My Wedding Favors

I knew from the beginning that I wanted a unique and creative wedding favor. I did plenty of research but didn't find exactly what I wanted so I went ahead and made it myself. My vision was quite simple: I wanted to give something that was fun yet practical.

My solution: Altoids tins, Japanese candy & scrapbook paper!

The final result: The perfect wedding favor. (After my wedding, I started offering this in my shop and it has become a very popular item. Unfortunately, I've bought out all the tins on Ebay (just kidding) and now use metal tins that are very similar)

Wai Sze

how to: save that old bangle!

Somewhere between high school and college, I developed this obsession with silver jewelry. Maybe it was the overabundance of door knocker earrings, fat gold chains, and four finger rings dominating my high school culture that turned me off to the shiny yellow stuff. (Not that my mom ever let me wear anything cool or hip anyway.)

During college I searched for interesting silver pieces to complement my "special" sense of style. Now, eleven years after graduation, they're sitting in a jewelry box tarnishing away.

So how could I save the old pieces of jewelry that oxidation claimed? I decided to refashion them by crocheting over them with scrap yarn. This way I can use remnants of yarn I have laying around and recycle jewelry that has sentimental value. Want to make your own crocheted bangle?

Start by cleaning up some of the tarnish. You can do this by first lining a glass casserole dish with aluminum foil. Place your jewelry on top of the foil and sprinkle liberally with baking soda. Pour boiling water over the jewelry till its covered. (It's going to bubble and fizz but that's normal.) Let sit for ten minutes, then rinse with cold water. This baking soda bath will clean some, if not all, of the tarnish off. Now comes the fun part.
Supplies Needed:
  • Bangle Bracelet
  • Size J Crochet Hook
  • Small Ball of Yarn
With yarn and hook:
1: Chain 30.
2. (Now we'll connect the yarn to the bangle. ) Hold the bangle in the same hand you are holding your leading yarn.

2. Start to single crochet into the second chain. Insert the hook under the top loop of the second chain from the hook, as shown in the photo (do not count the loop already on the hook when determining which chain is the second chain from the hook.

3. Yarn over hook and pull through first two loops on hook. At this point, you have 2 loops on the hook. Yarn over and pull through the remaining loops to finish a single crochet.

4. Continue working your way across the row, attaching the yarn to the bracelet by repeating steps 1 - 3 to the end of your chain.

5. Slip stitch the end of your row to the top of the beginning of your row. Fasten off and weave ends. Ta Da!!!

If you don't have a silver bangle, use a plastic or wood one. Whatever you have handy is fine. You can certainly adapt the directions to a smaller bangle, or a bangle of different material. You can also use different weights of yarn for this project. A lighter weight of yarn or thread will result in a lighter feel of the design.

There are many other ways you can crochet over jewelry to create new and interesting pieces. Crochet over old rings with thread to add a dash of color. Add earwires to a thinner bangle to make earrings that pop!

These beat any old doorknocker earrings!

Experiment with different ideas and make your old jewelry new again.

Collective Elements

how-to: re-using paper

i love finding ways to recycle paper that are more interesting than putting it in the recycling bin. i use newspaper to wrap presents and clean my windows and mirrors, print documents on the back of old flyers, line my ironing board with scrap paper when i iron on fusible interfacing to keep the sticky interfacing from gooping up my ironing board cover....

one kind of paper that always seemed to me to be begging for a good recycling is packing paper. you know, the thin-ish paper that you would use to wrap up your breakables when you move, or that comes as padding in a package. it's such nice paper, but always so crinkled post-use. i wondered if it could be ironed (without setting fire to my ironing board) and brought back to useability... so when i saw an offer on freecycle for a few boxes full of used packing paper, i jumped at it.

recycled paper tags

i set my iron to medium-low and gave it a shot, and it worked great!

recycled paper tags

the wrinkles weren't completely gone, but it was flat enough to work with, and really i like the way the wrinkles remain and give it texture.

i had an inspiration for its first use, now that it was relatively flat: as wrap tags for my napkins and coasters, which would bundle them together neatly, show off my logo, and identify them all in one fell swoop.

so the next question was: could i run it through my printer? i started by cutting it into printer-appropriate size on my paper cutter.

recycled paper tags

then crossed my fingers and ran it through. and...success! here it is after another trip through the paper cutter:

recycled paper tags

i'll admit, i did have one paper jam out of ten printings. but that's a ratio i can live with. and look how cute my products look in their new outfits:

recycled paper tags

i can think of tons of other uses for ironed used packing paper—flyers, small banners, wrapping paper (in fact, i already wrapped some presents in it this weekend....)—and i'm sure all you crafty people can think of lots more...share 'em in the comments section, please!

- cakehouse

An Eco-Friendly Accessory

Alright ladies, you all know you do it, and some of you men too out there with your ties. Someone gives you a gorgeous silk scarf or tie, and you love it, but does it ever see the light of day? My guess is not so much. I’m guilty too! Those scarves are so amazing, but how to wear them? So we just tuck them away in our closets or drawers in the hope that someday they may be used. Or we lie to ourselves, saying that we will make a pretty cushion cover out of it, or wrap our hair-dos in it. But instead, the scarf makes many friends back there in that drawer since chances are, we’ve collected more than a few of these treasures.

Well have I got a solution for you! Not only is it eco-conscious, it’s also fashionable, can be sentimental, and has a catchy name too! The Original Beadscarf® is a great way to recycle your gorgeous scarves into a beautiful one-of-a-kind accessory that you can wear anywhere!

I can use any size scarf for these creations. By carefully manipulating a scarf around recycled beads, I create an adjustable length accessory that can be worn as a necklace.

You may have seen similar styles before. However,
The Original Beadscarf® can be custom made from scarves and ties that carry sentimental value. I have been commissioned to create Beadscarves with materials that previously belonged to grandmothers or late husbands.

Since it is made from repurposed materials The Original Beadscarf® is an eco-friendly accessory. It's environmentally responsible, and it makes a statement that everyone can relate to.

So go on, dig up those ties, scarves, skirts, blouses or other silk fabrics you’ve tucked away for a special project. The Original Beadscarf® is the special project they’ve been waiting for!


A {NewNew} How To: Patchwork Blanket - Combat Global Warming with Style

While I was thinking about what to contribute to our Earth Day blogging, trying to come up with a project that anyone could do, the idea of patchwork blankets kept coming to mind. I thought maybe it was too late for a tutorial on making blankets as it is almost May, but here in NY it has still been very cold, and we just had a blog posts on Salvaged Designer Fabrics and on our Pre Earth Day Team Swap. It actually seemed to make sense. I have made these simple patchwork blankets for myself, for friends and family and so I decided to share this “how to that anyone can do” with you.

As a scenic and costume designer for theatre I have always had lots of bits of fabric from various projects around. Many of the pieces of fabric I had were too small to make anything out of, but too nice to throw out. Some reminded me of specific shows I had designed and I wanted to give them all a new life and save them from the garbage.

If you have access to a sewing machine and can stitch a straight line you can do this project. No patterns, very little measuring. Easy. Eco-friendly. Fab. Here’s how:

1) Gather your fabrics and decide on a theme or color palette. You can use any kind of fabric – You might have things around the house just dying for a new life. Here are some ideas:

Leftover fabric scraps
Vintage fabrics
Favorite shirt or blouse that got ripped or got a stain (concert t-shirts, etc.)
Your favorite sweater that you accidentally shrunk in the wash.
That article of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore. (must have shrunk too!)
That gift item that you were given but never used.
Any nice fabric bits that need a new life

2) Decide on the size of your squares. For this blanket you don’t need lots of the same fabric. For the blanket pictured I cut 7 & ½ inch squares based on the scraps I had available. I only have 1 square of some fabrics, 2 or 3 of others, it doesn’t matter – you can use whatever you have. To decide the size of your squares just look at the smallest scrap that you want to use and don’t make your squares smaller than that – it’s that simple.

3) Trace out your squares & cut. I cut a square template out of the cardboard from the back of a used notepad. Trace around your square template to get all your squares a uniform size. If you are careful in keeping your squares the same size everything will line up easier when you stitch it all together. Cut your squares out on your lines. (To see how many squares you will need see step #4)

If you are a beginner – here are some tips to keep this project simple: Use fabrics that are somewhat similar in weight and consistency. Don’t use fabrics that are too thick or heavy or too thin. Or, if you want to use a lighter weight fabric back it with something more stable, like a basic shirt-weight cotton. You can attach them together with a fusible product like “Stitch Witchery” or just attach them together as you zig or surge the edges. You can also back fabrics if you want to use something that is sheer or lacey. It’s best to keep woven fabrics “on grain” – this just means place your template so that the threads of the fabric are going the same direction as the edges of your template. This isn’t an absolute must, but will make it easier to stitch as your fabrics will be more stable and not give and stretch.

4) Decide on the size of the overall blanket. You can make this type of blanket any size you want. The one pictured is 8 columns/10 rows of squares - about 48 inches by 62 inches. It is narrow enough that I was able to use a single solid width of fabric for the backing. You can decide on your overall size based on what you want to use as your backing and how much fabric you have available or the size of blanket you want. Once you know the size of the blanket you want to make you can easily do some basic math and find out how many squares you need.

5) Zig-Zig stitch over the edges. Once you have cut out all your squares I recommend doing a zig-zag stitch around the edges or serge them if you have access to a serger, but don’t trim the size down as you surge so they will still all be the same size. This will help keep them from fraying and make the blanket more durable.

6) Compose your blanket design. I just lay mine out on the floor. If you have a tile floor you can use the tile grid as a guide to help you layout all your squares. I usually start by spacing out my lightest and darkest squares and then fill in with the other squares, but you can compose your blanket in any way you like. I like mine to be somewhat random, but I generally avoid having two squares of the same fabric very close to each other. You can arrange them in any way you like.

7) Stack it. Once you have placed all your squares to compose your blanket you are almost ready to start sewing. Take the first square of your first column and stack it on top of the next square down, then stack those two squares on the third one, and so on. This will make sure you keep it all in order and maintain your composition. When you have stacked your first column, just pin it all together with a large safety pin through a post-it note and label it “column 1” and continue to the next column. Once you have all of your columns stacked in order and labeled you are ready to sew.

8) Stitch your first stack into a long strip. Place you first square from the top of your first stack on your table and place the second square on top of it, with the faces together. (If there is a pattern or top/bottom to the fabrics be sure to maintain this as you stitch things together.) Stitch the two squares together ¾ from the edge. (the bottom of square #1 to the top of square #2, face to face) Continue like this going through your stack top to bottom until you have one long strip of squares. You may not even need to pin these if you are comfortable with sewing and depending on the size of your squares. If you are a beginner a few pins doesn’t hurt. (keep each of your columns marked with the number so you can maintain your composition.)

9) Repeat step #7 for each column/stack.

10) Press your seams open. From the back of your strips just press all of your seams open flat so that the seam allowances are pushed out away from the actual seams.

11) Stitch your columns together. Place column #2 (now a long strip) face to face on top of column/strip #1. You will probably want to pin things together here. As I pin things together, edge to edge and face to face, I make sure that I am matching up the four corners nicely. Once it is pinned, stitch the two strips together, ¾ inch from the edge as before.

12) Repeat step #10 until all of your columns are attached and you have the front side of your blanket as one nice, big patchwork.

13) Press your new vertical seams open, as you did before.

14) Top stitch (optional) At this point you may do some top stitching if you like, it’s a nice detail, but not necessary. From the front of your blanket stitch straight top-stitch lines to both sides of your stitch lines. As you stitch, make sure that your seam allowances stay pushed out away from the seam. Top stitching like this will keep those seams nice and flat. Top stitch both your vertical seams and your horizontal seams. It will look like this:

15) Attach a backing. At this point you are ready to attach a backing to your blanket. I have often used an interesting textured corduroy or something else soft with a little body in a similar weight to the front of your blanket. All you have to do is lay your backing fabric out on the floor (or table) face up and place your patch work face down on top of it. Line it up nicely and pin the edges together. Trim your backing down to be a little bigger than your patchwork front. Then just stitch around the outside, (with ¾ inch seam allowance as before) leaving about 12 inches open on one side. You now have an inside-out almost finished blanket. Pull the blanket through the opening so that it is no longer inside out. Admire.

16) Press the outside edge flat and make sure your corners are pushed out. You may need to trim the seam allowance at the corners down a bit to make them less bulky and then push them out with something pointy (but not sharp) so they are nice and square and crisp.

17) Stitch the opening closed by hand with a nice tidy stitch.

18) Top stitch around the outside as you topstitched on each side of your seams.

19) Admire your new fabulous eco-friendly hand-made one-of-a-kind blanket.

20) Make popcorn & get cozy under blanket. Enjoy!

HOW TO: resuscitate that old t-shirt!

as i've mentioned here on the {newnew} blog before, one of my favorite forms of recycling is wardrobe recycling, aka wardrobe refashioning. instead of heading to h+m when you feel like you have nothing to wear, why not shop in your closet instead, and re-make something that doesn't fit anymore—or just doesn't fit your current style?

one of the easiest places to start refashioning is with t-shirts. we all have them: the t-shirts we don't wear but can't seem to let go of. here's what i did with one of mine.

this was part of my college uniform:


not only is it ridiculously big (as all of my clothes were back then), it had developed some issues in the back....


...and so had since been relegated to the pajama drawer. but i never wore it, because i was afraid it was just going to keep ripping and completely fall apart. clearly, it was time to dismantle it myself.

i started by removing the sleeves, then cutting across the back horizontally at the spot of the enormous gaping hole, leaving me with this:


then i cut down the sides vertically, making two pieces, and slit the part of the back that was attached to the front down the middle, comme ca:


i decided that those two pieces coming off the top of the front piece would become straps, so i trimmed them a bit to make them slimmer and equal widths, and hemmed the edges. i also turned the neckband under in the front and stitched it down to make a uniform hem all around.

then i put it all together: pinned the side seams and sewed them up, hemmed the top of the back piece, attached the straps to the back, and hemmed the front piece— which had ended up longer than the back—at the bottom. and this is what i got:



putting it on, i realized that the part where i had hemmed under the existing neckband stuck out...


...and i was going to fix it by turning it under one more time and re-hemming, but then i realized that i liked it the way it was. i also love that the finished product retained some of the pinholes and frayed edges of the original shirt.

and so something destined for the scrap heap became a fab, totally original "new" top.

- cakehouse

my green craft: cakehouse

though i knew that i wanted to start my own business after graduating from design school, it took me a rather ridiculously long time to settle on what that business would be. i had studied textile design, so i knew i wanted to work in the fabric medium; then i figured out that i wanted to do home accessories, and to silkscreen. okay, good! but i couldn't get past that point. only when i realized that i should work with recycled fabric—incorporating my love of everything vintage and secondhand, and my ever-growing want to make my life greener—did my business really start to take solid shape. of course, i still had to decide on a product to launch with, so i upped the eco ante by choosing to make cloth napkins.


i now make napkins and coasters, out of fabric that i find at thrift stores all over the city and sometimes beyond—whenever we go on vacation, i manage to work in a trip to the local thrift stores (there's a great website that makes this possible). i mostly work with bedsheets, curtains, tableclothes, and the occasional housecoat. i cut them up, sew them back together, and print on them with nontoxic water-based inks.


i try to keep with the green/recycling ethos at every level of cakehouse, not just in terms of the products themselves. i wash all my fabric in natural detergent, and dry it on the line in my backyard (9 months out of the year, anyway). my sewing machine is from 1965 (via ebay), my ironing board came from freecycle (and is possibly from before 1965...), my cutting and piecing table came from a family in my neighborhood that was giving it away. i just recycled some unwanted shutters into fantastic displays for when i sell at markets and fairs. not only is it great for the earth to re-use instead of buying new, but it really satisfies me on an aesthetic level to look around my studio and see things with a history, things with a little wear and therefore, i think, more personality.


[you can read more about my adventures in greening my life on a more personal level here.]

- cakehouse

HOW TO: Make Paper from Junk Mail

Like everyone, I get a TON of junk mail. And despite my calls to company's telling them I want off their catalog mailing lists, I still get a lot of mail that goes straight into the recycling bin - incentive checks from credit cards, sale fliers, you know you get them too. Well in celebration of Earth Day, here's a great way to re-use a lot of that un-wanted mail to make new paper!

What you'll need:
-old magazines, letters, junk mail
(no newspaper, the consistency will be just terrible, try to keep it to letters and
things printed on white paper for the best results)
-blender or food processor
-screen, deckle and mold, or i've even done it with a silkscreen, though the weight of the paper on a silk screen over time will warp it, and you won't be able to use to that way again
-iron (maybe?)
-bathtub or large container, large enough for your screen and some space to get the water to mix around

Just take your stack of paper and either shred it or rip it up into small pieces - the smaller the better really as this will be the base for your pulp and you'll be able to pull thinner sheets with finer pulp.

After it's all shredded up into small 1" pieces, set it in a bucket of water and let soak overnight to break down the paper a bit. Drain the excess water, and now it''s time for the blender! Blend the rough cut pulp with water about 1 part pulp to 4 parts water. At this time you can add in any food coloring (or hey, try natural dyes, boil some onion skins and add that to your pulp, you'll get a nice muted color and keeping in the actual skins will create some nice contrast in the final paper)

Put all this great pulp into a large vat, big enough for you to dredge your screen through - I couldn't ever find a container big enough for my screen, so everything goes into a nice clean bath tub with the drain closed. And I add more water to the pulp. Now once that is all set, take your screen and let it sink to the bottom, and swirl around the pulp in the water so it is even. Line up the deckle on top, and while the pulp is still swirling around lift up the screen, allowing all the water to pass through the screen, leaving a nice film of pulp on the top - the deckle helps keep the sheet forming evenly. You can experiment with different thickness of paper, depending on how diluted you made the pulp.

Now this is the tricky part, getting that sheet off the screen! You can use some absorbant felt (and CHEAP too!) and stack that with some newsprint to help soak up some of the water and in one quick motion put the screen - paper sheet down - directly on to the felt. Stack another sheet of felt and newspaper and felt again, pull another sheet and stack that on top as well. As the stack get bigger, you can try squeezing more water out by laying heay books on top or putting the sheets in between two boards and a clamp, and really squeeze that water out.

Drying time for the sheets really depends on how much water you got squeezed out initially and how moist the air is etc. Once the sheet are completely dry, if they curl up a little, you can always put them under a towel and iron them a bit to straighten them out. HAVE FUN!

I use it as gift wrap mostly because it tends to bleed when written on or drawn on. To protect against this you need to size it so that any ink on it doesn't bleed out. Have fun adding stuff and creating your very own custom paper!

I'll be offering this recycled paper in my supply shop at as an Earth Day / Spring special

HEY - let me know what I missed in this do-it-at-home tutorial you did this for a living!