zero waste

all posts related to the zero waste lifestyle and wardrobe

Sewing a Zero Waste Pouf (And Using Up Fabric Scraps!)

zero waste pouf made out of a recycled white quilt with vintage books sitting on top of it

The sewing project I’m sharing with you today has taken me years to complete…literally, and there were two things that sparked the idea for this project. One, I read a news report several years ago, right when the Canada Goose winter coats were super popular, about a company making counterfeit coats filled with factory floor textile sweepings instead of goose down. Aside from the fact that they were scamming people, I thought that using up fabric scraps as insulation was actually a pretty ingenious idea. Then, right about that same time, I saw a blog post by Brittany of Untitled Thoughts (I can’t find the specific post) about a pieced scrap pouf which had been filled with cotton quilting fabric to use as a means of storage in your sewing room. So, I melded the two ideas and now several years, and a LOT of scraps, later I have finally finished my (almost completely) zero waste pouf!

What exactly is a pouf and what makes it different than an ottoman or a footstool? Well, an ottoman or a footstool has legs or is made of a frame with a padded top, whereas a pouf is just like a giant pillow, without any kind of base structure. So are you interested in making your own? Here’s how I did it!

a giant pile more than a metre long of textile scraps

First, you will need to start saving scraps, and this is the longest part of the project. I saved everything including synthetic fibre clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies, jeans and pantyhose which couldn’t be used for rags. I also saved the seams out of the garments that we did cut up for rags. And, of course, I saved sewing scraps of all sizes, like I mentioned in my post last week. I saved these textile scraps in a giant black garbage bag and though I initially thought I had way too many scraps, I actually ended up using all of them plus more. In the image above, that is a metre stick for reference.

Once you’ve gathered about 1.5 times the amount of scraps you think you’ll need, it is time to start readying your pouf lining!

drawing of the dimensions of the fabric for the lining

Figure out the dimensions of your pouf. I made mine 20″ across, so the circumference was approximately 63″ around. I mapped out my pattern pieces on a grid paper determining what size of pieces with seam allowances would fit exactly into the fabric I was going to use. Also note, depending on which kind of fabric you’re going to use, you might want to make the bottom out of a more durable (and affordable!) fabric like canvas since it won’t be seen anyway. Originally I was going to make my pouf out of mustard velvet, and pleat the top into the centre like a vintage round pillow, but once the fabric arrived (from Etsy)…it was not the right colour of yellow, so I ended up changing my plan.

Cut out 2 circles, with seam allowances, to use as the top and bottom and then either one piece or 2 pieces for the sides.

lining fabric cut and ready to sew

I used cotton canvas as the fabric for my lining bag, and I did a double layer with an old worn out mattress cover to prevent any lumps from the stuffing from showing through. You could use fleece, a wool blanket or towel as an interlining. If you are using a thick upholstery fabric, I don’t know if this step will be as important, but if you are using a thinner outer fabric, then I would definitely add that second layer. Sew the two layers together and then work them as one piece.

Sew the side piece together at the ends. Then measure the bottom circle and side piece into 4 even quadrants and pin together at those points and sew together. Do not sew the top circle on, because it will be added later.

unstuffed canvas lining bag sewn with top not attached yet

Now it is time to stuff the lining bag! You don’t want to just wad the fabric in, otherwise it will get very lumpy and misshapen. Here is the method I used to avoid as much lumpiness as possible.

textile scraps cut into tiny pieces

First, sort your scraps into piles of soft materials like fleece etc. that you will use to smooth out lumps, bulky and heavy or large pieces of fabric, and any tiny scraps. This step of sorting through and cutting the scraps will definitely make you feel like you are one of the children in the pawn shop in the 1951 movie “A Christmas Carol”. Take your small scraps and cut into 1″ or smaller pieces. I did this over several days to avoid my hand cramping.

textile scraps cut into tiny pieces and layered several inches in the bottom of the lining

Once you have a large batch of shredded pieces, place a layer several inches thick across the bottom of the bag.

folding and stacking larger textile pieces in the centre of the lining

Then, take your larger scraps and fold them. Lay them flat in the centre of the pouf and keep stacking until you have a layer several inches thick. Take more of the small shredded scraps and sprinkle them in between the centre folded “pillar” and the lining bag to create a bit of soft insulation. (Folding the pieces into the centre means that they won’t compress too much over time, so you won’t end up with a lopsided or deflated pouf.) Keep folding pieces into the bag and adding the small scraps around the outside. Once you’ve reached the top of the lining bag, it is time to attach the top.

hand sewing the top of the lining to the sides

Again, make sure to pin on four equal quadrants like you did for the bottom and pin the top circle to the side piece. Hand stitch the pieces together. You can use any colour of thread for this since it won’t be seen; I used up a bunch of old spools of red thread that had only tiny amounts left on them not enough for a larger projects.

Once you’ve stitched the “lid” halfway around the circumference, knot your thread because it’s time to start stuffing again!

stuffing the top section of the pouf with more soft stuffing

This is the time to use any fleece, batting or other soft materials, so you’ll get a nice smooth top to your pouf. Fill in any gaps with more shredded pieces. Keep pushing scraps into the bag; it will take more than you think you need. Once you’ve got the one half pretty well full, then sew another quarter of the top closed and with that final small section, push as many scraps as you can into the bag. Then finally stitch the last section closed.

lining all stuffed with textile scraps

You are not quite ready to cover your pouf, though. It is time to sit on it and squish it down and punch it into shape and let the pieces settle for a while. It will be pretty solid, but after while of use, it will slightly deflate and then you can add more scraps to the top. I left mine for a couple of months (because I was trying figure out how I wanted to cover it once the velvet didn’t work out) but it actually worked out perfectly that way, because it really gave time for the scraps to squish down. I would recommend leaving it for a few weeks, making sure to sit on it every once in a while to press it down.

Once the scraps have settled as much as they are going to, open up a quarter of the seam in the top and add more scraps! Use more tiny shredded scraps to fill in the top and then once it is stuffed to overflowing, stitch the top back together. You will now have a very solid (and heavy) pouf form ready to be covered.

There are lots of ways you can make a pouf (like a Morrocan style or gathering the top like I mentioned earlier) but I ended up doing a simple 3 piece top, side and bottom since I chose to cover mine with a quilt!

white mattelasse quilt with frayed edge

This was the quilt that I had on my bed for about 14 years, and it has started to show it’s age. Now that I have a new quilt, it was time to retire this one. At first I was debating dyeing it, but then I realized that white would actually be the perfect colour for my very light and bright bedroom. Maybe if I eventually get the sofa of my dreams (vintage yellow and cream floral) I will recover the pouf in yellow velvet and put it with my sofa, but in the meantime it works quite nicely in my bedroom beside my closet. And since I’m not actually putting my feet up on it, like if it was in front of my sofa, the fact that it’s white should be all right. (I hope!)

cover pieces cut out of white quilt and ready to be sewn

My quilt had a border pattern which I utilized as the side piece- I cut one long strip 15″ wide the full length of the quilt. Then I cut the top and bottom circles out of the middle diamond quilted section. (PS. There was just enough fabric to use the end pieces of that strip to make a square cushion cover too!)

sewing outer fabric pieces together

Cut your outer pieces the same dimensions as the lining. Sew the top and side pieces together, again pinning in even quadrants and easing it all the way around.

Once I placed my cover on the pouf, I realized that the fabric had stretched out quite a bit and the top edge was hollow, so I brought it back to the sewing machine and sewed a 1″ seam allowance all the way around, instead of a 5/8″. Make sure to test the fit of your outer fabric, just to make sure that it fits well.

machine sewing 1" seam guide around the edge

Next stitch a seam guide along the edge of the bottom circle and the side pieces (in the same colour of thread as your fabric) so when you hand stitch them together, you will have a guide to follow. I stitched a 1″ seam allowance guide from the edge.

NOTE: This time we are sewing the top and side pieces by machine, not the bottom and side pieces as we did with the lining, because we are going to hand stitch the bottom this time, not the top. If you are using a fabric other than your upholstery fabric for the bottom, then that is the piece you will be hand sewing later.

measuring and fitting outer fabric onto pouf form

Again, measure your 4 quadrants on your bottom circle and side pieces and mark with pins or chalk. Place your cover onto your pouf and then flip it upside down. Now, line up your 4 points and pin together. Then work your way around between the 4 points and pin together, easing as you go.

Your stitched seam guide will help here because now you’ll know how much to fold under for your seam allowance. If, once you’ve pinned the pieces together, it looks like it’s going to be too loose then you can fold it more as needed. It’s OK if your bottom circle is a bit smaller than the top, because then the seam will tuck underneath the pouf and be hidden.

hand stitching bottom of outer fabric to side pieces

Now it’s time to start hand sewing again. This is best done while listening to an audiobook or podcast (I listened to A Tale of Two Cities)! When stitching, don’t start at one point and work your way all the way around, but instead start at one point, sew about an 8″ section, then rotate the pouf 180 degrees and sew a section directly across. Again, sew a section and then turn 90 degrees and sew a section and so on, until all of the sections meet. This way you can ease your fabric pieces together without ending up with bubbles, and, if needed, you can make adjustments- pulling the fabric in tighter etc.

Once you’ve knotted your last thread and turned the pouf right side up…then you are done. Congratulations, you have managed to save a huge amount of textile waste from the landfill and turn it into something both useful and beautiful!

finished pouf made from a worn out white quilt and fabric scraps sitting in my bedroom

recycled pouf made out of a white quilt sitting in front of the closet

I love how this project turned out and I had a lot of fun making it. It fits perfectly into my bedroom, and I am very pleased that I was able to use mostly salvaged materials; it was the perfect way of using up fabric scraps! The worst part about finishing this project is that I already have a bunch of new textile scraps…what on earth am I going to use them for?

Do you think you’ll make a project like this? What fabric would you use to cover it with? Do you have any other ideas for ways of using up fabric scraps?

vintage blue books sitting on top of the white quilted top of the pouf

zero waste salvaged pouf made out of a white mattelasse quilt with vintage blue books sitting on top of it

DIY Upcycled Coffee Can Plant Pot

hoya vine planted in an upcycled coffee can plant pot sitting on a bookshelf

I love houseplants! While I’m not a collector, I do like having a variety of them with different leaves, colours and textures. Asparagus Fern, Chinese Money Plant, Purple Shamrock, Marble Queen Pothos, Hoya…those are some of my favourites. (You can see some of them here…)While houseplants are fun, the not-so-great part is that the more you get, the more pots you need to put them in, which can get pricey. If you’re buying pots from plant stores, then that can very quickly add up and if you’re going to big box stores you can usually get them for a lower price, but you are limited in selection. Of course you can always go the even more affordable terra cotta route which gives you a lovely earthy palette and patina over time, but that’s not everyone’s style, and it doesn’t suit every plant either. This is where it’s time to explore some homemade options! Here is how with a coffee can, some leftover paint, baking soda and twine I created this coffee can plant pot with a dimensional minimalist look.

all of the supplies needed to make this craft

You will need:

-A coffee can

-Paint. I used eggshell latex paint that I had leftover from my room (Benjamin Moore Acadia White). You could also use dollar store acrylic paint.

-Baking soda

-Hot glue (optional)

-Liquid tacky glue

-Twine or rope- I needed 10 feet to wrap 5 times around my pot

-A paintbrush that isn’t too precious

Start by removing any labels and glue that you can. Not all of the glue spots came off of mine, so I’ll just make sure that side faces the wall.

Next, measure out 1 part baking soda and 2 parts paint. I did 1 tbsp of baking soda and 2 tbsp of paint which was enough for three coats.

measuring paint and baking soda into a container and mixing well

Blend the paint well to make sure that there are no lumps. The baking soda in the paint will give a textured finish when it dries, kind of like a pebbled or adobe clay sort of look.

painting the can with the first coat of paint

I didn’t prime my can first, but you might want to if you’re using craft paint to help it adhere well to the metal. Paint the can with one coat of paint. Make sure to paint a bit under the rim on the inside of the can too, so that the silver won’t show after you put your plant in it. Sit the coffee can up on another can or jar and leave it to dry.

Once the paint is dry, it is time to attach the twine. Originally I was going to paint it and leave it like that, but it just looked like a coffee can that had been painted white, so I added kitchen twine and sisal to make it look a bit more interesting.  Dab a little hot glue to secure the end of the twine quickly. You don’t have to use hot glue if you’d rather just use the liquid, but you’ll have to wait longer for it to dry, so it won’t slide around on you as you wrap it.

gluing the twine onto the coffee can

After the hot glue is in place, then use a thin layer of liquid glue to attach the twine the rest of the way around the can. When you get to the end, trim the twine to meet up evenly.

(Ps. Another idea I had, for a totally different look, was instead of wrapping only in the grooves, you could wrap the can completely with rope to make it look like a basket. Then either leave it unpainted and natural at that stage, or continue painting. And if you did grey, it would probably look like textured concrete!)

twine glued to the coffee cans and ready to be painted

I had two different kinds of string- sisal and kitchen twine. I couldn’t figure out which look I wanted so I ended up making two different planters to try both ideas out, and then gave one to my sister.

Once the glue is dry, it is time for a second coat of paint. This is why you don’t want to use a good paintbrush; so you can really work the paint in all angles of the twine to fully coat it. Let the second coat of paint dry, and then inspect to see if it needs any more coverage. Mine had a few spots showing through that needed a few extra touch ups.

painting second coat of paint on the cans with the twine

Once the paint is dry, decide if you’re going to put a plastic pot inside or plant directly into the can. Depending on the size of your coffee can, you might be able to fit a 6″ growers pot directly inside, in which case you are done!

finished painting the second coat on both pots

However, if you don’t have a growers pot and are planning to plant directly into the coffee can, then you’ll need drainage holes. (Using rocks at the bottom of a planter to stop soggy roots doesn’t work, by the way, so if you’re planting directly, you will need proper drainage.) Turn the can upside down and using a hammer and a nail, punch a few holes. (You could probably also use a drill.) After I punched holes with a nail, I then used a screwdriver tip to enlarge the holes. (Yes…I always use very professional techniques in my projects…)

punching holes in the bottom of the can with a hammer and nail

At this point, because the holes dish upwards and into the can from hammering, the water won’t necessarily drain out well. Turn the can the right side up and hammer them the other direction; downwards. I used a screwdriver tip with a flat surface. The water will now be able to easily drain out, and this also flattens any sharp, jagged edges.

bending the holes in the bottom of the can to bend outwards

And now you’re done and ready to plant!

finished coffee can plant pot with a hoya vine in it, sitting on top of a bookshelf with a candle beside it and a mirror in the background

I took some pictures with my Hoya to see what it worked like with a pot inside it, but I actually ended up planting my umbrella tree directly into the coffee can. If you decide to plant directly into the pot, make sure to place it on a dish so you won’t get any water damage onto the surface below.

diy coffee can plant pot with an umbrella tree planted in it sitting on top of a bookshelf

I like how it turned out; it has a good visual weight to it because it’s cylindrical rather than narrow at the bottom as many pots are. It works for the umbrella tree, because it is very tall and skinny and the pot it was in before was much too small looking for it.

And the best thing about this coffee can plant pot is that it was basically free- using up materials I already had on hand. Aren’t those the best kind of projects?

Do you like houseplants? Which is your favourite? Do you think you’ll try making your own coffee can plant pot?

umbrella tree planted inside the finished coffee can plant pot sitting on top of a bookshelf and with a gallery wall of picture frames behind it

Finding and Styling Thrifted Home Decor

thrifted home decor items on a table: a teacup, pitcher, picture frames and vintage books

I was recently inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Sarah from She Holds Dearly, to do my own version of her series “Styling Thrifted Finds”. Almost all of my decor is thrifted or secondhand, and it would actually be easier to find the pieces that were purchased new so this is just my “recent” thrifted home decor; otherwise I would have to post a picture of my entire bedroom!

I love thrift shopping, and we have an excellent thrift store in town. It’s housed in the ground floor of an old building from 1912, and is a rabbit warren of rooms full of treasures waiting to be unearthed. It always requires a lot of digging past junk to find those treasures, but the prices are so good that it’s worth it. And because it’s a charity shop, I am always more willing to buy than I am at a for-profit shop. (And to donate my old items to as well!)

a gold enameled vintage oval mirror

First up, here are some items that made their way into my recent gallery wall. I found this vintage gold mirror from that thrift store in town. It was originally priced at $25, which I thought was a bit steep for that shop, and when I brought it up to the till, the lady who organizes the shop knocked $5 off (without me saying anything), because she thought it was a bit steep too! It pays to have a good relationship with your local thrift shops.  There is some of the gold enamel worn off on the bottom edge, but it just adds to the patina. The oval shape of the mirror fit perfectly over top of my bookshelf, and it lines up perfectly with my dresser mirror opposite, so I can use it to see how the back of my hair looks.

three vintage frames leaning against the wall

Thrift stores are also excellent places to find picture frames. The wooden frame with the oval opening cost $0.50, and even though it doesn’t have glass, it was still a bargain. If I want glass for it someday, I could always buy another frame for the same price and steal the glass and it would still only cost $1.00. The oval opening in the frame was perfect for this antique styled photo of my friend and I. (Ps. the black frame with the fashion illustration, below, was originally white, but I painted it with black chalk paint and waxed it and it looks so much better. I also painted the mat with acrylic paint. If you find frames that are the perfect size, but not the colour you’re looking for, you can always transform them with a little bit of paint!)

vintage wooden oval frame; styling thrifted home decor in my gallery wall

Both the wooden frame and the large gold one were frames that I saw at two different second hand shops, decided to not buy, and then wished that I had. Amazingly when I returned to the shops weeks later, the frames were still there, so I brought them home, of course.

vintage gold frame with view from the elbe landscape painting

I wasn’t in love with the watercolour that was originally in the large gold frame (for $8.00 by the way), so I removed it and decided to print some new artwork. I found a couple high resolution downloads of vintage artwork online and got them printed as poster prints. Because they are in the public domain, they are free to use and some can actually be downloaded directly from museum collections. I also printed an artwork for this black frame, below, at the same time. The two pieces I chose are this gorgeous black botanical “Still Life with Roses” by Elias van den Broeck”, and for the gold frame, this landscape which is titled “View from the Elbe” by Johan Christian Clausen Dahl. If you are looking for a different landscape, there are some other really lovely ones available here. (I love the one of the cottage with the chickens in front, but it was the wrong aspect ratio for my frame).

dutch floral still life with roses

I found the vintage brass frame with the convex glass on Poshmark (that’s a dangerous place to browse) and I have put a Victorian calendar page in it for now, but if I ever find a Victorian portrait, I will replace it.

tiny hanging picture frames

I also picked up these little brass frames to add to my gallery wall. I put pictures of my mom and both grandmas in them, and they fit in perfectly.

stack of vintage books

Moving on to finds of a different sort, vintage books are always a great thing to look for. The bottom one, Mary Queen of Scots, was from a thrift shop for $1.00 and the top three were from a library sale; all three for just $1.50.  The library books had dust jackets- always make sure to look behind the dust jackets of vintage books to see if they are clothbound. The top one, unfortunately, had glue residue from the ancient library tape which had ruined the colour and finish of the spine, so I painted it over with gold paint. It originally had gold lettering, similar to the bottom book, so it was too bad that the spine wasn’t in good condition, but for $0.50, I don’t mind. I have gathered all of my vintage books onto the bookshelf in my bedroom, for now.

styling vintage books on a bookshelf

Vintage books also make a nice backdrop for other decor. In the past I have used my vintage books to create vignettes on my IKEA bookshelf. They can also be used as risers to give height to seasonal decor, and large ones can be used as a sort of tray to ground other items when placed on a table. And, of course, you can read them too!

silver spoons before and after polishing

Another thing to keep you eye out for at the thrift stores is silverware. It is getting harder to find, but I do still come across it sometimes. These pieces looked so terrible and tarnished they were mixed into the bin of loose stainless steel cutlery, and were only $0.25 each. After a polishing, they are ready to add to my mismatched silverware set! To polish silverware easily (I wouldn’t use this for anything too precious, since I’ve heard it can blur delicate detail work) this is the method I use.

Line a heat proof container, or your sink, with tin foil. Place silver on top of the foil, leaving space between the pieces. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of salt and 2 tbsp. of baking soda over top. Boil a kettle full of water (mine is 1.7 L). Pour the boiling water over top of the silver until they are submerged and watch the tarnish magically disappear! Let soak for up to 2 minutes, remove and rinse the pieces and then buff dry with a soft cloth to remove any remaining colour. It works amazingly well!

brass pillar stand

Another find was this brass stand. It is approximately 6″ across and 3″ tall. I think it may have originally been for a pillar candle? Or perhaps it originally had a glass cloche?

plant on top of the brass stand

The top was very scratched, but it makes a perfect plant stand. It gives the purple shamrock at the back of the buffet just enough height from the plants in the front.

vintage transferware pieces

And the last thrifted finds for today are these two transferware pieces- one featuring a scene of an English estate and the other of an 18th century man riding a horse. The teacup didn’t have a saucer, but that was fine because I had another plan for it. Likewise, I didn’t know what I was going to use the little cream pitcher for, but I quickly had an idea. I think the teacup was $4 and the pitcher was $2, from two different shops.

transferware pieces in a drawer and on top of the dresser

I store all of my makeup and toiletry supplies in baskets and castoff teacups. They work perfectly to hold my brushes and lipsticks and makeup wipes, and look so much prettier than usual organizing bins. I added this teacup in with a few others I have in my makeup drawer.

And for the pitcher, I put a bit of stuffing and a piece of black felt inside to create a cushion to hold my hat pins. I wear these pins on my berets, and it’s nice having them easy to access on my dresser as I get ready.  

That’s how I have styled my recent thrifted home decor. I’m always on the lookout for unique home decor pieces, though I leave more pieces behind than I buy these days. I’m trying to be more of a minimalist…but that doesn’t always work out.

What sorts of things do you keep your eye out for at the thrift shops? What is your best thrifted find ever? Do you have any good charity shops where you live?

Salvaged DIY Craft Room Organizer (Or Plant Stand!)

diy salvaged organizer stand

I love decorating, and I especially love salvaging old furniture and “junk” and transforming them into new pieces for my home. While it can be fun to buy new ready-made things, it is so satisfying (as well as zero waste!) to save something old or broken from the trash and turn it into something completely new. While this post is a little bit out of my usual blog niche, I am really happy with how this latest DIY craft room organizer project turned out, so I wanted to share it here, in case it can provide you with some inspiration.

salvaged organizer before

At the shop I used to work at, we had these carousel stand organizers, but they were poorly made, and over time the bases broke. They got put in the back storage room until we were clearing out the store, and my boss decided that she didn’t want them anymore. I couldn’t bear to put them in the dumpster, so I called my mom and asked if she thought we could do something with them. At the time, I wasn’t actually thinking that I would use them as a spinning organizer- I was thinking more along the lines of turning them into plant stands, or hanging them as outdoor planters. My mom said we should definitely save them, so we brought them home and put them in the workshop…where they have been sitting ever since! Then, a few weeks ago when my dad was cleaning out the shop, I was reminded of them again, and started thinking that perhaps an organizer for my sewing and art supplies would be a good idea after all. I was trying to think of some way I could make a new base, or fix the old one, when my dad mentioned that he had seen an old umbrella stand at the dump. “Aha!”- that was the perfect solution!

I was just going to use the original rod, paint it and call it a day, but my dad came up with a much better method of building the pole/ stand. Even though you probably won’t have baskets exactly like these, this method could still be used to easily create a stand with trays, or other baskets.

vintage vertical plant stand and illustration

I also saw this picture online of a vintage pole plant stand, which I think would be so cool to make with this method (especially since the only other versions I can find online are ugly plastic ones!)  If you offset the trays, or used small wooden shelves you could easily make a really cool space saving plant stand!

OK, so here’s how to make this DIY shelf/organizer. My dad did all of the work with the pipe, and I basically just did the painting! Firstly, I took all of the basket pieces apart and cleaned them with some soap and water and then rinsed them with the hose, because they were very dirty!

baskets and umbrella stand before

We used 3/4″ copper pipe and couplings to create the pole. I know that new pipe can be expensive, but we had a bunch of old used copper pipe lying around from past renovations, so it worked perfectly for me. You could also salvage pipe, use black steel pipe (which has all sorts of threadable pipe fittings available) or even use an extendable metal curtain rod.

diagram for stand assembly

We cut the pipe with a tube cutter into the lengths needed. The bottom two pipes are 17″ and the top one is 10″. We then used 3/4″ pipe couplings to create the connections for the baskets to sit on top of (so they don’t slide down the pipe). The bottom basket sits directly on top of the umbrella stand, and then the pipe threads through the middle, and so on until the top.

umbrella stand salvage organizer

Because the umbrella stand’s diameter was much wider than the pipe, my dad made a wooden spacer with a 3/4″ hole drilled through put inside the tube for the copper pipe to slide through. There is a coupling flush with the top of the stand and then a washer on top as a spacer for the basket so it doesn’t sit directly on the stand.

assembling the stand bottom baskets

We didn’t solder the couplings to the pipe, but you could solder one side, leaving the other loose so it can be dismantled. Or if you don’t need to it to be able to be taken apart, you can place your shelves and then solder both sides of the couplings to create a more rigid and sturdy pole. Because I had that original pole, I didn’t solder the pipe, but slid it straight through the copper pipe to make the entire stand sturdier, since it was a bit wobbly.

If you aren’t using pipe, but are instead using an extendable curtain rod, I would make it by cutting the thinner pipe the height that you want it to be (my stand is 54″ tall, by the way). Then, instead of using small couplings, cut the outer rod into “spacers” the height you want the shelves to be placed at. So, instead of having just a small coupling, the entire inner rod will be covered with the outer rod and you can assemble it by threading “stand, basket, spacer, basket, spacer…etc.” until you reach the top. Using a curtain rod will work perfectly too, because then you can use your finial to finish off the top!

salvaged organizer diagram

After my stand was assembled, it was time to paint it!. I debated about polishing up the copper and have it metallic with black baskets, but then decided that I don’t really have copper as an accent in my home, so I painted it. (Of course after I decided that, I remembered that my fan is antiqued copper so I could have….)

painting the diy craft room organizer

I painted it black to give it a more industrial look to match the style of the punched metal. I started with satin finish paint, then realized that I should have gone with matte since the shine highlights all of the imperfections of the metal! Oh well; it is a salvage project, after all. I used Rust-Oleum 2x Ultra Cover Satin Canyon Black, (and noticed that I took the picture of the French side-haha) since I already had 1/2 a can on hand. I did three coats and I guess that I used about 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cans of paint for the entire project. I still have almost an entire can of paint left over, so I can use that for a future project!

finished diy craft room organizer

Once the paint cured, the organizer was done and ready to use! As I brought it inside, I realized just how heavy that umbrella stand is when you need to move it around. I am keeping my eye out for the base of an old metal rolling desk chair to swap out the stand for. That would make it so easier to move around when required!

finished metal diy craft room organizer

I haven’t filled all of the compartments yet, but this is going to work perfectly for ribbons and laces and zippers and other sewing notions. They were previously in drawers, which made it hard to find anything. I usually like closed storage solutions, but for some things, open storage just works better. And sewing and crafts, is one of those things that works better when I can see things and find them easily.

This method worked so well to create this craft room organizer stand that I am considering whether I should make another with offset shelves using the curtain rod method in order to create a plant stand. (I have a lot of plants!) The curtain rod I have is already black metal and I could use wood for the shelves, so it wouldn’t require any painting. Maybe a good project for over the Winter?

Do you like to DIY furniture or other home projects? What’s the best “salvage” piece you’ve ever saved and transformed? And do you prefer open or closed storage solutions? 

diy salvaged craft room organizer

 

Turn a Shrunken Sweater Into a Retro Wool Beret

turn a shrunken sweater into a felted beret

While we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a very warm winter this year, the weather has turned cold lately, and it is definitely feeling like winter in Alberta again. Since it is only February (which means we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring) this is the perfect time to share one of my latest projects- a felted wool beret. Berets are not necessarily the warmest of headwear, but they do add a great vintage element to your winter ensemble, so I definitely consider them to be a fall and winter outfit staple.

While berets have risen in popularity the past few years, I have yet to come across one in brown. So, if you can’t find one at the store and you can’t knit or crochet one for yourself, what can you do? You can easily turn a shrunken sweater castoff into a felted beret!

I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because wool sweaters can be expensive and it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or that they are full of moth holes or runs, or even that they have stretched out of shape due to improper care, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new!

shrunken wool sweater perfect for felting

I found this chocolate brown sweater years ago, but hadn’t yet figured out what to make. Since brown berets have proven difficult to find, I thought that this would be the perfect way to get the colour I wanted.

To Make Your Own, You Will Need:

  • A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
  • Needle & thread/ sewing machine
  • Beret pattern- I used Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret. (Tanith gifted me that pattern several years ago. You can see the first one I made here). Edited to add: Another free beret option is this style from Brittani of Untitled Thoughts. She has a free pattern download, as well a sewing tutorial. 
  • Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice 
  • Elastic to make the hat fit tighter, optional

To Make the Hat:

My wool was already partially felted, so I cut the pieces out of the sweater and went from there, felting the final hat a little more at the end. After making this one, I was wondering whether you could also make it by cutting your pattern pieces out a bit larger and then felting the wool after you already have the hat sewn up. This might make the seam lines disappear a bit, and make the hat easier to form, but I haven’t tried it yet to know for sure.

But, in order to make the hat exactly as I have here, you are first going to need to felt your sweater, if it isn’t already shrunken. You can do this by putting the sweater into the washing machine with a little bit of laundry soap and washing it in hot water. It works better if you have a few sweaters in at the same time, so they can bump into each other and cause friction. You can also add a foam ball or flip-flop to help it felt even faster. Once you have washed your wool, take a look at it and see whether it has felted enough. If you want it to shrink a bit more, you can put it through the dryer, removing it before it is completely dry. Once the wool is good, let it dry.

wool sweater and sewing supplies

Once your sweater is dry, it is time to figure out your pattern. There are several different ways to make a sewn beret; I chose to use Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret, since I already had the pattern. This hat is made up of segments, giving it an octagonal shape. Her pattern has a more vertical shape to it and doesn’t lie flat, but since I wanted the hat to have a similar flat shape and fit to a traditional round wool beret, I made a couple of changes.

adjusting the pattern to make a flat style beret

To adjust the pattern, I made a sharper angle on the bottom segments so they would be narrower at the bottom edge. This way the hat would lay flat back on itself.  I measured the inner circumference of a beret that I already had and made the opening of my pattern add up to 20″ circumference. I actually should have made the opening a little bit smaller, since the hat ended up stretching quite a bit, so I would recommend that you go at least an inch or two smaller than you want it to be, to account for stretch. The other change I made to the pattern was using a facing, rather than a hat band. (More on that in a minute)

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, it’s time to cut it out. Watch out for where the seams are in the sweater, you don’t want to accidentally cut across them, or you’ll end up with a bulky piece. Also, look for any areas that may have holes or other flaws, since they won’t have closed up during felting. I cut my pieces out of the sleeve and around the neckline to maximize the amount of fabric I would have left over to use for future projects. I also saved the bottom of the sleeve pieces including the cuffs, since I might make a pair of matching mittens in the future using this method here.

Once you’ve got your pieces cut out, it is time to sew them. Since the wool is felted, you won’t need to worry about it fraying, so you don’t need to finish the edges in any way. Sew together your pieces of the hat, excluding the hat band, following the instructions of your pattern.

sewing the felted pieces of the hat

Make sure to use a zig-zag rather than a straight stitch when sewing, since this is a stretch fabric.

Instead of making a flat hat band, I decided to made a round facing. The advantage of a facing, rather than a hat band is that it flips to the inside, so it is completely hidden. This is just a style preference, you could also use a flat hat band if you prefer. To make my facing, I measured the diameter across of the opening of my hat, then measured out 2″ and cut out the circle pattern piece. My sweater had a large enough section left to cut the facing in one piece, but you might need to cut it in 2 pieces and sew them together. If so, remember to leave seam allowances!

making the hat facing

With right sides together, sew the facing to the hat.

Once you’ve got the hat sewn, it is time to form the shape of the hat. To make a form, cut a piece of cardboard into a circle the size you want your finished hat to be. I measured the beret I already had, to figure out what size I wanted. Since your hat will be wet, you need to waterproof the form, so place the cardboard piece inside a bag. I was originally going to use a dinner plate as a form (it was the exact size needed!) but then I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it out after the hat had dried without having to stretch the hat completely out of shape…or smash the plate! The cardboard turned out to be flexible enough to remove easily and it worked well.

hat all sewn up and ready to form

Now, fill a basin or sink with hot water. Submerge the hat so it is completely wet, and then slightly agitate the wool. Once it is fully soaked, take the hat out and gently press the water out. Don’t wring it, or it will stretch too much- the wool will be quite floppy! Roll the wool in a towel to pull out most of the water.

soaking the wool hat to felt

Take your cardboard form and place it inside the hat. Smooth the seams flat and shape the hat around the form. The hat will shrink as it dries, so in order to keep the opening of the hat from pulling back too wide, sew a stitch around the inner edge and slightly gather it in. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to let it dry. I placed my hat directly onto my drying rack, which ended up leaving some marks from the rods on the wool that I had to steam out, so I would recommend either letting the hat dry on a fabric mesh sweater drying rack, or placing a towel across the bars of a drying rack for the beret to sit on top of.

putting the wool beret onto the cardboard form

Once the hat is dry, you can snip the gathering stitch from the edge and then take the hat off of the form!

Not all of my seams dried completely flat, so to help shape it a little bit more, I used a tailor’s ham (actually a towel wadded inside an old t-shirt) to steam press the hat into a smoother shape. Then I pressed it flat. Make sure to use a wet press cloth, dampen the wool and lightly go over with your iron while it’s on full steam, so you don’t scorch your wool and make it go shiny.

steaming and shaping the beret once dry

Once you’ve pressed the hat into shape, it is time to tack the facing edge down, sewing through the seams to hide the stitches. After I finished the hat and tried it on, I discovered that the wool was a lot stretchier than my other berets and was quite loose. One of my other berets has a soft elastic around the edge which works well to keep the hat in place, so I added a piece of elastic along the edge of this hat. Place the elastic between the facing and the top of the hat and stitch in place by tacking it through the seams in order to hide the stitches.

sewing elastic along the edge and the facing into place

The final step is to add a button. You can either cover a button with wool, or use a decorative button. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use a covered button because the wool was so stiff, but I actually managed to push the back/shank onto the button form. If your wool is too thick to use the shank to cover your button, you can cut a circle of felt, run a gathering stitch around the edge and gather it in around the button form. (Like making a fabric yo-yo) Since it’s not a functional button, it doesn’t need to have a shank on the back and you can just sew it on like that, with the raw edges hidden underneath.

covering the button and adding it to the top of the hat

Once the button is sewn on, your hat is done. There you have it- a vintage styled felted beret, without even having to know how to knit or crochet!

the finished upcycled wool beret

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? It’s a lot of fun, since the wool is so easy to manipulate. We’ve got some more wool sweaters in our stash, and I am now wondering whether I should steal some of them to make some more hats….

Do you think you will try this and turn a shrunken sweater into something new?

wearing an upcycled wool Tanith Rowan Grevillea beret made out of a shrunken sweater

the finished beret