Monthly Archives: February 2011


Wrap a bouquet of flowers in the old book pages. 


5 Ways to Use an Old Book

Our garage is home to 4 crates of cover-less books, the remnants of Sister’s September wedding (We were inspired by Restoration Hardware’s $30 book stacks tied with twine). Craigslist and library giveaways provided us with LOTS of books which we sorted through to pull out any that looked valuable or otherwise un-destroyable; we were interested in giving new life to some dump-bound books, not in destroying antiques!

The cover-less books looked great at the wedding, with their yellowed paper in a mix of creams and off-whites, and they all, (conveniently) match with their covers torn off. I couldn’t bear to throw them away after the wedding, and I’ve been putting this valuable stash to good use, I think. Here’s how:

#1 Add Height and Interest

Stacked up on their sides either loose or tied with twine, a book stack is a great way to give height to an arrangement, flower or otherwise. If you have a few vases of flowers that are the same height, put one on a stack of books to add variation. Or stack up some books on a shelf with an interesting paper-weight on top. It adds height and texture without too much visual competition.

#2 Gift Tags

Find a page at the end of a chapter (where there’s a little bit of blank space) and cut out a circle, square, or tag shape. You can include a little bit of type at the bottom of the tag, if you’d like, or even punch from a place entirely covered with text, and write your message over it with a felt pen. Tie onto your gift with your to/from.

#3 Press Flowers

I have flowers drying in an old book called “Garden Flowers”, which is always on display (this one still has its cover because its so pretty). Its good to have the title visible because it reminds me that I have flowers inside! And, because I know it will make me smile when I pull them out, I flipped open to the page about daffodils, and pressed the daffodils between those pages. The paper in these old books is really absorbent, and so they’re well suited to this purpose.

#4 Coaster

Tear out a stack of 15 sheets from the book, use the nice straight margins to trim the width (if you want your coasters narrower than the page width) and sew them together using quick seams on a sewing machine. This can go really quickly, they absolutely don’t need to be perfect lines! Then cut the rectangle in half (or into squares) and you’ve got a fun, literary coaster, which, if you’re using my set, have short excerpts from classic literature.

#5 Hidden messages

This activity is kind of a cross between a wordsearch, an old spy-code, and an open ended creative writing exercise. Go through the page and cross out all the text except for a few select words that spell out a little message. Start by briefly skimming the page and find a “first word” that catches your eye. Draw a line through every word up to that word. Then pick a second word, and line through everything until that word. Then, keep going! (My geeky side will tell you that I’ve been known to enjoy the challenge of writing little poems this way.) But don’t worry about making it a complicated message, a simple one of 2-3 words will do. Then use it as a unique little note or card-front.

Ideas 6-10 (I know I promised 5, I just had to keep going.)

#6 – Use as a nice looking cutting mat for Xacto knife projects. (tear off the used pages as they get cut-up

#7 – Tie in a bundle and use as a vintage looking doorstop

#8 – Use as wrapping paper for small gifts

#9 – Run through your printer to print on when you want something to look old

# 10 – Use as a background for little cards, sketches, place cards, etc – it gives so much more texture and interest than just using a plain sheet of paper!

fabric flowers

A friend told me about a little local secret called “Room With A Past.” Its a antique-y boutique full of all sorts of hand made or restored things, and its only open one weekend a month. So last Friday morning, we went over to see what they had. And oooh I was inspired! I came away with a few treasures, (most noteworthy is the beautiful glass doorknob for the chicken coop!) and lots of ideas. As soon as we got home I went right to the fabric bin to see if we could make some little flowers, just like the bunch of sweet peas that had caught my eye.

I gathered up some green velvet ribbon for a stem, orange linen (from a thrift-store shirt), a skewer, spray laundry starch, scissors, and a needle and thread.

Step One: Lay out a length of ribbon (however long you want your stem to be) and a strip of linen (2×6″, give or take) on a piece of scratch paper, and give it a good spray with laundry starch. Pick¬† up the ribbon and wrap it around a skewer lengthwise to make a ribbon tube. Wrap thread around the ribbon to keep it in place. When the starch is all dry, the ribbon stem will be cylindrical instead of, well, ribbon shaped.

Step Two: When the linen is dry, wind it up into a roll about an inch wide. Smash the roll to flatten, and cut through the layers of fabric to make a petal shape, as seen below. The shape on top isn’t as important as making sure that the sides connect so that you end up with a nice “petal chain” when you unroll the ribbon, as seen above.

Step Three: Thread a needle with thread that matches your fabric, and tie a knot in the end. Set it someplace safe and close so that you can grab it easily with one hand. Now begin to wind your petal chain around the top of the stem, trying to overlap the petals a bit so that they aren’t all on one side. The ribbon is so short that its easy to wind and unwind till you’re happy with how your flower looks.

Step Four: When your flower looks just how you want it, grab your needle (aren’t you glad its already threaded?) and stitch through the base of the flower. Go through enough times to secure the base of the petals in place and to the stem.

Step Five, Extra Credit: My friend had the great idea, if you are inclined to make a pile of these flowers, to make them into a “daisy chain.” Fold the base of the ribbon back on itself and cut 2 slits, which will turn into one matching slit when you roll the stem back up. Thread the stem of the next flower through the slit, just like a real dandelion chain. I started this but as cute as it is, its only 4 flowers long. I have my limits.



Updating A Sweater

If you have a sweater, old or new, that you’d like to “take up a notch” in style or personality, there’s an easy way to do it: swap the buttons. Typically, the store-issue buttons on a cardigan are cheap and made of plastic, but for only a few dollars and a little bit of simple sewing, your sweater can be customized to suit your taste.

When you swap out the buttons, don’t just go find another set of cheap plastic. If you do a little hunting, you can find vintage buttons made from a wide variety of materials: metal, wood, resin, bone, stone, shell, etc.

Great places to find old buttons:

  • If you live in the SF Bay area, my favorite place for buttons is the Cottage Jewel in Danville
  • Your Mom or Grandma’s button box – this has the added sentimental value of knowing that you have a part of your family history incorporated into your wardrobe. (I really do smile when I see my grandma’s buttons in different projects)
  • Thrift stores often have a sewing section where I’ve found many old cards and jars filled with buttons.
  • Thrift store also have old jackets and sweaters that can be “harvested” for their buttons
  • You can find them online, but its difficult to measure the exact size, and verify that it will fit through the button hole.

Start by finding your sweater (or coat, if you like) that has buttons on it. Note: The sweater I used had 9 buttons, which was the most that I would want to try. The fewer the buttons, the better! Then find buttons that match. Its best to have your sweater with you when you go to select the buttons, so you can try pushing them through the buttonholes.

You can see my sweater pictures above. Its a new one, but it had plain, plastic, purple buttons. Instead, I found these “hand-carved abalone shell buttons from 100 years ago,” according to the lady at the store.

You can see the comparison of first button (on the left) and replacement button (on the right) – they’re pretty much the same height and width, it doesn’t matter that one has a neck and the other doesn’t. As long as it fits through the buttonhole.

Use a seam ripper to remove the first button, and re-sew its replacement on right away, using the leftover thread bits to see exactly where the new button goes. Its important to sew the replacement on immediately so you don’t rip all the buttons off and then lose steam on the project and then end up with an empty, button-less sweater.

When you’re done you will have a sweater that’s a little bit above the ordinary.


February Project

With the last of the Christmas decorations being discovered and returned to storage, the walls have been looking ready for the next season. My dear friend solved the problem by delivering a printout from Martha Stewart accompanied by a bag of valentine colored crayons. (aren’t friends great?)

The project is simple and may sound familiar – crayon shavings sandwiched between wax paper and melted with an iron to make a pretty, translucent sun-catcher. You may remember doing something like this when you were a kid! You cut the crayon paper into hearts and layer them (like Martha’s picture) to make a multi-dimensional window decoration.

I deviated from the instructions a bit and made more of a garland than a mobile, but I can see using hearts like these for all sorts of decorations – scattered on the table, glued onto valentines, all kinds of things! And its a pretty quick project since the wax dries so fast.

Here’s a few of my suggestions:

* Be sure to use a thin layer of shavings. (Refer to the project instructions, not my picture on the left! The thinner the wax, the more light will shine through the finished hearts)

* The instructions say cover with Kraft paper. I recommend covering with foil as well to prevent wax from getting on your iron.

* Use the steam setting to iron a folded up white rag when you’ve finished the project, to make sure you don’t transfer any crayon onto your next wrinkled shirt!