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Craft Wars: The Upcycling Challenge

Two expert crafters explain how to turn old junk into new stuff. It's like spring cleaning, without throwing anything out.

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As you spring clean, you might want to think twice before tossing some of your supposed junk. Upcycling — turning your old stuff into pretty, new stuff — is all the rage (it’s a lot greener than producing heaps of garbage, anyway). So we asked two resourceful crafters to have a go at giving old objects a facelift.

First, blogger Melissa revamped an old tee-shirt, which everyone has way too many of lying around.

Here’s what she did.

1. Find an old tee you don't want to wear anymore. Find two fabrics to sew on top. Melissa used a scrap of bird imagery that has a bit of the shirt color in it, giving the finished item a more cohesive look. The background print is from one of her own fabric collections, Sugar Snap; it’s more subtle and pulls out some of the colors in the top print.

2. Cut a rectangle of the background fabric large enough to cover whatever it is you want to cover up on the shirt, plus a little extra. Cut the top fabric a bit smaller so the edges of the background fabric will show. Using the two layers of fabric helps cover up the logo; if you use just one, the logo might show through. To make this a fast and easy project, leave the cut edges of the fabric showing in what is known in craft speak as a ‘raw-edge applique.’

3.Pin the fabrics in place over the logo.

4. Sew around the edge of each fabric rectangle with a running stitch. The frayed edges give it a homespun look, but if you prefer a more finished application, you could cut the pieces a bit larger, press the edges under, and machine stitch.


Her process:

1. Gather supplies. You’ll need: newspaper, a bamboo skewer, a piece of cardboard cut just slightly smaller than the finished size of your table top, adhesives (hot glue, glue stick, decoupage or Mod Podge), paint (spray or otherwise), paint brush, and Diamond Glaze (or polyurethane, just make sure it’s non-yellowing).


2. Roll a ton of tubes of newspaper. Lay a sheet of newspaper diagonally in front of you, center the corner of the paper onto the bamboo skewer, and roll the paper onto the skewer, carefully removing the skewer before it gets covered by the newspaper tube (you might want to add a little glue stick before you remove the skewer, just in case). Keep rolling all the way to the end, adding glue stick to the last corner to keep it in place. Keep rolling tubes until you just can’t stand it anymore.

4. Check for larger gaps between your coils and fill them with hot glue. Don’t overdo it or you’ll have bumps in your tabletop but you do want to make sure that your glazes don’t flow clear through.

5. Now it’s time to paint! Before you begin glazing you’ll want to use something other than newspaper to cover your work surface or you’ll make a mess of your project. Plastic (maybe some grocery shopping bags) is a good alternative. Now you can add a layer of decoupage or Mod Podge to the top, bottom, and outer edge of the tabletop (not all at the same time, of course). Once it’s dry, apply a couple of coats of the paint of your choice. You can use spray paint, but be warned that it is difficult to get into all the nooks and crannies without a brush.


6. Let that dry overnight and then apply your last protective coat. Diamond glaze leaves a pretty glass-like finish, but you can also use a non-yellowing polyurethane. No matter which you use be sure to pop all the bubbles that form on the surface with a toothpick. And don’t worry if you have areas that pool up (as in the picture). That will actually help even out your surface and it does dry clear.

7. Attach your tabletop to the candle holder. You can use high-temperature hot glue but you might also want to go back around it with epoxy for a more permanent bond.

—Pippa Armbrester is a master crafter and writer. Follow her adventures in quilting and life on her website.