Monday, December 24, 2012

And To All a Good Night!

If I had just one wish, it would be that all families, all around the world could have this one day to celebrate each other.  In the light of recent events, I know this won't be possible.  For the families struggling to piece their homes back together after Superstorm Sandy swept them away and the entire community experiencing the grief left in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I will keep each of you in my thoughts this year. 

In the coming year, I call on all of my readers to honor the strength shown by those who are suffering in my home state of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and beyond by sharing a little more of yourselves.  Give to others, be kind to one another and the earth and celebrate your loved ones every chance you get.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and brightest of New Years. Thank you for following me on my journey this year, I look forward to another adventurous year of upcycling with you in 2013!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Menu Board from a Cabinet Door

Last month I posted my first blog piece to the Eco-Etsy blog called A Thanksgiving Feast Fit for a Bird.  For those of you not familiar with Eco-Etsy, it is a group of Etsy artists who products are made with the environment in mind.  I'm happy to say that this month, and once a month from here on, I will be posting under the Green Living section of the blog.  This month's feature shows readers how to turn an old kitchen cabinet door into a menu board for the holiday table.  Here's a sneak peek:

Be sure to visit the Eco-Etsy blog for a step by step tutorial.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Make a Sweater Dress for Your Dog ... From Your Old Sweater!

Today Miss Bella is modeling a very eco-chic sweater dress that has taken a bit of a walk on the wild side.  This mint green dress was fashioned from the sleeve of an old sweater and embellished with a zebra striped ruffle.  It's the party dress that every girl needs this holiday season.  Here's how to get yours...well MAKE yours:

First gather your supplies:
  • Old Sweater
  • Something to sew with (preferably a machine)
  • Scissors 
  • Ruffle Trim

First, cut off one of the sleeves of the sweater and make two arm holes.  Cut it just like I have it pictured, the extra "tail" of fabric will be used to attach your ruffle skirt.  You'll cut your arm holes both at the same time while the sleeve is folded as it is in the first picture below.  This will ensure that your arm holes are the same size...kinda.

Then zig zag stitch over your cuts to keep the seams from unraveling.  It's not an easy feat and if you tug too much as your sweater feeds under the sewing machine foot you'll have some wonky looking armholes!!  Not that I know from experience or anything...

Now for the cutie patootie butt ruffle! Start at the bottom of your sweater dress and pinned down (then stitch) a length of ruffle into place.  Move up a bit and do another ruffle slightly overlapping the first, then another and another.  Do as many as you like, I ended on the fourth length of ruffle.

So what do you think?  Very eco-chic, adorable and simplish, right?

Totally Tutorials Blog

Friday, November 30, 2012

How Many Christmas Words in a Scrabble Game?

So just how many Christmas words can you get from a Scrabble game?  Really, I don't know the answer to that question.  You see, in case you haven't noticed, I'm an upcycler.  That means that when I purchased my Scrabble game it was from a yard sale.  The sale came with a comment something similar to this, "I'm not sure all the pieces are there...."  Unlike most people who spend their hard earned cash on board games, this was music to my ears!  "I'll take it!" 

So, I set off to make some ornaments with my Scrabble game.  You've seen the ones where they put the letters in the rack and use it as part of the ornament, right?

I decided to mix things up a bit with mine.  I addition to painting the racks and using them in the ornament, I also used ribbons and other upcycled bits in them.  I'll show you mine, but as for a tutorial, if you know how to use a glue gun then it's pretty self explanatory.

I also did some with scrap pieces of ribbon and cording that have been taking up space for a couple of holiday seasons now:

Nifty right?  You could even use the letters to spell out the names of all the members of your family....pets, too.  Great opportunity to teach a spelling lesson to the younger kids in the family without them even knowing it!  The possibilities are a many! 

In all I ended up with about  15 or so ornaments from this one maybe incomplete game of Scrabble and a ton of leftover tiles with the letter I on them.  If you come up with some great Christmas words using a few Is, post below (please).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Little Relief for the Animals of Hurricane Sandy

It's been a month since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on October 29.  While humans tried to deal with the wrath of mother nature, many were left with no choice but to temporarily surrender their animals to shelters while others still where simply lost. Today, many pets are still waiting to be reunited with their families.

To help relieve a little bit of the boredom of shelter life, Etsy for Animals artists came together (virtually) over the long holiday weekend to make tug toys for three animal shelters in the hardest hit areas.  Some even donated funds which were used to purchase catnip sachets from other Etsy sellers.  Etsy for Animals is a group of dedicated artists who donate a percentage of their Etsy shop sales to the animal charities of their choosing.  My donations go to the Jane Goodall Institute but I've also donated funds for rhino conservation in the past among other charities.  This weekend I joined my EFA teammates making toys for both dogs and's my stash (oh yeah, they are all upcycled):

Let me break it down for you (and tell you how to make your own):

I started out with 25 straight braided tugs.  Easy, peasy - tie a not, braid tightly, tie a knot!  I used two materials for these toys; fleece and T-shirts.  I didn't pay a penny for the fleece, they were all scraps of binding (the part of the fleece that is folded over and sewn like a hem, making it useless in your projects).  The T-shirts were all from the Goodwill Clearance Center.  They charge by the pound and on Sundays everything is half off.  The T-shirts work out to be about a quarter a piece.  Depending on the size you can get one or two tug toys from each shirt.  You can see the Etsy for Animals T-shirt Tug Toy tutorial here.

I sent another fifteen of these fun round ones that are also made from scrap fleece.  They are essentially the same as the straight braided tugs with a couple of differences:

1.  Tie your first knot loosely
2.  When you're done braiding, untie the first knot and tie the two ends together

And finally, we can't forget the kitties!  I accidentally discovered that my cats went nuts for the knots!  Frustration had me cutting some of the knots off of the straight braided tugs and as they flew across the room the cats hauled bootie after them.  It was quite a spectacle!  So I took more fleece scraps that weren't long enough to braid and tied them into super tight knots.  Then I just trimmed one of the ends off.  I managed to make 30 of these from the tiny scraps that I had left over. And, yes, I found an I {heart} NY T-shirt at Goodwill that I had to turn into a drawstring pouch for all those kittie knots.

In all I spent less than $5 to make 70 cat and dog toys to send to NY, shipping was my largest expenditure.  So, I hope that encourages you take a few tips from this post and make some toys for your local shelter this holiday season (and beyond).  It's an easy project for the kids and a great way to reinforce the spirit of the season.  Not to mention, shelters are always in need!

To learn more about the other artists who donated to this Operation Chew Toy, visit the Etsy for Animals website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Window Screens Turned Glittery Tree Ornaments

When I was a child it was tradition to set up the Christmas tree on the weekend of Thanksgiving, usually Saturday.  With Elvis Presley's greatest Christmas hits playing in the background, we three kids waited patiently for dad to wrap the strands of lights around the tree.  Once he was out of the way, it was a dash to the tree with one ornament at a time as mom handed them off to us.  Once we had loaded up the tree dad would put the angel on top and we'd admire our handiwork, albeit a bit lopsided.  It was also tradition for mom and dad to redistribute nearly every ornament on the tree once we were in bed.

As an adult, I typically maintain the tradition of erecting the tree over Thanksgiving weekend.  But I have, of course, added a tradition or two of my own.  That includes a new ornament each year to add to my tree.  This year I made a new set of ornaments and will forgo the purchase of a new one.  Are you ready for some Christmas tree cuteness made from old window screens?

I started out making these star shaped ornaments and then had a request for a large tree topper shaped like a dog bone...for a "certain someones" pet shop (MOM).

So I did that too!

And then thought why not little dog bone ornaments - which of course I had to personalized!

Want to make some for yourself?  Check out the video tutorial that I did for the star shaped ornaments.  Just want some to show up in your mailbox?  You can do that too!  You'll notice that I didn't just stop at stars and bones....

Did you put your tree up this weekend?

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Little Blog Gets a Leibster Award

It was my birthday.  My 40th. Last Week.  I received the most fabulous gift from Aubrey at Project Lovegood, a Liebster Blog Award!  The Liebster Blog Award is akin to the SAG awards without the gilded (and naked) statuette.  It's an award selected by one of your peers to recognize bloggers with less than 200 followers.   It's not a Nobel Peace Prize by any stretch of the imagination but in my little world it meant a great deal, brought a little tear to my eye in fact.

But it doesn't come without a little bit of work to be done.  Here are the rules:

  • Post 11 random things about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions from the nominator (on your blog for all the world to see)
  • Nominate 11 other small bloggers 
  • Write 11 questions for your nominees to answer

That, my friends, is a lot of writing.  But I like awards so let's get to it!!

11 Random Things About Me

1.  I used to work for Hugh Hefner (I'll let you think about that one for a while before I tell you in what capacity).
2.  I involuntarily turn bright red when I try to "stretch the truth" so lying about anything really isn't an option.
3.  I really don't like writing...hmmm
4.  I own the movies Ghost and Dirty Dancing (on VHS) but every time either is on television, I have to watch them. I guess maybe #4 should have been, "I have a thing for Patrick Swayze."
5.  I tend to root for the underdog.
6.  I've lived in 7 states and only one of them was inland.  And, two of them I've left and come back to later on.
7.  I {heart} animals of all kinds and YES I scoop up spiders in my home with my bare hands to be returned to the "WILD"
8.  I'm one of those gals that you can buy a power tool for at Christmas time and she'll actually appreciate it!
9.  I have zero patience.  Although....have you seen all those teeny tiny paper beads that I've rolled?
10.  I'm happiest when I'm playing with trash!
11.  I've rescued too many animals in my day...wait, what I meant to say is that I've kept too many of the animals that I rescued.  Of course I wouldn't trade a single one of them for anything.

Questions from Aubrey

1.  Who is your favorite writer (of a book, movie, play, etc) and why? Well, much like writing I'm not a huge fan of reading.  Mostly because my mind wanders while I read and then I have to start all over again!  But anything by Jane Goodall tends to keep my attention.  Never had a childhood hero, but as an adult - SHE is it!
2.  What is a moment when you were left speechless?  Ask anyone who knows me and they might say that's not possible!  But make me mad and you'll see speechless...cold, hard silent treatment! (I just know Aubrey was fishing for something else with that question)
3.  What was the last movie you watched and what did you think of it?  Funny story.  Remember I said that I used to work for Hugh Hefner?  Well that was in 2005-2006.  During the Christmas that I worked at the Playboy Mansion the staff were all gifted with a dozen super nice movie passes, the kind with no "blackout dates" and no expiration dates.  Thank God, because I still have a few of those passes!  So to get to the point, I don't remember.  Unless you count the last time I saw Dirty Dancing on television. Does that count?
4.  What is your favorite blog post (that I've written)?  I'm going to have to agree with readers on this one, my Upcycled Herb Garden made from soup cans.  It's been my most popular post and I love the finished project. Not to mention I was able to get a great photo of the finished project and that typically NEVER happens.
5.  What do you think is the most important thing to being a blogger?  For me, it's all about preserving our natural resources.  Look, I don't make a penny blogging.  In fact, I spend money on materials for tutorials that don't every turn into product on my Etsy shop shelves, so it actually costs me money.  But I feel like if I can cause that one light bulb moment that makes someone else truly reduce, reuse, UPcycle, recycle then I've done my job.  I once heard it said about volunteer work that volunteering is the rent we pay for living on this earth.  So blogging is like my rent...only slightly less painful than writing out that check every month.
6.  What was your favorite class in high school/college/or elsewhere?  Zoology, when I got to college.  I failed it, literally failed it in high school.
7.  When I say the word "simplicity" what image or thought comes to mind?  A great big giant open field of wheat...and daisies.  Really, I don't know why but that's what I see.
8.  What is something you want to learn before the year ends?  How to master Photoshop!!  Okay maybe not master it but get a good handle on it anyway.
9.  What is something that you do every day that most other people don't?  That's easy, collect other people's trash.  I don't care where I am someone always wants to give me their garbage coupled with the question, "Can you do something with this?"
10. What is something you want to DIY but are questioning if you can, if you have the tools or the know how?  Solar something or another.  I've been working on a few things that require a solar power source.  I'm not there yet, but I'm not giving up!!
11.  What is your favorite crafting blog?  Ugh, so hard to answer!  But I am quite partial to one of my Etsy teams blog Team Upcyclers.  While they do a lot member highlights, etc there are some great tutorials on the sight as well.  And the best part?  Everything is upcycled!

My Eleven Nominees

Savard Studios
Green Grandma
Green Issues
OhOh Blog
Yellow Suitcase Studio
Crafty Home Improvement (Mis)Adventures
Happy As A Lark
It's Sew For You
Blissful 55
Projects Around the House
Through the Looking Glass

My Eleven Questions for Them

  1. What is your favorite topic to blog about?
  2. Tell us what your favorite holiday is and why?
  3. What/Who inspires your creativity?
  4. What did you want to be when you grew up? How'd that work out for ya?
  5. What's been your biggest challenge about blogging?
  6. Tell us about a volunteer (or pay-it-forward) experience that moved you?
  7. Your shipwrecked on a deserted island.  What three crafting tools are must haves for getting out alive?
  8. What are you asking Santa for this year?
  9. Dogs or cats?
  10. What was your most disastrous craft experiment?
  11. When you're not blogging or crafting where will we find you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My First Crack at Homemade Chalkboard Paint

Oh my gosh, I love chalkboard paint!  The world would be a much brighter place if everything was covered with it, don't you agree?  Well, I finally took my first stab at making my own chalkboard paint with some leftover paint that I picked up on a Freecycle.  This could turn out to be a very dangerous thing and it could be my answer to how to upcycle everything....just slap a coat of chalkboard paint on that old couch, no problem!

But seriously, I've had this recipe pinned on one of my Pinterest boards forever and have been dying to try it out.  So I did and yeah, it actually worked!

I used the shop walls of my mom and dads pet shop for this little experiment.  They didn't do any kind of repainting when they moved in and had inherited these little circles all over the wall.  Which, as a side note, is the reason that you can NOT hold me accountable for the less than perfect circles.  I only colored inside the lines with my homemade chalkboard paint.

This was an easy peasy project that added just the right amount of color to the walls.  And if you want to give it a try all you have to do is mix 2 tablespoons of dry non-sanded grout to 2 cups of ANY COLOR PAINT YOU DARN WELL PLEASE! Then start painting.  That's it!  If you're going to give it a go there are two things that tripped me up, caused concern and made me wonder if "I was doing it right:"

1.  ALL of the dry non-sanded grout at the hardware store made a point of calling out that it was "dry non-sanded grout with polymer." Uh, polymer?  Did that matter?  Nope not a bit.

2.  The recipe that I pinned said to make sure there are no lumps in your paint/grout mixture.  It doesn't take but a minute to blend up a small batch and remove the big clumps.  But your mixture will look grainy and that's okay.  When you start painting you'll see that grainy paint smooth out under the weight of your brush...which by the way, I recommend a foam brush so that you won't see brushstrokes.

Cute, right?  So what are you waiting for?  Go!  Go upcycle with a couple coats of chalkboard paint and if you need inspiration hop over to Pinterest and search "chalkboard paint" won't be disappointed!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just How Many Pumpkins CAN You Get From a Sweater?

Have you seen those cutie patootie sweater pumpkins rolling around Pinterest?  Well I have and I love 'em.  So I decided to give it a go.  Look at how cute they are:

I decided to go nuts with this sweater, chopping off any useable tube shaped area I could find.  This one sweater yielded SIX pumpkins; one big one from the main part of the sweater (armpit to the waist), two from each sleeve and a bonus one from the turtle neck area of the sweater.

I was pulling the final pieces of this project together while I had the TV on last night.  There was a new show on called Extreme Cheapskates and I had to laugh because I didn't pay a penny for anything to make these pumpkins.  Of course, I do it for the environment and not the pennies, but still I had to chuckle.

So, how did I do it?  I started with this fabulous no-sew tutorial from the Country Chic Cottage. I did make a couple of adjustments to suit my needs but here's how I spent ZERO dollars and ZERO cents:

-  Used an old sweater that was sitting in the back of my closet since who knows when
-  Used fishing string to "sew" with, I always have that laying around for drying my paper beads
-  Grabbed a few corks for the stems from the collection that my sister-in-law gave me 
-  Created leaves from corn husks that I actually dried from the summers BBQs
-  Finally tore apart those lumpy, bumpy pillows and reused the stuffing (you know I saved the pretty fabric for later use, too)

And there you have it - a cheap and easy yet super cute way to decorate the garden, porch or kitchen table for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What a Fabulous Sewing Month

September was a fabulous month for sewing some upcycled goodness, wasn't it?  We had eight fabulous entries into two separate contests.  Thankfully, I didn't have to choose the winners because it was a tough one....well, two.  But in the end our two winners were:

Punky Trash Goddess from Annie

Fold 'n Go Tote from Melissa

All I have to say to my readers is that you are SO lucky that I didn't attempt to post my own projects for this month-long celebration of  sewing because, well, I just don't enjoy it.  Don't enjoy it so much that I can't even bring myself to hem a pair of curtains that separate my craft room space from the rest of the basement.  Not even after I tore the curtain rod hardware out of the wall TWICE because I stepped on all the extra fabric that was pooling up on the floor.

So last week, just as I was posting the last project, I got all tangled up in the fabric again.  I must have done a good job reinstalling the hardware last time because here's what happened this time:

So embarrassing!  But a great reminder to be grateful for all those who participated.

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