Category Archives: Book Reviews

DIY Recycled Alphabet Book Wall Art

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We recently moved our daughter to a new room, and of course one of the first things that came to mind was ‘yay, we get to decorate again!!!’

What has been so fun about decorating this time around is that I can actually respond to her personality and likes, in addition to just doing what I want to do.

The fact is, our daughter, nearly three now (!) LOVES books. Ok, she’s a book-worm.  So, I wanted to do some wall decor that reflected that.  Normally, I would not “ruin” a perfectly good book for the sake of art, but I don’t believe I have done that here, mostly because it is actually the complete book up there on the wall, just in a different format.

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So without further ado, here is how I did it.

First, I had to find two alphabet books that were identical (since of course the book is printed with letters on the front and back of each page).  I really loved the illustrations in this book, called Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.  Honestly, these letters are so great it’s almost a shame NOT to hang them on the wall to enjoy all the time!  I was really lucky to find both of my copies at a book sale run by my local library (for just 10 cents a piece!).  They were booth canceled copies from the library’s collection, so they had already had a long life of enriching children.

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This is a board book, so the pages are made from a thick, card stock material, which is perfect for this application.

Using an exacto knife, I very carefully cut each page from the binding.  With a sharp knife this is not hard to do.  Once I did that I had a page that had two nice rounded corners and two sharp 90 degree corners.  To make the corners look uniform I just cut the sharp corners so that they matched the rounded ones then ran some fine grit sand paper across it give it a nice, finished, and smooth look.

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When it came to hanging the letters on the wall I knew I didn’t want to do any unnecessary damage to the pages by puncturing them with tacks or or by using tape, so I found some cute binder clips in a rainbow of colors and then hung those by the smallest nails I could find.

The hardest part of the entire project was actually putting them on the wall so that they were spaced evenly.  Luckily, with the binder clips you have a little wiggle room in this area.  It didn’t help that my wall is actually an inch wider at the top than it is at the bottom.  I found it best to work from the center of the design to the outside and from top to bottom.  In the close up photos you can see my registration lines.  I still have to paint over these.

Over all I am so pleased with how this project turned out and my daughter is too!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Home, Tutorials, Upcycled

Wise Owl Plarn Wristlets

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Perhaps you are familiar with the nursery rhyme:

“A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?”

I recently became acquainted with this nursery rhyme from Vernon Grant’s Mother Goose, one of my current favorite children’s books to read with little Virginia.  I love the illustrations and the fact that a lot of the nursery rhymes appear in a longer form than what I remember.  I also enjoy the short biography of Grant on the last few pages which describes his long career as an Illustrator, who is best know for creating the characters Snap, Crackle and Pop for Kellogg’s.

plarn owl wristlet work in progress

You may remember my first plarn owl wristlet, which appeared on my blog just over a year ago.  Well, it was such a big hit last craft show season, I decided to make a few new ones for the Last Minute Market, which I am so excited to be participating in this December 15th!

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plarn eyes for owls

You may notice that I’ve made some changes to the design since it’s original creation.  The new version features a grosgrain ribbon for the wrist strap, which feels much better than the crocheted plastic against the skin.  The eyes and beak are a slightly different design as well.   And the over-all shape of the bag is a bit bigger and squatter than the original, making it both roomier and easier to access.

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These plarn owl wristlets are made with all recycled and re-purposed materials; plastic grocery and newspaper bags, zipper, buttons and ribbon.   This owl is wise to think so highly of our planet and you should too!

Thank you for stopping by.  I’d love to hear your comments about this project if you have a minute or two.  Happy crafting everyone!

To keep up with all things zween, make sure to follow me on Pinterest and Facebook!

This post has been added to the linky party Make it Pretty Monday on the Dedicated House, and Made by You Monday on Skip to my Lou.

****UPDATE****

The NEW plarn owl wristlet version is now available in my Etsy store!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Upcycled

Recycled Fabric Changing Station

The other day while at the Library, I came across Amy Butler’s book Little Stitches for Little Ones and got inspired to make this changing pad using only materials that I already had lying around.

Amy Butler creates some of the most beautiful fabric patterns that I’ve ever seen, but when I found this project I immediately got really inspired to do some upcycling.

I really like the look of vintage bed sheets and have amassed a good quantity over the last several years.  Most of the ones that I’ve purchased from thrift stores are full or queen sized flat sheets as well as some pillow cases, since fitted sheets don’t tend to hold up very well over the years.

Amy Butler’s Changing Pad Pattern calls for a piece of mid-weight printed cotton for the exterior and coordinating solid-color terry cloth for the portion where the baby will be placed down for changing.

For the mid-weight printed cotton I used a very retro butterfly bed sheet in browns, orange, and gray set on a cream background.  This was a sheet that I cut up years ago to make curtains with (note to self; curtains are probably not the best application for vintage bed sheets).

For the terry cloth I used an old brown towel.  I chose it because it was nice and soft but we don’t ever use it for showering, as we have about 6 really nice fast-drying towels that where recent gifts.  Also, I figured that the dark color would mask some of the inevitable stains.

The pattern also called for two pieces of batting for the inside, which I just happened to have from another project, but if I wouldn’t have had enough of that I would have used pieces of an old felt-like blanket that I’d already cut up to use as batting for another project.

My finished piece is just a little bit different from the original pattern.  For instance I ended up making the changing pad two inches longer to coincide with the width of the towel because I couldn’t see just wasting those two inches for no good reason.  The second thing I changed was the tie.  In the pattern you are supposed to make the tie with the printed fabric and this gets velicroed to itself around the mat when it’s rolled up.  Since I didn’t have any sew-on Velcro to use but did have a spool of brown grosgrain ribbon I decided to use two lengths of that and make it tie closure instead.

Now we’ve got a changing pad to use on the go that’s completely washable and almost 100% upcycled!

This is a great project for people who have a sewing machine but who aren’t that ambitious or who feel overwhelmed by the thought of following a sewing pattern.  I for one usually have a hard time following sewing directions, but even this wasn’t too much of a challenge. (bonus points for my first “quilting” project!)

What have you made for your little one out of recycled/ reclaimed materials that you have found indispensable as a parent?  I would love to hear about it!  I’m looking for some more things to make and would love some inspiration!  I think that one of the next things I’ll try making are some fitted crib sheets (there’s a pattern for those too in the book mentioned above).  Something tells me that you can’t have too many of those!  I’m thinking that my vintage bed sheets would be a great application for baby bed sheets.

*This post was just added to The Inspiration Board Link party over on Homework!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Pattern

Book Review; Made By Hand

Made By Hand; Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World, (2010) by Mark Frauenfelder is a must-read for anyone wants to devote more of their energy into doing things themselves (making things, fixing things, and growing things) rather than standing idly by and allowing mass-manufactured products to suffocate us.

I found the first chapter, The Courage to Screw Things Up,  to be especially encouraging.  How many times have I failed to create or fix something because I was worried that I would mess it up?  More times than I care to think about.  It’s not that my reasons aren’t valid.  Usually I probably view the materials as being too precious because they are irreplaceable or expensive.  In chapter one, after visiting a seasoned DIY veteran, Mark learns, and in turn teaches his readers, that screwing things up is “the one step to overcome to get on the path of living a richer life of engagement, of having meaningful connections to the objects around you (p23).”

Mark later talks about his experiences with souping up his espresso machine, creating hand-carved spoons, and constructing musical instruments from scratch.  In addition to feeling like he’s “tuned in to a better way of living,” he is gaining a better understanding of how things work.

But Mark takes DIY beyond the realm of inanimate objects.  In his book he describes his experiences with killing his lawn to make room to grow his own fruits and vegetables (chapters 2 and 3), raising chickens (chapter 5) and keeping bees (chapter 8).  In chapter 9, he talks about his experience of taking more of an active role in the education of his two daughters and begins tutoring his oldest girl in math.

Overall, this book is highly inspiring, informative, and entertaining.  I hope that you will seek it out at your local book store or library.

In addition to his book you can find his blog, boing boing, at boingboing.net.

If you have read this book, please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Happy reading!

In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to state that this review was in no way solicited by Mark Frauenfelder or the publisher of his book.  I found the book at my library, read it, enjoyed it, and now I want to share it with you.

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