Tag: recycle

How to Create Earring Hooks

I’ve found some cool jewelry at thrift stores in the last few weeks. This bangle was $4 and I love the distressed look of it:

Thrift Store Cuff

I also bought these chandelier/fish lure looking earrings, they make the prettiest chiming sound when they move:

Brass Dangle Earrings

Lastly the real subject of this post, I bought these vintage stone clip on earrings:

Clip on Earrings Redo

I have no idea how anyone could wear clip on earring for any amount of time, they hurt! Plenty of jewelry stores and craft stores sell earring hooks pre made and ready to use. However, if you already have the supplies it takes no time to make replacement wires.

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Brass Light Fixture Terrarium

Not so long ago I bought a Selaginella Emmeliana, even though I knew they were hard to care for. Here is a picture of one, looking deceptively low maintenance.

He lived in my bathroom where he would get plenty of humidity, and for a few weeks he looked fantastic. Then all the edges of those lush fronds began to turn brown and my research lead me to believe that he required even more humidity than I was providing. Which began my search for terrariums. Terrariums have been super popular in home decor lately. I love these geometric ones from Restoration Hardware:

Faceted Glass Terrarium

After some searching I found this post from Sugar Sugar House in which they created a terrarium out of an old brass light fixture. I went to a few local thrift stores and was lucky enough to find this one the same day:

Brass 1 fixed

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A Mini-Recycling Project: a Lone Earring Into a Ring

About 3 years ago I bought a pair of faux pearl earrings, I think from Forever 21. I only wore them a few times and then let them languish on my jewelry tray for a couple of years. A few weeks ago I rediscovered the pair, but only wore them 3 times before one fell into the furry clutches of:

So I found myself with a single pearl earring. I usually save that sort of thing for later projects, but in this case I already had the supplies on hand to turn it into a ring. This is a really really easy mini-project, scroll through the pictures below to see how I made my sad lone earring into a lovely new ring.

My ring blanks are from Joann, and so is the shell button I used on the second ring. The little pearl in the second ring is real, and came from another lone earring, it already had a flat side so no sanding was necessary. One tip I didn’t take a picture of: If it’s hard to hold onto the pearl while filing it down, wrap one end in masking tape to give yourself something to hold onto. I love my new ring, I’ve been wearing it all the time.

Tips for Sewing with Leather

My leather handbag has been coming along, but slowly. For my first foray into sewing with leather, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well it’s gone. I have already deviated from my original design a bit. I find it so hard not to experiment and change patterns during construction, whether they’re my own or not!

So far I’ve got the straps finished:

I’m still figuring out my flap design, but all the pattern pieces are cut out. I’m hoping to finish it this week, fingers crossed. In the meantime, I hope you all have been searching for your own leather jackets to cut up! Leather isn’t nearly as scary as it seems.

For anyone wanting to try their hand at sewing leather, below are some tips I’ve gathered from the web, books and experience. (These tips also apply to pleather, and vinyl.)

  • Don’t use pins, the holes they make won’t close up. Instead use binder clips for seams ready for the machine, and double-sided tape or rubber cement for details that can’t be clipped together.
  • Use tailor’s chalk or a sharpie to mark pattern pieces on the wrong side of the leather.
  • Purchase special leather sewing machine needles, these are sharper than regular needles and will pierce the leather with each stitch.
  • To make it easier for your machine to move the leather, use a walking foot, or teflon foot. I have also read you can stick scotch tape to a regular foot, trim it and it won’t stick to the leather, but when I tried it I saw no difference.
  • Use 100% nylon, or 100% polyester or rayon upholstery thread. To test thread for adequate strength hold 12 inches taut between your hands and pull, if it doesn’t break it will probably work okay.
  • Don’t use tiny stitches, it’s possible to rip a seam if the holes are so close together they perforate the leather.
  • For the same reason as above, don’t back-stitch, knot the end threads instead.
  • It is very likely that the tension of your machine will have to be adjusted to sew leather, test everything out on scraps first! I had to lower my upper tension a bit, to get nice stitching.
  • Don’t use an iron on leather, pound open seams with a rubber mallet, and glue with rubber cement or pound open and top stitch on either side of the seam. You can use fusible interfacing, just remember to use a pressing cloth.
  • For hand sewing, use a hand sewing leather needle. I didn’t, and ended up breaking several. It’s also advisable to use a thimble, or the needle just might go backwards into your skin, instead of forwards through the leather. I also found it helpful to use a small pair of pliers to help pull the needle through.
  • One last tip, use sharp scissors to cut through leather. If you are cutting through seams to take apart a jacket like I did, don’t use your nice fabric scissors. After taking apart the jacket, my scissors could barely cut thread.

Good luck with your leather projects, hopefully next time I post on the subject I’ll have a finished bag!

Recycle Old Candles

I, like a lot of people in the wide world, love candles. Unfortunately, in the normal course of events, candles burn down to stumps, or their wicks break, or the sides melt and they are no longer useable. These candle fragments are still perfectly usable wax though, and with a little effort can be return to their former glory. The first step is to gather supplies and assess your candles.

Not all candles are created equal. For instance all the red candles, and the blue in my picture are from Wal-Mart. They have nice wax on the outside, but on the inside is cheap granulated white wax like tea lights are made of. Cheap candles will still melt down, harden, and burn just fine, it just might not be as pretty. If you want to make “perfect” candles I would suggest buying new wax, scent, etc from a hobby store.

I bought a collection of pretty blue and white china dishes from various thrift stores to hold my new candles. Alternatively, you can use a mold, either store-bought or homemade. Rub a small amount of vegetable oil on the inside of the mold so it’s easier to remove the candle when it’s hardened.

The new candles will also require new wicking, and wick holders. Wicking can be bought at hobby/craft stores and comes in different sizes, depending on the finished width of the candles you are making. Be sure to use the right size or the candle will burn in an undesirable fashion. As for wick holders, you can buy them from wherever you are buying wick. I take the wick holders from inexpensive tea-lights:


To reuse the wick holder, just pull out the old wick, slide the new wick in and clamp down with pliers.

Other supplies include a double broiler (I use a stockpot in a deep skillet) a wooden spoon, a knife, and something to hold the wick on top of the candle like a skewer, pencil or chopstick. I would also recommend a big piece of cardboard to protect your workspace, it’s much easier to throw out wax, then it is to scrape it off the counter.

Once you have all your supplies ready group your candle fragments. You can mix colors, and scents, but try not to mix types of wax.

Cut the candles ready to be melted into smaller pieces so they melt quicker, try to remove the old wick and holder. If you don’t get all the wick or other debris out before melting, you will have to fish it out of the molten wax.

The best smelling, nicest burning candle I’ve ever had is the one all cut up above, my parents gave it to me for Christmas about 6 years ago. I was worried the scent would cook out of the wax, which can happen. If you don’t want to remove the smell don’t heat the wax up too much, and of course never let the wax boil. I usually heat them at a low-medium temperature. True candle-makers use thermometers to decide when to pour, I just wait until everything is completely melted and then pour.

My makeshift double broiler is on the right, this works fine since I only melt two or three candle stumps at a time. If you were melting more you would want the water to be covering more of the stockpot.

As your wax fragments melt, you need to prep the mold or container. Take your wick holder and wicking and wrap the top around a skewer/pencil/chopstick. To help the wick stay in place while you pour, dip the very bottom of the wick holder in melted wax and press to the bottom of your container. Here is my teacup prepped for wax:

The first wax pour should only be half to a quarter of the container, left is immediately after pouring and right is once the layer is mostly hardened.


Wait until the first pour is mostly hard, but still slightly warm before re-pouring. To insure the second pour adheres to the first well, poke several holes near the sinking.


Pour the rest of the wax:

As you can see, from my very small blue candle stump, I barely got enough to fill this teacup… but the blue candle smells so good, I don’t mind. As you can also see this candle hardened with a bit of a pockmarked surface. This happens for a couple of reasons, check out this table from Nu-Scents, of candle problems to troubleshoot odd effects like pockmarking if you want to fix them in your next candle, here. I don’t really mind it, once its burn a bit it won’t matter anyway. Once the candle hardens, trim the wick and it’s ready to burn.

I followed this same procedure over and over to fill up my other containers:

As you can see my favorite candle melted and poured much nicer, I think solely because it was made of nicer wax to begin with.

Good luck recycling your own candle fragments, it takes awhile to do, but the supplies are minimal and the gain is huge.

1 Roll of Painter's Tape, 1 Giant Piece of Wood, and Some Paint =

A while back I bought this display stand at Savers:

I’m not sure what it was used for, it’s got narrow shelves with grooves for holding whatever it used to hold.

I wanted to use it as an easily changeable display of postcards and pictures and other small things, but on the wall it didn’t look right, far too big and commanding. So I broke off the back panel and ripped the narrow shelves apart (they were all held together with staples). I am going to hang the shelves up in my project room but I had a giant piece of very thin wood left over. We recently painted our kitchen orange and red and a large neutral piece of art was just the thing it needed. So I used painter’s tape to mark off areas of wood that had a nice grain pattern like so:

Then I used some leftover white latex paint we had and applied it with a roller:

And voila, a large piece of abstract art for my kitchen that cost no extra money since everything I used I already owned.

Obviously this could be done with just about any surface. For instance you could use three paint canvas and painters tape in the same pattern on each but with different colors to create a very interesting triptych to adorn your walls. Another option would be to use painting tape in an abstract pattern on the wall itself!

UPDATE 2/5/2012: This project was featured here, on Hugmyndir Fyrir Heimilid which I believe translates into Ideas for the Home. Thanks!

Broken Platter Project

Matt and I received tons of awesome stuff when we got married two years ago. Unfortunately moving tends to be hard on delicate things and we have moved four times since receiving this gorgeous Crate&Barrel platter. When I picked up its box I heard a rattling sound and knew something had gotten smashed.

I couldn’t bear to just throw it away, it’s so pretty. I figured with a little help it could be a display plate. By using a bit of superglue it was easy enough to re-attach the missing side piece. You could still see the crack line and the chip off the top was not replaceable.

I had some bright shocking blue enamel leftover from another project and decided to try it out on the plate. I think it turned out good, it hides the crack and the color looks great with the living room wall. The enamel is meant to dry for 21 days or be baked in the oven. I didn’t know what effect baking would have on the superglue though so I just let it air dry.

This is the way the platter has looked for a couple of weeks now. I could not figure out what to do about the chip. I thought about covering it with a flower or a bow, but both looked quite underwhelming on the plate. I ended up with this idea:

One large bulldog clip solves the chip problem and is a good way to hang the platter on the wall. I used hot glue on the inside of the clip and more all over the back to ensure a good hold.

Together the clip and the plate have an interesting contrast. It definitely has a schoolroom vibe thanks to the bright primary blue and the homework project feeling the clip gives off.

I think it’s going to look great in my living room, and I’m glad I don’t have to toss it. Ideally it would still be milk-white, covered in doughnuts and sitting on the kitchen counter, but this is a good second choice. I just hope next time we move the matching large platter and dessert plates don’t have to join it on the wall.

Letterpress Tray Jewelry Organizer

Here it is! My finished redo of the letterpress tray I bought second hand a week or so ago. It was my second letterpress tray find in less than a month. I also bought this one, but I don’t know yet what I will do with it. Anyway it was a very easy transformation here are the before pictures:

To begin I washed the whole thing with a damp rag, it was very dusty and grimy. There were several broken pieces and rough spots. I broke out the damaged areas and sanded them smooth.

I also broke out several planks to make custom cubbies for specific pieces of jewelry. I wanted a variety of different storage options for my jewelry so I bought tiny eyes for earrings, small hooks for necklaces and thin bracelets and also large coat hooks for scarves/purses. The biggest problem I ran into when attaching the hardware was how thin the separator planks were. I couldn’t screw the eyes in all the way or they would poke through and I couldn’t uses the hooks anywhere but in the thick outer frame. After rummaging in my craft drawer I used leftover upholstery tacks in the thin planks for when I wanted necklaces and bracelets lower on the tray.

It’s difficult to decide where to put the eyes, tacks and hooks, when there are almost endless options. I wanted to make sure I had a good place for all the jewelry I already own plus extra room for the collection to grow. So I drew up a plan for the tray and installed 5 or so pieces of hardware at a time. Occasionally I would put the jewelry on it and see where I needed more hardware, and mark where to put in on the plan. When I had a space for all my jewelry I went through and added extra space for future acquisitions.

After I attached all the hardware I took a damp rag dipped in black acrylic paint and “inked” up the tray to give it a deeper weathered appearance and to darken the areas where I broke out planks. Then I took a paintbrush and blackened the corners of many of the cubbies to add deeper shadows to the tray. I love how it turned out, a beautiful mix of vintage wood, a piece of printing history, shiny hardware and pretty jewelry.

Here it is one more time:

UPDATE 2/28/2012: I’ve written an update post about using this letterpress tray organizer read it here.

Soda Can Topped Box

One day after polishing off a delicious can of Dr. Pepper I got to thinking about the shiny metal it’s made of. So like anyone with time on their hands would do I cut one open. It resulted in the lovely box you see before you.

The easiest way I found to cut a soda can open is to:

1. drink it, rinse it out

2. slice into the top where the cylindrical body joins with the curved top with an expo knife

3. insert scissors into the hole and cut the top off

4. cut down the side in a straight line to the bottom curved section

5. cut off the bottom

6. flatten out the metal rectangle

For the top of the box I decided to use small squares that I could arrange. The metal varies in color slightly with each can so I cut up several to make a pleasing collage. To stick them to the box top I use satin pins (used for sewing). I started in the middle of the box and using pliers and a small hammer stuck the metal square to the box with a pin at each corner. To finish the edges I cut strips of thick cardboard, painted black and pinned them to the box as well.

To hide the pins on the inside of the box top I bent each pin flat and glued a piece of cardboard over it. Lastly I covered the inside with a cool patterned piece of scrapbook paper.

I love the texture the metal top gives to this otherwise plain box. Right now we use it as a catch all for cards, keys and change. To make it more functional one day I will add some dividers, and change out the lining (I don’t like the paper pattern, but I had it on hand and I really wanted to finish the project that day :))

Paper Roll Wall Art

I saw this great idea on Design Sponge, but they were featuring it off a very cool little blog called Growing Up Creative. This is such a pretty, organic looking piece of wall art you would never guess all you need to make it sitting in your bathroom right now (or I hope so.)Simple save your toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper tubes until you have enough to begin. Cut them into equal sized pieces, arrange them however (I think these look best when glued together as to mimic a growing plant) and then glue them together.

For my version I used hot glue so I didn’t have to wait long for each section it to dry, and gave it a very light coat of black spray paint. I love how much texture this is gives to the wall, and will probably expand it once I decide where to tack it up permanently. I think it would look very cool as a large wall covering over a sofa or sideboard. Also with this project the possibility are endless just like they said on Growing Up Creative, you could staple one together with your kids a craft project or take it all the way to a permanent artistic fixture in your home like I did.

Calendar Art

Definitely not an original idea examples here, here and one that takes it to another level here, but this is my take on it. I loved this calendar when it was on the wall and at the end of the year I couldn’t throw it away. The picture frames are from Michaels, I bought frames that I thought were all a deep cherry color, but one was either another color or a severe discoloration. You would think I would notice that before purchasing but I didn’t and ended up painted all the frames black instead. The mats are just acid-free poster board, when we buy a house here in CO I think I might liven up the b&w prints with colored mats instead.