Upcycling for Kids: Tie-dyed Muslin Squares

During the course of the Queen of Konmari challenge, I’ve realised that I have accumulated a sizeable stack of muslin squares which I am no longer using since Thumper has outgrown them.

These muslin swaddles were one of my best baby gear investments and they have lasted through three kids and have been washed multiple times and are still in fantastic condition. They are too old to be given away (I mean, who wants used muslin nappy cloths, really), so I decided to see if we could give them a new lease of life as multipurpose kitchen cloths or dishtowels!

I decided to see if we could dye the muslin cotton squares, to make them prettier to look at. I roped the kids in to help me, and I think the final product turned out rather nice!

How to Make Tie-Dyed Muslin Squares

Materials:

  1. Plain cotton muslin squares, washed
  2. Fabric dyes (I got mine from Spotlight)
  3. Rubber bands
  4. Plastic forks
  5. Water
  6. Optional: Plastic ziplock bag

Instructions:

  1. Wet the entire cloth in plain water and wring all of the water out so that the cloth is damp but not sopping wet. This will make the dye soak through evenly later on.
  2. Spread out the cloth flat and place the fork in the centre of the fabric (or any random part of the cloth, depending on where you want the centre of the swirl to be)
  3. Twist the fork round so that the cloth wraps itself around the fork tightly.
  4. Secure the swirled up cloth tightly with several rubber bands. I used four rubber bands to divide up the cloth into 8 equal triangle shaped sections
    tie-dye-kids-crafts-home-tutorial
  5. Using the fabric dye, fill up one of the triangle sections on one side, then flip the cloth over and fill up the same section on the other side.
  6. You can choose contrasting colours for the other sections, use the same colour or leave them white. Try not to colour two adjacent sections the same colour – leave some white gaps or the swirls will not be so obvious.
  7. (Optional step) Place each cloth in a separate ziplock bag
  8. Put the cloths aside and leave them to ‘set’ overnight. I let them set for 24 hours.
  9. Remove the rubber bands from the cloth and rinse each cloth separately in cold water a few times, squeezing out the excess dye until the water runs more or less clear (or until you get bored. Whichever happens first).
  10. Wash cloths as per washing instructions in your washing machine with an extra rinse, making sure to separate them from the rest of your laundry for the first wash, in case the colour runs!
    tie-dye-swirl-diy-kids-baby-shower
  11. Ta-dahhh! Enjoy your new and beautiful cotton multipurpose cloths!

P.S. This turned out to be such a simple and fun craft, that I suggested it to the Aged P who was throwing a baby shower for one of her friends! The Aged P got together with the mom-to-be and her friends to make these gorgeous and unique tie-dyed muslin swaddles for the new baby in a variety of patterns and colour ways. I think tie-dye teeshirts would make a fun kid’s party activity too.

Upcycling for Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 4: No-Sew Braided Rug

Perhaps you have got a few Teeshirts that are very worn out and not even worth giving away. You could rip them up and use them as cleaning rags, or you can try extending their usefulness by braiding them into a nifty rug, old-school style!

I actually tried making a similar rug earlier this year using old towels, but sewing the towel braid together hurt my fingers – and the rug didn’t hold together as well as I liked.

Using old teeshirts for this braided rug worked better for me, because the braid was easier to work with, and I could weave the rug together – no fussing about with needles and other pointy hurty things. This craft turned out to be straightforward enough for Little E to do it on her own! We ended up with a lovely, soft rug which made a great bathmat – and it’s washable too.

In this tutorial, I use a four strand braided technique (like a ‘fishtail’ braid), because I feel this gives a wider and flatter weave, but you can use a three stranded braid if you feel that a puffier rug works for you.

How to make an Old-School Braided Rug from Old Teeshirts

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirts (I used about 3 large men’s tees to make a round floormatbut you can use more if you want a bigger rug)
  2. Scissors

Instructions:

tee-shirt-rug-braid-fishtail

  1. Cut the tees into 1.5-2 inch strips widthwise so that you end up with a bunch of loops
  2. Stretch the loops as far as they will go until the fabric rolls in on itself
  3. Cut the loops open on one end so that you are left with long strings
  4. Choose 4 strings and knot them together. I decided to go with 2 strings of contrasting colours to get a nice chevron pattern.fishtail-braid-four-strand-rug-tee-shirt
  5. Cross the outer (green in the picture above) strings over each other, right string over the left to form an X.
  6. Take the next set of outer strings (dark blue in the picture above). Cross them over the centre of the braid, right over left, to form a second X.
  7. Take the following set of outer strings (green) and cross them in the centre again, right string over left, to form a third X. You are now back to your original position, having done three layers of braiding!
  8. After you have done about 4-5 inches of braid, roll the braid into a spiral, with the original knot in the spiral centre. Now you can weave the free braid together to form the rug.
  9. Take the string that is closest to the centre of the spiral and pass it through one of the loops of braid that it is nearest to it (see the picture below).
  10. Pull the string tight to secure the free section to the rest of the rug.
  11. Continue to braid, securing each section every 1.5-2 inches.braided-teeshirt-rug-upcycle-recycle
  12. When the lengths of string become too short to braid, you can add another string to it by knotting the ends together. To make a less bulky knot, snip a small hole about 0.5 inches from the end of both strings that you wish to join together.
  13. Pass the end of the old string through the hole in the new string.
  14. Then, push the other end of the new string through the hole in the old string
  15. Pull tight and it should form a small, tight knot!
  16. Continue braiding your rug until it reaches a size that you are happy with
  17. To finish off the rug, knot the ends of the free braid to one of the loops from the braid next to it, securing the end of the braid to the rest of the rug. You can then trim off any excess string or tuck the strings into the rest of the rug to make them neat.
  18. Enjoy your soft new floormat!

    braided-rug-teeshirt-upcycling-repurpose

    Left: Eleanor braiding using two sets of contrasting colours to form chevrons, Right: Another rug that we made using four different colours

Upcycling for Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 3: No-Sew Multilayered Necklace

Here’s a super quick and very simple no-sew tutorial to turn an old teeshirt into a pretty cute multilayered necklace or infinity scarf – and it’s an easy one to do with the kids too!

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirt (a seamless tee is best)
  2. Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Lay Teeshirt flat
  2. Cut off the bottom hem of the teeshirt and put it aside.
  3. Cut your teeshirt into 1-2 inch strips across the width of the tee. I used 2 inch strips because it was easier for Little E to manage, but I think the necklace will probably look nicer with thinner 1 inch strips. You should end up with a bunch of loops.
  4. Stretch out each loop as far as they will go until the fabric rolls inward.teeshirt-necklace-kids-craft-upcycle-recycle
  5. Join all the the loops together, doubling them up if necessary to create that multilayered effect. Make sure that you can still pull the loops over your head easily. I used three loops doubled up to make a necklace for Little E but you can use more to make more complex-looking necklace.
  6. Cut the bottom hem of shirt that you saved in half to make a long flat ribbon at least 10 inches long.
  7. Using this ribbon, tie a knot around the necklace loops to hold them in place.
  8. Wrap the rest of the ribbon tightly around the loops a few times. I made the wrapped portion a few inches wide.
  9. Tie off the ends of the ribbon with a knot.
  10. Trim the ends to look like a little bow or tuck them under the rest of the ribbon to hide it.
  11. Enjoy your new necklace!

necklace-teeshirt-upcycle

If you are particularly handy, you can experiment with braiding or knotting the teeshirt strands together, or mixing loops of different colours and textures!

P.S. Check out our other Teeshirt Upcycling posts here.

Upcycling For Kids (using Teeshirts) Part 1: No-Sew Hobo Bag

In the last 6 months, whilst I’ve been ruthlessly downsizing my wardrobe, I’ve become ever more aware of the amount of waste there is just from the amount of clothes I’ve had to remove from my house (more on this in another post).

I was appalled to find out that in Singapore, we generate over 156,700 tonnes of textile and leather waste in a single year. This means that in Singapore, we generate THREE tonnes of textile waste every 5 minutes! And less than 8% of that is recycled. Yikes!!!

Upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into old clothes, and if you are anything like me and cause all sewing machines within a 100m to malfunction, here is a great No-Sew tutorial that is so simple, even a kid could do it!

How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a Cute No-Sew Hobo Bag

Materials:

  1. Old Tee-shirt
  2. Scissors

upcycling-teeshirt-t-shirt-kids-tote

Instructions:

  1. Using the scissors, cut off the sleeves of the teeshirt.
  2. Then, holding the shirt together, cut off the collar of the teeshirt to make the opening of the bag. A nice oval shape will do.
  3. Decide how deep you want the bag to be. I used a large square book as a guide.
  4. Cut the bottom of the teeshirt into strips about 1 inch wide to make a row of tassels. (Pro-tip: I left the book on the teeshirt and just cut the teeshirt up to the bottom of the book.)
  5. Make sure you also cut the side seam of the teeshirt. tee-shirt-hobo-bag-upcycle-recycle
  6. Turn the shirt inside out.
  7. Stretch the tassels as far as they will go. This will make them long and thin and easier to work with.
  8. Knot each pair of tassels (one tassel from the front and one from the back of the tee-shirt) tightly together. The shirt will begin to bunch up at the bottom, and you’ll have a row of knots with two strands hanging out of each knot.
  9. (Optional Step) Take any strand from the first knot and tie it tightly to any strand from the second knot in the row. Then from the second knot, take the remaining strand and tie it to any strand from the third knot in the row. Continue down the row, tying all the knots together. This will close up the gaps between the knots and make the base of your bag more secure.hobo-bag-tee-shirt-tshirt-recycle-kid
  10. Now turn the bag inside out so that the shirt logo and patterns are showing and all the knots and tassels are on the inside. You should have two straps at the top of your bag.
  11. Cut the two straps in half where the shoulder seam is, knotting them at the top to create the shoulder strap for the hobo bag.
  12. Enjoy!

Optional ideas:

  1. If you like the look of the tassels, leave them outside the bag for a cute boho look.
  2. You can leave the two straps at the top alone if you prefer a simple tote bag.
  3. You can cut each strap at the top into three strips and braid them together to make a braided shoulder strap.

Upcycling for kids: Spiderweb Christmas Coasters (or Circular Weaving Loom CDs)

So, I was looking at spiderwebs and thinking of Greek Mythology, and I remembered that there used to be circular weaving looms around for seamless knitting of bags and hosiery. I headed onto Google and found a bunch of paper plate weaving crafts but instead of using paper plates, I decided to upcycle a bunch of old blank CDs that I had lying around the house.

Yes, I have a whole spindle of blank CDs that I purchased nearly 10 years ago. They only fit about 400-700MB of information on them, so they are useful for virtually nothing nowadays. I keep them around in case I ever need to burn one or two photos for a friend. But now we can use them for making some great Christmas gifts!

So here’s:

How to Upcycle Old CDs into Pretty Christmas Coasters and Hanging Ornaments

Materials:

  1. Old CDs
  2. Yarn of different colours and textures (I got my yarn from Daiso)
  3. Scissors
  4. (Optional) Old plastic yoghurt pots or takeaway container lids
  5. (Optional) Hole-punch

upcycle-recycle-art-craft-cd-yarn

Instructions:

  1. Cut weaving needles out of yoghurt pots or takeaway container lids. You don’t necessarily need these but I found them useful in preventing the yarn from fraying at the ends. Cut out teardrop shaped plastic pieces from old plastic yoghurt pots or takeaway container lids. Use a hole punch to make a hole through one end. I used a regular paper hole punch for this.
  2. Warp your CD loom using 1.5-2m length of yarn. You do this by looping the yarn through the hole in the middle of the CD. Tie a knot in the first loop.
  3. Make sure that there are an odd number of loops. Any number above 15 looks pretty good, bearing in mind that the more loops you have, the more challenging it is for the weaver. I used about 15-19 loops for 5 year old Little E, and 21-25 loops for 8 year old J. christmas-ornament-craft-gift-coaster-kids
  4. Cut any length of yarn to use for weaving. I got each child to measure out 2 arm-lengths of yarn to start out. Tie one end to any spoke on the warping to start, and the other end to the weaving needle.
  5. Weave the yarn through the spokes of the warping in an under-over-under-over pattern (or under one-skip one-under one-skip one). We used the shiny side of the CD as the weaving side, because it just looks prettier that way.
  6. When you come to the end of the yarn, just tie another length of yarn on and continue the pattern. Experiment with different textures and colours
  7. Try to finish weaving the spiderweb to at least 1 cm from the edge of the CD! It gets quite challenging towards the end.
  8. Once you finish the spiderweb, tie the yarn off to the nearest spoke on the loom, and tuck the ends under the weaving.
  9. You can choose to tie another length of yarn through any one of the wheel spokes so that the weaving can be hung up as a Christmas ornament, or it can be used flat as a drinks coaster – your choice!

weaving-yarn-cd-upcycle-christmas-craft-ornament

 

Upcycling (without kids) – Tube Sock Totoro

If you have ever paid a visit to our travel blog over at Owl Fly Away, you will realise that our family LOVES travelling! As frequent flyers, we have amassed a huge collection of tube socks, given to us in little zippered pouches by smiling stewardesses as part of the airline’s complimentary customer care package.

I was staring at a pile of these tube socks, wondering what to do about them, and I decided to try my hand at turning them into homemade soft toys! After all, I had some tired old pillows that I could take apart for the kapok stuffing. Why not?

So with a little bit of planning, I made some Totoro dolls! They turned out much better than I expected, considering that I pretty poor at sewing.

 

So here’s How to Upcycle Airline Tube Socks into Cute Totoro Plushies

Materials:

  1. 1 tube sock
  2. Scissors
  3. Needle
  4. Thread
  5. Stuffing from a old pillow, cotton wool, or cotton batting (we used some old cotton batting)
  6. Optional: hand lotion and cotton bud, embellishments like embroidery floss, beads, buttons felt, fabric scraps or another tube sock in a contrasting colour,

Instructions:

  1. Turn the sock inside out and press it flat.
  2. Mark out the ears of the Totoro on the toe of sock. Each ear should be about 5cm long. I used some hand lotion from a hotel and a cotton bud to draw out the ears on the black sock so that it would be easy to see where to sew. This should look roughly like a ‘U’.
  3. Using a needle and thread (double up the thread and knot the ends), sew along the ‘U’ using a backstitch.
  4. Using a scissors, cut the fabric out of the toe end of the sock to separate the ears of the doll, being careful not to cut through the sewn ‘U’.
  5. Turn the sock right-side out.

Totoro-sock-stuffed-toy

6. Stuff a palm-sized ball of stuffing into each ear and massage the ears into shape.

7. Stuff two large handfuls of stuffing into the body of the sock, massaging the stuffing into the shape that you want.

stuffed-toy-kapok-recycle-totoro-sock

8. Using a scissors trim off the excess fabric from the sock, being careful to make sure none of the stuffing falls out of the sock.

9. Using your needle and thread, sew up the bottom of the sock using a running stitch with stitches about 1 cm apart. Pull gently on the thread as you sew to draw the bottom of the sock closed. The cloth of the sock will automatically form little wrinkles when this happens.

10. Without cutting the thread, sew through each wrinkle using a running stitch. Stuff the ends of the sock in as you continue to pull on the thread to tightly close up the bottom of the sock.

11. Finally, sew the hole shut by randomly stitching across it two or three times and knotting the thread tightly.

12. Pass the thread into the body of the plush and cut it to ‘hide’ the ends of the thread inside in the stuffed toy.

toy-end-sock-sewing-totoro

12. From the excess sock fabric leftover, cut out a circle about 5cm in diameter. As you can tell from the picture below, it doesn’t have to be an exact circle!

13. You can ball up some of the sock fabric or use another palm-sized lump of stuffing to stuff the tail. Follow steps 9 – 11 to sew up the tail.

14. Use a basket stitch to sew the tail onto the body of the Totoro. This means, put a 5mm stitch in the tail, then a 5mm stitch into the body of Totoro and follow that all around the tail until it is securely fastened. Knot the end of the thread several times before repeating step 12 to hide the ends of the thread.

totoro-sock-tail-craft-toy

15. Now we can add embellishments. Cut a semi-circle of cloth from a white tube sock/felt/fabric scraps. This is the Totoro’s tummy. Sew this onto the front using a backstitch.

16. Mark out Totoro’s eyes. They should roughly line up with the inner corners of the ears. I used hotel hand lotion and a cotton bud to draw out the eyes.

17. Using white thread or embroidery floss, embroider the eyes onto the Totoro using a backstitch. You can also use buttons, beads or felt to make eyes if you have those available.

totoro-plushie-toy-recycle-sock

 

18. If you want to be fancy, add a little triangle nose and some V-shaped tummy markings

19. Give it to the kids to enjoy! Woohoohoo!

totoro-tube-sock-rabbit-recycle-toy

20. Consider making several Totoros of different sizes and colours to make a whole family!

totoro-tube-sock-toy

 

3 quick and easy Chinese New Year Crafts

Looking for ways to keep the kids occupied during Chinese New Year visitation?

Why not set out some simple crafts that will keep them busy and stop them from raiding the joint and scoffing all pineapple tarts!

These quick and easy crafts are all easily made from materials found around the house during Chinese New Year, so they are just perfect for a last minute kid’s craft – especially if you don’t have any little ones but are expecting visitors who do!

1. Make some goldfish! 

Fish are a symbol of prosperity in chinese households, as the word for fish, ‘yu’, sounds exactly like the word for ‘abundance’. Goldfish are especially prized for their bright red or golden colours, and of course, their name in chinese sounds exactly like ‘an abundance of gold’.

Materials:

  • Small plastic bottle or cardboard toilet roll – I used a Yakult bottle and a Yoghurt bottle for this.
  • Red plastic bag of the wet market variety
  • Tape – I used double-sided tape and masking tape but any form of sticky tape will do.
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • (Optional)Leftover paper/card/angpows

Goldfish-chinese-new-year-recycled-craft-kids

Instructions:

  1. First, cut the plastic bag in half and tape one side of it to the plastic bottle or toilet roll.
  2. Roll the bag tightly around the bottle or toilet roll so that it is completely covered.
  3. Fix the bag in place using more tape. Then, stuff one end of the plastic bag into the open hole of the bottle or toilet roll. This will be the mouth of the goldfish.
  4. Add accents or embellishments using a marker or paper. You can use torn or cut pieces of angpow or paper to form fins and eyes.
  5. Cut a strip of plastic bag and tie it tightly around the bottom of the bottle or toilet roll. This forms the goldfish tail. You can make the goldfish tail appear fuller by cutting it into strips.

(Optional) If the bottle you use has a narrow neck, you can tie another strip of plastic bag around the narrowed area to make the goldfish head more obvious.

Goldfish!

Goldfish!

2. Make a festive lantern bunting!

Most households will have these hung up as decorations during the Chinese New Year period. The bold red paper lanterns, with gold words or designs painting on them, are symbolic of a wish for a bright future.

So shiny!

So shiny!

Materials:

  • Paper
  • Used Angpows – try to choose angpows with glittery gold designs on them
  • Glue
  • (Optional) Red markers/paint/colour pencils

Instructions:

  1. You can draw a picture of a lantern on a piece of paper, or use this Chinese Lantern Colouring Page as a template (just click to download the file)
  2. (Optional) Colour the lantern red – we used red tempera paint for this
  3. Tear up the angpows and glue them onto the lantern. If you have already painted the lantern red, you do not have to use so many angpow pieces!
  4. (Optional) We just made one and hung it from a length of yarn, but you can make several of these and string them up to make a festive bunting!

3. Make a decorative Chinese New Year banner!

Scrolls and banners with good luck messages are hung up around the household during Chinese New Year, which creates a colourful atmosphere. For our banner, we made a painting of plum blossoms along with the symbol of spring.

Spring into the new year!

Spring into the new year!

Materials:

  • Black and red markers or paint
  • Newsprint or plain paper cut into a half ring shape
  • Red or brown paper bag cut into a larger half ring shape (we used pink paper)
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue

Instructions:

  1. Using the black markers or paint, draw a few long lines across a piece of newsprint or plain paper – they may crisscross each other. Add extra short lines as branches.
  2. Using red markers or paint, make red blotches randomly across the lines.
  3. Use the Black marker or paint to copy the symbol for ‘spring’
  4. Glue or tape the finished picture to the red or brown paper bag or pink paper.
  5. Use the red marker or paint to outline your painting.
Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!