Tag Archives: recycle

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!


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Filed under Events, Upcycled

DIY recycled sweater sleep sack


Fall is in the air and it’s time to start thinking about how to keep our new baby nice and toasty warm once the cold weather settles in.

It has been said that loose bedding in cribs can pose a suffocation hazard in babies less than one year old.   So in my quest to negate this issue I came across some “wearable blankets” such as this one by Baby in a Bag and this one by Halo.  They seemed to be good products with good reviews and reasonable prices (about $30 each from what I can tell).  But naturally, I wanted to see if I could make one myself.

Which lead me to my new obsession with Pinterest, where I found this wearable blanket project by Ashley.  In her blog post, she gives an excellent tutorial on how to make a baby sleep sack made with fleece fabric.

I was all excited about this project but…

I had no fleece and did not like the prospect of driving a half hour (one way) to the nearest fabric store.  Wa wa.

But, lets face it, buying new fabric is not my style anyway, so I started to look around at what I already had.  That’s when I discovered two bags of old clothes set aside for donation.  When I found my old cashmere sweater (originally purchased at a thrift store) in the pile I had a eureka moment.  That’s it!  I’ll use this!

(see how much she likes it!)

When I started this project I planned on using Ashley’s tutorial as-is, and even found a detachable zipper to use from a hoodie that I was also about to donate.


The pink cardigan shown above is what I used as the guide for the neck, armhole, and torso width of my pattern as per Ashley’s suggestion (see Ashley’s original post for further explanation of this point).


Notice that I lined up my neckline with the neckline of the sweater.  I also ended up extending my pattern to include the entire length of the sweater.

However, I quickly decided that I would need to make some adaptions to her project since I had a limited amount of fabric to work with.  Since my sweater was only so wide, I didn’t really have enough of it to make the two separate pieces for the front (because I would need about 1.5 inches more in the width).  You see, in the original design, the sleep sack is supposed to have a zipper running down the entire length of the front.  But, since my sleep sack was made from a stretchy knit sweater, I figured, why not make it a pull-over?

So that’s what I did, I just cut two pieces that were basically the same then sewed them together at the shoulder seams and down the sides.  Remember how I used the bottom of the sweater as the bottom of the sleep sack and the neckline of the sweater as the neckline of the sleep sack?  Well, that meant no fraying in those areas!



The arm holes, on the other hand, were fraying terribly.  So I made a crocheted ribbed edging around them.  Just one row of single crochet worked directly into the sweater and 3 rows of double crochet worked into a “ribbed” pattern.  (first row; sc into sweater all the way around armhole.  Second row; dc in each sc.  Third row; front post dc in first two dc, dc in next two dc, repeat for entire row.  Fourth row, same as row three).


Since I used the original neckline, I could have just left that as-is, but I decided that I wanted to open it up a little more. After I cut the neck hole I added a decorative crochet edge (row 1; sc all the way around neckline into sweater, row 2; picot in first st, sc in next st, repeat all the way around).


I could have left this project alone at this point and basically have a baby-sized sweater night gown, but I wanted to make sure that her legs and feet would stay nice and warm (that was the whole point after all). So I added a zipper along the bottom edge, which gives easy access for midnight diaper changes!




I love how light weight and warm this cashmere sweater is. And oh so soft! As you can tell, Virginia likes it too…


to keep up to date with all things zween please like my facebook page.  And, if you’re a Pinterest junkie like me you can find me there too!

Find this post helpful?  I’d love to hear about it, so leave me a comment below!

Happy crafting!

oh yeah, I couldn’t resist making a “night cap” with one of the left over sleeves. Don’t worry this is just for fun and a photo shoot; she won’t actually be sleeping in it.


This post has been added to the linky party Make it Pretty Monday week 16 over on the dedicated house, Made by you Mondays over on Skip to my Lou, and Make It Wear It Thursday over on The Train to Crazy, so check them out for some linky fun!


Filed under Tutorials

Pin-spiration; DIY Nursing T-Shirt


If you’ve read anything about breastfeeding I’m sure you know about the many benefits to nursing; it promotes bonding between mother and baby, it gives the baby’s immune system a boost, it helps the mother’s uterus to contract after birth and can help with loosing that maternity weight more quickly, plus it’s way less expensive than formula feeding.

But there are also some obstacles associated with nursing; cracked and sore nipples, plugged ducts, Mastitis, more frequent feedings (as compared with formula-fed babies), and the logistics of breastfeeding discretely in public so that you can some day leave your house!  So far, six weeks into baby number one, I have dealt with all of the above obstacles.  And today I’m going to address that last one; dealing with discretely nursing in public.

For some, the answer is using a large bib-like fabric such as a Hooter Hider.  These are great and in fact I have one that was given to me by my sister-in-law.  You can even find tutorials (such as this one) for how to make your own.  But although they are fantastic and have their place, I don’t always want to have a huge piece of fabric draped over me, which can be awkward to maneuver with a hungry, fussy baby.  Plus, I also feel like it draws more attention to what I’m doing; feeding my baby.

This predicament lead me to start searching out DIY nursing tops on Pinterest.  I found several that I thought were cute, but chose this one from Project Open Hearts for my first attempt.  Allison wrote a very comprehensive tutorial on how to make a discreet nursing top using two identical shirts (or two nursing tops using 3 shirts).

For my top I used two shirts that I had on hand that had seen better days to say the least.  The short sleeve top, which is my main shirt, actually had several holes in the front, making it the perfect candidate for this project since that section of the shirt was removed.  Though both of my tops are brown, they are not exactly the same color, but it doesn’t really bother me.  I kind of like how the two tone turned out actually.



The other way that my top differs from Allison’s is that I didn’t hem the overlapping section of the main shirt that hangs over the replaced section of the shirt.  Also, the long-sleeved shirt, which I used to make the new front panel, was not as long as the short-sleeved shirt.  Though I cut the long sleeve shirt just under the armpits, the fabric does not reach that far up on the finished shirt.  I don’t find this to be a huge problem though, because I did leave a generous amount of length for the overlapping part of the shirt.


Below is my finished DIY nursing top using Allison’s tutorial and my own recycled shirts that were on their way to the rag pile.  I do intend to make more of these, possibly with new shirts, but using what I already had was quicker and I didn’t have to worry about messing it up and wasting money on new clothes if it didn’t work out.


And here is how it works…


And here is Virginia trying it out for the first time!



See, very discrete.

Thank you for stopping by.  This has been another installment of my Pin-spiration series, where I do a project that I find on Pinterest and share it with you all!  Keep pinning and keep crafting!

Question; are you on Facebook?  Me too!  find me here!

This post has been linked up to Made By You Monday #11 6 over on Skip to my Lou and Make it Pretty Monday #14 over on The Dedicated House!


Filed under Tutorials

DIY birthday cake toppers

Growing up, I’ve had some pretty amazing birthday cakes thanks to my mom.  She has worked in the bakery/deli at the Kroger grocery store for more than 30 years and is about to retire (yay!).  She’s had a lot of practice with making intricate piping boarders and lettering using butter cream frosting, and various decorative icing tips.  In addition to making and decorating nearly every birthday cake I’ve ever had (all but the two while I was in the Peace Corps), she decorated cakes for many other special occasions; first communion, conformation, graduations, and even my wedding (not to mention all the cakes she’s done for other family members).  Now that’s a lot of experience!

I like pretty cakes too, but I haven’t yet mastered all that great frosting work.  I also haven’t yet invested in buying the tools needed for creating pretty borders or lettering either.  But this past May I decided that I wanted to make and decorate my dad’s cake for his 60th birthday by getting a little crafty.

To make this “happy 60th birthday” sign cake topper was simple but a bit time-consuming.  I used materials that I already had on hand; some colored paper scraps left over from my wedding decorations, green floral wire from my hair clip craft fair display, some markers and Elmer’s glue.

Each decoration is two pieces of paper glued together with the wire sandwiched in between.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of my dad’s cake all finished.  In addition to the sign you see above I also made the owl decoration shown below.

September 30th was my Grandma Virgie’s birthday and I decided to make her cake as well.  I knew I wanted to re-use the happy birthday sign I used for dad’s cake, so I made a bird using the same paper so that it would match.  This time I got a little more ambitious with the bird.  I found the bird design in really old craft book from the library.  This time I wanted to make it look like the bird was perched on the wire, that’s why I had to add a second wire going through the tail section for extra support.  At the end of each curled wire is a leaf.  I also decorated both sides of the bird and leaves, so that it looks nice from either direction.

Here is the finished product with grandma Virgie posing behind it.  Doesn’t she look great for 105?!  Actually that was my Aunt Mary playing a little joke.  She’s only 83 (but still looks great!).  Mom decorated the orange, yellow and brown boarders on this spice cake.  It was a nice choice for fall I think.

Then, just a week later, it was time to celebrate my mom’s birthday!  Again I made the cake (yellow), but this time I decided to steer away from the birds.  This is a little ironic because my mom likes birds more than the others; and she HATES squirrels!  It was a risky choice I know, but there was a method to my madness.  First of all it was a cute squirrel, and second, it went with the gift I gave her; a plarn acorn basket.

After the candles were blown out and the toppers removed, the squirrel found a new home stuck into the pot of Gerber daisies we gave her.

This project would also be great for cupcakes of course, since the individual pieces could be stuck into the different cupcakes.

If you have a birthday celebration coming up and need an easy DIY project, this is something that anyone could do.  And the best part is that it’s totally reusable.  Just remember the clean off the wire stems well after you pull them out of the cake.

Happy crafting and happy birthdays!

I just had to include this picture of grandma, it just really shows her silly side.

Above; the present I gave my dad was wrapped in a deconstructed paper bag with a cute bird stamp from Crafty Goodness.

This post has just been added to a link party over on the blog Carolyn’s Homework and Skip to my Lou!

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Filed under Events, Hollidays, Home

Crocheting with plastic bags; a six year journey

Crocheting with plastic bags.  It’s not a new phenomenon; people have been doing it for years.  Of course I didn’t know that when I started crocheting with plastic grocery bags in the Fall of 2005, following my last year of college.  I didn’t have a computer or regular access to the internet, and I had never heard of anyone doing it.  I even looked around on the internet searching  for other people who were doing it after I had started, but at that time not as many people wrote craft blogs (heck, I didn’t even know what a blog was in 2005) and I didn’t find anyone.

So why did I start suddenly crocheting with plastic bags?  Back in 2005 I was living in a new and unfamiliar city (Atlanta, GA), had a lot of time on my hands, but not a lot of money.  Up until that point I had only crocheted with copper wire, which was the center of my college thesis project.  About a month or so after moving to Atlanta, my husband and I had amassed what I thought was an enormous amount of plastic bags from the nearby Publix and Kroger grocery stores.  Being the eco-conscious person that I am, this really bothered me and I wanted to do something about it.  And, to be perfectly honest, I also wanted to start making things again and this seemed like an endless source of free material.

Ironically, my first bag made with what is now known as “plarn” (plastic yarn) was actually knit instead of crocheted.  I had a pair of really big knitting needles and thought I’d give it a try, making the entire project in flat garder stitch which I later sewed together with more plarn.  I don’t even have a picture of this monstrosity (I didn’t own a digital camera until September, 2006) but trust me, it was a train wreck.  I do remember being extremely proud of it at the time though, and I saw that my “bag made of bags” had potential after receiving several positive comments, sometimes even from strangers on the train.

After that first project I abandoned my knitting needles and picked up my crochet hook.  My first couple of totes were crocheted in the round and meant to be re-useable shopping bags.



I soon decided that I wanted to get a little more adventurous and made a messenger-style bag.  The arrows that this bag features are my very first attempts at tapestry crochet!  I had no idea how to do tapestry crochet; hadn’t seen it on-line, in a book, and I certainly hadn’t been shown in person.  All I remember is that it took me a very long time to figure out, and I’m 100% sure that this is a bastardized version of tapestry crochet (I later learned the technique from a very old needle craft book while in the Peace Corps).



After testing out my bags by actually using them, I realized that I didn’t like the crochet plastic bag handles.  I didn’t like how they felt in my hand or on my shoulder.  Plus, if the stitches were loose at all they would get stretched out and look sad.  That’s when I made my way over to the local fabric store and bought some ready-made purse handles.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with this solution however.  I felt very limited as to my selection and most of the time I thought that the handles looked cheep and didn’t completely fit with the bags.





In May of 2006 my husband finished school in Atlanta and we moved back to Ohio and our jobs as caricature artists.  That Fall I was invited to the Cleveland Institute of Art to teach a class on crocheting with recycled materials and taught the students about plarn.  Eventually I learned about the technique of making the plarn by connecting loops of the plastic bags together instead of cutting them into flat strips and knotting them with a square knot.  I picked up crocheting with plastic bags again that Winter and even did a photo shoot (which is why I have any pictures of those early bags at all), but I never got back into like I had the year before in Atlanta; until about a week ago.

Starting a new era of plastic bag making

After making the decision to shift my business focus to making objects from recycled materials, I decided that it was time to get those plastic bags out of storage (believe it or not, I still had a small stash of bags left over from my time in Atlanta!) and see what I could do.  My abilities and technique have come a long way since 2005/2006 when I made those first bags.

To solve my handle problem I decided that a good solution would be to cannibalize the handles of old purses.  The two larger bags below feature the handles and closures from two separate purses that were too stained and worn to be used, so that means they are still 100% recycled.  The small, round purse with the long strap also has a recycled purse zipper, but the handle is made of new yarn.  The yarn has better drape than a plarn version and feels better for wearing, especially if it rubs up against the neck area while wearing across the chest.

In addition to making bags from bags, I want to experiment with other products.  My first experiment was the crochet owl shown at the top of this post.  But wait!  It’s not just any old owl!  It’s a weeble-wobble owl!  Weighed with heavy metal chain (recycled) on the bottom and stuffed with plastic bag scraps on top this owl weebles and wobbles and only sometimes falls down!

Do you crochet with plastic bags?  Have any suggestions about what I should make next?  I’d love to hear your comments to this post!

*This post was just added to Made By You Mondays over on Skip to my Lou!


Filed under Just For Fun


So I’ve been putting some more thought into the direction that I want to go with zween and came to the conclusion that I really like working with re-claimed/re-purposed/recycled objects.  So now, at last, I have a focus!  I can’t tell you want a relief this is!

Though I’ve done lots of work with re-claimed/re-purposed/recycled objects in the past, I only just realized while participating in the Sandusky Art Walk last Thursday that most of my work now could be categorized in this way.  It seems like such a simple thing, but once I realized this it was much easier to talk with people about my work in a genuine and excited manner.

What is really exciting about this realization is that it’s still a broad category.  It focuses as much on the materials as the end product.  By this I mean I can find a material that is in need of a new life (ie: bed sheets, plastic bags, puzzles with missing pieces, damaged clothing, matchbooks, junk mail, etc.) and work with them until I find an appropriate application.

This of course means that I may go to a craft fair with an array of items; personal accessories, home items, and gift items (in other words, what would seem as a complete hodge podge of products) but they can still all live together in that realm of the re-made.

Last week I showed you a rag rug made from old bed sheets.  Well, it didn’t work out.  I was throughly unhappy with the oval shape and the use of double crochet so I ripped it all out and started over, making it into a circular rug instead.

I took my unfinished rug to the Art Walk to work on during slow periods.  It proved to be quite the conversation starter!  I can’t count the number of times someone said, “oh hey, a rag rug!  My mother/grandmother/aunt used to make those!”

As it turns out an Art Walk is not the best place to work on a giant rag rug.  For one thing I couldn’t check its flatness on the ground, as it was filthy, and it was a bit cumbersome when I needed to stop and get up to talk with someone.  My second attempt didn’t work out very well either.  Though I was sure I was counting my stitches correctly, it become apparently clear that the rug was becoming wavier with every round, meaning that there were probably too many stitches somehow.  I ended up ripping out more than half of my work, so what you see in this post is actually my third attempt (see photo at top of post).

As you can see, my new rug is made in a single crochet spiral.  It’s turning out much better now but the next time I make a rug I think I will make my strips of cloth skinnier.  The strips for this pink, white, and yellow rug are 2 inches wide.  One and a half-inch strips would work better I think.

Though I’m not quite done with my rug (but almost!) I decided to start (and finish) another rag project, so I made a bag.  Though this bag is made out of strips of cloth like the rug, it is not from a bed sheet.  The black fabric I used here is from my college thesis project.  My project was a huge installation of crochet copper wire, and at the last-minute I realized that I would need a black ceiling to really set off the copper.  Since I wasn’t allowed to paint the ceiling black I did the next best thing; I bought yards and yards of the cheapest black fabric I could find and sewed the panels together.  It sounds janky but the end result turned out well and my project ended up being in the top 20 of my class.

That was 6 years ago however and I still have all this fabric! And now I’m using it. It was a great way to experiment with the fabric strips as well with my crochet techniques.

For my black hand bag I ripped my fabric strips to just one inch wide, which is quite skinny, but I still used my chunkiest hook (seen in rug photo). This gives the crocheted fabric a lot more drape, yet it still keeps its form very well. In the picture above the bag is not propped up against anything, nor is there any stuffing inside of it.

Since the fabric is a solid color I thought it would be fun to make some different textures with the crochet to give it more visual interest.  The base and lower portion of the bag is single crochet, which gives it a lot of strength.  The vertical ribs around the mid-section of the bag are made using a technique of crocheting around the post of a double crochet.  By alternating between regular double crochet and double crochet around the post you get these nice ribs, which almost look a little like knit.  It also gives this mid section a nice stretchiness, which is usually hard to achieve in crochet.

Tutorial: fabric strips for use in crochet or knitting

For those of you who would like to learn to crochet or knit with fabric strips you can watch this video on Etsy.  Or, if you don’t have a fast enough internet connection (this one’s for you Noelle) I have prepared a little photo tutorial to help illustrate the process.

first, rip your fabric into strips. The strips shown here are 2 inches wide. The wider your strips the thicker your end fabric will be. Thick strips work well for rugs but they are also a little hard to crochet with in my opinion.

Next, if your fabric is hemmed rip out the hem as well.

Now fold over the end a bit and make a small, vertical slit in the fabric.

Do the same thing with your next fabric strip.

Thread the second strip through the hole of the first strip.

Now thread the other end of the second strip through the hole of the second strip and pull. (it’s a little tricky to see this part in the photos).

When the two strips are pulled tightly you will have a very strong knot that will not unravel!

Keep your eyes out for more recycled inspired objects in the near future.  If you haven’t already, make sure to like zween on facebook so that you can keep up to date on all my new posts, projects, and upcoming events.

See you soon and happy crafting!


Filed under Tutorials