August 30, 2012

eco crafting: Wine Cork Magnets

How to Make Wine Cork Magnets

Materials needed:

Oak Wine Corks
This is a messy project because of the cork that will be removed with the drill, so I would definitely cover an area, or do this project outside. Let’s get started…
First decide which side of your oak cork you would like to be the front of the magnet. You will drill a hole for the magnet on the opposite side. The size of the drill bit doesn’t really matter (unless it is bigger than your magnet). You are going to use the drill to dig out a shallow hole the size of the magnet.
Don’t worry the holes don’t have to be perfectly circular or anything special. As you dig out the cork with the drill you can stop and check to see if the magnet is fitting. You want the magnet to fit in flush with the cork. If you drill or dig too deeply into the cork, don’t worry either, that’s what the glue is for. I use both sides of an old paint brush to help get extra pieces of cork out of the way as I’m drilling.


There are several magnets you can use. I selected Neodymium Rare Earth Magnets, size 3/8 x 1/16. I purchased a set from a cute little Etsy shop. Each little magnet can pull a little over 2 pounds and holds down several sheets of paper . What is important in magnet selection, is that they are stronger enough to hold what you would like, and small enough to fit nicely into your cork.


Now, we are ready to glue. I would recommend an industrial strength glue, like E-6000. It dries clear and is strong enough to hold the magnet to the cork while it is in use. I also like it because E-6000 is waterproof, non-flammable and washes off my hands easily. Just fill the drilled hole with glue and place the magnet in the center. If some glue oozes out or gets on the magnet, don’t worry it will peel off the metal when it is dry.
It is important to note here that the magnets will attract to each other while you are doing this project. Once glue has entered the picture, I would keep the corks with magnets drying in them, far away from other corks with magnets drying in them! I used some wood molding sticks to separate them, but you can use plates, cups, anything that would help separate the corks while keeping them face down (magnet up) to dry. E-6000 recommends you let the glue dry 24-72 hours. I found after 24 hours all was dry and ready for use.
This project allows you to showcase special wine corks. Like corks that are from a rare bottle of wine on a special anniversary, or unique corks that have pretty markings. I like to use oak wine corks that have natural wine staining on the ends.
Happy Wine Corking!
Check out my blog for more wine cork ideas, uses, and tutorials!
Thanks, Bee
The Wooden Bee

August 26, 2012

Sustainable Sundays: Fall Finds

Wow September is almost here! Summer vacations are ending and students are heading back to school.  In fact last week's Sustainable Sundays post was absent from the blog because I was finishing our last summer trip before the kids had to return to school.
So, this Sunday I'm introducing TEN awesome Fall Finds from Team Upcyclers!  These fresh Etsy shops are actively participating on our team's networks. 
From accessories to decor these Fall Finds are perfect for an eco-friendly Autumn.
Mint Green T Shirt Leg Warmers by Oh-zie Designs
"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace, as I have seen in one autumnal face" ~John Donne
Hope you enjoy our Sustainable Sunday picks this week!
Thanks, Bee

August 20, 2012

Demystifying T Shirt Yarn: Tutorials to Get You Started

We have talked about what t shirt yarn is and what you should look for when purchasing it.  We have seen what other people are making with it.  Now, it is time to give you some ideas so you can start making things with it too!  Let the fun begin!!

I found many tutorials for t-shirt yarn.  It can be used in so many ways!  These are a few of my favorites, and while I hope you try them out and enjoy them, I also hope that you will explore more ideas on your own.  Google t-shirt yarn tutorials and you will have more projects than you know what to do with!

Weave Hula Hoop Rug

Read the full tutorial by Nicole Blasenak Shapiro from Family Fun Magazine.!

In this tutorial, they are using strips of t-shirts.  It isn't actual t-shirt yarn, but this could easily be done with t-shirt yarn.  Follow the instructions, just substitute t-shirt yarn.  It will take longer to weave, but you will be able to fit more rows on for a tighter rug.  Or, just use the t-shirt strips to recreate the bulky and fabulous look they have going on.  Either way, it is still an eco friendly project that will leave you with a beautiful new rug!

Knit a Market Bag

Find the pattern by Missy posted on So You Think You're Crafty.

This one is for the knitters.  It is a very simple pattern and great for beginners.  I just love the look of this bag.  The big advantage to using t-shirt yarn when making a bag is that it won't sag like traditional yarns do.  I love cotton bags, but cotton yarn will go from your waist to your knees if you put anything in it, if you don't line it with some kind of fabric.  Bags made with t-shirt yarn are bulkier and the yarn is already stretched so it shouldn't have a lot of give, and because of that it won't need a fabric liner.  This bag should be able to hold the weight of all the produce you can carry home from the market with no sagging and you will look fabulous!

No Sew Braided Rug

Find the tutorial by "Ivory Soap" on the Little House in the Suburbs blog.

I love the look of this rug and it is super easy to make.  I'm not sure how it would do in a washing machine.  In the comments, Ivory Soap suggests making a pot holder using this technique and washing it a few times to see how it holds up.  Although it is a no sew rug, if you wanted you could throw in a few stitches when you change strands to secure it for a spin in the washing machine.  Totally up to you.  Ivory Soap isn't exactly using t-shirt yarn, as she is using t shirt strips that have been kind of rolled and corded.  T-shirt yarn will work well for this project though.

Woven Placemat

Find the full tutorial on Creative Jewish Mom blog.

I love this because it is so versatile!  The loom is made from a piece of cardboard and some cotton string.  It couldn't get more basic than that, right?  You can make it as large or as small as you want.  You can use this technique to make potholders, placemats, trivets, rugs, table runners, and whatever else you can think of!  She has a couple of different ideas on how you can finish it.  She finished this one by tying knots at the ends to secure it.  You could also run it through a sewing machine to secure the ends and have a flat fringe to it.  Or, if you are already at the sewing machine and really want to go all out, you could even sew on a border made from some t-shirt fabric scraps and really give it a clean looking finish.  It's all up to your style.  

Crochet a Bowl

Find the pattern by My 9 Lives on the Instructables website.

We covered knitting so I thought I would give a crochet pattern too.  I love bowls made from t shirt yarn.  Now this one is just a bit saggy looking, but I can tell you how to avoid that.  First of all, she is working with just t shirt strips at the top that haven't been stretched on the sides.  You can also see that she used a t-shirt with a side seam on it, which is a no no for making perfect t-shirt yarn.  It won't be even with the seam in there.  Only use actual t-shirt yarn that has been stretched into a cord.  This will be more firm and will hold its shape much better than t shirt strips. The pattern should work up just fine.  The instructions are super easy and excellent for a beginner.

On several tutorials, I see people working with strips of t-shirts.  On some projects this works well, and on others it doesn't.  Remember that t-shirt yarn is corded by stretching a t-shirt strip.  If you are just using t-shirt strips, you will run a strong risk of it being pulled and stretched later, creating a disaster to your project, as you will have a loop you won't be able to easily hide.  I recommend just using t-shirt yarn or craft cords and not t shirt strips, but I also encourage creativity.  If you like the look of the strips, and on the hula hoop rug they look great, I encourage throwing caution to the wind.  You could also substitute strips of a bedsheet or flannel pants or other similar fabrics that are soft and won't stretch.  This would be the best way to get a similar texture, without running the risk of a snag in your project later.

Happy crafting everyone!  And if you need some t-shirt yarn, I know a couple of fabulous places where you can get some.  ;)

Love and Peace,


August 16, 2012

Thrifty Thursday~ Last Days of Summer

It's almost over...

We hate to see it go...

But the change of seasons is inevitable~ and Summer's ending soon. So why not check out some neat summer-themed Etsy finds? I love searching through our team's items and it's easy if you use the tag 'teamupcyclers'~ Here's some of my favorite finds this Thrifty Thursday!


Cul de Sac

Daydreams n Daffodils

Rosie Girl Art

Silva Ware

Heaven Sent Crafts

Rope~ Vintage Fabric Supply

Cut and Tear

Enjoy these last days of summer~ do a little thrift shopping and catch a few rays and some bargains!

August 14, 2012

The Economy, Energy Consumption, and Upcycling: Putting the Pieces Together

The Economy.  You can't open a newspaper or a news site on the internet without seeing something about the economy.  It is all anyone can talk about.  Being an election year, politics tends to bring these things to the front page, but we are going to leave politics out of this.  This will be a discussion of the core issues.    We will discuss how energy has a direct affect on our economy, how energy consumption factors into this equation, and raise the question of what effect upcycling could have.  In later articles, we will go into much greater detail in all of these areas, but for today we will focus on the basics to get the conversation started.

For the first article of this series, I thought we should spend our time making connections.  The mainstream media is terrible at making these connections.  It does more to confuse people than it does to help them understand how hydrocarbon energy and our economy go hand in hand, probably because all of our media outlets are owned by only 6 corporations, but that is a different conversation.  That's okay though.  We don't need them.  We can make these connections ourselves.

The Connection between Hydrocarbon Energy and the Economy:

Our economy is built on consumerism, which means that, at its peak, 70% of our economy was built on people purchasing goods.  So what does hydrocarbon energy, or oil, have to do with this?  Everything.  The US Energy Information Administration tells us that out of one 42 gallon barrel of oil, only 19 gallons of it is used to produce gasoline.  So what are the other 23 gallons used for?  You can find some wonderful graphs and explanations here on this post on the Oil Drum, done by Chris Skrewbowski.  Only a small percentage of oil or natural gas produced is currently used to manufacture everyday items.  So why is this small percentage important?

First, let's look at the goods we are purchasing.  Thousands of goods are petroleum based.  Literally thousands.  You can download a good list here.  I don't have the room to list them, but I guarantee you are using one of them right now.  A substantial portion of the goods we purchase are petroleum based because it is a cheap material source, and allows for more people to afford to purchase the various goods made with it.  With an economy that is fed by consumerism, the ability for more people to be able to purchase is vital to our financial "health".  This also creates other problems, like cyclical consumerism, which means that products are designed to have a short life span so the consumer needs to go purchase a new one sooner, but that is a lengthy discussion that will have its own article later.

Second, transportation.  This is where the vast majority of oil is used and it is transportation where it is truly difficult to substitute for oil.  We live in a global economy.  Most goods are not produced locally, which means that large amounts of oil are required to transport those goods from the manufacturing plant to the stores that will sell it.  Now, that may only be a state away or it could be an ocean away.  Most likely, it is an ocean away.  Transportation of goods is vital to our economy and our food supply.  If these goods do not make it to stores, consumers are not able to purchase them and contribute to spending the 70% of our GDP our economy once boasted.  In a worst case scenario of transportation failure, food wouldn't make it to the grocery store, and people would soon be cut off from food sources.  Starvation would become a serious concern.

As you can see, hydrocarbon energy is so entrenched in our current system that there are no easy answers.  This is a complicated conversation we are having, but that doesn't make it impossible or even difficult to understand.  Once you know the basics, the rest is really easy to follow.  Once you know that all of the items you purchase are either made from hydrocarbon sources or transported to you using oil, you can see how fossil fuels shape everything you have and need, including access to food.  This is why, although we have a consumeristic economic system (meaning simply that our economy is driven by people spending money), this system absolutely depends on hydrocarbon energy and cannot survive without it in its current structure.

What About Energy Conservation?

This is an important question.  We can certainly be conserving more energy than we are now.  It is obvious that there are some people/corporations that would oppose a large movement to conserve fossil fuels because it would hurt their bottom line.  It doesn't matter that their combined bottom line is trillions of dollars and they could lose a few billion and still be able to feed their families and live in a nice home and take fabulous vacations and do whatever else is important to them, but that isn't how our system works right now.  But that doesn't mean it needs to remain that way.  

It should be remembered that sustainable energy is a finite resource.  We can only collect so much energy from the sun and wind and tides, and we may not be able to harvest enough of it to replace fossil fuels at our current rate of consumption.  To make sustainable energy a realistic goal, energy conservation is essential, and even then it likely won't be enough right away.  This is important to realize.  We can drastically reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, but we lack the necessary infrastructure to immediately eliminate them. It will take time to build this infrastructure out--and time is something we are running short on.  

We all know that we need to conserve energy.  So what do we do about it?  We could all use mass transit, or make a donation to our favorite non profit environmental group, volunteer to help clean up an environmental disaster, or live in passive houses.  All are great ideas, but are they enough?  Shouldn't we be demanding large scale sustainable energy efforts?  Of course we should (and many of us are), but there is an idea that has been planted in the minds of millions that this infrastructure would take too much money to build out.  Some people only look at the price tag and can't see the return on the investment.  The question of what obstacles need to be overcome to achieve large scale sustainable energy, and what we can do ourselves without government assistance, should be explored.  This is also something we will delve into greater detail in a future article, which will also include more conversation regarding the alternative energy sources available to us and how viable they are.

What About Upcycling?

We all know that upcycling on a small scale, like the way us hard-working artisans go about it, requires very little energy.  There are very little in the way of manufacturing processes in our work.  We lovingly create from the item as it is, with most alterations to it completed with our own two hands, or in some cases a sewing machine or machinery to cut or shape wood and metal.  All of these require very little energy compared to mass manufacturing.  We may cut or reshape the item we are working with, but there is not an energy sucking recycling process that takes place.  Large scale upcycling would take on a recycling process and that requires a lot of energy.  Remember that no where in the definition of upcycling does it say that a manufacturing process does not take place.  It only says that the item is not inferior in quality afterward, as it is in recycling, or downcycling, as it is now often being referred to.  

We need to make a distinction between Industrial Upcycling and Artisanal Upcycling because they do not and can not operate in the same way.  Industrial Upcycing would likely be too large scale to be successfully accomplished employing the small scale methods that Artisanal Upcycling uses.  The question becomes what kind of energy is being used to accomplish Industrial Upcycling.  This really goes back to energy conservation and alternative energy resources.  It is easy to have an immediate impulse to reject Industrial Upcycling because of the manufacturing process.  I myself had a difficult time coming to peace with the idea, but the bottom line is that it is the best option we have.  Especially when it comes to things like e-waste and metals.  The recycling process is always dirty because it requires so much energy, but compared to mining practices and the toxic nature of e-waste it is a preferable alternative to traditional methods.

The energy could easily be cut in Industrial Upcycling if companies incorporated upcycling successfully into their business models.  It is happening right now.  Companies like Terracycle and have built their entire business models around upcycling.  I have never hid my fondness for these companies, and their success can mean big things for upcycling.  These businesses are proving that upcycling can be a profitable business model.  Once something proves profitable, every company becomes more eager to incorporate the same methods into their business models.  I say the more the merrier!  Why they are doing it should matter.  They should want to do it because it is the environmentally responsible thing to do.  But at this point I can be quite content if they are doing it for profit, as long as they are doing it.

What Comes Next?

Obviously, we have only just scraped the surface of these issues.  As this series develops, we examine each of these issues and more.  We will get into the guts of all of it.  We will look at how we can incorporate sustainable energy sources into our current infrastructure, we will examine a resource based economy designed by Jacque Fresco (call me a "Utopianist"), we will look at what kind of infrastructure is needed for Industrial Upcycling, how Artisanal Upcycling methods can be employed by companies to maximize profits and reduce waste, we will talk about cyclical consumerism and what we can do to decrease it, and we will further examine how fossil fuels and hydrocarbon products drive our economy.  In my next article, we will really examine all the ways our economy is dependent on hydrocarbons.  This will be a detailed journey right into the belly of the beast, so to speak.  

I encourage comments and would love to see a productive conversation begin.  I only caution you to try to leave your politics out of it, as I have tried to spare you from mine.  It is difficult to leave politics out of it, as we depend on politicians to act on these kinds of things, but I implore you to leave your politics at the door when leaving comments.  Politics just clouds the core issues and we want to see the facts with perfectly clear vision.  There are no democrats, republicans, socialists, fascists, communists, independents, or any other political faction on this board.  There are only passionate humans with a common goal, leaving the Earth in better shape than we inherited it.

Love and Peace (with a special thank you to my wonderful boyfriend Dr. Loren Ballanti for helping me edit this article.),


August 12, 2012

Sustainable Sundays: Back to School

Happy Sunday everyone!  I'm excited to bring you another collection of Back to School items from Team Upcyclers.  Our Etsy shops that are active and participating on the team are available for Sunday selections.

Back to School

You can add some awesome school buttons to your clothing, lunch boxes or backpacks this school year!

How about a chalkboard apple for your favorite teacher?

Make sure you have a good (upcycled) placed to keep lunch money!

And don't forget the preschoolers! Check out this cool handmade book

The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. ~Sydney J. Harris

Have a great Sunday and be sure to make it a sustainable one!
Thanks, Bee

August 11, 2012

Love 2 DIY on the Weekend~ Read Up on Upcycling!

I was checking out some upcycling supplies on Etsy and came across a couple of books on upcycling projects! That led to a search for more and I thought I'd share my finds with you~ most of these are available for a reasonable price and can be great sources for your weekend DIY projects. A couple are eBooks written by the seller on Etsy so you could actually buy them and use them this weekend!

eBook by Mahe Zehra Husain

Halle's Hobbies

eBook by Mahe Zehra Husain

Resah's Attic

Halle's Hobbies



Daisy and Florrie

I've linked the book images to the Etsy shop listings~ but you can also check for some of these titles on Amazon or Ebay. You'll find thousands of others as well, all great sources of inspiration for upcycling projects. Keep in mind that most all DIY projects can be adapted to reuse materials or scrap if you use your imagination!

Have a fantastic weekend!
;) Cat

August 3, 2012

July's Upcyclers Creativity Contest

This month's creativity challenge centered around a seemingly innocuous house construction element. I issued the following challenge to teamupcyclers:

"The challenge for this month is a drain spout. I bought one to redo my gutters and then (after spray painting it) discovered where I could get affordable rain chains. Now I have a 12' drain spout and nothing to do with it. To make this easier I will take entries consisting of any metal construction waste that is generally pipe shaped. Cans will not be accepted, although a stovepipe would."

Well, I had exactly one idea with what to do with it. But I was impressed by the ingenuity and talent of my fellow teammates. 

It was a tough choice. I was torn my favorite two. Sarah Kristen of SweetSomeday had the distinct advantage of creating wind chimes (which I love!) and so prevailed with her entry of her pipe wind chimes pictured here:

You can see her whole project from design to construction on her blog and here are a few items you can find at her shop:

The runner up was the intrepid M. Basile, Who created this beautiful pencil/ flower holder from an elbow piece of a drain pipe:

You can see her other work at her facebook page

Other honorable mentions include our own Wooden Bee who created aluminum candle holders

Marie took a different tact and used metal construction debris to create these personalized copper pendants.

All items entries can be found on our Upcyclers Creative Challenge Pinterest Board!

Congratulations to everyone and their creativity! Join us next month by following the next creativity challenge here.