Thursday, 11 May 2017

Kid's Activity Mat: Upcycled Bed Sheet

Usually my old towels and stained clothing get broken down into cleaning rags, but bed sheets present a dilemma in terms of absorbency. They’re simply not great at cleaning. So when I encountered a tenacious bright blue paint stain on a fitted, king-sized sheet, I was forced to get creative on how to repurpose this item.

Meanwhile, I was preparing for a family road trip wherein two children under the age of four would spend 25+ hours in a car making picnic-type pit stops only to end up at the final destination to spend each day hanging about in the outdoors, picnic-style. Are you following me?

Enter the homemade picnic play mat!!

This craft requires: 

  • Fabric paint/markers 
  • Sewing machine and the ability to sew in a straight line 
  • Thread 


  • scrap fabric for trim 
  • scrap fabric for corners if using a fitted sheet 

I began by cutting out the elastic on each corner to allow the sheet to lie flat. Given I was working with a king-sized sheet, I should have cut the remaining flat piece into a rectangle but I didn’t want to lose the extra space so I kept it as is.

Next, I traced my design using a marker or pencil. Since we were embarking on a road trip, I drew a series of streets with landmarks around them before inviting my three year old son to help colour them in and add detail.

The transformation. Image Source: Ellen
We included a volcano, fire station, construction site, mountains, mine, boulders, lake, forest, and hospital. All the most important things, in my son’s opinion. I packed the fabric markers along with the blanket and we kept the artwork incomplete so we could invite our friends to continue the process while on vacation.

Highlights. Image Source: Ellen
If you’ve been working with a rectangle, you can simply fold the edges and sew a seam to prevent the fabric from fraying. Since I had four gaping corners, I filled them with some Canadian road trip fabric (how perfect!) and finished the entire thing with a bright binding along the edges.

Image Source: Ellen 
The final result is far from complete but will evolve as we spend time on it. It was dragged through seven states and two provinces and will now be used for picnics and play in our backyard and local parks.

How do you use old bedding? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

- Ellen (Volunteer)

Friday, 5 May 2017

Edmontonians Breathe New Life into Pre-Loved Clothes

This past weekend, Change of Clothes hosted their third annual Clothing Swap, Repairathon, Upcycling, and Panelists event, the culmination of a week of Fashion Revolution events. Change of Clothes shares in the Fashion Revolution goals of awareness, positivity, and participation by providing a space for Edmontonians to extend the lives of their wardrobes through mending, swapping, upcycling, and donating. Change of Clothes also shares in the Reuse Centre's goals of diverting waste from landfills; in only two years, Change of Clothes has processed over 700 pounds of clothing through repair, swapping, upcycling, and donation!

When Claire Theaker-Brown returned to Edmonton after living in China, she felt that there was a lack of community focus around sustainable fashion. Edmonton already had the repairathon, random clothing swaps, craftspeople focusing on upcycling, and recipients of clothing donations; however, there lacked a hub to bring all of these people together. This sparked Change of Clothes, a space for makers to share knowledge and resources while fostering a community where shoppers and brands are brought together in one physical space.

Change of Clothes 2017's Panelists: Crystal Tracy, Janna Stewart, Brittany Nugent, and Claire Theaker-Brown.
Photo Credit: Piyush Patel, instagram
This year's event kicked off with a panel discussion featuring: Brittany Nugent of the Publicity Room, representing the consumer; Crystal Tracy, the creator of beautiful children's clothing at Sweet Jane Studio; Janna Stewart, owner and operator of Cinder & Smoke women's fashion and the newly created Arturo Denim; and Change of Clothes co-founder Claire Theaker-Brown, also founder of Flatter:Me Belts. The panel provided an opportunity to hear about the struggles and successes of makers within this community of sustainable fashion and allowed members of the public to engage in honest discussion.

Wading into the waters of sustainable fashion can be intimidating. As Claire aptly points out, there are two words that really freak people out: "sustainable" and "fashion." But it doesn't need to be so complex. Fashion doesn't need to be fancy, expensive, or exclusive. And sustainability is about "progress, not perfection", as Claire often repeats throughout the panel discussion. One sure way to know you're making a difference is simply by extending the life of any consumable, offers Claire.

A great example of this was included in the day's activities. The House of Sew, Jillijade Jewellery, and Makers & Mentors were on hand to help participants upcycle jewelry and turn old t-shirts into fashionable headbands, as modeled here by participant Adam.

Enjoying some relaxed crafting with his crew, Adam rocks the repurposed t-shirt headband. Photo Credit: Ellen 
Cathy Jackson of Makers & Mentors showcased another beautiful example of upcycled t-shirts in the form of a stylish skirt. Photo Credit: Ellen
Kristen, an Edmontonian attending the event, believes we already have so much and don't need to consume more. "Sharing is caring," she jokes, explaining a sense of joy in the swap when you release, reminding yourself to let it go. She is no stranger to swapping. In university, she and her friends created what they called "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Dress", by time-sharing one versatile dress among the group. This spin on renting is a tenet of the Fashion Revolution's 7 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, rent, research, repurpose, repair.

Kristen proudly showcasing her swap finds. Photo Credit: Ellen 
A die-hard vintage hunter and self-professed denim enthusiast, Piyush frequently circulates through Edmonton's second-hand clothing venues. He sees the value in pre-loved clothes and has a keen eye for particular textiles, patterns, and brands. Piyush has fostered a close relationship with his tailor who helps him see his creative ideas to fruition, whether they be simple hemming or outlandish DIY concepts. At this year's event, he made use of the repairathon to add a patch, created by a Toronto designer that he recently acquired on Etsy, to a denim jacket. If you don't have the skill, resources, or interest in sewing yourself, take a page from Piyush's book and utilize the community around you!

Piyush has more control over design, material, and fabric when he shops second-hand
and repurposes or mends special pieces. Photo Credit: Ellen
Kassia, a veggie lifestyle blogger, gushes about the Change of Clothes yearly event, claiming it's the best swap in the city! She not only feels better giving her pre-loved clothes a second life, but maintains that some of her most valued pieces have come from this particular swap. Kassia explains that as a poor student, she sought to fulfill her glam style with the cheapest, most accessible stuff. What she noticed was instead a closet full of junk. As she "grew up" (her words!) she began leading a plant-based diet and began researching every aspect of her life, realizing that cheap clothes were not necessarily more economical.

Kassia finds classic pieces by swapping what no longer works for her wardrobe. Photo Credit: Ellen 
This is the second time I've heard this idea, as panelist Brittany Nugent affirmed, "I don't make enough money to buy cheap clothes." She was speaking of her own journey into sustainable fashion and I admit, the concept took my brain a few beats to understand. The idea is pretty simple: buying cheap clothes is not only unsustainable, but it's throwing your own money away. Cost-wise, it makes more sense to buy fewer items, being more intentional and less impulsive with our purchases. Each piece may cost more but by buying quality items, we ensure a longer lifespan. Worried about the shelf-life of fashion trends? That's where repurposing (upcycling) and swapping come in handy. Other options include renting current fashions or vintage shopping.

What's more, intentional shopping, by design, eliminates impulsivity. It requires research and thought. It requires asking the difficult questions and possibly writing a letter to your favourite brands asking who made the clothes. As Claire explained during the panel discussion, for her, it's less about where the clothes are made and more about who made them. Whatever your main goals, as a consumer, the power is yours. "I'm voting with my dollars," says Brittany who makes the decision to spend with retailers when she knows the story behind the clothes. "We've lost the value of our clothes," says Janna. It's time we rethink this.

These are the exact reasons Chelsey mends her damaged clothing. She believes repairing a favourite piece not only prolongs its life and allows her to continue enjoying it, but she also finds it much cheaper than buying a new item. She focuses on selecting clothes that will last year after year to get their full wear and mends items when necessary.

Chelsey has damaged items mended to extend their life. She also has clothing tailored to alter their style enough to bring them into current fashion. Photo Credit: Ellen
Claire asserts, "building a sustainable fashion community is not going to happen out of guilt." Happily, Change of Clothes has provided a space to meet the motivations of anyone, from a sense of duty to simple economics. And with numbers growing steadily each year, Claire believes there could be a need for the event to run twice a year. They've got a great space at the Ritchie Community Hall and a great base of volunteers. So if you're interested in learning more or engaging with the community, reach out by tweet or instagram!

- Ellen (Volunteer)

Monday, 1 May 2017

Puzzles from the Past: An Upcycle Tutorial

This past holiday break, I reinvigorated my love of puzzles, and to my delight, my three year old son caught the bug too. We’re now ploughing our way through puzzles of all shapes and sizes and I’ll certainly go broke feeding this hobby. Did you know The Reuse Centre has puzzles for every ability level? Not only that, but the Centre offers many materials to get crafty and personalize some puzzles for a special event or person!
The Reuse Centre's typical stock of calendars. Availability may change but it's a safe bet that you'll have lots of calendars and old puzzles to take home after a visit to the Reuse Centre. Image Source: Ellen
With this in mind, I’ll show you how to transform an outdated calendar into several puzzles. I’ll be using a Cricut cutting machine (similar to a Silhouette) but will give you steps to complete the puzzle with scissors and some determination (See Scissors Approach section at the end). Let’s begin.

Puzzles from the Past: An Upcycle Tutorial


  • Cricut and accessories
  • .svg file of puzzle outlines (try this free option from Bird’s Cards
  • Old calendar images 
  • Large, thin cardboard similar to cereal box (not too thick!)
  • Craft glue or glue stick 
  • Mod Podge (optional) 

  1. Download an .svg file of the puzzle cuts, upload it into your Cricut Design Space, and prepare the image to be cut. 
    I chose 8" x 8" as dictated by my largest piece of cardboard. If you need help with your Cricut or Silhouette, visit the many online resources available. Image Source: Ellen
  2. Separate the calendar pages and select an image you’d like to use. Don't neglect the back cover of your calendar where you'll often find thumbnail sized photos of all 12 images. These tiny versions of your photos are helpful while assembling your puzzle. 
    These tiny photos of each month provide a nice sneak peak of the final puzzle once completed! Image Source: Ellen
  3. Place the desired puzzle image on the cutting mat and let your machine do the work. 
    Cricut Machine cutting the calendar image. Image Source: Ellen
  4. Cut a thin piece of cardboard to your puzzle’s size. A regular cereal box worked well for this puzzle. Anything thicker might not cut properly by your machine.  
  5. Place the cardboard on the mat and cut the same puzzle pieces using your cutting machine.  
  6. Match the cardboard puzzle pieces to the image pieces and glue together. 
    I simply used a homemade Mod Podge mixture to glue the calendar image to the cardboard, then coated the final piece with the mixture. If you're skipping step #7, you can use craft glue with a paint brush, or your finger or a glue stick to fix the pieces together.
  7. (Optional) Use Mod Podge to cover each piece for rigidity and longevity. I used a homemade mix of white craft glue and water (1/3 cup water to 1 cup glue). Cover the pieces with the mixture on both sides then set to dry. I used a wire basket placed upside down and let my space heater help the process! 
    Glued and Mod Podged puzzle pieces drying on a wire rack. Image Source: Ellen
  8. After the drying process, the pieces may bow slightly. I put my puzzle together loosely, covered with a large book, then weighted the book with soup cans. Make sure your pieces are completely dry before this flattening process! 

Scissors Approach without Cricut Cutting Machine:

If you do not have a cutting machine, first glue your cardboard and calendar image together, then simply print your blank puzzle outline at your desired size and loosely tape it to your glued calendar image. It’s best to use large puzzle pieces when cutting by hand as the curves and edges are tedious to manage. Use your sharpest scissors or X-acto knife to cut along the lines of the blank puzzle image. As you cut, the blank puzzle sheet should fall away. Optional: Mod Podge for strength and durability.

I accidentally cut my cardboard piece backwards so that the cereal box image was facing outward and the blank, brown side was glued to my calendar image. This turned out to be a very happy accident since the cereal box was coincidentally cut to display a race car making my puzzle reversible—not to mention highly desirable to a car-loving three year old! Two-for-one! 
Backside of my puzzle: Accidentally awesome! Image Source: Ellen
The puzzle doesn't click into place the way a commercially-built puzzle does, but the customization possibilities make this upcycle craft well worth the effort! When you're done making all 12 of your calendar images, look around your house for other puzzle upcycle possibilities!

- Ellen (Volunteer)

Friday, 21 April 2017

10 Disposables to Toss From Your Kitchen

Earth Day is just around the corner, which means it's a great time to think about how we can live more sustainable lives. Here at the Reuse Centre, we're all about making good use of the items that we have in new and creative ways. To me, "reuse" also means making choices to avoid single-use items wherever possible.

I looked around the one area in my home that produces the most waste--the kitchen--and came up with these 10 everyday disposables you can toss from your life!

Paper Towels and Napkins
Keep a stock of rags within easy reach for mopping up spills around the house. Be extra thrifty and cut them from old, holey t-shirts that you were going to throw out anyway!

Paper Napkins
Who said cloth napkins were just for dinner parties and fancy folk? Buy a set of cheap fabric napkins for every day use, or make your own from old fabric scraps with this DIY Network tutorial.

Don't forget to say "No napkins, please!" next time you're at the drive-thru!

Make a shareable party box! Image source: Lifehacker
Single-Use Dishes
Disposable plates, cups and cutlery are a convenience item we often turn to when the party gets big, or far away from home. Avoid the waste at your next picnic. Thrift some extra dishes and cutlery on the cheap and start a party box to share with friends.

If you have to use disposables, stick to recycled paper where possible.

Say no to single-use straws at restaurants and at home. It's okay for your lips to touch the rim of a drinking glass, I promise!

If you love drinking out of straws, consider investing in metal or glass reusable ones.

Produce Bags
Most of us wash our produce before we eat it, so ditch the "protective" plastic bag and let your celery get up close and personal with that carton of cereal in your shopping cart. Use reusable mesh produce bags to keep items like loose apples or green beans together for the cashier

Shopping Bags
How could I talk about produce bags without talking about regular plastic shopping bags? Don't limit your reusable bags to the grocery store - take them to the mall, to summer markets, and especially to the Reuse Centre!

Image Source: The Art of Doing Stuff
Plastic Wrap
Stock your kitchen with storage containers for keeping leftovers, or try a plastic-wrap alternative like beeswax fabric, which you can buy online or make yourself out of cotton scraps.

Water Bottles
We're lucky to live in Edmonton, where clean and delicious drinking water comes out of the tap. Skip the vending machine and carry a reusable water bottle to help you stay hydrated through the day.

Quick and easy snack baggies. Image Source: The DIY Mommy
Sandwich Baggies
Washable snack baggies are a great alternative to plastic sandwich baggies. They're not common in stores, but easy to buy online or to make. Check out this tutorial from The DIY Mommy.

Coffee Cups
Most coffee shops are happy to fill up your mug, whether that's your fancy travel tumbler, or the "#1 Boss" mug you keep at the office. Many shops even offer a discount when you bring your own cup.

What disposables have you eliminated from your life? Share your reusable alternatives in the comments!

- Sarah (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Featured Reuse-It Item - Envelopes

Envelopes are one of those everyday mundane items that many of us quickly dismiss and toss in the recycling as soon as we've taken out the important, or sometimes not so important, contents that they hold. However, as it turns out, envelopes can be reused and repurposed in a wide variety of ways. Here are all the ideas that our blog team found. Who would have thought that envelopes could be so versatile?


It never occurred to me that the interiors of plain business envelopes are so
pretty! It also never occurred to me that with a little glue you can flip an envelope inside out and end up with a lovely, fresh patterned envelope. But today we’re feeling goofy so we’re using some used envelopes to make hand puppets. A shark for the toddler and two fish puppets for mommy.

I used instructions and inspiration from Krafty Kid.

Photo Credit: Krafty Kid

What a fun way to give envelopes a second life before they get recycled! As fun as it was, I’m adding “go paperless” to my to-do list to reduce the number of envelopes that make it to my mailbox in the first place.


An old envelope is great to have on hand - they're fabulous for collecting and saving seeds! Penn and Cord's Garden talks about how paper envelopes allow seeds to breathe and describes how to create envelope seed packets. I like envelopes with plastic windows as it's easy to see the seeds that I've collected. It's also a good idea to add a photo of the plant into the envelope for easy identification.

Photo Credit: Penn & Cord's Garden

Though mail by post is on the decline, you likely still accumulate a number of envelopes. Some mail comes with a return envelope that is meant for you to send your payment back. These are ideal for reusing. To reuse envelopes, you can turn them inside out to make new envelopes. Essentially, you slice open all the sides with a letter opener or knife, fold it inside out, glue it back together, and voila, a new envelope. It is always a great feeling to save paper, not to mention money that would have been spent on new envelopes.

For a step by step tutorial on this useful idea visit Thrifty Jinxy
How to Reuse "Junk Mail" Envelopes
Photo Credit: Thrifty Jinxy

Envelopes from birthday and special occasion cards come in fun colours and patterns. Just look at the polka dots inside that green one! They're a really great source of cheap material for anyone who does any kind of paper-craft.

I like to save mine and cut them up to use as accents or backgrounds for photos, tickets, and all the other bits and pieces I save in my scrapbook. The red triangle in the left corner of the pictured scrapbook page is cut out of an envelope. The rest of it shows up on other pages commemorating the same trip.

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Dress up scrapbook pages with pretty envelope paper. 
Image provided by Sarah


What can you find in any household that is more common than envelopes? Everyone receives mail! With all of that paper that's used for envelopes, it's never a bad idea to have some crafty upcycling options at your fingertips.

Being an avid reader myself, I know that I'm always looking for something to use as a bookmark, spoons, receipts, cloth scraps, and anything else that would possibly fit the bill. After stumbling upon this brilliant idea from d. Sharp journal to use the corner of an envelope as a corner bookmark, I just may never need to hunt for a bookmark again!

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Photo Credit: d. Sharp journal
Sarah J.

Use old envelopes as a scrap notepad. I remember my mom always did this. In her purse, she always had an envelope with scribbling on the back. 

Envelopes are also great for storing  miscellaneous items around the house. Here are some ways that I use old envelopes for keeping my things tidy:
  • Use old envelopes to manage your money. Some people use cash, and this can be a very effective way to organize money into budget categories. This idea also works well for organizing receipts.
  • Use an old envelope to organize puzzles -  the larger the puzzle, the larger the envelope you'll need. 
  • I have started using brown envelopes in my filing drawer instead of folders to keep documents together. 
  • Store paper napkins in them. My paper napkins are always getting everywhere in my cupboard or drawer, making a mess. 
Image result for envelope organizing
Photo Credit: SC Johnson

In general, old envelopes are very handy for organizing!


Ellen mentioned that the inside of many envelopes have pretty and unique patterns and Sarah J. described how envelopes are great to use for scrap paper. Both of these points got me thinking about envelope notebooks. I found this tutorial on Crafting a Green World and was so impressed with how nice and pretty an envelope notebook can turn out. 

I love carrying a small notebook in my purse. They're usually filled with "To Do" lists and important reminders. Instead of buying a new notebook once my current one is filled, I'm definitely going to try to make one out of old envelopes.

junk mail envelope front
Photo Credit: Crafting a Green World

How do you reuse old envelopes? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Toddler Busy Board

As soon as baby becomes mobile, there’s a mad dash to secure all hazards in the house while providing safe options for play. Instead of breaking the bank with fancy toys, look around for sights, sounds, textures, smells, and tastes that are all around us.

Enter the "Busy Board." A busy board is a collection of repurposed household items that provide exploration and play for infants and toddlers. A quick google search shows several fantastic inspirations.

Busy Board Google Images Search
Busy Boards can range from simple to very complex projects depending on your construction expertise. They can be fixed to the wall or freestanding. Their fixtures can be permanent or evolving.

I’ll admit that my first attempt at this somewhat failed. When we moved from a tiny dwelling to a larger house that had an entire room dedicated to play, I was ecstatic to build the most amazing busy board wall. As it turns out, “amazing” just meant “huge.” While we did a great job of building the board, we somewhat fizzled at supplying a quality range of items to explore.

Image Source: Ellen
Cue second born child hitting the crawling stage. It’s time to reinvigorate our wall so that she can pull herself up and practice standing while exploring all the wonderful busy wall discoveries. This is the beauty of this project; it’s ever-evolving to suit the needs of your growing children!

Begin by deciding if your board will be small and portable or fixed to the wall. Since ours was installed on the wall, and since I wanted items to be installed in an ongoing manner, I needed to build the board out from the wall with a spacer of 2x4s. Thankfully, Grandpa was visiting and he took it upon himself to get the job started. Normally, we’d have an assortment of wood scraps kicking around to use but since we had just moved, we were fresh out. If you’re working from scraps, you may have less choice in size.

Once our base was installed, we simply began adding items as we found them. Our first stop was raiding our existing stash in the tool room. Next stop, The Reuse Centre! Since then, I’ve simply been adding items as they reveal themselves. It’s amazing to consider everyday household items destined for the trash in a brand new light!
Components of the board. Image Source: Ellen
Image Source: Ellen
My son is working on dressing/undressing himself so I added the button and zipper from an old pair of pants as well as the back pocket. He’s obsessed with the telephone and the calculator—both broken and destined for the trash! Our youngest uses the bottom half to pull herself up and explore the textures, sights, and sounds.

Is your kid a fan of texture? Maybe a budding musician who seeks out sounds? Or a future engineer intent on figuring out tasks of dexterity and skill? What items would your kid love to play with on a busy wall?


- Ellen (Volunteer)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Low-cost/No-cost Upcycled Seed Starting Kits

It seems like spring is taking forever to get here, doesn't it? Not to worry though, there are some things you can do to get started on your garden early. The best part is that you can use common items found around the house or at the Reuse Centre. I use these techniques every year to get my tomatoes and flowers started indoors with no outlay of expenses other than the potting soil.

Cardboard Tube Seed Pot 

Photo Credit: Sarah J.

What you will need:
  • Clean cardboard tubes (toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper rolls)
  • Scissors
  • Shallow plastic tray
  • Potting soil *sterilized through microwaving or store bought to reduce the risk of introducing molds that may harm your seedlings. Packaged potting soil is already sterilized.
  • Yogurt container
  • Water
  • Seeds

  1. Find a clean cardboard tube (trim longer tubes to about 7-10cm) and cut four slits into the bottom of the roll a quarter of an inch long.
  2. Press cut sections of toilet paper rolls inwards to create the bottom of the seed pot. Don't worry if it doesn't stay completely shut on its own, the soil will hold everything in place. 
  3. Fill the cardboard seed pot with soil. I like to fill a yogurt container with soil first and then scoop the soil with the cardboard seed pot.
  4. Once the seed pot is filled with soil, stand it up in a shallow plastic tray. The tray will collect any extra water.
  5. Make as many as you need and follow the directions on the seed packet for planting.
  6. Keep the seed pots damp and warm to sprout the seeds.
  7. When the sprout gets large enough, replant it in the garden or a larger pot. 

Pastry Container Seed Starting

Photo Credit: Sarah J.
What you will need:
  • Plastic pastry container
  • Scissors
  • Yogurt container, to scoop the soil
  • Potting soil *sterilized through microwaving or store bought to reduce the risk of introducing molds that may harm your seedlings. Packaged potting soil is already sterilized. 
  • Seeds 

Steps :
  1. You will need to make some drainage holes; use one side of the scissors and poke some holes in the bottom of your pastry container. 
  2. Cut the lid off. 
  3. Fill the bottom portion of the container with damp potting soil. 
  4. Plant the seeds according to seed package. 
  5. Place the lid on the top of the bottom of the pastry container to keep the moisture in the soil while the seeds germinate. 
  6. When the seeds sprout place the lid underneath as a tray to prevent water from leaking onto your table.
  7. Water as needed, to keep the soil damp.

Starting seeds inside will give you a jump start on the summer gardening. Most of the supplies are easily found around the house and whatever you're missing can be found at the Reuse Centre. This will save you money on buying new supplies and starter plants from the garden centers. If you have little ones, let them get dirty, let them see something grow! 

- Sarah J. (Volunteer)