Let's Just Try It

a compilation of inspiration and creative endeavors of a mom and daughter duo

Category Archives: Upcycling

reCreation-The Art of Old Becoming New

I believe in second chances, don’t you? Opportunities to shine better than you shined before, to correct a mistake made in haste or to try just one more time to reach the goal you fell short of last time. It takes grace on the giver, and persistence on the receiver, but this is the seasoning of life.  People need second chances – why? because they have value  and potential.  No matter how tired, battered or worn out they might be.

Art imitates life, right?

recreate:  \ˈre-krē-ˌāt\

transitive verb
:  to give new life or freshness to : refresh
intransitive verb
:  to take recreation

In the early days (back when I was very young and very bored) my mom would give me old buttons, yarn and scraps of fabric to keep me busy on those long summer days. I can remember thumbing through magazines and pattern books dreaming of all the things that those buttons and scraps could become.  This was my “recreation”.

Perhaps because of these memories, I have a very hard time walking past “items of great potential” –  Beautiful stacks of cardboard, old pallets, holey jeans… they all sing with the tune of second chances.

So, what is a girl to do? ReCreate of course!
I have been cooking up several projects and will be keeping a journal of the process. Check out my new blog “CJ’s (re)Creations for how to’s, techniques and some items for sale

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Heart Shaped Mini Wreath

Most times, it’s the little things that count.  The unexpected kiss on the cheek, the wink across the room, the help when unasked.

There is nothing nicer than leaving a little gift for someone anonymously, and this little heart wreath is a simple way to show those you love that you appreciate them. Leave them hanging on the door, from the car mirror or maybe even on the shower handle.  Depending on the size made, it would take no time at all to whip up half a dozen. They use mostly scraps or repurposed materials and cost almost nothing.


Medium Gauge Wire – (recycle an old hanger!)

A pair of pliers and a wire cutter

Masking tape

Scraps of fabric (left overs from sewing projects, old pillowcases, bits of worn out clothing)

Bits of Ribbon to hang with

Step One: Bend a small heart from a piece of wire.  Tip: start from the bottom of the heart and bend upward. Bend each side of the top of the heart by gently bending the curve around.  Perfection is not needed.

Step Two: Twist the ends of the heart together. If too long, trim shorter.  Tape ends with tape for safety. ( if the twisted section is too long, as it is above, trim with a pair of wire cutters. The tape will hold it together.

Step Three:  Tear strips from a variety of types of cloth.  The width required will depend on the size of wreath made.  For a 7 inch wreath, I used approximately 1 inch wide strips. If using very thick material, make narrower strips.

Step four: Cut the strips into a length that will make an easy hitch knot.  My sample was made with approximately 4 inch strips

Step five: Tie the strip onto the frame using a hitch knot. ( Fold the strip in half, forming a loop. Fold over the frame, insert the ends of the strips through the loop and pull tight.

Continue all the way around the frame pushing the knots close together and varying the colours and patterns.

Step Six: To finish the wreath, pull the ends of the knots apart from each other to give it a fluffed appearance.

Tie a longer length of ribbon in a loop and thread it around the wreath to form a hanger.

Ta Da! A cute little gift to brighten someones day!

* Options (I love options!)

Use a bigger frame and wider strips to make a really fluffy wreath

Use scraps of ribbon, or widely different textures of fabric for a beautifully diverse wreath

Hang a string of beads from the middle or the bottom – or a charm – or a bow – the possibilities are limitless!

Arts and Crafts in Cash-Strapped Times

I am certainly not an historian and do not have a degree in Art – but after recently visiting a few of the worlds most amazing museums in Paris, I realized that it doesn’t take an art major to draw the conclusion that economic and social climate certainly impacts what is considered beautiful in the eyes of society.

Who doesn’t love beauty?

Here we are in a world-wide economic down-turn  – does that mean that we all must don grey and black clothes, let the garden die and line our lives with illustrations with images similar to a Charles Dickens’ novel?  Not a chance!

In fact, art has a way of picking up the spirits and brightening  the future – so let’s get busy!

“What to do?” you may ask…  “I don’t have money to decorate” you may say… Not to worry!

Art does not have to be a stodgy effort of oil and canvas – nor does it have to be a perfect example of skill. Art is what decorates our lives and gives beauty to the dark corners of our rooms. 

I am a recent Twitter convert – and while my husband loves to follow political stories, I prefer something more positive, so I have looked for posts on all things bright and beautiful. In my quest, I have come across  a few Tweeters who are sharing their amazing ideas for adding beauty using materials that are all ready on hand – giving a whole new perspective to the word “recreation”. Isn’t it true that those who love to create find it recreational? – and if you are using recycled or repurposed materials, you have joined the upcycling (or as I call it “re-creation”) movement. 

My head is spinning with ideas – some old, some new.

         How about teddy bears or place mats sewn with old denim jeans?  

    Wreaths or adornments made from book page roses?

  Lamp shades from old milk bottles?

    Garden art from old soda cans?

Here is a hint: A quick internet search of “upcycling” or “crafting with recycled materials” will give you an endless list of projects – and if you are a Twitter fan, look for posts from Trashthetic, Triftybydesign and Hipcycle for some daily inspiration.

And don’t forget to WATCH THIS SPACE for some of our efforts!

Quick But Warm Two Tone Lap Blanket – No Sew!

While I have basked in 91 degree weather today, my friends and family back in the States have endured a winter of note – snow, power outages and now flooding. In honour of them, I have spent my Saturday making some lovely warm lap blankets – perfect for an evening of book reading or television viewing. Come July, I’ll be ready!

It all started with a bargain R99.00 ($12.00) for four beautifully colour coordinated polar fleece blankets on sale at my local Pick N Pay shop. They are a little thin, but perfect for the project I had in mind.

Materials and Tools:
1) Cheap and ready-made polar fleece blankets, but fleece bought from the local fabric shop would be as good, if not better.
2) A pair of Scissors
That’s IT!

Step One:
Layer two coordinating blankets (or lengths of fabric) on top of each other

Step Two:
Cut slits through both layers – 8 or 9 centimeters deep, spaced 3 or 4 centimeters apart. It is important that the cuts are consistently the same depth.

Step Three: Starting at one corner, begin to tie a basic square knot, using the bottom blanket’s strip tied to the top blanket’s strip.

Tip: Don’t tie too tightly as this may cause puckering.

Work around the blanket until the top is tied to the bottom along all edges.

Extra scraps of fleece could be used to decorate the center of the blanket – imagine flowers cut and fastened with a big bright button scattered across the face of the blanket.

Garden Art – a little bit of whimsy

I don’t know if it was the ceramic statues of gnomes, deer and squirrels in my Grandma Peterson’s garden (my brother and I would go on safari, hunting for them among the blooms and bush) or my mom’s creative flair in dressing up her flower beds with old shoes and teapots, but I have always wanted to add touches of something to my garden beds. 

 In our current home, we have a lot of well established green – and not too much colour. The bird life is great, and that has brought a special kind of colour, but I am ready for some fun.

At the moment I’m busy getting a container garden going, but once complete I am planning on getting a few fun things put together to add a bit of flair and maybe even fantasy to my garden (or yard, for my northern hemisphere friends and family).

High on my list are items created from upcycled goods. I love garden markers made from old spoons,

       Staked flowers from recycled soda cans

– and I’m definitely going to find an old bowling ball and croquet ball and do a bit of mosaic.

It’s a good thing that garden art has progressed beyond clever arrangements of gnomes and squirrels, and that there is so much great inspiration to be had!

Special thanks to meiphemera.blogspot.com and stitchanddestroy.blogspot.com for their great ideas!

Flower Pin- just for the fun of it

My great-grandmother used to wear the most beautiful brooches. I remember as a little girl wondering over how pretty they were as I sat on her lap and smelled her perfume.

This flower could be used as an adornment on just about anything. I made one for Elizabeth’s birthday out of an old book – she’s a fantastic writer and is just about to finish her degree in English literature, so it seemed fitting – but any unique paper would look great. I have some beautiful scraps of pearlized and embossed paper that I will use one day and make a pin to wear. I’d love to make some out of old music sheets to put on my Christmas tree this year

Tools and Materials Needed:

For the pedals:

Tim Holtz Alterations BigZ Die

– Alternatively, hand cutting a similar shape would work great!

Die cutting machine

Craft Glue

Coloured Tulle (fine netting as used on wedding veils)

Small coloured feathers

standard sized brad

old-fashioned button

Step One: Cut from your favorite paper 5 large flowers, plus one extra

Step Two: Cut from the coloured tulle netting –  4 large flowers

Step Three: Paint the front and back of the paper flowers with craft glue. This will stiffen the pedals and allow shaping and curling later

Step Four: When the glue coated flowers are dry, trim the flowers as follows:

Flower #1, #2 and #3 – Leave as is

Flower #4 – Trim away one pedal

Flower #5 – Trim away two pedals

Step Five: On Flower #4 and #5, with a touch of glue (hot glue or craft glue), fold over the trimmed side to form a slightly curled 4 and 3 pedaled flower

Step Six: With the tulle netting, trim only one flower of one pedal, and glue as in step five.

Step Seven: Layer as follows: Flower #1 at bottom; Tulle net flower; Flower#2, Tulle net flower; Flower #3; Tulle net flower; Flower #4 (trimmed to 4 pedals); Tulle net flower (trimmed and glued to 4 pedals); Flower #5 (trimmed and glued to 3 pedals). Rotate each layer slightly to offset the pedals

Step Eight: Insert metal brad through the center of each  layer and flatten at the back. Trim brad ends if necessary

Step Nine: Glue feathers around the back of the bottom flower, bending where necessary (hot glue works well)

Step Ten: Glue extra flower over the back to cover the brad back and the feather stems and glue the button on top of the brad head.

Finishing: With the end of a pencil or paintbrush, curl the pedals slighty as desired to give a dimensional feel to your new creation

Book Page Wreath

I happen to be of the opinion that there are two types of books on this lovely planet.

There are good books. These are the intriguing stories, rich with plot, characterisation and overall mastery of the language. I treasure good books with space on my bookshelves, in my conversations and in my mind.

There are bad books with good re-purposes. These books aren’t inherently terrible necessarily, but they most certainly do not warrant a second or third reading. But even bad books, though not contributing to my preferred sense of literature, are still filled with useful features. Bill Bailey by Catherine Cookson was one of these very books. I read it once, promptly decided that it would be my only read through, and began to cook up a scheme to repurpose the pages in a beautiful way.

The pages had yellowed beautifully, and the printed words had held up well in my great grandmother’s attic. I couldn’t wait to find something to make with them!

Then I saw this tutorial for a faux curled rosewood wreath. It was the perfect mix of unconventionality and traditionalism. I made a few changes: used rolled up newspaper instead of a wreath form, loosened up my roses, and tied with a satin ribbon for a bit of shine.

The wreath is about a foot and a half in diameter, and took just under 300 roses to complete. I consider this a mostly win:

1: I spend no money on creating this as the book was a gift and the newspaper was from my recycling bin

2: The wreath successfully shows off the beautiful pages of the book

3: Next time I make something like this, I will take more care to spraypaint the entire newspaper white to hide any ink bleedthroughs

4: This turned out to be a bit more old fashioned than I prefer. I see it hanging above my typewriter every morning, and I like how appropriate it is for the vignette, but in all seriousness, this isn’t something I’d like to keep forever. It needs a bit more colour and oomph!

If you would like to make your own book page wreath, you can visit Under the Table and Dreaming for a complete tutorial.