How Tos/Tutorials

Category Archives:How Tos/Tutorials

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!



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




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 with everything you need to make your new doll-head friend!



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




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!




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!

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts

A Pinch of Reuse this St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up! Check out these golden reuse ideas for crafts to make at home with your family and friends! 


Save those paper rolls from the landfill by reusing them into this super cute Leprechaun craft! Make mini leprechauns, green top hats, rainbow paper roll chains, and more – see our Pinterest Board for more paper roll possibilities!


Turn yourself or your little ones into a leprechaun with this easy and fun paper plate mask! Paint the plate orange, cut out the inner circle, and use construction paper to create a cute leprechaun tophat. Punch holes in the sides to tie elastic or string to wear your mask!


Avoid getting pinched this St. Patrick’s Day with these super cute and simple paper plate hats! Draw your design in the middle circle of the plate, color with markers or crayons, and cut around your design! Make sure to leave a part of your design connected to the outer ribbed edge of the plate to show off your cute hat!


Use a knife and a carrot to create a super cute shamrock stamp! Cut off the end for a smooth edge, and use a knife to cut an upside down triangle, so that the end looks like a heart. Dunk in green paint and stamp!


Reuse a plastic water bottle into a 3D shamrock craft! Just paint the bottom with green paint, cut off the bottom with a pair of scissors, and glue to your surface!


February Volunteer Spotlight: Julie Kennedy

Julie began volunteering with ACR in 2020, during a global pandemic. She has taken home numerous projects and helped us process, sort, label, and price the thousands of pounds of donations we get each month. A graphic designer by trade, Julie has also helped make craft tutorials for our social media channels to keep the community inspired in these crazy times! She was even featured as an artist in our Reuse Gallery back in November! We appreciate all of the work that Julie does for ACR and are so happy to have her as a part of the ACR family! Let’s get to know Julie a little more.



What motivates you to volunteer, and why ACR?

I was just raised that way. My mom was (and still is) a big volunteer. She volunteered at my school and in the community. I tend to volunteer with organizations that I’m passionate about… which is how I ended up volunteering at ACR!


Are you more into the arts aspect of ACR or the conservation aspect and why?

That’s a tough question… both are important. I am a scrapbooker and card maker…. So I am always wanting to learn new techniques. I used to shop at garage sales and thrift stores to find cheaper items, as well as items I couldn’t find in local stores. I like to try new art techniques without investing a ton of money. Now I get all that from ACR! Plus, I love that I’m helping keep items out of the landfill. So many things can be reused. I also donate as much as I can to ACR. I have a child who, like all children, outgrows her interests as the years go by. So I take those things she’s outgrown and donate them to ACR. 


Where else have you/do you volunteer?

I have volunteered at my daughter’s schools over the years, as well as the local SPCA and Austin Pets Alive. I’ve also volunteered at a few Special Olympics.


What do you enjoy the most out of volunteering for ACR?

I enjoy feeling like I’m part of something important… something that makes a difference in our community. And I like the people… and I can’t wait to meet more in person after this pandemic is over! 


What do you do when you are not volunteering at ACR?

I work full-time on my freelance graphic design business. But I travel whenever possible with my husband and my kiddo. Of course, with the pandemic, that’s on hold. So I make cards and think about catching up on my scrapbooking (for some reason, that always gets pushed to the bottom of the list). I have decided there are four hobbies involved when crafting… there is the watching of YouTube tutorials; the purchasing of craft supplies; the organization of craft supplies; and if time permits… the actual crafting. 

I also love to read and spend time with friends and my dog. I am also taking tap-dancing classes… just because it’s always something I’ve wanted to do. 


Here’s a sampling of Julie’s incredible handmade cards:

Make: DIY Statues


Created by Reuse Specialist Sabina Dodge, these miniature, stone-like, DIY statues add interest to any garden or shelf. Try making them yourself by purchasing a kit from our online store. Be sure to share what you make by emailing us at or tagging us on Instagram @austincreativereuse


Supply list:
  • 3 cork squares per statue
  • Small bag of moss
  • Small bag of small rocks
  • Trophy top(s)
  • White, Grey, or other neutral paint
  • 1 sheet green felt


1. Remove any parts of the trophy you don’t want or that makes it look too modern.

2. Apply a first coat of paint to the figure. Holding the bottom screw with a clamp or pliers works great

3. Let coat dry while starting on base

4. Use a stick, or just the bottom screw of the figure to poke a hole in the middle of the cork squares. (Alternatively, wait until you have completed Step 7 to make the holes.)

5. Stack 3 cork squares to form your base, this will be tall enough for the screw on the bottom of the figure.

6. Line up the holes in the corks, then break off pieces around the outside of the cork to make the shape more irregular and natural looking. Each cork piece should be smaller than the one below it. This will add more dimension to the base.

7. Glue the cork shapes together, making sure to keep the holes lined up. 

8. Attach the figure to your base. The screw on the bottom of the figure will hold it in place, you can glue it in place if you want.

9. Using glue, spread the moss around the base, covering the cork. If a little cork shows through, it’s ok, as it’s still an earthy color.

10. Being very light with your glue or adhesive, sprinkle or place some rocks around the base, they’re great for filling in little gaps between the moss.

11. Using a slightly darker shade of paint (mixing a tiny bit of brown into grey works well), and a stiff brush, dry brush the figure to make it look more weathered.

You’re done!


Instructions for an Alternate Statue

1. After painting this figure, I decided I didn’t think the ball she was holding fit what I wanted, so I broke that hand off. Ancient statues often have limbs or other pieces broken off, so even damaged trophy tops will work great for this project!

2. Follow steps 4-7 above to make the cork base.

3. Cut a piece of felt a bit bigger than your base, then glue it over the cork base, pressing it down into the nooks and crannies of the base so it has more texture and dimension.

4. Trim all but a tiny bit of excess around the edge after gluing, then fold it under the bottom, gluing it in place.

5. Cut a small hole in the felt to match the cork, then attach your figure per step 8.

6. Decorate your base and figure how you want like in steps 9-11

Note: Using felt to cover the cork is nice if you want a more minimalist base, or if the brown cork doesn’t fit with your idea.

Make: Valentine’s Day Snail Mail


Want to send a socially distant hug to a loved one during the pandemic? Check out our Valentine’s Snail Mail Card Making Bundle at or use your own crafty supplies to create some snail mail Love to send & support our USPS! Our newest Shift Lead, Diana creating the directions below to show your friends and family some love this Valentine’s Day.


What You’ll Need:

  • Scissors
  • Gluestick
  • Paper (we used double-sided scrapbook paper, 12”x12”)
  • Envelopes (any size will work, we used an 5.25” x 7.25” envelope)
  • Folded card for your note
  • Sticker or tape


Optional materials:

  • Stamps
  • Stamp Pad
  • Glitter or Embossing material
  • Paper punches
  • Postage stamps (vintage or regular)
  • Washi tape
  • Baker’s twine or ribbon



Step 1: Gather supplies that inspire you — we are using scrapbook paper and any size envelope.

Step 2: Using the flap of the envelope as a template, let the envelope overhang the corner of the paper by half an inch on 2 sides – trace along the flap of the envelope & cut the paper along this line. Place the liner inside the envelope and adjust as needed, then glue to the inside of the envelope.

Step 3: Cut out a traditional heart shape from the same paper or any you choose.

Step 4: Fold the sides of the heart in towards the center – the trick here is to keep the folds parallel, creating as straight a fold as possible. It’s okay if the sides of the heart are not symmetrical – it adds to the charm!

Step 5: Fold the top of the heart down so that the folds you just made are divided/folded in half and the top and bottom edges of the fold meet.

Step 6: Fold the point of the heart shape up to create an envelope shape and secure with a sticker or wax seal (once you’ve written your note, of course!).

Step 7: Let your creativity run wild! Add any elements you like such as a handmade card with embossing, matching tags, paper confetti, and some baker’s twine to gather your goodies together in a pretty package.

Step 8: Decorate the front of your envelope and add your favorite postage stamps. If the envelope is super thick you may need extra postage.

Here are some other examples of cards created using materials found at Austin Creative Reuse!

Make: DIY Dixit Game

DIY Dixit Game Tutorial!

Do you want an excuse for you and your family/friends to play around with collage? Have a go at making your own Dixit game!

James Talon, one of our talented Reuse Specialists, created this step-by-step tutorial to guide you along the way. There is an accompanying video that gives you 20 tips for creating surreal collages, plus, we also have kits available in our online store!

Let’s get started!

A completed set of Dixit cards, created by James

What is Dixit?

This is a game that relies solely on having surreal artwork on a deck of cards, so it’s super flexible and fun to make, and even more fun to play! It’s similar to the popular games Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, but think artwork instead of words. Everyone gets a chance to think outside the box in this really fun game!


What’s the game like?

The goal is to get the most points by the end. Everyone gets dealt a hand of cards which all contain surreal artwork, and players take turns being the storyteller. When it’s the storyteller’s turn, they look at their own hand of cards and pick one for that round. The storyteller gives the other players a hint at what their card might be by either telling a story, making a joke, giving a vague one word clue; whatever they want! All the other players look at their hand and choose a card that they think best matches the clue given that round. Then the cards are anonymously displayed in front of everyone… and it’s time to vote!  Points are assigned based on votes, and winners are the ones who have their cards voted on. Complete details about gameplay mechanics can be found here.


Sounds fun, what do I need to make my own Dixit?


Basic supplies:
  • Sturdy, matching file folders (or anything that would work as the back of the cards, such as empty cereal boxes)
  • Mod podge
  • Brushes (for painting and applying mod podge)
  • Acrylic paint
  • Water cup
  • Rag or paper towels
  • Scissors
  • Plastic wrap
  • Something heavy to press down on drying cards (such as a stack of books)

Ideas for sourcing collage material:
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Children’s books
  • Illustrative art (think of art that’s meant to tell a story or convey something specific, rather than art for the wall)
  • Abstract artwork
  • Vintage magazines
  • National geographic
  • Artistic or vintage photographs
  • Wall paint samples
  • Calendars
  • Sheet music
  • Maps
  • Other 2D stuff!

Optional, but helpful:
  • Other collage tools, such as: punches, flat, non-3D embellishments, mats, and cutting equipment
  • Paper cutter (to trim your file folders evenly into cards)
  • Laminator (makes the cards more durable)


Okay I have the supplies… How do I make the game?


Step 1: Trim the file folders into same size cards

After trimming off the non-rectangular elements of the file folders, I divided them evenly into thirds. You can choose to follow the example below, or pick whatever dimensions you prefer for your cards to be!

You need a minimum of 86 cards for a viable deck, but you can make as many as you want!

I used a paper cutter and some rulers because I wanted my cards to be exactly the same size. You could also look at getting sturdy card stock that’s pre-cut to a certain size if you want! The sturdier the better though, unless you have a laminator!


Step 2: Tear out background ideas

I used all kinds of things (listed above in the collage materials list) so look around your house or visit ACR to find more two-dimensional things that would make for an interesting backdrop!

I put potentials in a folder labeled backgrounds. There’s no need to cut them to size at this point in time, as you’re not even sure you will be using them!


Step 3: Cut out interesting characters

This is the most time-consuming step, but it’s also the most rewarding later on. Imagine trying to build a house out of Legos… if you had to carve every single Lego as you were building it! The same principle applies here.

Me and some friends spent some time cutting out characters before we went about designing our scenes. It was totally worth splitting the days, and we were shocked at how creative the scenes became!

If you’re sure you’re going to use a character, go ahead and finely cut out at least the top portion of its head and shoulders so you can easily compose a scene later. For other potentials, all you need to do is roughly cut it out, because you can always refine it later if you decide to use it.


Step 4: Organize characters and subjects

When you’re making 86 cards, you need a lot of organization to do it efficiently! I suggest setting up some folders with labels. That way, when you’re trying to find something for your frowning horse character to wear on his head, you’ll have a folder of objects you can dig through to find a perfect hat!

Suggested categories include:

    • Small, medium, and large characters (illustrated)
    • Objects
    • Symbols
    • Photographic / real life
    • Stickers


Step 5: Arrange a scene

This is the most playful and fun step! So much potential… Should the smiling dolphin man be dancing in a winter forest..? Or on a giant book! Don’t cancel any ideas just because they don’t make sense… If anything, it will add to the surrealness! 


Step 6: Glue down the scene

This is where it pays to be patient and thorough. Using your brush, carefully apply a small amount of mod podge to the entire front of the card, without getting any glue on the backside (otherwise your card will have a distinguishing mark).

Apply your background and make sure there are no ripples. Let it dry under something flat, like a stack of heavy books wrapped in plastic wrap (so that the cards don’t stick to the books, and peel off when dry).

Keep track of your characters since they will be separated from their background for this brief amount of time. I usually take a photograph before I separate them so I don’t forget any elements, then I put them in their own folder labeled In Progress.

Once your background is flat and dry, it’s much easier to glue down the characters. Again make sure that you completely cover the backside of the character before applying it to the backdrop. Any loose pieces will stick up as you play with this deck. Dry your card the same way as before.

If you don’t plan on doing any painting with acrylic paint, you can go ahead and skip the next step, moving right into Step 8, the final mod podge layer. This way you only dry your cards twice instead of three times.


Step 7: Blend with acrylic paint

To achieve a sense of surrealness to your scenes, it helps to tone down the collage aspect of the cards by blending elements with paint. 


Step 8: Add final mod podge layer

Finish it off with a layer of mod podge on top of the entire card before putting it under the plastic wrapped stack of books to dry for a final time.

When your cards are done, you can also laminate them if you have the opportunity! I recommend leaving the backs plain, without mod podge, but you can experiment on a test card to see what you prefer!

And that’s it! You’re done with the art and creation part. Now it’s time to learn the mechanics of the game so you can play with your friends!

TIP: You can try making one card all the way through with these instructions just to see the process, and then if you want to make a lot of cards more quickly, you can break it down into the big steps as I described above, not moving on before you’ve cut out all the characters for many cards, and so on.



Classroom Maker Space Inspires Reuse and Creativity

A Maker Space Provides Enrichment to Any Learning Environment

Through tinkering and creative exploration, reuse inspires the engineers, designers, architects, and artists of tomorrow. One South Austin teacher is using reuse to inspire bright futures in the lives of her students. Lori Dinsmore, 1st-2nd grade teacher of the Whole Life Learning Center, believes in the power of reuse to foster tangible problem solving and hands on learning for her budding sapphires. 

Ms. Lori’s Maker Space was inspired by the engineering design process, encouraging students to design a solution, test their hypothesis, and improve on their methods. This process supports problem solving skills and critical thinking. Ms. Lori also uses the space to promote explorative creativity among the students through art projects and free build time. “It’s more about the process than the product. We are promoting a growth mindset and teaching the students how to improve through resilience.”

Why did you choose to create a maker space for your classroom?

“My students are very hands on, they like to build and construct things with 3D materials. I’ve watched their interests grow in different engineering projects, like working with clay and building spiderwebs from clothes hangers, and I know they are a group of problem solvers.”

What supplies do you keep in your maker space?

All of the supplies my Maker Space came from Austin Creative Reuse, including the plastic bins and magnetic spice containers used to store materials. Some of the materials I keep on hand include:

  • Index cards
  • Cotton balls
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Miscellaneous hardware such as nuts, bolts and washers
  • Wheels 
  • Paper clips 
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Straws
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Plastic cups of various sizes
  • Cupcake/muffin wrappers
  • Plastic silverware
  • Paper plates
  • Shoelaces
  • Tape
  • Wooden dowels
  • Rubber bands
  • Play-doh
  • Glue guns 
  • Glue sticks
  • Plastic lids (found in bucket section of ACR)

I keep it all organized using printable labels similar to these:

Here are some of the projects Ms. Lori’s students have worked on:


Art Project

“Inspired by the book, Snowballs by Lois Elhert, we experimented with using non traditional materials from the maker space to create snowmen designs.”


Free-Build Project

These are not related to a specific engineering challenge. A plan is made for what materials are needed and how the student plans to execute their project, then they visit the maker space and gather the materials they need for their creation. 

The beginnings of a submarine

A water slide

Roller skates

Engineering Challenge

In an engineering challenge, students are introduced to a problem and given the materials to create a solution. Here’s an example of a challenge executed by Ms. Lori’s class:

Example of a completed catapult

Catapult: Make a catapult to test how far you can launch a pom pom 

Materials: Popsicle Sticks, Rubber bands, Pom pom, Plastic spoon, yardstick 

Materials for each group of 2-3 students: • 6 rubber bands • 10 popsicle sticks • 1 plastic spoon • 1 large pom pom (modify with more or less materials to make it easier or more challenging)


  1. Introduce challenge to students. Optional physical science connection: Mini-lesson on stored/potential energy, kinetic energy, simple machine: lever 
  2. Students can work individually, or in groups of 2-3. Students will sketch a plan with their team of their first draft design for their catapult. 
  3. After reviewing design, give students the materials listed above. They can begin building at this point. Teacher can choose time limit for build based on student needs and level of challenge. 
  4. Students test out their catapult and measure the distance using yardsticks. 
  5. After measuring, students go back and work to improve their design to see if they can make it go farther. 
  6. Students present their designs to the class and explain their building process. 
Other ideas for engineering challenges: 
  • Build the tallest tower you can that is able to hold a soup can using only tape and pieces of paper
  • Build a marble run 
  • Create a soda bottle airplane and test out different aerodynamic wing shapes out of cardboard
  • Build a raft that floats out of materials in the maker space, test it out in a tub of water by adding pennies for weight. 

Make: DIY Mini Sensory Board

DIY Mini Sensory Board


Make a mini sensory board for your little ones using extra materials! This simple assemblage can be a fun craft to make with your kids, or a great way to use up those scraps as well as keep those little hands busy. Our Reuse Specialist, Blessing, walks you through the steps below.


  • 1 8”x10” or larger picture frame (w/ removable back)
  • 1 sheet of felt (optional)
  • Glue gun & glue sticks
  • A variety of materials with interesting textures (make sure they’re kid-safe, if making for a small child)


  1. Remove the glass/plastic front of the frame. 
  2. Hot glue the felt sheet to the inner backing of the frame and cut off excess.

3.  Arrange your textured materials on the board; cut to desired shape and size if applicable. If using yarn, cut a strand, tie a knot in the middle, and glue all the knots together on one spot of the board for a fun fur patch.

4.  Hot glue materials into place. Make sure they’re securely glued onto the board. 

5.  Fit the board back into the frame and enjoy!



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