Archives for the month of: January, 2011

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Yet another major consumer holiday!! I’m not particularly attached to V-day, but there is something nice about all the sweet little heart shaped thing-a-ma-bobs that show up around this time of year. So, I want to think about two interrelated things for a moment: 1) how much consumption occurs on or around V-Day, and 2) how we can do things a little bit differently.

CONSUMER-RAMA!!!
Ok, some consumption facts from Green living tips :

1. Apparently V-Day ranks #2 in global card sending (just behind Christmas) at a whopping 1 billion cards sent annually!!! (Yikes, except, of course those who a) forget (guilt, guilt, guilt) or b) decide you hate everyone too much to send a card).

2. More than 36 million heart-shaped chocolate boxes are sold annually (groan, that’s a lot of chocolate, esp so soon after the winter holiday indulgence).

3. It’s the #1 day for sending cut flowers around the country.

So…wow, V-Day has a lot involved: cards, candy, flowers, food, jewelry, the list goes on! And, in the meantime, we already know that not only does it cost a lot, but it creates a lot of waste, excess, and not-so-nice things in the process (i.e. blood diamonds? hmmm).

How can we rethink V-Day? Make it a little more sweet, a little less excessive? A little more eco-friendly, planet-friendly, human/animal-friendly?

A few years ago, P gave me an avocado and a Marzipan bar -oooh boy! Love those avocados – and they’re good for your heart. But, I guess not everyone was thinking quite so green…So, here are some alternatives:

Still planning to send cards? Try an e-card! Of course, there are those who are resistant to sending/receiving e-cards and those who don’t have e-access, like all of my grandparents. If that’s your situation, try a card made from recycled paper . This is super cute and simple!

Want to give something sweet to your sweetheart? Try these Valentine almond nougat bars from Have It Confections. Made with local, natural, and organic ingredients!

Still thinking about sending/giving flowers? Think outside the florist shop with these
sweet little recycled paper blooms .

So, go forth and spread a little V-Day love! And P, if you’re reading this, I’d really like another avocado this year… 🙂

Today as I was riding the bus into campus I realized I was wearing a hat that my mother crocheted some years back, a set of mittens that my sister knitted me for the Christmas I went to Spain, and a beautiful knit scarf from an old childhood friend. Not to mention that my oversized parka was a hand me down from my grandmother’s closet.

I sat there thinking a bit about how much items we produce in the world can connect us to other people. For instance, I know that the three women who gifted me my winter apparel took the time to make something they thought I would like and to use their creative skills to put a smile on my face. I know that every time I wear that jacket, I think about my grandmother, bustling around in it, never sitting still.

The people and stories behind the items is what actually makes them something meaningful that we can appreciate. That’s why I think it’s important to take a moment (or a lifetime) and consider where all of the “things” in your life are from. Do you know who grows your food? Do you know who makes your clothes? Do you know where your dishes and lamps were made?

It seems like it’s impossible to know where everything in our lives came from. Also, part of the cool thing about our globally widening worlds is that we can share a bit of material culture back and forth with people across the ocean, but we also have to be cognizant of how our connections and consumption can make both positive and negative impacts in the world.

Part of my mission this year is to be more conscious about my crafting and gifting. I love creating beautiful and relevant items for the people in my life, but I also want to become more aware of the connections to other people that I am forging when I make my items. Where are my fabrics coming from? Who makes the beads and crystals that I like using? How can we craft in sustainable, human/animal/planet-friendly ways, that make enduring, caring connections rather than exploitative ones that might be invisible if we don’t take the time to look?

These are the questions I’m realizing more and more that I need to ask myself and other people.

This post is dedicated to crafters who:

1. love making crafts for their furball pals

2. love buying crafts for their furball pals

OR

3. have furry critter friends who like to help with craft time!

With 2 gray-striped critters running around the house, there are plenty of snuggle patches to be sewn, yarn to be braided, new catnip toys to come home, and, as P likes to say, lots of “kitten help” whenever I go into my crafting lair. Anyone else’s cats go crazy for piles of tulle and sewing patterns? Or are mine just weirdos? 🙂

Regardless, if you have a critter friend in your life, you will no doubt come across something crafty for pets that’s just begging to come home with you! So, without further adieu, here are some  sweet (and eco/budget friendly) ideas for that special furry someone in your life:

Use up some of your fabric scraps to make a toss toy or something else fun-filled (i.e. catnip filled) to chew on!

Make a ready-to-travel snuggle patch out of an old suitcase

OR a packing crate !

These look WAY comfy, even though my cats will sleep on just about anything. Little Roo is really partial to napping on paper…

Fancy up your furry friend with one of these upcycled flower collars !

It’s possible that my two gray-striped little things USED to have the sweetest little black and white bell collars, but they were frequently removed during the night by collar bandits…

And, for the grande finale…what’s cuter than a little pup with monkey ears? I’m impressed that this picture was taken on an actual puppy! 🙂

http://www.etsy.com/listing/61623140/monkey-pup-hat

I will admit, for all the “kitten-help” I get, on days when they’re too snoozy I do miss them plowing through my craft piles and trying to eat my thread. In fact, here comes my Boo-boo now, demanding to be let on my lap 🙂

If you sew or are crafty in any way then you probably end up with LOADS of scraps lying around staring at you. I have bags and bags and bags of scraps sitting around waiting for some inspiring use. I just discovered a bag recently that I haven’t opened since P and I moved in together (unusual for me since I love opening all of my boxes after moving – it’s like Christmas!!!).

I always keep my scraps because they just seem so useful! But…you know you have a problem when half your fabric supplies are itty bitty scraps. So what can you do? Well, my first thought with super small scraps is to use them as stuffing for other projects. I recently stuffed a small pillow for the chair in my office.

*WARNING: this is not the best idea unless you are fond of lumpy and slightly weird pillows…

If you are not fond of lumpy, weird pillows and other lumpy things, what else is a girl to do?

Well, if you have time, patience, and skill, there seem to plenty of ideas out there. Or if you know someone else who has time, patience, and skill, donate your scraps to them! Here are some of my favorites that I am SO doing…right after I finish writing my lecture and revising that dissertation chapter…

You can use your little bitty scraps and make them into cute embellishments to jazz up your throw pillows .

Or make a whole pillow cover piecing together larger scraps, like this sweet vintage scrap one.

You can turn them into little fabric flowers, and put them on EVERYTHING!!! Well, maybe not everything, P might not be so pleased with that idea…

You can turn them into something like this super cute wreath to fill your house with a bit of cheer all year round (LOVE this!).

Or zip them up into a sweet patchwork bag.

Got any more fun ideas for little scraps and big scraps and scraps of every color? Let me know! Or, I can always fill the world with lumpy weird pillows…:)

Shoes, shoes, shoes! I love shoes! But, in the effort to creatively re-use things, foot wear is one of those categories where ideas are definitely hard to come by.  Shoes get smelly, dirty, faded, fall apart, broken down…how on earth do you magically transform them like some of these other crafty ideas we’ve seen?

Well, if you are totally lacking in ideas but feel the genuine eco spirit, you can recycle some types of old shoes by sending them to various shoe companies, check out this link for more info.

**I sent my old tennis shoes in to recycle because I thought maybe that was better than throwing them away or trying to donate them – they were GROSS! Hopefully they are on their second life as part of a jungle gym or cool playground slide! But, for those of you who are looking for a bit more inspiration than mailing them away, how can we reuse our shoes? See the rhyming skills there? Eh? 🙂

Well, for starters, we can be less wasteful about how much life is actually left in a shoe and RE-ENERGIZE it! Check out some of these neat-o footwear makeovers from crafty people:

Some handpainted vintage boots!

Some chic vegan spats !

Maybe add some beautiful shoe clips !

For the city girl who broke her fabulous heels, maybe try turning one into a …. stiletto planter !

For the country girl, try turning your old cowboy boots into… a fun purse ! Also gotta love the store name: PurseinBoots, heehee!!

For the bookish crafter,  use your old boots to make these teeny tiny book earrings !! Even though I’m a vegan, these were definitely calling my name…  🙂

OK, so once you start looking, there are so many cool ways to re-imagine your old footwear. Got any neat ideas? Let me know!

Note: Do not be confused, the picture attached to this post has NOTHING to do with the content. I am not writing about cool re-uses for funny street signs :), but pictures of t-shirts are a bit boring…

If you’re like me, you probably amass t-shirts without really meaning to. I’ve managed to pick up free t-shirts from buying textbooks, opening a bank account, going to summer camp (loads of t-shirts there), and, of course, being a former girl scout (yikes, you get a t-shirt for just breathing in girl scouts). I even have some old t-shirts from grade school read-ins.  Ok, we are a t-shirt happy nation!

T-shirts are great for tossing on when you go to the gym, dink around the house, chop firewood, and play in the mud, no argument there. My problem is more what to do when I have too many to fit in the dresser drawers, or, if you’re P, when you have too many with holes in them…

So, following the theme I started in my previous post, this entry will focus on creative projects to make (or buy if you have two left crafting hands) from old t-shirts that still have some life in them. My first thought when my t-shirts are too old is to make them into rags to use around the house (thanks Dad!). But, what other fun possibilities are there?

Well, you could make your old tees into yarn
for crochet and knitting projects. This is pretty cool, I have NO idea how to do this.

If you have little ones at home, you can send your tees into this Etsy shop and they’ll be crafty for you. Can I get this made for furry little things too? 🙂

You could turn them into cute little pouches and use them for gift-giving and such (hey now, that’s a good budget-friendly idea!):

If you need something a bit snugglier, you could turn your old tees into… a cute scarf!

Or check out this neat pencil skirt to spice it up a bit.

And, for the finale, drumroll please….You have to love this rainbow hoodie dress, made with an upcycled Carebears t-shirt.

So if you have loads of old t-shirts stockpiled in your house, like Yours Truly, maybe try your hand at one of these cool project ideas. Or donate your fun old tees to the thriftstore so crafty people can make them into fun things on Etsy :).

My major, fun, eco/budget-friendly crafting approach is “re-ware-ing,” so for the next few posts, I’ll be concentrating on creative re-ware uses for particular items that you have in your household. Today, we will contemplate…the sweater. Deep breath in…and out. Move into downward facing dog – ok, on second thought, that’s a terrible position to read a laptop or to try and craft from, so maybe not :).

The sweater – what can you do with your old, worn out, perhaps slightly hole-y (yes P, I’m talking ’bout you), sweaters? I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with creative re-uses because I frequently come across poor misshapen sweaters at the thriftstore from people who apparently are illiterate or impatient when it comes to garment care tags. HELLO, buy a bottle of wool wash and do it in your bathroom sink, don’t ruin that beautiful purple merino cardigan…

Regardless, when these incidents do happen, or you just wear out your old sweaters, here are some neat things to try (or buy if you are so inclined):

Turn that frown upside down and make yourself a new pair of…slippers! Cute, cute, cute!

http://www.etsy.com/listing/64349313/hand-appliqued-felted-wool-slippers-warm?ref=tre-4d28dbc9043b6d91154ff10f-2

Or make some cute little pouches for carrying around little fun things:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/65456766/trio-of-valentines-pouches?ref=v1_other_2

How about this amazing jewelry tray?

http://www.etsy.com/listing/51191798/jewelry-tray-container-wool-felted?ref=sr_list_19&ga_search_query=felted+upcycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

Or these happy heart mittens?

http://www.etsy.com/listing/65518056/happy-heart-mittens-for-her-fully-lined?ref=sr_list_24&ga_search_query=felted+upcycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

This cozy pillow?

http://www.etsy.com/listing/25491782/upcycled-sweater-pillow-with-needle?ref=sr_list_29&ga_search_query=felted+upcycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

Or this lovely festive felted garland?

http://www.etsy.com/listing/65510310/felt-garland-with-super-bright?ref=sr_list_3&ga_search_query=felted+upcycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=2&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

I am so inspired, I want to make one of each RIGHT NOW!!! But first I need a good thriftstoring trip to find me some old sweaters. Dang it, I just hate when I have to go to the thriftstore :).

Hopefully these cute and creative crafts inspire you to salvage your old sweaters, or give them to someone crafty who might make you something neat and sweet. If you want to try your own hand at felting old sweaters, check out this handy dandy tutorial:

http://www.craftstylish.com/item/2259/how-to-felt-sweaters

Crafts away! Got any other neat ideas for what you can with old sweaters? Let me know!

So-ho-ho, I know that when I hear the word “craft,” I often think of fun or pretty objects that are sweet to own, but don’t necessarily have much function for your daily life.  Au contraire! My mission today is to find an assortment of crafty goods that can be put to regular use, but are far from mundane.

Ok, let me start with something so totally obvious. No one goes through the day without eating at least once. I regularly have not two or three, but sometimes five good meals a day – yes, I’m an eater…

So here’s a cute, functional, eco-friendly, AND budget-friendly way to jazz up your meal. One might, perhaps use one of these adorable little lemons and polka dots cloth napkins to wipe one’s mouth with:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/57642273/napkin-set-of-6-lemons-and-polka-dots?ref=sr_list_11&ga_search_query=napkins&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

I adore cloth napkins because they cut down on waste and make you feel a little bit fancy when you set them on the table. Another fun budget friendly way to find these babies is to check out your local thriftstore. Lots of vintage goodies come through one of my local favorites. I snap them up for 25 cents, dye them or bleach them, and toss them in the drawer with friends. I like mine to mix and match, but if you favor a matching set, check out the many Etsy sellers that make cute, fun, cloth napkins.

Eating your lunch on the go? Try one of these cute lunch bags:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/62650649/ollie-eco-friendly-insulated-lunch-bag?ref=sr_list_11&ga_search_query=lunch+bags&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=2&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

Or these re-usable,sandwich bags:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/65400635/pink-urban-zoologie-owls-reusable-eco

Ok, now that you’ve got your eatin’ done, what else can you do with your daily crafts? Well, if you’re like me, you likely run to the grocery store on a daily basis (what can I say? I’m an eater). Of course, most people are getting on board now with the grocery/market tote. Most stores have them for $1 at checkout to guilt you into not using plastic or paper. If you have not joined the tote bandwagon, check out this cute one:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/59997006/reusable-bag-i-heart-trees-comes-in

If you have joined the bandwagon and are looking for something else cool to one-up your eco-er-than-thou friends, yeah, you know who I’m talkin’ about, try to think inside the cart by using one of these cute produce bags:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/52965323/4-large-reusable-produce-bags-in-egg?ref=sr_list_2&ga_search_query=produce+bags&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

Then you can stop feeling guilty about bringing your produce home in those little plastic bags. And it’s a better solution than (like Yours Truly does)  just trying to toss all your bagless produce into the shopping cart. *Warning: This may irk cashiers if you have >5 fruits or veggies.

Got any more ideas for crafts to live with? Let me know!

Ok, so I am always looking for new ways to turn trash into treasure. It seems like we have so many things that we encounter on a daily basis that get discarded or downcycled because of one major thing: lack of imagination. So I went in search of some inspiration for crafty-crafts to make out of all the products I (or P) used today. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking: “You can’t possibly a) remember everything you used today and b) make something super-cool out of everything you used today!!!” Ok, so you’re probably right, but here’s the inspirational collection of items I did manage to find. Maybe try your hand at these or maybe order them from a creative crafty person on Etsy or somewhere:

1. Instead of sitting in our recycle bin, that can of ginger ale P drank (because his tummy hurt) could be…a pair of EARRINGS! Wow – so did not see that one coming:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/49675708/recycled-soda-can-art-dr-pepper-sun?ref=sr_list_4&ga_search_query=eco&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

2. Instead of throwing away that old seed corn sack (ok, I am slightly embellishing the truth regarding the products I used today), it could be…a cool market tote!

http://www.etsy.com/listing/55845997/large-grainsack-market-tote-bag-purse?ref=sr_list_13&ga_search_query=recycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

3. Instead of tossing that old bike tire into the dumpster it could be…a neat-o clock!

http://www.etsy.com/listing/64537709/clock-made-from-a-recycled-bike-wheel?ref=sr_list_3&ga_search_query=recycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=2&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

4. Instead of putting that old wine bottle out for collection, it could be…an awesomely engraved sign! I do like my glass of red wine at night…

http://www.etsy.com/listing/65277442/man-cave-sign-engraved-recycled-melted?ref=sr_list_8&ga_search_query=recycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=2&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

5. Instead of littering the world with old Scrabble tiles, they could be a…cool pendant! This one is really cute, I think. But, for the record, I will NEVER be rid of my Scrabble game–NEVER.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/62627651/sale-recycled-scrabble-tile-pendant?ref=sr_list_14&ga_search_query=recycled&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=4&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade

Ok, I’m thinking you get the drift by now. Crafty creative power –> less trash and waste in the world, and cool new things that we can feel good about.

My big contribution to the vision is the simple tin can. What can you do with it? Let me count the possibilities:

1. Poke holes in them (after freezing some water in them) and string them up as mini lanterns. Mine came out horribly ugly, but I’m sure yours will be beautiful…

2. Remove the tops and bottoms and make them into pretty little ornaments like Yours Truly did last Christmas and gave away to everyone. Isn’t that clever? Hmmm

3. Make the tops and bottoms into nifty button pins to go on your market tote – this I have not yet tried, but am still contemplating.

4. Use the ones that have pretty gold coloring on the inside, like mini green chili and olive cans, as fun tea-light holders. OK, pretty idea, but these also get really HOT. Just beware. But they did sparkle oh so nicely on top of the stove at P’s birthday party.

5. ???

Your turn, what else can you do with an old tin can? Actually, are they aluminum now? Got a neat idea? Let me know!

Ok, so this soon after the holidays has me still thinking about better-ing my holiday wrappings. Christmas mornings now aren’t quite the aftershock they used to be when I was a kid — the living room floor a sea of wadded up wrapping paper balls –but I know we can still do better if we channel a bit of creative gift-wrapping spirit.  I had a dream last Christmas that all the little girls and boys would receive their toys in eco-bamboo gift bags and wrapping paper that turned into non-toxic environmentally friendly bubbles once it was torn away…ok, well I suppose that scenario seems unlikely, so what CAN you do?

1. Have a partner who detests gift-wrapping, so they give you all your gifts covered in afghans, pillow cases, and (GASP) plastic bags you’ve brought home from the store because you always forget your tote.  *I wouldn’t mind, but maybe some of you would, so on to #2!

2. Have someone at the mall gift-wrap for a charity donation so you feel less guilty – it balances out, right?  *Ok, well, you get an “A-” for lame philanthropic effort, and a “C-” for eco-friendliness because while you were killing more trees with your wrapping paper I’m sure you didn’t carpool or ride your bike to the mall…Did you? Be honest now!

3. Make dozens of fabric gift-bags from all of your sewing scraps with your endless free time as a grad student. *Yes, my original plan, but it never seemed to come to fruition…

4. Re-use old gift wrap. *Confession: I have ironed wrapping paper before to make it look pretty again. And I intend to  do it again if need be!

5. Find a neat-o seller on Etsy that specializes in cool fun gift bags n’ things. Like these cute hand-made gift boxes:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/ecovintagevegan?section_id=5851963

Or these fun bags/wraps:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/SewPlayfulBoutique?section_id=7589728

Before the next great consumer holiday, here are some #’s to think about (courtesy of http://environment.bluepanestudio.com/sustainability/conservation-tips):

“Americans send two billion holiday cards each year, so just a 1 percent reduction could save fifteen thousand trees.”

“Two-thirds of households buy new Christmas decorations each year […]. If these households diverted just $6 of their decorating budget to reusable items,  the money saved could pay to heat 5.9 million New England homes for every hour between Christmas and New Year’s Day.”

“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans produce an extra two billion pounds of garbage per week, much of which is gift packaging.  If 40 percent of US households reduced their holiday paper consumption by just two sheets this year, the savings could gift wrap Manhattan Island.”

And that’s a wrap!

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