the ReFab Diaries: creative upcycling
Showing posts with label creative upcycling
40 creative uses for recyclables


When you study the details of this fun infographic, you'll probably recognize many of the projects. You've probably pinned a bunch of them over the years. But isn't it a fun summary?! Recyclables like glass, plastic and steel are also incredibly durable. Can you extend their use before relegating them to the recycling?

Suggestion: print this out (on recycled paper) and stick it on or near your recycling bin. I bet it'll inspire you :) 







Remember the eyelidcanvas feature and giveaway? Well, the amazing Kim just did a little repurposing for me and it's glorious. Right???? I bought the little copper leaf earrings at the One of Kind show a few years ago and have hardly warn them. Why? Because they looked odd on me. So they've sat around taunting me. I never stopped thinking they were beautiful. But I was also not wearing them and that felt like a huge waste. I'm betting that many of you know exactly what this feels like!


Here's some inspiration from South Africa! Thato Kgatlhyane was only 18 years old when she and two friends set up Rethaka (Pty) Ltd - a for-profit, woman-owned purpose-driven business. Their first product was the Repurpose Schoolbag, a solar-powered, waterproof schoolbag for children, made from recycled plastic.



I hear from a reliable source that the August issue of Reloved is finally on shelves in the US! Pick it up at Barnes and Noble (not sure if it's stocked anywhere else). 

And if you want the tutorials for all the projects mentioned/featured in my feature ("The "ReFab House") click here








Time to send this eyelidcanvas pendant to a new home! As always, I used a randomizer to pick the winner and it landed on entry #178 - that's Lanae C! 

Lanae, congrats! Expect an email from me later today to get your shipping details. Thanks to everyone who entered for your interest and thanks to eyelidcanvas (Kim!) for the great giveaway!

Keep up with eyelidcanvas on Facebook and Instagram
Kim's work is available directly through her website and at:
Tarnish, Chicago
Coming Soon: Strangelovely in Chicago






The core concept that drives eyelidcanvas is the freedom of imagination to create functional and wearable art through the clever reuse of found objects. 

Meet Chicago-based artist and designer Kim Schafer, the talent behind eyelidcanvas. I first saw Kim's jewelry at Remix this year and spent a long time appreciating (and photographing) her unique work. What I always hope for at events like Remix is to see something I haven't seen before. Kim's work is that "something"! So I'm thrilled to not only feature her, but also give you guys a chance to win a pendant she created especially for you! 



A few months ago, the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse posted the pic below on Facebook. The message: everything you see here is free! Great for artists - come and take it! 



I see treasure in trash. I thinks there's joy in junk, wonder in waste. I've been showing you my upcycles, alley grabs, refabs, roadkill rescues and refashions for 6 years. As I contemplate the next step in trimming my waste (so to speak), here's a round up of some of my favorites tutorials.

1 and 2. Aluminum Cans 
Specifically, local (Chicago) craft beer cans. I love good beer and supporting local brewers. And I'm often distracted by the beautiful design featured on the cans. So much so, I thought they were worthy of jewelry. Save a few cans from your recycling and make your own geometric necklace or flower pin

3. Book Folding (if you're a book lover, please know that I am too. Here's my argument for why I think crafting with books is acceptable)
By far the most popular post on the blog, folded books make beautiful wall decor. It's a great way to repurpose a book that no one (and I mean no one) will ever read again. For example, old reference books, recipe books and city guides.

4. Negatives 
If you're keeping old negatives, ask yourself why? If you've lost the pictures, go get them printed! Then turn the negatives into something beautiful. Earrings, a necklace or create something decorative for your home

5. Pages of old books
There are so many ways to use book pages! Make your own paper beads then use them to make a bookmark. Or...
6. Big reference books 
Huge old encyclopedias are too big for bookfolds. So I made a book vase and won a Womens' Day Challenge for my trouble. I've also turned books into clocks and purses

7. Guitar strings
I played guitar regularly for 12+ years. I threw out so many broken strings in that time. What a waste! I could have made bunches of these beautiful flowers. And if you have an old, broken guitar lying around, here's a round of ways you could repurpose it.

8. Postage stamps (or any other pretty paper)
Betsy Siber makes beautiful jewelry out of stamps from around the world. This earring tutorial she created for me a few years ago is still a favorite. And here are other ideas for things you can do with old stamps.

Looking for more ideas? There's a long list of repurposing ideas in the sidebar. Lots of tutorials here and big roundups here






Welcome to the amazing work of Schroot-Hoop Design (Scrap Heap)!  Owner and designer Nico wants to "put a smile on your face and inspire you to not just throw away waste materials and stuff but discover how they can be used to create new products." Every product has a story and comes with it's origin co-ordinates - where the source materials were found. Follow Scrap Heap Facebook and Pinterest for a whole lot more inspiration  :)

License plates, cymbals, street signs, musical instruments, machine plates and metal rulers ... just a few of the salvaged things Devin Johnson turns into jewelry. Amazing jewelry, made in Minneapolis! I was lucky enough to oggle MakeShift Accessories in person at a recent street festival and it's impeccable. Not a word easily applied to re-junked stuff. But there it is. If you're up in MN, visit the actual store or shop on Etsy  :)  

Last week I posted a round-up of ideas for upcyling cardboard tubes. While I worked on that, an idea for a light slowly dawned (no, I cannot resist the obvious pun). This light was simple to make and because I used found materials, cost nothing.

True upcycling involves creating with post-consumer waste in new, imaginative ways. It involves re-envisioning things that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Crafting with dollar-store pool noodles is, well, crafting. Nothing wrong with that... but it's not upcycling.

sawdust plastic upcycle


Kulla is an Industrial Design Studio, based in Israel. It's two founders (Adi Shpigel and Keren Tomer) remix waste materials in amazing ways to create strong, beautiful products.


sawdust plastic upcycle


What looks like a witch's brew above is a mixture of plastic grocery bags and sawdust. A measured mixture of the two materials is pressed into an aluminum mold and then baked. The heat creates a natural connection between them without any need for adhesives. 


sawdust plastic upcycle


sawdust plastic upcycle


Impressed? Me too. Read more here





Celebrate Earth Month by supporting Retrash — a new book about upcycling, recycling, and living a sustainable lifestyle.

Nathan Divine, founder of the website Retrash, is a kindred spirit. I can't remember how I found his site, but I remember the thrill!  Nathan has spent the last 3 years gathering inspired projects by amazing artists. And, in turn, inspiring people to rethink the way they look at trash. Now he's put all of his findings in a coffee table book by the same name (Retrash). The book features the work and ideas 82 designers in 20 countries, including Australia, USA, Germany, Spain, UK, Canada, Israel, France, Romania, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Netherlands, India, Portugal, New Zealand, Italy, Argentina, Belgium and Hong Kong.

I've had the opportunity to see some of the projects ...  and I've created a little sneak peak below of the some of the amazing refashions and upcycled jewelry ideas. To coincide with Earth Day, Nathan launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to print the book (on 100% recycled paper, of course). Just two days into the campaign, it's about 60% funded. How cool is that?



It's Earth Day. So I'm sending a rather literal message here ... upcycling going global? Upcycle old globes? Have some fun but let's remember that we only have one of these Earth things. We should probably take care of it.  :)


Going clockwise:

1. What I believe is a now famous Wendy Gold upcycle - the Flutter by Globe

2. An old favorite of mine published by My Sister's Suitcase in 2012

3. A fun planter with butterflies ...

4. And another Wendy Gold creation. Peace.











This is just one of many amazing upcyles created by Destinations Vintage. I don't know that I really need to say much about this lamp - it's beautiful and it's genius repurposing. Check out all the work that went into it here ... then enjoy the rest of the blog!





I love the steampunk / trashion punk aesthetic. I'll be heading to Cape Town in March and at the top of my to-visit list is Truth Coffee, where steampunk is not just about decorating but has, in fact, inspired a built-from-scratch "coffee bean contraption". Because of its appeal, I've spent quite a lot of time looking around for jewelry DIYs. They're hard to find. But here's a small collection for you, inspired my February sponsor, Sleepless Storyteller



Introducing... drumroll please .... the Sleepless StorytellerMy first blog sponsor for 2014 :) 

Christine Hart lives and creates in Vancouver, BC. When she's not conjuring jewelry, she's writing young adult novels, working as a copywriter, blogging and being a mom. To say that I jumped at the chance to feature her work would be an understatement!

All the pieces pictured above are from her her Etsy store. The work covers steampunk, cyberpunk, trashion, neo-victorian and upcycled vintage jewelry. When you visit the store, be sure to read the product descriptions. They go like this: If Mid-Century Modern style ever found its way to Mars, the landscape might be inspired to grow flowers like these. A vintage enamel flower accented with an atomic-shaped brass finding, small enamel flowers, hand-set rhinestones and a tiny brass gear (the white daisy pictured above).

This is jewelry created by "an eccentric fiction writer,  inspired by alternate realities". If you love science fiction, fantasy or gritty urban settings, you'll see it in her work. If you have a touch of whimsy, remember your dreams, feel sure you've fallen down a rabbit hole at some point and, maybe, have a crush on Neil Gaiman, you might want to one of these lovely pieces.

Here's a little more about Christine: 

1. What came first, the crafting or the writing? How do they influence each other

I've been crafting and writing as long as I can remember, but writing came first as a career. I studied professional writing at the University of Victoria. After graduating in 2001, I worked in roles that utilized my copywriting and journalism skills. 

I started making my own jewellery probably as far back as high school. I have very petite wrists and fingers, so the best way to find rings and bracelets that fit was to make my own. I'm also fond of chokers, which I need a small size for as well.

Today, the two pursuits really weave into each other at a higher level. My work as a communications and marketing writer gave me the training I needed to handle the promotional and graphics side of having a shop, backed by a website and social media.

2. You are strongly oriented to repurposing, upcycling etc... where did that come from for you

Being a writer, even working mostly in the corporate world, is rarely a lucrative pursuit. I start the answer there to explain that recycling, for me, began as simple thrift. Already making my own jewelry, I found myself remaking old designs I became tired of, and from there, experimenting with clockwork and computer parts I had access to at home.

3. Advice for folk who are trying to turn their passion/craft into an online business?

Turning a crafting hobby into a business isn't as big an undertaking as you might think, now that sites like Etsy, Big Cartel, ArtFire and others make it fairly painless to upload and offer goods for sale. In addition to your products of course, you need a decent camera, photo editing software, and time. Time for things like copywriting and social media, as well as the time spent crafting.

The main challenge is trying to grow that shop into a recognized brand with a sales volume that covers a real wage, after expenses are deducted. Most crafters work on their business while holding down a job, often while raising a family. Growing a business when you can't devote all your time to it is a process that takes several years at a bare minimum.

I want Sleepless Storyteller to grow and thrive. But I also enjoy my work as a copywriter and I'm working on having another novel published. I have a toddler at home and I'm thinking about having another baby.



To enjoy your business and your brand, I think it's critical to know where you want it to go and why. For a self-employed crafter to replace the income of a day job, I think it takes an all-consuming passion. A complete devotion of all waking hours. And luck on top of that. 

4. What are you excited to read this year?? 

Great question! This year, I'm doing quite a bit of research reading, so my list looks something like: Cryptids And Other Creepy Creatures by John D. Wright, African Mythology by Jan Knappert, Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece by W.H.D. Rouse and Dictionary of the Occult by André Nataf.
For fun though, I'm reading Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Before that it was A Clash of Kings. Is there anyone left who's not a Game of Thrones fan?

I hope that list isn't too long! When start talking (or writing) about literature and crafting, I can really get going.


Visit Christine's Etsy store and follow her Facebook




Last weekend, I spent many hours wandering the One of a Kind show at Chicago's Merchandize Mart. It's a massive show - big enough for Etsy to sponsor a whole section and still be hard to find. I like the show. I try to attend every year. It's a great place to see incredible jewelry, fine art and high-end functional art from across the US. 





Paper beads (think magazine pages) are easy to make (I made book-page beads a while back) and can have a great visual impact when displayed together ... like this wonderful curtain from Trashy Crafter!  I love the colors :) Click through for the complete DIY.





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