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Window Boxes from Upcycled Fruit Boxes

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I have been busily brandishing a paintbrush for the first time in many months, returning to an idea that I blogged about on Curiously Creatively last year. You might recall that I wrote about picking up discarded wooden fruit boxes from Lidl in the spring, with various ideas for transforming them into something useful. Well, the months went by and nothing happened to the boxes, which meanwhile, were getting dustier and dustier out in the shed. Recently on a shopping trip to Lidl I noticed an abandoned orange box left in the bagging area by the checkouts and I had to force myself not to pick it up, aware that I had four at home already. It was time to take action and get painting! Only then, I told myself, I could allow myself to go collecting more…

My plan is to paint and decorate a couple of the boxes ready to contain some herbs or salad leaves for the summer. I will probably locate them on the windowsills at either the front or the back of the house. The house is roughly east west oriented so there are advantages to either side for sunlight. We were toying with the idea of building some window boxes anyway, so up-cycling these boxes should be a good alternative. They are slightly wider than the outside sill, but I don’t think the overhang will be enough to cause a problem (they won’t be either heavy or high enough to land on an unwary head). The dream of being able to open the kitchen window and snip some basil leaves as I cook is carrying me away! Let us see whether my fantasy can be made to meet reality.

The box painting process has had a somewhat piecemeal quality to it (not only because of it having taken so long to get started) because I have been using up left over match pots to clear out a cupboard. I began with two boxes and covered the outsides with a basic coat of some stone coloured matt emulsion paint. Amongst the odds and ends of mini paint pots, I found two green ones (left over from Verity’s pallets and from my kitchen shelf project) and a sunny yellow shade that was once used on a dolls’ shop front. Not all of the paints are robust enough for outdoor use, but a) I am in a using up and de-cluttering mood, b) I will coat the boxes in yacht varnish anyway and c) the paint would end up being thrown away if I didn’t use it up on a small project of some sort.

So, to report on the painting stages:

I have done at least two base coats of paints on the outside and two coats on the inner sides. I did not have enough paint to cover the inside of the base, but that doesn’t really matter. My plan is to use a lining cut from an old compost bag for the base and sides, so that will help to protect the wood on the base. As you can see from my photographs, I have used up the green paint on the shorter sides and corners, while the rest is covered in the ‘Sunshine Yellow’. I decided to have a bash at stencilling some garden themed shapes on the sides after discovering some leftover red paint, which I also used to edge and top the corner pieces. The final stage was to give the boxes a couple of coats of yacht varnish to make them more weather proofed. Ideally, I will have more than merely one season of use from them.

My stencilling efforts were not wholly satisfactory; the thickened paint and my lack of experience of using stencils with anything other than felt pens on paper both contributed to a less than perfect finish. However, I am pleased with the general effect and I think the decorated boxes will look well on the windowsills. I am looking forward to getting them planted up soon, I just need some more of our seeds to sprout so I have something to plant!

Now, all I need to do is to decide what to do with my remaining orange boxes! Any suggestions from the floor?

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Creative Uses for Fruit Boxes

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As I was picking up a few groceries in Lidl the other day, I noticed that someone had abandoned a small wooden crate that had previously contained oranges. Clearly, an over burdened customer didn’t want to take the empty box home and had thoughtfully left it for someone else to clear away. The more I looked at it, the more I felt that surely I could find a use for the orange box. Then, I realised what stray thought had prompted my musing. When I was a child, my dad made me a dolls’ bed from a similar wooden fruit box, donated by the local greengrocer.

Fruit Box

Waiting for inspiration to strike…

Sadly, I no longer have the bed, but I can still picture it to myself (that is, if my memory serves me correctly). Dad made the bed as a divan style, putting padding on the top of the box and tacking (striped ?) fabric over it to form the mattress. I think he made a padded headboard too. With a pillow, sheet and a blanket my dolls must have been quite comfortable. Though I am almost sure that at some point the bed ended up being used as something else entirely (turned upside down, it could have been a boat). Anyway, I think that dolls’ bed transformation was doing up-cycling before it was even called up-cycling and it became a fashionable thing to do.

Now, I am trying to come up with an idea to use my ill-gotten gain from the supermarket. I have even considered lugging a full box of oranges home on the bus so that I have another box to incorporate into some grand creative plan. One of my ideas (apart from making my own dolls’ bed) is to make some sort of outdoor planter for the spring. With a good coat of exterior paint or varnish, this type of wooden box could make a great herb planter for instance. If I painted some up, they would complement Verity’s painted pallets very nicely. You could get quite arty with the decoration, perhaps painting ‘parsley’, ‘mint’ etc. and painting leaves and flowers. I can see another excuse to buy an assortment of match pots in all the colours of the rainbow.

My other idea, again by adding at least one more crate, is to make a vegetable storage structure. These boxes are stackable, so you could store potatoes in one box, green stuff in another and so on. A bit of fancy painting, and there you are. In fact they would make great storage towers for all sorts of items. Of course, on the other hand I could simply break the box up for kindling…what do you think folks?

More Fruit Boxes

And then there was three…

UPDATE: I now have three boxes to use, since I found two more on a trip to yet another branch of Lidl (I do occasionally shop elsewhere you know!).  At present, they are stored in the shed, waiting  for my inspiration to strike. I can see them as I look through the kitchen window, so there is no escaping the task ahead….

 

Scandinavian Scarf Storage

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Inspired by a clever storage solution we saw in a certain popular Scandinavian furniture store, I have made a scarf hanger, which solves a particular storage problem that we have had for some time. A shortage of hooks and pegs in our house meant that our scarves didn’t have an ideal home. Now, we have the super-duper-deluxe-six-ring-scarf-hanger (bit of a mouthful), and all our scarf-related problems are solved!

The hanger is formed of six rings which were made by twisting wire into circles around a food tin. I then padded each ring with strips of cotton fabric cut from old t-shirts. These strips were wrapped around the rings. Next, I wound wide satin ribbon in pink and black over the cotton layer. The ribbon ends were stitched down and I used short tabs of ribbon to fasten the rings together. The rings were attached to the hanger in the same way.

As for the hanger, it was a perfectly normal and ordinary (as magicians say) wire hanger, like the ones used by dry cleaners. I also padded the hanger with cotton and wrapped it with matching ribbon. Scarves can thus be hung on the hanger as well as through the rings, creating extra storage space.

This project would work with any number of rings, hung in any arrangement or shape. It could be used for storing belts, long necklaces, tinsel, fairy lights, leg warmers, tights, you name it! This makes a storage system that is both practical and decorative. It was a very quick project which I finished in a couple of days because there wasn’t much sewing involved at all.

 Any kind of wire could be used, even green garden wire, because it’s all covered over and padded. It might be possible to exchange the cotton padding for foam. All of the rings could be covered in different coloured ribbon (mine came from Tiger, see resource page) or narrow fabric strips. As far as I can see, the creative and storage possibilities are endless!

 

 

 

 

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Woven Upcycled Bath Mat

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Some time ago, I wrote about beginning to make a bath mat from old fabric strips, and now it’s finally finished! It is made up of six pieces of woven blocks. There is one piece made from half a pair of leggings, two made from a pair of tights, one using shoelaces and two made from a t-shirt. This gave a good mixture of colours and textures of materials. It is also a fine memoir of several items of clothing!

Bath mat

The finished bath mat

The part using the legging fabric was the most recent one I did. The leggings were striped, and so the material acted liked self-striping sock wool when I wove it. The tension changed quite a bit over this piece, so one end is wider than the other. I found it quite difficult to keep the tension uniform, as the material stretched while I was working.

Bath mat

The mat is sewn with white wool

When it came to assembling the bath mat, it was difficult to fit the pieces together because they are all different sizes. The finished shape is a bit unusual, like a rectangle with a few bits missing. I sewed them using the same white wool with which the fabric was woven. However, what to do with the wool ends presented a challenge. Sometimes these are left on as decorations, but because mine were all kinds of lengths, I decided to neaten the edges by hiding them. In the end (pardon the pun), I pulled the tufts under the weaving at the back, and then trimmed them.

Bath mat

Underside of the mat

I decided not to edge the mat in any way, but I suppose blanket stitch or even shop-bought trimming would be suitable. There are plenty of finishes that could be suitable and somewhere like Hickey’s is a good place to search.

I enjoyed this project and I’ve now got some proper use out of my wooden loom. In particular, I like the fact that I put to use fabric that might otherwise have been wasted, and this foray into upcycling has been a very interesting experience. However anything bigger, like a rug, would probably take quite a while to make, so weaving may be put on the back burner now that the bath mat is completed.

Have you been working on any craft projects lately? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

Sir Hiss, Chief Excluder of Draughts

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I wrote some time ago about the upcycled bath mat I was making from old clothes, inspired by the talk given by Lynn Haughton from the Upcycle Movement. Well, the bath mat still isn’t finished but another project inspired by the same talk has come to fruition. There was a discussion after the talk about various craft techniques and project ideas, during which a member of the audience described a draught excluder that her friend had made using repurposed leggings and tights. I shamelessly pinched the idea, and here is the result: my own upcycled draught excluder.

The snake draught excluder

The snake draught excluder

A lot of the draught excluders sold in shops are designed like animals, usually some kind of dog. I was reminded of the cardboard snakes that I made when I was about three, out of the cardboard toilet rolls, and I liked the idea of making my project a snake.

The body was made using half of an old pair of stripey leggings. The body was too short to reach across the door so I made a tail and head separately out of felt to give it some extra length. One side of both tail and head is turquoise, the other purple. I was trying to pick out one of the stripe colours from the body. I decorated these pieces with lines of beads, of which we have far too many. I think they mostly came from jewellery making kits. The red tongue is also felt and the eyes are buttons.

The head of Sir Hiss

The head of Sir Hiss

I stuffed it mostly with felt and fabric scraps, wool ends and a couple of pairs of old tights. I cut these into rings and then into little pieces. In the end, I had to use some bought stuffing to top it up, but that didn’t work as well because it’s not firm, so now there is a soft part of the snake while the rest is quite solid.

I sewed the beads onto the tail and head pieces. Next I stitched the two tail pieces together and stuffed them and I did the same for the head pieces. I almost forgot to put the tongue on at this point. I pushed the end of the body into the tail and used running stitch to attach it. Then I ran a gathering thread through the other end of the body and stuffed it into the head. Finally, I sewed the head on with running stitch as before.

The tail of Sir Hiss

The tail of Sir Hiss

I like the result very much and it’s also useful. The bath mat should be done soon. I have one, or perhaps two, more pieces to weave and then I can sew all the parts together. I’ll keep you posted about that upcycling project!

Weaving Upcycled Fabric

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A few years ago, I got a weaving kit as a present but I didn’t end up using it as much as I had planned. However, it came back into use a few weeks ago after I listened to a talk by the upcycler Lynn Haughton of The Upcycle Movement at Liberties Upstairs as part of Heritage Week. She showed a rug she had made, woven out of strips of reused leggings. The next day, I got out my loom and started experimenting.

Woven fabric

Fabric woven from a t-shirt and shoelaces.

The first piece I made was with an old t-shirt cut up into strips. I made a second piece of fabric using the rest of the t-shirt, but I threaded the loom differently and fastened the two pieces together as I wove it.

Weaving kit

The comb, loom, shuttles and massive, tangled ball of wool.

Next were the shoelaces. I had a bundle of old, dirty shoelaces that I didn’t need so I had a go with those. This proved very successful because all the shoelaces were the same width, something I had found hard to achieve when cutting strips of the jersey fabric from the t-shirt. I think I’ll have to bleach the finished piece to get rid of the marks, something I neglected to do before I started the weaving.

Finally, I cut up a pair of old purple tights. These had been bought for a school play and I didn’t want them for anything else. The woven patch is very striking in colour. I still have five strips of fabric left (the tights made ten in total) so I should be able to make another patch the same size.

Weaving

The inevitable mistake…

Keeping the edges neat has proved a problem, I may have to sew around the edges at the end. When I was taking the purple fabric off the loom, I found a more secure way of finishing the edges by tying each wool end to its partner but also to another end to make a firm edge. Chris suggested that the pieces could be put to good use as a bath mat, which I think is a workable idea. It might be difficult to match the edges of the different pieces neatly together though.

I have a pair of striped leggings to cut up as well, which should make at least one other patch. The mat will also need to be backed with something. I have a hessian sort of material which might be suitable. Upcycling fabric is an area I haven’t ventured into before and although it’s limited by the unwanted bits and bobs you can find, I like the new challenge.

Have you tried any kind of upcycling? Let us know about your projects…

Pallets with potential

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Another project has commenced, after two lucky finds. I was very taken with the idea of having a pallet when I saw them used as furniture, in gardens and in window displays. Unfortunately, it has proved a bit tricky to bet hold of any. He Who Put The Shelves Up sourced the first one, in the local river. It was half a mini-pallet which had obviously been in the river for some time. Then, a week or so ago, we had another breakthrough when Chris found a whole mini-pallet at work. This one was brand new and homeless! We carried it home and installed it in the garden.

Pallets

Pallets with potential

I had been so focused on getting my pallets that I hadn’t thought much about what to do when I got them. He Who Put The Shelves Up suggested fitting a tray of plants behind each bar (you’ll know what I mean when you look at the pictures) and setting them up in the garden. I think this will work nicely so that is now the Official Pallet Plan.

A pallet

My brand new mini-pallet

However, the wood needs treating first. The new pallet needs sanding, the older one is so worn away that I don’t think sanding would achieve anything. Then I will either paint or varnish both of them. I could paint them and then pick plants that match the colour scheme!

My pallet

Salvaged pallet

This could take quite a while, it’ll be a good up-cycling summer project. For now, I’m just glad to have got my hands on two pallets, for keeps!

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