Category Archives: upcycling and reuse

Paint it black

I recently came into possession of eight glass candlesticks when I made an offhand comment about not having any to a friend of my in-laws who was looking to offload some.


I’ve always admired the Mosser glass candlesticks from Schoolhouse Electric and, since my benefactress had assured me that these weren’t anything particularly special or valuable, I got it in my head to try spray painting a few of them.


There isn’t really anywhere I can do a spray-painting project at home, but luckily we spent this past weekend at my mother-in-law’s house in Connecticut. I used three thin coats of this spray paint in flat black, which went on very smoothly and dried surprisingly quickly, and I completely love how they turned out.   


Unfortunately, they’re a little dinged up right now since they were on the floor of the backseat when we were going home and a bag of groceries fell on them when Rob hit the brakes hard to avoid running into someone who cut him off on some parkway or other, so they should probably get another coat of paint at some point. I still love them though.



The best himmeli yet


I gave this one to Rob’s cousin’s family over Thanksgiving. I really love how these are turning out, but I think I need to start playing around with regular straws or something else I don’t have to make myself. It takes too long and I was starting to feel a bit of a repetitive stress twinge in my right thumb from the rolling motion.

My first himmeli

I was thinking about the Finnish straw mobiles called himmeli yesterday and was wondering if it would be possible to make them using paper beads. So I made some beads last night (from the new Boden holiday catalog), tracked down a relatively straightforward tutorial, and gave it a shot. I’m really happy with the results and now my mind is buzzing with variations I could do using different sizes of beads and different color effects. I used dental floss instead of thread here, since it’s cheap and strong, holds a knot well, and has the additional, somewhat dubious, benefit of mintiness.

And here they are with our ridiculous kitchen light for scale. These are a perfect size for Christmas ornaments, which is what I wanted to make them for in the first place, but now that I have a general sense of how they come together, I want to experiment with building a larger mobile.

Paper Christmas Tree

You guys, I have to tell you, I’m feeling kind of festive this year. I haven’t had anything resembling a tree since about 1999, which was the year of The Christmas Branch, a pine branch I put in a vase and on which I hung a single ornament, ever so late ’90s Generation Nowhere irony mixed with Peanuts-Christmas-special-tinged nostalgia. I wanted to do some holiday decorating at my place, but I didn’t want a physical, 3D tree tree, just something evocative of a tree and seasonal goodwill. I toyed with the idea of painting one on kraft paper or making one out of paper snowflakes or outlining the shape on the wall with fairy lights, but then the idea of gluing strips of paper to a large piece of kraft paper came to me and I figured I’d give it a shot.

In another 12 years, I’m sure I’ll be rolling my eyes at my second-decade-millennial Brooklyn-rustic DIY-precious aesthetic, but right now, I kind of love it. One unforeseen benefit of using paper that was already printed on one side is that the print shadow shows through, except on the bright white edges, which gives some visual depth and could, if you were so inclined, look like snow-tipped branches.

It was ridiculously easy to do. First, I cut a length of kraft paper and sketched out a vague triangle shape. I keep a lot of scrap paper around for notes and lists and whatnot, so I took some of that and cut it into quarters, widthwise. I was entertained to see that some of what I happened to grab was from the Haggadah from Michelle‘s seder this spring.
“Allow the bitter to move you” and “Nourish the self with mystery” are good reminders regardless of the holiday. “See the sandwich of both sides” sounds like the kind of fortune cookie I tend to end up with.

Then I just glued the strips in overlapping rows, starting at the bottom. I started out keeping everything tidy and lined up neatly, but quickly figured out that I liked the way it looked when placement was a little more haphazard.

Optional step: set the glue overnight with a large, sleeping cat.

Upcycling t-shirts

There’s a growing pile of t-shirts in my bedroom that fall into the category of Too Worn to Wear Outside Anymore, Even to the Gym. I can’t possibly give them to Goodwill and since there’s still plenty of decent material there, I can’t bring myself to throw them away. Once I get around to redrafting the neckline on the pattern of the Alabama Chanin corset top (still the chicest t-shirt reuse project I’ve come across), I’ll be happy to have them to play with. But that’s also a labor-intensive project and I have a lot of old t-shirts to play with, so I’ve been looking for other projects to use them up. Kim posted her version of this scarf last week — look how happy she is! — and I figured it was worth 20 minutes of my time to try it out.

It really was easy, though I think mine took 45 minutes or so, probably because I ended up using two shirts and making a double row of loops since it seemed flimsy and insubstantial otherwise. (I ended up changing my mind about the blue.)

But the jury is still out on the finished item. I mean, I don’t hate it. I just think it looks more like a craft project than a thing that I actively brought into my life because I love it. I suppose it’s time to take out the freezer paper and corset top pattern pieces, but in the meantime, I’m still looking for fantastic t-shirt upcycling ideas…