Category Archives: Upcycling

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.

Heisenberg Pillow

Heisenberg pillow inspired by Breaking Bad
Heisenberg pillow inspired by Breaking Bad

A therapist recently suggested the use of a talking globe for family discussions. This reminded me of the family intervention scene with the talking pillow in the TV show Breaking Bad. In my immediate family we are all fans of the show and I thought it would be funny to make a talking pillow and have a portrait of the main character Walter White aka Heisenberg on it. That should create a more convivial atmosphere for us. I feel a little silly making fan art at my age but if I call it Pop Art it’s more legit, right?

I traced a drawing of the character at the size I wanted onto translucent tracing paper. I decided to applique felt onto the dark hat and sunglasses areas so I used my tracing to make additional outlines for the hat and glasses on scrap paper. I pinned the scrap paper to the felt and cut the shapes out. Another method for transferring a shape design to felt is to make a chipboard template and trace around it with a ball point pen or graphite pencil for light colors or a light colored chalk pencil for dark felt colors.

Next I cut out two square pieces for the front and back of the pillow from scrap knit white fabric with a texture to it that was suggestive of cross stitch backing fabric. I ironed fusible webbing onto the backs of each piece because stretchy fabric like this knit is sometimes hard to keep square.

I pinned my tracing to the front of the pillow and fastened my felt pieces in place over the sunglasses and hat areas. I stitched the felt pieces around the edges with black embroidery thread to hold the applied pieces in place. I then stitched the rest of the design with two different weights of embroidery thread through the tracing paper. When I was finished stitching I carefully tore the tracing paper away. In places where the stitching was close together I used a pair of tweezers to tear out some small remaining tracing paper bits.

I pinned the pillow halves together with the good sides facing out since I was not planning to turn the pillow inside out. I stitched the halves together with more of the black embroidery thread leaving a gap at the bottom edge for stuffing. I stuffed he pillow with fiberfill then sewed the gap shut. The last step to finish the pillow was to trim the raw fabric edges with pinking shears.

Upcycled Tool Belt

A friend of mine gave me two unused canvas tool belts that advertise a hardware store that I don’t work for. I decided to cover up the advertisement and create a more robust belt loop by sewing on some recycled upholstery material. I used recycled trim, a recycled belt and some thread to make something that turned out really comfortable to wear. I’ll test the functionality today when I wear it to hold my hand tools while I work on the garden at a client’s house. Going to work is a lot more fun when you can express your personality with your tools!

Do you have discarded woody plant material? Try making a Bonsai!

This sad-looking bush would a make a nice bonsai!
This sad-looking bush would a make a nice bonsai!

Sometimes plants that don’t look right for their intended purpose can be suitable for Bonsai. For example, this Privet bush (Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’) was removed and replaced because it didn’t look right in the hedge where it had been growing.

Read more on the Schnarr’s blog: schnarrsblog.com

Make a Storage Box Out of Recycled Mat Board

 

storage box out of recycled mat board

When matting artwork, it’s common to have a lot of mat board scraps left over. I had a number of scraps that were large enough to make small open top storage boxes. If you would like to make one similar, here is how I did it.

You will need:
5 square mat board pieces of equal size
An assortment of collage papers
An assortment of tools for decorating paper – I used stencils, rubber stamps, paint, printmaking ink, markers and colored pencils
Yes Paste
Clean scrap paper
Bone folder or Squeegee multipurpose tool
Old credit card or your favorite glue-spreading tool
Acrylic medium
Paint brush
Tim Holtz Idea-ology Metal Box Corners – they come in a package of 8 and you’ll need 4 corners per box
Pencil
Awl
Chunk of old wood
Metal corner braces
Old belts or strips of leather or faux leather
Metal brads

First take your five mat board pieces and decorate both sides with collage papers combined with the paper embellishing techniques of your choice. Use water resistant inks because you’ll be applying acrylic medium over your collages later. Yes Paste is my favorite glue for sticking down large pieces of paper that have to look flat and free of wrinkles. I apply the glue with a credit card to get a nice thin layer then after laying down the paper piece I’m gluing I put a clean piece of scrap paper on top and burnish with a bone folder or Squeegee tool to get a tight, flat seal.

While working on this project at Perennial, another member asked me where I get my paper ephemera. The short answer to that question is that I’ve been collecting papers since the year I first got turned on to making collages – 1985! A more involved answer is to suggest some of the following sources of interesting papers:

  • Old magazines and catalogs.
  • Is someone you know doing some major cleaning? Offer to help in exchange for keeping interesting papers. This is a good way to get old graphic design samples, newspapers, books, maps, photos, negatives, stamps, envelopes, tickets – all kinds of neat stuff.
  • Purchase some reproduction ephemera from a craft supplier.
  • Save your art and paper craft “failures” and experiments. Whenever you have extra paint or ink, add a little more embellishment to your scraps until you get something you like. Toward the end of this article are examples of some great results I got using this method – Fun With Stencils.
  • Check thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, etc.
  • Shop a teachers resource recycling center like Leftovers, etc.
  • Make your own with any paper technique that you like, or a combination of techniques, such as rubber stamping, stenciling, painting, printing, making paste paper, rubbings, handmade paper, computer printouts, cyanotypes or drawing.
  • Use the decorative paper pads commonly sold for scrapbooking. There are designs for every taste and decorating style.

When you are satisfied with your designs, brush both sides of your mat board pieces with acrylic medium for durability and let dry.

Next start assembling your box from the bottom up, using the box corner hardware and the metal brads included in the package. Use a pencil to mark where the holes go and punch out the holes with an awl. An old chunk of wood is handy for protecting your work surface from the awl point. Be carful with the awl and aim it away from yourself while pressing down and through. Push brads through holes and spread the tines from the inside of the box to assemble the four bottom corners.

At this point the top four corners are loose and flapping so you’ll need something to stabilize them and keep your box shaped like a cube. At Perennial I rummaged through the spare hardware bins and found a couple of metal corner braces which worked wonderfully when attached with brass brads. There were only two available so I looked for something else for the other corners. You can buy metal corner braces at a hardware store and use them on all four top corners if you like.

Storage box with pieces of old belts on the corners
Storage box with pieces of old belts attached to some of the corners with metal brads

At Perennial there is a box of old belts and belts have holes! Idea! I selected some to cut down and use on the other corners. Attached with brads, they work well with the “grunge” look of my boxes. If you lack old belts, you can use a variety of materials that can be cut into strips and have holes poked in it – plastic from old lids, scraps of faux leather, scraps of real leather, thin metal – what do you have lying around that you want to try?

How to recycle candle scraps and stubs

Votive candles made from scraps of old candles
Votive candles made from scraps of old candles

To learn how to make interesting candles out of old candle scraps and stubs, read my new article on the Schnarr’s Hardware blog – Make Old Wax Candles Into New Candles

Fun at Perennial – a place, not a plant

Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built
Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built

Perennial is a non-profit community workshop and store with the mission of building a creative culture of sustainability and turning discarded items into valuable resources. As an artist and craftsperson who already is enthusiastic about using recycled materials, I was delighted when my friend Mary (pictured at top left) invited me to meet her there and try out one of the community workshop sessions.

I met Mary at a Creative Arts Fellowship last year and got to know her better at some subsequent events. Mary’s art and mine have a lot in common – we both like upcyling materials and taking apart old jewelry to make new. I enjoyed teaching a class with Mary recently at one of her Women’s Upcycled Jewelry Jams. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for Mary and I to collaborate. A gifted artist and teacher, Mary creates under the name Sanctified Studios.

I knew I’d love Perennial after being in there for about two minutes! Seeing all the nice work space, supplies and tools was exciting but what really sold me was the console stereo! Clearly my retro-loving, thrift-shopping, dumpster-diving self was going to feel comfortable here.

Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!
Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!

At my first work session I cut up some wood for an upcoming class I’m going to be teaching on building garden pollinator houses. Then I put together a wood tray that I’ll be finishing and writing about later.

You can become a member of Perennial to access the work space and use the tools when they hold open sessions. Different levels of membership also give you discounts on classes and other events. Perennial accepts donations of materials. You can trade or purchase some of the materials for what you think is a fair market value. They also make craft kits that are for sale in the shop.

Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.
Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.

Art and crafting can often be lonely activities. Working around other artists is really healthy for social interaction and for the stimulation of being around new ideas. I’m looking forward to many happy times while I enjoy my new membership!