Monday, October 5, 2009

A Very Green Christmas!

Yes, I know - it is shockingly early to see Christmas decorations in the department stores.  If you're a compulsive crafter like me, however, you know how important it is to start planning and working on gifts ahead of time.  I get so excited thinking up ways to upcycle things to give as gifts!  I'm your typical "jack of all trades," so the gifts I give vary, depending on which hobbies I'm immersed in at any particular time.

The year I learned to knit, all of my friends and family members got scarves for Christmas.  I have recently learned a wonderful green knitting trick, too, and I can't wait to put it into practice!  Instead of buying new yarn, unravel an old sweater to make it into something new and useful, using your knitting or crocheting skills.  Here is a great tutorial on unraveling a sweater.  Can't crochet or knit?  Last year I made a pair of cute little mittens for a friend, by cutting the pieces out of a pretty thrift-store sweater and sewing them together.  Instructables has great directions for this project.  You don't have to be limited to mittens, either.  Make a sweater bag, a sweater blanket, hat, or whatever strikes your fancy.

I have a girlfriend who I knew admired the mirrored dressers we had seen in a furniture store once.  For her birthday one year, I made her something similar using an old nightstand (another thrift-store find) and six mirror tiles left over from another project.  After painting the piece white, I used Liquid Nails® to glue two mirrors to each side of the nightstand, then broke up the remaining two mirrors and glued them on to the top and the drawer fronts, mosaic style.  I gently sanded the sharp edges of the glass pieces, then filled in the gaps with pre-mixed white grout.  The only things I purchased new for this project were the grout and the glue. 

I was digging through my fabric pieces last week and discovered an unfinished quilt that I had started several years ago.  It was my first attempt at quilting, and it was made of - what else? - repurposed materials.  I remember thinking how soft my daughter's old receiving blankets were and wondering how best to use them, now that she's a big girl, then it hit me - upcycle-quilting!  That first attempt wasn't so beautiful and I have a couple of new babies in the family this year, so this week I began my second upcycle-quilting adventure.  I do not have the time or the attention span to hand-stitch anything, so I did the whole thing on my beloved sewing machine.  The top is nine squares cut from old flannel receiving blankets, the "batting" is actually an old blanket, and the back is cut from a pretty, but worn, second-hand bedsheet.  I initially intended to create a checkerboard pattern with the quilting, but I really like this kind of crazy, random look that I ended up with.  It is nearly finished, but I ran out of green thread and then got distracted with other sewing projects, so you can see in the photo that it still needs some quilting.

Giving upcycled gifts is a great way to minimize waste, but giving something intangible is, in some ways, even better.  Sometimes a simple helping hand is the best gift a person can receive, AND it doesn't add to their clutter!  As I've said before, I simply cannot bear the thought of paying someone $30-$50 to do simple car maintenance, such as oil changes.  For this reason, I learned how to perform maintenance and many repairs on my own vehicle.  I have found that to be a very useful skill and, in the interest of reducing clutter, will be giving oil change gift certificates to Lana's Garage as Christmas gifts this year.  You can do the same.  Use your computer to print gift certificates for babysitting, lawn care, dinner preparation, house cleaning, musical entertainment, party planning, costume making, or whatever you're good at.  Download gift certificate templates from here to get started.

I've started a list of people to give gifts to and what I want to make for them, which really helps keep my projects on track.  In the next couple of months I'll be making some more quilts like the one pictured above, mixing up some of my favorite beauty products to put in pretty jars, exploring my rudimentary jewelry-making skills, and making several trips to Home Depot® for building supplies.

If you have questions about any of my projects or have green gift-giving ideas of your own, please share them in the comments section.  I'd love to hear from you!

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