Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to: Upcycled Mail Organizer

I have a whole list of things that I need to make so that my new place can be more functional and homier.  This mail/misc. stuff organizer is the first project!

Here are the basic supplies
1.  Boxes in assorted sized
2.  Newspaper or magazines
3.  Mod Podge
4.  Paint Brush
5.  Grommet Setter and Grommets
6.  Glue (I used wood glue but hot glue is probably fine)
7.  Another other decorative elements you'd like to use

Once you've figured out how many "pockets" your  mail sorter will need you can start cutting them to size and glueing them together.  I had two boxes from Christmas lights and two from coffee that were perfect.  You can use bigger boxes and create pockets with pieces of cardboard (just "papier mache" them into place) if you don't have perfectly sized smaller boxers. 

Use binder clamps to hold the boxes while the glue dries
Once your sorter is completely assembled you can start to add your newspaper strips with Mod Podge.  Start with all the seams to make sure you cover them completely.  Note that I added a back piece to my sorter to easily add grommets to the top for hanging and a place to hang my keys underneath.

Cover your structure completely.  You'll question the stability of your mail sorter as it may feel a little flimsy when wet.  But once everything is dry, I think you'll be pretty confident in the sturdiness of the final product.

Now comes the fun part, decorate as you wish.  I painted mine white to match the trim in my kitchen, added little butterfly grommets to reinforce the area that would hang from the nails, a flower that I made from an Arizona Tea can and even added some old knobs (for my keys) that I removed from a set of indoor shutters that I used in another project. 

Only one thing left to do....

Thursday, February 23, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Last Friday readers were given the opportunity to win a really cool upcycled bag from Bea Unique Designs and today we have a winner. says that the winning number belongs to Christine Avila.  Congratulations!

If you haven't visited yet, be sure to drop by Bea Unique Designs' Etsy shop to check out all the upcycled goodies!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Green Up Your Next Move

As I look around my new digs in Connecticut, I can't help but compare it too all of my past moves...and there have been many!  This time around I found a few ways to lighten the impact of my move on the environment and my wallet.  The next time you move try a few of these suggestions to save some green.  If you have other ideas be sure to post them below.
1.  Moving Boxes/Packing Material can cost you an arm and a leg if you buy new - not to mention what that does to the environment.  But I'm happy to say I didn't pay a single penny for any of it.  Beyond what I had been squirrelling away from previous shipments, I took full advantage of Freecycle to locate more moving boxes than I even needed.

2.  Don't forget to re-Freecycle.  Many of my moving boxes originated in Puerto Rico and landed in Florida then headed to South Carolina with another family.  That's where I picked them up and took them to Connecticut and now they're being used for another local move.  Think of all the dollars and trees saved in this one chain of Freecycling!

3.  If it's broke, fix it - or repurpose it.  It's bound to happen, no matter how careful you are you're bound to have some kind of breakage.  I had a small bookshelf that wasn't very sturdy to start with and the move really did 'er in.  But instead of tossing it, I was able to salvage some of the shelves that were just the right size for one of my closets.  And what about all that fragile stuff?  I kept a bowl where I collected all of the broken glass and ceramic.  To the average Joe it looks like a bowl of broken glass but to me it's a bowl of endless possibilities.  That coffee mug with the broken handle is actually a fun pot to put a small plant in.  That gorgeous animal print glass bowl (well the pieces of it anyway) is actually several pieces of handmade jewelry (with proper filing, of course) and all those funky ceramic bits are actually the makings of a stepping stone or trivet.

4.  The only packing material that I actually paid for was tape - six rolls of it to be exact.  And, yes, I kept the cores.  They are the perfect foundation for lots of crafts, like a pin cushion or a pencil pot.

5.  The food in your cabinets often ends up falling victim to the trash as you're locking the door one last time.  I was so happy to hear that the moving company I used gives you a "food box" that you can fill with non-perishables.  On moving day they pick up the box and deliver it to local food pantries.  This is not an uncommon practice for these companies either.  If you're going it alone, why not follow that example and hand over that box to someone less fortunate - or even someone that's just plain ole convenient, it'll keep it from the landfill!

Well, I'm off to craft with all my broken stuff.  Wish me luck!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Featured Artist: Bea Unique Designs and a Giveaway!

Today I get to introduce you to another fabulous upcycler and give you the chance to win a fabulous upcycled tote bag. Jennifer's shop, Bea Unique Designs was opened just under a year ago and hosts a wide range of upcycled goodies from garden art to tote bags.  How about those tote bags? Jennifer is giving away an upcycled tote bag (winners choice) to one lucky reader.  Here's the one  I love, made from a kilt:

So let's get to know a little about Jennifer and her fabulous work.

Tell us a little about your shop and your art.

Upcycled Flirty Apron
I like to upcycle items and find new uses for them. I repurpose dresses into aprons, mismatched dishes and pottery become funky yard art and whimsical cake stands and skirts are transformed into reusable tote bags.

When did you start playing with trash?

For as long as I can remember I have always had a creative streak and seen things differently. I tend to be an ‘organized hoarder.’  My Grandmother Beatrice never threw a scrap of fabric away and always found another use for things. She was extremely organized and would label each piece of fabric or lace trim. She taught me how to sew and I loved her dearly, that is why I named my shop after her, Bea Unique Designs.

Upcycled Cake Plate
Who are the important folks in your life?

My son is the light of my life and such a great kid! He is one of the best human beings I have ever met and can make me laugh more than anyone else! My family and friends keep me motivated and my lovely niece Kylie that models my items for my site!

Where do you take your inspiration from?

Inspiration strikes me at the strangest times, in the grocery store or sometimes in the middle of the night. I have learned to keep a note pad with me at all times and one by my bed. I also get inspired by friends that share the same vision, like my friend Val!

Tea Cup Yard Art/Bird Feeder
What other passions do you have in life?

I have a passion for ALL music and I love my charity & volunteer work! It’s all about giving back!

What do you want readers to know about you or your art?

I put my heart and soul into everything item. I only create what I LOVE! I just want people to have different and unique items for themselves, their home and their yard!

Upcycled Tea Towels
Now back to that generous giveaway!  It's easy to enter and you can enter multiple times.  Simply write a separate comment for each of the actions you take below:

1.  Tweet this article and be sure to include the tag @Upcycled_Stuff
2.  Follow Bea Unique Designs on Facebook
3.  Visit Bea Unique Designs on Etsy and tell us what your favorite item is below

On Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 6 pm EST we'll toss all the entries into a random number generator to determine the winner.  Good luck!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Upcycled Valentines Made from Newspaper

I recently started playing with paper-making from old paper. I haven't perfected it yet but I did come up with a fun way for the kids (or adults) to make their own Valentine's Day treats that is sure to keep them busy for the next couple of days.  So gather your supplies and get started today! 

Here's what you'll need:

Newspaper - sheets and shredded
Mixing bowl
Mesh-like material - I used a piece of screen from an old door but cheesecloth should work to
Mod Podge
Paint and brush
Embroidery floss and sew needle (optional)
And, of course, your favorite sweet treat.

I used a pretty readily available paper-making recipe that I found online as my base.  Mix 2 cups of torn newspaper with 4 cups of hot water in a blender to make your base.  Then dump it into your mixing bowl with about 1/2 Cup of Mod Podge:

This is the fun part - take both hands and submerge them in the slurry mixing it until the Mod Podge is fully incorporated....okay you could actually use a spoon to mix it, but where's the fun in that?  If you are making a lot of valentines you can add as many batches to the bowl as you need just remember to increase the amount of Mod Podge too.

Now scoop a bunch of pulp in your hands and gently squeeze some of the water over the bowl but don't remove all the water as you'll need to keep some to help the binding process once you shape your paper.  Place your partially squeezed pulp onto your screen (which should be lined on the underside with several layers of newspaper.

You can shape the mound however you'd like, in one large sheet that you can cut up later or in individual sheets that won't need any further reshaping.  Now take several more sheets of newspaper and lay it on top of the pulp and apply some pressure.  You can use a rolling pin or put a block of wood on top and let the kids stand on it (BUT NOT ON YOUR CARPET), the more pressure you apply the thinner your paper will be.  As you push on the pulp, water will gush out of the edges and the pulp will begin to bind and form your paper.

You can leave the sheets of paper to dry for 24 hours as is or you can cut shapes from your pulp.

If you choose to cut shapes, you can use a cookie cutter to outline your shapes but the fibers are too densely packed at this stage for it to cut all the way through.  You'll need to use an exacto or other sharp knife.  OR if you're paper is thin enough you can wait until the paper has dried and simply use a pair of scissors.  I chose to keep my valentine's pretty thick and I really like the organic looking edges.

Now just let them dry for at least 24 hours (longer if they are thick) and then paint and decorate as you desire.  You can see on this one that I cross-stitched and xo with some embroidery floss.  (Not recommended for small children - and the thicker paper takes some work to get the needle through).

The chocolate kiss is attached with a simple glue dot.  Of course you can snazz that up by threading a piece of floss through the paper and tying a piece of candy in place but I still recommend a glue dot if the kids are taking these to school to avoid losing the candies.

Happy Hearts Day!

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