Tag Archive | upcycle

why I shouldn’t clean

On Mothers day, a day that was ‘meh’ at best due to a variety of things beyond my control, I went to work on the swing set and decided that I truly did need some bolts and would take myself to the store.  At the store, I see a giant banner “11% off all items” and this is the store that just a 5 days previous I got a fairly expensive load of wood.  Lucky for me I know they have a form for stuff purchased within 7 days of the sale and so I got the form.  Unlucky for me I threw out that very necessary, no replacements accepted, receipt because I decided I needed to clean my car.  So, at 9pm at night I went through our trash to find the receipt.  Yes, I will dig money out of the garbage.  On a positive note between trash day (Tuesday) and mothers day (Sunday) we only generated 1 bag of trash.


more to come but usable at last!

This week was pretty crazy and the creep of debris was getting to me so yesterday afternoon, in the 45 min I had at home, I picked up all the litter of school, dishes, laundry, random toys etc.  Among these things was a handwritten rough draft of a paper #1 is doing for school.  Since I printed out a final copy that morning I felt pretty safe tossing the paper that was due last week and was more or less to prove they started the paper before the day it was due.  I’m at my board meeting and actually do not get the frantic series of texts about this draft but when I get home expecting peaceful sleeping children (I can’t say that actually happens but hope eternal) and I get a mess of a tween begging me to help find her draft because the teacher told them that day it was worth 15 points. Yes, I am also the type of person who will go through the trash for homework.  9pm again, going through the trash.  It was found, a tad worse for wear but legible, and I put it in a gallon ziplock and wrote a nice note to the teacher.  He is new, he is doing his best, I hope trash-draft sticks in his mind as a good reason to give a list of requirements at the start of a project.


trash draft!  did you know gallon ziploc is the perfect size cover for standard paper.

Did I enjoy a clean car and clean living room?  Yes.  I probably will continue to throw away trash and not become a hoarder but I can see where they are coming from….  As a nice side bonus I got a bit of hero status as the mom who will go through trash for her kid, seriously, her happiness is worth way more than $50.


I may continue to monitor our trash production though.  I’m probably unnaturally proud that our family of 5 creates only about 1 bag of trash a week and that is before we start compost for the season (I’m behind/don’t wanna decide where to put the heap).  All the girls are following suit on reuse and recycle.  #1 requested we get thrift store plates for her party so we would not need disposable.  #2 requested I get reusable cups for hers.  This weekend we had 6 extra kids for a party and we created next to no trash because even though I tried to use disposable forks #3 personally got them from the drawer to make sure we were using washable.  Nobody tell them how much energy and water the dishwasher uses but at least we are not filling a landfill.


party wear, we chose festive plates and the table looks so fun

Fortunately my week was really far better than my two dumpster dives suggests.  Super busy with kids, activities and helping friends plus great weather that makes us want to be outside playing.  The weather this weekend is supposed to be dreadful so I’ll probably spend some time catching up on chores and then probably going through the trash again for some lost treasure…

knife/ax target how to diy

Today we were *supposed* to be building a swing set, however, my hardware is not here yet so we jumped onto a project Lars has been really wanting for a long time.

We got super lucky that a friend had a pile of deck wood in his yard that was 2x6x14.  (This made our project virtually free) This time Lars did all the research and after a year of using a really bad stand and then searching the internet, he found this target on youtube that was the ‘best’ in many respects. I watched it a few times and figured out the dimensions as we went.  In the video he says he uses 2×6’s but they really didn’t look like 2×6 to me, but, I just went with it figuring that if you are using 4×4 blocks a 2×4 would be a little skimpy.  After acquiring all the 2×6’s and making the frame I found in the comments that he actually used 2×4’s. Oh well, mine is stronger.  He also used bolts and I used screws, again, preference.  So, up to you if you use 2×4 or 2×6 or a mix; here is my how-to so you can save some time on dimensions.


A great pile of free wood!  I have plans for the remainder to be garden structure to keep out our deer heard


  • 4×4 – enough to make 100 4in blocks
  • 2×4 and 2×6 – I am skipping a precise list here because it depends on the length wood you have what you need, look at the cut list instead.
  • 1/4 plywood – enough to cover 3.2 x 3.2, I used 2 pieces I had scrap


  • 110 1.25 screws
  • 28 (min) 3in Spax #10 <- maybe it is overkill but I love these things


  • chop saw and circular saw
  • measuring tools
  • protractor
  • drill/bits

Measurements/cut list


100 blocks of 4x4x4.  Despite being called a 4×4 it is not 4 inches, my set of 10 measured 3 feet. <- glad I double checked this or it would have been a re-do.


  1. Uprights; (2) 7f
  2. Foot/bottom; (2) 4f
  3. Diagonal; (2) 4f
  4. cross piece for the bottom; (1) 3f 6in
  5. top and bottom of the ‘frame’; (2) 3f **double check your row of 10 blocks and adjust to match.  If you want a different sized target to adjust to compensate.
  6. Spacer; (2) 8in apx (scrap ok, big enough to accommodate the wood you use on an angle)


Order of Operations.

There are probably many right ways, this worked for me well.

  1. Cut 100 4x4x4 blocks.  Double check the measure <- Lars did this while I did everything else
  2. On upright (1) mark 4f from the top of the stand, mark.  take your actual lower frame piece (5), line it up at the mark and then mark below it.  (sorry I didn’t take any pictures of it on the ground!)
  3. Lay foot (2) down, put the upright (1) perpendicular 11 inches from the front of the foot.  Check 90 degrees with a protractor/square.  Fasten with 2 fasteners.
  4. add the spacer (6) 3in from the back of the foot.  Fasten with 2 fasteners.
  5. Put the diagonal (3) between the spacer and the bottom of the mark on the upright to make a triangle, there will be some sticking out at the top and bottom.  At this point, you can either mark the angle and cut to make it neat, or, leave it overhanging. (I left mine, helped on my lumpy ground for stability)  Fasten with 2 fasteners on each end.  **see pictures below for a visual**
  6. Repeat 2-5 for the other side, make sure you mirror it so you have a left and right side.
  7. Stand up a side, with the foot on the outside and the angle on the inside, fasten the bottom of the frame (5) perpendicular at the mark you made onto the upright.  After 1 fastener, make sure it is level front/back.  Add the second fastener.  **Might not be 90 degrees because of gravity, it will be better after the 2nd half is on.
  8. Stand up other side and fasten bottom of the frame at the mark.


    bottom of the frame and cross piece (next step)  *note* I added scrap wood under the front to compensate for my uncut angles in the back to get levels right.

  9. Put cross piece (4) across the front of the foot at the upright.  Check that the uprights are level/90 degrees and fasten.


    bright white is the ‘cross piece’.  You can also see the arrangement of the foot, upright, spacer, and angle.  

  10. Add all your blocks!  This is fun for kids.  Make sure the end grain is out.
  11. Insert the top of the frame, there will be extra protruding up.  This is another variation from his design, he has the top bolted into the end grain to ‘clamp’ down the blocks.  I have had bad luck fastening into end grain and this method clamped just fine.  Fasten from the sides, both sides.
  12. Put the back on, fasten around the sides and then into each block.  We used an offcut to make marks where each block is.  Does not need to be exact, but, this is a necessary step because it is the best way to keep the blocks ‘in’ when you are pulling knives out of them.  Also, when one is ruined it can easily be replaced and the other blocks don’t fall or shift.


    100 blocks screwed in place

We actually moved our frame between step 9 and 10 because I was worried it would be very heavy but whatever you do, don’t move it until the blocks are fastened, you will see why.

This is great for knives, ok for axe.  I have a few ideas for axes in the future and if it works out I’ll share.

After 3 days use and one massive windstorm, all is well with the stand and everyone enjoys it.


Weekend progress 

Got the hose all woven in and  painted for both chairs and the cushion for one cut.

Sewing covers in progress.

I also ran a 5k today because it was local and was not raining. Didn’t do too badly for first race of the year.

And we went to Costco for all the things… Full day and got 12k steps even.


Update and more pictures;

For those who asked, the chair does get a cover!  I got a beach towel for $7 and it was huge enough to cover the entire chair.  I decided to make my seat cushion backless to accommodate the odd shape of the seat, and, to cut down on water trapping in the cushion.  I sewed a tube around the edge and put a ribbon through and cinched it tight. For me, the towel wrapped all around the edges and about an inch onto the bottom, the tube added about a half inch more.  It is not a pillow fight pillow but does ok sitting still on a chair.


I took the remainder of the towel, serged the raw edge, sewed it to the right width ** leaving the extra on either side to be padding **.  Added a loop to the back and an elastic tie to the front and filled it with all the offcuts of my pool noodles from the seat.


Overall I like the look and more importantly it feels pretty good to sit on 🙂


Frugal Friday

I’m a day late for my 3 things Thursday so I’m trying this instead.  Ironically yesterday completely felt like a Friday because the kids don’t have school today AND I went to the gym yesterday (normal Friday thing) so in my head I’m 2 days late (or something)

Yesterday I started a project that I hope works out…  I got nice patio chairs (9?)  years ago but they are solid things and the frames hold up well.  The cushions, not so much.  I griped about this earlier in the season but was determined to find a way to fix my problem.


9 years ago; Cream color cushions on solid metal frames on the right.  Sorry about the blurry picture, way before good camera


  • IMG_9119

    Now 😦  still super solid but also cushionless

    solution #1 was pool noodles!  I could cut noodles to fit the frame and sew a sleeve case for them and while not perfect looking it would be water proofish (better than a cushion filled with rainwater) and I could throw away the noodles yearly if I didn’t want to store them so the cost would be in the $10 range to replace and that is a reasonable yearly expence to NOT have to store a pile of cushions.

    • Problem – my frames have supports for the cushion but they are too wide for a noodle.  Poop.
      • Another solution!  Weave something in and out of the supports to create a more firm base.  What to use?  Well, I am keeping in mind that they will be outside year round so need to be freeze and sun and rain resistant.  They don’t really need to be strong because all it is doing is keeping the noodle pillow from falling.  I also want it to be inexpensive so the classic webbing is around $20 a roll so I think I can do better….
        • Garden Hose!  more specifically dead garden hose – so this is now an upcycle because usually they are trash..

So I asked my local Facebook friends for any free old hose and 2 friends turned up 2 hoses pretty darn quick.  Ask and see – never hurts.  *side bonus, in hose exchange meetings I got a mini visit with two friends I don’t see often*

Yesterday after a long day of gardening and FINALLY getting 99% done and all plants planted (only pretty extras not done) I had the perfect opportunity to try my experiment.

After cutting off the fittings things worked better.

My ‘help’ quit pretty quick because they wanted to play and this was not easy as pie.  The hose is uncooperative most of the time and weaving with it is not an exception.


I started by pulling through a long section and weaving from the center toward an edge.  I did this because pulling the entire hose through was just impossible.  I judged well because when I got to the end of the section (that was one end of the hose) I was near enough to the edge to squish everything I had done over to the edge so I was just over half done and the remaining hose was sticking out of the center of the chair ready to be woven.



I worked from the middle over, this is half done, just tucked the end into the neighbor loop


Since I still had a TON of hose at this point I measured what I would need.  I counted how many rows I had made, estimated how many I would need, added two just in case, and measured the length each row needed.  Totaled it up, measured the distance and cut the hose at that point.  Second ‘manageable’ half to work with in hand I kept weaving.

It was almost 2 hours to get this far but I like how it’s going.


Technique – I can’t decide on a good method really, I’ve tried a few ways and they all work and all remind me of pulling lines on a sailboat.  This morning, I feel the workout of odd muscles…

I learned that no matter how empty the hose seems, there is an endless amount left to splash on you.

It is also better to find a way to make this project working height before you kill your back and arms.

I was muddy to the elbows from this seemingly clean hose…

Finally – this is skilless work but not easy work, feels like moving landscaping rocks – not hard in concept but difficult to do.  Hauling hose in and out and in and out is ‘fun’.


Today I hope to finish up and give it a coat of spray paint.  I got the type that should adhere to plastic so we will see…  If this works out, I’ll fix my chairs for about $20 (noodles+fabric+spraypaint+free hose).


Earth day t-shirt upcycle


Weather; another perfect sunny day, why am I inside?

Nap; should soon change this to ‘quiet’ time  with the occasional sleep

reading; been a while since I noted – I’m done with the Robyn Hobb series(es), I’m in the middle of a Charles Stross series,  Just started the Trone of Glass book 2, and reading my kid behavior books for age 8, 6 and 4.  I’m also reading the Secret Garden to the girls out loud.


I’m glad that I live in an age that there was almost always an earth day.  I can’t remember before recycling cans.  I lived with an original upcyclier and while sometimes he basically built traps disguised as furniture the WWII use it until it disintegrates was part of my day to day.

When the kids outgrow things they are usually in decent shape so it can be passed on.  Since Lars and I are not really growing we tend to wear things until they are embarrassing so there is no passing on possibilities.  I’ve made aprons out of jeans, plenty of things turn into napkins (my crusade against paper waste!) but my most recent upcycle is the t-shirt pillow cover.

I’m in my house all day every day so I want it to look nice if I can.  Since pillows are a major part of our life from the mundane couch decoration to the insane pillow forts – they need to have covers that can be washed so this pattern is for easy on/off covers.

Mens shirts work best – this particular shirt was well loved and I think is about 10 years




old.  Lars was fine with napkining it but I can’t help but remember times like this and now every time I see the couch I remember the fun.




2016 – very loved


You can either get a new (from the thrift store) pillow or just measure one you like but could use a new look but keep in mind the scale of the shirt and the scale of where the pillow will live.

  1. Start by cutting a straight line from the shoulder to the bottom.  You want to make sure no arm seam is left.  Do the same on the other side so you end up with a long rectangle.IMG_8324
  2. Measure how far down the lowest point of the neck hole is and then move the tape to the side so you can cut off the neck in a neat straight line.  This whole time you are cutting the front and the back at the same time so take care to keep it from wrinkling or bunching on the bottom.IMG_8325
  3. Now you have two pieces!  As you can see on mine there is a hole in the front so I had to size my pillow to avoid that.  Take a second to make sure the graphic is centered (or off centered or how you want it!) and measure the height of the pillow you are working with.  (Mine is about 13 inches)IMG_8326
  4. Hopefully you can see what I mean here because there are a few things going on but nothing is hard.  First, I flipped both sides over.  The front is on the right, you can tell by that nifty little hole.  I folded the bottom of the front up to the measure of the pillow ** I do not cut the front anymore **.  On the back, I cut the fabric to size but I measure up from the bottom so I can keep the original t-shirt bottom edge seam.IMG_8328
  5. I don’t have a picture, but, you now want to put the front on top of the back with the graphic in and the folded section out and the finished/existing bottom seam along the folded edge.  Pin if you like to but make sure it is squared up.
  6. Start at one of the folded/bottom seam corners and sew 3 sides.  You are leaving the bottom open – the bottom should be the folded up part and the original t-shirt seam.  On my machine, I use the stretch stitch, #2, it really is great on a stretch fabric like this shirt.  Make sure to sew the three layers; back, front, and folded part of front, all in one line.IMG_8330
  7. The result; 3 seams and you can see that the folded up section is now a pocket! When you turn it right side out, the pocket is on the inside.  This makes a really smooth looking front  because the pillow goes into that pocket.  Soooo much easier than a zipper and no pillow peeking out the bottom.IMG_8331
  8. And then you get crazy and make 4 more… or five… or some for every season and maybe your husband starts to wonder where his shirts went…


    there are 6 shirt pillows here… the one from the example is in the top right

And as a bit of a bonus.  Those sleeves you cut off?  Not to go to waste, they make great headbands.  I’ve long passed the point of bibs at my house but there is a lot of hair-in-food situations so having a little pile of these near meal times works nicely.  They don’t just fit kids, I can wear them too, and they might not be the most fashionable they are perfect for working out or in the garden.


I hope I’m doing my part for the earth!  and I hope this tutorial helps you upcycle some beloved shirts too.



Crib upcycle to slat wall

It has been ages since I did a how-to.  Half because I’ve been lax on the actually finishing and half because what I have been finishing is dull.  I am Excited about this one!  Use your crib rails as slat walls and you can hang things from it, anything from robes to toy bins!  It was a simple and fast project that only needed a few tools and the best part is that it is totally reversible so if you are not sure about taking your crib out of circulation forever this is a good choice.


When we transitioned Fiona out of the crib I went to Pinterest and the Internet to find ideas about what to do with the crib.  Most of the good ideas included totally destroying the crib by cutting it up etc and a part of me just could not do that….  This is where my babies slept!  I can’t make a garden trellis out of it…  I also have that ‘what if’ in the back of my mind so I was looking for something totally practical for now, but, easily reversible if we want to give it to a friend or something.

I left the crib in the hallway for me to think about it and seeing them on their side made me think how nicely they would work vertically and what lovely horizontal rails that makes for hanging things.  I might have a slight obsession with over door hooks… Crib sides are extra good because the top and bottom rails are wider and the rails are centered making a natural small gap perfect for a hook.  A friend made an extra leap from my over door hook to over cabinet door and that is brilliant because it is much closer to the depth of a cabinet door then a closet door but either works.

I spent a long time in the hardware store looking for just the right things and I think I arrived at a pretty good solution, but I’m sure there are other good ones too.


home depot item but available most places

Corner Brace – this is an absolute misuse of this item (sorry dad) but I choose it because it was flat to the wall and created a ledge for the crib to rest on.  It also has holes for screwing to the wall (very important) and also to the shelf.  I did NOT use a normal shelf bracket because of the interior angle – I know that makes it strong, but, it would bump the next rail down and make the crib side unable to be flush to the wall.  With that in mind, the shelves I mounted are very shallow; 2 inches, so nobody is tempted to put rock collections on them.

You will need at least 4 per side

Wood or whatever you want to make shelves out of.  I went the easy way and got 2in pre-coated MDF stock but if you want a different color get wood.

  • Anchors and hardware for attaching the bracket to your wall


  • hardware for attaching the bracket to your shelf, it will probably be a really really short screw
  • Accessories to hang up – hooks, baskets, there are so many options!

Tools – Level, drill/screw gun, tape measure, pencil, stud finder

Step one –  figure out where you want to mount the piece, I like mine about a foot off the ground, but mark under the rail you want to hang it from with a pencil and then find the stud that intersects with that line.  Mount the first bracket.


2. Use a level to find the spot for the next one.


3. Hang the rail up on your first set of brackets and use it to mark the bottom of the next rail you want to rest on brackets (draw a line).  Take the side down again and mount the next two brackets.  ** You do need 2 sets, in my opinion, because, if you only have one at the top you could lever the bottom away from the wall (and by ‘you’ I mean your kids).  With 2 sets it is pretty well anchored.


4. In my garage, I cut the shelf lengths I wanted.  For the top, I had it go all the way across, for the middle I made it half the size so I would have more vertical hanging space available (and I only had so much wood).  I put the shelf up on the bracket, marked the hole with a pencil, predrilled the marked spot (because I’ve messed up MDF in the past…), then screw the shelf  onto the bracket thus sandwiching the crib side between the wall and the shelf.


5. Accessorise!  I’ve changed things a few times, but this basket is perfect for books but is intended for cleaning supplies under the sink.


Bonus – if you notice on the right I have a stuffy sling, it is actually just the bumper from my crib set.  My set had a zippered cover so I opened the zipper, took out the pillow, and voila, a bag with built-in ties that matches the curtains in the room.


And you are done with one.  You can hang the other in the same room, a different room, on top of the other to make a very tall wall that would be good with bunk beds.  I can see adding so many things to this that I would love to see what you do with this idea.