Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

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I've added more dirt

In the category of “Use What You Have,” I decided to try an experiment in reusing and recycling.

When I first started building my garden and raised beds, I ordered several bulk bags of garden loam and bark mulch. This was the least expensive and most efficient way to get the material I needed for my garden, but it also left me with several very large bulk bags that I could not return or recycle in my local area. The bags are made of a sturdy, heavy-duty fabric, and I didn’t want to just throw them away, so I had to give some thought as to how I could use them.

I needed a couple more deep raised beds, though, and I was out of large scrap lumber. I decided to recycle the bulk bags into flexible raised beds in which I could grow potatoes and carrots. What this gave me were three extra raised beds with very little effort.

How to Turn Bulk Bags into Potato Planters

1.The first thing I did was decide on a location. I set the bags up next to my storage shed. This spot gets sun for most of the day, and it’s out of the way. Eventually I want to build a greenhouse here, but for now, it’s the perfect location to grow some potatoes.

2. I folded the sides of the bags outwards and down in two folds so I could raise them up as the potatoes grew. Instead of hilling up the soil around the plants, I would fill the bags in as we went along.

3.I bought some bagged garden soil on sale and filled each bag with about ten bags of dirt each. The bags are 25 liters or 22.7 quarts in size.

Setting up the bulk bags

4.In one bag I put six seed potatoes, and in the other I put seven. In the third bag, I sprinkled in three different varieties of carrots.

5. It didn’t take long for the little potato plants to appear, and they started growing fast.

Young potato plants grow fast

6. When the plants reached the top of the bag, I added four more bags of soil to each bulk bag and used my hands to level the dirt around the growing plants. I unfolded the bags to raise the sides a bit.

7. The plants have been thriving! I raised the sides further, starting from the back and carefully unfolding the fabric and lifting the vines as I worked my way around the front. I then added another four 25 liter bags of dirt to each bulk bag.

Raise the sides, starting from the back

8. Since the bagged dirt tends to be compacted, it is rather heavy and filled with lumps. I first emptied the bags of soil into my wheelbarrow and used a shovel to mix the bagged soil with some looser garden dirt I had, breaking down the lumps to a nice, fine garden soil. I used a small bucket to carefully add the soil around my potato plants.

Loosen the dirt in a wheelbarrow

9. The bag on the right has the sides unfolded and raised and I’ve added fresh soil for the second time. The bag on the left will be filled next. The vines are so long and heavy, they are hanging over the edge of the bag!

Second addition of dirt

10.   Once all the new dirt was added, I gave everything a good watering. These bags drain well, so I don’t have to worry about the dirt getting too saturated.

Watering the potatoes

At this point, I won’t add any more dirt. If I had a source for clean, organic straw, I would top up the bags with straw. For now, though, the potato plants can do their thing until they are ready to harvest.I’m looking forward to digging in these bags for new potatoes. I have four different types of potatoes growing: russet, red, purple and yellow. It will be interesting to see how they all do.

The vines are really healthy and clean and so far I haven’t seen many bugs to speak of. Because they are up off the ground, they are warmer and they drain well, so I am hoping that means a bumper crop of potatoes.

As a final note, my carrots are doing really well, too. I've thinned them out a couple of times and haven't added any extra dirt as they don't need it.

The carrots in their own bag

The beauty of these temporary raised beds is that I can empty them and move them to another location if needed. Once I decide if I want to keep them in a permanent location, I can build some fencing around them to disguise the fabric if I want.

They also add some extra gardening space, let me try out different locations for raised beds, and best of all, make good use of materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

So don't throw those leftover bulk bags away. Put them to work as planters and raised beds.

Judith Docken is a freelance writer, author and blogger. She has published gardening articles in SF Gate and Modern Mom online magazines and was published in an anthology of Canadian short stories called That Golden Summer. She is currently building her backyard into an urban homestead and organic garden, writing her second novel, and learning how to grow asparagus and celery Connect with Judith on LinkedInPinterest, and Google+. Read all of Judith’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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


Ryan and large live edge slab

Most goods in today’s economy are made in factories from around the world. That’s not what you’ll find here, in my shop.— Ryan Baldwin, Baldwin Custom Woodworking

While working as an arborist removing trees from backyards and along city streets in Fort Collins, Colorado, Ryan Baldwin saw an opportunity to salvage city trees destined for the dump into usable lumber for woodworking projects.

“I saw the waste stream that was generated in tree work and the potential to recapture this material and turn it into something useful,” said Ryan. Although the utilization of urban wood was not a new concept, milling and selling locally-sourced lumber was uncommon in the Fort Collins area.

Ryan sawing locally sourced wood

As the home of Colorado State University, Fort Collins has been influenced by the school’s agriculture, forestry, landscape architecture and veterinary science programs.

“Our community has an unusually large population of american elm and due to CSU’s botanical influence, the city has a diverse urban forest including ash, walnut, elm, honey locust, oak, pine, hackberry, catalpa, mulberry, sycamore, Russian olive, linden, cottonwood, willow, and more,” said Ryan. From his sawmill, Ryan produces rough-cut dimensional lumber and large, live edge slabs in a variety of species harvested in Northern Colorado.

“All the lumber that we sell is urban wood reclaimed from the waste stream,” said Ryan. “This homegrown product is very unique – unlike farm-raised lumber, it is not perfectly straight with uniform grain.” The uniqueness of these urban trees include finding many interesting items inside such as nails, barbed-wire, and even bullets, but Ryan uses the distinct wood characteristics produced by these items to his advantage in marketing his products.

“These trees tell a story and it’s an amazing experience to see the beautiful wood inside them,” he said.

Lumber and slabs stacked for kiln drying

When milling became more frequent, Ryan increased his focus on furniture design and set aside hardwoods with interesting qualities. In 2008, Ryan established Baldwin Custom Woodworking to create custom furniture in addition to his milling services.

“I had a lot to learn – namely furniture design, aesthetics, finishing techniques, and the many intricacies of running a small business,” said Ryan. “I feel lucky that I’ve been able to turn a hobby into a real job.” Baldwin mills logs both for design projects and for the sale of lumber and slabs, splitting his time in half between both parts of the business.

Ryan Baldwin sawmilling

The majority of Baldwin Custom Woodworking furniture pieces are made from local, urban lumber, making each piece unique and truly one of a kind.

“We don’t recycle our designs, instead preferring to work with clients to develop a design and choose a species of wood that best suits their needs,” said Ryan. “We feel honored to be able to produce heirlooms that will live on for generations.”

Providing hand-made products such as desks, tables, chairs, china cabinets, armoires, kitchen islands, bathroom vanities, and more to both custom furniture and commercial customers, each client appreciates that the products are made with local materials. “Our customers value that our products are unusual and not available from national retailers,” said Ryan. “The concept of having something custom-made is pretty special in today’s economy.”

By offering products made from alternatively sourced materials, commercial projects are on the rise for Baldwin Custom Woodworking as contractors and builders seek LEED certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) to reuse material from a site for trim, flooring, and furniture.

Table built with locally salvaged wood

With years of hard work and a few key investments including a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Baldwin Custom Woodworking continues to succeed.

“The best part of my week is when I deliver a piece of furniture to a client and get to see them see it for the first time,” said Ryan. “It’s a very cool moment, they usually can’t take their hands off it – they just want to feel the finish and see it from all angles.”

The future is bright for Baldwin Custom Woodworking as Ryan plans to expand to a location where he can add a showroom for lumber and furniture and hire more help so he can spend more time with his customers. “I’d like to see us continue to grow and sell more lumber because that means less waste will go into our local landfills,” said Ryan.

By identifying an untapped market and turning a hobby into a profession, Ryan has built a successful family-owned business that will continue to grow for years to come. For more information about Ryan and Baldwin Custom Woodworking, connect on Facebook or visit Baldwin Woodworking or Baldwin Hardwoods.

The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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


Greenhouse front with shade cloth

We no longer used our 6-foot-by-10-foot dog kennel and it looked like a sturdy frame for a greenhouse. After not seeing too much online about making a greenhouse from an unused dog kennel, we decided to take it one step at a time, and of course take pictures as we did in order to share the process with others.

We always see unused dog kennels in yards as we drive here or there, so we know others might like to know they can put it to good use. One of our goals was to keep the cost of this project down by re-purposing materials we already had around.

Leveling ground for greenhouse

First, we moved the dog kennel around in the yard to picture where the best location would be. Lots of sun, access to water, away from any parking strip, and within view of where we could see it for enjoyment. Once we located the best position for our greenhouse, we drew up a plan and made a materials checklist.

Greenhouse Materials List

Unused dog kennel
Several one inch pipe clamps
Several treated 2-by-4 boards
Hog wire panels
Nylon zip ties
Tubular foam pipe insulation
Weed barrier
Landscape staples
UV-treated, reinforced polyethylene sheeting
1-by-2 wood strips
Screws and washers
Spring clamps
Planter hooks with machine bolts and nuts (optional)
Tables, shade cloth, and irrigation (optional)


Next, we leveled the land our greenhouse would sit on. We were working with a slight slope, so the uphill side needed more digging out than the downhill side. The dog kennel needs to be as sturdy as possible making sure all the joints are strong and the chain link fencing is secure. Our dog kennel has a nice door, so we double-checked the hinges and balanced the door swing.

We do not want our greenhouse to be damaged in any of the fierce windstorms we get, so we secured the dog kennel to footings on the ground. It has stood the test of time now that it’s been there for more than 3 years and does not budge even in 45 mile per hour wind gusts.

There are different-sized dog kennels made with different-sized tubing. We used 1-inch pipe clamps every 2 feet to secure the bottom tube of the dog kennel to treated 2-by-4 boards on the ground serving as a footing.

Greenhouse footing photo

Footing Pipe Clamps

We used two hog-wire panels for the top. They came 5 foot by 16 foot, so we had the lumber yard cut 5 feet off of each to make them 5 by 11. This is the dimension that made sense and worked for us. You may find you want to work with different dimensions to fit your particular dog kennel and desired roof height.

We wanted the roof height to be 3 feet above the dog kennel at the tallest point, making the overall height of the structure 9 feet tall in order to hang potted plants, which of course are fertilized with our homemade sardine fertilizer, and so my husband could walk through it without ducking.

Hogwire roof for greenhouse

Our hog-wire panels are on the inside of the dog kennel with tension against the inside top tube of the frame. Placing the hog-wire panel on top of the dog kennel, my husband positioned himself on the outside of the dog kennel. Holding an edge of the hog-wire panel inside of the far side of the kennel, he pushed on the side closest to him, causing the hog-wire panel to bow up, and nudged his side of the hog-wire panel inside the side the upper edge of the dog kennel.

Be extremely careful when installing the hog-wire panels as you will be putting pressure against its strength and it could slip and spring back at you. Have others stand clear of the project during this time, and be sure to wear sturdy leather gloves and eye protection.

We secured the hog-wire panels to the top rail of the dog kennel with zip ties a few inches apart. We used spare tubular foam pipe insulation we had stored in the garage to pad the sharp ends of the hog-wire panels.

Just slip the pipe insulation over the ends of the hog-wire panels anywhere the UV-treated, reinforced polyethylene sheeting will touch. This prevents injury to people and the poly sheeting that will cover the dog kennel creating the greenhouse environment.

Tubular Foam pipe insulation

I have never liked working in a greenhouse with a dirt floor, so before going further, I secured weed-barrier strips to the ground with landscape staples. As an added delight, my husband drilled two holes through the vertical tubing at the top of each corner to accommodate attaching planter hooks at the corners.

Greenhouse floor weed barrier

To fasten the UV-treated, reinforced polyethylene sheeting to the dog kennel, first we draped the poly sheeting over the entire dog kennel.

Next, we cut the poly sheeting excess, so we only had about 3 feet excess, which would be rolled under and secured. Using 1-by-2 wood strips, we rolled under the excess poly sheeting at the sides and fastened them to the 2-by-4 board footings using screws with washers to protect against tearing the poly sheeting.

Worked fabulous — now we have a greenhouse!

UV Reinforced Poly Sheeting

For the back side of the greenhouse, we used the same method as the sides, but rolling under only part of the excess and securing by two separate one by two wood strips at the ground level.

Using two more one by two wood strips, we vertically rolled the poly sheeting gathering it into the middle of the back of the greenhouse and securing with spring clamps. Now, in extreme heat, we can open the back of the greenhouse for ventilation simply by unclamping the spring clamps and opening the V-shape vent.

To close it, we simply bring the vertical poly sheeting wrapped one by two wood strips together and clamp with the spring clamps.

Back of Greenhouse with clamps

We fashioned the front of the greenhouse similar to the back except since we needed to work around the existing door, we gathered the poly sheeting on a short 1-by-2 wood strip above the door fastening it to a second parallel 1-by-2 wood strip on the inside and along the sides of the door we did the same. The door was covered with a small piece of poly sheeting.

Back of Greenhouse Opened

We added tables and irrigation in the greenhouse for ease of working with plants and watering anything we grow. Standard shade cloth works well for plant protection during extreme heat.

Had any luck building a greenhouse with unconventional materials? Do you have any additional techniques that worked for you? Leave a comment and let's discuss.

Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.


We are a young couple that left our previous lives behind to build an off grid homestead deep in the Idaho mountains. In ten months we have accomplished so much, from building an off grid cabin, starting a garden, and making our own lumber.

But one big project we haven't started yet is building our house. In a strange twist of priorities, we built a wood-fired hot tub first (click here to see our step-by-step instructions).

diy wood fired hot tub

If you think we're crazy, then read on. This was actually a well thought out decision on our part that we couldn't be happier with.

Building a house is going to be an enormous amount of work. It's going to be physically and mentally taxing and will demand lots of skills that we haven't learned yet.

Before we started such a daunting project we wanted to build something to get our confidence up — something that could help make our house-building process a little more enjoyable. And if we can save money by avoiding the chiropractor, all the better! We decided that building a wood-fired cedar hot tub from scratch would be the perfect project.

soakiging in a cedar hot tub

Completely done-for-you cedar hot tubs (even kits) can cost upwards of $3-$7 thousand dollars. Including the wood stove, we built ours for less than $850. It certainly wasn't easy, but by taking the time to build up our skills and having the patience to thoroughly search for good deals, we have created a hot tub we hope to enjoy for years to come.

One big challenge with this project was that we chose to build it with #2 grade cedar. We saved lots of money by pulling out usable boards from the cast off pile at a local lumber yard, but we did have to be incredibly intentional with every cut to ensure we didn't waste our wood or use pieces with knots that could be prone to leakage.

inside cedar hot tub

Each stave for the sides of the tub was carefully cut and joined together to create a water-tight seal once the boards swelled. Of any part of this project, cutting the joints for the staves was the part where it most paid to take our time!

We managed to use scrap wood from the stave construction to build a four-sided bench for the inside the tub, and we had the great luck to score a used stove off Craigslist for only $250. This stove runs off the wood from our yard and the six foot chimney keeps the smoke far above our heads.

Our hearts almost broke when it was time to fill the tub because it didn't hold water. Water gushed out the sides faster than we could keep it filled. Surprisingly, that's normal for cedar tubs when they are first filled.

After we were able to figure out a way to keep our tub filled for three full days (involved going on a two-week detour of trying to get a cistern installed on our property so that we didn't have to fill up the tub with buckets), we finally won the battle!

diy hot tub filled with water

Since we've completed our tub we've been enjoying soaks almost every night. We love our tub and the journey we have taken to complete it. If you're in any way inspired and want to learn more about how you can make your own tub for a fraction of the cost of buying one retail, then hop on over to our nine-part video series where we share every step we took to complete our own DIY wood fired hot tub.

Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off-grid homestead from scratch. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow her many DIY projects including building with reclaimed materials, building an off-grid hot tub, milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill and starting an organic garden. Keep up on the journey by following her blog Pure Living for Life, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here!

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


Mouse pad on desk

From an outsider’s perspective, at first it may seem that technology and sustainability are mutually exclusive concepts. But, in fact, the two worlds are inexorably linked. The use of technology allows us to accurately measure and assess our impact on the environment as well as create and execute intricate plans for improvement. So it only seems natural that computer accessories should be eco-friendly, too, right?

This Father’s Day, you can surprise the tech-loving dad in your life with a fancy homemade mouse pad that you created especially for him from upcycled wood scrap and a DIY eco-friendly wood sealant. A project like this is a fantastic way to help older kids learn to use a few simple power tools while younger kids can get involved with the decoration process. So, let’s get started!


First you’ll need to rifle around in the garage for a suitable piece of wood. Each type of wood will have different characteristics so keep that in mind while you search. The right piece will be thin and somewhat smooth.

My best option was quarter-inch thin plywood, which is not the most beautiful wood in the world, but seeing as the point is to give purpose to something otherwise destined for the trash, it’s just perfect. Other supplies you’ll need:

• Power sander
• Pencil
• Jigsaw
• Permanent marker or paint pens (optional for decoration)
• ½ cup beeswax pastilles or grated beeswax
• 1 ½ cups olive oil
• A glass jar (a standard Mason jar is the perfect size)
• Stovetop double boiler (or two pots that could be used as such)
• Clean rags
• Adhesive rubber feet (optional)

Materials needed for project


Step 1: Create your wood sealant. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and bring to a boil. In the top of the boiler, pour in ½ cup of beeswax. When that has mostly melted, add 1½ cups of olive oil and stir until all of the beeswax has combined with the oil.

Wood sealant in mason jar

Step 2: Pour sealant carefully into your glass jar and let it cool while you work on the rest of the project. Little ones might enjoy watching the liquid change color and harden as it cools. Monitoring the progress might also keep them entertained while you manage the power tools. Just make sure they don’t touch—it’s hot!

Step 3: Mark the area of wood that you would like to become the mouse pad. I thought my husband would like a unique circular shape, so I traced a plate that was just the right size (8 3/4" in diameter). Be aware of any knots or other imperfections in the wood that won’t allow the mouse to glide uninterrupted.

 Marking the area of wood

Step 4: Using the jigsaw, carefully cut out your shape. If you have teenagers, they may be ready to try using this tool with your careful instruction and supervision. Be sure to use goggles and take other safety precautions.

Sand down the wood

Step 5: Now it’s time to sand down the wood so the surface and edges are smooth. This may be a good opportunity to teach older children to use a power sander! If you have patient kids, you could even try having them sand by hand to avoid electricity usage.

Step 6: Wipe your mouse pad down with a damp lint-free cloth to remove dust from sanding and let it dry completely.

 Enjoy decorating your project! 

Step 7: Decorate! My husband is a bit of a minimalist, so I thought I would keep it simple for him with a quick monochromatic drawing. I used a regular black permanent marker for this (after drawing my illustration on with a pencil to get the correct layout). There’s a slight bleed into the wood from the marker, so you could try paint pens instead if you wanted to. This is a fun step as decoration offers the perfect opportunity for younger kids to get involved so the gift can be a full family effort.

Add the sealant to wood

Step 8: Make sure the sealant has cooled to a solid and isn’t too hot to handle. Then, apply it to the wood in a circular motion with a clean lint-free rag. Let the wood drink in the sealant for at least a few hours before buffing it into the wood in the direction of the grain. The wood I used isn’t anything super special, but this magical concoction of ours will help to polish wood and bring out its rich hues which can be a really neat transformation for fancier types of wood.

Step 9: (Optional) Add some adhesive rubber feet to the bottom of your mouse pad to keep it from sliding around. This step may be unnecessary depending on the surface upon which it will rest. I usually try to make do with what I have (i.e. going without little feet) to avoid buying new products that come with a carbon footprint and, usually, plenty of unnecessary packaging. Thus the need for a DIY mouse pad in the first place!

 Enjoy your handmade present!

This customized project is perfect for Father’s Day for many reasons: You’re helping Dad clean up a little scrap from his workshop, creating something by hand (and as a family!) specifically for him and you’ll have plenty of natural wood sealant left over for him to use in the future! Enjoy the family time and the look on Dad’s face this Father’s Day when you give him a newly upcycled addition to his computer desk.

Julia Marchand is a DIY and upcycling expert who loves developing unique and sustainable projects, especially if they’re a gift for her husband or son. She writes about her different creations, including this father’s day gaming gift, for Read all of Julia's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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


Installing a lock-top chimney damper is a common project among do-it-yourself homeowners. As fireplaces and chimneys age they tend to deteriorate from use, foundation shifting, and weather. This causes the original throat damper not to seal as well as it once may have.

Many times, the fireplace throat damper rusts apart and is non-functional, allowing heat and air from your home to escape through the chimney and vice versa.

In today's chimney industry, we have top locking chimney dampers that are easy to install, made of stainless steel, and completely seal the chimney flue when not in use. The lock-top chimney damper is a great way to reduce heat and air loss from your home and to keep animals, weather, and debris out.

 Clay Flue Tile


Lock Top Damper Installed


Steps to Installing a Lock-Top Chimney Damper

Follow the steps below and watch Rockford Chimney Supply's do-it-yourself installation video below to learn how to install a Lock-Top Chimney Damper.

1. For this installation you will need a hammer, high powered drill, 1/4-inch masonry bit, and wire cutters along with the damper and hardware pack.

2. Start by spreading a bead of silicone cement around the top of the clay chimney flue. Make sure that the bead of silicone is about 1/4-inch thick.

3. Once the silicone cement is spread onto the top of the clay tile, feed the wire cable down the chimney flue.

4. Firmly place the damper centered on the clay tile flue. Spread silicone along the side of the damper to fill in any gaps.

5. Locate the mounting bracket that was included in the damper hardware pack. Position the mounting bracket inside the firebox approximately 20 inches from the floor of the firebox.

6. Using your drill and 1/4-inch masonry bit, drill the holes for the anchor nails.

7. Drive the nails through the mounting bracket and into the wall of the firebox using your hammer.

8. Thread the chain and gable through the hole in the mounting bracket until all slack is out of the wire.

9. Loosen the brass adjustment clamp with the wrench included in the hardware package. Pull the cable until the damper is completely closed and sealed.

10. Position the adjustment clamp at the mounting bracket and tighten the adjustment clamp with the wrench until it is tight.

11. Cut off the excess cable with your wire cutters.

12. Congratulations, you are done installing your Lock Top Chimney Damper! Now you will be keeping the heat & air inside your home all while saving money.

You can learn more about the Lock Top Chimney Damper here. If you have technical questions, we're here to help you do-it-yourself and save.

Photo Credit & Video Credit: Rockford Chimney Supply

Jaquelin White is a Web marketer near Ann Arbor, Michigan. From helping local businesses increase their web presence to working for Rockford Chimney Supply serving the U.S. and Canada, Jaquelin loves the always-changing ways of the web, because there is always something new to learn and try. Read all of Jaquelin’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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


Stretching A Hat Out


Hats off! That was my adage, but not anymore! Hats prevent UV rays from harming sensitive head and neck areas and can safeguard kids from the sun and wind as they have fun outside. But what if your favorite hat is too small?


While cleaning my closet of clothes no longer needed, I saw two garden hats on the upper shelf. I’ve had these hats for a while but got tired of pulling and squeezing them onto my head, so there they sat. I used to think I just need to put up with the squeezing, the headache, and the smashed hair. There’s got to be a better way.


While sharing my challenge with my husband, he suggested we stretch the hats somehow. After talking about possible solutions, we settled on one that seems to work nicely. It takes time and it’s not possible to stretch all hats, but I’m thrilled to be able to wear hats again.


Can Your Hat Be Wet?


Grab the hat you need to stretch and figure out what components or fabric forms your hat. Determine if these materials can be submersed in water without damaging the hat. That means it needs to be colorfast, with colors that cannot fade or be washed out, so you don’t end up with a runny mess of dye ruining the hat forever.


If your hat can be soaked in water in a large washtub or bucket for 30 minutes, this remedy may be just what you’ve been looking for.




With enough cool water in a tub or bathtub to cover your hat, soak your hat for 30 minutes. This will prepare the fibers to enable them to stretch.


Remove the hat from the water and position on a flat surface with a towel to absorb any excess water.


Determine the Desired Size


Measure around the widest part of your head and decide if you want your hat to fit snug on your head or a bit loose.


Locate an inflatable sports ball as close to your desired circumference as possible. We discovered a volley ball is just a touch larger around than the circumference of my head. So, a volley ball works perfect for my hats.


You’ll also need an air-pump, a bicycle-pump works well, and pump-needle for this project.


Inflate the Ball


Place the ball on a table or other firm surface. Without the pump attached, put the pump needle into the ball to deflate it.


Making sure the valve on the ball is facing out of the hat, deflate the ball enough to slide the ball into the hat so it touches inside to the top of the hat. Attach the pump to the pump needle and begin inflating the ball.


Carefully inflate the ball until it is very firm and visibly stretching the hat. Remove the pump with pump needle. Store your hat, with the inflated ball inside, in a warm area to dry for a week. (Your hat needs to be thoroughly dry before you remove the ball or all these stretching efforts will fail.)


After a week, when your hat is completely dry, insert the pump needle, without the pump, into the valve to let enough air out of the ball to easily remove the ball from the hat. Try on the newly stretched hat and be delighted!

Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers.

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

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