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. 🙂



Posted in New Life for Cardboard, New Life for Misc. Items, New Life for Paper, New Life for Plastic Containers | Tagged , | 2 Comments


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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For those of you who are trying to follow this blog and for those who have joined it in the last eight months, I know that my silence has been rather long. The explanation is that I took a long holiday to DE-frag my house! We have known since we moved to this house that our residence would not be permanent and several events of the past year made me think that a permanent home might be in my near future. So, considering that I might need to move all my belongings, I began to go through the process of cleaning, sorting, packing and disposing of things. Several months later, my house is in a state where I can move with a lot less stress! Of course, I have not gone that length of time without recycling and crafting, so (until I have to move everything) I will try to chronicle as much as I can of what I have been doing. Stay tuned. 🙂

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Although I have been unraveling sweaters that I bought on clearance, I had a project earlier this year that required so much yarn that I had to resort to the standard skein. I had a relative getting married, and I purposed to try crocheting a throw -something I have never been brave enough to try before!  In the past, I have always been concerned that I would lose interest in a throw before I had completed it, but, as this seemed to be the best gift option I could come up with, I purchased several jumbo skeins of yarn, grabbed my crochet hook, and set to work.

About half way through my first skein, I began to have problems with the skein falling apart -especially when I needed to move the project to a new location. I remembered seeing something in the craft store that was supposed to help keep the skein together and I remembered thinking that it looked like a glorified produce bag. This, of course, set me to thinking how I could duplicate this for free. Naturally, I went to my stash of net bags and tried to slide one over my skein of yarn. The problem I ran into turned out to be one of sizing.  It was hard to find a bag that fit perfectly. So I set about to make a skein holder that would fit my skein. I put the skein into a tube of netting and then cut the excess plastic away. Then, using a steel hook and some cotton crochet thread, I connected the cut side edges with a row of single crochet. To protect the yarn from being snagged on the tube ends, I covered them in single crochets as well. Then I made two long chains of the thread and laced them through the final row of diamonds at each end of the tube. These would be used to cinch up the ends and keep the skein collected together. I tried the new holder on my skein and was generally pleased with the way it fit. I did decide to shorten the ties at both ends to keep them from getting tangled up in the work. I could then tuck them to the inside of the mesh and they stayed out of the way of my work.

So, how well did this work? It was great! Even though it does not have the same elastic quality of the commercially-sold sleeves, it really did keep the skein together and tangle-free.  As the skein was used, I could tug on the two ends of the sleeve and it would contract in the center and lengthen -exactly what the skein was doing naturally as it diminished! The sleeve made moving the project from place to place much easier.

The biggest pay-off  came in the form of a completed throw! Without having the added problem of untangling the yarn and having to stop and form the end of the skein into a ball, I was able to keep moving on the project and was able to complete it before the wedding and before I ran out of momentum! Yea!

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To start with, let me explain my absence from my blog –I am cleaning my garage!   Great googly-moogly, what a mess! It seems to be the collection point for things that no one knows what else to do with.  I decided that I wanted to get it cleaned out before the weather gets too warm. I think a garage sale is in order for the not-too-distant future.

While the garage clean-up is absorbing my days, my evenings have been filled with unraveling the sweaters that I bought during the sales back in at the end of February. This requires some patience, but the rewards are a lot of great yarn for a fraction of the cost to buy it new. To unravel a sweater, I start at the neck. Most sweaters are knit in four pieces: two sleeves, a front, and a back. After all four of these pieces are completed, they are joined together, and then some sort of collar piece is added to complete the sweater. There is normally a place in the center back of the collar where the yarn has been tied off. The easiest thing to do is to cut through the final row of knitting on the collar and pull out the cut threads until the longer, uncut yarn of the row beneath is found. Once that is found, the unraveling process is easy -just pull on the yarn strand and roll the yarn up into a ball as it is freed from the sweater. However, there are sweaters like the one pictured at right with a much more involved neckline.  Here there is a section of ribbing that has been folded in half and sewn in place, enclosing the raw edges of the body of the sweater. The stitching holding the collar down would have to be ripped out to expose those raw edges in order to unravel this sweater. The collar on a sweater is generally the shortest piece of continuous yarn on a sweater. I save it in a ball by itself and use it in my up-cycled projects to stitch up seams.

Once the collar has been removed, the four sweater sections have to be separated. If the label on the garment did not come off in the collar-removing process, I remove it now. I save this and store it with the yarn balls so that I know the fiber content and wash-care instructions when I decide what I want to do with the yarn later. The seams that join the sections are most often joined with a chain stitch like the one seen in the photo to the right. A loop of yarn is drawn up through the center of the loop just ahead of it. To undo this kind of seam, I look for the side of the fabric where the loops are visible. (The back looks like normal stitching.) I follow the rounded end of the loops  until I find the end of the seam.  Using a seam ripper, I slice through one of the last loops in the row. Then I pull the next two loops in the seam free from each other. In the photo to the left, my seam ripper is in the first freed loop and the one to the right of it is the second freed loop. When those two loops are free, I can pull on the first loop and the whole seam should come out in a matter of seconds. It does not always happen quite as easily as that, but in theory, it should!

After the pieces are separated from one another, most plain sweaters can immediately be unraveled the same way the collar was above. Working from the top of each piece, I cut through the top row of stitching and remove the cut pieces until I find the longer piece of yarn that pulls out in a continuous strand. (Sometimes, the yarn breaks. When that happens, I start a new ball so that I have an idea how long any given strand will be, but that is a personal choice.) If, however, I determined to pull apart a sweater with some additional features (like a zipper, buttons, or embroidery), I will have to remove those first. I consider these features when I determine if a sweater is suitable for unraveling. The sweater pictured at the top of this article had some embroidered accent yarn going through it that I had to sit and pick out before I could unravel the pieces.  I don’t like to do that kind of work, but in this case, I was able to save some really nice yarn (pictured above) that I will be able to use as accent on my up-cycled projects.

Unraveling the sweaters takes some time, but the effort is worth it. Reducing the sweaters back to yarn balls not only makes them available for use, but also means that they take up less space. There are about eight different sweaters represented by the balls of yarn pictured here. The plastic containers are the shoe-box size! One of the saved labels is visible in the lower portion of the upper right-hand container.

Sometimes it seems as if life is like one of the sweaters that I am unraveling.  You lose your job, a loved one dies, and after that “seam” comes lose, your whole life starts to unravel.  But it’s not over yet.  I’m not done with those balls of yarn in the shoe boxes.  I have a plan for them–a plan to make them into something better and more useful to me than they were when I purchased them.  Since I belong to Christ, I know there is Someone in control of what happens in my life and that He has a plan for me as well.  He uses my afflictions to help make me into a better and more useful person in His kingdom and to conform my attitudes and actions to look more like Christ’s. It may not be pleasant when I am going through them, but I trust that He is able to make “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”   Jeremiah 29:11

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I know I have not posted for some time. Sickness, company, holidays, and research have been the reasons. The first three are self-explanatory, but I will shed a little more light on the fourth reason.

Some time ago, I began a project making baby bibs from fused plastic bags, lined with old t-shirt fabric. I had made quite a bit of fused plastic years ago when I was first introduced to the technique, and I had a large stash of sheets in different colors. I had been trying to think of new ideas for frugal baby gifts when the thought struck me that I might be able to make them from fused plastic bags to make them waterproof.

I began by cutting out a bib shape from my fused plastic sheet using a baby bib I already had on hand as a guide. I allowed a little extra space on all sides when I was cutting the shape out because I wanted to attach a t-shirt back. I figured that plastic alone would be scratchy and hot, but adding a t-shirt backing to it would make it more comfortable. I cut a second bib shape from the back of a stained t-shirt in a matching color to my plastic. Then I sewed the two together with a narrow seam along the sides, leaving a space at the bottom of the bib to be able to turn it right side out. Top-stitching along the sides of the bib gave it a finished edge.

With the basic bib shape done, I had a grand time creating all kinds of decorative designs for the fronts. I free-handed different cartoon-like images onto paper, cut the shapes out of appropriate-colored fused plastic, and began to stitch the pieces together. When I had finished decorating the bib, I added a Velcro closure to the back of the neck.

These bibs turned out really cute, and I had several family members who loved them and wanted to learn how to make them. Sadly, though I liked the way they turned out and had really enjoyed making them, I was reticent to give them away as gifts. For some time, I had been reading and hearing more and more about the dangers of plastic to human health and I began to wonder about the safety of this material. I had tried to make the bib so that the baby’s skin would not be in direct contact with the plastic on the bib and I did not think there were any fumes coming from the plastic, but what if the baby put the bib in its mouth or chewed on the plastic? I began to do research on the Internet to see what I could learn.

Plastics are a huge subject and I was overwhelmed by the amount of information that is available. It was not hard to find the information I was looking for regarding the interaction of plastics with our health. The information was not encouraging. Most discouraging was its impact on the next generation, most of whom have been surrounded by plastic since their births. And yes, babies and children are highly impacted in their development. So, cute as they are, the bibs are really not a great project.

All this led me to rethink the types of plastics I use in my home and the things that I make from plastic packaging. Some projects that I have done in the past, I would not do now. Some of them are fine. Some of them will be a judgment call each individual will have to make based on the knowledge they have about the type of plastic involved and its intended use. I have posted a separate page about the future use of plastics on this site.

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