How Tos/Tutorials

Category Archives:How Tos/Tutorials

Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Evans

 

Each month, we highlight one of the incredible folks who help to keep Austin Creative Reuse running. This month, it’s our HBIC – Jennifer Evans! Jenn works tirelessly behind the scenes as the Executive Director of ACR. She started out as a board member several years ago and loved it so much, she joined the staff in 2020. Over the last year, she has overseen the rapid growth of ACR, steered us through a pandemic, and spread the reuse gospel to anyone who would listen. Here’s your chance to learn more about the woman behind the scenes! Also, be sure to check out her tutorial for a DIY weaving board!

 

How did you find Austin Creative Reuse?

My first visit to ACR was as a shopper at our first space in The Linc.  I fell in love immediately with the colors and the textures and the treasure hunt.  I applied to join the Board of Directors that day and spent the next three and a half years as ACR’s Sustainability Chair before joining the staff in 2020.

 

What’s your favorite part about working at ACR?

The JOY.  Being eco-friendly often means making a sacrifice, but at ACR being green is fun and accessible.  Every donation we receive and every visit to our center is a joyful contribution to making a more sustainable future for our community.  

 

Are you an artist, crafter, or maker? What mediums do you work with?

I don’t feel like a natural-born creative, but our staff and volunteers have definitely helped me learn to get comfortable with experimenting with art and trying new things.  You really can’t do creativity wrong.  My kids love to create, especially with natural materials.  We’ve rolled beeswax candles, made bath salts, printed fabrics and made lots of homemade strawberry jam from my grandma’s secret recipe.

 

What do you do when you’re not working at ACR?

My family bought a van last year, which we are converting into a camper for our family of five.  We’re doing the work ourselves, so I’m learning my way around power tools, insulation, carpentry and wiring diagrams.  Traveling the world has always been my joy, and this is a way for us to continue exploring with three young kiddos.

 

What’s the craziest thing you found in donation mountain?

I love it when donors include personal notes about what they donate.  Knowing that an object came from a beloved aunt or was brought back on a family trip gives an insight into the object’s story.  

 


About Jenn:

 

Jenn spent much of her childhood traveling up and down the east coast from Canada to Florida in the back of her parents’ baby blue 1970s Econoline camper van. While it might have been frowned upon by today’s standards (there were no seats in the back of that van, let alone seat belts!), her fond memories of days on the beach, hikes in the woods and nights spent around the campfire started her down a path toward environmental stewardship that she now hopes to instill in her own children and share with her community.

Jenn is a graduate of Duke University’s Environmental Science & Policy Program and the University of Chicago Law School. She previously served four years on ACR’s Board of Directors, and was the Deputy Director of Austin nonprofit Families in Nature and an environmental law associate at the global law firm Allen & Overy LLP. She sits on Austin ISD’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee and is active in the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative from the National League of Cities. Jenn founded Nature Playdate, a nature community for Austin families, and is active in several other local environmental and community groups.

When she’s not out promoting the beauty of creative reuse, Jenn can be found chasing around her three wild kids and working on their old camper van with her husband, Kelly. She digs travel, the ocean, cool mountain breezes and admiring the creativity of all the folks who pass through the doors at ACR. You can reach Jenn at execdirector@austincreativereuse.org.

You can also follow her on Instagram @natureplaydate

 

Jenn’s (and her kiddo’s) first visit to ACR!

 

Beeswax candles

Make: DIY, Kid-Friendly Picture Frame Loom

 

 

Curious to try weaving or want to introduce weaving to a child?  Make this simple loom from an old picture frame.  Be sure to get the kids to help – building the loom and weaving are both great ways to practice fine motor skills, hand eye-hand coordination, concentration and confidence.  Use the loom over and over again for all your weaving projects.

 

Materials – for the loom
  • Wooden picture frame, glass removed
  • Small nails
  • Hammer
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

 

Materials – for your weaving
  • Yarn – all sorts, colors and textures
  • Scissors
  • Wide tooth comb
  • Small piece of matboard, thick cardstock or a wide wooden craft stick

 

 

Choosing a frame

Any size or shape of frame will work.  The larger the frame, the larger your weaving can be.  Real wood is preferred over particle board or similar materials which are more likely to splinter when you hammer in the nails.  Hot tip:  If the front of your frame is beveled or ridged, try flipping it over.  The backside is usually flat and may be a more cooperative surface.

 

 

 

Making the loom

 

1. Using your ruler and pencil, make tick marks along two opposite edges of the frame to indicate where you will place your nails.  I used ½ inch marks on the grown up version of the loom and 1 inch marks on the kid-friendly version.  Spacing your marks out more makes the weaving easier for small hands.  You can also go smaller than ½ inch, which will allow for a tighter weaving.

 

 

2.  Hammer in your nails at the marks.  If you start at the end nearest your hammering hand, you’ll have more room to hold the nail with your other hand.  To keep your nails at the same height, try using a piece of scrap wood tucked under the heads.

 

 

Kid Job:  Kids love hammering!  If they’re not old enough to do it all themselves, try getting each nail started with one or two hits, and then let them do the rest.  Perfectly even and level nails are not required for this project!

 

 

Once both lines of nails are complete, you made a loom – yay! – and now you’re ready to weave.

 

Starting your weaving

 

Let’s start with some weaving terminology.  There are two sets of yarn in weaving.  The first set is called the “warp yarn.”  This is the yarn that is first wrapped onto the loom and forms the scaffolding for the weaving.  The second set is called the “weft yarns.”  These are the yarns that you will weave through the warp yarns.  The heddle is the device that you use to pull the weft yarns through the weaving.  The loom comb is a device for tightening each line of weft yarns.  A wide tooth comb for hair makes a great loom comb.

 

1. First, warp the loom. Tie the end of the yarn into the loom at one corner.  Thread the yarn across the loom around the first nail, then back across the loom around the next nail and then back across the loom again.  Continue until the whole loom is warped.  You can skip nails to adjust the size or tightness of your weaving.  (I skipped the last few nails because I ran out of yarn – perfection is not required!)  Tie the end of the yarn to the loom.

 

Kid Job:  Warping the loom is a great job for the kiddos.  It practices fine motor skills, and if you make a mistake, you can just back up and try again.

 

 

2. Then, make a heddle.  Use scissors or an Exacto knife to cut two grooves into the end of a piece of mat board or large wooden craft stick.  I used a dog bone-shaped piece of matboard that I found at ACR.  The size was perfect for small hands – grown ups might prefer something a little less wide. Wrap your weft yarns around the heddle lengthwise.

 


3. Then, weave your weft yarns.  Tie the end of your first weft yarn at the corner of the loom.  Use the heddle to weave over and under each warp yarn, repeating until you get all the way across the loom.  Then weave, over and under, back across the warp yarns in the other direction, being sure to alternate the over and under stitches.  Use your comb to tighten lines, if needed.  This basic over and under weave is called a plain weave, but don’t be afraid to experiment with more advanced techniques on your DIY loom.

 

 

4. Switch to a different weft yarn at any point.  Try different colors, textures and thicknesses of yarn.  You might even want to experiment by weaving in sparkly bits, leaves, tiny things or anything else you’d like to try.  Kids especially love this.

 


5. To finish, tie the last weft yarn to the last warp yarn and tie off any loose pieces where you changed weft yarns.  Remove the weaving from the loom by gently lifting the warp yarns off each nail.  Knot off the warp yarns in any design you like.


6. Admire your work and plan your next project!  You can use this loom again and again.

 

Make: DIY Kaleidoscope

In this multi-dimensional tutorial from ACR staff member, Ericka, we’ll show you how to make a cool kaleidoscope out of materials you may already have lying around the house! Little ones should have adult supervision when making their creation.

 

 

 

Supplies:
  • Old CDs or DVDs
  • Cardstock or Craft Foam
  • Ruler
  • Pen, Pencil, or Marker
  • Scissors and/or Utility Knife
  • Tape
  • Glue Gun
  • Optional:
    • Thumb Tack
    • Dowel, Pencil, or Chopstick
    • Clear Plastic Lid
    • Colorful Embellishments

 

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Take your CDs and slowly cut in half, some CDs are a little more brittle and may break, get a few extra CDs just in case! Then draw two parallel lines on the CD that are 1 inch apart. slowly cut along the lines. You will do this step three times!

 

 

  1. Tape your three cut CD pieces and fold them into a triangle! As you can see, our kaleidoscope has pointy edges. On to the next step!

 

 

  1. To add a little barrier between the CDs and our face, we’ll make a cylinder to go around our mirror triangles. Grab your foam or cardstock and plug in your glue gun! You will then place your CD pieces in the foam and measure out a 1/8th inch barrier on each side of the kaleidoscope and mark with a pen or sharpie. Then measure 5 inches from the edge of your foam. Cut out the rectangle. Your rectangle should measure 5 inches by 4 5/8th inches.

 

 

  1. Take your glue gun and lay some glue onto the long edge of the CD triangle, then press it near the edge of your foam sheet. Roll your CD triangle until you get to the edge of your foam. Glue the edge down! You’re basically done with your kaleidoscope. Look through the kaleidoscope, so fun!

 

 

These next steps are extra! Just to add a little more color to your kaleidoscope.

 

  1. Take a pencil, chopstick, or dowel and cut it down (here’s where you can use a box cutter) to be only an inch longer than your kaleidoscope. If using a pencil, don’t cut off the eraser side!

 

 

6. Take a plastic lid and poke a hole into the center with a tack. Grab your colorful objects and get to gluing! Don’t place any objects on the hole you made, we’ll be using this later! The more items you put onto your lid, the more colorful, so fill it up.

 

 

7. Place the tack through the lid and then push the tack into your chopstick, dowel, or pencil (if using a pencil, stick through the eraser.

 

 

8. Tape your stick onto the side of your kaleidoscope, near the top and the bottom. Wrap a couple times for extra security and use cute tape to make it festive!

 

Make: DIY Cat Toys!

DIY Cat Toys! 

 

 

Make “kicker” cat toys easily with a few things from ACR, and customize them for your fluffy children’s needs 🙂

 

 

Materials: 
  • Fabric Remnants from ACR (the thicker, upholstery fabrics usually work the best because they are tougher materials and harder for your pets to rip apart) 
  • Crinkly cellophane, fabric scraps, paper scraps or whatever you want to stuff the inside of your toys with. (I choose crinkly plastic because my cats love it the most!) 
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks or liquid stitch glue (optional, if you want to glue them together instead of sew) 
  • Sewing machine (optional, if you want to sew them together instead of glue) Catnip (optional) 
  • Feathers, rope, bells, or any other extras you want to include 

 

Crafting time! 
  1. Remove any unwanted labels, etc from your fabric remnant that you want to use as your main body of the toy. 

 

2. Cut the fabric to your needs. If you sew, remember to give yourself enough room for a seam allowance.

 

3. Put the fabric together in your desired shape.

 

4. Sew (or glue) it together, leaving a hole in the shape so we can stuff it later. (if sewing- remember to sew the reverse side so it flips inside out to the right side!) 

 

5. (If sewing- turn it inside out to the right side of the fabric to prepare for stuffing)

 

6. Stuff away! My cats love the crinkly plastic, so I chose that to stuff with, along with fabric scraps as an extra filler. You can also add things like bells for extra fun. If desired, add catnip too! 

 

7. Sew (or glue) your final edge shut when the toy is stuffed to your cat’s desired squish-level. I sewed in feathers as well to this edge for an extra layer of fun- and because my cats love toys with feathers! 

 

Tada!

 

 

Cat Approved!

 

Make: DIY Jellyfish Floor Lampshade

Completed jellyfish lampshade by Reuse Specialist, James Talon!

 

Looking for the next cool thing to add to your house or just a fun DIY project to embark on? Well, this Jellyfish Floor Lampshade might actually help with more than just being Super Cool Looking! After learning about how my sleep schedule is affected by both the level of brightness of lights at night, and if a light is above eye level, I wanted to fix that!

Turns out that overhead lighting hits the cells on the bottom retina, and (of course) those are the ones most relevant to being able to sleep at night. And despite what people say about blue light, it’s not just blue light that’s harmful at night. It’s also the brightness of light that impacts a sleep schedule. “A mere 8 lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night-light—has an effect [on circadian rhythm]” said Steven Lockley, a sleep researcher at Harvard. So yeah, making a far dimmer floor lampshade (emphasis on the shade) seemed like the proper modification to do with my existing lamp. And so far for me, I can report better energy level at work and feeling more rested just from switching to dim lamps like this at night!

So how does one make this healthful, yet IKEA-designer-worthy DIY lampshade? It’s actually a fairly simple process!

 

Supplies Needed:

 

 

  • Hot glue gun, and gluesticks
  • Old printer paper stack

You might be able to use other paper but it needs to be fairly sturdy to hold all the weight of its tentacles. And on the other hand, too thick of paper will prevent light from coming through by the time you get to the third layer. You can test it by holding several sheets up to your light. You want to see enough light coming through that it’d still be a functional, yet dim lampshade.

  • Mod Podge
  • 3′ Inflatable ball

It can be bigger or smaller depending on how big your existing lampshade is. You’ll be covering about half of the ball to make a “half moon” shape, so keep that in mind when measuring it.

  • Bits of string

I used a leftover grapefruit size ball of yarn. I cut them into lots of 1.5′ – 2′ strings, (varying the size intentionally).

  • Floor lamp with LED* bulb

NOTE: The bulb MUST be LED. Do NOT use other bulbs. Any other bulb that heats up can start a fire using only the following instructions (i.e. without building a lampshade harp). This tutorial does not cover how to build a lampshade harp.

I used a Ring Light that came with an extendable tripod.

  • Sheer fabric

You need enough length that it almost hits the floor when held up to your existing floor lamp. I used 8 strips that were about 12″ wide, total.

  • Other “tentacle” pieces, get creative!

I found iridescent clear mardi gras beads, and some white ex-Christmas floral to hang down.

  • Actual jellyfish reference photos – it helps to achieve the “look”! You can look around your house for pieces to add using an inspirational photo.
  • Pencil

 

 

Instructions

1. Inflate your ball. Rip up several sheets of paper until you get lots of palm-sized pieces.

2. Mix together mod podge and water in a small bowl until you get about a 50/50 ratio.

3. Set the ball so the hole to inflate it is at the bottom and won’t be covered. Dip the paper into the glue mixture and lay it on the top of the ball. Continue laying down paper strips until you get about halfway down the ball, a “half moon” shape. Then start again at the top, working down and add 3-4 layers of paper total.

4. Test by holding it over your lamp light to be sure you went far enough down the ball that it will cover the lamp light.

5. Leave it to dry overnight or longer. Make sure it’s completely dry – it’ll be rock solid to the touch.

 

 

6. Deflate the ball and carefully peel it off.

7. Put the paper mache jellyfish “bell” over and on top of the lamp until it’s even and balanced. Mark where the lamp will touch the top by tracing around it with the pencil.

 

 

8. Use the hot glue gun to adhere sheer fabric strips for the “oral arms” close to the top of the “bell”, from the inside. I made four oral arms, according to the jellyfish anatomy diagram.

9. At the bottom of the bell, from the inside, I glued down the string at varying points – keeping some closer together, some farther apart, up to about 6″ inside the bell. Nature is messy, so I avoided making it all perfectly straight for a more organic and lifelike jellyfish look.

10. After that, you can glue on any extra pieces you’ve collected! Decide whether they’re tentacles or part of the oral arms. I used the mardi gras beads as tentacles, and the ex-Christmas floral as the oral arms by wrapping the sheer around each piece and glueing it down at the top. Balance the jellyfish over your LED light and boom – you have a new conversation-piece! Enjoy!

 

Turn Anything Into a Lamp!

 
In this easy tutorial, find out how ACR Board President Carole LeClair turns old household materials into unique lights for her home!

 

 

All supplies are found at ACR!
From our Container Section:
  • 1 Vintage Maxwell House tin – 25 cents 
  • From Architecture Section:
  • 1 decorative globe – $1
  • 1 switched light bulb cord – $1
  • 1 candelabra style LED bulb – 25 cents
From Craft:
  • 1 spool narrow duct tape – 25 cents
From my tool box:
  • tin snips

 

 

Instructions:

Use the tin snips to cut a small slot on the back side of the tin.  This will serve as the slot for the light bulb cord to go through.  Secure the light bulb socket using duct tape.  This was the fidgety part as it took a couple of tries to find a system that worked.  Add the bulb and then the globe. 

Let there be light!  I use this cutie on my back porch to add a bit of late evening mood lighting.

 

 

Here are a few more of Carole’s light creations. Thanks for always shedding light on the possibilities of reuse!

 

Creative Reuse in the Garden

Incorporate Creative Reuse in Your Outdoor Learning Spaces

Nature is the ultimate creative reuser.  Nutrients, water and other resources are constantly reused in any healthy ecosystem, meaning nothing goes to waste.  You, too, can use creative reuse to brighten up your home or school garden with decorative, sensory or functional projects made from materials that can be found at Austin Creative Reuse.

Our neighboring friends over at Harris Elementary School are using materials from ACR to create pollinator watering stations for their school garden.  Pollinators like bees and butterflies need water to survive just like we do.  Providing a pollinator watering station in your garden will help attract and protect these powerhouses of nature.

 

Pollinator watering station made with a pie tin, rocks, shells and marbles 

 

Creating your own pollinator water station is easy – you’ll just need a few things that you can find around your house or at ACR.
  • First, find a shallow pan or dish – an old pie plate or an upside down frisbee work great. 
  • Next, add a few small items for bees and butterflies to land on while they get refreshed. These are super important! Bees and butterflies can’t drink while they’re flying so they’ll need a little perch above the water. Rocks, marbles, shells, upside down measuring or baking cups and lids from glass jars are all good options.
  • Finally, put the dish in your garden, fill it with a bit of water (not too much!) and feel good about how you’re supporting our environment.  Refresh the water as needed to keep the pollinators coming back!

 

Here are some other ways to bring reuse to your outdoor space with materials that can be found at ACR:
  • Create plant markers by drawing on discarded ceramic tiles or laminate samples with permanent markers
  • Make a garden mosaic with broken tiles and small found objects
  • Create a bunting from fabric samples 
  • Hang a wind chime made from laminate samples, bells, old keys or other items
  • Build a birdhouse using scrap wood or wood flooring samples
  • Make a garden statue from old trophies

 

Garden mosaics made during an ACR Kids’ Workshop pre-pandemic

 

Garden statues created by ACR Reuse Specialist, Sabina Dodge

 

The possibilities are endless!  Be sure to share your projects by tagging ACR on Facebook or Instagram or emailing your photos to us at info@austincreativereuse.org. Happy reusing!

Using Earth to Make Art: Decoupage Seashells

 

This Earth Day, we are encouraging you to use your surroundings to make art. Here’s an easy tutorial to turn natural shells into decorative trinket bowls for your home, office, classroom, or shop!

 

 

Supplies:
  • Seashells
  • Tissue paper or printed napkins
  • White paint
  • Metallic paint
  • Mod Podge (or diluted Elmer’s glue)
  • Paintbrushes

 

Instructions:

 

Step 1

Use the white paint to cover any dark spots on the inside of the seashell. Let dry. Add as many coats as necessary.

 

Step 2

Lay the tissue paper on the inside of the seashell, and glue the paper to the shell by painting diluted glue on top. Rip off the excess tissue paper. Let dry.

 

Step 3

Use the metallic paint to cover up the edges of the shell and to give the tissue paper a nice finish.

 

Step 4

Use as a trinket bowl for your rings, keys, or knick knacks. Makers can also use these as a container or presentation for their goods.

 

Happy Earth Day from Austin Creative Reuse!

Make: DIY Doll Head Planters

Make a Doll Head Planter!

Make it Halloween year round with this creepy-but-cute Doll Head Planter tutorial by our Online Store Coordinator, Bianca! Super simple to make, grab a kit from ShopACR.org with everything you need to make your new doll-head friend!

 

 

Supplies:
  • One doll head
  • Paint brushes
  • Polymer clay
  • Paint

 

 

Instructions:

Step One – With the clay, roll some clay to where it stretches about 3 1/2″ and about 1/4″ or more thick to pose as a base. Then with more clay, make two small balls and press it to flatten it, about 1/2″ diameter. (Apply a tiny dash of olive oil to help soften the clay if it’s too hard.)

Make a tube of clay for the base, and flatten two balls of clay for the eyes

Tip: add olive oil to soften the clay

 

 

Step Two – Wrap the rolled clay around the neck of the doll head, adjust as needed. Then place the flatten circles inside the head where the eyes are and press until secured.

Wrap clay tube around neck, place flattened circles on the inside of the eyes

 

 

Step Three – Set your oven to 250-275 degrees and let the doll head bake for about 5-8 minutes or until the clay hardens.

 

 

Step Four – Paint! 

 

 

Step Five – Add two or three pebbles to the bottom of your new planter (optional) to prevent soil spilling out and then add soil as well as your favorite plant.

 

 

Make: Fabric Sample Stuffies!

Fabric Sample Stuffies!

Use up those fabric samples and scraps with this super easy stuffy tutorial by our Communications Specialist, Kaysie! Make these with your kids, create gifts for your loved ones, or snuggle up with your own creation! We have kits available in our online store so you can make stuffies of your own!

 

 

You will need:
  • Fabric samples or scraps
  • Scissors
  • Fabric marker
  • Embroidery needle and thread
  • Buttons
  • Filling (polyfill, dry rice or beans, etc)

 

 

Sewing Techniques

You can use different sewing techniques in this tutorial, based on the look you want for your stuffy. I suggest the following techniques:

running stitch

over stitch

blanket stitch

 

Making Your Stuffy:

Step 1 – Pick out your fabrics. Books of fabric samples have the perfect size fabrics for these cute little stuffies!

 

 

Step 2 – Figure out what kind of stuffy you want to make. Draw your template on the backside of the fabric with the fabric marker and cut. Make sure you cut out a front and a back!

 

 

Step 3 – Sew details onto the fabric pieces, i.e. buttons for eyes or embroidered details.

 

 

Step 4 – Sew together the main pieces using any of the stitches mentioned above, making sure to leave a gap to stuff!

 

 

Step 5 – Fill with polyfil or dry beans. Use a pencil to get in the hard-to-reach corners.

 

 

Step 6 – Sew the opening closed, finishing your stuffy.

 

 

Step 7 – Snuggle!

 

 

TIP!

Use a hairdryer to get those pesky stickers off the back of your fabric samples. Sew directly through them, or use the sticker fabric to create a fabric scrap collage!

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