Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Little Break From the Norm...

This is a little something for all you bloggers out there who are working your fingers to the bone and ask for nothing much in return.  It's not about upcycling, it's not about crafting or even about the environment.  This about intellectual property and your right to keep what's yours, yours!  Do I sound angry?  That's because I am!

I was reading another blog that showed you how to do a reverse image search on Google.  Great for seeing where your pictures are out there in cyber space and to figure out where an image originated.  If you don't already know how to do a reverse image search, you need to check out this post by Kevin and Amanda.  Let me share what I learned when I searched just ONE of my images.

If you've been following along for a while you might remember this post back in May 2011:
Soup Can Herb Garden
When I did a reverse image search for this photo, more than 150 links to the photo popped up, mostly Pinterest pages.  I also found this oddly familiar photo (which I will refrain from "properly" crediting!)


Wait! What?  No way was that a coincidence!  That's MY old house!  And MY handwriting!  And MY picture!  The caption under the photo credits yet another blog.  But when I visited that site, they had my original unedited photo with proper link backs clearly written above the photo.  Hmmmm....This offending blogger even went on to post instructions on how to make this simple upcycled herb garden.  But, guess what?  She got it wrong and she clearly didn't make this!

Maybe I'm being a little sensitive, but it was the blog post that I see as the post that gave me my "first big break."  I'd been quietly blogging for about five months when I posted this tutorial and almost immediately it was picked up by Apartment Therapy.  Big deal for me then, still would be today! It drove more traffic to my site than I'd seen in the five previous months combined.  And when Pinterest took off, well, talk about traffic!  This one post has generated eight times the traffic of my second most popular post and about 25 times the average post.  It continues to be one of my top five most popular posts each and every week...sorry, geeked out for a minute.  Did I mention my last job was as a research analyst for an internet technology company?  I have a thing for numbers, especially as it relates to web  traffic.

Anyway, back to the point of this rant.  I don't like to rant.  But it really yanks my chain when I think about the hours and sometimes MORE hours (not to mention the money) that I put into my tutorials that someone would steal a picture, photoshop one of the colors and "fake" a tutorial.  Of course, this version is all over Pinterest, linking back to her site.  Any idea how much traffic I lost?!  I do, but I won't bore you with the details.  So, breeeeeeeathing deeeeeeeply and moving on. Rant done!  Thanks for listening.

Now I'm off to add one of those stupid disclaimers to my sidebar that I never thought I'd have to do!  Grrrrr.

Back to regularly scheduled programing tomorrow with another Fast Fix Friday tid bit that I'm so excited to share.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fast Fix Friday: Cool Chalkboard Drawing that Anyone Can Do!

So you love the look of chalkboard paint but not sure your artistic skills are up to the challenge of decorating with it?  Have I got the fast and easy fix for you!  Now I know not all chalkboard is meant to be beautifully decorated, it's mostly meant to be functional.  But when you have a piece of "junk" that you're not sure what else do with, turning it into easy art may just be the thing.

Today I'm using the front of an old drawer that I picked up at my local reStore for a buck, they will hang as isle markers in my parent's pet shop.  Once you've sanded, primed and painted your piece, go online and search out pictures and clip art that you love, you can even experiment with fancy fonts. Please be sure that you aren't infringing on any copyright laws. You can use a basic word processing program to resize your graphics to whatever size you need.  I'm using a couple of sheets of paper to get them to the right size for my "canvas."

Turn the page over and cover the design area with chalk.  It doesn't have to be a thick layer, just use the side of your chalk.

Now place the paper, chalk side down, on your chalkboard in the location you wish to drawn.  With pencil, pen or stylus, trace over the drawing.

When you lift the paper you'll have the perfect template to work from.  Just go back over the tracing and color it in to your liking.

Now go...go cover the world with chalkboard paint!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


If you're not already a fan of thrift store shopping, I'm about to make you one.  One of my recent thrift store hauls included all of this:

As the title of this blog post might suggest, I shelled out only $14.95 for all of this "stuff."  Now you have to be quite patient and know where to go at the right time to pay that little.  Don't worry, I'll tell you my secrets.  First let's break it down and see how all of this material will be repurposed.

Baskets become great tabletop displays at craft fairs. It seems you can never have enough baskets so I snatch 'em up every time I find them in good condition.  If I don't use them, I know someone who will.

Three dozen T-shirts become dozens of dog tug toys.  Another half dozen T-shirts become cute little drawstring bags like the one I sent off to a New York pet shelter for animals displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

Not to mention the fact that I don't use the sleeves for either of these projects so I still have the materials for making about 80 tiny drawstring bags.  They are perfect for gift giving or storing small items in when traveling and even for making refillable sachets.  But more on that when I get around to using them.

I love to use fleece pullovers and striped polo shirts when I make pet beds.

As for the dirty old cookie sheet, well I painted that with chalkboard paint and made a magnetic tabletop display for some bottle cap jewelry that I made for dogs....yep, dogs!  It lives at my parent's pet shop now.  It really looked good once I covered the years of abuse it took in its past life.

I used the fat end of that tie to make myself a cover for my iPhone.  With the skinny end, I made a cuff bracelet.  There's an excellent tutorial over on the Eco-Etsy blog.  The denim has so many uses, I usually pick up a few pairs of jeans whenever I hit the thrift stores.  And the corduroy was bought specifically for the new wallet/purse organizer I want to make.

Phew!  I think I got it all.  Is your mind burning up with ideas now?  I hope so, because now I'm going to share my secrets for scoring some major craft material at thrift stores.

Every thrift store is different, even those with the same name will operate differently depending on where you are.  You'd be wise to take your time and get to know your local shops...all of them.  Here are somethings to be aware of:

  1. Some shops date an item right on the price tag, after 30 days they'll offer up to 50% off if it hasn't sold.
  2. Likewise some stores will color code price tags and every week offer a certain color tag at huge discounts.  Sometimes the discount only applies to clothing and other times it's the whole store.
  3. Look for Clearance Centers.  There are several Goodwill stores in my immediate area that I frequent.  But on Sundays I head to the local Goodwill clearance center, it's where everything goes to die.  Monday - Saturday, you pay $1.25 per pound and on Sundays it's half price.  Now clearance centers aren't for the faint of heart or those who expect to run in and right out again.  There are no shelves, no hangers, no common courtesy!  You walk into isle after isle of giant 6' bins on wheels heaped with STUFF!  And you have to pick through it all.  There is no rhyme or reason to it, baby clothes mixed in with adults and toys mixed in with housewares.  Honestly, if I were thrifting for clothes in my size, I couldn't do it.  I don't have the patience for it.  But for upcycling, it's perfect!
  4. Pay attention to holiday sales.  While most thrift stores are closed on major holidays (as well they should be) some will offer up to half off the store on holidays like President's Day.
  5. Does your shop offer a discount card?  In Connecticut Goodwill stores you can present one of those discount cards (just like the one's offered by grocery stores) for 5% off your purchase of $20 or more.  Only full priced merchandise counts toward the $20, 1/2 price merchandise isn't included. Upstate South Carolina Goodwill stores don't accept the cards.
Well, that's what I know.  Do you have any tips to share?  I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIY Spoon Pendant

As first Dremel DIY project.  I'll show you how I made these spoon pendants and link nearly every step to a YouTube video if you need to see it done:


Junkr at <3

First a disclaimer:  I am not an expert just an avid DIYer and upcycler.  Please do your research before attempting this project on your own.  And be safe!

So, here's what you'll need (and if you're a little lost in the tool isle, check out the "I Recommend" widget at the bottom of this post for up close pictures and product descriptions):

1.  Dremel 200-1/21 Two-Speed Rotary Tool Kit  or other Dremel model
2.  Cutting Wheel for hardened metals
3.  2 Tungsten Carbide Cutters - One with a pointed tip (I'm using part #9910) and one larger round bit  (I'm using part #9901).  These range from $8-$9 a piece so if you'd like to save a bit of cash you can substitute the pointed tip cutter for a drill if you have a bit made for cutting metal.
4.  Silicone Carbide Grinding Stone made for metal (I'm using part #84922).  If you do not wish to add texture to your final piece and have a metal file on hand, you can forgo this part.
5.  Sharpie
6.  Old spoon
7.  Clamp
8.  Needle-Nose Pliers (I'll be using two pairs to make the bale)
9.  Hammer
10. Anvil
11. Letter Stamping Kit
12. SAFETY GLASSES. No questions asked.
13. Highly recommended: work gloves, long sleeves, closed-toe shoes, apron.  WHY?  There will be itsy bitsy pieces of metal everywhere and they will inject themselves into your skin like slivers...only worse.

I like to start by flattening and hand stamping any lettering into my spoon.  I find that the place I'm most likely to screw up is the hand stamping step, so I'd rather know that before I do all of the other work.

Place the bowl of the spoon upside down on your anvil and hammer the heck out of it.  You might have to flip it over and hammer the front side a bit more (especially near the handle) to flatten it.

With your Sharpie, mark out the design on your spoon and drawn a couple of guide lines for your letters.  I like to mark the center and start stamping from the center out, otherwise I can't get a little off track. 

Then start stamping your letters into place.  Since we'll be adding a texture, essentially grinding away layers of metal, I try to give it at least 10 good wacks of the hammer - PLEASE BE MINDFUL of your fingers.  You can see this demonstrated in this video.

Now you can cut the handle from your spoon using a cutting wheel, be sure to leave a few inches for the bale. I highly recommend clamping the spoon to a workbench so that you can use two hands to steady your Dremel.  Don't be scared:  sparks will fly during this step, they are supposed to.  But if too many are flying, checking your applied pressure.  The tool should be doing the work, not you.  *NOTE:  in all of the steps that require the use of the Dremel I am using the speed setting "High".  Please consult your owner's manual to see what the proper setting is for your model.  Here's the video demo

Time to start carving.  If you have drill bits meant for metal, I do suggest creating your "pilot" hole with your drill.  You'll have more control as you drill and it won't jump off course so much. So, pick a spot and drill.  Or grab your pointed tungsten carbide cutter and start grinding the metal away with your Dremel until you have a hole big enough to fit the diameter of your round cutter.  Using the side of your cutter, slowly eat away at the design that you drew in.  It's important to remember not to apply to much pressure as you're shaving the metal or you could snap the cutter.  You can see me do both of these steps here.

Almost there!  Before you move onto the grinding step, fill in all of your hand stamped letters with a Sharpie.  Your letters should NOT be silver as in the picture above.  Okay, grab your grinding stone and slide it back and forth across all of the cuts of your design and the rough edge that remains from where you removed the handle.  Do so until all of the edges are smooth.  Then lay the stone flat on the surface of your piece and completely cover the surface, front and back, with texture.  This will also remove the unwanted Sharpie markings on the spoon. Wanna see me demonstrate?

NOTE:  I usually perform both of these tasks while holding the spoon in my hands, but a Dremel, a spoon and a camera all needing to be held at the same time doesn't work with only two hands.  So, hold it if you choose, but be cautious not to grind your finger.  I can't imagine that it feels good.

And finally, you'll need a bale to hang your pendant.  This step only requires two needle nose pliers and is better left to video.

Yep, I think that does longest post EVER.  I think so anyways.  I'm exhausted how about you?  One last look:

Got questions? Suggestions?  Post 'em below.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Welcome to Fast Fix Fridays: How to Fill a Hole in Wood

Fridays are a great day for short, sweet and to the point aren't they?  I think so too.  So without further ado, here's a quick tip for fixing up an old piece of wood to look like new.  I use this technique to fill in screw holes on the underside of coffee tables when I flip them over to use as pet beds fill holes left by handles on drawer fronts that I turn into chalkboard signs

Fronts of old drawers used as isle markers at mom's pet shop

and to just do plain old repairs when chunks go missing from old furniture and the like.

Here's what you'll need:

1.  Water Putty - I'm using Durham's, but any will do
2.  Water - Less than a teaspoon or so for one hole
3.   Something to mix in - I'm using a plastic cup
4.   Something to stir with - I'm using a scrap piece of a wooden dowel
5.   Something with a flat edge to smooth out the putty - if you don't have a putty knife you can use a plastic knife or even the side of a spent gift card

A word of caution:  This stuff dries fast!  You only want to make as much as you can apply in ten minutes.  Otherwise you'll be throwing a lot of it a away.  

In your mixing cup add a small amount of water putty (it's in powder form) with a small amount of water and stir.  The instructions tell you that you want to add equal parts based on WEIGHT not volume.  I don't weigh it, I wing it.  I add just enough water to get this consistency:

If it's too runny it'll end up all over your project, too dry it'll crumble and require a lot of sanding before you paint over it and you'll probably need to reapply.

Now it's ready to use!  Simply fill your hole and level the surface with your straight-edged implement.  Let it dry completely (about 30 minutes depending on the size of the hole), sand it smooth and paint.


If you used a disposable plastic cup for mixing, cleanup is a cinch and NOT because you can simply throw the cup away either.   Wait for the leftover putty to harden and squeeze the lower sides of your cup.  Watch the hardened putty just crumble to pieces into your cup.  Dump it and reuse your cup for the next hole filling project!  You'll want to wipe the excess off your other instruments right away though, while it's still wet and then rinse it clean.

Now that you know this little secret, what will you rescue from hitting the landfill?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Good Times?

That's right folks, we're about to kick things up a notch! I got a Dremel for Christmas and I'm proud to say that I now know how to use it.  Okay, well, I still have a lot to learn but I'm having so much fun I just thought I needed to share it with all of you.  And I will share a new project with you each week, or thereabouts.

Wait, what?  You don't know what a Dremel is?  Well, it is only the greatest thing since sliced bread!  A Dremel is the brand name for a rotary tool, it's fabulous.  It can drill and cut through metal, engrave all kinds of stuff and is gentle enough to add fine details to a wood carver's masterpiece and even file acrylic nails (yep, it's a rotary tool that grinds down your weekly "fill").  The Dremel gets the job done by RPMs (it spins wicked fast) and not force. For a gal with nasty Carpal Tunnel Syndrome it's a God-send to not have to add so much force to the drill or jig saw.

Have I convinced you to join me on this journey yet?  Yeah?  Okay, you'll need a Dremel 200-1/21 Two-Speed Rotary Tool Kit before we get started. There are several versions of the Dremel but the 200 series is the one I have and the one I'll be using for my tutorials.  If you want  something even more wicked, check out the higher numbered series.  You'll also need safety glasses NO QUESTIONS asked.  It doesn't matter how dorky you think you look, you NEED them.  And you'll probably want some kind of protective gloves - the sparks will fly as will teeny tiny shards of metal!

While you gather your supplies, I'll leave you with a picture of the first project that I completed with my new Dremel.  It cut the handle off the spoon, carved out the heart and added a fun overall texture to the spoon.  The lettering was hand stamped, but you could engrave it with the Dremel if you've got the skill.

Junkr at <3

See you in a couple of days when I will show you how I made this necklace from a spoon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Upcycle Your Clothes into a Yo Yo Flower

Have you ever made a Yo Yo?  Who doesn't love that singular gathered round piece of scrap fabric that crafters have used in making quilts, handbags, jewelry and so much more?  The ease with which one can make these is surprising.  I popped a few of these flowers together using some old clothes/fabric scraps, vintage buttons and Starbucks straws.  I especially love the ones made from blue jeans.

Want to see how I did it?  Check out my latest YouTube video.  Not only do I show you how but you'll be treated to the chainsaw music that Chico plays while he sleeps...apparently, I'm not as entertaining as I thought.

Friday, January 11, 2013

How to Make an Upcycled Sandwich Board

Ah the wonders of chalkboard paint!  You can turn just about any piece of trash into a work of art or something that is super useful with a few strokes of a brush.  Today, I'll show you my new sandwich board that I plan to use at craft fairs this Spring.

Lovely, eh?  Want to give one a whirl for yourself?  It would make a great chalkboard for a wee little one's playroom too.  To make yours, gather up the following supplies:

  • Two kitchen cabinet doors of the same size. Habitat for Humanity's ReStore is a great source for these.
  • Chalkboard paint (you can make your own if you don't have any laying around the house - or don't feel like giving your right arm and leg for it)
  • A couple strips of fabric about an inch or two wide and 10" long.  I'm  using strips of denim from an old pair of jeans but you could use an old belt or anything that will keep the two doors from sliding all the way open
  • 4 Nails or decorative brads
  • 2 hinges (mine were still attached to the cabinets when I bought them)
  • Screwdriver and screws to fit the hinges 
My doors from ReStore
Let's start by prepping and painting  those doors.
  • Remove all the existing hardware and set it aside for later use
  • Sand the doors down so that the existing paint or finish is no longer shiny.
  • Prime both sides completely
  • Paint the front and back.   If you plan to paint a border that is not chalkboard paint like mine, I suggest you do your painting opposite the way I did it.  So start by painting the back side and the border.  Then glaze with a protective glaze.  I really like this crystal clear enamel  protective glaze, it doesn't yellow like so many others.  THEN paint out your chalkboard area (do NOT spray with the glaze).  I did the chalkboard area first and then had to cover it so I didn't accidentally coat it with glaze.
Glaze all of the non-chalkboard areas

Let your doors cure for 24 hours, then start putting everything together.
  • First line up your hinges on the back side of the doors where the top of the doors meet and mark the holes
  • Drill small pilot holes on the spots you just marked
  • Screw your hinges into place
I added a bit of purple paint to the bit of hinge that shows on the top

Now add a couple of strips of fabric with nails or decorative brads.  Once you've primed your chalkboard you (or the kids) are ready to draw all over it.

To prime your new chalkboard: Rub the side of a piece of chalk all over the board, make sure you cover it completely.  Erase it and you're chalkboard is now ready.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Monthly Eco Etsy Post: How to Make a Denim Bag

It's time again for my monthly Eco Etsy blog post.  Be sure to swing by and see how you can turn an ordinary pair of jeans into a fabulous little tote...oh yeah, it's super simple!  I think super simple is going to be my theme this year!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Pet Pillow From Your Bathrobe

Are you one of those people who asks for a new bathrobe every year for Christmas?  I’m not, but my mother is.  She is seriously disappointed when one of us kids doesn’t get her one.   Sorry mom we were all sick of it this year!  At any rate, if you now have a slightly used robe that was replaced with a fuzzy new one this Christmas, don’t toss that old one!  They make super simple and fabulously cozy pet pillows.  I picked up several thrifted robes in an effort to coax the cats out of bed at night, placing several cozy alternatives all around the bedroom.

This is another one of those silly posts that really doesn’t warrant a full blown tutorial.  If you can sew three straight lines (heck they don’t even have to be straight, your pet doesn’t care…really) then you can make this pouf!  So, in a nutshell:
  1.  Cut the bathrobe around the girth just under the armpits
  2.  Turn the right sides together and sew the original robe opening shut
  3. Now sew the remaining openings shut (two sides), with the exception of a few inches on one of the sides to enable you to stuff the pillow
  4. Pull the right sides of the fabric out of the small opening so that the right sides are now facing out and over stuff that puppy!  Yes you’ll want to overstuff it because it’ll flatten pretty significantly in a couple of days’ time
  5. Hand-stitch the small opening shut and voila!  El cheapo Upcycled pet pillow sure to keep ‘em warm and cozy all winter long.
I chose to keep the pockets intact on this pillow.  After sneaking some catnip into the pocket opening, this was the reaction from Angel and Destiny:

Green it up even more:  Be on the lookout for fabric and foam outlet stores where you can pick up “non-virgin” poly fill.  This is essentially brand new stuffing but when the factory makes pillow forms and the like, they toss all the mistakes into a shredder, pillow cover and all.  You can get enormous bags of the stuffing for about 40% off what you’d pay for the virgin stuff.    If there weren’t a market for this material, it would end up in the dumpster. 

As for getting the cats off the bed at night….let’s just say that’s a work in progress.  But at least they are having some fun during the day!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Popular Pin: Epic Fail

If you listen closely, you can hear the cumulative sigh of relief all around you.  The hectic holiday season is over and we all have some time to ourselves to get back into the swing of “normal” daily life.  For me that means finally getting to all those projects on my wish list….or should I say on my Pinterest boards.  If you’re on Pinterest, surely you’ve seen something similar to this one floating around:

I pinned it a while back thinking that I could use this tip to dress up a new bird feeder design that I was working on.  Much to my dismay, not only does the link not work properly, but the instructions on the pin itself don’t actually work.  Disheartened, I set out online to see what other solution I could come up with as I had gotten quite attached to my idea of a new feeder.  Oddly enough, I found many bloggers simply regurgitating the information that I already had on my pin.  I wondered if they were actually testing the final product before posting it or if they had magic ceramics and Sharpies that I could buy somewhere.

So off to Hobby Lobby for inking pens I went.  I picked up two different paint pens that are supposed to be permanent and went straight to town decorating a few random plates that I picked up while out thrifting.  I even included a plate decked out with Sharpies for the sake of comparison.  Here’s what I ended up with:

The first plate is the plate that I used Sharpies on (I was still secretly hoping that it would work and I that I had just done something wrong the first time).  On the second plate I used a paint marker from Tree House Studios that doesn’t require baking to be permanent.  And finally, the pink plate was done with a DecoArt glass paint marker.  It also required baking.

Sadly, the Sharpie plate didn’t work again.

The paint marker from Tree House Studios had a nice flow and I like the way it writes.  But it also scrubs off with a little elbow grease.  I also don’t like that the ink contains Xylol (a common, flammable ingredient in some paints and thinners) and can be harmful…even fatal…if swallowed.  So for the sake of the birds and the environment, this is not the ink for me.

Finally the DecoArt glass paint marker gave me what I was looking for.  Well, for the most part. 

I got a little impatient as I had a feeling this would be the one that would work and started scrubbing the plate only 6 hours after cooling completed.  So the first TW"eat" is slightly lighter in color than the second.  But the next morning I scrubbed my li'l heart out and viola!  It stuck.  So the ink is permanent, but it is much thinner than the other two options and tends to bleed into any little scratches on the plate.  When you’re repurposing someone’s dinner plates you can imagine the tiny scratches on the surface that you’d never notice otherwise.  So I think I’ll keep working with the DecoArt markers and see if I can refine the method to avoid the bleeding.  

Have you tried any other glass/ceramic pens with any success?  If so I’d love to hear all about it!
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