DIY

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

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6/9/2015

Forge 1

Blacksmiths often held a special status among traditional people; when your plow bent or your scythe broke, he kept your family alive. They must have seemed like alchemists, turning bare stones into gleaming jewellery or fierce weapons; here in Ireland even their homes looked different, with a bizarre keyhole-shaped door that announced the resident’s craft as clearly as any barber pole or butcher sign.

Try blacksmithing for a short time and you respect them yourself. Metals like copper or tin can be hammered into shape cold, but iron needs more than a thousand degrees of heat to become malleable; for those temperatures you need charcoal, a forge and a continual blast of air, along with the skill to know what you’re doing.

I do not claim to have such skill, but under the guidance of two excellent tutors, I was able to take a rusty piece of discarded machinery and, by heating and pounding it many times over two days, flatten and shape it into a useable machete. The course was one of many offered by the Irish organization CELT, and hosted at the Slieve Aughty Centre in County Galway.

We started by creating a forge – in this case, out of clay, sand and horse manure, mixed and shaped like a sand castle. We cut and stapled plastic bags and wooden planks to form bellows, and used pipes to connect them to the clay structure, and soon we had something primitive yet useable. We used metal ones later to save time, but it’s a great pleasure to know that you can make a working forge from almost nothing.

We quickly learned that forging metal means a lot of time standing over the fire, holding the metal – with tongs, obviously – in just the right place to get the proper amount of heat, and withdrawing it at just the right moment. Too much heat and it sparks and disintegrates, too little and no amount of hammering can budge it. Movie blacksmiths look like bodybuilders slamming white-hot metal with sledgehammers; the reality involves a lot more frantic and often delicate tapping, as the smith has only a few seconds to make the right changes before it cools again.

In my case, I hammered the old machine part into a straight bar, flattened it into a knife-shape over the next two days, and a bit of cutting and polishing did the rest. I cut a handle from a hazel branch, heated the “handle end” of the metal until it was yellow-hot, and seared the hot metal into the handle, with a gust of steam and a few bursts of flame from the wood. The result looks a bit crude, like a weapon an orc might use in the Hobbit, but it’s turned out to be a perfectly serviceable tool.

Blacksmithing is one of the dozens of professions that were widespread in all traditional cultures, when most villages had families of craftsmen – coopers, wrights, tanners and thatchers – that now survive only as surnames. Children apprenticed from an early age, learned a skill for several years, and might have entered the working world as masters at an age when teens today are spending their prime years bored and self-destructive.

A world of craftsmen creates an economy alien to modern Westerners; instead of cheap belongings meant to be thrown away quickly, goods had to be made durable, to be fixed, recast, re-forged or re-sewn over and over, with no mountains of rubbish. Such an economy entirely lacked the anonymous transactions that we think we depend on; writers from a century or two ago described recognizing particular barrels, nails or saddles as we would recognize someone’s handwriting, and the craftsman’s reputation hung on the quality of their work.

Of course, few people would be able to make a living as a smith anymore, but it’s a skill we should retain; plastic can only be recycled a few times, but iron can be recycled indefinitely. When the world is no longer able to mass-produce new materials at its former rate, when there is no new plastic and fewer forests, we will have billions of tons of landfill waste. Movies like WALL-E posit garbage covering the Earth, but in real life much of that garbage would not only be reusable, but precious, and today’s landfills could be tomorrow’s mines.

Knife 

For more information about CELT’s Weekend in the Hills, check them out here. If you are in County Galway, do check out the Slieve Aughty Centre near Loughrea.

Top photo: Two of my course-mates stoking their forge; the bellows are pipes and cattle feed bags, the forge itself is sculpted out of clay, sand, and horse manure. 

Bottom photo: The knife I made, with a book for scale.


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.



6/4/2015

Dead Batteries

Batteries have a limited working life. Even the best batteries won’t last forever. When your electronics say “low batt” it means just that: The batteries are low but not dead. They can still have useful energy in them.

The energy that remains in seemingly dead batteries can be used in this simple night light project that you can build at home in about one hour. Your new night light will shine for months and is reusable for years, powered by “dead” batteries.

How to Wring All the Energy from a ‘Dead’ Battery

New, single-use batteries start with 1.5 volts. However, modern electronics generally stop working when the voltage in a battery reaches 1.2 volts. To be clear, we're not talking about bringing a “dead” battery back to life but simply harvesting the rest of the energy that remains inside. Until now, remaining energy was wasted when a battery was recycled or sent to a landfill. That wastes energy and money.

This isn't a new concept. It's based on the Joule Thief circuit that has been around for decades. I don't like the term Joule Thief so I renamed it a “Watt Winger.” The teaching version of the Joule Thief circuit uses transistors and a homemade transformer. Fortunately, a solar-powered garden light has compressed all of this onto a single electronic circuit board—much better for use with the Watt Wringer. Repurposing the circuit board from a garden solar light into an attractive and efficient nightlight is easy.

Don’t worry! There is no engineering involved and there is no chance you will be shocked by the electricity

Watt Wringer Materials List

Supplies you will need:
• Solar-powered garden light – new or used
• Wire cutters - or substitute toe nail cutters
• Screw driver
• Soldering iron
• Solder
• Battery holder – lots of options for these
• Switch (optional)
• Enclosure (optional)
• Hot melt glue (optional)
• Heat shrink tubing or electrical tape (optional)

Tools

Step 1: Find a Donor Solar-Powered Garden Light

Those little solar-powered garden lights seem to be everywhere.

Solar Light

Inside a solar-powered garden light is a clever electronic circuit board that is still working long after the garden light stops working. New solar-powered garden lights are not too expensive but used or damaged lights are less expensive, sometimes free. Maybe a used solar panel is cloudy or someone ran over the light with the tractor. Hey, it happens!

Note: A cloudy solar panel will have reduced performance.

Step 2: Disassemble the Top of the Solar-Powered Garden Light

Light Cap

Let’s start by opening the solar light and following the wires.  The battery is easy to see.  

Battery

Wires

This solar light uses a battery that is shorter than a standard AA battery. Other parts are not so easy to identify in the photograph so here’s a simple diagram that may help.

Diagram Circuit

The circuit board is connected to the battery with two wires and to the solar panel with two more wires.

Step 3: Identify the Type of Solar-Powered Garden Light You Have

Some older solar-powered garden lights have a solar panel PLUS a photo diode (wait, I thought you said there wouldn’t be any engineering?). A photo diode is just a light sensor. These light sensors are small and round with a squiggly looking pattern. Light sensors turn lights on and off automatically at dusk and dawn.

Power

For the simple night light we’re building, we will be using solar-powered garden lights without light sensors. Besides, they're just not that common anymore.

Step 4: Inspection and Testing

Remove the battery and follow the wires from the battery to the circuit board. If the circuit board has damage from a leaky battery or physical damage (remember the tractor?) it’s time to find another solar-powered garden light. Circuit boards aren’t worth fixing.

Even a circuit board that looks OK, it might not work. There’s also a chance the LED light could be burned out.  To see if the circuit board and LED are still working, install a battery you know is still good.  When you cover the solar panel on top of the garden light, the LED should illuminate.

Step 5: Harvesting What You Need For the Project

If you have a working circuit board and LED light, you have found your donor parts. Remove the battery again and cut the wires between the solar panel and the circuit board. There are small wire cutters for small projects like this but nail clippers work pretty well, too.

Cutting Circuit

Circuit Chopping

Light Circuit

Next, carefully remove the circuit board from the garden light housing. A hobby knife and some patience will remove the adhesive. Be careful not to damage the wires—or yourself!

Battery and Supplies

Before you cut the wires to the battery holder, test the circuit board and light one more time just to be sure the circuit board was not damaged when removing it from the housing. With the battery installed and the solar panel disconnected, the LED will still illuminate if everything is OK. If the LED is still working, congratulate yourself. That was the hard part.

Step 6: Start Building Your Night Light - Choose a Battery Holder

Choose the battery holder you want to use. In this post, we’re focusing on AA and AAA batteries because they are the most common. Larger 1.5-volt batteries such as C or D size can be used, too.

The donor light in the photos has battery holder that was molded into the solar-powered garden light itself. This light is intended to be used with smaller, non-standard batteries so full sized batteries will fit. Some solar power night lights have full sized battery holders that can be reused.  If that’s the case for your project, carefully cut away any parts you don’t want. As an alternative, find a battery holder in another electronic device such as a damaged remote control or camera. Still another alternative, you can use battery holders from electronic supply stores like Radio Shack.

There are lots of options for battery holders.

Step 7: Choose an Enclosure

Speaking of options, there are also lots of ways to enclose your new nightlight. You could install it in a plastic jar or some other container. These clear, pointy containers in the pictures below are rejects from a plastic bottle making machine. Great for camping or backpacking because they are compact and waterproof.

Light Working

You can also leave all the components completely exposed for a high tech look. There are also alternatives to build your nightlight inside something else like this metal lantern designed for tea lights.

Tiny House Lit Up

This little battery holder below is designed for four AAA batteries and has a convenient switch built in. It has a compact stealthy appearance. Also good for camping or backpacking but is not water tight. It’s inconspicuous on a shelf.

Light

In the photo above you can see the battery and circuit board inside. A small hole through the side of the battery holder is for the LED to shine through. The circuit board is held in place with hot melt glue.

Your enclosure might influence where you add a switch and how much wire you may need to add to reach the switch. Small enclosures won’t need any extra wire.

Step 8: Add a switch (Optional)

For this light, we’re going to add a switch to make it easy to turn the night light on and off. The switch is optional. Slide switches can be removed from small appliances or other electronics. Buying these new can be a little expensive. Right now prices are low at Radio Shack but there are also many other online electronics suppliers such as Mouser and DigiKey.

Switch

There are lots of slide switches to choose from. Any switch will work because voltage and amperage is very low in a Watt Wringer.

Slide switches have flanges that make mounting easy. The switch can be held in place with screws or hot melt glue.  Slide switches are a low cost solution. Toggle switches can be used too but they’re more expensive to buy new.

You could eliminate the switch and remove the battery when you want to turn off the light or just leave the light on all the time. Naturally the battery won’t last as long if the light is on all the time. Since our goal is to save energy so we’ll turn the light off when it’s not needed.

Install a switch in one of the wires between the battery and the circuit board. It doesn’t matter which wire but it’s conventional to install a switch at the positive side of the battery.

To make the connections at the switch, remove a short section of insulation at the end of the wire to expose the copper inside. Connect the wires to the switch. Electrical connections with small wires like this are usually made by soldering. Shrink tubing or electrical tape will protect the wires from accidental short circuits. A short circuit at the switch will keep the light on all the time.

Closed Circuit

Before you install your new nightlight into a housing, let’s check it again to make sure it lights up.  If there is a problem, it’s easier to fix it now than after everything is inside the enclosure.   Install the battery again and flip the switch back and forth.

Light Wires Circuit

Step 9: Enclose or Not to Enclose?

The last step is to put everything into the enclosure and mount the switch. The possibilities are as endless. You don’t need to put the Watt Wringer in an enclosure. It can just sit on a table and be a conversation starter.

For this example, I chose to replace an incandescent light bulb with a Watt Wringer. A deck prism is a piece of glass that ship builders placed through the top deck of a ship to allow light to enter the decks below.  I like the contrast of old school lighting with today's electronics.

Green Light

You’ve probably noticed that most of the light leaves an LED through the end away from the wires. Bend the wires so the LED points in the direction you want the light to go.  In this case, I bent the wires so that the light goes up, through the glass. The switch is easily mounted through a hole in the plastic base. Hot melt glue holds the switch in place.  If you’ve read this far, you’re probably handy enough to install a switch without any further instruction. But if you need some help, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Step 10: Next Steps

Save your batteries! Other people also save their dead batteries and give them to me. Maybe people you know will save batteries for you. Better yet, show others how to find this blog post on MOTHER EARTH NEWS so they can make a Watt Wringer for themselves.

After a few weeks or months the light will start to flicker. When that happens, it’s time to replace the battery with a different “dead” battery. When the LED is flickering, the battery is really nearly dead at around 0.6 volts. Then you can recycle the battery knowing you got the most energy possible from it.

Congratulations! Your new nightlight will wring lots of Watts from your batteries.

If you have any questions about this blog, please leave them in the comments below. You could be helping other people who may have the same question. If you prefer, email me: My contact information is on my bio page. Thanks for following this blog post and be on the lookout for more of my DIY projects from MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


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.



5/5/2015

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.



4/17/2015

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!

Pallet

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.



4/16/2015

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!

Supplies

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.



4/16/2015

toothpaste

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't...at 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.

I.felt.awful!!!

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.



4/14/2015

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.









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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.