the ReFab Diaries: upcycling DIY
Showing posts with label upcycling DIY
Still looking for a quick, thrifty, upcycled Valentine DIY? Here's 2020's big round-up of the 30 best ideas I can find. Some of them throw back over a decade because good ideas don't date!



Season's greetings fab friends! I realize that it's a bit late to be sharing an idea for a reusable advent calendar, but hey... maybe it'll provide some last-minute inspiration for some of you! And the embroidered cards are super-easy to make, so it's not too late to try them.



This post has been, literally, years in the making! When I got this IKEA canvas in 2014, I knew I'd paint over it one day. But it's taken a long time to make it happen and then write about it.

upcycled art




My friend Lynzie is an 8th grade English teacher, a yoga instructor and one of my favorite upcyclers. A few years ago, I shared her dresser makeover. And if you follow me on Instagram, you've seen her little crate-on-wheels bookshelf.

Last week, Lynzie shared a couple of pics of mismatched vessels she's turned into planters. I asked for the story:  



My lovely friend Tania Rodamilans is a creative force. Not only is she an accomplished jewelry designer, artist and photographer ... she's also the snappiest dresser I know. Just saying. Read more about here.


One of the things I love most about Tania's work is the way she incorporates found materials. Apparently she's good at crafting with them too. For the upcoming Stylemax show at the Chicago Merchandise Mart, she made these "new" jewelry displays out of fallen branches. And because she rocks, she's got the goods on how to make them yourself.



Yup - I made a Valentine's Day thing. Mostly because I was inspired by Pillar Box Blue's upcycled map hearts. They're so easy to make and such a great way to repurpose magazines, old book pages and, apparently, maps. Also, sewing paper is fun!


 For you I have to risk it all 

'Cause the writing's on the wall 
 Sam Smith


I haven't done a Valentine's post in years. But I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by the hate happening all around me right now. So let's make love... out of junk.


Happy Sunday! Here's a quick DIY for you. What you need:


  • Old book pages
  • Mod Podge, scissors and tape
  • Hole punch and material for handles (twine, tape, ribbon)
  • A big hard-back book (or a box from your recycling) for sizing the bag


This weekend involved apple picking and pumpkins and all things "fall". And I found myself, unexpectedly, in a thrift store a long way out of the city. The kind of place where nothing has been curated for (or by) a discerning eye. It's just a mishmash of great grandma's stuff that no one really wants anymore.

And there was a lot of kitsch ceramic. Dogs, horses, angels etc. What my grandma would have called "knick knacks". I guess I have some knick knacks of my own, but this stuff...wow. It still made me curious though. What can you actually do with an ugly ceramic dog? The answer, it seems, is paint it! Milk-glass paint is especially effective. So here are some ideas:



Goals - Week 27: 
  1. Repurpose
  2. Upcycle
  3. Draw!


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.


A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of the frustration I was feeling around this project. Let's just say that when I'm making it up as I go, my upcycles rarely go smoothly. But now you get to benefit (a little) from my mistakes! Full tutorial after the jump.

Upcycling blues

in , by ReFab Diaries


I hope to have a new upcycling project to share with you soon. But today it's going the way most of my projects go: 

1. Damn, that's a great idea! My version will be even easier.

2. I have everything I need except nails. Hmmm, I'll use screws.

3. But the drill isn't charged. That's ok, I should probably sand and stain first.

3. I just broke part of what would have made this awesome. Fine. Dammit. I'll rethink.

4. While I think, I'll just pull the nails out of the pallet wood.

5. OMG, why is it SO hard to pull nails out of pallet wood!!!??? Yes, that's my foot in the picture.

Really. Is it just me or are pallets constructed to withstand the apocalypse?  








Goals - Week 3:
  1. Upcycle a non-recyclable item
  2. Repair or repurpose old clothes
  3. Buy less, make less trash and create more  :)
Stretch goal (punny!): use old tights to line plant pots



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.






Hi rebfabbers ... it's been a while since I posted! I have a few things to share in the next couple of weeks, but first a quick, practical fix. I've been playing with ways to make kid's clothes last longer and work harder since Ms R arrived in 2010. I've turned long-sleeve onesies into short sleeve swing tops (tutorial), used the legs of too-short pants to add sleeves to old t-shirts (tutorial) and combined a shirt of mine with a onesie of hers to make a dress (tutorial). 

To say that this project has been years in the making is no exaggeration. I enjoy local craft beer. In particular, Revolution Brewing's Anti-Hero IPA. And it's mostly their packaging you're seeing piled up. Craft brewers, across the board, package their cans in a very specific way. The plastic is 96% PCR (post-consumer) and completely recyclable - go them! But I kept all this packaging because it just looked... useful? And as the plastic sheets started to stack up, they looked more and more like building blocks. But for what? 


Once upon a time ... a friend and I ran a little business called Rebooked. It involved a LOT of work for very little return, but we were unemployed... we had nothing but time. And we learned a lot about upcycling old books! So much, in fact, that I've enjoyed working with them ever since. When we set out to make book clocks (2004), there were no online tutorials to be found. So there was a lot of trial and error (and swearing) involved. The first ones were so much work, I still have one on the wall (above) as a reminder. Today, it's pretty easy to find really good instructions from lots of talented people. Keep reading for my instructions, and a list of my favorite tutorials

Confession: the whole pallet fad left me cold. In part because pallet wood (when you can get it) is mostly terrible wood. I mean TERRIBLE. So I avoided that particular bandwagon. Until I found this one, left in my alley (the provider of all things). This pallet was almost brand new. And made of solid, beautiful, mostly smooth pine. So this pallet came inside with me ... and the movers got to move it for me. And then I went to work and turned it into a workbench organizer.  

These chairs were listed on a local Facebook trading post as "faux bamboo" - $35 for the pair. When I picked them up they were bigger and heavier than I expected them to be. Because, as it turns out, they're solid wood with their original sprung cushions in place. I have since read up on this Hollywood Regency style club chair; once very popular and apparently making a comeback in my living room. :)  
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