Category Archives: Upcycling

Make Your Own Bird Suet Cakes

Feeding outdoor birds with homemade suet cakes
Feeding outdoor birds with homemade suet cakes

I do as much as I can in my garden to attract birds, because I love them and I enjoy the benefits of all the insects they eat. Suet cakes are attractive to many birds, in particular the ones who eat a lot of insects. I wrote an article on how to double-render fat to make suet cakes that you offer to outdoor birds in spring temperatures.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Blog:
Make Suet Cakes for Outdoor Birds

Make a picture frame from reclaimed wood

make a picture frame from scrap woodLast night I taught a class at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves in making simple lightweight picture frames from salvaged wood. We also fabricated some hardware for the backs to hold the artwork in the frame and provide a place to attach the hanging wire. My tutorial for this project is on Schnarr’s Hardware blog along with a free downloadable PDF diagram and video of my class.

Read more:
Make a picture frame from scrap wood

Decorate a Bookmark With Paper, Fabric and Buttons

Bookmark made from paper, fabric and buttonsMy bookmark tutorial has been posted on the Canvas Corp Brands Blog. I included a free downloadable PDF template with my tutorial. Enjoy!

Read more:

Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers

Do you have the patience for playing around with lots of fiddly paper bits? If so you might enjoy collecting paper scraps and making them into interesting greeting cards. I’ll show you how gluing small bits of paper to strips of scrap cardstock can give you exciting design options.

Tools and Supplies:
Self-healing cutting mat
Paper cutter
Rubber stamps with greetings and sentiments
Permanent black rubber stamping ink
Clean scrap paper
Bone folder
Glue sticks
Metal ruler
Corner rounder
Old food lid to use as a palette
Rubber stamping ink in complementary colors
Rubber eraser with flat sides
Palette knife and/or old credit cards for spreading glue
Yes Paste

An assortment of recycled papers:here are some suggested sources
Gift wrap and tissue
Gift tags
Used postage stamps
Magazines and catalogs
Old greeting cards
Wallpaper samples
Paint sample cards
Attractive product packaging
Scrapbooking paper scraps
Scraps from your old projects
Paper company sample books and promos
Ephemera from travel – maps, brochures, tickets, etc.

I’ll show you two different card designs that you can make by collaging scraps of paper onto cardstock strips.

Make an assortment of collaged strips

1. Cut some strips from plain scrap cardstock that are 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide. Old folders are a good source of scrap cardstock weight paper.

Strips of scrap cardstock and paper scraps ready for gluing
Strips of scrap cardstock and paper scraps ready for gluing

2. Lay out a bunch of small paper scraps and glue them down in a row down each strip. You might choose papers at random or try to follow a planned color scheme. When glue is dry enough to handle, use a scissors to trim the strips from the back to make the edges even.

Gluing paper scraps onto the cardstock strips
Gluing paper scraps onto the cardstock strips

3. Choose a color of rubber stamping ink that will help unify your design and squirt a little of it onto an old food lid. Dip the edge of a flat-sided eraser in the ink and apply a line of ink to the edges of your collaged strips. This is a small step that makes a huge difference in the visual appeal of your finished piece.

The strip at the lower left is in the process of having scraps glued to it. The middle strip has been trimmed and the upper right strip has been stamped along the edge with rubber stamping ink.
The strip at the lower left is in the process of having scraps glued to it. The middle strip has been trimmed and the upper right strip has been stamped along the edge with rubber stamping ink.

Instructions to make card design #1:

1. Print a selection of sentiments with permanent rubber stamping ink on strips of light colored paper to use on the card that you make. Select one to use as the main theme of your card.

Rubber stamped sentiments on strips of scrap paper.
Rubber stamped sentiments on strips of scrap paper.

2. Choose a piece of scrap cardstock or heavy paper to use for the base of your card. Fold it in half. Measure the front of your card.

3. Next select a piece of thin scrap paper that would make a good background for the front of the card. Tear out a piece that is 1/2 inch smaller than the front of your card, using the metal ruler as a tearing aid.

For example, if you fold an 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch piece of paper in half, the front of the card will measure 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches and the background paper for the front of the card should be 3 3/4 x 5 inches.

4. Next choose a simple shape to put on the front of the card – you could trace around a found object, use a cookie cutter or a stencil as a source. Trace one copy of this shape onto plain scrap cardstock. Make another tracing on the back of a piece of paper that harmonizes with the chosen colors for your card.

5. Cut out both shapes with scissors. Set aside the one in the harmonious color to glue to your card later.

6. Take the shape on plain cardstock and glue your sentiment across the middle or wherever looks best. Just below the sentiment, glue a section of one of your collaged and inked strips from earlier.

7. Moving from the inside to the edges, glue strips of scrap paper in complementary colors on either side of your sentiment and collaged strip for a striped effect. Cut around the base shape to trim when all covered.

8. Using the glue stick glue the colored shape you cut out earlier to the front of the card.

9. You will probably need some more robust glue to hold the collaged and inked shape since all the layers of paper will have made it pretty thick. Use Yes Paste to attach the striped shape to the front of the card. Trim if needed.

10. If needed, glue plain light colored scrap paper to the inside of the card to make a clean area for writing a message.

Instructions to make card design #2:

This second card design is designed to made from a piece of 4 1/4 inch by 8 1/2 inch cardstock.

1. Fold the cardstock in half and the front of the card will end up as a 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 square.

2. Cut a 3 3/4 by 3 3/4 inch square from plain scrap cardstock.

3. Glue a sentiment, a collged and inked strip and scrap paper strips to the cardstock square.

4. Trim around the square and round the corners with a corner rounding tool.

5. Glue the trimmed square to the front of the card with Yes Paste.

Extra Tips and Techniques for working with paper:
Cover up unwanted parts of found papers by laminating with other paper.
You can get wrinkles out of paper by ironing.
How does one glue down delicate tissue paper? Stabilize by gluing to a stiffer piece of paper with a glue stick and smooth out wrinkles with a bone folder.
When working on other projects, if you have leftover paint or ink use it up on plain paper scraps. Save these scraps and add to them whenever you have leftover art media. In time, you will have a lot of interesting scraps to work with.
If your paper project warps or curls, press it between heavy books with clean scrap paper around it to protect both card and books.

Embellishments that can be recycled and used on cards:
Thread, string and yarn
Ribbon and trim
Fabric scraps
Beads and charms
Game pieces

Making Holiday Centerpieces From Natural Materials

Holiday party centerpiece made with donated and natural materials
Holiday party centerpiece made with donated and natural materials

Litzinger Road Ecology Center has an annual Holiday party for volunteers. I wasn’t able to go because I went to the Master Gardener party instead which was the same day. I did however get to participate in the fun of making centerpieces from natural materials and donated flower arranging supplies.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog:
Making Holiday Centerpieces From Natural Materials

Decorate Gift Packages with Stencils and Chalk

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to make your own stencils from recycled food container lids and use them to decorate personalized gift packages. Many of the stencil designs I used in my demo were traced from nostalgic Christmas cookie cutters that were passed down to me from parents and grandparents. They bring back a lot of happy memories of doing holiday crafts and baking with my Mom. Most of the time making things in preparation for the Holiday was more fun for me than the actual event!

Here is a selection of wrapped boxes and decorating materials to give you an idea of how you can combine markers, stickers, ribbon, twine and tags with your chalked designs.

I designed this project to be something you can do with kids, but I think anyone who enjoys being a little bit playful and making eco-friendly packaging would enjoy this – I know that I had a great time!

Read more on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog:
Decorate Gift Packages with Stencils and Chalk

Come see me at the Fall Art Walk in Old Webster – October 6-15, 2017

Old Webster Fall Art Walk

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

I hope you can visit Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves Missouri between October 6 and 15th to see my display for the Old Webster Art Walk!

The theme of my show will be things made from recycled materials. If you’re into upcycling and repurposing, you’ll get a lot of ideas! On Saturday October 7 and 14th, I’ll also be doing a demo in the store from 12-4 pm. On the 7th, see how to make art prints with recycled and found materials. On the 14th, I’ll show you how to make fun fall greeting cards.

Come join us for a self-guided tour of many different area businesses in Webster Groves, all with a different artist and art display. For more information:

Make Laundry Detergent From Soap Bar Scraps

When a bar of soap gets worn down and is near the end of its usefulness, it’s considerably less appealing than when it was new. The scent has faded, it’s brittle or soggy – time to throw it out, right? Do you have some soap bars you don’t like? Do you have a collection of little motel soaps that you don’t know what to do with? You could throw these soaps out, but I prefer to save up my soap scraps and make them into laundry soap.

Read about how to do it on the Schnarr’s Hardware Blog.

Upcycling with scrap fabric, trim, buttons and beads

Over the years I’ve collected a lot of recycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons. Some of it comes from thrift stores or places that specialize in teaching the reuse of materials. Two such places where you can score fabric and related items at a low price are Leftovers, Etc. and Perennial. I teach classes at Perennial so be sure to check my schedule to see what I’m doing there in the near future!

I also get scrap fabric and sewing items from people who know that I collect it. In addition I made a big score a few years ago when a local interior design studio allowed me to salvage some samples and scraps that were being discarded. I’ve thought of a lot of ways to use these pieces over the years. Pictured below is a fanny pack that I’ve been using for over 20 years. The zipper went out on it recently but the rest of it was still in good shape. I decided to purchase a replacement zipper from JoAnn Fabrics and crafts (where I also teach classes) and repair the bag while adding a pocket to the front made of upcycled upholstery fabric and trim. I added some snaps to keep the new front pocket closed and some buttons given to me by fellow teacher Kate. My old fanny pack is better than new now!

Fabric pouch refurbished by repairing the zipper and adding a front pocket made from salvaged materials.
Fabric pouch refurbished by repairing the zipper and adding a front pocket made from salvaged materials.

I also recently took three plain solid color tank tops and made them more interesting by sewing strips of fabric and trim to the fronts. Much of the trim was salvaged and I also purchased a couple of new rolls from JoAnn. To the coral colored tank top I also added some buttons and beads.

Tank tops embellished with upcycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons.
Tank tops embellished with upcycled fabric, trim, beads and buttons.

My wardrobe is a little more colorful and interesting now thanks to my stash of upcycled materials!

More Pop Art – Poop Emoji Patch and Pillow

I started seeing poop emoji pillows for sale in mall kiosks last fall. Ever since then I’ve been tempted to buy one – why? They make me laugh, that’s why, and I like to laugh! But I have been too embarrassed to buy one. It’s kind of hard to justify at my age! At JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts, where I teach classes, they have started selling emoji merchandise. You can buy patches, pillows, pillow kits, suncatcher kits and more. The poop designs seem to sell out a lot faster than the other emojis, so I guess I don’t need to be embarrassed. Still, I feel better about making a poop patch and poop pillow rather than buying one. I can always justify it as sewing practice, right?

When I was in seventh grade, my Mom made a duffel bag for me out of an old pair of my jeans. I used to use it for Girl Scout camping trips. It’s a good size for transporting a sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress and sheets. When I was older, for nostalgia reasons I got it out again and I decided it would be a good place to display my growing collection of patches. Over the last several years I’ve been sewing on old patches and collecting new ones and adding them to the duffel bag. It’s a great conversation starter on trips and reminds me of fun times!

Duffel bag with some of my patches

To make the poop patch, I downloaded a pattern and used Photoshop to size it for a patch. I printed out the design and traced it onto tracing paper. I made extra tracings to use for cutting and lining up.

To make a poop patch like mine, transfer a tracing of the outline of the poop, the white smile and the white part of the eyeballs onto scrap chipboard. Cut out the chipboard.

Place the poop outline chipboard template onto a piece of medium brown felt. Trace around the chipboard with a ball-point pen and cut out the brown poop piece. Trace around the smile and eyeball pieces on white felt and cut out.

Take a tracing on tracing paper of the whole poop design, with the brown lines and facial features indicated and pin it to the front of the brown felt piece. Use it as a guide for where to pin the white smile and eyeball pieces. Using white thread, sew around the edges of the white pieces to hold them in place.

Using dark brown embroidery thread, sew the brown diagonal lines using a running stitch. Don’t sew the outline yet – you’ll sew the outline when you sew your patch where it’s going to go. Carefully tear the paper away. A pair of tweezers is helpful for removing tiny bits of paper that might stick in small crevices.

Make a tracing on tracing paper of only the eyes, including the pupils and cut out, leaving some space around the eyes for pinning in place. Pin your tracing over the eyes so you can see exactly where to sew the pupils. With black embroidery thread, outline the pupils then fill them in solid with a satin stitch. Tear away the paper.

When you sew on your patch, use brown embroidery thread around the edge. You’re done!

handmade felt poop pillow

Pictured above is the small pillow I made from the same pattern at a larger size. Because of the larger size I sewed on black felt ovals for the pupils instead of using stitching only to fill them in. I used two pieces of dark brown felt as the pillow body. Cut a little larger, they made a nice outline. I sewed the medium brown felt portion with all the details onto the front.