DIY Valentines Gift Ideas That Love The Planet Too!

I love love. Which is why I love Valentines Day. Some would argue that ‘Hallmark’ holidays are consumerist and I guess that can be true… but it doesn’t have to be. That’s the great thing about the eco-creativity movement; you can take any idea and paint it green. So how about making sure your Valentines Gifts are just as nice to the planet as they are to your loved one. Here is some inspiration…

(click the pictures to go through to the links!)

Sweet Green Eats

Your standard box of chocolates is unhealthy for everyone involved: unhealthy sugars and fats to clog your arteries and lots of unnecessary packaging to clog our waterways. So why not get creative and try these healthy romantic alternatives…

Box of Healthy Love Cookies

Don’t go buy a new gift box… you could use an old shoe box or maybe an upcycled cereal box?

And here is a healthy flourless cookie to make from one of my favorite food bloggers Delighted Momma.

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Heart Shaped Carrots

Float these healthy hearts in soup or mix them through a salad!

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Healthy Lunch Box Surprise

You could make the tags from old manila folders or wallets. A cute surprise for kids.

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A Healthy Hearty Dessert

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Upcycled Gifts

I don’t think anything says I love you like a handmade gift!

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

GORGEOUS. Plantable paper seed hearts! Imagine filling these with herb seeds. Flavoring their dishes with love! (I am sorry for that… it was really cheesy).

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Scrap Fabric Sweetheart Frame

A lovely thing to sit on your loved ones desk to remind them that they are still your sweetheart…

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Recycled Wood String Art

I am in love with this!!! Imagine using wood from an old pallet and some old shed scraps…

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A Love Note Poster

Something gorgeous for your loved one to stick up at their desk, made from an old book page.

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“Remember, I Love You’s”

An upcycled jar + some scrap fabrics = Cutest gift ever.

Hide these love hearts in secret places for your loved ones to find!

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The Alternative Bouquet

A bunch of flowers may be pretty but did you know they are often imported from other countries – often developing nations that are using precious resources to grow flowers instead of food! You can read more about that in my post here but in the meantime, how about rethinking the bouquet and  going for a more sustainable bunch of goodies.

Upcycled Magazine Flowers 

I made these flowers out of old magazines…

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A Bouquet of Buttons

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Felt Roses

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Cranberry Roses, anyone?

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The Living Bouquet 

What could be better than a bouquet that is 100% natural and lasts forever! Why not get a pot plant. My favourite would have to me the Chain of Hearts. Long vines of heart shaped flowers… divine.

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Eco Decorations

What a lovely way to make someone feel loved! Surprises are amazing… imagine walking in a house decorated with some of these things?

Love Heart Garland

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Wreath From Old Greeting Cards 

This would be the perfect way to use up all those old red Christmas cards!!!

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An Ambient Centerpiece

Use natural twine and love hearts made from magazines or book pages.

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A Heart Plaque Made from Spools

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Hopefully that gets you inspired to get creative this Valentines Day! And who says gifts should just be for your partner… spread the love far and wide. This world needs as many good vibes as it can get!

Happy Valentines Day from Me!

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!

DIY Gift Boxes from Recycled Cards

Last Christmas I was a bit of an Eco-Grinch. I got really grumpy at the fact that a time  that is meant to be about family and love and all that good stuff had morphed into a cash cow… an exercise in capitalism. But I still didn’t want to let Christmas go. I grew up in England with snowmen and amazing Christmas trees and dad dressing up like Santa – and being pregnant I want my little daughter to grow up with memories as lovely as mine. So I am on a mission to keep my festivities completely eco (and blog about it of course!).

In January – going off the theme that reuse is better than recycle – I asked all the people in my office to give me their unwanted Christmas cards. I took a whole lot down to the local school to use for crafts but was still left with a massive pile of them. I stored them with my Christmas decorations and hoped to think of something to do with them by Christmas time. And I did. Here is an ultra simple gift box that you can make from an old greetings card.

Equipment

  • Old greeting cards
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Glue (can just be a stick but Hot Glue Gun is far more resilient)
  • *If just using a glue stick you may also want pegs and paperclips

Instructions

1. Cut along the seam to separate the front of the card from the back.

2. Decide how thick/deep you want your box to be (look at the gift/item you are putting inside it to make sure it will fit!). Once decided rule a margin around the sides. I varied between 2 and 3cms (0.5 – 1″) for my boxes.

3. Fold along each line. I did this by placing my ruler along the line and then folding the paper over it… was a lot quicker and more precise.

4. Cut along the lines on 2 opposite ends only. What I mean by that is you don’t want to cut the corner squares out… you just want to create a flap. See next photo if you are unsure of what I mean.

5. Fold the flaps in and apply dobs of glue. Then pincer together to make your box shape. If you are just using a glue stick you may want to hold the flaps together with pegs or paperclips to ensure the box really sets and is sturdy. Hot glue gun is definitely preferable though.

6. And there you have one half of your box! ( Use the pretty front part of the card is the top of the box). Repeat the process to make the other half of your box.

7.  When I was drawing the margins in for the bottom half of the boxes I made the margins a couple of mm’s bigger than the top boxes so that it fit comfortably without needing to bend. E.g. my margin for the top was 3cms on each side, my margin for the bottom was 3.2cms on each side.

Other ideas…

Advent Calendar

If I had more time I would totally have made this advent calendar using the boxes and a pin up board…

From 2 Boys 2 Girls Painter Family

Tree Ornaments

You could also thread some ribbon through them and hang them from your tree filled with goodies.

Plastic Free Easter Egg Containers

Easter will be another hurdle in anti-consumerism! I have brill memories of Easter Egg hunts but how will I give these to my daughter without all that nasty foil and needless wrapping? You could bulk buy chocolates and place them in little boxes and hide them around the garden! WIN.

Stationery Holders

These could also be cute little DIY boxes to keeps your paperclips etc in!

More Sustainable Christmas Ideas

If you are looking for more sustainable Christmas ideas you may like some of these posts;

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!

Upcycled Flowers from Magazines

We have all heard of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee – but did you ever stop to think about flowers?

Yep, those brightly cellophaned flowers that you buy as last minute presents are generally imported from countries like Zimbabwe, Colombia and Kenya and have often been produced through unethical working conditions and environmentally unsound practices. It makes me feel so bloody ungrateful when I catch myself grumbling about the office when these plantation workers are forced to work over 12 hours a day for less than a dollar, live in cramped and unsafe conditions and handle harsh chemicals without any protective gear. In Kenya right now the Ngiro River – a life sustaining river resource for farmers – is being drunk dry due to the booming cut-flower trade. That’s right, people are dying of thirst and farms do not have access to enough water to irrigate their crops just so wealthier nations can have a pretty floral arrangements on their breakfast tables. First-world greed epitomised.

I am going to write a proper article about this later because I find it jaw-dropping that it is not a more spoken-of issue. BUT! In the meantime I do love flowers and it made me wonder if there were any eco solutions out there. Of course there was! I stumbled across these stunning Rolled Roses by Jones Design Company (their tutorial here) and figured that I would give it a go using old magazines. They’ll be colourful, made from a ‘waste product’, won’t need to be watered and will never wilt. Here is how to do it.

Equipment

  • Old magazines, book pages or sheet music
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Florist wire or twigs (depends how you want to use them)

Method

1. Cut your pages into squares. Draw an irregular spiral in pencil.

2.Cut the outline of the circle out.

3.Cut along the spiral pencil line till you get a big wormy piece of paper

4. Starting at the outside start rolling your paper in a tight rosette. Whatever side of the paper you want as the petals should be on the inside of the roll. I rolled this flower the wrong way and the ‘petals’ ended up black rather than that beautiful blue. This takes a little while… so maybe whack on ‘Proud Mary’ by Tina Turner and sing while you roll.

5. As you can see in the bottom left square you will roll until there is only the circular centre of the flower left. Put a splodge of hot glue onto the circle and press the bottom of the rosette onto it. While the glue is drying you will need to have a bit of a play with it… let it unfurl, unscrew bits looser, twist bits tighter until you have the perfect looking rose.

5. It takes a bit of fiddling before you get a perfect looking little rose.

6. Marvel at your rose for a second before moving on to the next step.

7. Now it is time for the leaves. (1) Cut a simple leaf shape out. (2) Fold the base in half before (3) folding back onto itself. Then (4) dab a bit of hot glue within the folds and stick it in place.

8. The glue your leaves to the back of the rose. If you want a bouquet of roses then bend a hook in the end of your florists wire and glue on the wire in whatever arrangement you like.

Other Ideas

As the above rose was my first I kept practicing away. You end up very quick at it and the flowers look better each time. Of course if you are already crafty your flower probably looks perfect first go. Damn you talented people! My favorite ‘other’ application for my roses was using them to tszuj up gift wrapping. Sometimes people have told me off just for wrapping their presents in boring brown paper or (shock horror) newspaper and I figure that as long as I add one of these there can be no more complaining!!!

This wrap was made using an old paper bag, some left over natural twine and scrap magazines. I think it looks pretty spesh.

100% upcycled wrapping option

I also attempted a sustainable flower arrangement in my DIY Painted Vase post (see that here). While it looks a bit dinky in that photo, it is quite gorgeous at the entrance to our house.

If you give it a go let me know in comments… or if you have any handy tips on sustainable gift-wrapping. Or just to say hi! I get lonely sometimes.