Category Archives: Upcycled

DIY Recycled Alphabet Book Wall Art


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.


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.


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.


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!


Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Home, Tutorials, Upcycled

DIY Baby Sled From Baby Bath Tub



You can’t get any easier than this little DIY.  Really, this is just a thinly disguised excuse to share some pictures of my little cutie eating snow.  But who doesn’t like to see cute baby pictures, right?


All you need for this super simple DIY project is a baby bath tub, an electric drill, and some rope.  The hard plastic is very easy to drill.  Once you have your holes, all you need to do is thread the rope and POW you’ve got yourself a tow-worthy sled (don’t get your hopes up about any hill action with this sled I’m afraid).


I will say that this sled works best on the sidewalk with just a thin layer of snow, but the thicker stuff is fun too, it just kept tipping over for us (much to the delight of our nearly 18-month-old daughter).



To keep up will all things zween (DIY projects, new plarn creations, baby pictures) like the zween facebook page!

Leave a comment

Filed under Just For Fun, Upcycled

The Lorax as Mascot and Muse


“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

The Lorax has always been a story that has held a special place in my heart.  So here today I present my second attempt at bringing this scrappy character who is “shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy” to life in plarn (plastic yarn made from recycled grocery bags).

And since my first Lorax was sold at last years Last Minute Market, of course I needed a new mascot to accompany me this year as well!  Both versions are original designs, as I used no pattern for either.  The first one (below) was much larger than the second and based completely off the original illustrations by Dr Seuss.  The second one (top) was based more off of the movie version, hence the more pronounced eye brows.

The other differences between the two is that the current version is completely free-standing with its attached Truffula stump, and is also made of 100% recycled plastic bags (in the original design I used a foam material for the eyes).

the Lorax in plarn

I like how the new version shows the Lorax with his hands planted firmly on this hips, so that you can imagine him appearing before the Once-ler out of that first Truffula stump and saying “with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees[!]’ ”



Come out and see me and the Lorax at this years Last Minute Market on December 21st and I will be happy to share with you my passion for recycling single-use plastic grocery bags into high-end handbags, change purses, drinking vessel carriers, and medicine bags.  You really have to see my work to believe it.  What could have been trash or downcycled material is turned into items of beauty and functionality.

And don’t forget to like the zween Facebook Page, where I post all the latest news about what I’m up to!

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Upcycled

The Plarn Project; Plastic Bags Transformed


Today I am submitting my proposal to be a part of the Akron Mini Maker Faire on November 2, 2013.

Project Summary:
By transforming the ubiquitous plastic super market sack into chic and durable handbags, Emily Lindberg is diverting hundreds of plastic bags from landfills.  The Plarn Project; Plastic Bags Transformed, showcases these creations so as to inspire others to see the potential in what can be made out of trash.  In addition to inspiration, the project educates the public about the stress that plastic bags place on our ecosystem, and Emily will be instructing willing participants how to create their own plastic yarn (plarn) out of 100% recycled material.


(Plarn medicine bag)


(Plarn belt pouch for cell phone)

plarn owl wristlet

(Plarn owl wristlet purse)


(Plarn shoulder bag)

Along with actual examples of my most recent plarn creations, I will be providing key statistics and facts about the effect that plastic bags have had on our environment since their introduction in 1977.

I will also be conducting ongoing demonstrations of plarn making for anyone who is interested and will have plenty of plastic bags on hand so that participants can make as much as they’d like!

I hope that my proposal is accepted, and if it is, I hope that you can make it out to see me!


Looks like I’ll be going to be a maker in the faire!!!  So come on out to see me and all the other makers!  Also, be sure to like my facebook page for updates on all things zween as well as reminders about the faire.  See you soon!


Filed under Upcycled

Crafting family fun; DIY cardboard box maze


If you are a parent, but even if you’re not, you’ve probably heard the age-old adage that a child will enjoy playing with the box that a toy comes in more than the toy itself.

Today I’d like to share some photos of a little family craft project (well, not so little actually) that we started one rainy, dreary morning this week.  It’s a giant maze made from recycled cardboard boxes that encompasses our entire dining room (I knew there was a reason we’ve been dragging our feet finding a dining room table).



All you need is several cardboard boxes (ours were complements of Trader Joe’s, thanks to my husband, our insider connection) and some packing tape or even duct tape.  Just fit the boxes together in whatever configuration you like and tape them together where needed to keep the structure stable.


Virginia is just a couple of weeks from her first birthday now (!!!!) and isn’t yet walking.  She LOVES crawling around this maze.  We’ve had it up for about four days now and it’s been good for HOURS of entertainment!  She just loves to chase momma around the maze and be chased herself!  Papa got in on the action too of course, but at over six feet tall, he had some maneuverability issues.  By the way, as an adult, army crawling through a cardboard maze is quite the workout!  Sometimes we mix it up and place rattles, balls, and other small toys around the maze for her to find, but mostly she’s content to crawl in and out, squealing in delight all the way.


This is a great project for those days when you just can’t get out and I’m sure would work great with older kids as well.

If this post has inspired you to create your own box maze I’d love to hear about it!  Write about it in the comments below or on the zween facebook page.  Happy crafting!



Filed under Home, Just For Fun, Upcycled

Sneak Peek for Crafty Mart Show Tomorrow!


So if you are reading this post and are in the Cleveland/ Akron area, I’m just going to assume that I’ll be seeing you tomorrow at the Crafty Mart; School’s Out Show right?

If you do make it to the show, here’s what you can expect to see from zween…




Some very lovely Plarn handbags and messenger bags with recycled handles.


Some Plarn Owl Wristlets.


And there will even be a few Owl Weeble Wobbles as well.

When you come to the show, make sure to participate in the charity raffle, that will benefit the Heaven Can Wait, volunteer-run animal rescue center. Below is the Owl Shoulder Bag that I’ll be donating for this charity raffle. It’s a good cause, so buy some tickets! See you at Crafty Mart!


PS- If you’re NOT in the Cleveland/ Akron area this weekend, or are reading this post after June 1st, 2013, you can still shop for zween products at my new Etsy shop!  That’s right everyone, I FINALLY opened my Etsy shop!!!  So please go here to check it out 🙂

This post was linked to the Dedicated House’s Party “Anything Blue Friday” for the picture featuring my Sarah Grace handbag with the blue handles and medallion decoration.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Shop, Upcycled

Plarn; a labor of love?


I am making new, durable objects out of something we think of as worthless trash while transforming it in such a way that most people I have come across don’t even know that these were once plastic bags.  But, reflecting back over my long history with plarn, I sometimes wonder, “is it worth it?”

To say that crocheting with plastic bags is labor intensive is an understatement quite frankly.  If you are unfamiliar with the process allow me to break it down for you.

First, I collect the plastic grocery sacks.  Simple right?

That is step one, and already I have hit my first obstacle because I do not have the opportunity to procure bags in the normal fashion.  I’m not saying that I don’t accumulate plastic bags because I am a canvas-bag-toting-saint.  I am saying that my husband works at a Trader Joe’s and does all of our grocery shopping.  He should use reusable bags exclusively but he doesn’t.  Instead he usually uses the paper bags that Trader Joe’s give out (and reuses them over and over until they wear out).  In fact, I didn’t know that TJs even had a plastic bag option until Jon prof read this post.  But I digress.

crocheting with plarn

So where do I get all my plastic bags you wonder?  A couple of places.  First, I have a number of friends and family members who save up their bags and give them to me.  This is how I get the majority of my bags.  But since most of my closest friends and family members try to use reusable market bags whenever possible (which is a good thing!) it can take quite a long time to accumulate the quantity of bags that is necessary to create the products that I make.

chevron in plarn

The other way that I obtain bags is a little more tricky.  I go to super markets and take the bags that other people bring for recycling.  Yes, you heard me correctly; I steal plastic bags.  Now here I will rant a bit because this bothers me.  Why should I be made to feel like a criminal for taking something that nobody wants (plastic bags) and recycling it?  Once, I went to a local grocery store (the Giant Eagle on W 117th, Cleveland) and I wanted some used bags.  My husband was with me and for some reason he decided that he wanted to actually ask the manager if it would be all right if I take the bags.  To our surprise his answer was NO, it was not all right!  At this point I told him why I wanted the bags and his response was, “well how am I to know for sure what you will do with the bags?  For all I know you could take them and throw them in the lake!”  I kid you not, that is what he said.  Then I went to another local super market (Marc’s in Lakewood, OH).  The first time I went I asked the person at the customer service counter if I could take their recycled bags and was relieved when the man said “of course.”  I did this on a couple of occasions until one day I went in and the bin where the bag are returned was bolted shut!  I now only resort to “stealing” bags when I am particularly desperate for a certain color, or my supply is non-existent.


The next step is sorting the bags.  Above is a particularly good haul of plastic bags that my mom and brother collected over several months and gave to me all at one time.  Each bag is checked for cleanness and sorted by color.  Below I have made small bundles of like-colored bags, which breaks them into more manageable amounts when I go to make them into plarn.



After I have at least 30 or so bags of one color I’m ready to make a ball of plarn, which involves cutting each bag, one at a time, and looping the individual pieces together, as shown below.  For a more detailed explanation of this process you may want to read my tutorial on how to make plarn.



ball of plarn from kroger bags

Wow, that was a lot of work!  But wait, I haven’t even “made” anything yet!

Next comes the fun part, crocheting the ubiquitous grocery bags into handbags, durable messenger bags, baskets, and cute little owls that sit in your home and make you happy.  This is the part that reminds me of the classic children’s story, Rumplestiltskin.  Instead of turning straw into gold I am transforming trash into…




some lovely purses…

plarn owl wristlet

owl wristlets…

plarn chevron messenger bag

a chevron messenger bag…


acorn baskets…


and cute owl decorations.

I enjoy coming up with different crocheted designs and finding old purses past their prime to take apart and use their zippers, buckles and handles.

But what about the question that I pose in the title of this post; is plarn a labor of love?

This is something that I have been thinking about more and more in the last few months following my participation in the Last Minute Market.  I had a wonderful time at the show.  It was the largest show that I have ever done to date and it was also the first time that I showcased ONLY my plarn items (as opposed to a hodge-podge of upcycled items).  The lowest price point at my table was $25.  To me this was all such a big risk.  What would people think?  Would I even sell enough to cover my table fee?  Three hours into the eight-hour show without a single sale I was beginning to have serious doubts.  But I didn’t give up.  The entire day I stood next to my table and engaged each and every person who walked by and gave my work the slightest side-ways glance.  I greeted them and asked them things like, “do you know what these are made of?” motioning toward my table.  To my surprise, most people couldn’t guess that everything on my table was made from plastic grocery bags.

That’s when I would bring them over to my table and show them the poster below as I briefly explained the process.  As I did so I could hear the excitement in my voice about how I developed my technique over the past seven and a half years, and how when I started I barely knew how to crochet at all!

plarn recycle poster

Inevitably they would come to the same conclusion and ask the same question, which were, “this must take you a long time!” and “how many bags does it take to make one of these?”

Though I do my best to estimate how much time it takes me to make one of my purses and how many bags I use, the truth is that it is impossible to calculate.  Okay, maybe it’s not technically impossible, but it’s not the way I want to spend my time, making plarn and crocheting take long enough as it is!

However, what I suspect is at the root of their questions and comments is this, “is it really worth your time to do this?”  Excellent question, and one that I’m trying to figure out for myself.  It’s a question that a lot of craftspeople face, which is, ‘can I really charge what I would need to charge to pay for my time’ (because let’s face it, in my case that is all you are really paying for since the materials are mostly free).

The answer is…

No, I could never really charge enough for the individual items that I create to make my time worth it.  Yet I still keep making them.  I make them because it really is a labor of love; it’s something that I need to do.  I need to make these things with my hands.  I need to share them with other people.  I need to photograph them and write about them and talk to other people about them.  I need them to leave my home and live their own lives with other people.  I need them to be made out of trash, because it is the act of making something out of nothing that is attractive to me.  Plarn gives me an avenue to design and invent while appealing to my sensibilities toward the environment.  And now that I’m a mother, I want to pass on the ideals about reusing, recycling and resourcefulness to my daughter.


If you have liked this article I invite you to follow zween on Facebook.  You may also like to check out these previous blog posts that I have written about plarn specifically:

Crocheting with plastic bags; a six year journey
Toot Tuesday; Making Plarn
Wise Owl Plarn Wristlets
Cheveron Ombre Messenger Bag


Filed under About, Upcycled