Posts Tagged ‘upcycling’


Ok, all bar one of these have already been sold but there’s still one left in my Etsy shop, so snap it up quickly!

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I had LOTS of fun in my studio on Tuesday…

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…although it turns out that making interesting words is quite difficult when you’ve run out of K, S, and H tiles.  The first book was soon underway and ended up being fairly hefty as it needed a double thickness of board to make the tiles sit flush in the cover.

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I then used green bookcloth to give the cover a simple finish.

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I’ll be adding this to my Etsy shop later this week, and there will be more NSFW books coming in the new year.

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Once upon a time I made all my own sketchbooks.  I’d use the same vintage covers for the book while it was in use, and when the book was full I’d rebind it with permanent, prettier, covers.  You can take a peek back into the mists of time here.  Then I decided to downsize my sketchbook to make it easier to carry around, so I switched to Moleskine pocket sized sketchbooks.  My first was one of their regular sketchbooks with cartridge paper pages that didn’t take watercolour, I filled that with drawings done in ballpoint pen and then tried their watercolour notebook.  The paper was great, but I struggled with the format: Moleskine watercolour notebooks are landscape instead of portrait when they open, and it makes the book difficult to hold/balance when you’re not sat at a table.  I persevered, because of the convenient size, and bought a second one that I started in March 2014.

I’ve only just finished it.  I came to hate drawing in it as it was just so damn uncomfortable.  I’m hugely relieved that it’s finally full, and so we come to my next sketchbook.


Years ago I stumbled across Trumpetvine Travels, and that website inspired me to take up sketching.  The artist (who I believe is called Martha McEvoy) makes her own sketchbooks by adapting Moleskine ones.  Click here to read her tutorial on how to do this.

I’m normally quite lazy at following tutorials as I tend to adapt them to whatever I happen to have to hand.  However, as I’d had such a dreadful time with my last choice of sketchbook I thought I would stick with the recommended materials.  I ordered some Fabriano Artistico paper, found a Moleskine daily planner on eBay (from 2015, so much cheaper than a new one), and set to work…








…it went really well!  The finished book does feel lovely, the cover makes me smile, it’s going to be nice and durable (which is a strong feature of Moleskine books), and the paper is perfect.  Here’s a breakdown of cost:

  • Old Moleskine planner – picked up for £7.80 (£3.95 + £3.85 postage)
  • Fabriano Artistico 90lb hot press – £7.20 (approximately 90 per sheet, I bought 16 sheets in total)

So that’s a total cost of £15 for one sketchbook, excluding the time taken to make it (call it an hour).  Which seems pretty pricey given that you can get a Moleskine watercolour notebook for £7-£10 depending on where you shop.  However, and this is important, a Moleskine watercolour book contains 30 pages, and my rebound planner version contains 60.  So the rebound version really is more economical as you get double the pages.  I’m going to order some more 2015 planners so I can save money on combined postage, which will make my next few sketchbooks even cheaper to produce.

Many thanks to Trumpetvine Travels for the excellent tutorial, and for being an inspiration to me for all these years.

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A couple of years ago I blogged about downsizing my sketching kit to make it easier to carry around in my bag.  Click here to see the original post.

I mentioned at the time that my new paint box weighed an awful lot more than I had expected.  I fully intended to create a more lightweight version and I did… I just didn’t expect it would take me two years to get around to it!

I came across a little mint tin that seemed the perfect size.

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Let’s just take a moment to compare it to my current paintbox.

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So I had a think about how I was going to create the paint wells this time and after a bit of pondering inspiration struck.  Sugru.

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If you haven’t heard of Sugru before then click here to visit their website.  I was introduced to it by a friend, who also gave me the two sachets you see in that photograph (thanks Josh!).  I mixed the two packs together and then created little wells for the paint.

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The Sugru takes 24 hours to cure, so while I was waiting for that to set I painted the inside of the lid with enamel paint to make a mixing palette.

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Then it was just a matter of squeezing some watercolour paint in, and voila!

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It’s tiny, and wonderfully light, and I love it.  My entire sketching kit has shrunk quite a bit over the past few years as I’ve also switched to using a smaller sketchbook.

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Will I make myself another paintbox?  Quite probably, and I still intend to make one using an eyeshadow palette at some point but there’s no rush.  For now this one is the perfect size for carrying in my pocket, and it’s ready just in time to be used on my holiday!

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I made something new last month, and had totally intended to come and tell all about it rather sooner than this but life got a little busy (nothing new there then!).

I often wonder what I can do with the many book pages that find their way into my studio, and finally decided to combine them with my love of nature.  Painted butterflies, painted to scale, started to emerge.

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They looked great but I was then faced with the question of what to do with them next.  I thought about shadow boxes, and a friend suggested the same, so I looked into buying shadow frames… and was promptly horrified by the price of them.  I put the butterflies away for a few days and had a think.

Then inspiration struck: I’d make my own.  After all, how hard could it be?

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I started with a RIBBA frame from IKEA as these are deep frames and I thought it would work perfectly if only I could alter it a bit.  I removed the metal clips that hold the back in place…

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…this is so that I could move the back further back (does that make sense?) in order to make room for a shadow box within.  Making a box out of mountboard didn’t take too long, and I also cut a fresh mount/frame/aperture thing to better fit the butterfly (original on the left, new one on the right).

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Then it was just a matter of sticking the butterfly into the box, and putting the whole lot back in the frame.

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I’m so pleased with the way this turned out: the frame shows off the delicate butterfly perfectly.  I’m also really glad that I was able to make my own shadow frame as I would otherwise find it very difficult to make any kind of profit on this.  I will be adding this butterfly to my Etsy shop very soon, but in the meantime if you’re interested in this one (or in commissioning another one) then please contact me.



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…bet you’re wondering what on earth I’ve made now.  Well, not all the coffee sacks were perfect: as you’d expect from used sacks some of them had marks on them, and of course some just had very dull things printed on (if you want to see some of the prettier sacks then click here).  Not ideal for home furnishings but it would be a shame to waste them.

So I decided to try my hand at making some planters for the garden.  I had a vague idea of how to do this, but didn’t work to a set pattern or measurements.  The planters aren’t made solely from coffee sacks as I didn’t think that would be sturdy enough, so I used some old canvas that we had lurking in a cupboard.

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A perfect fit, despite being too lazy to measure!  I’m going to plant these up with salad for the summer, and then come the winter they’ll be easy to fold up and store away.  I have a couple more of those hanging plant support things so I might make a couple more planters to fit them, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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… and some furniture that’s in need of refreshing, and what do you get?  Well, lots of mess for a start (hessian sacks will shed lots of fibres when you’re cutting them), and also a deep sense of satisfaction when the job is done.  Shall I start from the beginning?

Last week I ordered some coffee sacks from a seller on eBay.  I could have gone to Brick Lane and picked them out myself but frankly it was a lot easier to just have a random selection delivered to my house!


The dog really wasn’t impressed.  I was though, as some of the sacks were almost too pretty to use.




Not sure what I’ll use those for yet, but I eventually decided on this one for the job in hand.


It’s a little more subdued than the others, but the furniture in question is for our sitting room and I didn’t want anything too gaudy.  First up we have a footstool which was actually ok, but I fancied a change.


See, it’s alright but a bit, well, dull.  Anyway, on with the revamp.  I took off the stud things (do these have a technical name?  If you know what it is then please enlighten me!) only to find that there were loads of (of all things) carpet tacks underneath.





After I’d finally removed all the studs and tacks the rest of the task flew by.


I cut a piece of sack to size and used a heavy duty staple gun to fix it to the underside of the footstool…


…and it looked good, but didn’t seem quite finished.  So I put the studs back on.



Perfect!  The second piece of furniture was my desk chair.  This was yet another chair I found in the street and I’ve been meaning to cover the seat ever since it came into our home.


This was a really quick job.  I took the seat off and cut a few layers of black felt to fit on top as a bit of padding (I could have gone out and bought some proper seat padding but basically I’m too tight to spend that money when I’ve got perfectly serviceable felt going spare).


Then it was just a matter of putting some of the sacking on, stapling it in place on the underside, and voila!



Yes, I know I need to finish cleaning the chair.  Just ignore the dust and paint and focus on the beautifully covered seat!

It cost me £21.90 for ten coffee sacks (£15 for the sacks, and £6.90 for the postage) and this project only used one side of one sack.  Bargain!  I’m chuffed to bits with this little project: it was quick, cheap, and the result is just how I pictured.

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Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin…

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I’m a big fan of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, so I thought I would share my own amazing space with the world.  I’m incredibly proud of it, and love it to death – so I hope you enjoy this little peek into the creation of my unique work space.  It’s been quite a long journey, and the studio has continued to evolve over time; this is merely the latest regeneration but it dawned on me that it would be no bad thing to have the whole journey (to date) recorded in one place.

Once upon a time I decided to build a studio at the end of my garden.  It sounds so simple when it’s put like that, but it was quite an emotional thing.  I had a lovely studio in Brentford (click here to see some photos of that), but my father died and I felt it would be better to move my studio closer to home so I could be around more for my mother.  The garden seemed the logical choice.

My garden was in an absolute state, but tackling the redesign of the garden and the building of the studio was hugely cathartic for me.  Everyone deals with grief in their own way, and mine is to channel all my energy into making things.  It keeps me from brooding, and the sense of accomplishment helps to wash away the pain.  So, despite the bitterly cold weather (dad died just before Christmas, and the garden/studio build went on from January through to April) I ploughed on and here’s how it went.

Before…it really was terribly neglected!





So I took down my old shed (which was in need of replacing anyway), dug out the concrete path (which had been there since I was born!), removed the old pergola, and basically ripped out everything.





I decided on a layout for my flowerbeds, then laid decking at the far end of the garden.  That end of the garden is very shady, so my thinking was that putting the shed on decking (as opposed to a concrete or paved base) would help the air circulate and thus help prevent damp.  I had already decided to buy a prefabricated summerhouse, and found a great one at Tesco Direct for the bargaintastic price of £449 (it’s the 7×7 ft Chatsworth summerhouse, which has now gone up in price).  The summerhouse arrived, and I painted it with Cuprinol Garden Shades (in Willow) before we put it up.



I actually moved all my stuff into the studio at this point, but I’ll get to that in a bit.  For now let’s skip ahead to September of that year when I found myself in need of a bike shed.  Not something I’d really thought much about (as I didn’t have a bike at that point!), but my partner was about to move in and he needed somewhere to store his.  Funds were tight again, and I wanted something that would fit the available space perfectly…so of course I built something to fit!




It was a simple frame of timber (most of which was left over from other projects) and trellis.  The roof frame was covered first with some heavy duty vinyl (a section of repurposed billboard advertising that I’d scrounged about a year earlier), then with offcuts of artificial lawn.  The shell curtain at the front was a souvenir from a trip to Indonesia.  The finished bike shed is perfect, and I even added a shelf on the trellis side to hold plant pots and other small things.

The garden itself is as much a part of the studio as the building itself.  I love having a beautiful view to stare out at when I’m procrastinating…


The York stone was rescued from an elderly neighbour’s garden when she moved into a care home and the council ripped up her beautiful garden and paved over it (honestly, I could have wept), the artificial lawn was rescued from a skip (it had been thrown out by an events company that had only used it for one event), the chairs and little table were free (unwanted in another garden), a large number of the pots were given to me by clients who no longer had room for them, and even most of the plants were free!  There are little personal touches all around the garden, from birdcages to odd signs, and everything in between.

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The insect hotels and beehive compost bin were made using offcuts of wood, and random logs, bamboo canes and books.  I’m very proud of the fact that my garden is mainly composed of free, recycled and repurposed things.

Onto the interior…

Furnishing the studio was a bit tricky, mainly because I didn’t have much money!  I desperately wanted this shelf unit

rusticshelves-shortBut frankly at £95 I thought it was ridiculously overpriced!  So, what’s a girl to do?  Build her own of course!  The timber (exterior quality battens and gravelboards) for this cost less than a third of what the shop-bought version would be, and the finished product was double the size –  can’t get better than that!





I used copper plant tags to make labels for the shelves, and fixed them on with drawing pins.  Simple but effective.  My desk was a bit of a problem because I really wanted a vintage school desk, but all the ones I saw online were very expensive (ranging from £40 for a single small desk up to £110 for a double desk).  So initially I bought two small laptop desks from IKEA for £10 each.  They served well for a while, and then I finally got lucky at a car boot sale and picked up a beautiful double desk for the wonderfully cheap price of £35.  Yay!  Click here to see how I cleaned it up ready for use in my studio.


A desk is no use without a chair, and I’ve been through three so far – two of which were found on the street, and the third (which is still going strong!) was given to me by a neighbour who no longer needed it.  Click here to see what I did to chair number two.

The rest of the furniture has turned up in dribs and drabs.  I acquired a small cupboard (in August 2012), another boot sale bargain at £8, and it met my growing need for storage perfectly.



A vintage filing rack (£8) completes my trio of boot sale furniture.


Space has always been an issue in the studio.  At just 6×6 ft (internally – the exterior measurement is 7×7 due to the eaves), every square foot of space is precious, and my habit of accumulating things that “might be useful one day” doesn’t help matters!  I’ve always made good use of the walls, putting up hooks and shelves as required, but this month we got a new puppy and suddenly I need even more space.

I had a vague idea of building a bench which would double as somewhere to sit as well as somewhere to store things.  I sketched out some rough plans, and my initial thought was to build a bench that had room underneath for my cupboard and some crates, as well as having a compartment within the seat to hold my rolls of leather and paper.  I did some rough calculations and decided that would cost me far too much in timber and plywood, so I went back to the drawing board.


The answer came to me in a flash: wooden pallets!  They’re strong, and many independant builders merchants can’t wait to give them away to save on disposal costs.  So I scrounged three of those (I thought we’d only need two, but better safe than sorry!) and then set my partner, Matt, to work.  This is quite unusual because I’m normally very hands-on (and definitely the practical one in our family), but I’ve had some back problems of late and thought it was best to just act in a supervisory role this time!




Anyone who is thinking of repurposing wooden pallets should be aware that they’re constructed using threaded nails, which makes them an absolute nightmare to take apart.  However, Matt persevered and after a few hours we had a finished bench, which fitten the available space perfectly.  After spending quite a lot of time faffing around and tidying, here’s how it all looks.



The cupboard fits underneath, and there are also crates stacked under there too, plus I can use the space inside the pallet itself to store a few bits and pieces.  I had intended to get a cushion pad to go on top of the bench, but it turned out that two blankets sufficed to make it comfy instead!  The padded ‘headrest’ at the end is actually the back of one of my old chairs, which I sawed off (the chair had finally become too unstable to sit on).





I’ve got oodles more floor space, and have used the leftover bits of pallet to create storage for my leather and paper – and now there’s a decent amount of space for our puppy to run around.  Oh, and of course the new bench is just perfect for a quick snuggle with the pup.




My studio is a very organic space, and I’m sure it will continue to grow and change in the coming years.  For now though it meets all my needs, and pup’s too.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about my amazing space, and I would very much welcome any comments or feedback you have.  Oh, and if you’d like to see more photos of our beautiful puppy, then please visit The Loki Files.

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A couple of years ago I turned one of Matt’s old Cyberdog t-shirts into a notebook (which he ended up keeping), and this week I gave the same treatment to a very moth-eaten FCUK t-shirt.


As you can see, the t-shirt was in a very sorry state:



The lower half of the t-shirt was even worse, so it’s a good job the pictures were on the top half!  It was a bit of a nightmare to work with, as the cotton of this shirt was extremely thin and floppy, but I persevered and here is the finished book.





As he’s going to be using this book at work I thought it best to put the more polite of the two pictures on the front cover!  Matt’s been using his Cyberdog book and gave it back to me to be refilled with fresh pages, so here’s a shot of the two upcycled t-shirt books together.


Do you have an old t-shirt which you’d like to see turned into a notebook?  If so please do get in touch, commissions are always welcome!

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A lovely little commission for a gorgeous wee lass.  The covers are made using an old ordnance survey map of the Barnstaple area – with Lundy Island given pride of place, as that’s where the couple got engaged.


It was a really nice book to work on, but one thing I did discover was that my desk is not really big enough for some things…


…yeah, I did struggle a bit there, but got there in the end and the finished result was well worth the swearing!







The names of the bride and groom, together with the wedding date, were added to the front of the book by hand (imitating the fonts which were used on the invitations).  The book measures approximately 21cm x 15cm, and contains 36 pages (72 sides) of 220gsm cartridge paper; the coptic binding has been done using 100% linen thread.

I still have quite a lot of the map left over, so there may yet be a second installment to this post!

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