Handcrafted, recycled, upcycled


For the Big Game Hunter with a kind heart.

I love Uncommon Goods.  I admit it.  When their catalog arrives in the mail, I drop whatever I’m doing and devote all my attention to it.

 Its filled with perky products, giggle-worthy gifts and beautiful baubles for wallets of all thicknesses.

 In addition to the myriad of marvels the catalog holds, I am spellbound by the creativity of the artists that are showcased, much of it is recycled or reclaimed.

 For instance, bowls made of recycled bicycle chains (that sounds much nicer than made of ‘old bicycle chains’, doesn’t it).  Flip flops made of old tires and not just any old tires, old RACE CAR TIRES!  So won’t you be the cool one to wear these!?!

 Seriously, they have great stuff at Uncommon Goods.  Here are a few of my favorites – all of them from recycled or reclaimed materials (this is not a hint to buy me anything, btw, seriously).

Textile Spool Wine Rack, from a pre-WWII cotton factor-turned radial belt facility 

I want to make one of these for myself!

Wine Bottle Tea Light Holders

Slate Cheese Board, reclaimed chalk boards fromFranklinElementary School in Quincy, Illinois– well, OK, this actually seems a little gross, to put your cheese on old chalkboards  

...not sure I like this idea...


Wine Barrel Swing, stuff made from wine barrel staves is all the rage! 

Meadow Blossoms, recycled roof tin from Georgia

Fire Extinguisher vase, yes, out of old fire extinguishers, from Florida

Edison Sconce, wood reclaimed from Thomas Edison’s Wisconsin phonograph factory!  

Sweater Potholders, from sweaters and T-shirts salvaged from Goodwill

I love the bold colors!

Rice Sack Lunch Bags, salvaged from mills, printers and manufacturers in the Philippines  

IPad Case, Messenger Bag and Wallet, made from recycled mosquito nets! 

Plus there are belts made from fire hoses, jewelry made from brass bullet casings, trophy fish plaque made from recycled cardboard, necklaces made from recycled sake’ bottles!

Uncommon Goods celebrates individual artists, too, with info about them on the website and in the catalog and the item descriptions include their names and where the item was made…North Carolina, China, Canada, California, India, Oregon, Mexico, Vermont, United Kingdom, artists from all over the world.  

From upcycled wetsuits...

It’s like going to a superb craft fair.  I like knowing who made something, that it wasn’t some faceless machine stamping out identical what-nots and knick-knacks.  Have you noticed how so many souvenirs have very little to do with wherever you are?  There are the same mugs and t-shirts for sale, just with the state or town shoved in – ‘My parents went to X and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.  Or mugs with the outline of the state or ‘I heart X’ on it…generic, boring, non-specific souvenirs for desperate last-minute purchases when you realize you sat in a meeting the entire week without seeing one bit of the town and now you have an hour to kill at the airport.

One of the best things about Uncommon Goods is the contest they have to find the next great product, a YouGoods contest asking people to submit their designs and inventions.  They also ask people to vote on what products they want to see in the catalog.

I can’t remember the exact contest, but one time it was something like create a product out of car parts – like those purses I mentioned before made out of seat belts.  I’ve seen a clock using radio antennae and glassware out of windshields and those flip flops made from old tires.  Try as I might, I was not able to think of something unique, darn it…  What could I do with old radio buttons?  Or headrests?  Or timing belts?  Spark plugs?  Help me, people!

What have you discovered?  Catalogs, websites, flea markets, craft fairs that aren’t the same-old, same-old stuff.  Share your discoveries with the rest of us.

Made from construction fencing...


I remember a craft fair where the artist tatted greeting cards (sort of like crochet, but not) and another where welcome signs were painted on roofing slate, those were lovely ideas, well thought-out and well-crafted, I actually bought 6 slates to give as house-warming presents to certain of our clients.  Then there was the booth filled with sculptures made of iron and rocks, they were hideous!  It doesn’t help to have a great idea but no artistic talent!  (And if anyone brings up the purses made out of placemats, you’re dead…)

Golf club spheres!


Rick loves the booth that has mirrors with frames of inlaid wood.  We were lucky enough to be able to buy a beautiful wood in-laid picture in Sorrento,Italy, a few years ago – too many years ago.   The entire store was filled with them, all sizes (even more than 12’ wide!)  and all complexities.  Such talent to create those.  We’ve also seen magnificent tables of inlaid stone and marble.  So detailed, they look like rugs.  Gorgeous and sooooo pricey!

Another site I like is www.etsy.com  its basically many, many craftspeople selling their wares – from furniture that’s been repainted or refinished and given new life, pottery, deconstructed t-shirts and sweaters, jewelry, dolls, dresses, pretty much everything under the sun.  Kind of like eBay but not an auction and, from what I could see, everything offered for sale is by artisans of all kinds.  And…go to www.regretsy.com to see the kinds of disasterous crafts that are also for sale on the website (as featured on MSN.com today!).

I just found out that ‘upcycled’ means using materials that would have been tossed or recycled.  An example would be taking fabric left over from a project and using it for some other project, such as makes purses or notebook covers out of denim that was leftover from making jeans.  The fabric isn’t tossed or recycled, the scraps are used for another project. 

So tell me where you like to go to find unique things.

Doesn't this chair look comfortable?

…and, no, Uncommon Goods (www.UncommonGoods.com) has no idea I’m so enamored of them.  They don’t pay me (more’s the pity) and I actually can’t afford most of their stuff, just now…but when they’ve got a good sale going, I’m there!  😉


New Uses for Old Things


Or New Ideas for Everyday Things.  And folded into this subject is re-purposing, recycling, using your imagination and being ‘green’:  Saving old t-shirts for your kids to wear when they are finger-painting, cutting down bath towels to use in the kitchen or for dustcloths, rinsing a ketchup bottle and filling it with pancake batter for a perfectly mess-free dispenser, making purses out of old denim jeans, creating bookcases out of old stereo cabinets & lamps out of vases, putting Christmas ornaments in egg cartons. 

Ever make a daisy-chain out of gum wrappers?  There are bags for sale these days made out of juice boxes and gum wrappers and soda pop-top rings.  Purses out of old seatbelts and tires.

http://www.nahuoillin.com Many bags in coordinated colors

http://www.savetheworlddesigns.com These were less expensive but not color coordinated.


One of my favorite things to do is read about new uses for old things.  Various magazines, such as Good Housekeeping, Real Simple and Fresh Home have frequent articles on this subject.  I can spend hours just wandering these sites looking for inspiration.

 Quite often the ‘new’ use is really going back to your grandmother’s way of doing things…for instance, did you know you can use vinegar to clean your windows?  Well, duh.  Or baking soda to brush your teeth?  Duh, again.  Lemon juice to remove fishy smells on your hands?  This is very important to remember if you ever host a crawfish boil…I still remember what fun we had at our cousins’ place, Ginger and Tom inBaton Rouge.  My niece, Roni, who was about 4 yrs of age and wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t garlic bread and french fries, loved crawfish, of all things!  We had to pull off the heads and shell them for her and shell them, but she loved those spicy bits!  A recipe is at the bottom of this post.


I like being reminded about those old-fashioned solutions to problems.  Add equal parts baking soda and cream of tartar and add a little lemon juice together to tackle stains on porcelain.  I always wondered what cream of tartar is for.  I have a little jar of it and never use it.  Do you?  What for?

Anyone remember that old TV series ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’?  I do because a) it was a fave of mine back then and b) once in a while someone will sometimes, even, lo, these many years later, accidentally call me Mary or say ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’, such wit. 

Anyway, that series was a comedy about a woman whose life was falling to pieces around her.  She would experience some tragic event and then look down at her kitchen floor and say, with much concern “Do I have waxy, yellow buildup?”  You might not believe this but we did a lot of ROTFL at that show.

 I loved reading in some mag about Jamie Lee Curtis and her speedy way of mopping the kitchen floors.  We have much in common, her and me!  (I was going to say ‘she and I’ but my MS Word spellcheck made me change it!)  I spritz the floor with whatever product is at hand – Windex, 409, water, spit – and then throw down a handtowel and skate around the floor.  I hate the idea of using a mop and then rinsing it out in my kitchen sink – disgusting.  I’ve always wanted a big industrial sink in the garage or laundry room, sigh, such a little thing but it’s always eluded me.

 But, I’ve wandered again…back to new uses for everyday things.

 My mom gave me a cute green jar made of tiny glass tiles.  I keep the sponge for my bathroom sink in it.  I have a small vase that an orchid came in (from Carol Woodard, thank you).  The orchid is long gone -it lasted 2 years but never bloomed again – and now my kitchen dish brush stands up nicely in it.

 Our bathroom is large, but when we remodeled it, we didn’t realize we’d be living here one day (it was an office bathroom) so there isn’t a lot of storage.  The clawfoot bathtub is lovely but it’s hard for each of us to have our stuff in the tub when there isn’t an edge or ledge or cubby for bottles and shavers and combs, etc.  We have one of those chrome racks that spans from one side of the tub to another and its great but little things fall through.  So, I put my razors and small soaps etc. in a pretty scrubby glove and hang it from the curtain.

mine is striped green and white...

My flashdrives are always getting lost in the piles of paper on my desk so I keep them in a little bowl I bought in Acapulco.  I love being reminded of our trip there everytime I rummage through it.

Clothespins make great chip clips.  I use binder clips, too, when something needs a  stronger clasp.  And here is a way to close your chip bag without needing a clip at all !  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rB6bf8DqMQ 

The knob at the bottom of the pullchain for the light fixture in our closet broke off.  I only need to glue it back in place but I found a fabric lei and took off the flowers and threaded them onto the pull chain.  I had a ceramic bead in the shape of a bumble bee that I added  and now I think of spring (and Hawaii) every time I go in my closet!

 I found a few coins stashed away after a trip to Romania.  I am drilling holes through them and am going to put them on a necklace and bracelet.

 We are using a sunporch for our closet – our bedroom didn’t come with a closet – which means I can’t get a regular closet organizer in there easily.  So I have some bookshelves that I’m using as storage.  And plastic bins and toy baskets are holding my tank tops, socks, jammies and unmentionables.  I’m kinda hoping I never have to move because my closet is HUGE. 

Don’t have enough candlesticks?  Use small drinking glasses to hold tea candles, stack them bottom-to-bottom for height – add pebbles, marbles, sand, and the like for added color.  In the bottom glass you could place crumpled tissue paper or a pine cone or seashells or an Easter egg for color, too.  Once you get started, you’ll never stop!

Turn champagne flutes upside down and put candles on the bottoms! Thanks, Real Simple!

 Give presents wrapped in lunch boxes, tote bags, small purses, baskets, towels, cigar boxes, scarves.  Two presents in one!  Or use roadmaps, paper bags, coffee tins or Sunday comics for your present.  


                                     I invariably run out (or, to be honest, simply can’t find) gift tags, so I make them out of used Christmas/Birthday/Thankyou cards or even cardstock.  Cut out a fun shape from the image on the card or a simple square.  You can tape it onto the package or use a hole-punch and attach it to the package with ribbon.

I also cut cards in half along the bend and use them as post-cards.

One year I wrapped every Christmas present in blueprint paper and tied them with hemp cord and fresh sprigs of ivy.   It looked pretty cool, if I do say so myself.  Usually, I’m wrapping presents weeks in advance – I really love it.  But, that year all the ivy was cut and attached just a couple days prior to Christmas – a bit of a rush that I don’t recommend for a huge pile of gifts.

Take ornaments and place them in big glass vases for a quick, festive decoration for your fireplace mantle or buffet.  I’ve done that a bunch and here’s a great site with quick tutorials for elegant, often easy, ideas for inexpensive decorating:   http://www.howdini.com/howdini-video-8654123.html    There is also info on how to set a table, recushion a chair, create a wreath, make a bow, choose a paint color and even design your kitchen remodel. 

All those staples in the ceiling were a challenge to remove, though.

I did this one year – took glass ornaments and hung them from the ceiling with curling ribbon.  Another year I took those same ornaments and hung them from the inside top of the windows in our office.  I even did it with silver stars (8″ big) hanging from the ceiling for a New Year’s Eve party.  One year I hung strand after strand of tiny white lights from the top of our vaulted ceiling down to the fireplace wall.  It was gorgeous!  But getting that ladder up there was a bit scary.  In fact, it was my idea but I delegated the task of actually hanging the lights to someone else 😉

I repurposed a boot tray, normally used in mudrooms and entry halls for your wet wellies, for the cat’s food and water dishes; it helps keep the kibble from straying.  You could also use a very large one under the litterbox.

I have two old brass test tube racks and use them to hold flowers.

While looking for ideas to repurpose household items, I discovered quite a few sites that not only have cheap uses for things like ketchup bottles, but also crafty re-uses of things when you are good with tools and sewing machines. 

Tell me, what imaginative things have you come up with?  😉 

Seems pretty labor-intensive to me...www.funlobby.com

Wow, a bench made of tennis balls http://www.greenecoservices.com


This site had ideas for things to do with old tennis balls:  www.greenecoservices.com

And these people were entirely too inventive with their ideas for tennis balls:  http://www.funlobby.com/index.php/201104042130/how-recycled-tennis-balls-can-be-used-21-images.html  I can’t imagine taking that kind of time to recycle a tennis ball or two or three.

This company will accept your old tennis balls…here’s the link to their page with instructions:  http://www.rebounces.com/site1/page/Recycle-Old-Tennis-Ball-With-Us.aspx

 Here are a few more sites for inspiration:

Real Simple Magazine http://www.realsimple.com/new-uses-for-old-things/index.html

Fresh Home Magazine  http://www.freshhomeideas.com/

Crawfish boil recipe:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Seafood/CrawfishBoil.htm

Wrapping ideas  http://www.underworldmagazines.com/creative-gift-wrapping-for-this-christmas/

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