Category Archives: upcycle

Day 18: Key Necklace


Supplies: Computer key, necklace or chain, hot glue, tiny scrap of fabric

Time: 10 minutes

Over a year ago the Z key fell off of my laptop.  Any editors or graphic designers out there will know that Command+Z is the keyboard shortcut for “undo” and during film school my Z key had all it could take.  The Apple Store was kind enough to replace the key for free and I was left with a lonely little Z.  I’ve been wanting to do something with it for ages, so today I decided to turn it into a simple necklace.  I grabbed the key, an old necklace from childhood, and my friend the hot glue gun.  When I tested the placement of the key on the necklace I found that it needed a little boost to get it to fit.  I took a small scrap of fabric and folded it into a small cushion.

Don't forget to glue the end!

Then I glued the cushion onto the key.

Once that dried I put a small line of glue across the middle of the key, found the middle of the necklace, and glued it in place.

I added a tiny dab of glue on the sides to hold the two larger beads in place and I had a new necklace!

I’m excited to wear my new necklace!  It’s colorful, fun, and unique and it actually cut down on a tiny (really tiny) bit of clutter on my craft table!  For me, that’s a really good thing!  See you tomorrow with a different kind of project…



Day 13: Up-Cycled Blouse Bag


Supplies: button up shirt, ruler, fabric scissors, straight pins, sewing machine

Time: 1 hour or so

I’ve always loved the idea of using old clothes for new purposes.  My favorite creative blog is  New Dress A Day, where Marisa Lynch finds ridiculously ugly old dresses and transforms them into something cute and wearable.  I’ve tried that kind of clothing up-cycle a few times, but my sewing skills just aren’t there yet.  But when I found this article a few weeks ago I thought I could probably handle it.  So today I turned a beautiful old shirt into a bag.

I started with the shirt spread out on the floor.  I measured a square in the middle of the shirt.  There were a couple pockets on the front that I decided to include on the bag.

I pinned and sewed straight down the button area to make sure my bag wouldn’t unbutton.  Then I hemmed the tops of the squares and pinned the two squares together.

Once three sides were sewn up.  I cut two long pieces of ribbon and pinned them to the top of the bag to make straps.

I stitched the straps down, turned the bag right side out, and ironed it flat.  Now I have a new tote!  Now what am I going to put in it?  No idea.

This is a really good project for me because I tend to hang onto clothes for way too long. It’s a great way to keep using them without wearing them long after they’re ready to retire.

Day 7: DIY Lamp Shade


Supplies: 2 embroidery hoops, 3 dowel rods, hot glue, scissors, fabric, thin rope

I forgot to put the fabric in the picture

Time: 1 hour

I know when I made the t-shirt yarn I said I was going to have something made with it today, but I didn’t have the knitting needles I thought I did.  It’ll be here next week, I promise!  So instead I’m going to solve a decorative problem.  In my living room there’s an area with a side table that really needs something above it.  Eventually I’d like to put a light there, but it really just needs anything now.  Several weeks ago I made this “shade” to simulate a lamp.

lots of small yarn pieces- my cat made this very difficult

I was really excited when I made it, but once I put it up I didn’t really like it.  It’s a little too small and not quite the right color.  So, today I decided I’d take it down and make a new one.  I started with two really big embroidery hoops (they’re about a foot in diameter) and three dowel rods.  Actually, they didn’t have dowel rods at Michael’s, so I just used these wood things that look like miniature fence posts.  Take the outer rings off the hoops and glue the three dowels evenly around one inner hoop.

like this

Wait for those to dry and then glue the other hoop to the top.  Make sure the hoops are level or you’re shade will look warped.

Then get your fabric.  It needs to be wide enough to cover the outside of your shade with about an inch extra on either side and long enough to go all the way around.  While doing this step I glued 3-4 inch sections at a time going from one hoop to the other.  You can play with it to see what feels most comfortable for you.

half tube

As I mentioned before, make sure your fabric is long enough.  I was cutting it close to begin with and the way I glued the fabric made it a little too short.  Not to worry!  I just glued another scrap behind it and put that side in the back.


Then I got out my skinny rope, cut three long pieces, and glued the end of each piece of one of the dowels and let it dry really well.

good old hot glue

Bring the three strands together in the middle and tie a nice little knot.  Then you can leave it like that or braid the strands or whatever suits you fancy.  I braided them.  Kind of like this:

exactly like this, actually

Then put a hook in the ceiling and tie the rope to the hook.  Cut off the extra and there you go!  If you wanted to put a light in your shade (I have no idea if that would be safe, so make sure it is before you do this) you could braid the cord into the rope to make it blend in.  Eventually I’ll look into the safety thing and let you know.

empty spot no longer

I like this a lot more than the red one.  Maybe I can put my table lamp below it to make it look like it has light.  T-shirt yarn next week, I promise!


Day 4: Button Earring (Etsy Day!)


Supplies: buttons, hot glue, scissors, fabric, embroidery thread/needle (optional)

Time: 5 minutes- 2 hours

I hope you like today’s project because if you do you can buy the finished product on Etsy (proceeds go to the American Cancer Society)!  Last night I left my phone at work, so while deciding what to make for today I thought I’d take full advantage of the bike ride downtown to retrieve it.  I love button earrings and I have a nice stash of buttons, so on my way home from my phone pick-up I made a pit stop at Cool Stuff to get backs for a couple sets of earrings.  (For those of you outside of Columbia, Mo Cool Stuff is the local novelty/strange toy/bead/brewing supply/hippie store.  As the name implies, it is very cool.)  The guy working there asked what I was making, so I told him about this whole project.  Turns out, he’s another (way too young to be a) cancer survivor!  What a perfect day to get a listing up on Etsy!

The buttons I chose are from a chair it’s hard to believe was ever in style.  It almost looks like the orange version of Martin’s chair on Frasier (ps- I LOVE Frasier).

aww geeze!

I took the buttons to Cool Stuff and they were nice enough to let me use their wire cutters since I have none.  So, with the backs cut off the buttons and the earring hardware acquired I was ready to make them pretty!

$6 for two sets!

I wanted to make one pair with the plain buttons and another with covered buttons.  Let’s start with the covered ones.  My favorite craft is embroidery, so that was the obvious choice for these earrings.  I found some fabric in my pile and traced the buttons on it.

Make the circle a bit bigger than the button so you have room to stretch it around the back.  At this point I whipped out my tiny embroidery hoop and embroidered a little design in the circle.  If you have a really pretty fabric you can just skip the embroidery.

me+embroidery= 🙂

Next, I wrapped the button in a little piece of felt.  This was just to make sure the texture of the button fabric wouldn’t show through.  I think I’ll skip that next time as it was probably unnecessary.  It could be helpful for your button.  Better safe than sorry, right?  Then I went on to attach the (now cut out) embroidered circles.  I love hot glue, so I used that.  Just put a little dot of glue on the back edge of the button and glue a tiny piece of the circle.  Repeat on edge opposite the first, making sure to pull the fabric tight.  Continue around the button.  Watch out for little corners that will want to form.  This part will just take some experimenting.  Don’t forget to trim the excess!

halfway done!

Next, you’ll attach the posts.  Glue them on at an edge of the earring.  If you put the post in the middle of the back it’ll get top heavy on your ears.

don't burn yourself!

Let everything dry and you’ve got a new pair of earrings!  And they’re cheap!  I made a second pair for myself with the lovely uncovered buttons.  I don’t usually like post earrings, so those might end up on Etsy too…


from this!

Since this is my first Etsy creation for this project (and in my new apartment) it was time to get a make-shift photography studio set up.  I have fantastic east and west facing windows, which provide excellent natural light.  I set up my little memory chest with a book on it as my platform (angled toward the window, of course).

not so pretty

I’ll tell you right now that I hate taking pictures of stuff for Etsy.  Hate it.  But I’ve read a lot of articles about how it should be done.  In addition to natural light, which showcases the true colors of your products nicely, you want to have a plain, non-distracting background.  I need to go get a piece of fabric for that, but today I used a pillowcase (iron and lint rolled!).  I draped it over the box in a photography studio way.

I have a nice sheer curtain on my window, which acts as a very nice light diffuser.  I use my phone to take the blog pictures, but I pulled out the nice camera for this task.  I want people to buy these things!

Pop over to the brand new Etsy shop and check out the final pictures and the first listing.

Day 2: T-Shirt Yarn


Supplies: Old t-shirts, scissors, dye (optional), bandaids

Time: About 20 minutes per shirt.  Not bad!

Back in March I screen printed a bunch of t-shirts for the film Zielinski.  Most of them worked out nicely, but there were a few that had little spots of ink where they didn’t belong.  So those poor shirts have been stashed away waiting to be turned into something else.

Shirt pile

Some of them had spots on the sleeves and collars, so I put those aside to be made into bags and whatnot at a later date.  The ones with spots and stains on the bottom half of the shirt, however, will be turned into… T-SHIRT YARN!  I read about t-shirt yarn several months ago and was fascinated, yet skeptical.  But now that I’ve made the yarn I’m really excited to use it (I have something in mind for Friday or Saturday).

All the tutorials I looked at used colorful shirts and I really like how they turned out.  Since I only had white shirts I decided to dye them to make them pretty.  I started the process last night.  Since I didn’t need the whole shirt for the yarn I decided to cut before coloring.

Ready for cutting

I’ll link you to the better illustrated tutorial I used at the end of the post, but here’s my little run down for you.  Start with your shirt laid out nice and flat with the hems lined up as much as possible.  You’ll only need the bottom part of the shirt, so cut a straight line right below the arms, so you’re left with a tube of shirt.


Dying fabric is pretty simple.  Just fill a pot (hopefully bigger than my sad little saucepans) with water and a little salt.

Glug, glug, glug.

Once the water comes to a boil add the dye.  I used liquid Rit, which I didn’t know existed until earlier this year.  It’s awesome!  Use a chopstick or a wooden spoon that you don’t mind turning colors to swirl the dye around a bit.  Then add the fabric and stir it around a little.  You might have to turn the heat down a couple notches if it starts spitting colored water everywhere.

Yellow and blue

So, the process has a tendency to be a tiny bit messy, but hopefully you can avoid this:


In a manner I’m not totally sure of I dumped about half the bottle of blue dye all over the kitchen.  I was just setting the bottle on the counter when it literally leaped out of my hand and threw itself everywhere!  Luckily, I was able to get it cleaned up with my now blue tea towels and some 409.  The curious cat was less than helpful.

giddy-up 409!

Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to dye my robe blue soon.

Good thing those pants are plaid.

I did this whole process last night so I wouldn’t have to pay for the dryer.  I made a little clothes line on my balcony and let the shirts dry overnight.

they were ready by morning

So today I made yarn.  First, lay the shirt out flat on the table and cut off the hem (not sure why I didn’t do that before).  You’ll have two raw sides and two closed sides.  Fold one closed side toward the other, leaving about and inch of fabric unfolded.

all tucked in.

You can fold it over twice if your cutting hand is feeling particularly strong.  Mine wasn’t, so I only folded it once.  Now you’ll start cutting.  This is really just a simpler way to cut the whole thing into a big spiral.  Cut 1/2”-1 1/2” strips of fabric up to the fold line.  Don’t cut through that last inch of fabric!


Then open up the tube.  Put the uncut part over the back of a chair, on your arm, or over you knee or something.  You’ll be cutting it.


At this point you might want to look at the real tutorial, but here’s my attempt at explaining this part.  Start at the first slit on one side of the shirt.  Cut diagonally from that slit to the second slit on the other side of the shirt.  Do that the rest of the way down the shirt and then cut the ends so you have one long strand!

shirt ribbon

Next comes the painful part.  Start at the end and hold a length of the strand in your hands.  Pull the shirt so it stretches and the edges kind of curl under.  Apparently, shirts are not that soft, so they kind of rip up your hands when you tug on it for a long time.  I now have bandaids (and blisters) on half of my fingers, but I think it was worth it.  I ended up with a pile of this:


Roll the yarn into balls and you’re ready to make something cool.  Do you think this is how they make plastic bag yarn?  Someone try it!


That’s it!  If you don’t need to dye your shirts this is a really quick and simple process.  I look forward to finding out how it knits.

Here’s the tutorial I used.

Have fun,