Hard pressed

Did you press flowers as a child? I didn’t. All I wanted to do when I was at primary school was go to dance class and Brownies, read library books, dress up dolls and read fashion magazines. Yep, read fashion magazines. I used pretend I owned a boutique, adding up imaginary customer’s purchases on an adding machine, handing out receipts. So, in truth, flower pressing wasn’t on my radar.

I’ve read in a couple of magazines that herbariums are becoming a fashionable way to decorate the home. Not surprising really, given the current botanical trend. I wouldn’t know where to start with creating a proper herbarium, and so I thought I’d start with this kit, bought from Oxfam for a bargain price.

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Ok, I know what you’re thinking… that’s a kit designed for small children. You’re right. For me, using products aimed at children is a good way to get into craft I haven’t tried before. The instructions are straight forward, jargon free, and usually include diagrams!

It’s a great kit, containing everything that’s needed (apart from the flowers, obviously).

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I’m lucky enough to have a garden and so I picked a few tiny flowers and leaves, (I’m no gardener and couldn’t tell you what type of flora/ foliage; they’re probably weeds). Whatever they are they’re tucked away in here.

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The instructions say to leave small flowers a week, then check they’re completely dried out. Fingers crossed they’ll come out ok. I’ll let you know!

 

 

 

Pillow talk

Charity shops are great places to find fabric for sewing projects. Recently, I bought a single bed sheet and pillow case in a beautifully delicate white and yellow floral print. The set appeared to be new, or at least in tip top condition, and the whole lot came for far less than a fiver.

My mum’s great at sewing and came up with ideas as to how the material could be used. The pillowcase was the first thing to have been re-purposed; into a retro-style apron, (again, all the work of my mum. I can’t take any credit!).

It turns out aprons are pretty tricky things to photograph when unworn, but you’ll get the idea from the following.

The apron was a birthday present for my friend who is a fellow charity shop lover, re-purposing fan, and baking aficionado.

There was some material left after the apron had been created and the spare fabric has been used for lavender bags.

Another friend of mine buys material from charity shops, which she uses to make bunting. We met volunteering in a charity shop and quickly discovered our shared love of ‘rescuing’ pre-loved clothes and homewares. Check out @handmadetales if you’d like to see some of her creations, (I promise I’m not on commission!).

If, like me, you’re not great at sewing, but come across material you love, you could ask a crafting family member, friend or colleague to turn it into something new. Crafters are always on the lookout for new projects.

Hope you find some treasures out there!

 

Stitch up

A couple of months back I went to a workshop called Revive Your Clothes, organised by the fabulous Green City. The workshop was timed to coincide with Fashion Revolution Week, and helped to raise awareness of the ‘Who made my clothes’ campaign.

We were asked to arrive at the workshop armed with items of old clothing that we’d like to give a new lease of life. Perhaps rather foolishly I decided to take a pair of new plain white H&M fabric trainers, bought from my local British Red Cross charity shop ages ago. I fancied making them a little more individual.

My mum had found some lovely fabric in a charity shop; black with a green fern print. I decided I’d like to cover the trainer tongues with this, as botanical prints are on trend. It didn’t take long for me to realise it’s really difficult to sew on to this part of a trainer, because it’s tricky to access all areas. Let’s just say I didn’t really think it through!

After I’d finished sewing on the tongues there was a little bit of workshop time left, so I used it to hand embroider the sides of the trainers. All I needed was some embroidery thread and a big needle. I’m not an experienced embroiderer, so didn’t have a plan before I got going. I just started to freestyle! To be honest, when it comes to crafting that’s how I tend to roll. For some reason my brain can’t follow patterns, so I do my own thing.

The end result is far from perfect, so those of you who are good at sewing please don’t view this photo too closely; you’ll be horrified!

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The thing is, when I wear the trainers the dodgy lining up of the fabric and ropey stitches aren’t that easy to see. I know that must be hard to believe, based on the pic above, but it’s true.

Despite how tricky a project it was, I would try upcycling fabric trainers or shoes again. I’d only do this with shoes bought in a charity shop, because I wouldn’t want to risk messing up an expensive purchase. I know I could go to Primark and get something on the cheap, but I’m trying to avoid the whole ‘fast fashion’ thing.

If you’re good at sewing this would be an easy project for you to try, and the end result will be a pair of shoes that are truly unique.

Next month I’ll be going to Green City’s workshop on natural dyeing and printing. I’ve never done anything like that before but, if I enjoy using those techniques, no doubt I’ll be off to a charity shop soon after, to look for fabric to print or dye.

Tale of two trends

Two trends that seem to be in every magazine at the moment: pom poms and cacti, (separately, I mean. I’m yet to see a pom pom wearing cactus, but you never know…).

I like a bargain. Everybody does. I considered going to Primark to get pom pom’d up, but the ethics around ‘fast fashion’ are bothering me a bit lately, and so I decided against it.

I had a pack of pom poms in my craft kit, bought for a pound over a year ago from John Lewis’ bargain basement section. At the time I had no idea what I’d do with them. Brightly coloured pom poms weren’t a trend at the time (whoever thought they would be?), but I snagged them purely on the basis of their cheapness.

So, this is what I did with them:

1) Upcycled a t-shirt that had been languishing in the back of my wardrobe for years. It took me about ten minutes to hand sew the pom poms on to the pocket. If you sew a lot I’m sure you could do this in a couple of minutes.

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2) Embellished a bag that had also been in my wardrobe for years. This was a five minute make; pom poms + fabric glue + bag  = result.

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The bag was bought years ago for a wedding, used once and shoved away. I’m pretty sure it came from a charity shop. These kind of basket bags with pom poms are being sold in high street chains for a pretty packet now. I’d rather save the money as I’m pretty sure the trend won’t last beyond the Summer.

Other things you could upcycle with pom poms? Sandals, lightweight scarfs, beach wraps. Just take a look in Accessorise or Monsoon for inspiration. On the homewares front you could add pom poms to the edge of a tablecloth; that’d look great on a patio table.

On to trend number two: Cacti.  I love them. They’re hardy little things, easy to look after, and have a fierce attitude (you’ll see I have a tendency to anthropomorphise pretty much everything).

I have a terrarium at home and a cactus on my desk. The latter came from Urban Outfitters for an eye watering price, but I was weak and couldn’t resist the concrete and copper planter it came in. Having cacti needn’t cost a fortune though. My mum was gifted a little collection of them recently and decided to home them together in one planter. This cheery yellow number was an absolute bargain from a charity shop.

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Whilst we’re talking plants and charity shops, this planter came from my local Cancer Research store for less than a fiver.

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There you go, a bit of upcycling and charity shop finds in one post. On that subject, I’ll be writing about my attempts to upcycle some fabric trainers I bought in a charity shop, but that’s a tale for another day…

Easter treats

In my last post I wrote about repurposing objects. One of the projects I mentioned was a plan to gather up pre-loved mugs and fill them with sweets, hot chocolate sachets and chocs, to give to Foodbank.

Thanks to friends and colleagues, two friends and I collected nearly 40 mugs (some new, but most used). A mini-mountain of treats was donated too.

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I found a few pre-loved mugs in a charity shop, which I added to the collection, including this Easter-y beauty…

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This is the final collection, each decorated with a tiny Easter chick and rabbit, wrapped up, and decorated with ribbon (most of which was reclaimed).

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This is just one of the ways in which old but perfectly usable items can be repurposed.

Thanks to everyone who was involved!

A new lease of life

For the past few months I’ve been interested in expanding my experience of repurposing unwanted things. For years I’ve been buying pre-loved clothes, accessories and bric-a-brac from charity shops, but I wanted to take things a little further to see if I could find uses for everyday objects that would otherwise end up in landfill. I know this is nothing new – people have been focusing on recycling and upcycling for decades. It’s quite new to me though.

To some extent I have been inspired by coming across magazines that steer away from consumerism towards finding joy in the simple, everyday things (Simple Things and Breathe are good examples). The mainstream glossies, full of the ‘Buy this product and be transformed into a goddess’ BS have been getting me down for a while, hence the change in reading habits.

Being a fan of charity shops, some of my repurposing projects have focused on items bought there, but that’s only part of the story.

I’m sharing photos of the projects in case you too are interested in turning pre-loved things into useful items.

Coffee jars

My friends and I gathered up a load of clean, empty coffee jars. They came from family, colleagues and friends. I knitted little sleeves for the jars, a friend made covers from leftover pieces of fabric, and another friend sewed colourful buttons and Christmassy motifs on to the sleeves and covers. We filled the jars with coffee/ tea/ hot chocolate sachets, mini bags of sweets, cartons of raisins, fruit bars, and mini chocolate bars; all the things you’d need for a nice drinks break. We made up 100 jars and gave half of them to a local school, and half to a hospice, to sell as their Christmas fayres.

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There are lots of other ways to fill glass jars to make gifts. You could make up sewing kits including things like a small pack of needles, thimble, mini reels of cotton, pack of pins, a mini tape measure, or a tiny pin cushion. Alternatively, how about a pamper jar containing travel size items like soap, hand cream, cotton wool pads, lip balm and the like. There’s been a resurgence in interest in giving care packages; placing items in a jar, rather than a cardboard box could be an option.

One word of caution; you’ll come to loathe the labels manufacturers glue to the glass. They take some elbow grease to remove, but washing up liquid, warm water and effort will get rid of them.

Kilner jars

Occasionally you see pre-loved kilner or mason jars in charity shops. I don’t reuse them for food storage, instead I use them for storing things I want out of view. I simply find a piece of pretty paper or thin-ish card, cut said paper/ card to fit the jar, place it in the jar, and hey presto, you have a jar with an insert which means nobody can see what’s inside, unless they’re nosing through the lid!

The thick paper in this jar came from Breathe magazine. I store chargers and cables in it (and my cat seems to like it!).

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The botanical themed card in this jar was once in a picture frame, (the whole framed print cost less than two pounds from a charity shop). I plucked the card out and re-gifted the frame to a charity shop.

This jar contains buttons, (who says button jars are a thing of the past?).

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Cheese board

I love creating sequin balls. They’re easy to make (polystyrene ball + sequin pins + sequins = all you need). I wanted a way to display them and had the idea of getting a glass dome. I bought one from John Lewis but couldn’t fit all the balls in it, (I had made loads in time for Christmas). Fortunately, I came across this cheese board in a charity shop. A quick scrub and it was perfect to use as a second display case.

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Fererro Rocher box

Some of my make up and toiletries are now contained within a box, instead of rolling around loose in a drawer. I suppose most people would have removed the label, but the box lives in a drawer, tucked away from sight, and so I couldn’t be bothered to worry about looks!

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Sweet tubs

A friend gave me a few chocolate tubs and boxes that were leftover after Christmas-time treats had been devoured.

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A quick internet trawl for potential uses gave me the idea of using the round tubs as planters for mini alpines. Thanks to the Red Peffer blog for the idea and instructions.

The Fox’s tin box was snapped up by another friend, to be used for storing cat treats.

Old mugs

Over the next few months my colleagues and I plan to collect up unwanted mugs, fill each one with sweet treats, then pretty them up by wrapping each one in florist’s cellophane, finished off with ribbon. We’ll give them away at Easter time. Lots of people have a ‘mug cull’ once or twice a year (at home and/ or work); this is a nice way to make use of them.

I hope this post has provided you with a few ideas about giving a new lease of life to things that would otherwise have made their way to the bin.

 

 

Dust down the Denim

I’ve read that embellished denim is on-trend, especially embroidered denim. I’d seen a few tweets by magazines about it, and there was a feature in this week’s Sunday Times’ Style magazine.

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A long time ago I bought an Oasis denim jacket from a charity shop. At the time, it was fashionable to wear denim jackets with maxi dresses. I haven’t worn the jacket for a while, as I hadn’t been convinced they were in fashion. So, when I read about the new trend, I decided to upcycle the jacket, rather than buy a new one.

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I already had an iron-on silver star motif at home, bought ages ago from ebay for some long forgotten craft project. I fancied a red rose motif on the jacket too, so I bought one from ebay for less than three quid.

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This is how the upcycling project turned out. I’m really pleased with it. The weather is a bit too warm to wear it now, but the time will come.

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As an aside, how lovely is this dress in Style magazine article?

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I absolutely love a floral midi with boots. No doubt it’s designer so costs a fortune but, if anyone knows where it’s from, or where a cheaper equivalent can found, please let me know!