Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Sew an Upcycled Newpaper Bag

I've been feeling so neglectful of my blog this last week!  I've been super busy preparing for the kick off to craft fair season, I haven't had much time for anything else.  So as I sat behind my sewing machine yesterday sewing up shopping bags for my customers, I grabbed my video camera and shot a little tutorial.

I've seen lots of tutorials on how to make bags out of newspaper but most of them use staples or glue.  Since I'm using mine to wrap customers packages, I don't want to use staples and risk them slicing open a finger and I'm terrified the glue won't hold.  Behind the sewing machine I sat trying to devise a way to make a similar bag with a boxy bottom.   Here's my 99.9999% upcycled newspaper bag (everything, except the thread is upcycled):

The upcycled "ingredients" are newspaper, cardboard food boxes, T-shirt yarn (or scrap fabric, plarn, etc).  Of course you'll also need a sewing machine and the ability to sew a straight stitch.  Check out the video tutorial...and don't be put off by the 12 minute length.  It's really a simple process but I couldn't stop yammering on and on.

How do you package up your customer purchases?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fast Fix Friday: Aging New Wood

I've never been an all or nothing kinda girl, more of a middle of the road girl, even when it comes to matters of the environment. I think that if you push people too hard, they might just run screaming in the opposite direction.  So, I approach upcycling with that in mind.  You'll find my pieces are a mix of old and new that will divert waste from the landfill while creating something that people will really enjoy using, looking at or wearing. 

Sometimes, the new parts need a little help or they just don't work.  Today, I'll show you how to age wood for those rare occasions when you need to accent old wood pieces with a little new wood.  Here's the example I'll be using today:

Coca-Cola Pet Bed
I picked up this fabulous Coca-Cola crate at a flea market and couldn't wait to turn it into a pet bed.  I always add feet to my pet beds to protect the homeowners floor from too much scratching and typically they are painted the same color as the bed.  As you can see, there was no need to paint this crate.  So the to get the feet a darker, aged color than brand spanking new?  Here's the side by side:

Enter Craftaholics Anonymous!  I found this fabulous tutorial that worked like a charm.  This very simple technique works differently on different types of wood so be sure to check out the tutorial to see how each looks.

Here's how I did mine.  I grabbed a glass jar from the recycle bin and stuffed it with a piece of steel wool.  Then filled the jar with white vinegar, enough to cover the steel wool, and let it sit covered for 24 hours. 

Then I boiled up some tea and painted it onto the wood feet, I just dunked the feet into a cup of tea.  It doesn't need to be soaked, this step is not meant to color the wood. You just want to make sure that the wood is coated with the tea's tannic acid for the next step.

Once the tea is dry, paint on the vinegar.  You'll see a little change in the color right away but it will continue to darken over the next half hour or so.

Once my bed feet had dried, I wanted to beat them up a bit more.  So I wrapped them in an old T-shirt and twisted it closed then pounded them on the driveway over and over again.  Then I took a hammer to them (while still tightly wound in the T-shirt).  I know you can't see the texture in the picture but it really does add to the overall effect making the feet look as though they've been there all along.

If this is too dark for your project you can soak your feet in tea or coffee.  It's a slight change, but sometimes that's all you need. Adding varnish or lacquer will enhance the color a little more. Like here:

Pet Bed Made from a Vintage Drawer
I just needed a little color to tone down the brightness of the feet.  I soaked the feet in coffee for about an hour and let them dry before adding lacquer to them.  Now they blend rather pop out at you.

Pet beds aren't the only use for this neat little trick.  I have a pallet or two out in the yard just begging for this treatment.  How about you?  Do you have a project that needs a little age?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Here Come the Bird Feeders

My workshop runneth over with mismatched plates, bowls and cups along with lamp bases, candle holders and other thrifty finds!  It's that time of the year to start making the bird/butterfly feeders and baths. Some of the pieces are simple match 'em up and glue 'em together pieces, like this one:

Others take a little more ingenuity to complete.  I brought home a candle holder that I thought would be the perfect fit for a few teacups and saucers.  But that didn't exactly work out the way I expected.  There was a fancy little scroll work on the candle holder that kept two of the saucers from laying flat.  So what did I do?  I pulled out my Dremel 200-1/21 Two-Speed Rotary Tool Kit, of course!  I swear I don't know how I ever lived without that thing.

And then there was plenty of room to attach the saucers after I sanded the edges and added a couple coats of paint.  I think she turned pretty neat and just the right size for a table top or a large planted container.

This year's feeders will have nothing on last year, mainly because I have the right tools now!  My next big feeder project?  This baby, here....

I'm thinking more teacups and saucers and maybe, PURPLE!  Mom and dad have a few of my pieces in their shop now, but the big debut is March 1.  Yep, less than two weeks away and I'll be at my first Farmer's Market for the season.  I can hardly wait, it's going to be a very busy season!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Monthly Eco-Etsy Post: A Custom Business Card Holder Made from a T-shirt

This month's Eco-Etsy post includes a tutorial for making your own personalized business card holder from a T-shirt.  I show readers how I made this one for mom and dad's pet shop:

In case you were wondering, YES, I did print the actual business card image right on the T-shirt.  I've been messing around with printing on fabric since Christmas but could never get the ink to stay put.  Well, I finally found a way so be sure to hop over to the Eco-Etsy blog and see how you can make your very own!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fast Fix Friday: How to Snazz Up A Boring Old Piece of Furniture

Adding texture (and a little paint) to an old piece of furniture could be a fun way to breath new life into it and maybe even make you fall in love with it all over again.  The next time you feel like redecorating don't head out to the nearest furniture store to buy new stuff.  Instead, give this method a try.

I'll show you how I added a couple of roses to this vintage drawer before I turned it into a pet bed.  But you could use this same method to dress up a plain picture frame or worn a table...or anything you can imagine.  Okay, here's the bed:

You'll need just a couple of supplies:

1.  Water Putty - See this post for mixing instructions
2.  Stencil of your choice
3.  Stencil adhesive
4.  Something to spread the putty with - a putty knife works great but so does a spent gift card

You'll want to start with a prepared surface, so make sure you've sanded it as if you were painting it.  Add the stencil adhesive to the back side of the stencil and let it dry for 10 minutes of so.  It will be tacky when "dry."

Once the adhesive is dry apply the stencil to the piece you're decorating and fill it with the putty.  You want to make sure you have a nice thick layer of putty.  Don't worry too much about smoothing it perfectly as you'll sand it before finishing.

 Let it dry completely, an hour should be plenty of time.  Then simply sand, prime and paint.  I like use two contrasting colors that will make the texture pop.

The paint will "pool up" around the edges of the putty accentuating your design. So, whatcha think?  What will you refinish?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Carve Rocks With a Dremel

Have you seen those rocks that people carve with inspirational words and then display in clear vases?  I think they're quite pretty.  Turns out there's lots of uses for those carved rocks.  You can use them in the garden:

and even turn them into jewelry:

You'll need just a few supplies for this project:

1.  Your Dremel
2.  A Silcone Carbide grinding stone, tougher rocks will need a diamond bit
3.  Stones of your choice (though you may want to test a small area to make sure they'll yield enough of a contrast in color for your design)
4.  Water for cooling your bit, safety glasses and a dust mask

You may want to consider a few optional supplies:
1.  A Dremel Flex Shaft (this allows you to use a pencil like grip while carving)
2.  Beeswax if you hope to wear your finished piece as jewelry
3.  If you'd like to turn these rocks into jewelry you'll need to drill a hole.  You can do this with your Dremel grinding stone or with your drill; a drill with a masonry bit works best.

Start by tracing your design out on the rock in pencil and insert your carving bit into your Dremel.  If you're using a diamond bit you'll need to change the collet to a smaller one to accommodate the small shaft size of the bit.

Trace over your design with either your carbide carving stone or your diamond bit until you've achieved the desired depth.  Be sure to wet the rock every 20-30 seconds or so to keep the bit cool.

Finally, if you decide to polish your rock run the polishing wheel through a hunk of beeswax and rub it back and forth on the rock.  I wouldn't typically all polish for outdoor rocks but I definitely would for a piece of jewelry.

If you need to see this done, don't worry - it's all on YouTube.

So, what will you do with your carved rocks?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fast Friday Fix: Naturally Removing Gunk

Isn't upcycling glamorous?!  It seems like we're always removing the gunk and crap of centuries baked onto our next piece of art.  Or the sticky residue that is left behind from way too many price tags at Goodwill.  Have you noticed that they price each item a minimum of three times?  No other thrift store does that....maddening.  But I digress.

Seriously?  And I removed one from the bottom!

For a time I used Goof Off.  Yep it works, but man do you get high off the fumes!  It's harsh and toxic and you don't have to use it anymore! {Insert great big smiley face here}  Here is the better solution:

CA Scents Orange Squeeze

I found this quite by accident.  I was at my local hardware store looking for something to remove wallpaper that appeared to be shellaced onto the bottom inside of a drawer that I was turning into a pet bed.  The clerk showed me the California Scents Orange Squeeze air freshener and said that the store actually writes it off and uses it to clean the sticker labels off the shelves.  So I grabbed a bottle along with some very expensive wallpaper remover and a wallpaper scoring tool, just in case.

Sadly neither solution worked on the wallpaper, I'm convinced that someone did indeed adhere it with shellac.  But I have used the Orange Squeeze on the sticky stuff that I would have previously used the Goof Off on and it works with the same ease.  Only it's better because it's made with citrus extracts and smells delicious!  Besides removing the price label gunk, I use it a lot on plastic bottles.  It removes the label glue with amazing ease and lifts the stuck on label bits with a bit of elbow grease.

Just a little tip:  This is a little oilier than Goof Off so it doesn't quickly seep under the plastic labels.  I move the bottle around a bit so the oil can make it's way underneath and give a minute before I start scrubbing.

I love it and I think I'm going to stick with it.  What secrets do you have for removing goopy gop?
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