It is finally time for me to display what I have been working on  since my last posting. We have had a lot of family in so far this summer, but in between company and house-hunting, I have been working on a baby gift!

Not long after my husband’s cousin got married, her mother gave me a large bag of ribbons that were left over from the wedding decorations and gifts. Nestled together with the brightly-colored synthetic ribbons, there was a quart-size bag filled with natural-colored cotton ribbons. There were some that had some red stitching down the edges, but most were plain and unadorned. I did not ask, but my thought at the time was that they looked like the kind of ribbons used by the Pottery Barn to wrap their gift packages in. I loved the look and feel of these ribbons and decided to use them in a special project.

I do not know how long I waited for inspiration on what to do with these ribbons, but I finally decided to see if there was enough of them to make a small receiving blanket for a baby. Not knowing if the ribbons were pre-shrunk or not, I washed and ironed all of them before I did any measuring, but was very pleased to find that I could make a small square blanket if I added a nice-sized border to the edges. I was also delighted to find that I had just enough of the ribbons with red stitching on them to put three strips on all four sides of the square! I stored the ribbons away and waited for an announcement that a baby blanket would soon be needed in this family. A couple of years passed, and then the announcement came earlier this year! I pulled out the ribbons in excited anticipation and set to work.

Believe it or not, I found a small roll of batting (which was more than I needed for the blanket) at a local thrift store for three dollars. I bought cotton fabric to back the quilt with, but found that it was much more cream-colored than the ribbons, which were more tan. This led to my dyeing the backing with coffee, making it nearly a dead match for the ribbons!  Yea!  With very careful measuring and some patience, I wove the ribbons together and pinned them in place. Then, starting in the middle, I began the process of stitching them down. I had heard that machine quilting could be tricky, so I used a lot of pins and took my time. It seemed like the best approach to take would be to make a “straight” line down the quilt catching the edges of two ribbons that were next to each other in the block. This meant making a short jump back and forth between the two ribbons (the photo on the left shows what it looked like from the back), but it looked okay, so I continued doing it this way until all the ribbons had been stitched in one direction. Then I turned the quilt and stitched down the edges of the ribbons going perpendicular to the first ones.

When I finished with the ribbons, I added a border on all sides. I considered making mitered corners, but decided to mimic the overlapping look of the red-trimmed ribbons that were already in the quilt. This looked very nice on the front; however, since the back of the quilt was a solid piece and did not have any border seams, I thought the red top stitching looked a little strange the way it seemed to stop and start kind of randomly on the back of the quilt. To make it look more uniform, I continued the top stitching in the corners on the reverse side of the quilt, making sure that I only caught the backing piece in the stitching and not the front. The picture above shows both the front (lower right) and back (upper left) of the quilt corners.



This is the finished front (right) and back (left) of the quilt.







This project would not have been possible had my husband’s aunt not given me the ribbons to start out with. I had known that I wanted to give her a memento of her own for the birth of her first grandchild, so I took the remaining scraps of ribbon and quilt backing and purchased an inexpensive frame. I covered the frame with the quilt fabric and after playing around with it awhile, I think I was able to design something that captured the look of the quilt.

All in all, I think these turned out well. (The inside of the picture frame is kind of a mess, but I don’t think many people will pull the back off and look at it, so it will be okay!) This is the first quilt I have attempted, and I wasn’t sure what I would think of quilting, but I kind of liked it, in spite of its being ticky. I think I would like to try something bigger some day.  For now, I am grateful to have been able to up-cycle wedding ribbons into a special welcome for the newest member of the family!



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Once again, I discover that though I craft continually, I find it increasingly difficult to record what I have been doing! Most recently, I have had spring fever and have spent a great deal of time outside.

Since we have been living under the expectation that we might be moving at any time, I have hesitated to hang my birdhouses or sink a great deal of money into improving the yard, but there does come a point where you must live where you are at the moment. With this in mind, I set out to enjoy where we live right now without investing a great deal of money.

Though I do have several birdhouses, I did not really want to hang my good ones and take a chance that I would have to leave them behind if we do have to move, so one morning when my son had some free time, we set out to make a bird box out of some scraps of pallet wood.


A standard bluebird box is normally about 12′ high and has a 5×5″ square floor, with a 1 1/2″ diameter hole placed in the front wall about 6″ above the floor. A house with these dimensions may also attract chickadees, titmice, wrens, and some swallows, depending upon where the box is hung. However, it may also attract starlings (an unprotected invasive species), and since we do have starlings in our area that love to take over bird boxes, we decided to make some modifications to our house which have proved successful on past houses we have owned.  Starlings prefer a dark box, so we went with a slot style opening at the top instead of the standard hole–this allows for much more light and air flow inside the box. We also raised the floor to a depth of 5 1/2″ below the opening because the starlings prefer a deeper cavity while the other birds will allow for a shallower box. Roof design is a personal choice, and we decided to make one that slanted from the back to the front with a 1″ drop.  By cutting the corners off the floor piece (seen at left) before assembling the box, we allowed for any water that might blow into the box to drain off.

Because we were working with pallet wood, we had to allow for many imperfections, but birds fortunately do not have licensed house inspectors!🙂 We found it easier to drill pilot holes even though we were using nails, because it seemed to keep the wood from splitting.  Where the boards were warped, we also found it handy to use a drimmel tool to trim down the wood and allow for the walls to fit snugly.

The house is mounted by one screw through the back wall inside the box and another one through the extended back board under the house. The front wall of the house is attached at its base with nails through the side walls which allows for it to swing down to allow access to the interior.  It is held in place by a bent piece of metal that goes through the side wall and into the front wall at the top.






This feature has proved useful in the past to save the lives of the baby birds. We live in an area of the country where fire ants are a problem, so I check on the babies regularly to make sure that they are not being attacked by these pests. In the past, having access to the box allowed me to remove the ants from the box and the babies, form another nest cup, and put the babies and the new “nest” back into the box. The parent birds went back to feeding their young, and they eventually fledged. Yea!

This is how our finished box appears. The only expense involved in it was the power we used to run the tools and some nails and screws. Since there is a larger opening in a slot style box, I would be stapling an overhanging strip of metal hardware cloth to the roof if I thought we would have a problem with predators -long enough to block the opening from above while still allowing the birds to come up from below and for the front wall to open.

We were rewarded for our efforts within two days of hanging the box. A pair of bluebirds claimed it, and we have been watching from our house windows as they gathered nesting materials and finally laid three beautiful eggs!

It is easy while building a house for the birds for my thoughts to drift to the promise of  Christ where He says, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
What a precious promise! I think that many people look forward to going to heaven, thought not always for the right reason. Some look forward to being free from sorrow, pain, and sin; others anticipate being reunited with loved ones who have already died; still others dream of the beauty of heaven and the streets of gold. Yet though all these things are true of heaven, the greatest bliss of heaven is that we will finally be with Christ! As a child of God, whatever may happen to me in this life, I have something to look forward to – a home where I can enjoy fellowship face-to-face with my Savior forever. What my earthly mind can only guess at, my eyes will one day see. Eternity will not be long enough to plumb the depths of His beauty, character, and perfection, but I know I will enjoy trying!



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Since I try to make our clothing budget stretch as far as I can, I am often called upon to repair garments to make them last longer. This has meant patching numerous socks, and this chore recently led me to a great spring project!

If you have ever tried to darn a hole in the toe or heel of a sock, you know that it is a very difficult process because of the curve of the fabric. It is a tremendous help if there is something rounded in sock to allow the repair to have the proper shape and to prevent you from sewing the opposite side of the sock into the repair. In the past, repairs to socks involved using either a darning egg or sometimes, a darning mushroom. These were normally made of wood and came in a variety of styles and sizes. The darning egg might or might not have a handle, and some were even hollow to allow for thread, needles, and perhaps a small pair of scissors to be kept inside. In modern times, where socks that wear out are generally thrown away, these tools are no longer common, and an expedient has to be devised. I have heard of using a light bulb in place of the darning egg, but that struck me as being kind of dangerous in view of the possibility of broken glass and hazardous gas being released right under a person’s nose. I thought a more obvious substitute would be a child’s plastic Easter egg, so I set out to make a darning egg. Mine turned out to look very much like a maraca, and the instructions which follow could be used to make very inexpensive maracas.

Plastic Easter eggs come in a number of different sizes. The one I chose was larger than the standard ones that are close to the size of a chicken egg. I chose a larger one because I needed greater surface area for making repairs. The only requirement is to choose an egg that opens along its width and not along its length. To my egg, I added a short length of wooden dowel that was left over from some past project, and some used tissue paper in white and pastel blue.

Because my egg happened to be a very deep purple, I began my project by spray painting my egg white. This may not have been necessary, but I wanted my egg to look blue in the end, and I did not want the purple color to show through my tissue paper. I also took a heated ice pick and put a hole through the center of the pointed end of the egg.

My next step was to cover the inside  and outside of the egg with layers of torn tissue paper using Mod Podge to adhere them to the plastic. The goal was to strengthen the plastic so that it would be able to hold a screw without splitting and to prevent it from cracking if dropped. It does not really matter what color is used on the inside since it will not be seen in the finished product, but I used white on the interior since I have a lot of it and saved my blue paper for the outside. I glued several layers inside the two halves first and allowed the tissue paper to extend up past the open edge. After the paper had dried, I used scissors to trim off the excess. The blue paper was added after the two halves were joined back together. After a layer or two of the paper had dried, I would open up the seam again with an exact knife. I still needed to be able to access the center of the egg, so I did not want to lose that seam! In the drying time between layers, I cut the dowel down to the size I needed and stained it a light brown.

When I was satisfied with the strength of the egg, I opened it back up and added two small squares of duct tape over the hole in the pointed end of the egg. I added the tape as an extra measure to help prevent the egg from cracking when I attached it to the handle. It may not have been necessary, but I thought it couldn’t hurt. After I re-opened the hole that I had covered, I attached the handle to the egg with a small wood screw. If I had been making maracas, I might have added a small washer under the screw for greater stability. This is also where I would have added something to the egg so that it would make noise -probably uncooked rice. For my purpose, I only added glue to the seam as I closed the egg and covered the seam on the outside with more tissue paper.

After the glue had dried on my final layer of tissue paper, I used fine-grit sand paper to smooth out the surface. If I had been making maracas, I could have painted decorations on this smoothed surface to make them more festive. Though I did not really need to do this for my darning egg to function properly, I added some brown paint spots to make it look like a songbird egg and sealed the paint with a coat of sealer.

My finished darning egg is in the photo below. It is very hard and should serve very well in its new role. Whether you make a darning egg or maracas, either could be a great gift for someone you love. I think the maracas might even be a possible craft idea for children in a group setting. However, if you makes some maracas with these instructions and don’t mind my readers seeing your finished project, please send me a photo (shadyswing at, and I will add it to this post.


“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.” Psalms 100:1

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I don’t have a great deal of time to post this week so I thought I would show some of the things that we have crafted this year using re-claimed yarn from old sweaters. In the past I have made baby items , a small purse, and hot pads, but my daughter and I took an interest in socks last summer and wanted to try making them. By using re-cycled yarn we could try them without having to worry about wasting money if we messed up.🙂

My daughter was smart and started small!  She worked with re-claimed cotton yarn and made baby socks. Aren’t they adorable?! She even loom knitted a matching hat for one set. Her goal, in addition to mastering sock making, was also to have some inexpensive baby gifts already on hand. These turned out so well and are so cute, it is hard to give them away! Fortunately, there are generally several skeins of yarn in each adult-sized sweater, so we can make a lot of baby gifts from each one.

I did not start out as small. I had had my eye on some washable wool that came into my house as a man’s grey sweater. I had been wanting to make some wool socks to wear around the house in the winter time and having them be washable was going to be an added luxury that I would not have been able to afford if I had had to buy the yarn from the store. I used a free pattern that I found on the Internet and, to my great delight, they fit me very well without having to make a number of adjustments. I have been wearing them this whole winter, and the only place that seems to be wearing out is the section directly under the toes. Since I have plenty of yarn and the sock was formed from the cuff to the toe, all I need to do this summer is to take out the toes, re-join my yarn ,and crochet a reinforced toe section for next winter. Not bad for a dollar!

I still have several projects that are in various stages of completion. This stuffed lamb is a hybrid of purchased yarn and yarn that was salvaged from a sweater. I did not have any re-claimed dark brown yarn on hand, so that is purchased, but both the stuffing for the animal and the acrylic “wool” that is being stitched on are recycled. It is taking some time to get the fleece on, but I hope to give this as a gift this much later in the year, so I have some time to finish it.


Another project that is nearing completion is a baby cardigan that I was making with some re-claimed cream-colored cotton yarn. It is made over an old Crochet Today pattern that I liked and I am finishing up the sleeves. I am at the point where I need to make a decision about whether to make it for a boy or girl so I know where to place the button holes along the front. I may make a note about the hook size I was using and store it along with more of the yarn until I know who I am making it for!

Another advantage of reclaimed yarn is that you get to experiment on some projects with really nice yarn. One of the sweaters that we unraveled last year had a beautiful soft pink yarn that I am trying to turn into a newborn sweater. I don’t have a pattern for this one (or an infant for that matter!), so I am using a newborn garment as a guide and the work is slow going! I wanted to experiment with top-down pattern designs, so I don’t have any idea if it will turn out or not, but the yarn was only a dollar!

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As I have been going through all the things that I have saved for up-cycling, I came across a sizable collection of these plastic zippered pouches.  These are great for selective storage! I mean, I wouldn’t store food in them, but depending upon the what and where of your storage needs, they do have their uses. (I like to put seasonal floral arrangements in the larger pouches for storing in the attic because they are great for keeping the dust out. They are not in my living space there, and we don’t handle them but once or twice a year.) However, it is possible to have too many of these, and I finally had to admit that I had too many to hold onto any longer.  As I contemplated tossing them out, it occurred to me that I could hold onto the zippers in a very small space, so I began separating the zippers from the plastic. This proved useful very soon.

Last summer my daughter came to me wanting to make cosmetic cases as small gifts for her friends. There were tutorials like this one on the Internet that looked simple enough for her to manage, so I began looking for inexpensive supplies. That is when I thought of my zippers! If she used fused plastic bags for the inside waterproof layer and scrap fabric for the outside, the only expenditures would be some fusible interfacing and some thread! This allowed for some trial and error in her learning process without a financial investment -a valuable concession since she did not have an incredible amount of experience sewing in zippers at that time. She found some fabric scraps in colors and patterns that she liked, including the one in the photo above that was cut from a shirt that she had outgrown.

She used fusible interfacing to make the fabric a little stiffer and easier to work with, and then proceeded to follow the Internet instructions, replacing the lining fabric with a sheet cut from fused shopping bags. The inside seams of the finished bag are shown at left.

This proved to be a wonderful sewing project that improved her skills and gave nice results. The teal bag is made from fabric that she liked so much that she made one for herself as well as her friend.  The floral bag, made from her old shirt, was used more as a test project and was a little too fussy for her tastes to give away as a gift, but still functions well as a bag. I add it here to show that a dress shirt that is worn along the edges could still be successfully used in an application such as this one with very nice results. I think these might make nice inexpensive party favors at the appropriate party.

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Ever since I saw Stacy Vaughn’s travel checker game made using an old DVD case, I have wanted to try my hand at something similar. This past Christmas, I had my opportunity! I wanted to make a Christmas gift for my six-year-old niece and thought that this might be an excellent option. My idea was to make a gift that she could use for passing the time when she had to be quiet and sitting still -things that are very tedious at six! I thought that I would make a game that showed various quilt squares and provided the quilt pieces needed to copy the different designs. So I hunted up a spare DVD case, an old 3 1/2″ x 5″ photo album, and one of those zippered clear plastic pouches that sheet sets are sold in.

The first thing I did was to come up with suitable quilt block patterns that used simple shapes. Then, using templates cut from a plastic sheet that I had salvaged from the front of an old day timer, I took some scrap fabric, felt, and fusible web and made the pattern pieces required to make my designs. Though I used the fusible web to adhere the fabric to a felt backing, I also took the time to stitch along the edge of each piece in a contrasting thread color to make the finished designs more like quilted blocks. I also used Fray Check along the edges of the fabric to prevent the pieces from fraying.

As I looked at my DVD case and the plan I had for this game, I began to wish that I had had a case meant to house more than one DVD.  Because of the thickness of the pictures that would be inside the game and the bulk of the pieces, I knew that I would not be able to store the fabric pieces inside the case. I would have to find a way to store them on the outside, but hopefully in a way that kept the pieces and the game together. I wondered if I could add a pouch to the back. That is when I thought of the plastic pouches that pillowcases and such come in. The pouch was too big in its original state, but I took it apart, cut it to fit longways on my DVD case and re-stitched it with an additional piece of plastic sandwiched between the two pieces on the lower edge and leaving the upper edge un-stitched as shown in the photo.

This next part was tricky! By bending the case back on itself, the attached plastic sheet that normally covers the DVD label opened up allowing me to pass the extra strip of plastic hanging down from my new pouch up behind it. Taking the free end of the strip and pinning it between the two remaining un-stitched sides of the pouch, I twisted the pinned edge around so that I could stitch it closed. Now I had a zippered pouch attached around the plastic label cover that would hold the quilt pieces! (It can be seen through the hole in the DVD case in the photo below.)

I prepared the DVD case just as Stacy had described in her checker board post. Then I used double-sided duct tape (the blue strips in the picture) to attach two pieces of cardboard to the insides of the case. The piece on the left side I covered in white paper. The piece on the right side (covering the hole) was covered with a piece of pale blue flannel.

After the inside cardboard pieces were in place, I cut photo sleeves from the old album, trimmed them to fit inside, and attached them with washi tape, cascade style, to the cardboard piece on the left side of the case. Then I used the fabric pieces to form the different quilt patterns I had designed and took pictures of them. When the pictures were printed, I inserted them into the sleeves with the simpler designs on top and the more complicated ones further down in the cascade.

With the inside finished, I only needed to give it a cover so that the hole I cut into the plastic could not be seen on the outside.  For this, I used scrapbook paper and designed something that seemed appropriated.  The finished game is shown below. The flannel-covered surface holds the pieces in place while the designs are being tried, and since the pieces are all fabric, they will not make noise if they are dropped! Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the pouch on the back!






I did not have time to make another of these games, but if I can find the time later on, I think I will try one with tanagram pictures. Since tanagrams have a limited number of shapes, I might be able to get away without having to make a pouch on the back.🙂



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As I have noted in a previous post, it is impossible to recycle or reuse every bit of packaging that comes into my home. We live in a throw-away, one-use-only society, so almost everything we purchase comes in a container that is destined for the landfill. If you live in an area that has a recycling program, you can send some of it there, but many people do not have access to a good recycling center.  Trying to reuse a portion of what comes into my house is both frugal and green, but since I have no desire to live like a hoarder, there must be limits placed on my stash of materials. So how do I decide what to keep and how many of any certain item?


The answer to this question will vary greatly from household to household. It depends on several factors, but one of the biggest is the matter of storage space. When I began looking at packaging for its recycling potential, I quickly discovered that I needed to have a designated area for my “crafting supplies” or they would take over the house! This grey cabinet in my garage has been given over to holding all my odds and ends.  I use the interesting or sturdy containers that I want to save as storage units for smaller items I want to hold onto. As long as I contain the bulk of my items in this cabinet, I can keep my house uncluttered. When the cabinet becomes too full, I know that it is time to go through and re-evaluate what is being stored. The only things that I do not store here are my fabrics (these are stored with my sewing supplies), my plastic bags, and a few very large pieces of cardboard.

A second factor that plays a part in what I keep and what quantity is determined by my skills or genuine interest in reusing the materials stored. For instance, I know that plastics labeled with a recycle code of 1 can be used like Shrinky Dink, but since I am a little leery of the fumes and really don’t have much need for the kind of things that you can make with that medium, I may only hold onto a single piece of #1 plastic, or if I am short on space, I may part with it altogether. Additionally, though I have worked with cutting glass, I would have to really practice it a great deal to be good at it, so I have to have a project in mind before I start saving the glass.

This brings me to a third factor that I have to weigh when I am sorting things, and that is an honest evaluation of both my time and the final purpose of the thing I want to create.🙂 Sometimes, I have a wonderful plan in my head for some bit of packaging that I have come across, but I either don’t have the time to produce it, or the end product is not really something I need. Therefore, it’s not worth my limited time and energy. This is often a harder decision to make. If the item I am interested in is small enough to fit in my cabinet, I will often keep it for a time to see if my situation or needs change, but if the item is really bulky and takes up too much space, I generally let it go.

The final decision I make while sorting through my cabinet is how many of an item to keep on hand. Often this decision is dependent on how versatile the item has proved to be in the past, how much space it takes up in my cabinet, and whether or not I already have a project in mind that requires a specific number of that item. Plastic lids in various sizes, shapes, and colors have prove useful for numerous tasks, so I keep several containers of them on hand. But the plastic sleeves in a photo album for the old 3 1/2″ x 5″ photo size is not required as frequently, so I only keep one tucked away on the shelf.  I also have occasions where someone gives me some plastic piece that is an intriguing shape (I may not even know what it is or where it came from!).  On those occasions, I may keep it for a time and see if the memory of it suggests something to me later on.

So what are some the package materials that I tend to save? Plastic lids (both hard and soft); cardboard in various shapes, weights and sizes; aluminum tabs and sheets; old greeting cards; bread clips; long plastic-coated twist ties; interesting containers; protective foam pieces; produce netting; plastic feed sacks; and last but never least, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags!


“Let all things be done decently and in order.”   1Co 14:40

“For God is not the author of confusion”   1Co 14:33a


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