Category Archives: gifts from recycled materials

How To Make Adorable Polar Bear Ornaments Out Of An Old Wool Sweater

polar bear stencil PDF

1. Print out the polar bear stencil that I made or make your own.
2. Felt a white second -hand sweater. I was at a thrift store recently and found a white wool sweater that someone accidently felted. That sweater was the inspiration for this project.
Felting Wool Sweaters
You can intentionally felt a wool sweater by putting it in the washing machine and washing with hot water and detergent. Drying in a hot dryer will continue the felting process.
3. Trace the bear with a fine point washable marker. You will be able to quickly rinse the ink off when done cutting and then pat dry.


4. Add any embellishments you want. A single black glass bead looks nice. Insert the needle in the back and out the front. Thread the bead on the needle and then pass the needle back through in the same place. Knot in the back. Use a little embroidery floss for the nose and the mouth or keep it simple.


I added a smile to this one for fun.
5. Add a hook or ribbon for hanging.

Alternatively, send as a holiday card with a removable ornament on the front and a message on the inside. I put a little tape to hold the bear onto a piece of cardstock.

How To Make A Greener Pet Bed: Use Reclaimed Fabric And Recycled Fiber Stuffing

Try creating a pet bed out of a stained coat, damaged drapes, unwanted jeans, or an old wool blanket. Avoid the damaged areas when cutting out your pieces. Alternately you could use fabric remnants from fabric retailers. These scraps are usually sold at a discount. I made this bed out of a second hand curtain. The thick, neutral color fabric was perfect for the job. It is a good idea to pick sturdy fabric if making a dog bed. Make one for your cat too and she will shed on it instead of on your favorite chair. This project is easy enough for beginner sewers.

How to:
Determine the size you would like to make your pet bed. I started by cutting two squares of fabric 29 by 29 inches. With right sides together, sew around three sides (as indicated by the blue line) leaving one side open. Use a ½ inch seam allowance. Trim the corners off (also shown in blue) but be sure you do not cut your stitching. Turn your pet bed right side out. Now fold in the raw edges of the opening (about a half inch) and iron. You must do this before you sew the tunnels.

You could measure your pillow and do some division and re-measure and mark your tunnels… or fold your pillow in half and make a nice crease. Open it out flat. Fold the sides to the center this time (see photo) and crease. Use some pins to hold things in place then sew using the creases as your sewing guide lines. Depending on the size of your pet bed, you may have to do more folding first.

This is what mine looked like after I sewed the tunnels.

Stuff the tunnels. I filled mine with a soft recycled fiber stuffing (made from industrial textile waste). You might want to recycle the stuffing from an old pillow or stuff with scrap fabric pieces (collect the pieces that are too small to do anything else with.

All that is left to do is sew up the open side.
Because pet beds are so large I recommend you spot clean only. A carpet cleaner with an upholstery attachment works great!

To make a pet bed out of jeans, see my post on how to make recycled jean pillow covers.

Only a few modifications to those directions are needed. You will need to leave one end of the tunnels open for stuffing. Also, make the strips 6 to 8 inches wide for medium to large beds.

Bag Of Nest Building Material, Great Gift For Birds Or Bird Lovers

Help make a bird’s job of nest building a little easier by providing it with wonderful nest building materials. After you make it, hang outside in early spring for the birds to discover. Then keep your eyes out for nearby bird’s nests: you might spot some of your offerings.

How to: Save a plastic mesh produce bag: they are the bags that oranges and onions usually come in at the grocery store. Loosely stuff your mesh produce bag with any of the following:
bits of left-over yarn, sheep’s wool , wool roving (ask a spinner), dryer lint (especially when you are drying a wool blanket or are felting a wool sweater ; but I wouldn’t recommend using fabric softeners, because the birds don’t need the added chemicals.) You can also use: fur, human hair, horse hair, snake skins(sure why not), leaves, feathers, plant fluff from a cattail plant or from a milkweed pod, straw, tree bark, pine needles, moss… For fun add: small colorful pieces of scrap yarn (5 inches more or less), strips of cloth, shredded paper… Experiment and see what happens.
Quick gift for nature lovers of all ages.

Window Sill Herb Garden Gift: Made In Clementine Box

A window sill garden would make a great Christmas gift. And while you are at it, make one for yourself too.

The black “tray” used under this plant was fast food waste. Plan ahead and reuse your trash!

Plant Your Own Herb Garden Kit: Made With Recycled Materials

How to:
Include in the window sill kit everything needed to grow this herb garden: one Clementine box, six- 1 pint ice-cream containers with lids, potting soil, and seed packets.

Poke a drainage hole in the middle of the bottom of ice-cream containers. Fill with potting soil. Decorate the lids with pictures of herbs cut from last year’s seed catalogs or use the inside of a cereal box and write your own label. I used a circle cutter (found at craft stores) but you could cut the rim off an extra cover for a stencil that you can then trace. Line the Clementine box with plastic or reuse plastic cups from your recycle bin. Often times companies offer mixed seed packets but if making several herb gardens, you could repackage seeds: giving each kit a few of each kind of seed. A pretty ribbon adds to the presentation.

Note: You will need to put a spacer in the bottom of your Clementine box. Use whatever you can find to raise up the bottom of the box about an inch. Salvaged peanuts and a piece of scrap cardboard will do the trick. The spacer is needed to lift the containers because the covers are on. Once the lids are removed, the spacer can also be removed; the containers will now fit.

A Gift Tray of Seedlings

How to:
Alternatively you can pot some small herbs either store bought or share from your garden; just skip the lids.

Easy Ghost Party Favors Made From Recycled Single Serving Milk Bottles

How to:
Set aside suitable single serving milk bottles. Make sure you wash them out really well; old milk smells really bad. I got these bottles at Chick-Fil-A. If you don’t eat at that restaurant, ask all your friends to save them for you or find a similar bottle elsewhere. Depending on your needs, you may want to start collecting well in advance. (I’ve been known to save all year or longer for projects.)


Paint on the faces with black acrylic paint and let dry. Alternatively this might be an activity for guests at your Halloween party. Even young children can do this simple craft. Make a few in advance to set out as examples. I accidentally discovered that if you paint the face and let it dry a little but not all the way, you can use your brush to slide around the paint to make even scarier faces.


Print out ghostly messages on your computer, cut into strips and glue to the bottom of each bottle (See photo.) Write “Find a trick or treat inside. Maybe both”. Or write ” No trick, there is a treat inside!”
For fun, you may want to surprise your guests with a “trick” inside. Take a strip of paper and fold it accordion style with the word “Boo!” at the end. Glue the other end to the inside of the bottle cap. Children will find it when they open their bottle.

Fill these Halloween themed party favors with gummy worms or other treats.