Tag Archive | craft

From trash to treasure

Does anybody remember the show “Decorating Cents” on HGTV? I always liked that one. And I’d justify my TV time by folding laundry while I watched it. One of my favorite segments of the show was when they’d visit some antique/junk store in Minneapolis and show how they turned “trash” into “treasure.” Of course this appeals to me; I think it’s an inherited trait — my grandpa is a self-styled dumpster diver and is always finding new uses for old things. I’ve already shown you my tin-can lanterns and wine rack. I’ve also been known to make wrapping paper from meticulously flattened Hershey Kiss wrappers (just to wrap a cd; I don’t hate myself enough to make a whole roll of the stuff). I’m all about using what’s on hand! Which brings us to today’s project.

My kids have been acquiring coloring books like crazy lately and we’ve been running out of places to keep them. Time for a new coloring book holder. The supply list is pretty simple.

$1 for the contact paper, however much for Cheerios that we already ate, and scissors I already have. Cheap.

  • Costco-sized cereal box
  • Contact paper
  • Scissors
  • And maybe a pen for marking

I’ve also used large oatmeal boxes. The box just has to have enough depth to accommodate the width of the coloring books (or magazines or notebooks) and the cardboard should be somewhat sturdy.

Step 1a: Cut off the top flaps of the box.
Step 1b: Cut off excess height from the top of the box, leaving a couple inches above the height of the book for protection.

See how your box and book compare, size-wise

Step 2: Cut down about 1/3 off the front of the box to make it easy to remove the books (and to put them back, of course! Because that’s the whole point of this thing).

Ok, so I forgot to take a picture of the opening until after I'd finished it.


Step 3: Lay the box on the wrong side of the contact paper to measure out how much you will need to wrap around the entire thing. Leave an inch or so to fold over the cut edges and a couple inches to overlap on the bottom of the box.

Look! It's actual Contact brand!

Step 4: Slowly begin peeling back the contact paper and rolling the box over it to make it nice and smooth. Before you fold down the extra flaps at the top and bottom of the box, make a snip into each corner for the flaps of contact paper to fold over smoothly.

Inside top of the box

Bottom o' the box. I suppose you could cover the whole thing if you were so inclined. I am not.

Step 5: Fill it up with all those stray coloring books! Ta dah!

Ahhh, nice

Super easy and it looks so much better than just having a Cheerios box permanently on display. The contact paper makes it look nice enough that the kids no longer perceive the box as  fair game trash. Other boxes I’ve made like this have actually lasted for years, which is longer than some of their toys.

So there you go. Start rounding up all those flimsy books and magazines and make them a new home!

Positive outcome from negative thinking

I am addicted to glass jars. I hang onto nearly every one that comes into my house. Pickles, jelly, salad dressing. It’s like a two-for-one deal! I get the contents and this fabulous, multi-purpose reusable container! The shelves in my laundry room are full of jars. A couple of months ago, I realized that the jar collection was getting out of hand and gave away a box free on craigslist. But there are still plenty to choose from (plus, we keep buying jelly). I needed a quick craft today and decided to do a little glass etching. I have tried my hand at this before and it’s really a pretty simple craft, especially considering the great results you can get! The two main things you need to do this are 1) something glass with smooth surfaces (a drinking glass, vase, mirror, whatever) and 2) etching compound. The etching compound is available at craft stores; I’ve only ever seen this brand:

Look! It’s even new and improved!

It comes in two sizes; this is the larger 10 oz bottle. I now have a lifetime supply of the stuff. When I went to Michael’s to buy it, I had no idea how much of it you actually need to complete a project. I was etching four drinking glasses for a Craftster swap and panicked, thinking that the tiny little bottle wouldn’t be enough. Good thing I had my 40% off coupon because this stuff cost about twenty bucks!! Let this be a lesson to you: Buy the tiny bottle.

Next, you need some kind of glassware. If you don’t have an abundant jar collection like I do or some drinking glasses that need an update, check out thrift stores or dollar stores, or finish off that last lonely pickle floating in its home of chartreuse brine.

There are two schools of thought for glass etching: One requires vinyl contact paper and an X-acto knife; the other requires some paper and fabric paint. It’s up to you, but I prefer the fabric paint method. Here are my supplies:

  • Glass container
  • Armour Etch
  • Rubber gloves (unless you enjoy caustic burns on your skin)
  • Fabric paint in a squeeze bottle
  • Paintbrush
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape
  • Paper (this is tissue paper, but I used printer paper the last time and it’s fine, too)
  • A picture!

I wasn’t in the mood to draw anything myself today, so I exercised my 2nd grade tracing skills and traced that butterfly like a champ! Really, you don’t have to be artistic at all to do this. You can also print a picture off the computer, just make sure it has good, bold lines. Once you have your picture, whether it be by tracing or printing, tape it to the inside of your container.

Oh yeah, you should have a container with an opening big enough to get your hand through if you go the fabric paint/tracing paper route.

Next step: More tracing! Can you handle it? This time, you’ll be outlining the picture with the fabric paint. This requires a little bit of “negative thinking.” In college, I always thought my art prof spent an inordinate amount of time on negative space, but it turns out to actually be helpful in my crafty life. Basically, whatever you want to be etched, needs to be left blank and whatever you want to remain clear, needs to be covered with the paint.

See how I went around the antennae?

Because it didn’t matter much to me how the pattern on the butterfly’s wings turned out, I just went ahead and traced straight over the top of the design rather than try to outline each of those little lines. Once you have your picture outlined, you need to give it a pretty healthy buffer of paint. This is to prevent the etching compound from accidentally etching anything else as you are rinsing it off. Yes, even under water, this stuff is potent!

One of the antennae got covered. Just use a toothpick to scratch out any mistakes.

Then, if you are ultra-paranoid like me (or, just stingy and want to save paint), use your masking tape to seal off around the edges of the paint. You can also remove your template picture from the inside now.

Set your jar aside for a couple of hours to let the paint dry. Watching it is optional.

Stretched your legs? Had some snacks? Got “Tara’s Theme” stuck in your head now? You’re welcome. Alright, back to work! After you lock up the kids. This is actually the easiest part of the whole process, but don’t forget your gloves!! Shake up your etching compound, ready your paintbrush, and slather your picture with the stuff. Forget coloring in the lines, just coat the whole thing, paint and all. After a little bit, the compound will start to foam. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The longer you leave it, the darker the etching will be.

I left the butterfly for about five minutes. What can I say? I was anxious to see how it turned out. Keeping your gloves on (for the love of all that is good, don’t take off the gloves!), take your jar over to the sink and rinse it under running water. I use my brush to help wipe off all the compound. Once it is well-rinsed, peel off the paint and tape. This is kind of fun: it comes off as a rubbery exoskeleton of your picture. Wipe down the jar with a little window cleaner and admire your handiwork!

Ta-dah! Custom-etched glass!

You may take off your gloves now. And you should probably let the kids out, too.

The Woolen Rhombus

Shortly after my son, Konik, was born and still had that fresh newborn smell, I decided I would crochet him a pair of woolen diaper pants. They would serve partially for warmth on those cold autumn nights and, after being felted down, would also be a nice waterproof barrier to keep any potential diaper leaks from leaving the little guy with soggy jammies. Happy for an excuse to leave the house by myself, I went to the fabric store and perused the yarns. Lingered over the kitchen cotton. Caressed the bamboo blends… What was I here for? Oh right, wool. Oh, lovely wool, look at all the marvelous colors you come in! After several more minutes of visualization-through-osmosis (that means I have to touch it all), I finally selected Patons Classic Wool in the Harvest colorway.

Looking back on this decision, I can now see that it was heavily influenced by postpartum hormones. In my right mind, I avoid orange like the plague, I shun red, and I steer clear of lime. Oh, sure, there are times when each of those colors serves a purpose, but, in this case, they combined to exact a mischievous revenge. I blithely bought two skeins.

A year later, I’ve got an itch. An itch to try something new. I’ve been hearing about Tunisian crochet (it’s not just for afghans anymore, kids!); I saw a book in a catalog: Tunisian Crochet, by Sharon Hernes Silverman. I must have this book! No matter that the internet is probably littered with free patterns and instructions, the book is it. So I bought it. At this point, I didn’t have a single Tunisian crochet hook, but I still enjoyed flipping through my brand new book, admiring the patterns.

Christmas came and oh! what joy! One of my nephews sent me Tunisian crochet hooks! Once the flurry of the holidays was over, I set out to teach myself this new craft. Facing a move in June, I resolved to bust through as much of my yarn stash as possible. Rummaging through the bin (and the other bin, and the large bag, and the smaller bag, and that cloth bag), I found a full skein and a half of the soon-to-be infamous Harvest wool. Why not use this stuff up? This was going to be fun! Except… one and a half skeins of yarn doesn’t go very far. Well, there is a pattern in the book for a pillow; I suppose that will suffice. Except… I don’t really like that stitch, so how about… Ooh! This honeycomb stitch is pretty cool! So I Franken-patterned and got to work. A couple of rows in and I realized, as I looked around the living room, that the last thing this house needs is another pillow for the kids to throw on the floor. I’ll beat them to the punch and make it a rug! Pleased with this decision, I kept plugging away. Tunisian crochet is not quick.

75% of the way through its formation, we had a couple of trips to take, and my Harvest colored wool rug was set aside. And with it, everything that I had learned about the honeycomb stitch. My confidence in my abilities, however, was still intact. Pride, you are a wicked imp. When I finally picked up my, um, creation, I struggled through the last few rows. Try as I might, my brain could not wrap itself around the honeycomb stitch. A mighty battle between my perfectionist nature and my desire to Just Be Done With It ensued. Impatience was the victor, so I chose to ignore the badly formed rows and stitched and stitched and stitched until a mere six inches of yarn was left. Ha, Patons Harvest Wool! I have vanquished thee! But my celebration was cut short by the underwhelming appearance of the finished product:

It barely measures 20 inches “square” (as it were), which makes a rather paltry rug. Its dimensions are too odd to even sew together into a pillow, and it is pretty obvious where the stitch pattern took a turn for the worse. That portion also has the annoying tendency of rolling up like a scroll. Again, not a particularly rug-like characteristic. I have dubbed it The Woolen Rhombus and, while it didn’t turn out quite how I had envisioned (ok, nothing like what I had envisioned), it is useful: it stores one and a half skeins of Harvest wool until I have time to rip it out and make something else!!

You may be wondering whatever became of the wool diaper pants. After felting, the wool came together nice and tight and Konik got to wear them for all of about a week because they shrunk down to such a ridiculously small size; my daughters don’t even have any dolls for these to fit.

Those are one inch squares.

Harvest wool hates me.