Posts tagged ‘upcycling’


For my birthday, my mother gave me (among other goodies) a couple of craft magazines, and I found lots of inspiration within their pages.

The two photos below are of fabric collages that captured my imagination. These could be created around any theme for any room in the house. Wouldn’t they look cool matted and framed?

Below is a picture of adinkra, a stamping technique used on cloth that originated in Ghana. This caught my attention because I have been thinking about the possibility of silk-screening or freezer-paper stenciling fabric. Adinkra cloth is made up of panels which are hand-stamped and then embellished with stitching. The symbols in the picture below are traditional, but I think their simplicity gives them a modern feel.

You know that lumpy, stringy stuff you cut off the ends of your new fabric after you’ve washed and dried it? Can you believe it can be turned into a beautiful landscape quilt? This one reminds me of Van Gogh. Maybe it’s the swirly quilting lines in the sky.

Check out the magazines for detailed instructions. The fabric collages are from the May/June 2008 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, and the adinkra and landscape quilt are from the June/ July 2008 issue of Quilting Arts. Let your imagination run wild!

July 30, 2008 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

A (Dish)rags to Riches Story

Well, not exactly. Actually, this is the story of how half of a dishtowel became a cute hostess apron. I saw this dishtowel in Target and fell for it. The color is great and I love how I can’t decide whether the print is more Scandinavian contemporary or mid-century modern… pretty good for a dishtowel from Target.


The tricky part about transforming this dishtowel into an apron was the size– it was 18″Wx30″L, and the print ran vertically, meaning the apron couldn’t be any wider than 18 inches unless I added some trim on the side, which I didn’t want to do. I also didn’t want the apron to be longer than it was wide, so I decided to cut the dishtowel in half, leaving me two 18″Wx15″L pieces. I figured that I would add about an inch when attaching the trim to the bottom and the band at the top, leaving me with about a 18″Wx16″L apron. Yes, that’s pretty small. Perhaps too small– but I had a small person in mind for this apron, and I couldn’t resist the idea of being able to make an apron out of half of a dishtowel (leaving me to devise plans for the other half… another apron? Cocktail napkins? Coasters?) I envisioned this apron spending its days serving hors d’oeuvres and martinis on Saturday nights and looking cute while flipping pancakes on Sunday mornings, and not doing much in the way of protecting against giant splatters of grease anyway.

I didn’t add any pockets. I don’t really see the need myself, and when in doubt I’m all for taking the path of least resistance, so I haven’t put a pocket on an apron yet. Most aprons have pockets though, so am I missing something? (Opinions, please!)

Click here for more apron posts!

Want to try this at home?

If you’re starting with a dishtowel or napkin, there is no need to hem anything, and the dimensions of your apron have already been decided for you by the size of the dishtowel or napkin you’re using. I think 22″Wx18″L would probably be ideal, but go with whatever you have. Maybe you have a cool dishtowel lying around the house and you can upcycle it. Or, you could buy a really cool dishtowel. I got a Crate and Barrel catalog in the mail today and these caught my eye.

You can decide, however, how long and wide you want your apron ties to be. For the length, I wanted mine to begin as a band running across the top of the apron, then criss-cross in the back, and tie in a bow in the front. I tested this on myself and came up with an approximate measurement of 130″. Sounds like a lot, right? But the ties are actually running around the waist twice, and you want to leave plenty of room to tie a nice bow in the front. So I’d say 130″ is actually the minimum, and you should estimate based on the size of the person who will be wearing the apron. It’s better to have a little extra than not enough.

Next decide how wide you want your ties to be. I wanted mine to look substantial, so I chose a 1 and 3/4 inch width. (1 and 1/2 or 2 inches would have been fine too.) The strips you cut will need to be about 4 times the width you’ve chosen. This is NOT exact, but for the sake of simplicity, it’s close enough. So, for my apron tie strips, I needed 1 and 3/4 x 4, or 7 inch-wide strips. (If you love your bias strip maker, just use that. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how wide your strip should be. Just keep in mind that when a bias strip maker’s package says that it makes 2 inch bias strip, that means 2 inch single-fold bias strips. That will only be a 1 inch double-fold bias strip. If none of that makes any sense to you, just ignore it! You can make your apron ties by hand, and that’s what I did here.)

Now that you’ve figured out the dimensions you need for your strips (for me, it was 7″Wx130″L), you’re ready to cut. You may not have a piece of fabric that’s 130 inches long (I didn’t), but that’s okay. You’ll just cut two or three strips and then piece them together. The homespun cotton that I chose for the ties and the trim at the bottom was 45″ wide, and 44″ after I cut off the selvedge. So by using strips cut from three lengths of my trim fabric, I get ties that are 132″ long (44″ times 3 = 132″: perfect!) Here’s how to piece your strips together: lay the pieces together, right sides facing each other, and sew a line 1/4″ from the edge. Press the seams to one side. Tah-dah! Now you have one long strip. On each end of the strip, fold about 1/4″ in, press, and hem. This will hide the raw edges on each end of your apron ties.

You also need to make one small strip for the trim at the bottom of the apron. You can make this the same width as your apron ties, or make it any size you like. I made mine the same width as my apron ties. The length should be about 3/4 of an inch longer than your apron is wide (so that you can hem the ends.) So since my apron is 18″ wide, I cut a strip 7 inches wide and 18 and 3/4 inches long. To hem this piece, I recommend actually lining it up with your apron fabric and folding the ends under so that the hemmed strip will line up perfectly. Fold and press the ends under, and hem just as you did for the other strip.

The ties of your apron, as well as the trim at the bottom of the apron are basically just continuous double-fold bias strips. The easiest way I can explain the process is this (but trust me, it sounds a lot more complicated than it really is): Fold your strip in half lengthwise and press all the way down the length of the strip. Press it well because the line you create by pressing is your guide for the next step. Unfold the fabric. Now fold each raw edge toward your pressing line in the middle and press. You want the raw edge to come close to, but not quite reach the pressing line you created. Continue folding and pressing the raw edges all the way down the length of your strip. When you’re done, fold the entire strip in half again lengthwise and press again, all the way down the strip. Now you have a long strip: it’s the same length you started with, but it’s about 1/4 of the width, and the raw edges are neatly hidden inside the folds. At this point, you should pin the fabric together all the way down the length of the strip to hold it exactly in place until you sew it together. If all that makes your head explode, you could just buy bias tape, but that’s no fun! It’s worth learning to make your own because you can make exactly the width you want, and you can use any fabric you like. It also has lots of uses.

Once you’ve finished folding, pressing, and pinning your strips, you’re almost done! Slide the top of the dishtowel into the fold of the long strip, making sure to line up the center of the dishtowel with the center of the strip, and pin in place. Now sew all the way down the strip about 1/4 inch from the edge of the open side. In the process, you’ll be sewing the tie to the top of the dishtowel. Next, use the same process to sew the short strip to the bottom of the dishtowel: slide the bottom of the dishtowel into the fold of the strip, make sure the edges line up straight, and sew a line about 1/4 inch from the edge of the open side of the strip.

Now you can embellish any way you’d like. I wanted to keep it pretty simple, but I did sew ric rac along both edges where the trim fabric met the dishtowel. You could also sew on some ribbon, or even do some embroidery. Last but not least, be sure to put on your new apron and frolic around your kitchen looking cute. Yes, that’s the most important step of all.

January 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm 6 comments

Finished Project!

Last night I completed my latest furniture project, an old chair sorely in need of refinishing, the newest member in my family of rescued chairs.

To refinish this chair, I removed the upholstered seat, sanded the wood down, and filled in the holes with wood filler. Some of the dents and holes were large so I had to apply two or three layers of wood filler. Then I sanded it down again, and wiped it clean with a wet rag. Next I applied a primer using a small foam roller.

Once the primer was completely dry, I applied my paint. I used a high gloss paint from Ace Hardware in a shade called “Wicker,” again using a small foam roller. The high gloss paint tends to be more durable for painting furniture. (From past projects, I know that there are also some specialty furniture paints at Home Depot and Lowe’s that will provide durability but are available in other finishes like satin or eggshell., if you don’t like the glossy look.) I had to give the chair two coats of paint and then did a few touch-ups to get good coverage. I made sure to let the paint dry completely in between coats.

Reupholstering a cushion like this one is very easy. I removed the old foam and fabric (yuuuuucky…) which had been nailed on. Instead of new foam or cotton batting, I used an old fleece blanket as my cushion (another upcycling success!) I cut three layers of the blanket and one piece of my upholstery fabric to a size that would cover the seat and reach around the back of the seat to a spot where I could staple it securely. I then used my staple gun to secure the blanket layers and the upholstery fabric to the seat. It’s best to start with one staple in the middle of one side, then one staple in the middle of the opposite side, and then to work your way around that way. You also need to keep checking to make sure that your fabrics are pulled tight and are not bulging anywhere.

Finally, I screwed the new cushion into place and… TA-DA! A lovely new chair. Here are the before and after shots:


It’s hard to tell from the photo for some reason (okay, it’s because of my poor photography skills and bad lighting), but the chair was originally in much worse shape than the photo makes it look. Now it’s my new favorite chair. And did I mention I have LOTS of chairs?

…oh, no! Look who else loves my new chair already…


November 20, 2007 at 11:36 pm 4 comments

I used to be a sweater…

…and now I’m a cozy pillow.


I just love this pillow! Recently, one of my lambswool sweaters escaped my notice and ended up in the dryer. When I pulled it out, to my great disappointment, it was really fuzzy and too small for me to wear. I didn’t want to part with it, so I made this pillow.

It was a very simple project. I used my sewing machine for most of the sewing, so it took me less than an hour to complete. I cut out two pieces of the same size and shape from my sweater, put the right sides together, pinned, and sewed all sides together (leaving about four inches open for turning and stuffing.) Then I turned it right-side out, used a pencil to pop to corners out, and stuffed it with polyfill. Then I used a whipstitch to close the opening. Knit fabrics like this are very forgiving– there’s no need to stitch perfectly, because once you pull the stitches tight you can’t even see them.

I love settling in with a book and this pillow in the evening. It’s so soft and it’s just the right size (unlike the shrunken sweater!) As the holiday season approaches, which too often becomes a time of excess, I love knowing that I made something that otherwise would have been discarded into something that will have a place in my home for a long time to come.

November 19, 2007 at 8:42 pm 3 comments

The Save a Chair Foundation

I have a thing for chairs–old, lonely woebegone chairs, sitting on the curb wondering what fate awaits then when the garbage truck rounds the corner. I don’t really need any more chairs, but I keep rescuing them. I see them sitting next to the old mattresses, broken lamps and pizza boxes, full of promise, each with something special about it that its former owner failed to notice or forgot all about when the new dining set arrived from Bernie and Phyl’s.

All I have to share today is a picture of my latest find. This is the “before” photo– I’ll post the “after” photo when it’s finished. In the meantime, you can see another chair I rescued in my last post. This one is a little rougher-looking than the picture reveals, but it will get a fresh coat of paint, a softer cushion, and some snazzy new upholstery. It too will find its place at my table of adopted chairs. The next time you take a walk on garbage day, won’t you save a chair too?


November 12, 2007 at 5:59 pm 1 comment

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