Emphasis on reuse
April 25, 2013 6:58 AM   Subscribe

What are some craft projects that are made out of things that would be thrown away?

This question was inspired by belladonna's suggestion of dryer lint fire starters as a craft project. Amazingly almost all of the materials are things that would otherwise be discarded. What are some other craft projects that primarily use or repurpose trash?
posted by bq to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Can Tab Crafts!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:04 AM on April 25, 2013

Hi, I just bought three books about this very thing (will link to them at the end). One book had the idea to use blown-out incandescent light bulbs and one of those wire twisty things from the top of champagne bottles to make Christmas Tree ornaments that look like hot air balloons. Another book shows how to take a few coffee bags and duct tape to make a tote bag, and also how to take plastic shopping bags, stack them up and use an iron to fuse them into this stiffish fabric, and then use that for lunch bags or lamp shades. They also had ideas for using wallpaper samples from hardware stores.

This and this had ideas for general craft, while this was more special-occasion things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 AM on April 25, 2013

Oh - all three books had ideas for turning glass bottles and jars into things - most of them involving painting things in some way. But one suggestion was to take chalkboard paint to paint a patch on the front of a plain glass jar, so you can re-use it for whatever and just write what's in it on the front. I'm totally going to do that - you can get chalkboard paint at most craft stores for like two bucks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2013

Old T-shirts into rag rugs or cushions

Large plastic bottles into bird feeders or birdhouses.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:10 AM on April 25, 2013

A bottle cutter and some really fine sandpaper meant for glass will let you make not only drinking glasses, but also you can cut glass rings to hang into wind chimes or make other decorations.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 AM on April 25, 2013

Lifehacker is a good source for projects like this, especially the Macgyver challenges. These are more in the spirit of the dryer lint firestarter, it seems -- less what I think of as "crafts" that take a fair amount of time and result in something somewhat aesthetically pleasing, and more quick, one-off projects to get some extra use out of something you'd otherwise junk, like turning a TicTac container into a phone mount or using toilet paper tubes to store cables.
posted by payoto at 7:33 AM on April 25, 2013

Gum Wrapper Chains, which can be made from gum wrappers or from discarded gift wrap.

(If you have a lot of spare time you can try to beat the world record.)
posted by alms at 7:41 AM on April 25, 2013

Your question could be as big or as small as you like. You could melt some crayon shavings on wax paper to make "stained glass", or you could go to Alabama where there is a 4-acre park with reproductions of 125 famous buildings which are all made out of bottle caps and other scraps of found objects.

Some search terms you might want to use: Crafts on a Shoestring, Recycled craft projects, Found Objects crafts.
posted by CathyG at 7:50 AM on April 25, 2013

One place you could look is into the MeFi posting history of Orange Swan. She's done many, many posts about crafting and quite a few of them hit on the re-use angle.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:52 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not an idea as such but a fun factoid: you know that colorful hairy yarn they sell as "recycled sari silk"? My understanding is it's actual floor sweepings from factories where they sew saris.
posted by clavicle at 8:46 AM on April 25, 2013

Oh my goodness, I don't even know where to start. There are tons of things one can do with old books.

Not to mention toilet paper tubes.

And there are so many different kinds of "yarn" one can make for projects, such as t-shirt yarn and plastic yarn (or plarn). And there's all kinds of things to do with plarn and t-shirt yarn. Also, instead of tossing an old sweater (if you have the right kind) you can harvest it for its yarn.

Or, if you don't like yarn you can use old t-shirts to make a ton of other stuff

And there a million things you can make from old jeans instead of tossing them.

A lot of these houses seem to be made from cereal boxes and other repurposed materials.

I have more, but that's a good start. :)
posted by patheral at 9:38 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make fun rainbow crayons out of old, broken crayon bits
posted by belladonna at 9:40 AM on April 25, 2013

Recycle This will suggest a use for pretty much anything you can think of, and the comments and suggested links are good too.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:48 AM on April 25, 2013

Oh yeah. If you're really handy... cardboard furniture. Something I looked into when I was a poor college student living in an RV. Unfortunately, I'm not handy, but it's nifty stuff.
posted by patheral at 9:52 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Speaking of bottles (and sorry to post so often). I filled several soda glass bottles with water, turned them upside down and used them as water globes for my plants -- this person used wine bottles for their outdoor garden, I used soda for my houseplants, it's the same concept. I usually have a brown thumb but these have saved my plants from dying in a tremendous way.

I don't have a container garden, but I hear you can do the same with a bigger plastic bottle buried in the middle, or water your garden with a few gallon jugs.

Okay, I'm done for now.
posted by patheral at 10:19 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lied. I forgot about newspaper yarn (I haven't tried this one yet because I suck at spinning).
posted by patheral at 10:33 AM on April 25, 2013

Do a search for "upcycle" -- especially with focus on Pinterest, Buzzfeed, and Etsy. There is some astonishing creativity in this world-- in some cases craftspeople are expending more resources than the value they are saving, but their eagerness is charming.
posted by ohshenandoah at 12:23 PM on April 25, 2013

Possibilities are endless. If you have things you don't want to throw away but aren't sure what do to with, you can google "recycle craft ITEM" or "what to do with old ITEM" something like that for ideas.

Or, if there is something you want a recycled-materials version of, use google to find that.


Bottle Cap Art

News paper, magazine pages, old maps:
1. fold into envelopes (it's really cool to get this sort of thing in the mail - just tape on a home-made address level of blank or lined paper, or use a printed address label).
2. Origami
3. Wrapping paper
4. Sketching paper

Old teeshirts - lots of options above. Could also be used to make puppets, I imagine, coasters, and of course dusting cloths and underwear.

Wine corks can be used to make a bulletin board.
posted by bunderful at 8:06 PM on April 25, 2013

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