A quick word on Upcycling

Have you heard about Upcycling?

Upcycling is the process of converting used/old products into something new, and often better than the old.

I have a friend, Jenny,  who made her daughter this fantastic kitchen set (You’ll need to scroll down in the post a big.)  Jenny is super crafty and awesome – please check out her facebook page for her business here.  And in fact – she’s the one who introduced me to the blog “Better After” to start with. I love seeing how crafty people can be – because I definitely don’t have an eye for that.

I tried one (yes, one) upcycling project last year – and it mostly consisted of slapping a coat of paint on a rolling cart I found on the side of the road.  Full disclosure – my husband actually painted it.  I just tried to put a stencil on the top.  (Not my finest moment.)

Upcycled Cart

Purpose of cart - book storage and truck garage.
Purpose of cart – book storage and truck garage.

But, I’m always curating Upcycling projects on Pinterest (you can see them here).   Yet, making collages for my New Year’s Resolution out of recycled paper is about the extent of my upcycling.

If you craft – consider seeing how you can find a way to incorporate used materials in some way in each project.

For a great resource for North Shore crafters  – check out the Extras for Creative Learning in Lynn – and read this blog post from Connect Shore about it.


Planting the Seeds: Making a Container Garden with my Kid

I signed up for a CSA this year from Farmer Dave‘s in Dracut.  I’m excited about the prospects of fresh and unusual veggies from June 11 to October 22 filling our fridge to abundance.  However, since the farm is farther away I won’t be driving out to volunteer help with weeding, or get the satisfaction of seeing the veggies ripen and grow.  So, I decided to do the next best thing and plant some container gardens.

This is something I’ve tried in the past and been less than successful with.  (Read: I left them out in a thunderstorm and half the dirt was violently thrown from the pot.  Any remaining plants, I subsequently forgot to water.  Oops.) I decided to get really really basic (and vow not to be so careless).  I bought lettuces.  Against my better judgement, after I bought these seeds I also saw these cute little herbs “guaranteed to grow” in the Target $1 bins and made an impulsive purchase.  I haven’t had success with herbs in the past, but hope springs eternal each time I plant a new seeds! Ha.



I also wanted to make the whole thing into a fun DIY craft project for Ethan, my son, and I, so I got out some acrylic paints to make a few designs on the containers.  I put the paints onto an old styrofoam tray thinking that since Ethan likes to brush his cheerios (and squash, and cereal, and bananas…) around on the high chair tray he would want to brush his hands in the paint, and then I could gently guide him toward making cute finger and hand prints on the containers.

The first part of that worked wonderfully.  But when I tried to “gently guide” his hands, he screamed bloody murder.  He continued screaming as I tried to clean him up with the water in the blue bucket.  He finally calmed down after I let him play with the water, and eat grass and rocks.  Just kidding!  (But only about the rocks part.)

I still think this is a good idea for a craft with kids, but I will probably have more success next year when he’s two.

Meanwhile, I put the dirt into the container gardens, and let him throw as much out of it as he wanted.  After he got tired of it, I put the lettuce seeds into the pots, watered them, and set them in the sun.  We’ll see what happens!

I realize it’s a bit of stretch to call three (and a half) pots a “garden” but it makes me feel like a champion.  Also, as my friend once told me, you can always call gardening “micro-farming” if you need a real ego-boost.

So far the Basil is really outstripping the Parsley… let’s see what happens in the long run.


The 12 Crafts of Christmas: Day 1 Ornaments

How I made rustic handmade ornaments out of recycled felted sweaters

Let the Showcase of some of the crafts, gifts, and traditions my family started or continued with begin!

1. Handmade Ornaments.

After I learned how to felt sweaters earlier this December, I was excited to make some ornaments for our tree.  These were very simply creations, involving only items I had around the house at the time in addition to the sweater.  Beads and embroidery floss were the only requirements, and the hardest part ended up being cutting the sweater into a crisp shape.  All told I made 6 stars, 2 baubles and 2 birds.

On Textile Recycling

Pit Stains on your T-shirt? Don’t throw it away, Recycle it!

I come from a frugal family.  My youngest sister is 19, but there are still cloth diapers in the rag box in my parent’s basement.  I’m sure I need a new pair of running shoes now that the plastic heel of the shoe has been cutting into my skin.  For the last 5 months.  So, when I say I need to find somewhere to get rid of used clothes, I’m not talking about the Salvation Army.

But, this is always the first answer on the web, if you have used clothes, donate them.

The second layer of response is usually crafting or upcycling.  For example, you can turn wool sweaters into felt ornaments for your tree.  There are a bajillion tutorials for making a t-shirt quilt.  Then, there is this fabulous (but time consuming) t-shirt rug.

A very beautiful t-shirt rug by Xoelle

And one last link for the jean bottom purse I used to see in teen magazines everywhere.

Denim Purse from http://www.aokcorral.com

I have to ask – Did anyone actually use this after making it?

Digging a little deeper on the internet brings up more mundane possible reuses – rags, spit up cloths for babies, and donations to the local animal shelter for bedding for animals.

That first possibility of reuse is predicated on the fact that the item is only mildly worn, and still fashionable, the second believes that it’s out of date, but contains usable parts.  A textile junk yard in a way.  That third solution begins to get to the heart of the matter.  This is an item which is not reusable in any wearable or creative way by even the best DIY maven.

But this year, I finally stumbled on a real answer I’d been hoping for all along.  The best part, the solution is in my own town of Salem, MA.

The Salem Textile Recycling Drive, which got 232 people together who donated over 9000 pounds of clothing.  Crazy!  In fact, the event was so successful that the organizers are looking forward to this being a biannual event.  Congratulations Salem Recycles!

They partnered with the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) and Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in order to pull this event off.

SMART is headquartered in Maryland and their facebook page is chock block full of textile recycling ideas.  SMART claims to divert 2.5 billion pounds of waste from landfills annually, but this is only about 15 percent of the actual textile waste out there.

After watching the videos on SMART’s website, I was most surprised that you can recycle stuffed animals!  Who knew.

North Shore Residents, Don’t throw away your items! Save up them up for biannual events by Salem Recycles, then Recycle Them!