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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