recycled bath mat

recently the towel that my husband has been using since college (!) sustained some injuries that made it unusable:

unusable as a towel, that is. as the base for a new bath mat, it was perfect. and so i embarked on a project to dress up our bathroom.


- an old towel
- a yard or so of fabric that you'd like to place your just-out-of-the-shower feet on [i used the ruffle from an old bedspread]
- pins
- needle and thread, or sewing machine


1) cut your towel into two equal-sized rectangles, at whatever size will fit best in your bathroom.


2) iron your fabric, and cut it into strips that are 4-1/2" wide, and 4" longer than the sides of your rectangle in length (so, unless you've cut squares out of your towel, you'll have 2 strips of one length and 2 strips of another).


3) iron down a 1/4" fold on each of the long sides of the strips, then fold in half and iron the whole strip flat, until it looks like this:


then fold back 2" at the short ends of each strip, and iron down.


4) place the two rectangles of towel on top of each other, lined up neatly. then place the strips of fabric under the edges of the towels and fold them over at the crease that you ironed in, so that they create a border. follow the photos below to make neat corners:


5) if you like the way it looks at this point, just sew a straight stitch along the inside edges of the border, being sure that you catch both the front and back edges, and you're all done!


6) however if, like me, you're not crazy about the color of your towel, or just want more of the fabric in the design, or just want to make life more difficult for yourself, you can keep going. i decided to fill in the middle with a lattice design, like the back of an old lawn chair. if you are going to go this route, don't sew that broder fabric down just yet....


start by cutting a bunch of strips of fabric in a width that looks appealing to you (i used 2"). remember to add a 1/2" to that width for finishing the edges. measure the open space of your mat that you need to fill, and figure out how many strips you need to cut to fill it. for length, cut them an inch longer than the open space, to allow for them to overlap (or, acutally, underlap) with the border fabric.

iron down a 1/4" on each of the long sides of the strips, then sew them down with a straight or zig-zag stitch.


**if you are working with a fabric that's prone to fraying, add 1" to the width that you decide on for the strips, and fold the edges of the fabric over on themselves again before sewing down.

7) weave the strips together...

CIMG1098 them around the edges, and baste them to the towels.

8) then put the border fabric back in place, fold it over the lattice, and pin it down. sew a straight stitch along the inside edges of the trim, being sure that you go through both the front and back edges.


and that's all!


- cakehouse

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

Reusing old materials in traditional crafts

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Brasstown, North Carolina to take a class at the John Campbell Folk School. In honor of Earth Day, the Folk School led a week of classes focused on earth-friendly crafts. Some classes foraged around the school campus for discarded items to use in their projects, and other classes took old objects and made them new again. On the final evening of the week-long school, each class presented what they made; the beauty of these crafts has inspired me to look around my home for old items to transform. Take a look at some of the work created during the week.....

Lauren Kingsland and Kim Jalette taught a class focused on making quilts that incorporate old t-shirts, creating beautiful new pieces as well as a type of functional scrapbook. The students in this class were extremely committed to their projects, working beyond the usual six hours a day, often staying in the sewing studio until late hours of the night.

Before my week at the Folk School, I'd never given kaleidoscopes much thought, but the kaleidoscope-making class wound up being one of the more talked-about classes of the week. Using an imaginative array of recyclables such as pill containers, water bottles, and kid toys, the class made kaleidoscopes that were fun to look at and fascinating to look through.

Kim Joris led a mixed-media art class in which students were asked to bring in some of their old unused art works. The end result were a collection of new pieces made using students' old paintings as well as scraps from a variety of materials otherwise intended for the recycle bin.

'The Art of Re-use' was the class which proudly spoke of scavenging through trash. The art they created was inventive and dimensional with an aged patina:

My class focused on making wood jewelry. We used scraps of wood discarded by other craftspeople, such as hardwood scraps from woodturning and furniture-making. Here are some of the pieces I created:

The John Campbell Folk School operates year-round with weekend and week-long classes in traditional crafts, music, cooking, and dance, with a particular focus on arts from the surrounding Appalachian area. Work-study and scholarship opportunities are available.

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

Don't toss that cap!

It really is hard to follow some of the amazing posts dedicated to Earth Day this month at The {NewNew} blog. I was thinking hard What could I contribute? Then it hit me....BOTTLE CAPS!!!

We see it all the time at bars and parties - bottle caps getting tossed to the side and forgotten about. Poor things, so much potential use gone to waste. Bottle caps can be used in so many different ways. From scrapbooks to self adornment, the humble bottle cap is ripe for reuse. Today I want to show the very easy process of creating bottle cap magnets.

What you'll need:
  • 1 quarter
  • Picture
  • Bottle cap
  • Resin
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Magnet

    First, it's a great excuse to go out and buy some Stewart's Orange Creamsicle Pop

    I like to use old desk calendars as my designs (saving some paper while we're at it!) but of course you can use anything (ie: old magazines are great too!).

    The size of one quarter is a perfect fit for the inside of a bottle cap. This is what I use to measure the image I wish to cut out.

    You see it's a perfect fit! Next comes probably the hardest part of the project (which isn't hard at all) and that's mixing the resin together.

    Resin? Wait a minute, how are you helping the environment using that stuff?

    I understand your concern, but there are earth-friendly resins available that are less petroleum and more water-based, even corn resin (also known as polylactic acid or PLA). Moving along, you follow the instructions provided on the box - usually it's just mixing one part resin, one part hardener. Slowly pour your resin into the cap, do not fill it to the top or it will get pretty messy.

    I use a toothpick to try to pop any big air bubbles that may appear and to also keep the image flat on the bottom, it will want to push up to the surface so you must keep an eye on it for the first couple of minutes or else it will dry unevenly. Let the caps dry overnight. Once ready simply glue the magnet cap to the back and presto! Your own unique magnet!

    Feel free to use other parts of the image in other new ways too...

    Marilyn ~

  • 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: Eco-Friendly Label Making!

    As a new member of The {NewNew} York Street Team, I decided to offer up a quick and fun little tutorial on one way of making eco-friendly tags or business promotional pieces, all from scrap materials... What follows is my tutorial:

    What You'll Need:
    •Scissors or an X-acto Knife
    •Scrap paper (with a blank area for writing)
    •An old magazine or other reading material that might contain interesting designs and be easy to cut out and use.
    •Something to trace with (This should be the size and shape that you'd like your tag to be...Look for something around your house that you could use)
    •A pen/pencil for tracing and writing
    •Scrap string
    •A staple-less stapler or appropriate adhesive

    What You Need to Do With All That Stuff I Just Listed:
    1.) Take the old magazine or other scrap reading material you've found and find an interesting design/drawing/background in it that could make for a cool looking tag. For me, I thumbed through an old Wired that my fiancée gave me the go-ahead to use (the last thing you want to do is cheese someone off by cutting up something they have no intentions of getting rid of). I found an interesting design inside, grabbed my tracing object and pencil, and traced around exactly what I wanted contained on my tag. In this case, I chose a genetically modified bell pepper because he looks pretty badass.

    2.) Grab that scrap paper now, and trace on a blank portion of it with the same tracing object you chose to use in #1, and then cut everything out!

    3.) Here's where staple-less stapler fun is to be had... Simply line up your design cut-out with your scrap paper cut-out (make sure the blank portion of the scrap paper is showing on one side, and your cut-out design is showing on the other), and slap em together with the wonderous staple-less stapler. If you don't have a staple-less stapler, you might opt to use an appropriate adhesive here instead.
    4.) Grab a pen or pencil now, and write whatever the heck you desire on the blank side of your tag. For mine, because I don't have official "business cards" for my eco-friendly shop, I simply wrote out my message and shop address with the best penmanship I could muster up, and will use it as both a tag and business promotional material.

    5.) Scrap string will come in handy now, to slip through one or both holes you've created with the stapler. I used scrap yarn from old knitting/crochet projects that I save. A crochet hook comes in handy for grabbing the string through the hole of the label and pulling it through, if you have one of an appropriate size lying around.

    That's pretty much it!!!

    If you want a more professional look you might opt out of the staple-less stapler and go for some adhesive or tape to hold the two pieces together. You might also have a stamp made that you can use to stamp these promo materials with your url, shop name, etc. Also for smoother edges, use an X-acto knife, by all means, when cutting these suckers out.

    Here's my finished result. Frankenstein Bell Pepper looks a little worse for wear, but he's wearing it well.


    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

    From Aluminum Cans to Jewelry

    Every day at lunch, my friend drinks an Arizona Green Tea. And every day, I look at the cherry blossoms on the side of the can and think about how awesome they would look incorporated into a cute pendant or pair of earrings.

    So I took home a couple of the cans, and with some other stuff I had laying around the house, turned them into this:

    What you'll need:
    -any soda/juice/iced tea can. There are so many different drinks with pretty cool designs on them.
    -a Sharpie (or any other permanent marker)
    -eyelet setter
    -a disc or stamping, any shape you like
    -hole punch
    -earwires or chain, depending on what you'd like to make
    -an x-acto blade (or plain old scissors if you're a reckless crafter like me)

    Use the X-acto blade to cut off the top of the can, then use the scissors down the sides of the can to cut out the parts you want to use. Be careful, the edges of the cans are pretty sharp! I usually cut the can into more manageble square shapes.

    Next, use the marker to trace the shape onto the piece of can. I find that it's easier to trace from the front, to make sure I get the exact part of the design I want. In this case, I traced a circle to mimic the shape of the disc:

    Take the cut out shape and arrange it on top of the disc/stamping. I taped mine down to prevent it from sliding around. Use the hole punch to make holes wherever you would like to set the eyelets. I made one at the top and bottom, but you can go crazy if you want!

    Set the eyelets in the holes, add a jump ring and chain, and voila! You could also make earrings, keychains, or a bracelet!

    HOW TO: Paper flowers

    In the spirit of DIY and recycling I bring you a big ole pile of postcards (!) Remnants of the last Brooklyn Homeshow advertising that I could not just throw in the recycle bin. I mean - come on - postcards are expensive to print and the paper stock is just great for all sorts of things, right??
    Things like what?!
    And that got me thinking of all sorts of great projects to make. This project will use these postcards, some acrylic paint, a scissor and some ribbon to make paper flowers.

    To begin a quick template on paper of a simple four petal flower shape, then used this shape to cut out many many flower from this nice heavy postcard stock.

    Then I painted them red on one side and black on the other. This took several coats as the acrylic paint on the postcards was a bit streaky, so I did one coat in one direction and the next coat in a perpendicular direction to try and reduce one way streaking. I think you can see a little bit of it in that photo. After the paint was dry, you can take an awl to cut holes in the centers of the flowers, I used my handy leather punch.

    And now we are all set for assembly! I thought they would make a nice special accent to my packaging. But you can make them into pins, string them together to make a lei, no limits! Here is a picture of the final product used as a nice special way to package my tee shirts.



    Freecycle is a community of global groups sorted by location that helps people looking to re-use items either by giving them or receiving them. To quote from their website: "It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills." To sign up is totally free and you get emails daily with posts of people looking for specific items like boxes, and people looking to get rid of items like say, a coach. You can look through their regional groups and sign up for your local chapter to start receiving posts immediately!

    It's also a great source for us crafty people looking for bolts of fabric, old sewing machines, sergers, flex shafts - post your wish list, you never know what someone will be trying to freecycle!


    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!


    Recycle NYC - March 16

    Tomorrow morning is the Manhattan electronics recycling and clothing donation day event at Union Square North Plaza (southeast corner of 17th St. and Broadway). They will be excepting electronics donations of computers & laptops, monitors, printers & scanners (desktop only), keyboards & mice, TVs, VCRs, DVRs & DVD Players, and cell phones.

    They will also be accepting gently used clothing with tax deductible receipts available upon request.

    It's only from 8am until 2pm, so get out there early!


    Coming up this week.....

    --On Saturday from 2-6:00 Rational Animal is leading a project that aims to make 500 comforters to line the kennel cages of animals awaiting adoption in NYC shelters. The project is called 'Mother's Comfort' and 45 quilts have already been made with the help of volunteers from Rational Animal and Etsy. Contact Rational Animal if you're interested in helping on Saturday or with future Mother's Comfort events. (photo thanks to Milo, my rescue dog)

    --Shecky's annual Girl's Night Out is coming up next week in Manhattan. Shop commercial and handmade items, drink and eat a bit, go home with a goody bag! Tickets are still available for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

    --'Harnessing Brooklyn's Creative Capital: The Impact of Self-Employed Creative Professionals on the Borough's Economy' is a forum March 5th from 8:30-10:30 AM at the Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. This forum will address the challenges faced by self-employed creative freelancers such as writers, photographers, and designers, and will explore strategies to support this part of Brooklyn's economy. Admission is free but reservations are recommended. Sponsored by Center for an Urban Future and Brooklyn Economic Development Coorporation.

    I recently found out about the following organizations that aim at distributing unwanted materials to people who can use them for art and craft activities and education. Definitely worth checking out if you're an artist, crafter, educator, or work for a nonprofit organization:

    --The Materials Resource Center in Ronkonkoma, NY is a resource of recycled materials waiting to be reused in art or educational projects. It looks like they may have materials available such as small clear ziploc bags (perfect for storing small craft items), beads, buttons, cardboard, etc... They also lead workshops for children and teachers and have a mobile recycling center.

    --Materials for the Arts is another local organization aimed at getting unwanted materials to art and nonprofit organizations that can put the materials to good use. If you are involved in a school or nonprofit organization, you may be eligible to receive donated materials from Materials for the Arts.