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Recycled Gift Crafts

blog action day

In response to this year’s blog action day on the environment, I thought I’d list 7 recycled craft ideas that I really like, including links to their instructions. Besides ending up with a wonderful, handmade gift (for you or someone else!), recycling also conserves energy, natural resources, saves landfill space, and most of all, saves money! So instead of throwing away that moth eaten sweater, scratched record, old candles, and empty glass jars, use them instead to create these useful recycled crafts…

Recycled Envelopes
Make unique envelopes by recycling calendars, magazines, maps, sheet music or any other unused papers that you might have lying around. There are several places where you can download templates, including here, here or here, or you can simply find an envelope you like, unfold it and trace.

Recycled calendar kitten envelopes from kimmzy’s flickr photostream

Recycled magazine paper envelopes from janick’s flickr photostream

Recycled Sweater Crafts
I can’t resist these projects made from old sweaters. Leave it to Martha Stewart (and her staff and guests) to come up with such beautiful handmade items. Here are instructions on her website to make recycled sweater mittens (including video!), pouches, pillow covers, soft toys and stuffed animals, christmas stockings and a felted knitting basket.

Homemade Gel Air Freshener
Air fresheners are a nice way to reuse smaller glass jars from baby foods, jams, and fancy condiments. You can even learn to punch fancy lid designs by adapting this project. Add a little extra flair with descriptive labels or decorative embellishments.

gel air fresheners

Pinecone Firestarters
Cozy winter fires are so fun. I only wish our house had a fireplace! Nevertheless, its nice to use all those pinecones in our backyard for something. According to Orvis’ website, pinecone firestarters are “an environmentally friendly and totally sustainable way to start a fire,” plus “there is no messy residue because the wax burns away completely.” So save those chemically treated firestarter sticks and use these babies instead! The perfect opportunity to use up the wax from old, burnt-down candle ends. Instead of paying a small fortune at Orvis or LLBean, it’s easy to make your own firestarter gift baskets. Try these directions here, here or here.

pinecone firestarters

Melted Vinyl Record Bowl
This is a project I’ve mentioned before. These bowls are so easy and fun to make, and there are a ton of old records just waiting to be recycled in this way. Because of the hole in the center, these bowls work best for larger items like fruit, or candy, or it can be used as a catch-all for keys and wallets.

recycled record

Recycled Paint Chip Business Card Holder
I’ve also written a post on these before, but I still think it is one of the coolest projects. Plus these could be used to hold more than just business cards – maybe a tiny set of note paper or sticky notes, or a miniature stack of bookmarks made of recycled greeting cards, even toothpicks! The possibilites are endless. Instructions and templates can be found at Designverb.

recycled paint chip business card holder

Plastic Bag Messenger Bag
My husband found this video on youtube for making a messenger bag by ironing plastic bags. It’s a bit more involved, but the result is SO COOL! Check it out:


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My New Favorite Mug and Other Dinnerware Confessions

cherry blossom cup

David and I were getting groceries at New Seasons where I saw the cutest mug. I was this close to putting it in our shopping basket, but I knew that the last thing we needed was more dinnerware. You see, back when I was in college I worked at Pottery Barn in the “Table Top” section. I barely had two pennies to rub together back then, but for some reason I couldn’t pass up certain sale items, especially since I got a 20% discount on top of the sale price (the regular employee discount was 40%).

So now we have all kinds of dinnerware and accessories for entertaining – multiple full sets of “Suppertime” and “Bianca” dinnerware, specialty dessert and cocktail plates (with different themes like vintage hula girls, french posters, and celebrate the century), 3 different colors of sets-of-three nested serving bowls, fondue and sushi plates (from Williams Sonoma, where employees also got a discount), and multiple patterns of complete pasta bowl sets (5 that I can think of off-hand). It’s insane how much we have, and that we still have items we’ve never even used. I haven’t even begun to describe our specialty glass collection, including old fashioned fountain sundae glasses and a gorgeous amber iridescent decanter for some liquor that I can’t remember and don’t drink because of an allergy. Seriously. It’s that scary.

The thing is, I am not that person anymore. I never shop at Pottery Barn or even like that kind of style anymore. Now I like things that are more modern, or fun and ‘artsy’, or even clever. I like things to have a little more personality, or maybe a handmade element. Living in Portland, there is no lack of small, independent boutiques, although I would just as soon shop at Crate & Barrel, where at least I can find nice things I might be able to afford.

My husband has asked me so many times to get rid of some of that stuff, but I just can’t bring myself to do. I’ve tried. Truly. But I just can’t do it. What if I need that adorable Thanksgiving ceramic butter dish with the little turkey handle on the lid (that has never been used and is still in its original box)? Or maybe that set of green unbreakable plates for the next time we decide to go on a picnic or have kids over (which has never happened, because our young nephew lives in Austin and none of our friends have kids… yet.) See? There is just no reasoning with myself. Until I can make a little space in our pantry cupboard, I will not buy that cute mug. Or that adorable matching bowl with the little flowers on the inside rim. Or any other piece of dinnerware.

(Sigh) Serves myself right, I suppose.

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