Hits and misses of DIY projects, both big and small.

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner! Are you ready? I recommend homemade gifts for your mother this year. They are always thoughtful and usually are budget friendly. These eco-friendly projects are perfect for the home crafter who needs some fresh ideas for Mother’s Day this year.

Teacup Candles Plus Rose Vanilla Scented Soap

Teacup Candles + Rose Vanilla Scented Soap

These teacup candles are adorable! You could use mismatched teacups that you already have, or pick up some pretty or unique teacups at a thrift shop or flea market. Pair a teacup candle (or two!) with some homemade rose vanilla soap and you’ll have a great smelling gift for your mom or grandmother.

Follow these DIY instructions for Teacup Candles from Martha Stewart.

Follow these DIY instructions for Rose Vanilla Scented Soap from Hello Natural.

Wooden Coasters and Coffee Mug

Wooden Coasters + Coffee Mug

If mom is a big coffee or tea drinker, why not make a special mug for her, complete with homemade coasters? These State Pride coasters can be customized with mom’s home state and her favorite colors or colors that represent her favorite school or team. If you’re handy with a saw you can cut your own coasters, or if you’d rather, you can purchase a craft kit from Darby Smart (designed by me!). A simple DIY Sharpie marker mug and Mom’s favorite brand of coffee or tea completes the ensemble.

Follow these DIY instructions for State Pride Coasters from This Ohio Life.

Follow these DIY instructions for Mother's Day Sharpie Mugs from Maiko Nagao.

Metal Tray Magnet Board with Vintage Brooch Magnets

Metal Tray Magnet Board with Vintage Brooch Magnets

Instead of breakfast in bed, turn an old breakfast tray into a chic magnet board, complete with vintage brooch magnets and some of your favorite family photos. It’s a gorgeous, sentimental and practical gift! Look for metal breakfast trays and vintage brooches at flea markets, garage and estate sales. This is one of the easier DIYs on this list and I have the instructions for making a magnet board right here on the Mother Earth News blog!

Follow these DIY instructions for Metal Tray Magnet Board from the Mother Earth News DIY Blog.

Follow these DIY instructions for Upcycled Vintage Jewelry Magnets from My So Called Crafty Life.

DIY Vase Plus a Bouquet of Locally Grown Flowers

DIY Vases

There are lots of different ways to repurpose a container or glass bottle into a beautiful vessel for flowers. Raid your recycling bin for interesting and uniquely shaped bottles. Whether you turn one or multiple bottles into vases, fill them with locally grown flowers, picked from your own backyard or bought at the farmers’ market. It will make a lovely and cheerful spring gift.

Follow these DIY instructions for Gold Honey Bear Vase from A Beautiful Mess.

Follow these DIY instructions for Painted Vases from The Girl Candy House.

Homemade Bookmarks and DIY Book Clutch

Bookmarks and Clutch

If your mom is a book lover, make her homemade bookmark and DIY book clutch to match! The photo bookmarks are a perfect (and hilarious) way to include the kids in creating a special gift for mom or grandma. The book clutch is a great way to repurpose an old and tattered book that still has a nice cover (look at used book stores, garage sales and library book sales for colorful vintage tomes) and it makes a great eco-friendly fashion statement!

Follow these DIY instructions for Bookmark Pals from Wake & Whimsy.

Follow these DIY instructions for Fun Photo Bookmarks from Redfly Creations.

Follow these DIY instructions for Zipper Book Clutch from See Kate Sew.

Whatever you plans are this Mother’s Day, make sure your gift to mom or grandma is a gift that is good for Mother Earth too!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


With spring amongst us, I, like most of you, am excited to tackle a few new gardening projects. After searching the web for innovative ideas, I came across a nifty one that makes use of a simple pallet. My husband and his family operate bulk oil and gas companies in our local and have an abundance of these useful objects. This has no doubt onset my slight obsession with pallet recycling. If you need help sourcing a pallet, check out a similar establishment in your area or a grocery/gardening store.

Watch Create a Vertical Pallet Garden, a video tutorial by Andrew Martin, to learn how to create your very own pallet garden!


For spring, I could see doing a porch herb garden with this or some nice lettuces. It’d be wonderful to step out your front door to gather edibles for cooking. If you tackle this fun project over the weekend, be sure to let me know how it turns out!

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Tutto Giardinaggio (giardinaggio).

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



If you would have told me, just two years ago, that I would be using essential oils, I would have laughed.

If you would have told me, just two years ago, that I would be making (and loving) my own toothpaste, I would have de-friended you. I mean, seriously, who doesn't love those bubbly tingling scrubbers called "fresh" in your mouth from brushing your teeth right after downing a bloomin' onion?

I don' least, not anymore.

I'll admit it, when I first told my husband that I was going to try making my own toothpaste, I cringed at the idea. Besides, I had barely gotten used to oil pulling (more on that later), and he had just gotten used to me oil pulling too. I couldn't take the risk of him looking at me like a freak again.

But overall health and wellness took over, and here I am, loving my homemade toothpaste.

When I first started using homemade toothpaste, I honestly couldn't tell a difference in the health of my teeth or gums. I thought, "this is silly, I miss my scrubbers". But I stuck with it, because I knew that any quick "miracle" fixer (other than God!) isn't good for you. I had to remind myself that it took this long for me to do this damage to my month, it's going to take at least a month before I see results.

What I saw astounded me, completely.

Over the next month, my gums were no longer bright red, but a very healthy pink.

My gums weren't swollen around the teeth, but nice, shiny and flat.

My teeth were clean. And stayed clean all day long. I had zero plaque, ever.

Cavities have healed, completely on their own. Yes, you read that right. They have healed.

And I have had absolutely NO cold sores in my mouth since using homemade toothpaste. I used to get at least one cold sore per week.

....and then, last week, I ran out of homemade toothpaste and forgot to make more....

Well, I'll just use my husband’s non-homemade toothpaste until I get around to making more. Or so I thought.

The first night I brushed my teeth with the regular old Crest, my gums were burning. I literally felt like I had washed my mouth out with gasoline.


Two days later, I had a cold sore.

Three days later, my gums were bright red and swollen. They call that gingivitis now days, you know?

Needless to say, my suspicions about store bought toothpaste were correct, and I will never be using it again! Now, if I could just convince my husband.

I babbled all of this to say, I love homemade toothpaste. The below recipe is the only recipe I have tried, but I will be experimenting with more (including Bentonite Clay) eventually.

My favorite part about this recipe is that it uses coconut oil and peppermint essential oil. Both have all natural anti-bacterial properties without using chemicals. They both pull toxins out of your body, naturally. And they both taste super good!

Please do not ever add sugar or a sugar substitute to your toothpaste!! Many bloggers endorse this, and it is just not necessary, nor is it healthy for you or your overall mouth health.

This recipe is your very simple, basic toothpaste recipe. Have fun with it!! Honestly, at this point, I don't even measure it. Start with your coconut oil base, and then build on it from there to whatever consistency you'd like. Just remember that it will thicken and settle in the first 24 hours, however, you do not need to stir it when you are ready to use it!!

Homemade Toothpaste

• 1/4 cup Organic Coconut Oil
• 4 heaping tbsp Baking Soda
• 1 tsp Sea Salt
• 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

Mix together coconut oil, baking soda, and sea salt in a small jar or container that has a lid.

I prefer to use glass so that there's no possibility of plastic/BPA leaking into the mixture.

Mix in 10 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil (or you can use another anti-bacterial type oil).

Add more baking soda if you'd like, however, don't make it too thick.
It will thicken more (in 24 hours) once the coconut oil settles after being mixed up.

Please keep in mind that this is not anything like store bought toothpaste.

There will be no fizzing or tingling.

It's not soft and smooth.

You will need to dip your toothbrush into the jar of toothpaste, or you can by squeezable tubes to transfer the toothpaste into once mixed. I just do the jar, it's easier that way — whip it up and go!

I would love to hear your results from using homemade toothpaste (and your recipes, too!)

Feel free to comment below or on our facebook page.

Amy Fewell is a work-at-home mom, homesteader, blogger and writer. Her and her family live on a mini-homestead in Virginia where they raise Icelandic Chickens (and other various breeds), standard Rex rabbits, ducks and more! For more information about their homestead, visit them online at The Fewell Homestead.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Cactus Teacup Planter 1

This little planter is so cute! It’s the perfect spring time project and can easily be made with an old teacup, or one picked up at a local thrift shop or garage sale. The other items can be purchased at any home improvement or gardening store.

The most important thing to consider when making a planter out of a non-traditional planting container is drainage. Cups, teacups and bowls do not have drainage holes so you will need to create drainage space with pebbles. Drainage is especially important for planting cacti and succulents; desert plants that have evolved with the ability to survive with very little water. I recommend using a potting mix specifically designed for cacti and succulents, it will be better suited to the needs of the plants used in this project.

Depending on whether or not you use a teacup you already own and if you garden fairly often, you may not need to purchase anything for this project, other than a small cactus or succulent. If you do need to make purchases, the cost should be relatively low, with pebbles and potting soil leftover for future projects!


To make your own teacup cactus planter you will need:

• 1 teacup
• Small pebbles
• Cactus/succulent potting soil
• Small cactus or other succulent
• Larger pebbles or other decorative items
• Water
• Spoon (optional)

Before beginning the project, make sure to thoroughly clean the teacup you are using. Once the teacup is cleaned and dry, add the pebbles. You'll want a layer about an inch in height. If your teacup is rather large, you can make the pebble layer deeper.

Take your cactus or succulent out of the container you purchased it in. Gently tease the root ball so it's a bit loose before setting the plant in the teacup. Make sure that the top of where the soil begins is not taller than your teacup, if it is, you need to remove some pebbles so your plant will sit lower in the teacup. Once your plant is sitting where you would like it, add your cactus potting soil to the teapot. It's easiest if you pre-moisten your potting soil with a bit of water before adding it to your container. Dry soil will get everywhere; with damp or wet soil you have more control. I prefer to spoon a little bit of soil into a plastic container, add water and stir before adding the damp soil to the jar. I also use a spoon to add my soil to the teacup, but that’s entirely optional.

The final step is adding a decorative touch to your planter. I use some of the same pebbles that make up the drainage area in the bottom of the teacup to decorate the top of the soil. Any small items can be used, a little plastic animal or other trinket adds just a little something extra!

Cacti and succulents prefer bright, indirect light. Keep an eye on your plant and be sure not to over water it.

If you have enough teacups and leftover supplies, you could make an entire tea party of cacti!

Cactus Teacup Planter 2

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


It seems like almost every day we come across old clothes that don’t fit, window treatments that are worn-out or fabric swatches that we just toss in the trash. In the spirit of spring renewal, why not take those tired textiles and transform them into something new?

Repurposed pillow covers are an easy way to wake up your stale sofa and chairs, not to mention they offer a second life to household items that normally would have ended up in a dumpster. Here’s how to repurpose your castoff fabrics into fun, fresh pillow and cushion covers.

Add Contrast to Existing Throw Pillows

DIY Pillow Natural Fabric 

After winter ends, bringing brighter spring colors into your decor helps boost your spirits and brings a springtime vibe to your furniture. Take a tour through your closets, linen closet, and attic to dig through fabric, sheets and clothes you no longer wear. Don’t forget about consignment and thrift shops, too.

For this pillow (above), I used jute mesh fabric left over from a DIY project last year and used it to brighten my brown chair cushions. I simply measured out the fabric around the pillow, then used safety pins to secure the material on the back. You can also sew or use a hot glue gun if your fabric is lightweight. This will enable you to quickly slip the pillow in and out of the fabric when the season changes.

Add Texture with a Cable-Knit Sweater

DIY Pillow Cable Knit Sweater 

You may be putting your sweaters away for the season, but consider keeping a few out for your decor. I found a horizontal throw pillow to add visual interest to my chair and inserted the pillow inside of my old sweater. Rather than using the front of the sweater, I selected one of the sleeves, so the cable knit had varying patterns. Simply cut off the extra sweater material and use a fabric glue, such as Fabri-Tac, that quickly dries in place. Instead of gluing both ends of the pillow, I cuffed the sweater arm on one side so the pillow can be removed at any time.

Long-Sleeved Shirts with Embellishments for No-Sew Covers

Believe it or not, there are many “no-sew” alternatives to creating repurposed pillow covers. Use long-sleeved flannel shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters with creative embellishments to give your pillows a funky look.

I “borrowed” one of my husband’s sweaters that had a great zipper, and simply wrapped it around a pillow. By tucking the hem underneath and tying the sleeves into a knot in the front, I created a quirky new cover — no cutting or sewing required. This is a great idea if you’re hosting a party and need to give your home a boost of color and creativity without spending a lot of money and hours in a home decor store. You could take these one step further and attach buttons, sequins, lace, and ribbon for a dressier pillow cover.

I love the rustic yet casual look of these three repurposed pillows. They were easy to create, and I cleared some room in our overly crowded closets!

Ronique Gibson is a LEED AP certified design expert and associate architect who hasworked in the interior design field for over 17 years. Ronique writes about home sustainability topics like this one about repurposing pillows for Shutterfly. Other creative pillow ideas can be found online at the Shutterfly website.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Custom Roman Shade made by recycling clothes

The Roman shade on our bathroom window finally disintegrated after decades of use. Bathroom shades must be replaced for obvious reasons, but our window is an unusual size and hard to fit with readymade coverings. Custom retail shades can cost up to $200! Although I knew that buying new fabric for a homemade replacement would save us a lot of money, I decided to take it up a notch and figure out how to make a Roman shade from an old linen garment. This would save us buckets of money, and I knew I’d like the result much better than a commercial window covering.

My DIY Roman shade project turned out even better than I’d hoped. You, too, can make a cheap Roman shade for your home. All you need are basic sewing skills and a few simple tools — no sewing machine required. First, carefully read these instructions and plan your shade before you search for clothing to recycle.

Step 1: Measure Your Window

Measuring the window frame to make an inside-mount Roman shade

Your first step is to take careful measurements of your window. Graph paper is a good way to figure your fabric needs, and is especially helpful if you must make your Roman shade out of multiple clothing panels, as I did. Don’t forget to include extra for seam allowances and hems in your calculations.

Because I wanted to make a Roman shade that could be raised and lowered inside (not overlapping) the window frame, I needed to take accurate measurements of the distance between the frame’s interior wooden elements (see photo). Inside-mount Roman shades should be slightly narrower than the window’s inside width so they can move without dragging on the frame, so I remembered to subtract a small amount from the measurement: The interior width of our bathroom window is about 26-3/4 inches, so I rounded down to 26 inches. I also measured the inside height of the frame and added on several inches to create plenty of wiggle room. (Step 7 includes information on how to adjust the finished height.)

Step 2: Go Shopping

Large garments can be reworked into custom window shades.

Go forth in search of clothing to recycle into a cheap Roman shade. Bring along your finished measurements from Step 1 because they may influence the garment you buy. You’ll be lucky to find a single piece of clothing wide enough to cover your window. Never mind — you can stitch together several vertical segments to make what you need. The most important thing is to get enough fabric height to avoid a distracting horizontal seam.

For my window covering, I knew I needed a finished shade that measured 26 inches wide by 32 inches high, not including seam allowances and hems. But the $3.00 dress I found at a thrift store was made up of long, flared panels, none of them wide enough for my window. I really liked the dress’s linen fabric, so I decided to make the Roman shade by sewing together three strips cut from individual dress panels. That meant I needed three separate panels, each measuring 9 inches by at least 40 inches. (This is why graph paper comes in handy.) A quick measurement of the dress panels in the thrift store showed me that it would work.

After finding the exterior fabric for your shade, your next step is to refer to the lists at the end of this article and gather the materials and supplies needed for the project. All the thread, lining fabric, equipment and supplies I needed for this project came from my sewing room. I used leftover polyester cord from the original bathroom shade; you may have to look for “blind cord” or “lift cord” in the curtain section of your local sewing supply store.

Buy, scavenge or recycle enough decorative ribbon to cover the seams and the stitches for the plastic rings — the reason will become clear in Step 6. Be sure to calculate how much ribbon you’ll need to cover the stitching for every row of rings. So, for example, my shade plan called for three vertical rows of rings to hold the lift cord. To cover the stitches, I would need the height of my shade times three: 32 inches x 3 = 96 inches of ribbon, plus a few extra inches for hems. Other than the dress, the ribbon was the only item I had to buy for my cheap Roman shade.

Step 3: Prepare the Fabric

Use a seam ripper to pick out the pockets and any decorative or structural features that you don’t want to end up on your finished shade, and wash, dry and iron the clothing you’ll be recycling. I put the linen dress and ribbon through a regular cycle in my washing machine because I knew I’d want to launder the shade eventually.

Take up a scissors and break down the garment by cutting along the seam lines to separate the panels you need. For my shade, I ensured perfectly straight edges on these panels by pulling a single thread along one raw edge and cutting along that line. Then, I measured 9 inches across from this straight edge, pulled a thread on that mark, and cut along that line. The result was a panel that would hang perfectly straight inside my window frame. I repeated this for the remaining two panels. (To watch this technique in action, see the video Pulling a Thread to Get a Straight Cut in Fabric.)

I decided that the dress’s existing hem would make a nice bottom edge for my shade, so I lined up and pinned the bottom hems on all three panels before sewing them together along their long, cut edges. I didn’t bother cutting or hemming the top edge of the shade because it would be hidden by the wooden batten in Step 7. I used a sewing machine for this step, but you could stitch these seams by hand.

Before proceeding to the next step, I re-measured the finished three-part panel to make sure it was the correct width for the window, then marked and turned under the side hems, wrong sides together, and ironed them in preparation for stitching.

Step 4: Lining

Sewing lining to the back of a homemade Roman shade.

You can use whatever plain, sturdy fabric you have handy for the lining of your DIY Roman shade. I chose muslin because I had some in my fabric stash. Instead of carefully measuring and cutting the lining for your own shade, you can do as I did and sight it, tear the fabric, turn under and iron the side and bottom hems, and then whipstitch the lining to the back of the shade’s side and bottom hems with a needle and thread. I left the top edge raw because it would be hidden by the wooden batten in Step 7.

Step 5: Rings

Stitching plastic rings 6 inches apart onto the shade lining

To make an operable DIY Roman shade, you’ll need to sew rings onto the back for a lift cord to slide through. You can buy shade tape with pre-sewn rings, or you can sew separate rings to the shade lining.

Shade rings are usually made of super-smooth, snag-free plastic. The typical spacing of Roman shade rings is 5 to 6 inches apart from top to bottom, arranged in evenly spaced rows across the lining. A 6-inch spacing between rings will give your shade 3-inch folds when it’s drawn. Because I like the look of 3-inch folds, I marked the lining with pencil every 6 inches from the bottom hem to about 6 inches from the top. I recycled the plastic rings from the lining of my old shade, and sewed them onto the new shade at the seams joining the three dress panels, stitching through all the layers.

Step 6: Decorative Ribbon

Next, you’ll add decorative ribbon to hide the seams and the stitching on the front of the shade. I cut the ribbon into strips that extended slightly beyond the top and bottom edges of the shade. I pinned the ribbon in place on the front of the shade, covering up the ring stitching and making sure the strips were straight and evenly spaced, and then whipstitched them into place with matching thread. At the bottom edge of the shade, I wrapped the ribbon around the hem and secured it by stitching through all the layers.

Step 7: Batten

Homemade wooden battern for a DIY Roman shade.

Your next step is to prepare a wooden board (aka “batten”) for mounting the shade to the window. To make a batten for your project, you’ll need to saw a small board to fit loosely inside your window frame at the top. Install eye hooks — one for each row of rings on your shade — to the bottom of the batten, spacing them exactly the same distance apart as your rows of rings. (You’ll be threading cord through these eye hooks in Step 8.) You’ll also have to drill holes through the ends of the batten for screws that will secure it to the window frame. I reused the old 1-by-2 batten from my original bathroom shade. For extra stability, I added angle brackets on the ends to connect the batten to the window frame.

You’ll have to mount the top of the shade to the batten, but first, it’s a good idea to adjust the shade’s length. I lightly tacked the shade to top of the batten and had my husband hold it in place while I marked where the shade needed to wrap around the batten’s top. I took down the shade and trimmed the remainder of the shade’s top edge even with the back edge of the batten. I also zigzagged along the top edge with my sewing machine to prevent raveling, although you wouldn’t have to bother with this if you didn’t intend to ever launder the shade. After all the adjustments had been made, I used 1/2-inch finish nails to mount the top of the shade to the top of the batten. A staple gun would also work great.

Step 8: Lift Cord

Threading lift cord through rings on shade lining

To make a Roman shade that can be raised and lowered, you must install a lift cord. First, decide on which side of the shade you want the pull to be located. I wanted my pull to be on the right side of the installed shade so we could use the cleat already mounted to our window frame. I flipped my shade and batten to the lining side and reminded myself to leave the loose cord ends on the opposite side of where I wanted the pull (because the shade was upside-down). Next, I tied the cord in a double knot to the ring on the bottom-right corner of the lining and snaked it up the shade’s entire height, across the batten, and down the shade’s opposite side about two-thirds of the way. I cut this first cord, threaded it through all the plastic rings and metal eye hooks, and then repeated these actions for the remaining sets of rings (see photo, above). Each cord on your DIY Roman shade will be a different length, so don’t pre-cut them all the same.

When you’re finished threading every cord through the rings and eye hooks, tie their ends together loosely. Mount the assembled Roman shade to the inside top of your window frame with screws, and test the operation. The shade should glide smoothly up and down when you pull and release the end of the lift cord. If the bottom of the shade is lower in one spot than another, untie the knot and experiment with pulling or releasing the individual cords until you get the look you want. Trim the ends of the cords even at this point; this will make it easy to line them up for installing the pull in the next step.

Step 9: Pull

You’re almost finished! You only have to install a pull. Almost anything small and unbreakable with a hole or loop for the lift cord can be used as a pull — jewelry pendants, upholstery tassels, even metal washers. To install your chosen object, you’ll need to thread the cord ends through the pull’s hole or loop, line up the ends (now you understand why you trimmed them even in Step 8), and knot them together securely. Mount a cord cleat to your window frame, and your project is finished.

Now that you know how to make Roman shades by recycling clothes, you can stitch up money-saving coverings for windows all around your house. Whenever you’re at a thrift store, browse the plus-size racks of extra-large clothing made of beautiful fabrics, and stock up on materials you can use to sew a cheap but stylish Roman shade.

Total cost for my DIY Roman shade: Less than $5.00 for the linen dress and ribbon.


• Clothing to recycle
• Lining fabric
• Thread
• Shade rings
• Ribbon
• Wooden batten board
• Eye hooks
• Angle brackets
• Lift cord
• Wood screws
• Shade pull
• Cord cleat

The measurements and quantities of the materials you need will depend on the size of your window.

Tools and Supplies

• Graph paper – optional
• Tape measure
• Seam ripper
• Scissors
• Marking pencil
• Straight pins
• Clothes iron
• Sewing needle
• Handsaw
• Drill
• Staple gun or 1/2-inch finish nails & hammer
• Screwdriver

is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on .


Clementine Crate Spices

This is one of my favorite DIY crafts. I've been decorating Clementine crates since I was a student in college. They make great little storage containers and organizers! The process is very involved (lots of layers of paint plus drying time) but it's worth it. I've made six so far: two hold tea, two hold spices, one holds paperwork and the last one was turned into a little decorative wall shelf.

The clementine crate DIY combines two of my favorite crafts: painting and collaging (also called decoupage). It's also very cheap DIY: I have never needed to purchase supplies for just this project (other than the crate of clementines). When buying your clementines, try to pick out the best crate available - they're not all created equal!

To make your own repurposed clementine crate you will need:

• 1 wooden clementine crate
• Acrylic paint
• Collage materials (magazine clippings, wrapping paper, junk mail, stationery, tissue paper)
• Sharpie marker(s)
• Cotton swabs
• Mod Podge sealer
• Brushes
• Scissors
• Sandpaper (optional)
• Pliers (optional)

Gather your materials, let's DIY!

First, inspect your crate. Make sure there are no sharp edges or staples that could poke you. If there are, sand or remove with pliers.

Decide how you want to decorate your crate. What colors will you use? What items will be collaged on it? How you intend to use your crate can give you design ideas. My tea and spice crates are collaged with images of tea, spices and chocolate from food magazines. The crate that I use as a small shelf has a large collage on the inside of the crate that wouldn't be visible if I used it to store anything. Purpose and design go hand-in-hand.

First, paint your base layer on the crate. You may need several coats, depending on the color and how thickly you paint (thin layers dry faster than thick). Once your base color is complete, you can begin collaging. Like with all of my craft projects, I like to lay out and plan my design before busting out the glue. With some papers, especially thin and delicate ones like tissue paper or newsprint, once they have been glued down they're not moving!

To make it easier to dry, I only work on one or two sides at a time. If you start gluing on three or more sides at once, it becomes more difficult to find a dry side to rest the crate in order for it to dry.

Clementine Crate Art Shelf

When you're satisfied with your collaging efforts, you can make some embellishments with a sharpie marker or additional paint. For my tea crates I wrote several quotes about tea and chocolate and added bright dots of paint with cotton swabs. For my spices crates, I added splashes of silver paint over a red crate and white over a black crate (always be sure to protect your work surface when working with paint).

Once your final additions are dry, seal the whole crate with Mod Podge. I recommend at least two coats.

This is a time-consuming DIY project, but I've always been pleased with the results and enjoyed the process. Use your crate to corral your mail and house keys, library books or CDs — whatever needs to be organized in a stylish but cheap manner!

Clementine Crate Tea

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.