We all want to break the mold and do something a little different from time to time, ideally without breaking the bank, and often without a budget at all! Up-cycling, recycling, distressing and revamping—there are plenty of ways to creatively transform a bunch of old junk into some brand new bits and pieces to be proud of.
We’ve broken down 20 great ideas shared with us by our friends at Tool Starter into 4 categories for the craftiest of crafters to escape out of the box.
Unique lighting made from household objects
Ok, so you’ve got an old lampshade or a hanging light fitting that’s really seen its best days—surely, it’s time for it to go. But, hang on! Why not strip it down to basics and make something brand new to give it a new lease of life?
You can create unusual textures from plastic cutlery (think layering and gluing spoons or forks together to create patterns and shapes) or cut up colored clear plastic bottles into your favorite shapes from nature, science or from your favorite books, hobbies, or shows and montage them all into a translucent new cover giving your lampshades and lighting the new lease of life it’s been longing for.
Make a tiny greenhouse from a wine bottle or a jam jar
You don’t have to be a whiz at Bonsai to create a miniature garden that can sit on your desk.
Carefully layer up stones and soil against the bottom and side of a large jam jar or a laid down wine bottle. Pop a few well-chosen seeds in there and watch them grow.
With a household plastic spray to act as your hosepipe, you’ve got everything you need!
A light bulb vase base
If you’re careful enough, you can pop the fitting out from the insides of a light bulb to leave an empty glass shell with a little metal cap. Tip it over, and half fill it with water to make an incredibly contemporary and cool miniature vase for a small array of grasses or long stalk flowers.
Your only task then is to decide how to stand it up. You can build a wire frame, shape a base from clay, or you could create something from reclaimed wood or those old fixings you’d long since pushed to the back of the garage.
Recycle clothing to make cushion covers, pillows and duvet covers
Take those summer dresses (and winter ones!) that you no longer wear out from the back of your wardrobe right now, and get scissor happy! Once you’ve chopped them up into usable shapes, sew them into bigger sizes and create some truly Boho-chic cushion covers and pillows. They might be stuffed with padding, but they’re filled with the memories from the days you actually wore those old clothes!
Make a bedroom door sign from your children’s favorite day out
Collect some of the items from a favorite day out with your kids and use them to make a custom frame to go around a photo you took the same day. They can be items from the beach from a seaside adventure, or a bag full of treasures from a trip to Grannies. Detail the frame with your children’s names made out of modelling clay, lollipop sticks or anything that suits your theme.
Recycle your old storage with lace stencils
You’re tired of looking at those same old storage boxes or cupboards that lack sparkle and creativity. Well, now’s the time to get crafty. Get your hands on some sparkly spray paint, crazy colors, or some muted pastels if that’s more your style, then track down some old lace tablecloths or curtains to use as stencils and add a bit of hippy to your boring old boxes. Layer up those colors; accessorize with stick-on jewels or if you’ve got the artistic skills to make them truly personal to you, customize them by hand.
Framing a mirror with something special to you
You look into a mirror nearly every day of your life. So why not get a blast full of serotonin every time you do! Pick some of your favorite memory makers and incorporate them into a custom frame made of anything from fluffy fabric material to metals and more.
It’ll give you a whole new way to kick-start your day.
Making a futon from building or gardening materials
The obvious route for a simple futon is palettes or breezeblocks, but why not think out of the box? Create a base from plant pots, railway sleepers, wire mesh filled with rocks, logs or even using corrugated steel for something more futuristic?
A happy hammock made from old blankets and washing line
You can make a hammock from practically anything. Go Boho crazy with those old blankets from your grandparents’ attic, or grab hold of some old canvas dustsheets for something more rugged and industrial.
Customize your wardrobes with crazy cutouts
It doesn’t matter if the wardrobes are in your bedroom or your kids’. It doesn’t matter if you cut out designer logos or Disney characters. All you need is to trace the shapes printed from your PC onto some thin plywood, or plastic, paint it to complement or contrast your newly up-cycled storage, and mount them on blocks a couple of centimeters deep to make some 3D features that can really make your room pop!
Personalized stationery from plant stamps
Have you ever seen the magical shapes and patterns made by nature? If you experiment in cutting different vegetables or plants down the middle and using them as print stamps (think potato prints but not with potatoes!), you’ll be amazed at what you can create. Some types of cabbage and Chinese lettuce make the most amazing roses.
Create a unique bag from old designer clothing
Designer dresses, ball-gowns, evening wear and even old gig t-shirts can make the most fantastic tote bags with a bit of simple cutting and sewing. If you can make a couple of matching squares for either side, stitch in some stiff lining and add some straps—bingo! You can absolutely guarantee nobody else will walk in the room with such a personalized project on your arm.
Customize your wine gifts – bottles and bags
Here’s a great one for making a simple birthday gift into something special. Strip all the labels from a bottle of wine and create a custom design with paint pens to personalize the gift for your recipient and their event. And don’t stop there—buy a blank gift bag and customize that to match the bottle. You can create a label and a greeting card too to pull it all together.
Make a hanging basket from, well, anything!
I created some hanging baskets from some drilled out paint pots once. From the various shaped holes in the sides and some smaller ones in the bottom for drainage, once they were stripped down to bare metal, and trimmed around the top to make a more unusual shape, they looked amazing. You don’t have to stop at paint pots, get creative! You could use anything. As long as it’s waterproof and the size you need it to be, what’s stopping you?
Make your own message mug
In a similar way to customizing a bottle of wine as a gift, you can create a message for someone you love (or don’t!) on a plain mug. Using ceramic paints and varnishes, you can choose their favorite saying, catchphrase, song or more—even what they shout when they hit their thumb with a hammer. As long as it’s personal, it’s unique to them, so remember the golden rule: it’s the thought that counts.
Decorate your shoes with your favorite rock stars
Print stencils from your PC of your favorite rock stars, and trace them onto your white canvas shoes or boots. Going to a gig? It’s the perfect accessory for the die-hard fan!
Customize your clothes with other clothes!
Everybody’s wardrobe is full of items they no longer wear, so it’s always a great place to start recycling.
You can take patterns from no-longer-loved items to make into patches, pockets, collars and cuffs. You could completely replace full panels to create mix and match items or change up the design of the items that you still love but lack that little extra pizzazz.
Pattern your own tights and stockings
When it comes to customizing ANYTHING Sharpies are king. If you’ve seen a pattern that really takes your eye and would look great on those black/red/green/skin stockings that you just don’t wear anymore, then get to it.
Cut a leg shape from card to slot inside while you take care of business and make sure they’re dry before you put them on. Silhouettes look great and highlights with metallic inks finish off your designs with style.
Make your own jewelry out of old keys or nuts and bolts
If there are boxes of old fixtures and fittings in your garage or shed, maybe it’s time to get a little bit Steampunk with them? Either fasten them together with jewelry clasps, glue them with resins suitable for metals, or bind them with superfine delicate wire. And when you finally get bored with your creations, just throw them back in the shed where they came from!
Cardboard costumes for the kids
Here’s a great one for rainy days in. Get into the recycling bin and fish out all of the card you can lay your hands on. Most of your kids’ favorite superheroes, film favorites or video game characters costumes can be made from simple shapes when glued together. If you make sure you flip over any printed material so the raw color of the unprinted material shows on the outside, your kids’ new outfits will have a unique natural organic style to contrast the real-life look, or it’s a great base to paint and decorate to match their heroes style.