Archive for the ‘Repurposing’ Category

Sweater to skirt & legwarmers – Take 1

  • Cut off arms and just under neck opening (this is a size small adult sweater)
  • Sew elastic waistband in skirt
  • Sew thin elastic band into raw edge of leg warmers




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We’ve woken to some chilly mornings since we arrived in the UK a month ago — the horizon, filled with a thick icy fog and the fields outside our door, dotted with frost-covered fleece.



And while we have lots to accomplish, there are days when all we can do is wait (…for phone calls…for appointments…for answers…and so on). Yet, when the world outside is icy and all your earthly belongings are floating their way across the Atlantic Ocean – passing the time requires a bit of improvising. This feels especially true when little ones are (still) out of school and noisily underfoot. 

Here’s what we got up to yesterday…

Perhaps I’ve been hiding under a rock, but I never realized that rice pudding had it’s own special rice.  I’ve always used medium grain and been pretty happy with the result.  After finding proper “pudding rice” at the grocers, I decided to conduct a little rice pudding taste off (an idea everyone seemed in favor of).  Recipe number one came from here (a long-time family favorite).  The second was prepared “the French way” (as we call it).  I found Recipe number two here.  Hard to say which batch was the clear winner…as there was much back-n-forth gobbling going on. I think I still prefer the former…or was it the latter??  They’re both good (and frankly, rather similar). 

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Does every little girl (and boy?) go through a phase when they like styling/playing with hair? Wynn keeps asking for one of those plastic, long-haired doll-head-things, and I keep reminding her that now is not the time to acquire bulky new toys that require their own suitcases. Plus, who needs pretend hair when your mama (and sister and self!) has the real thing?  Yes – I’ll admit, I’m a ready volunteer, as I (not-so-secretly) love when she plays with and styles my hair.  I consider it a perk of having both long hair and daughters. 

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However, what she’s really in love with and could do for hours on end is braid.  At home she would braid ribbon and floss and twine and yarn.  Here, on the farm, far from the colorful strands that fill our currently-in-transit craft box – there is no such ribbon or floss, twine or yarn. 

So we decided to make some braiding materials with plastic bags.  Have you ever done this before?  We’ve made bracelets and key chains using this technique.  Simply cut the plastic bags into thin (or thick) ribbons.  I cut horizontal strips.  At the moment she just uses three…but I’m sure braids of 6 and more are in her future. 


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And finally, we’ve been digging deep into our recycling box these past few weeks – searching for both fun and functionality.  We have found at least twenty uses for all-things-Tetra-Pak — which is the brand name for those waxy, watertight boxes that carry juice ‘n soup ‘n stock ‘n such.

These are entirely up to the task of drying kitchen utensils, holding paintbrushes (and water), playing in the bath with and (most recently) they come in very hand for carrying snacks in the car. 


And since the UK is a place of many (many) coins, we also needed another change purse.  So we decided to make one using this (easy) technique. 

* I struggled to find a glue that would hold to the waxy surface. Even powerful and “waterproof” Locktite couldn’t manage it.  In the end, I had to strip away some of the wax, to reveal the cardboard underneath – then gluing was no problem.

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Just another pajama day on the farm. I’m certainly trying to enjoy these slooooow days, since I know there’s craziness on the horizon.  But thankfully, that’s not today.

And usually, by the time we’re done crafting from within – the world outside has warmed up enough for us to venture out and begin another day.




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It’s been a more-chaotic-than-usual autumn for us (as everyone in the family has projects and causes keeping them busy) – so there hasn’t been too much time to ponder and plan Halloween costumes. So far we have a request for a Pirate Princess and Wonder Woman.

The Pirate Princess has me a bit baffled…and since this a request from a 3-year-old – I figure she’s counting on me to work out the details.  Maybe we’ll go with pantaloons and a homemade pirate map (a very simple project)?


Wonder Woman just might require the super-human help of Amazon.com this year.  Sorry crafty counterparts of the world – I just don’t think a homemade costume is going to make my Top Ten List this month.  {I’m human, right?} 

But we did make a few Wonder Woman accessories. This bottlecap + resin project was pretty fun and something I’ve seen everywhere recently.  I’ll include a detailed how-to later…if that’s okay.



We still haven’t gotten around to dragging out the decorations or carving proper pumpkins…but we did manage to paint a few acorns – so at least our birdhouse is looking ready for Halloween!



Happy Half-Way to Halloween!  Any signs of this mostly-American holiday on your side of the ocean? 


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For a Small Friend


This is a fun, easy project for those newest little members of the universe. I found the pattern in a library book long ago.  The template shape is so simple, I’m sure you could free-hand it.


  • 2 fleece body pieces measuring approx. 14×12 inches; if the fleece has an obvious pile, this should run down the longer length of fabric
  • 1 small piece of fleece in a light color for the face
  • 1 small piece of pink or red fleece for the heart
  • small scrap of pink fleece or felt for cheeks
  • embroidery thread (gray or black for eyes, red or pink for mouth)
  • small amount of cotton stuffing
  • sewing machine or matching thread and needle for hand sewing
  • Fabric scissors


  • Cut out your fleece shapes
  • Sew heart and face pieces to the right-side of one of the body pieces
  • Sew on the cheeks
  • Using a daisy chain stitch use embroidery thread to create eyes and embroider the mouth using backstitch.



  • Place the doll face-down on your second piece of body fleece and pin and sew, before cutting (shown below), leaving a 3” opening for turning
  • trim along edge and turn


  • Lightly stuff head with cotton filling and secure it closed with a curved running stitch, using double thread
  • Lightly stuff hands with cotton and sew a line of running stitch to close, pull them tight to create a wrist
  • Close your opening using slip stitch.

Last step is to give your cute, hand-made guy to one of the cutest babies around.



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As you know, someone recently celebrated her 6th birthday. When it was time to think about party planning, we weren’t really sure how to “top” last year’s hula-hoop making party (combined with homemade icecream and waffle cones).

After a day or two of researching party ideas, I concluded that if I had a dollar for every princess (girl) and pirate (boy) party theme on the internet– I could retire in style.   After we’d seen our one-millionth pony, fairy, rainbow, and bug-themed party – it was beginning to seem like we’d never find something as unique as our one-of-kind lass.  

Then,  one afternoon as I watched her turn (yet another) cereal box into (yet another) work of art — I knew just what to do.  I decided (and she agreed!) that a recycled-art party would be a great fit for our forever-repurposing girl. 

Together we decided that the party’s “theme” (because when you’re 6 parties NEED to have “a theme”) would be to make as many things as we could out of plastic bottles.  I thought I’d share some ideas/images from the day – in case you feel like giving this kind of party a try.  

Cherry Blossom Art

I found this easy-peasy idea here


Plastic flowers (#1)

We used acrylic paint, Sharpies and fabric paint to decorate the bottom portion of plastic  water bottles (which I cut and had ready in advance).  I’ve seen these all over pinterest – sometimes assembled into cascades of flowers, or even curtains(!).  I gave the kids each two flowers to decorate.  I put a hole punch at the top of one petal, so that the flowers could be hung, or used as a unique pencil topper.


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Plastic Flower (#2)

After cutting the bottom off of so many plastic water bottles, I was sad to waste the rest, so we decided to make different flowers from the top of each bottle.  Once again, I did all the cutting and petal-trimming in advance.  I gave the kids each a bottle top (pictured below) and let them fold the petals down and do the decorating.  The best way to color these (I learned after much trial-n-error) is to color the FRONT of the petals with ink/sharpies and the back with acrylic paint (finger paints and the like won’t work, as the paint just falls off the slick plastic).



Milk Gallon Butterflies

This last project was made from a few junkmail beads, some pipe cleaners and more plastic (which I salvaged from gallon-sized milk jugs).  DSC01060  DSC01059

The result was a great plastic butterfly craft – which the kids (and adults) loved.  I traced the butterfly template onto the shinier side of the plastic and then let the kids decorate (with sharpies) the opposite side.  I found the step-by-step and the (great) anatomically-correct butterfly template here.  {Note: you could trace any shape onto here (obviously) – trucks, birds, boats and yes, even princesses and pirates.} 


Plastic Tiara

Of course, I couldn’t resist giving her a birthday crown, which I cut from…you guessed it, a plastic bottle and decorated with fabric paint.  I hole-punched the sides and attached invisible thread, so that she could wear it.  So…it would seem, that despite my efforts to keep this a princess-free affair, we did have a tiara-clad “little princess” at the party after all.  Baby steps…

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Some recycled-art-party extras included:

Artistic supplies – Plastic bottle bottoms (same as the ones we used to make flower #1) were used as paint pallets for each artist.  Another (larger) bottle bottom was used for rinsing brushes. 



Cream and juice boxes were quickly converted into containers for brushes and a rainbow-assortment of Sharpies.


While the kids waited for me to get the next craft ready, I gave them some games to keep busy.

#1 Word-Making – Such a great use for bottle caps. Thanks for the idea!


#2 Bottle cap Memory Game – I made this by cutting up some left-over Christmas cards and popping paired images onto the underside of milk/bottle caps.  Flip ‘em over and test your memory! Stickers would also work great for this.

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We were fortunate to have great weather for the party, so once the art was complete and our guests were covered in five different shades of ink/paint, we decided to run through the sprinkler; the sprinkler we made from a plastic bottle, obvioulsy. 

Super easy to make. I just pierced a bottle down one side several times with a thumb tack.  Then I attached a swivel hose adapter (just ask for a 3/4” female x 3/4” female swivel hose adapter at the hardware store) and turned on the water.  Might just be the best sprinkler we’ve ever had…certainly the least expensive. <smile>


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I also made each child a bottle “squirt gun” (sorry, no pic) by poking holes into a bottle top, filling the bottle with water and letting them squirt each other around the yard.  Those who didn’t feel like getting soaked, enjoyed using the squirt gun to water the plants and flowers. 

And, last but not least, the party favors.  In my opinion, there is only one party favor that would make sense for an all-plastic-bottle party…

A reusable travel cup/glass tumbler of course.  The birthday girl loved jumping onto a pint-sized soapbox and reminding her friends that “the only thing better than recycling and reusing is REDUCING the amount of plastic they use at home.”  Here’s a reminder of how I made the glass tumblers.  The night before the party, I also decided to sew each child a cloth napkin, which was placed inside their cup (along with an organic lollipop…to make everyone happy).

The best thing about these party favors was:

1) The supplies for twelve kids cost around $12 (total).  I only had to buy the canning supplies and grommets, since I made the napkins with some fabric scraps that mom sent me (thanks mama!)

2) No lame Dollar Store prizes (I know I’m not the only parent who can’t stand bringing those junky toys into my home)



Clearly, this party took a bit of planning.  It took me a few weeks to collect this much plastic (!), but friends and neighbors were happy to help by saving their plastic bottles and milk jugs.

Once again we used a combination of reusable bamboo and palm-leaf plates/bowls for serving food/cake.  These were originally purchased for Wynn’s second birthday and have been a great investment.  We have never used plastic plates, cups or silverware for any of our kids’ parties (…she said, bursting with eco-freak pride).  Oh! And here’s one more idea…which (shockingly!) has nothing to do with plastic bottles, but it does make a great utensil-free snack. These fruit-ka-bobs were a big, colorful hit. <smile>


So – there you have it.  A rather one-of-kind party theme for our one-of-a-kind six year old. 


P.S. I’ll show you what our Thank You cards looked like next time! <wink>

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I keep meaning to thank you for an idea I borrowed from your Pinterest page.


Last month I had plans to watch a friend’s children for an afternoon – a duo that included her 9-year-old son.  While I try to run a fairly gender-neutral household – the truth is our arts-n-crafts sometimes lean towards the-very-girly.  On this occasion, I was determined to find something to do that our 9-year-old guest would love (versus simply tolerate).

While the girls ran off to play (…I can only imagine, something insanely frilly-n-frocky), he and I sat down at the computer, side by side and started an online search for some pink-free crafts.  I stopped by your Pinterest page, where he saw a photo of some boats made out of wine corks and said, “Those look cool – but where are we going to find enough corks?”

Ahem…  Little did he know that corks are like spiders in my house…  You are never more than ten feet away from an old wine cork.  Problem #1: Solved.  We each chose three corks from my (healthy) supply of wine corks.  Then I used a hot-glue gun to stick them together. {Adult job, obviously}

Next, we needed eye screws; something I didn’t have laying around.  So we started pondering alternatives.  {This is, as you can imagine, my favorite part of the “making” process. How I ♥ the brainstorming phase}.  We discovered that a paperclip would work perfectly.  Simply cut off the rounded end with a pair of scissors/wire cutters and (using a sturdy surface) jam the ends into the middle of one cork. {Another adult job}

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We also needed craft foam – another thing I didn’t have (I am not a big fan of craft foam…or foam in general).  More brainstorming needed…

Of course, it was cereal bags to the rescue!  {You know how I love cereal bags}   Luke used a sharpie to draw a sail shape onto the waxy bag, then cut it out. 


These worked perfectly, given that they are waterproof, flexible and easy to decorate.  Once everyone had a sail, we added a couple of stickers, then named our ships.  A toothpick went vertical into the sail, then into the center of our boat.  Finally, a piece of string was secured to the boat; its other end wrapped around a champagne cork and we were ready to set sail.  We tested our fleet in the kiddie pool and were thrilled to learn they were all sea worthy.

Then we waited for a late summer rain storm…which (graciously!) arrived this past weekend. 

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What fun they had guiding their sturdy little vessels down the tumbling waters of our street.  A perfect late-summer, post-rainstorm activity.

Thanks for the idea. <smile>


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I guess if you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard of your own, having two, east and west-facing balconies might be the next best thing.  Neither is exceptionally large, so we knew that making efficient use of them might be a challenge.  We love flowers and plants, but we didn’t want so many pots that we wouldn’t be able to sit out there as a family or with friends.

I did a little digging and showed Brett a picture of this space-saving garden made from an old wooden pallet.  Next thing I knew, he had found a pallet (free on the side of the road), transported it home and was coming up with a redesign.  He was skeptical of the original design because he thought the dirt would shift too far down to hold the plants in.  So we used landscaping paper (not the easiest thing to find in Copenhagen) to create little “buckets” for the dirt to sit in and stapled them in place.  So far the plants seem quite happy there…as long we are here to water them.






Be sure to check out these other fabulous ideas for how to repurpose pallets!  I love a rustic look, so I adore many of these ideas!  I swear, you will never look at a discarded pallet the same way again!

I leave you with last night’s view from our west balcony.


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Having two kids in school means going to a lot of parties.  Parties that bounce and tumble, splash and crash, whoop and whiney.  Yes, birthday parties are a pretty big deal around here.

And, be warned, if you invite us to your birthday party, chances are you’ll get a handmade gift – whether you wanted one or not. 

You’re welcome  &/or  I’m sorry – depending on how you (and your brood) feel about homemade gifts.


The other thing you’re bound to get is handmade wrapping paper.  As I’ve mentioned before, I try not to buy gift wrap these days.  One reason is that I try hard not to support the made-for-immediate-disposal-industry – but also because I enjoy giving the girls time to adorn & decorate the gifts we give. I tend to make/buy most of these presents (without too much input from them).  So, at least, by decorating the paper they have a roll to play and can spend a (pre-party) moment focusing on their friend’s special day.  That way, it isn’t just about showing up and waiting for a goodie bag to get dropped into their hands.

Here are a few of our favorite wrapping ideas/supplies:

1. Brown packaging paper or art roll paper (like this one from Ikea).  We often save the drawings we make using our art roll paper and when a birthday comes along, we repurpose those same drawings into wrapping paper .

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2. Natural twine (here’s the one I have)


3. Stamps (we love our letter stamps, but any stamps will do) & ink.  I would (seriously!) recommend washable ink.

Letter stamps are ideal for letting them personalize the paper (as well as learn how to spell their friends’ names)…


Don’t have ink or stamps?  No problem.  Try a pencil eraser (or the like) and dip it into a food-coloring-covered sponge – like we did here:


We’ve made so many different kinds of wrapping paper over the years, but “crazy cakes” is one of our favorites.  To make it we use a birthday cake stamp, then the girls enjoy coloring all different kinds of combinations and giving them “crazy cake” names…


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We also like making designs/images with fingerprints – as long as you don’t mind having some temporarily inky fingers. {We don’t.}



So many gift-wrapping options – it’s a good thing we have SO many parties to practice for. <smile>


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Did you know that if you stick lemons in a jar of water in the fridge your lemons will last for ages?  Mom taught me this.  I’ve tried it and it works great!



Did you know that if you combine a bit of vinegar with a bit of salt in a small cup of water, then add a scruffy, old penny it will come out gleaming?


* This can be a fun experiment for little ones.  Not to mention a good way to keep them busy for half an hour…



Did you know that (nearly) empty honeybears are a great place to make/store honey-mustard dressing?  I improvise mine each time, but I guess it looks a bit like this (though, I add some olive oil, salt & ground pepper).


Did you know that we lost the guitar pick for our melody harp?   


So we got creative…

Ideally, you’ll have an old guitar pick to trace, then just draw/trace onto a (zero balance!) gift card (or the like) — then cut and you’re left with a perfectly, perfect guitar pick.  (…for our musicians any way.)



Well.  Now you know. <smile>


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Try saying that 10-times fast! 🙂

Nothing complicated or innovative here…just another skirt, made from a shirt.  This time, from one of my guy’s tossed aside, yet ever-so soft and comfy t-shirts.  I like skirts like this to wear over leggings in this rapidly changing, rather fickle, Scandinavian weather.

You could, of course, make these for kids, but this one was for me!  Another thing for me!  Wow – I guess I’m feeling a bit self-indulgent lately!

I have been meaning to try my hand at shirring (gathering fabric by sewing with elastic thread), for a long time and I thought this was the perfect project to experiment with.  It makes for such a comfortable waist band on a skirt like this.  I knew what I needed to do, but this tutorial on shirring, was a helpful reminder.

Cut a men’s t-shirt just below the arms.  I also cut off the short sleeves to use as headbands.


I had to cut a couple inches off the side because shirring only subtracts about 2 inches from your width, so the skirt would have still been too wide for me.

So measure your waist and add 2-3 inches and cut the width to match that circumference. (For example if you need 28 inches, cut 14 inches across, since it’s folded.)  Then sew up the back with a simple seam.


Wind elastic thread (loosely, by hand!) onto an empty bobbin.  The top thread can match your fabric.


I only sewed 3 rows of shirring.  You could do more, but I didn’t think this skirt needed it…and I was feeling stingy with my elastic thread.


Simple and comfortable…and notice the matching headband! 🙂

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