Category Archives: gifts from recycled materials

Recycled Wool Coat Needle and Stitch Book

Using a salvaged wool coat, you too can make a really cute holder for storing sewing needles. I use this project as a learning tool for beginner sewers. It is a fun way to introduce students to three introductory stitches: the basic running stitch, the cast-over stitch, and the back stitch. In addition, students learn to sew on buttons.

Search second hand stores for a wool coat or blazer that is worn out or ripped. Take it apart at the seams and felt the fabric by washing in hot water.

Order a pattern from me or design your own pattern. If you want to save time and support this website, send an e-mail requesting this pattern (HesterJane@FunInTheMaking.net) The pattern is 2$ and you can pay by clicking on the donation button on the right-hand side of this website. You will also receive a smaller version of this coat intended for making Christmas ornaments.

How to:

1. Print out the coat needle book pattern. (See instructions directly above.)

2. Trace and cut out two coat shapes. Follow the blue dots for the front piece and the pink dots for the back piece. Note that the back is slightly different on the center top of the coat. *Follow the perimeter of the coat: don’t cut the dotted lines that separate the sleeves from the coat body (D to E on pattern) yet.

3. Cut down the center top of coat (front of the coat only) about 2 inches or desired distance.

4. Pin the front and back of coat together.

5. Fold down and pin the collar.

6. Fold up cuffs and pin in place.

7. Use the overcast stitch to sew up the side of the sleeve from A to G on pattern. Do the same to the other side of coat.

8. Cut your sleeves D to E. I find that it is better to cut the sleeves now when you have the front and back of the coat lined up on top of each other. This way the front and the back of your sleeves will be the same size.

9. Sew sleeve front and back together D to E. Do not sew the body of the coat from D to E because you want the coat to open up like a notebook.

10. Sew on button(S). Sew the buttons to the front of the coat only.

11. Use a backstitch to make a decorative line across the bottom edge of the coat on thefront of the coat only.

12. Use a backstitch to make a decorative line across the bottom edge of the sleeve cuffs.

13. Sew the collar down.

14. Cut out the pockets of your choice.

15. Sew on the pockets using an overcast stitch or a straight stitch. Front of coat only.

16. Use a backstitch to make a decorative line on pockets.

If you or your child is interest in taking a class on how to make these adorable coats, please follow the link “Classes” on the top of this website for more information.

Here are samples of student’s work.

This coat was made by a soon to be 4th grader. Isn’t Sara’s coat so sweet!

This cute coat was made by a soon to be 5th grader. Great job Katie!

Making Fun Gourd Bird Houses

Attract birds to your yard with home-made environmentally friendly gourd bird houses. You can make several in an afternoon and have fun doing it. You can keep it simple or you can tap into your playful side.

How to:

Getting the gourd

Ask around at local farms and farmer’s markets. There is a good chance that you will find some already dried. If so, you can start making your birdhouse right away.

If you plan ahead, you can grow your own gourds. How cool would that be?!

Drying the gourd

The easiest way to dry your gourds is to spread them out in a box and place them in the garage for the winter. They are going to mold on the outside a bit no matter what you do: no worries. Check on your gourds: if a gourd is rotting (i.e. the shell is getting soft), you should discard it so it won’t spoil the others.

Cleaning your gourd

Some people soak their gourds in a bleach solution to remove the mold. I don’t like to use bleach more than necessary and I find it isn’t necessary here. Either way you will need to scrub and wash and even scrap your gourd clean. It takes a bit of elbow grease. Don’t you like the patterns left on its skin? 

Drilling the holes

Use a drill bit for the size you want your birdhouse hole to be. You can find suggested birdhouse hole size for specific birds online. I used a two inch (diameter) hole for the birdhouse seen here.

I also drilled small drainage holes in the bottom of the gourd just in case rain should get inside.

Finished birdhouse has linseed oil applied.

Finishing the birdhouse(s)

Find salvaged paint (your own or someone else’s leftover paint). I found a small container of exterior paint at the Restore and used that to paint one of my birdhouses. I also used the two hole pieces, from the door openings which I painted white, for the eyes of this amusing birdhouse. I used Gorilla glue to attach them.

For my other gourd, I applied linseed oil. Linseed oil is a natural oil used as a wood preservative and is made from flax seeds. Use a rag to rub on a thin layer of oil. If using multiple coats, allow to dry between applications. The linseed oil will give the gourd a polished look and will help repel the rain. Linseed oil doesn’t preserve your birdhouse for as long as other products but you can compost the old and make a new.

Hanging the gourd birdhouse

Use a piece of scrap rope/ string or even an old shoe lace to hang your finished birdhouse. If you want to be fancier, you can bend an old coat hanger into a hook. First drill two holes to slide the wire through.

This purchased birdhouse has an orange stain on it. Stain is nice because it gives the birdhouse a color but the natural look of the birdhouse shows through. The diameter hole for this birdhouse is 2 inches. I placed this orange gourd birdhouse outside my front door where it is sheltered by our house roof. It is hanging on the wall of our house. Despite the fact that wren birdhouse hole sizes are recommended to be much smaller, a pair of wrens moved into our gourd birdhouse and successfully raised six chicks last summer (2009).

 I hope they will be back, I do love wrens. On a side note, I’ve seen wrens go in/ out of our gourd birdhouse in the winter. I assumed that it or they were seeking shelter from the cold. This is one of the baby birds that left the nest that day. So cute!

This is a snapshot of the mother or father wren that worked tirelessly feeding all those babies!

Like Two Peas In A Pot Valentine Craft: A Plant Your Own Peas Kit

Two Peas Valentine Gift Craft

Make one for mom/ Dad/ Grandparents … My daughter gave out one for each of her classmates one year.

Two Peas In A Pot Valentive Gift

[This is a craft project that I developed a few years ago and I’m just now getting around to sharing –Best, Hester Jane]

Here is a child’s Valentine gift that does not include candy.

How To:

Collect empty milk or juice cartons; the kind kids get at school with their lunches. Then wash them out.

Cut out pictures of pea plants from old seed catalogs and paste them onto the outside of the milk carton/pot.

Add dry potting soil and drop in two pea seeds. Alternatively you can place the pea seeds in a mini envelope/ Valentine card.

Staple the top closed.

Save straws (optional) if doing this project for home. Don’t waste a new straw; reuse a straw that would otherwise be on its way to a landfill. The straw becomes a support as the pea plant grows taller.

Print Valentines or design your own.

Valentines for juice cartons

Valentines for milk cartons or seed envelopes

Make Your Own Christmas Dove Ornaments

lovely beaded Christmas dove ornament

Have a pleasant afternoon making lovely dove ornaments with your family. When provided with the supplies, even kids have fabulous results. I have a shoe box full of salvaged beads from unwanted necklaces etc. and this is a perfect time to make use of those little treasures.

This dove ornament was designed and made by my nine year old daughter. All I did was supply her with a pattern, scrap felt, and a box or salvaged beads. The gold beads came off a retired Christmas sweater and some of the others came from unwanted necklaces.

How To:

Print out and use the dove stencil provided in the make your own dove card post (see link below).

Trace and cut out two doves (one for the front and one for the back). It doesn’t take much fabric/felt to make so check your supply for scraps. Use felt or fabric that doesn’t fray very easily.

Sew on any embellishments (beads) before sewing the dove halves together. (This is a good idea but not absolutly necessary.)

Start sewing around the dove near the edge. When you are nearly done sewing all the way around, add a bit of stuffing. Then sew the hole closed.

Optional, add a string of beads to dangle below.

You will also need a bit of ribbon or a metal hook for hanging up.

If you like doves, you may also like this post on MYO dove cards.

Make Your Own Simple Yet Adorable Tea Cup Mouse

Making your own charming Tea Cup Mouse is easier than you think. I designed this project to be suitable for even beginner sewers. And you can adjust the project according to skill level.

This is a sweet way to use a lovely tea cup that has no matches. A cup with a chip or crack would be undesirable for drinking tea but these signs of wear would only add character to these little beds.

Sewing workshop: if you live locally (Southern Maryland) you might be interested in my Tea Cup mouse workshops for children (and adults too). Click on the Classes link above.

Tea Cup Mouse takes a break

This is Leo. He was made from a retired linen shirt. His bedside table was made from a slice of a tree branch and an old wooden spool of thread. The rug was made by cutting a rectangle from an old sweater. The tea cup was from a second-hand store.

Tea Cup Mouse snuggles under handkerchief

Leo loves his super soft handkerchief blanket. The handkerchief is vintage and the tea cup was a thrift store find.

Playful Tea Cup Mouse On The Move

This adorable mouse loves to play!

 MYO Tea Cup Mouse Kit

Three ways to give.

1. Make and give the finished mouse for a special gift.

2. Give a kit with pre-cut pieces and all the rest of the supplies, tea cup and all for a child to make for his or her self. Precutting the pieces might be necessary for younger children. Work together with him or her.

3. Give a kit with the pattern and all the rest of the supplies and let them have the fun of making a mouse friend just the way they want it. You might supply a few different pieces of scrap fabric for them to choose from. Give support as needed.

How to:

The first thing you will need to do is gather supplies.

You will need:

Salvaged fabric for the head and body of the mouse. No need to go out and buy any fabric; you only need a little from a past project or salvaged from an old pair of pants or shirt…

A washable marker for tracing your stencil on fabric.

Scissors for cutting the fabric.

Scrap pieces of felt for the mouse’s hands, feet and ears.

Embroidery floss of some type to embroider on the whiskers, nose and eyes and an embroidery needle. Or a black permanent marker to draw on the face. Tiny black pompoms could also be used for the nose and eyes.

Tea Cup Mouse can't wait until Christmas

This is Leo’s friend Lola. She can’t wait until Christmas! Her mouth, whiskers, and nose were drawn on and the eyes are pins that have the tip cut off. The pins make cute eyes but are not appropriate to use as a toy. Ears, hands and feet can be glued on for easier construction but I like to sew on pieces for a more secure attachment. Her scarf was made from a sweater that I felted. Just snip the ends to make the ends fringed. I included a felted wool blanket as well. She snuggles in a second-hand cup.

Some piece of thin rope or leather cord to use as a tail.

Some kind of stuffing. I used dryer lint and a little dry rice.

Needle and thread for hand sewing.

A sewing machine for sewing the main body and head pieces.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse cutting fabric

Cutting out the pieces.

You will need a Tea Cup Mouse pattern.*

*Because it takes a tremendous amount of time for me to develop projects like this, design and draw a pattern, test ideas, make, take pictures, edit pictures, write the how to, etc… I’m asking for a mere 2 dollars (see side donation button for quick payment with paypal). Send me an e-mail and I’ll send a pdf file with the pattern right out to you.

Use stencil to make your own card board stencil. A cereal box works well. Trace the body and head on your fabric. Cut two at a time if possible.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse machine sewing

Sew the head. Sew the two head pieces (right sides together) using a sewing machine. Use the edge of your foot (sewing machine foot) as a guide. Keep the edges of the fabric running along the edge of the foot. You only want a narrow seam.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse body and head

Sew the body. Again with right sides together, sew around the body leaving a hole for the head. You will want a narrow seam allowance here too (not to exceed 1/4 inch). 

Trim the corners (A’s in the picture). Be careful not to cut your stitching. Also, clip the inner curve a few times (at B in picture).

Turn the pieces right side out.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse adding tail

Add the tail. Use a mechanical pencil or other sharp object to make a hole on the backside of the mouse. Tie a knot in the cord. Put the tail through the hole you just made. The knot should be on the inside of the mouse and the tail should extend out the back of the mouse.

Stuff the body. Next add some rice into the body of the mouse until it is about 1/4th full. The rice isn’t necessary but I like the way it gives the mouse weight and help it stand. Loosely fill the rest of the mouse and the head with dryer lint.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse adding a head

Connect head to body. Tuck in the raw edges of the body and stick in the head. Pin in place. Hand sew together sewing around the head.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse adding hands...

Sew on the hands, feet, and ears.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse adding smile

Embroider facial features. Use an embroidery needle and some black embroidery floss to make the mouth, nose and eyes. Use a French knot for each eye. Alternatively use a permanent marker to draw on the mouth, nose, eyes and whiskers.

MYO Tea Cup Mouse complete

Have a blast making the mouse a quilt, pillow, clothes, scarf, hat, whatever.