the ReFab Diaries: upcycled crafts
Showing posts with label upcycled crafts
As we all do our best to stay home, spring in the northern hemisphere is relentlessly springing up around us. And today is the start of "Spring Break" for my daughter's school district. This means she'll have no school obligations for the next 10 days, but all the fun that had been planned has been cancelled.


What to do? In my house, we continue to raid the recycling to make things. We saw a pic of these little spring birds in trees on Pinterest and here's our attempt at them. 

It's March, 2020. Many of us are now living "in lockdown", or we're "sheltering in place" or doing whatever your community calls "stay-at-home 24/7". If you're doing this with young children, I empathize. I'm home with a 9.5 year-old Ms R.


So as we come up with crafts that we love, and that require only stuff that you probably already have in your home, I'll share them here.

This year I've been participating in Joanne Hawker's #MarchMeetTheMaker challenge on Instagram. As I write this post, the month is drawing to an end and the challenge is closing in on 453,000 posts!





Goals - Week 28: 
  1. Find a way to keep meaningful things around and functioning
  2. Find resources for recycling cork
  3. Keep it simple


Goals - Week 23:

  • Support Remix Chicago
  • Be inspired by people who've turned upcycling into a fine art
  • Promote them in any way I can! 

This is my third year documenting Remix Chicago. But this year I had my photographer friend Johnny with me. A photographer who works with (wait for it) cameras he rebuilds himself using classic lenses. In this case, he shot only with lenses from the mid 60's. So this might be my most "meta" blog post ever!


Goals - Week 13:
  • See the potential in waste
  • Reduce recycling
  • Remain hyper aware of how much packaging I generate

Stretch goal: keep upcycling! 
Read on for links to 40+ tutorials for upcycling common packaging items.




It's Sunday and I'm feeling nostalgic. Maybe it's seeing all my friends' (and cousins') children growing up and starting to look exactly like them! Anyway, I have albums of old photographs and negatives from a time when that's how we did things. And today I went looking for some ideas for "keeping" these things in a different way:



If you're trying give a little differently this holiday season, these ideas might work for you! They're easy DIYs, don't cost that much (time or money) and make meaningful, unique gifts for book lovers. Or friends who know that you're a book lover!

Sidenote: if you're worried about upcycling books, please read this.

1. A book planter. It can also be used as a vase and is much easier to make than you'd think. This is a great way to repurpose an outdated reference book.

2. A book clock. This is an elegant way to re-use a book with a beautiful hardback cover (and junky content). I'm always drawn to unusual colors and quirky titles.

3. Dress up gifts with bows made from book or magazine pages.

4. Or use book pages to roll your own beads and make simple bookmarks.







Chicago's One of Kind show is an enormous, overwhelming thing. Etsy grounds a small portion of the section dedicated to fashion, jewelry and craft. Then there's a huge section of fine art, photography, furniture and other things.  

I share my world with a 5 and half year old who is on her way up. Like a weed, as they say. Which means we're drowning in perfectly good long-sleeved t-shirts that are way too short for her. Way. And then we got a big bag of hand-me-downs from her cousin and suddenly had even more of them. All. too. short.

A couple of days ago, a friend sent me a message: "I have a ton of old tshirts that I don't want to throw out. Any upcycle ideas for me?" I was about to fire back links to lots of great ideas when I realized:

a. Most ideas for upcycling t-shirts involve seriously repurposing the shirts. In other words, some serious destruction followed by reconstruction.
b. Most ideas for upcycling t-shirts result in things women will like, use or wear. This friend is a man.
c. Most of the ideas are DIYs. My friend Jason is not about to sew himself... well... anything really.


My mom started collecting decorative plates when I was 12. Her collection adorns the top of the cabinets in her kitchen. And when I say collection, I mean 40+ plates. I have always been, at best, blind to them. At worst... well, not very nice about her dust collectors. But. I already know that when the time comes to choose what of hers to keep, I will choose a selection of her damned plates. So, in the spirit of imagining (and re-imagining) their future, this is a collection of ideas I really like.


In only its second year, and plagued by unpredictable weather, Remix 2015 still delivered a few unexpected discoveries for me! 

I design jewelry to create and celebrate beauty, and to make those who wear my pieces feel beautiful. To me, necklaces are like magic talismans that can transform not only an outfit but the person wearing it. - Tania Rodamilans




It's a decorating rule-of-thumb: a coat of paint and new drawer handles = a complete makeover. Right? This is true of kitchen cabinets, dressers... doors of any sort. And it seems you can repurpose pretty much anything as a drawer pull. These are my 12 favorites (please click on each one to go to the complete tutorial)


1. Champagne corks


2. Alphabet blocks


3. Sewing machine bobbins


4. Vintage jewelry


5. Paintbrushes


6. Vintage car door handles / window winders


7. Nuts and bolts


9. Doll limbs (and head!)


10. Purse strap (or leather belt)


11. Plastic toys


12.  Vintage rulers or yardsticks









I'm thrilled to introduce you to Groovy Green Glass! Based in Myrtle Beach, SC, this small, family owned company works with restaurants to reclaim used bottles. Then they turn them into useful, and artistic, eco-friendly products. Their entirely post-consumer line includes everything from glassware to jewelry. And today, they're offering one of you a chance to win the beautiful pendant pictured above. Read on... 



Last year, I ate a lot of nuts. And since I wasn't buying them in bulk, I made myself keep the packaging. As evidence of my nut habit. But also as a reminder to myself to stop buying pre-packaged nuts! 

I knew I'd find a way to use the containers (did you see my nutty lamp?) but I had no idea what I'd do with the lids... until Ms Ro asked for a mobile. And then the wheels started turning!




It's only been a week since I moved but what a week! Chicago was hit by a massive blizzard last Sunday - meaning we were pretty much housebound. So the final part of moving my stuff out of the old place has dragged on, finally wrapping up this morning. The snow too has clung on. And on...

So. It feels appropriate to be posting a collection of marble upcycles. Because I've felt like I was losing mine this week. But I think they're regrouping.

Starting at the top...

1. The colors in these marble topped tables - the one at the top is perfectly sweet shop, don't you think? The one at the bottom is little more grown up, with it's earth tones.

2. A little sensory marble massage? Not just for kids I think!

3. This marble toothbrush storage idea is simple and proper old marbles would work just as well and look better I think! I also like the idea for paintbrushes, pens, flowers...

4. And finally, the marble fence idea. Not at all new, but there's a reason bloggers keep talking about it. It's a LOVELY idea! See examples and tutorials here, here and here.








I rarely post over the weekend, but a friend sent me a link to this today and I had to share it! Artist Sonia Singh is getting attention for her Bratz "makeunders". She's not just refabbing thrifted dolls. She's bringing them back to nature, so to speak. She calls them Tree Change Dolls, a perfect summary of the process! More in her own words:

"These dolls have been rescued and rehabilitated from op-shops and tip shops around Tasmania. These lil fashion dolls have opted for a "tree change", swapping high-maintenance glitz 'n' glamour for down-to-earth style. I hand repaint the dolls faces, mold new shoes, and my Mum sews and knits their clothing.

My sisters and I grew up playing with second-hand dolls and home-made toys in the beautiful Tasmanian natural environment. I love the satisfaction of repairing and reusing discarded items to give them a new lease on life."

The whole concept is delightful. And sends a message that goes far beyond the dolls!

Sonia's planning an Etsy store. For now, visit her Tumblr for more makeunders and follow her on Facebook

UPDATE: Less than a month after I posted this, Sonia's story is everywhere! She has almost 100,000 Facebook followers and her first batch of dolls sold out the day she listed them on Etsy. How's she handling all this success? By encouraging others to try this themselves. Follow her on YouTube - she'll be posting how-to tutorials. And her FB thread is full of pictures of people around the world creating their own tree-change dolls!  :)



What to do with an old bread box? 


In October I took Ms Ro to Fat Blossom Farm's Forest Fairy Festival (in Michigan). I know I was motivated, in part, by my love of miniature worlds ... especially ones made out of repurposed materials!

You won't be surprised to know that I was in love with The Borrowers growing up. And The Wombles! I always loved the idea that in some other world, there are creatures "making good use of the things that (they) find, things that the everyday folk leave behind." And have you seen The Boxtrolls? You must! 

Anyway, I recently stumbled upon this amazing breadbox dollhouse created by Dan Borg, a former employee of The Rebuilding Center and an amazing mosaic artist. I was, of course, entranced!
The tub is the brass housing from a broken music box. The faucets are cup hooks!

The window boxes are drawer pulls with shredded carpet for vegetation. For many more images, visit the Flickr page.




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