DIY Eco Wreath (from Toilet Rolls)

As I mentioned in my last tutorial (Making gift boxes from old greetings cards – see them here) I am determined to be frightfully festive without all the nasty waste that often comes along with it! I really want to prove to myself (and other people) that you can be a happy Christmas Greenie as apposed to a whingy eco version of this guy…

So I decided I would get going on my sustainable decorations at the very start…. my front door. There aint nothing better than a wreath. I had seen plenty of amazing wreaths on Pinterest (follow me here) but was particularly inspired by this one which I saw at Proverbs 31 craft blog. It also suited me as I save all my toilet rolls (they are very handy for all sorts of crafts and around-the-house uses). So I set off on my merry way and I have to say I am really, really proud of the results! Considering I made this whole thing from what would be considered waste products (old cardboard box, newspaper, toilet rolls, fabric off-cuts) it really proves that one woman’s junk is anothers’ treasure.

Equipment

  • Toilet rolls (depending on how big your wreath is you will need quite a few).
  • Cardboard (big enough to cut your wreath base out of – mine has a 40cms diameter)
  • Newspaper
  • 2 x pieces of fabric off-cuts (minimum 80cms length) or fat ribbon
  • Scissors and/or Stanley knife
  • Hot Glue Gun

Optional

  • Ruler
  • Spray paint
  • Glitter

Method

1. First make your wreath template. I have seen plenty of blogs that suggest buying a Styrofoam template… there really is no need to use that nasty material. All you need is some cardboard and newspaper. I traced out a large salad bowl shape (40cms diameter) and then traced around a smaller bowl before cutting it out to create the donut shape (this is where a Stanley Knife would come in handy).

2. Then to give your wreath some central body I scrunched up newspaper and glued it onto the donut. This is going to covered in toilet roll rosettes so don’t worry if it looks shabby! Voila.. you have your recycled wreath template.

3. Then you need to cut your toilet roll rings. I wanted my wreath to be a really pretty textural wreath with all different levels and lengths of rosettes. Therefore I cut my toilet rolls into thirds, fourths and fifths. You don’t have to rule these you can just cut away – it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Note: If you don’t have many toilet rolls you may want to cut the roll into fifths so that you get more bang for your buck out of each roll.

4. Once you have your rings you will make them into rosettes. Cut the ring to open them up and then roll. Again I varied rolling them very tightly and loosely.5. Now it’s time to start gluing the rosettes to your wreath. Blob hot glue onto the newspaper and press the rosettes onto them. I started by using the taller rosettes (the ones I had cut from thirds) and gluing them around the centre of the ring. I tried to angle them so the centre of the rosettes weren’t all just facing up and were looking in different directions (for added visual interest). At times you will need to dob bits of glue in between them so the rosettes use each other for added structure.

Once I had the taller central ring of rosettes I started gluing in the shorter ones around the edges until the wreath was completely covered.

Don’t worry if your wreath looks very grim at the beginning… persevere! The more you build the better and better it gets I promise…

6. I actually really like the toilet rolls left in their natural state… I think they looked deliciously rustic… but I also really felt the need for some sparkle. So I used some old spray paint I had left over from another project and gave the wreath a really fine spray until it was a creamy brown colour. One positive is that this will seal the wreath and protect it for next year!

Aerosols are unfortunately not great for the environment but you can get your hands on ‘friendlier’ alternatives for projects that really do require them. I favour Krylon’s H20 Latex Spray Paint (see the treehugger write up here) – it is an environmentally better option although sadly still not perfect. Here are some places you can get them in Australia.

7. While the paint was still wet I dusted some left over glitter onto the wet wreath. Fairy dust makes all the difference. Let the wreath dry.

8. Once your wreath has dried it is time to tie the bow onto it. I used fabric off-cuts though you could also use a fat ribbon if you do not have any. The pieces I used were very thick (approx 15cms) and therefore I needed them to be minimum 80cms long.

Tie the first piece around the top of your wreath – tie the knot tight as this will be what your wreath hangs from so you want it to be secure. Then thread the other piece between it and the toilet rolls. Tie a bow and fluff it up appropriately.Then cut the ribbon tails to the perfect size. The bow may take a couple of goes to get right.

I then quickly sewed the ends of the material together to form a loop and cut a small slice into the ribbon so that I could hang it on a screw in our door…

8. Merrily hang on your door while humming “Deck the halls”… because tis the season to be jolly! Be sure to take a step back and admire your wonderful crafty work!

A Super Simple Cushion Tutorial

I am slowly but surely teaching myself to sew. It makes sense on so many levels and brings with it so many benefits – a lot of them in line with my eco philosophy’s:

  • I can source locally made and/or organic fabrics to make my own products.
  • I can create a whole heap more upcycling projects that I spy on Pinterest (follow me here) which not only have less impact but can help me be greener – produce bags… I’m comin’ for you next!
  • It will be a whole lot easier to avoid that nasty ‘Made in China’ label
  • I will have a greater attachment and pride in my possessions because I will understand all the work that went into them!

My first project to get me into the groove has been making a recycled pallet day bed (which I can’t wait to share with you next week once it is complete!). And what does every daybed need? A million throw cushions, that’s what! As this is my first time behind the machine I didn’t want to have the trouble of zips and buttons – I wanted quick and simple. I found a few blog sites that detailed how to make this pouch style cushion and I am happy to say it was easy enough for even me to master. And I mean master… I have sewed 19 of them in 2 weeks! Here are a few being enjoyed by Velcro the little stray kitten we rescued last month (read about her here).

**Special thanks and love has to go to my amazing, stupendous, wonderful and above all progressive husband here! My first attempt at sewing a cushion was after our antenatal class where I was shown all the surgical equipment that can be used during labour and was told of all the possibilities that could go wrong. To say I was emotional was an understatement. I knew so little about sewing that I didn’t know you had to even clamp the sewing foot down and I buggered up the machine and ended up face down on the table bawling. But my man of many talents cleaned me up and showed me a few basics and I haven’t stopped since. What a superstar!  

Equipment

  • Sewing Machine
  • Pins
  • Fabric
  • Cushion Insert
  • Chalk / Pencil
  • Ruler / Measuring Tape
  • Scissors (Fabric scissors are SO worth it!)

Method

1. When you buy your cushion insert you will be given the dimensions – pictured below is Size 24: 61cms x 61cms (24″ x 24″). Measure out with your tape measure a shape the same size as the dimensions. You do not need to allow for a hem or for the stitch – you want your cushion to be snug and… well… cushy!

Mark out the shape with chalk or a proper fabric pencil (obviously on the inside of the material). This may take a bit of playing around to make sure you get it square.

This piece will be the front of your cushion.

2. Cut out your front shape.

3. You then need to cut out the two back flaps which will form the pouch to insert your cushions. There is no exact science on this and there is a little wiggle room but you want the ‘flaps’ to be approximately two thirds the height of the front piece of fabric. For example both flaps should measure…

  • As wide as the front piece of fabric
  • Approx two thirds the height of the front piece of fabric PLUS 2cms (approx 1″) for a small hem

EXAMPLE: The three pieces of my fabric were as follows;

  • Front Piece – 61cms x 61cms (24″ x 24″)
  • 2 x back pieces – 42cms x 61cms (16″ x 24″)

4. You then need to hem one edge of each of the back flaps. To do this fold the material over and pin it. My hems were 2cms (approx 1″). If you want to really crease the hems  then iron them which will flatten them. Whizz it through your sewing machine and tie off the ends.

5. Then pin all your pieces together ready for sewing- which for the amateur sewer can be confusing at first. Lie your cover piece flat on a table with the pretty outside of the cushion facing up. Then place your first flap squarely onto it so that the ugly inside of the fabric is facing up. Repeat with the other piece therefore completing the back square.

Pin along the edges securely. Make sure you pin the edges of the flaps down to ensure that they don’t get folded while you sew.

Sew along each edge and tie the threads off.

6. Once you have sewed all four sides turn your cover inside out and stuff your insert into it. Give it a bit of a plump and a fluff until it looks deliciously inviting and voila! You have a sturdy, simple cushion!I hope that made sense! I have had great success with them and have used all sort of different materials with them. The best bit is, your average store-bought, mass-produced cushion seems to retail for $50 these days. That is an absolutely HUGE mark up. If you want your life filled with beautiful cushions, this is the way to go!

 

Upcycled Tin Cans

Since cutting plastic out of my life I don’t really have to deal with too much wasted food packaging. However, I am English which means there is some packaging that will never be truly banished from my world: the humble aluminium casing that temporarily houses my baked beans! Due to my jacket-tatty-with-beans addiction I have accumulated quite a few of these cans and while they are recyclable I much prefer to reuse where I can. Then while I was cruising the interwebs I spied the below picture and got all inspired…

What a sweet and clever idea! So I decided to expand on that and instead cover my cans with pretty paper – because my cans would not look as gorgeously rustic as those pictured… it would literally just be a big collection of Heinz beans cans! Either way I think the results are gorgeous and this would make a gorgeous eco solution for a wedding centerpieces which would hardly break the budget (the whole project cost me $12). Best thing about this project – it was unbelievably quick and simple.

What You’ll Need

  • Washed tin cans
  • Pretty paper (a standard can will get use half a sheet)
  • Ruler (Steel ruler would be best for accuracy)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun

Method

Wash all your tin cans thoroughly and remove labels. Having little remnants of paper is fine – they may even help with the adhesion of the paper.

Without glue, wrap a sheet of paper around the width of the can (to see the amount you will need). I always allow for a 2cm overlap.

Fold the excess amount back over itself. You can then cut along the crease line.

Then measure the length of the can as accurately as possible. If you want to have a little leeway make sure you cut the paper a little thinner rather than leaving it a little too wide – you don’t want the paper taller than the can as it will fray and get messy.

Now you are ready to roll (literally). Apply a stripe of glue along one end of the paper (the shorter end that will go across the height of the can).

Carefully place and stick the paper onto the can keeping it as straight as possible.

Once the paper is stuck to the can, flip it over so that you can see the underside of the paper and apply 4 lines of glue – along the top, middle, bottom and side of the paper. Carefully (and as quickly as possible so the glue doesn’t dry) roll the paper around the can.

If the edge of the paper is not completely stuck down apply small blobs of glue to the corners. You don’t want the blobs to be too big as they may squish out and look untidy.

And Voila!!! Repeat this for each of your cans until you have a beautiful assortment of colours and patterns.

Once you have your assortment of cans fill them with flowers and/or tea lights and use them as a centre-piece for a table or a beautiful feature on a side table or shelf.

If filling them with flowers here are two things to consider;

  1. You will have to be very careful with water as the new coating is paper and will ruin if it is wet
  2. Try to avoid cut flowers from stores! As I explained in this post they are often imported and wrapped in plastic. The ones I have used in this picture are a mixture of weeds from the verge-side in my suburb or a few flowers from my own garden. I can’t wait until my lavender bushes really kick off for this very purpose!

Anyway… here are a few more pictures. Happy crafting!

Add some tea-lights for some extra pretty mood lighting!

Since completing this project I have seen that loads of people have done similar with their old tin cans. You can follow me on Pinterest here but for the moment here are some special mentions of some other gorgeous tin can upcycling projects…

Such a stunning arrangement for a baby shower from Bump Smitten.com

Pretty pen pots from Craft Gawker.com

More storage tins… this time with ribbons! From The Ornament Girl.com/blog/

Classic White Votive Tins from One Womens Haven.blogspot.com.au

Recycled Ladder Shelf

My love of all things old continues, my latest obsession being vintage wooden ladders! I find old, worn, loved-up ladders so charming – they transport me to a realm of nostalgia in the same way that teapots do. When I look at them I think about all the excited feet that could have stood on them before… young couples painting their first home together, an excited daddy-to-be preparing a nursery or the father that is always there to help out his kids (now adults) with any renovations. Maybe this pregnancy is making me more emotional than I first thought but either way it is a symbol that warms the cockles of me heart and I wanted to use a ladder in my home. All the better that it is an old unloved material that completely cancels out the need to chop down a new tree. Check vintage stores, gumtree, Ebay, opshops, the local tip and roadside collections. And remember… the more paint stains the better!

What You’ll Need

  • An old ladder
  • Spirit level
  • Brackets – the amount will depend on the ladder size. For one this size I used two along the bottom and one to stabilise at the top.
  • Wall plugs
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Extra pair of hands is useful in this project… maybe two if you have a longer ladder!

Method

1)   After you have found your ladder you need to pick the perfect spot for it!

2)   If your ladder is a step ladder then you will need to take the two rails apart. Once apart choose which part of the ladder you will use… you may even want to use both!

3)   Hold your ladder up against the wall to measure whereabouts you want your shelf.

4)   Measure with spirit level to ensure the ladder is level.

5)   Borrow the spare set of hands and slide the brackets into place (where they will need to be to hold the ladder up) behind the ladder and quickly pencil in the holes. You want the brackets to be as hidden as possible which means the outside/underside of your ladder will sit on the bracket like a shelf, rather than being supported like a perch. If that doesn’t make sense just look at the third picture in the below sequence.

6)   Drill the holes into the walls. Hammer  in the wall plugs and then screw in your brackets.

7)   Once your brackets are drilled in, rest your ladder upon them. Put a bracket on the top of your ladder to secure and stabilize it and repeat the bracket drilling process.

8)   Once all your brackets are drilled in and your ladder feels securely ‘wedged’ you will need to screw the brackets into the ladder. Very gently drill screws into the ladder… you must be careful so as not to split the ladder.

9)   The amount of brackets you need and the way in which you organise them will vary depending on what size and shape ladder you find. Just make sure it is secure and supported. Then, the fun bit…

10)   Time to decorate! I had so much fun choosing what goodies to put on my ladder. Bobert (my leaf-tailed Gekko made from scrap metal) has pride of place and every time I look over at him walking up his little hill it makes me smile. Then I have the champagne glasses that Mark and I left our wedding venue still holding (completely accidental theft, I promise!) and I filled them with pebbles and shells that I collected the day after I met him. It is so lovely to be able to honor those little things that make your heart sing every time you look at them!

And here it is from one more angle… just because pride is bursting out my eyes like little sunbeams…

 

If you like this sort of quirky shelving you may also like my DIY Tutorial for “Book Shelves” wink wink. See that here.

I will leave you with this beautiful quote about… what else?… ladders!

One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you — suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, “Well, I’ll have a go, too.”

Margaret Thatcher

How To Make “Book Shelves”

Honestly, is there anything more beautiful than an old, tattered book? I often lose hours in vintage stores; running my finger along the frayed cloth spines, peeking inside the cover to try find a bygone message filled with love or the occasional long-lost bookmark.

With this fascination in mind, it is no surprise that I have always loved using books around my home as whimsical design features. So as soon as I spied Pinterest pictures (follow me here) using books themselves as book shelves (Say whaaaat?!)  I was hooked. Not only that but I had the perfectly drab wall just screaming for some upcycled decoration!

What You’ll Need

  • Old Books (1 book = 1 shelf)
  • 3 brackets per book – 2 for the base, 1 for the top (Aim for a bracket length that is about half the width of the book so that it will be stable and load-bearing. I am sure if you want a smaller bracket for aesthetic reasons you could manage it. In retrospect the brackets I used would be smaller… these are slightly too prominent).
  • Screws
  • Wall plugs
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Spirit Level
  • If you have a spare set of hands/muscles it will make this project a hell of a lot easier!

Method

First part is the best bit. You need to get yourself to a vintage store and find yourselves some books. Take into account the size, the spine, how the combination looks together and the book subject. I found the perfect little green book but then realised it was a book about war weapons – not a subject I really want in my house. I wanted books that reflected interests and personalities in my life. I ended up with a rare book from 1930 about sheep (my parents have 21 pet sheep), The Statutes of Western Australia (where I live) and The Generous Earth (about the beauty of living simply). Score!

Old books are so undervalued!

The thing I love the most about this method of fixing the books to the wall is that you don’t ruin the books! If you ever want to you can take your ‘shelf’ out of the brackets and have a flick through before putting it back. Even though I have seen super cool designs using books as the material I just feel wrong about damaging an old book. They are noble beasts… we must love them.

1).   Measure whereabouts you want the books on your wall and hold the base brackets underneath the book in a way that will support them. Mark a pencil line along the bottom of the book.

2).   Measure that the brackets are flat and level with your spirit level

3).   Mark the bracket holes where you will need to drill with a pencil.

4).   Line your book up with the pencil line and then draw a line along the top of the book so that you can see how thick  it is. Put your top bracket on top of the book and make sure it is completely vertical (with your spirit level). Mark the holes where you are going to drill.

5).   Shove lots of material into your ears and drill holes into the wall.  Hammer wall plugs into the wall.

6).   Screw your brackets into the wall.

7).   Slide your books into place and decorate the hell out of them with all your most loved knick knacks. I filled mine with some vintage bottles that were found in the ocean, my collection of owls (the big guy was my Grandpa’s, is 60 years old and his name is Costa) and my rolled magazine plant in an upcycled old vase (tutorial here).

So I wish you luck in your shelving!!! I will leave you with a beautiful passage that is at the beginning of what is now my top shelf. I think it is a gorgeous sentiment and I love that I have such a sweet message hidden away in my wall fittings!

Some Amazing DIY Pallet Projects

If ever there was the perfect ingredient for upcycling it would have to be the ubiquitous wooden pallet. I make a habit of counting how many I see ditched kerbside on my morning walks and it boggles my mind to think that they are considered junk. Pallets are the perfect material to create rustic, quirky and bespoke furniture. Here are a few of my absolute favourite uses of pallets in the home.

Shabby Chic Shelving System

From Design Sponge

I am a massive fan of clutter. My husband is not. Solution? Shelving units: little contained spaces of magical clutter. This is why I squealed with joy when I saw this amazing shelf, a fabulous creation by New Zealand sensation Claire Terry AKA Madame Fancy Pants. For the entire DIY tutorial see here – I might finally be able to start working through the stock pile of pallets that I have in the shed!

Pallet Daybed for a nursery

From Ashley Ann Photography Blog

This awesome design not only uses pallets but also includes an old and beautifully worn door – hinges included! By creating a mish-mash of textures (the crocheted blanket, ornate photo frames, and the amazing collection of lanterns) it celebrates what is best about this old rickety piece of ‘trash’ – its coarseness. That is one of my favourite aspects of the upcycling movement – celebrating imperfection! This is a really simple DIY project that you can find here care of one of my favourite Phoblographers (yes I made that up) Under the Sycamore.

Pallet Bed with built in storage

From Organic Authority

Have you ever seen a more relaxing room? I love that it is minimalist but still absolutely reaks of character – especially with the trellis above the bed. Mental note, check! The great thing about pallets – and probably why they are starting to explode in the world of upcycling – is that they are really sturdy. Perfect for the base of a bed and with the added benefit perfectly sized storage slots for shoes and books. While I couldn’t find the link to make this exact version a similar version can be found here at the Flaxseed and Soynuts blog along with some other inspirational ideas for all things recycled.

Cheapest Bed Head Ever!

From Green Home Design Source

While we are talking all things bed, why not tack on an old pallet as a bed head. All you need to do is bolt two pallets together and then attach them to the base of your bed. I am going to give it a go and stencil on some inspiring, happy words onto it like this..

Image by Adorning Alabama.blogspot.com.au

Kitchen Island

From Homedit.com

In my dream house I will have this kitchen bench – but maybe in a lighter colour. This DIY requires a minimum of three pallets, a few tools and some paint. I could not find instructions on how to make this but luckily it is a very simple structure that would be easy enough to replicate with a bit of guess work. I like the industrial look and think it brings a bit of warmth into a modern kitchen.

Pallet Art

From Twiddlerhouse.blogspot.com.au

If you are already sorted for all your furniture needs you could even make a simple, gorgeous art piece from the wood of the pallets. You’ll need to get your Destructo hat on and remove the boards from the pallet and reposition them to how you like. I would saw them to be different lengths and create a bit of interest but I have seen some beautifully effective square pieces. They can be as colourful and as natural as you choose and create a truly individual piece that will be sure to get many comments from visitors. This is perfect for me as a renter, because I can actually stand the pallet up rather than drilling it into the wall. Here is an amazing DIY tutorial that I will be using on the weekend.

Proof that one man’s trash is another’s treasure!