From The Vault: How To Save That Old Bangle

Our team and our blog have been around for six years now and we have published an enormous amount of information, tutorials, and pretty pictures. The From The Vault series seeks to resurrect some of those goodies so they are not forgotten. Today's vault post on how to upcycle an old bangle was published by Danielle on April 30, 2008. Check out her tutorial here. Happy Summer!

On Being a Saver, Part II

In my last post I confessed to saving a couple of really raw materials --- so raw, in fact, that it's difficult to imagine how exactly I might use at least one of them (metal lampshades). This time I'm revealing a couple of things I save (or collect) for their obvious utility, regardless of whether I actually capitalize on that utility (i.e., use them).
These and the other type of saved items highlight the dilemma faced by all city-dwelling up-cyclers: the potential for joyous transformation or economic/ecological conscious practice versus space to live and work in. With regard to the first set of items, the balance is out-of-whack, with the items clogging up space while I figure out how to use them. This second set of items needs management but doesn't yet pose a serious threat to my habitable space.

The reason these items don't pose a threat to habitable space is in part because they're relatively few in one case, and because I have actually used them to good effect in the other case. They are just too obviously potentially useful (and/or even joyously transformative -- the categories are not mutually exclusive) to toss. They just are. Specifically, these items are:

1. Popsicle sticks, and 

2. Baby-food jars

Popsicle sticks are great for scooping, dolling, propping, and stopping (among other things for sure). And you can use them to make neat boxes. Every one of the sticks in my collection comes from a popsicle I actually ate.

I really like popsicles.

Who can argue against the utility of baby-food jars for storing all manner of tiny things? No one. You can also use them to make neat things, perhaps, for example, snow globes.

My collections of popsicle sticks and baby-food jars were sitting in a box collecting dust and verging on becoming a threat to my habitable space until I brought them together to write this post. I did it for the sake of a photo but liked their pairing so much that I kept it.

Now my jars have a use and my popsicle sticks are within easy reach for creative or mechanical purposes. No more threat to habitable space. Yay.

Until next time --


How-To: Gum Wrappers, Mom, and Me

the big one!

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to make folded paper chains from gum wrappers. This humble paper craft introduced me to the concept of making something decorative from what would otherwise end up in the trash. It was like learning a magic trick. There was a lot of treasure-from-trash activity going on in the 70s -- my grandmother's crocheted kitchen mat made from plastic bread sacks, my mom's Christmas tree made from spray-painted tuna fish cans! But the gum wrapper chain was my first attempt at upcycling, and it's still my favorite.

We took gum wrapper chains seriously in our house. My mother was the Gumkeeper and Chain Maven that made it all possible. We had a drawer in the kitchen that she always kept stocked with gum and loose wrappers to work on when the mood struck. At the height of our wrapper-folding enterprise, the chain stretched from one end of our house to the other (and beyond!).

Sadly, the chain we made got lost in a move, but I have a chain of my own now, which I started making when I was 17 years old and living away from home for the first time. I was an exchange student living abroad, at times terribly homesick. I'm sure that repeating that same sequence of folds my mother had taught me years before must have helped a little at easing the sadness of being so far away from her and dad.

Here are the instructions for making your own Gum Wrapper Chain. I usually work in stages: tear a big batch of wrappers in half, then fold all the halves into links, then assemble the links at the end.

step 1 step 1b
1. Fold gum wrapper in half lengthwise. Give it a nice, firm crease, then tear wrapper along fold line. Each half-wrapper will eventually become a link in your chain!

step 2 step 3
2. With blank side facing up, fold each half-wrapper in half lengthwise and crease.

3. Open the fold, turn the edges in toward the center crease, and refold. You should be left with a nice thin strip.

step 4 step 5
4. Fold strip in half, forming a large "V."

5. Turn both ends inward toward the center fold. You will now have a link that resembles a small "v."

step 6 finito
6. Now it's time to assemble your little links! Grab two links and insert the tabs of one link through the slots of the other link. Repeat and repeat and repeat until you run out of links. And there you have a gum wrapper chain!

(NOTE: If you're not a gum chewer, you can use other types of paper to make a chain. Skip step 1 and instead cut paper into 1" x 2 5/8" ( 2.5 cm x 6.7cm) pieces, which is the same size as one-half of a wrapper. Also note that paper that is too thin or slick will make chains that are prone to getting twisted and tangled.)

Happy Mother's Day and happy folding!

Lisa H.

How-To: Turn Bags into Beads

I've become somewhat of a curator of plastic bags. In fact, there are some doors you shouldn't open in my house because you will be buried under an avalanche of interesting plastic. Primarily, I fuse these bags into collages and turn them into other things like: BEADS.

If you would like to transform your own collection of plastic bags into beads, follow these instructions:


  • Clean plastic bag

  • Parchment paper

  • Iron

  • E6000 or similar glue

  • Toothpicks

  • Scissors

  • Ruler
Fusing the Plastic

Place two layers of plastic between two sheets of parchment on a hard surface and iron them together using a low setting with the steam set to off.

That will leave you with a sheet that looks like this:

Making the Bead

Cut out a triangular shape that is about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide at the bottom. You can play around with the sizing. The wider the triangle, the longer the bead and the longer the triangle, the fatter the bead.

With a toothpick, apply a thin layer of E6000 or similar glue to one side of your triangle. Leave a small strip free of glue at the base of the triangle. Place a clean toothpick at the base and roll up the triangle around the toothpick so it shapes an oval bead. Jiggle the toothpick a little to make sure that it doesn't stick to the bead.

Leave the toothpick in the bead and stick it into something to dry overnight. I used a dried out bit of Model Magic clay, but any kind of Styrofoam, etc. will work as well.

Once your bead is dry you can lacquer it or leave it as is and use it in a project like this:

or this:

Happy Recycling!


How-To: Re-Purposed Pants -- The Yoga Sling Bag with 2 Pockets

I’ve yet to find a yoga sling bag to tote my yoga mat around that will suit my needs at a reasonable price! I want one with pockets for a MetroCard, some cash, and keys. It should be comfortable to carry, have a little extra room for a small towel, and not cost 50 bucks!

So I have these cargo pants that I haven’t worn in a while and decided that they will make a GREAT bag to carry and store my yoga mat. AND I can incorporate the pants' pockets in the redesign! You can make one too, and here’s how…

You’ll Need:

An old pair of pants or jeans
A good pair of scissors
Sewing machine (preferably)
Webbing (for the sling strap)
Shoe lace or other means to close the bag

How To:

1. Fish out an old pair of jeans, preferably boot-cut and big enough to fit your rolled up mat. It should have a little wiggle room, but not be too roomy.

2. Cut the pants/jeans in half so that the two legs are separated. Turn the half you will use inside out.3. This is how to cut up the pants if you want to use the button fly as the opening for the yoga mat sling bag.4. Sew the button fly back onto the pant leg.

5. Next, put the yoga mat into the pant leg to measure how long the bag should be. The top of the yoga mat should sit where the waistband meets the pant leg. Cut off the bottom portion of the leg. You can use this remnant for the base of the bag.

6. Measure the diameter of the pant leg bottom. Using the leftover pant leg fabric from Step 5, cut out a circle with the same diameter plus a 2 inch seam allowance. This will become the base for the sling bag. I traced a circle around a cordless electric kettle for a perfectly shaped base.

7. With left sides facing out, pin the circle to the bottom of the pant leg. Decide where you want the strap to run across the bag and position one end of the webbing between the base and the pant leg.

To recap, the pant leg should be turned inside out with the left side facing out and the webbing should be inside (touching the right side) of the pant leg with one end positioned between the circle base and the pant leg.

Sew the base to the pant leg with 2 or 3 seams to attach the strap and the base securely to the sling bag.
8. Turn the bag right-side out. Secure the loose end of the webbing by sewing it to the opposite end of the bag with an “X-shaped” seam.9. To create a drawstring closure at the top of the bag, carefully cut two slits in the exterior part of the pants' waistband. Do not cut all the way through the waistband! Pull a shoelace or other heavy string through the waistband "tunnel." Pull the ends of the drawstring tight to tie the bag closed.10. If you are so inclined, go ahead and embellish the pocket with an “ohm” for extra credit :)
You’re ready to go!By Lorina Pellach-Ladrillono of The Original Beadscarf and

Wardrobe Refashion: Stenciled T-Shirt

A friend of mine recently made this t-shirt for me. The shirt is upcycled from the thrift store (yay thrifting!). She cut a stencil out of cardboard, laid it on the shirt and sprayed bleach onto it. When she lifted up the stencil, it left this great design.

You can use the same technique with found items as your "stencils." Leaves work quite well.

I'm especially fond of the idea that revolution includes a lot of love.

Karen's Monsters

How to Find Items to Upcycle

It's no secret, I love reclaiming discarded materials and upcycling them into something else. My craft supplies are equal parts commercially produced and found objects. One of the advantages of reusing is the cost: free! But where to get started?

Freecycle is a fast-growing global network of people who want to keep usable items out of landfills. Simple to use, just plug your zip code into the website to find your nearest group. Browse the "Offer" ads, you may luck out and get a sewing machine, yarn, fabric, or other supplies. I've personally given away big bags of fabric scraps and beads through freecycle.

Hudson Valley Materials Exchange, located in New Paltz, New York, is open to the public. The fees are extremely reasonable, and the place is a treasure trove. Be prepared to give yourself plenty of time to explore. The stock changes all the time, so you're bound to find loads of interesting salvaged items. According to their website the most recent donations include silkscreen frames, small boxes, and lampshade fabric and trim. Long Island's Material Resource Center in Ronkonkoma is a similar organization.
Another great source for upcycled materials is right under your nose- your house and neighborhood. Before you recycle or throw something away, give it a second glance. Magazines, greeting cards and other paper goods can easily be repurposed into gift tags, scrapbook embellishments, and other items. {NewNew} member Copabananas has used sewing patterns and manila envelopes to make the tags above.
Throw a party, and you'll have plenty of bottle caps to craft with. Deafdog is a bartender with many upcycled bottlecap magnets in her eclectic etsy shop. See pulpsushi's {NewNew} tutorial to learn how to make your own.Look at an item's packaging before tossing it. Glass jars are fabulous for storing small craft supplies like beads and buttons. Paint or pretty paper can make a simple box into a pleasing catch-all. A little glass etching can bring a boring jar or vase new life. Maybe that candy tin would make a good keepsake, like Waisze's scrapbook tins?

Participating in a cleanup is a fun way to find unique items for crafting while improving your community. I lead cleanups for my day job, and encourage volunteers to keep the most interesting items aside. Sea glass, broken jewelry, small toys and other interesting trinkets can easily be cleaned up and repurposed. Check out the work of {NewNew} member Glass is my Name. In addition to collecting sea glass from the beaches of Long Island, she upcycles everyday bottles into unique jewelry.

It's not hard to get into the habit of keeping an eye on the street when you go out. In my travels I've seen the sidewalks of New York City yield treasures ranging from a plastic monkey tiny enough to add to a bracelet, to a lone lost earring in SoHo, ripe for reinvention. The secret to sidewalk hunting is to keep your eyes open.



Using Upcycled Materials

Upcyle is a term generally used to denote the re-use of materials bound for the trash in the creation of new items. It's generally associated with environmentalism as it reduces waste and promotes imaginative recycling. Many {NewNew} members upcycle their materials into wonderfully inventive new pieces that are each unique.

Search "newnewteam, upcycle" on Etsy or look through these featured shops whose products focus on the re-use of materials. In all fairness, I will go alphabetically...

First we have Beadscarf, who focuses her products on re-using vintage scarves and neckties into new accessories. Items can be custom ordered, turning an old scarf with sentimental meaning into an original Beadscarf. I can't think of a better use for wedding ties or grandmas's old scarf to keep the memories alive in such a vibrant way.

Cakehouse also uses only reclaimed materials in her work, breathing new life into vintage bedding to create napkins, place mats and coasters for your home. Further decorated with her signature llama or cat water-based silkscreen, each item merges the old with the new.

As a self-proclaimed "serial obsessive crafter", Groundsel focuses her crafting activities on re-using a wide range of materials to create bags, wallets and tissue cozies. With purses made from upcycled sweaters, or wallets that began their lives as plastic bags, Groundsel brings an environmental consciousness to her crafting.Paperelle uses mainly upcycled materials in her paper origami, creating jewelry from upcycled Upstate New York maps or Japanese Teen Magazines to name a few, and sometimes embellished with crystals to further accent these One Of A Kind (OOAK) earrings.

All month long we will be featuring upcycled {NewNew} goods, tips on getting crafty while recycling, Springtime features and general about town reporting for metro New York!


Cabin Fever Project #2: The T-Shirt Book Cover

by Lorina of The Original Beadscarf

Everytime my mother-in-law goes somewhere on vacation, she has this almost primal need to buy my husband and myself t-shirts emblazoned with the place she has just returned from. Now while it's very endearing of her to think of us, and I do graciously accept it, I never, ever wear them. However, I do tuck it away so that I might give those shirts a second life someday.

And so here's a nifty little project for you to try out, when you don't want to go out, when it's cold out. It's a take on the paper book cover that we were forced as kids to cover all our books with.

The T-Shirt Book Cover

You'll need:

t-shirt (preferably one with an interesting pattern, you can also try concert T's!)
book (that you want to cover)
good pair of scissors
tailor's chalk/pencil
tape measure
straight pins
needle and thread, (preferably a sewing machine)

How to:

1. Place your t-shirt on a flat surface and your book (open) on to the area you would like to use for your cover.

2. Measure the book and cut the t-shirt around the book while giving an allowance of 3" on the sides, and 1.5" on the top and bottom of the book, like so:

3. Fold the top and bottom excess edging parts in to create a sturdy and clean edge for your book cover and pin down like so:

4. Sew the edges down:

5. Fold and sew down the sides of the cover being very careful to get as close to the edge as possible (1/8"), this is where you create the "pocket" for the front and back covers of the book.

6. Put your swanky new book cover on your book!

7. Show off your fancy new book cover.....maybe even to the mother-in-law who gave you that tourist t-shirt, lest it inspire her to give you more t-shirts!!!! Enjoy!!!

For more great blogs from Lorina of The Original Beadscarf, click HERE!

Upcycled Book Tote

There is one New Year's resolution that I'm really looking forward to, and that is to read more books. Motherhood and my home business keeps me so busy, that I rarely reach for a book now. There is nothing more satisfying to do on a frosty January evening than cozying-up on my couch wrapped in warm blanket with a cup of tea and reading a great book.

My kids really enjoy trips to the library, and check out tons of books to take home. To keep them safe and prevent loosing this precious cargo, I decided to make a tote from an old pair of jeans.
For this project you will need:
~ pair of old jean pants
~ machine thread
~ scissors or rotary cutter
~ measuring tape
~ needle
~ embroidery floss
~ buttons
~ fabric pencil or chalk
~ sewing machine
~ cutting mat
~ omnigrid ruler

1. Using side seams of the pants as a guide, make a cut all the way to the bottom.

2. Lay out back of the pants flat and tuck any excess fabric under the back seam until flat and pin it in place.

3. Measure 13 inches from the top of the pants and mark it with a fabric pencil or chalk in two places, then connect them drawing a line all the way to the edge of the fabric.

4. Cut with scissors adding 1/2in for seam allowance.

5. Using upper corner of each pocket as a guide, mark vertical seam lines and cut adding 1/2in of allowance. Make sure, that the distance between the pockets and edge of the fabric is the same on both sides.

Please note, if you are using pants in smaller size and would like to make your tote larger, add strips of fabric on each side.

6. Lay out leg part of the pants flat on your work table, pin down piece of the tote with packets on top and cut out with scissors using edge of the ready piece as a guide adding 1inch of seam allowance on top.

7. Measure bottom and the side of the tote piece without the pockets, and cut out one 5inch wide strip of fabric for the bottom of the tote, and 2 strips for the sides.

8. Cut out also two, 4in wide strips of fabric for the handles, I would like them to measure 30in and will add another 3in to the length to secure them in place.

9. Using fabric pencil or chalk, write the word "BOOKS" on the larger piece without the pockets, and hand stitch the outline using any type of stitch you'd like.

10. Time for sewing! Remember that axcess fabric we tucked under the "butt" seam? Using your machine, make a stitch on the edge of factory seam securing excess fabric.

11. Pin down two side strips of fabric to front and back of the tote, and sew all the pieces together. Your extra seam allowance will be sticking out on top of the tote. Make sure also, that the inside of fabric is facing out.
12. Using zigzag stitch finish edges of the seams.

13. Pin together and sew front and back pieces to the bottom strip of fabric between side seams. The bottom piece should have a seam allowance on both ends. Sew the short ends of the bottom piece and side pieces together and finish seams with zigzag stitch.

14. To finish the top edge of the tote, use zigzag stitch or double fold bias tape ( I had some leftover from another project). Fold the edge to the inside and stitch 1/2 in from the top edge.

15. To make straps, sew edges of previously cut fabric, iron the seams, turn them inside out and iron again.

16. Secure the straps to the bag and finish embellishing it with buttons.

Embellishing part is so much fun, so go wild! Let your kids make drawings of their favourite book characters with permanent fabric markers, use buttons to spell out "BOOKS" or "READ". Use ribbons, patches, beads or scraps of colorful fabric.
Have fun reading!!