve got loads of those too!) and we’ll post photos of our work as it’s finished.

DIY Craft fair display – some links, photos and tutorials

Phew!  Now that Wednesday’s event is complete, I can link back and give some credit to tutorials, ideas, and blogs that helped us get there.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, our goal was to create a craft fair display from mainly upcycled materials–with a rock bottom budget.  Luckily, lots of astute crafters have been there before us and have been willing to share their wisdom and ideas, which we’ll link to here.

This was our original display.  The group decided they wanted to add some shelf-type height, a mirror, proper necklace displays, leaflets, and make everything a uniform colour (blue). It was a pretty tall order on no budget!

Using the materials we had on hand, I started out by making shelves with a small set of drawers from an unused nightstand.  A quick coat of spray paint and some mirrored contact paper was all these needed.  The thing I love most about these is that you can tuck most of your display items away in the drawers and store them neatly for next time.

Next up, we needed something to hold leaflets and promotional  materials, and I found what we needed on a blog by Katydid and Kid.  She posted excellent instructions for making a stationary organizer from a cereal box!  (Although hers was much nicer than ours, which was covered in scraps of fabric from a ruined shirt)  It looks nice for a box of Fruit & Fibre!

For our jewellery displays, I searched far and wide for DIY tutorials on the net.  Two of the main ideas I built on were a Necklace display tutorial by Stella and Hodge and a bracelet display instructable by CH3.  I also wanted some peg boards with ribbon, like the hundreds you can find on Pinterest.  The main materials I had to work with was packaging from Amazon–cardboard and stiff-rolled paper.  To give everything a uniform finish, I picked up a super-value roll of textured wallpaper that would cover all the display materials.  Last Wednesday, the group set to work cutting out the cardboard and covering it with wallpaper.  Since they wanted it blue, I tried a couple of methods before settling on one that would work well with the vinyl wallpaper:  Crayon.  Just like leaf rubbings we used to do in school, the crayon picked up all the texture in the wallpaper for a really cool finish.

We attached ribbon to the boards with staples and reinforced with hot glue.  In total, we made 3 boards, 5 necklace stands, and two bracelet rolls for less than £7, and managed to upcycle lots of  waste materials in the process!  I mentioned that we wanted a mirror for the display and although I’ve already posted photos, I’m going to do it again–I’m just that pleased with how it turned out!

Since the event was an All-Ability Cycling Day, I wanted to stick with a bike theme.  Luckily, I had a waste tire from the lovely people at OWL.   In order to make the tire fit the mirror, a certain amount of surgery was needed.  The rim of most bike tires is supported by several steel wires to maintain rigidity.  These need to be exposed and cut through individually before the rest of the tire can be seperated.  Then I hammered steel eyelets along each side of the join, and wove a thick cord through them corset-style to hold the mirror in place. The white and gold paint was an attempt at bike-meets-shabby-chic, which may have been a little too effective since most people didn’t actually notice there was a tire there at all.  Ah, well.

The last thing we needed was some kind of upcycled packaging, in case people actually wanted to buy our stuff*. We found just what we needed for that here, at the I Do Have A Talent blog. Her tutorial for gift bags from calendars was perfect, since we’ve had several calendars donated to us over the past several months. The fact that it’s Easter, and we had a bunny calendar was an added bonus!  The tutorial is so great and they came out so sweet that I see no reason a gift bag from a shop again!

So in a very large nutshell, that’s how we created an upcycled craft fair display on a minimal budget. Thanks to all of you crafters out there who provided inspiration!  If you like any of the ideas we’ve posted, please do follow the links and check out the full tutorials–they’re great!

*Hooray–people really did want to buy our stuff and use our bunny bags!–Thanks to everybody who made purchases!