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

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cast iron radiatorUntil the early 1950’s, hot water heating was considered the best way to keep warm in winter.  Although people forgot this for a while as forced air systems took over after WWII, good ideas always rise to the top again.  That’s why hot water heating is gaining popularity as a heat delivery option. What you might not realize is that there’s more to choose from than just radiant in-floor hydronic heating. 

I’ve always loved the look of classic, ornate, cast-iron radiators, but what I didn’t understand until a few years ago was how efficient they are. Efficient and green. That’s why I installed 11 reclaimed and refurbished cast iron rads in my home last fall, and I’m delighted with how well they work.

Today, you have the option of buying new, reproduction iron radiators, but in my opinion, the old models are the best.  What’s to improve? Rarely does internal rust pose a problem, and the metal used is thick, durable, and quite pleasing to the eye. I consider cast iron rads as art that also delivers comfort and warmth.

Heat transfer numbers show how efficiently cast iron rads transmit energy to a room, and rads get the job done with minimal input of resources.  As you can imagine, there are no shortage of old rads to be refurbished in the world. The metal is already mined, smelted, cast, and ready to use.  The problem is a lack of people that know how to refurbish rads properly, and my quest eventually led me to a man named Pierre Lemieux. testing pressure

Lemieux is a stickler for detail, and he refurbished and installed his first set of iron rads in 1978 in his own mechanical shop.  Since then he’s assembled a small crew ( that refurbishes antique rads in existing installations, and also intercepts rads headed for the scrap furnace from demolition sites in Montreal, Quebec, New York, Detroit, and other cities.  Lemieux has refined the art of refurbishing rads well beyond the somewhat destructive process of sand blasting, and the results are visually and technically stunning. 

The main innovation is his use of a gentle water blast is used to remove old paint.  This method doesn’t degrade the patina and textures of the metal like sandblasting does. The rads in my home are connected to my outdoor wood boiler, and the combination works exceptionally well.   See for yourself by checking out the video tour of my iron radiators.

Steve Maxwell lives in a stone and timber home he built on Manitoulin Island, Canada. Strange as it sounds, he’s looking forward to colder days, a fire in the boiler and some nice warm radiators.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

Final garden light. Photo by Ruud van Koningsbrugge

This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Ruud van Koningsbrugge.

Reuse plastic bottles to make these easy, elegant DIY garden lights that cost almost nothing. 

After you've gathered the materials and tools, it takes only about 10 minutes to put together this garden light for your property.

Step 1: What You Need

Materials and tools you'll need to make one DIY garden light: 

  • One plastic bottle (A translucent bottle works well; you can reuse plastic bottles that originally held laundry detergent or fabric softener.)
  • One old bicycle inner tube, or at least 6 rings cut from an inner tube
  • One broomstick, as long as you prefer 
  • Pair of scissors
  • Small hacksaw
  • Tea light (small candle in an aluminum container)

Step 2: Sawing

Use the hacksaw to cut off the bottom of the plastic bottle as well as a thin slice off the top of the cap.

Step 3: Quarters

Make four long cuts with the scissors along the corners of the plastic bottle.

Step 4: PetalsPhoto by Ruud van Koningsbrugge

Shape the four parts from Step 3 into leaves by trimming off the rounded corners.

Step 5: Cap Adjustment

Unscrew the cap from the plastic bottle. If there's an inner ring on the bottom of the cap, remove it with the hacksaw. The goal is to make the cap flat —  and open — on the underside.

Step 6: Big Match

Cut six rings from the bicycle inner tube. Pull the rubber rings over the end of the broomstick, one at a time, so that they cover each other and form a layered gasket. Make sure the broomstick's end has been built up with enough rubber layers so that the bottle cap can be pushed on only with some effort. You may need to cut more rubber rings if the seal is too loose.

Step 7: Capology

You can paint the bottle cap if you don't like the color of the plastic. I use one layer of acrylic modeling paste and one layer of artist's acrylic paint. Or — easy peasy — cover it with two more rubber rings cut from the inner tube. 

Photo by Ruud van Koningsbrugge

Step 8: Finito

Put the bottle onto the rubber-wrapped end of the stick. Insert the broomstick into the ground and place the tea light inside the bottle. You'll find that a tea light fits quite well inside the neck of the bottle. Light the candle by bending one leaf outward.

How many DIY garden lights can your garden take? 

You can see more photographs of this project on my original Instructables post. Check out other examples of my work at Ruud Van Koningsbrugge.


Photo by Barb Camp

Reposted with permission from Second Chance to Dream

We have nine garden beds in our yard. One of our goals this summer was to put a structural piece in each garden. 

Two of the gardens already had pieces that we got last year. You can view these garden ideas on my website by visiting the simple DIY bench tutorial that we did for our new garden, and the pergola swing I got for my birthday/Mother's Day. 

Our large, oak garden became our focus this summer. I thought it would be fun to try a headboard bench, and I really like the results. We now enjoy a simple, rustic bench that literally took 60 minutes to cut, build and paint.  

You can make this garden bench, too. To build it, you'll need a twin-size headboard — I bought mine from Salvation Army for half off the original price of $11.25. Your materials list also includes two 2-by-4s and two 1-by-6 boards. We had all the wood on hand so we didn't have to buy anything. You can use scrap pieces if you plan to paint your rustic headboard bench as we did.

Photo by Barb Camp

To make the seat for your DIY bench, measure the length of the headboard you're using, and make a simple 2-by-4 box. We cut two 34-1/2-inch pieces and three 16-inch pieces to make our box. Assemble the frame of your box with 2-inch deck screws, using the photo at left as a guideline. 

Photo by Barb CampThen, cut three 1-by-6 pieces measuring 34-1/2 inches long for the seat of your headboard bench. We cut one of these 1-by-6 pieces down to 4 inches wide so the seat wouldn't be too deep. Next, screw the 1-by-6 and 1-by-4 boards onto the top of the box you made in the previous step. 

Recycling a headboard meant that our DIY bench would already have back legs, so we only needed to cut two legs for the front. We ripped a 2-by-4 in half to make the front legs of our bench, and trimmed the two pieces to be 19 inches in length. We then screwed the legs to corners on the underside of the box.

Next, you need to attach the headboard to your box. Add liquid nails to the headboard along the inside of the bottom rail, and carefully screw the headboard to the back of your box at this location. Be careful, because the liquid nails can slip when you're assembling the pieces. Photo by Barb Camp

The unpainted bench isn't so pretty. To improve its appearance, we first primed it with a coat of Kilz. After allowing it to dry, we spray-painted our headboard bench white. 

It's nothing fancy, but this garden bench definitely meets our needs, and — for a cost of less than $10.00 — it works great!


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Ken Miner.

Sun and weather take a toll on outdoor furniture. I had four outdoor bar stools covered with plastic resin wicker that had cracked and split. I priced new outdoor bar stools at $75 and up. I figured I could renovate my old stools for about the price of a single new chair. The plastic wicker had to go, but the powder-coated steel frames still looked good. 

I repurposed an old whiskey barrel to provide all the material for the seats, backs and bracing. If you are even a little bit handy, possess basic woodworking skills, and have some ordinary tools, you can knock this out in a weekend. I wound up with great looking and very serviceable outdoor bar stools from a single half-barrel and a handful of screws.

Step 1: Remove Resin Plastic Wicker

I cut away the plastic wicker from the bar stool frames using a utility knife, taking care not to scratch the powder coating.

Step 2: Materials List

• 1 oak half-barrel with hoops                                          
• Bar stool frames (up to 4)                                                     
• Zink-coated Phillips screws (per bar stool)                     
       14 - #10-by-1 1/2 inch oval head
         8 - #10-by-1 1/4 inch pan head    
         9 - #12-by-5/8 inch pan head
• 1 quart Spar exterior polyurethane, oil based
• 1/2 pint wood stain, oil based
• Sandpaper belts (80 grit)
• Sandpaper  sheets (120 and 220 grit)

Optional *
      * 1 pint rust remover (for barrel hoops)
      * 1 quart wood bleach (oxalic acid)

Step 3: Tools and Personal Protective Equipment

• Circular saw                                                            
• Electric or cordless drill                                       
• #2 Phillips bits and holder                                    
• 7/64-inch and 1/8-inch steel drill bits              
• Angle grinder                                                           
• Utility knife                                                             
• Wood chisel                                                               
• Rubber hammer or mallet                                    
• Tape measure                                                          
• Steel brush
• Belt sander
• Palm sander  
• Jig saw     
• Hand saw           
• Hacksaw 
• Sanding block 
• Wood rasp     
• Quick clamps 
• Torpedo level
• Long handled scrub brush

Use the correct PPE (safety equipment) to prevent injury:
• Dust mask                                                          
• Face shield                                                          
• Safety glasses
• Long sleeve chemical resistant gloves
• Hearing protection
• Disposable gloves for staining

Step 4: Disassemble the Barrel and Barrelhead

The first thing I did was to pull out the barrel staves, taking care not to damage the hoops or barrel head. The barrel head was also made of oak sections that had been put together with dowels. Because the barrel was empty and allowed to dry out, it came apart easily. The dowels were pushed into the holes and cut flush. I sorted and stacked the staves by size.

I did a mock-up to determine the count and placement of staves to get an idea of the positioning and proportion. I settled on using three of the larger staves for the back and five smaller ones on the base. I needed a total of 32 staves to do the four chairs and there were only 30 in the barrel. So I ripped the two largest staves in half with a circular saw.

Step 5: Sand Off the Char

A clamping worktable held the uneven staves securely so I could sand off the charring. The belt sander and 80-grit sandpaper made quick work of this part of the DIY chair project. Be sure to use eye and hearing protection as well as a dust mask when doing any sanding. I did all my sanding outside to make cleanup easier. What sawdust the breeze didn't take away, I blew into the lawn with a leaf blower. Just how much charring you ultimately take off is up to you, but at least remove all the loose bits. I sanded off nearly all of the char.

Step 6: Prep the Hoops

I wanted to use sections of the whiskey barrel hoops to maintain a rustic look and provide additional bracing for the back and seat.  The barrel hoops had powdery red rust covering both sides. I needed to remove or neutralize the loose rust so that the polyurethane would adhere better. I coated the hoops with a rust-removing gel and worked it into the metal using a steel wire brush. Warning! This chemical is acid! Follow the instructions on the container! Use heavy rubber gloves; both eye protection and a face shield.  I let the hoops sit and after about an hour (or however long it took me to sand the staves), I used plain water and the steel brush to clean off the gel. I dried the hoops thoroughly with an old rag.

Step 7: Prep the Staves

I used a coarse plastic-bristled brush to work wood bleach into each stave. The main component is oxalic acid which is commonly used to remove aging and stains from outdoor wooden decks. Warning! This chemical is acidic! Follow the instructions on the container! Use heavy rubber gloves, long sleeves, eye protection and a face shield to prevent burns! After letting the bleach work for about 30 minutes, I rinsed the surface with plain water and let dry. The bleach removed most of the weathered gray color, but it hardly touched the black stains left by the steel hoops. You can eliminate this step depending on how you want the finished surface to look. You could just sand everything down to the bare wood. Or if you want to keep the patina as-is, lightly sand the surface and — after removing the charring — apply an exterior (Spar) polyurethane.

Sanding down the bare wood and protecting the surface with a clear finish will give you a rich, honey-colored surface. I used a palm sander with 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out the back and prepare both sides for staining.

Step 8: Braces for Seat and Back

The staves were too short to span the full length of either the seat or the back. With a jigsaw I cut cross-braces from the barrelhead pieces. I positioned the back brace about three-quarters of the distance from the top, and for the seat brace roughly the same distance from the front. I sanded, prepped and stained all sides.

When I did the mock-up, I saw that I needed to notch the staves for the seat-back to get a solid fit against the cross-brace and also sit flat against the curved back. I cut a tapering notch into the seat-back side pieces and took three-eighths-inch out of the center stave (now repurposed as chair slats.) I used a handsaw, a wood rasp and a wood chisel to cutaway the wood a little at a time until I got a good fit.

Step 9: Stain and Finish

After a quick once-over with a tack cloth to remove any remaining sawdust, I brushed on a dark walnut oil-based stain and wiped off the excess with an old t-shirt. I let the stain dry overnight before applying a thin coat of oil-based exterior (Spar) polyurethane. I recommend using either the semi-gloss or satin finish. Stir — don't shake — the urethane often or the solids used to de-gloss the finish will stay on the bottom of the can. It took only a few hours for the first coat to dry. I roughed up the surface with 220 grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block and applied another light coat of polyurethane finish. The second coat also dried very quickly. You could shorten application and dry times by using a combination stain and varnish aerosol spray.

Step 10: Attach the Braces

When the pieces were dry, I attached the seat and back braces to my outdoor chairs using #10-by-1 half-inch oval-head screws, one at the end of each brace. I used quick clamps to hold the braces in place. For the back-brace, I angled the screws from the top of the brace into the steel frame. The seat brace was attached by angling the screws from the front into the steel frame. I held the braces in place with quick clamps while I drilled the 7/64-inch pilot holes and attached them. Drilling pilot holes will prevent the screws from splitting the oak.

Step 11: Attach the Back and Seat Slats

The slats designated for the seat backs of my whiskey barrel chairs were attached to the frame with one 1-1/2-inch #10 oval head screw at the top and one 1-1/4-inch #10 screw through the back brace. Again, quick clamps were utilized to hold the slats in place while they were being fastened. The seat slats were attached from the bottom to hide the 1-1/4-inch #10 pan head screws. The outermost seat slats were attached to both the brace and the metal frame with the 1-1/4-inch #10 screws.


I cut the hoops to fit with a hacksaw and used a metal file to remove any sharp edges. Each piece was attached with three 5/8-inch #12 pan head screws — two sections for the back and one on the seat. Using an angle grinder, the screw heads were ground flat to look more like rivets. A piece of 18-gauge sheet metal with a hole drilled the diameter of the screw-head was used to protect the surrounding area while the grinder did its work.

Step 12: Ready for the Patio Party

I now have four refurbished bar stools — a great set of outdoor furniture that's surprisingly comfortable and will hold up to the elements. A half-barrel sells for about $30 at one of the big-box home improvement centers. Adding in the screws, stain, polyurethane and other materials, I spent less than $80 on this project to build whiskey-barrel chairs.

You can see more photographs of this outdoor chair project on my original Instructables post.


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Dewey Lindstrom.

While building a couple of sheds (OK, glorified yard barns), I wanted to equip one of them with sliding barn doors. I like the look of sliding doors and they are very practical for a shed, allowing a much wider access opening than a normal door. But I developed a bad case of sticker shock after visiting my local building outlets to check out the cost of hardware I would need for such a project. The cheapest place I could find sold just the barn door hardware (not the doors themselves) for from $246 to $326, depending on how fancy I wanted it to look. 

So I began to snoop around for some sort of alternative I could fabricate myself. And the biggest obstacle for any DIY sliding doors turned out to be the wheels/rollers. I needed something sturdy enough to take abuse, made for exterior use, that would roll smoothly, and that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. While prowling around in my shop for something like that, I happened to stumble on my son’s old skateboard. And its wheels looked like a perfect candidate for the job.

After a few minutes price shopping online, I ordered a set of 4 skateboard wheels and bearings from Newclue Inc. via Amazon. The total price of the wheels shipped to my door was $17.35.

Next, I needed a rail for the wheels to glide on. I found the solution in the electrical department at Home Depot. It’s called Superstrut and a 10-foot length sells for $15. It’s a 3-sided channel of heavy gauge galvanized steel. Unfortunately, it didn’t come in 12-foot lengths, which is what would have been best for my project, so I had to purchase two 10-foot lengths for $30. To provide a little additional strength, I decided to top off the Superstrut with two 6-foot lengths of 1-by-1 angle iron at a cost of $26. (I doubt this extra precaution was necessary, and I believe the rail could be built without it.)

The hangers themselves are fairly simple: 1 1/2-by-1/8-inch flat stock steel was bent into a U shape and then drilled to accommodate the axles for the wheels/rollers. I bought two 4-foot lengths of the flat stock from Orchard Supply for a total of $18. The other miscellaneous nuts and bolts I used came to $3.

My finished sliding barn door hardware cost a grand total of $95. Yes, it is quite a bit more than simple hinges and a hasp lock, but it is also well under the cheapest commercial price of $246 for barn door sliders. 

Here's how I fabricated the barn door rollers using skateboard wheels.

Step 1: The Roller/Wheels

The photo shows the skateboard wheels and bearings as they arrived from Newclue. The wheels are 1 9/64 inches wide and 2 inches tall.

Step 2: Shaping the Hangers

Cut two 4-foot lengths of 1 1/2-foot flat stock in half, yielding a total of 4 sections at 24 inches each.  Each section is then bent in half around a piece of 1-inch metal pipe. To do this, lay the flat stock on a solid bench or table and then lay the pipe over the flat stock at right angles. Clamp the pipe to the work bench.

Grasp each end of the flat stock and pull upwards. It will bend relatively easy. Use a hammer to coax the bend down near the pipe. You want to end up with a fairly tight bend and space of about 1 1/4 inches between the 2 sides of your hanger.

Place a wheel in position to insure the width of your bend will allow free movement of the wheel and make a mark at the center of the flat stock where the axle with be.

Step 3: Mounting the Wheels in the Hangers

Cut a piece of 2-by-6 lumber 1 1/4-inches long and place it between the two sides of the hanger for support. Drill a pilot hole through the top and then the bottom of the flat stock where you made your mark. I used a drill press to do this but if you are very careful to keep things vertical you can use a hand drill. With the hanger still clamped in place, switch to a 5/16-inch bit and drill the final mounting holes for the axle. Most skateboard axles are universal, but measure the diameter of your bearings to insure a 5/16-inch bolt will fit snugly. The exact position of the axle hole from the top of the hanger does not need to be precise as long as your wheel is down far enough so that it will turn freely.

Photo by Dewey Lindstrom.

Washers will need to be placed on each side of the wheel bearing so that the axle bolt can be tightened but the sides of the hanger will not come in contact with the rubber wheel. You will also need to keep in mind the thickness of your door. You may need to experiment with different numbers of washers to get it just right.

Drill two door mounting holes near the other end of the hanger. The exact placement of these holes will vary a bit depending on the door you are building/using. Just make sure the holes will be placed in a solid area of the door.

The roller/hangers are then painted and reassembled.

Step 4: The Parts for Hanging the Rail

You will need a Suerstrut. For a 6-foot door opening like mine, the Superstrut is cut into two 6-foot lengths for a total rail length of 12 inches.

The rail is mounted to the building using four 3-inch lag bolts, 12 steel washers (some nylon washers are shown in the photo but use all steel washers) and four 11/16-inch nuts.  These nuts slip over the lag bolts and are used only as spacers.

Not shown are the two 6-foot lengths of 1-by-1 angle iron which are laid on top of the Superstrut.

Step 5: Hanging the Rail

To hang the railing, first place a temporary spacer about a 1/2-inch thick under your door opening. Set your door on top of this spacer and mark the height of the top edge of your door. (I have not covered the door or door construction in this post.) Make a second mark 1/2-inch above this first mark. With a carpenter’s level, use this upper marker to draw a line extending 6 feet to either side of the center of the door opening. The line should be 12 feet long total. If you are making your door wider or narrower than the 6-foot door opening width used for this building, adjust your rail accordingly.

Set the angle iron on top of the Superstrut and mark the angle iron in the center of the hole in the Superstrut. Drill a 3/8-inch hole through the angle iron. Then, with an assistant holding the Superstrut in place just above the line you drew earlier, mark and drill holes in the building for the lag screws. If there is no stud directly behind this hole, you will need to cut and nail a 2-by-4 support between the existing studs directly behind the hole. The lag screw needs a very solid base for mounting. Then assemble the Superstrut and angle iron and screw them to the wall as shown in the photo.

Set the right hand door in the door opening and temporarily clamp it or have someone hold it in place so that it is centered in the door opening. Slip two roller/hangers over the Superstrut railing and position them near the left and right sides of the door making sure they are positioned at a very solid portion of the door. Mark and drill 1/4-inch holes through the door to match the two bottom holes of each hanger. Then attach the door to the hangers using quarter-inch bolts and nuts.

Slide the door to the end of the Superstrut to insure it does not bind at any point. Then repeat the mounting procedure for the left side door. You will note that the outer-most lag bolt will act as a stop, preventing the wheels from ever running off the end of the rail.

Step 6: Installing a Bottom Deflector

To keep the door vertical while it is being opened and to prevent the wind from ever blowing it outward, install a section of galvanized or aluminum angle iron at the bottom of the door using concrete screws to fasten it to the surface.

And now you've got sliding barn doors! You can see more photographs of this project on my original Instructables post.


The paper stream runs heavy through most households, with catalogs, magazines, greeting cards and advertisements coming and going regularly. Typically thrown in the trash, these easily reused paper products can be transformed in any number of ways to provide a useful new item for your homestead.

This week we’re taking old seed catalogs, leftover note cards, a little patience and creativity to make personalized collage/silhouette cards. Perfect for revamping any extra cards (think excess Christmas cards, birthday invites, seriously out-of-date stationery) you have laying around, this easy projects allows you to get the creativity flowing and create beautiful new gardening-themed DIY stationery.  

Collage/Silhouette Note Cards


stationary 2

You will need:

Old card-stock note cards (or greeting cards) 

Seed catalogs

Glue or Mod Podge

A paintbrush

Acrylic paint (choose your favorite color)


A silhouette (printed from internet) or a stencil

Painter’s palette (or paper plate)



1. Get started by cutting out pieces from your seed catalogs. Lots of color is preferable!

2. Trim shapes as desired: squares/rectangles for a linear look or circles/wavy bits for a more organic look.

3. Using thin-out glue or Mod Podge and paintbrush, paste you colorful piece to the front of your note card. Cover the entire front of card.

stationary 14. Wait to dry completely. (This could take a while; you may as well take a coffee break.)

5.  Place cut-out silhouette or stencil on note card. For large designs, a centered placement may be preferred; for smaller, an offset placement looks nice.

6. Use pencil to trace around silhouette or stencil.

7. Using a small brush and acrylic paint, trace around penciled-on design, taking care to keep lines intact. Paint all negative space, so that only your design remains.

8. Let dry (again).

9. Use your fabulous new cards to invite friends to a great fall garden/work/apple-picking party this fall.

This project is perfect not only for adults that have a little time to craft in the slower season, but also for kids needing an indoor project. A perfect way to use this idea: as a family discuss silhouette choices (pick maybe three different ones), pile supplies on table and set kids loose to make this year’s family holiday cards.

Candis Calvert is a (sub)urban homesteader seeking ways to use what she already has to create useful and fun new things. Never content to buy new when old is available; she hopes to wring all the life out of everyday items through creative repurposing.

See more of her adventures at her website, Adventures of Cactus and Fuschia.


T-shirts accumulate in our lives through all the usual channels: the impulse buy at a sporting event, the staff shirt from your old summer camp, the badge of honor from each 5k you’ve run, and maybe even the occasional shirt you caught at a parade (or is that just me?).  No matter how they arrived, they’re here now. With only seven days in a week and a boss that may frown upon casual Monday-Friday, how do we get enough wear out of t-shirts we can’t seem to throw out?

Two projects aimed at repurposing these wardrobe staples can help you get your old favorites out of the closet and back into daily life.  These projects are designed for a beginner or novice sewer, with a minimum of tools; stuff your homestead probably already has.

T-shirt bagThe Market Bag

For this project you’ll need:

A sewing machine (or needle and thread)

1. Lay your shirt on a flat surface. Iron if necessary to remove most wrinkles (some are okay).

2. Following the sleeve seam, cut off the sleeves, leaving the seams intact.

3. Cut U-shaped hole, centered on the neck opening, into the shirt. Make this as wide and deep as you prefer. I like about 8 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

4. Turn the shirt inside out. Use straight pins to hold bottom of shirt closed. 

5. Stitch along bottom of shirt following closely to hem.  I used a double zigzag stitch, but your preference is fine.

6. To make handles thicker, fold open arm hole (handle) onto itself, facing inward. Stitch together. This will create a natural pleating, which I left as it folded. For a more finished look you could run a stitch all the way around the handle/arm opening.

7. Use and enjoy at the farmers market, library, carrying picnic supplies or as a great scrap bag for leftover fabric and yarn.

The Bed Buddy PillowT-shirt pillow

For this project you’ll need:

An old bed pillow (standard works best for most shirt sizes)
Sewing machine (or needle and thread)

1. Lay your shirt on a flat surface. Iron if necessary to remove most wrinkles (some are okay).

2. Starting at the bottom of the sleeve, measure a straight line up the side of the shirt. Cut sleeves off on this line to create a (mostly) rectangular shirt.

3. Turn the shirt inside out. Use straight pins to hold sides of shirt closed.  Pin neck hole closed along a straight line just below the collar.

4. Stitch along sleeve line of shirt and neckline. I used a double zigzag stitch, but your preference is fine.

5. Turn shirt, now a mostly closed rectangle, right side out. Stuff with bed pillow.

6. Pin bottom hem closed and sew (carefully) using machine or hand stitch.

7. Sit back and relax with your new fluffy companion. This technique would make an excellent dog bed, too.

Bringing order to your dresser may be the biggest benefit of crafting with T-shirts, but these two projects are just the tip of the iceberg. From market bags to pillow, quilts to rugs, there’s really no end to what you can make with the (seemingly) never ending supply of T-shirts we all have lying around. Pick out an old favorite and give it new life with a 15 minute transformation. Who knows what uses you’ll find for them on your homestead?

Candis Calvert is a (sub)urban homesteader seeking ways to use what she already has to create useful and fun new things. Never content to buy new when old is available; she hopes to wring all the life out of everyday items through creative repurposing.

See more of her adventures at

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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.