For Kids: Old Crayons Made New

December 15, 2008

recycled-crayons-121408Here’s an easy gift you can make for kids with old and broken crayon stubs: chunky, recycled multi-color crayons in a variety of shapes. My son and I made a bunch of these this weekend, and he was delighted to be able to once again use all those old crayons that were too short for him to handle.

You can find easy-to-follow instructions here. (One note: though the directions here say to melt your crayons in a 150-degree oven, I found mine didn’t start melting until I upped the temperature to 200 degrees.)


For the Home: Wine-Cork Ornaments

December 9, 2008

wine-cork-ornaments-1209081As a wine-lover and pack-rat, I always tend to have a few old wine corks on hand in my kitchen “junk” drawer. So, drawing on inspiration from a few other crafters, I created these cork Christmas-tree ornaments.

Making them is super-simple:

  1. Punch a hole through the middle of the cork using a hammer and long, thick nail (be sure to do this on a hard surface like a work table, garage floor or sidewalk);
  2. Straighten a large paperclip (I used the colorful coated ones) and push it through the cork;
  3. String the bottom end of the paperclip through a tassel (you’ll find easy instructions for how to make one here);
  4. Bend the bottom end of the paperclip around to secure the tassel using a pair of needle-nose pliers;
  5. String a few decorative beads, if you like, onto the top end of the paperclip; then
  6. Use the needle-nose pliers to bend the top end of the paperclip into an attractive spiral that can be attached to an ornament hook.

Done, easy and cost-free!

For the Home: Recycled Fabric Rug

December 8, 2008

rug2Who doesn’t have a few old t-shirts or raggedy towels around the house? My favorite eco-minded architect/crafter Michelle Kaufmann offers this idea for transforming them into a soft and attractive bath rug.

For the Home: Foam Soap Refill

December 5, 2008

soap-dispenser1Here’s a great gift idea I can vouch for personally: homemade soap refills for those foam-soap dispensers. This stuff is easy to make, cheap and super-effective. Check out the recipe here.

For Him: Super Soap

December 5, 2008

Now, not all of us might have borax around the house, but if you do, you can whip up a batch of homemade soap that’s great for cleaning a handyman’s hands. The recipe-poster swears this stuff made tar “melt” off her husband’s hands. You can find how to make this super soap at Recipezaar.

For the Home: Recycled Record Bowl

December 2, 2008

vinyl_albums1If you’re like many people of, let’s say, a certain age or older, you’ve probably got a stack of old vinyl LPs stowed away in a box in the hall closet, basement or attic. Dig those things out, because you can create an artsy-looking bowl using an old record by following these instructions at Modern Eco Homes.

For Book-Lovers: A Book Safe

December 2, 2008

bookYou can transform an old hardcover book from your home collection (or check your local library for freebies) into a clever book safe that makes a great gift. Find the step-by-step instructions at All Free Crafts.

For Her: Paper-Bead Jewelry

December 1, 2008

paper-beads-120108Got some old magazines lying around your house? You can transform them into unique and colorful beads to make necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other jewelry for the girls and women on your Christmas list.

Sounds cheesy? You might be surprised: just check out the beautiful baubles (BeadforLife) that women in Uganda have created to help pull themselves out of povery.

You’ll find easy directions for making rolled paper beads at Paper University. (Hint: if you want to ensure your paper jewelry remains waterproof, coat the beads with lacquer — if you have any at home — or even a layer or two of clear nail polish.)

For Kids: A Classic Sock Monkey

December 1, 2008

Kim Scarborough at Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license)

If you have a few pairs of clean old socks, a couple of buttons and a needle and thread in your home, you can make a classic toy for some small child in your family: a sock monkey. There’s no fancy stitching or complicated steps involved.

You’ll find step-by-step instructions, along with helpful photos, at WikiHow’s “How to Make a Sock Monkey.”

Welcome to Zero Dollar Christmas

December 1, 2008

Times are tough and many people are struggling to get by, barely. For some, this makes the holidays even more difficult than usual: how can you celebrate when every penny you have must go toward essentials, not gifts?

If you’re an adult, you might be happy to do without, as long as you have food to eat and a roof over your head. But what about children, especially the youngest ones who still believe in Santa Claus? How can you explain belt-tightening to a four-year-old who’s dreaming of brightly colored packages under the tree on Christmas morning?

That’s where Zero Dollar Christmas comes in. I believe there are still ways to exchange gifts or suprise a child during the holidays without spending a cent. The following posts will show you how.