Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Fused Plastic Bag Tutorial

Despite an unreasonably large stash of reusable fabric shopping bags, I somehow continue to collect plastic disposable bags. We recently blogged about 10 Disposables to Toss From Your Kitchen, so I am taking a renewed look at my waste and making a better effort to reduce my consumption. Meanwhile, I am experimenting with what to do with this collection of plastic bags.

Pinterest is a haven for creative repurposing ideas. Fusing several pieces of plastic together with an iron has been pinned in my account several times over. It was finally time to find out for myself if those crafty pinners are leading me down a path of melted messiness or fashionable eco-consciousness. Therefore, I tried making my own fused plastic bag!

I started by cutting off the seams of several plastic bags and laying each piece flat.
My plastic bags were all different sizes, colours and store brands.
Photo: Ellen Hanna
I opted to hide any logos or writing by keeping the plain side facing out. 
Photo: Ellen Hanna
I matched the various sizes until I had a stack of 8 layers. I placed a towel on the table for protection and a piece of parchment paper on the very top to protect the iron. Then, I pressed firmly until the layers were fused, but not melted away. My iron doesn't have specific temperature settings (or even helpful fabric icons to guide me) but I found the mid-temperature was best. The plastic shrinks considerably, so don't be alarmed!
I needed five pieces to create one bag: two sides, a front, a back and a bottom. 
Photo: Ellen Hanna
I repeated this process several times until I had five pieces of fused plastic sheets. At this point, I decided on measurements for my bag based on the largest size of sheet available.
I decided on the sizing based on measurements after my iron shrunk the fused bags. 
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Using a rotary cutter and a quilting square, I cut the pieces down to their final sizes.

Pieces of the bag, ready to be sewn.
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Then for the fun part! I used a colourful thread to sew the edges together. I don't think this material would lend well to being flipped inside out, so I opted for a visible stitch. I used the widest zig zag stitch, fairly tight. I held the stitch as close to the outer edge as possible.
Visible stitching with red thread. Photo: Ellen Hanna

Next, I pinned two pieces together, right sides facing out and sewed a zig zag stitch straight down. I sewed this on all four edges until the walls of the bag were created. 
The form of the bag beginning to take shape.
Photo: Ellen Hanna
The next step was a bit tricky, so I had to make sure to line things up carefully and use pins! I placed the bottom piece in place, then pinched the edges together in place, while using pins to secure. I picked a spot and started sewing a continuous zig zag stitch around the entire bottom. I was careful to backstitch in the corners to reinforce the bottom of the bag. 
The material is stiff; therefore, lots of pins are needed to keep the bag in place. 
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Stitching around the entire bottom of the bag, backstitching to reinforce in tricky places.
Photo: Ellen Hanna 
The last step was sewing on handles to be able to carry the bag. I decided on using fabric scraps instead of fused plastic for a more comfortable feel. I used a visible stitching for the handle which was similar to the bag. I simply folded a long scrap piece, ironed well and then zig zag stitched down the middle to hold in place. 
Simple fabric handles.
Photo: Ellen Hanna
For a more polished look, another option is to stitch a straight stitch down a folded piece to create a tube, then flip the tube inside out to make a strap without a giant zig zag stitch visible in the middle. However, I worked towards a "shabby chic" look and didn't mind the stitching showing or the rough edges on the inside. 
Fabric handles sewn to the inside of the bag.
Photo: Ellen Hanna
I made this in haste while my brother was visiting with his family. It was meant as a gift and I wanted to give it to them before they flew home. As it turns out, they have been using it as a diaper bag non-stop for the past 4 months. It has been dragged around everywhere, while being emptied and filled endlessly. It is still in great condition; therefore, this bag made with fused plastic bags is a real winner for strength! 
Not too shabby for a first effort!
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Happy crafting!
Update: Here's the bag after a few months of use, still going strong!

Photo: Tom Ewart
Photo: Tom Ewart

Photo: Tom Ewart
Photo: Tom Ewart

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Disposables to Ditch From Your Beauty Routine

Back in April, I shared a post on 10 Disposables to Toss From Your Kitchen. As I was writing it, I got to thinking about all of the different disposable products in my home. Today, I'm sharing 6 disposables you can ditch from your beauty routine.
Safety razors produce very little waste. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Disposable Razors
Disposable razors are big chunks of plastic that we throw away every month or so, even though only the blade is dull. If you want a smooth shave with hardly any waste, consider a safety razor. They cost more at the outset, but will save you a lot of money over time. 

If you're not ready to take that step, trade in your disposable razors for a sturdier model with replaceable blade cartridges. These produce far less waste than fully disposable models.

Facial Cleansing Wipes
Get back to basics with a facecloth and your cleanser of choice. Disposable wipes end up in the landfill, and so-called "flushable" wipes are also pretty bad for sewers, septic systems and waterways.

Ditch the makeup remover wipes by embracing the humble facecloth. Just pair it with your makeup remover of choice (in a recyclable bottle) or to reduce your waste even further, try making your own at home. Worried about mascara stains? Buy dark colours! 

Some companies even make reusable makeup remover cloths out of microfiber that claim to clean with just water.

Ditch the single-use cleansing wipes and use a facecloth instead. Image from Public Domain Pictures.
Cotton Balls and Cotton Pads
Okay, so you might want to keep some of these around in your first aid kit, but our good friend the facecloth can do pretty much everything that a cotton ball can do, from removing makeup to applying toner. A dry facecloth corner can even help you get the perfect amount of smudge in your smokey eyeshadow.

For trickier jobs like taking off nail polish, try using a soft rag with your favourite remover.

Makeup Applicators
A decent set of makeup brushes will last you for years. They're washable and reusable, and generally give you more control over your eyeshadow than those cheap foam-and-plastic wands. Once you've got your brush, make an effort to buy brands that don't include the applicators to avoid that waste.

If the thought of trading in your concealer sponge for a brush gives you heart palpitations, remember that sponges are washable too! Even if they seem like they are meant to be single-use, you can wash and reuse them many times.

Makeup brushes are washable and reusable alternatives to disposable applicators. Image from Pixabay.
Cotton Swabs
Whether you are using them for cleaning or applying makeup, all those disposable cotton swabs are adding waste to the environment. Instead, use a reusable alternative, such as an eyeshadow brush to apply your makeup while reducing waste.

Face Masks
Single-use, individually-packaged face mask sheets seem to be the latest beauty trend. Aside from being kind of creepy looking, they're super wasteful! Next time your skin needs a boost, reach for a clay or cream mask that comes in a recyclable or reusable container, or try an easy DIY home recipe

What disposables have you ditched from your morning or before-bed routine? Share your ideas in the comments!

-Sarah (Volunteer)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Reuse Centre's 10th Anniversary Celebration!

We Turned 10!

“The fact that we are standing here today, 10 years later, accepting more donations, serving more customers, expanding our partnerships, growing our volunteer base and offering educational programming is a testament to the idea that Edmonton residents are eager to drive the concept of reuse in a direction that is unique and desired.”
- Kristen Arnot,  Reuse Centre Operations Coordinator 

Edmontonians flocked to the Reuse Centre on July 8, 2017 to help celebrate its big 1-0. With over 250 in attendance, guests were invited to participate in family friendly activities and enjoy an assortment of treats that celebrated the Reuse Centre and Edmonton’s reuse community.

Scavenger Hunt

Guests were encouraged to explore, discover and learn about the Reuse Centre and what role the Reuse Centre plays in making Edmonton a waste conscious city. To complete the scavenger hunt, guests found clues by participating in activities, making it a fun filled, interactive experience!

“I really enjoyed volunteering at the Reuse Centre, especially for the wonderful occasion of its 10th birthday. I loved talking to people and was really amazed to see so many people interested in donating and buying the reusable items... I would definitely love to volunteer at the Reuse Centre more in the future.”
- Monisha, Master Composter Recycler 


Children and adults were invited to drop-in and upcycle Reuse Centre items such as straws, ribbon, yarn, pop tabs and more to make DIY Whimsical Wands to twirl in celebration. Creativity and imagination soared and glittered to new heights!

Worm Wiggling Fun

Master Composter Recyclers and their red wiggler friends made an appearance to educate guests on composting at home and offered compost tea bags for guests to take home.

Master Composter Recyclers
Photo Credit: City of Edmonton

“Rebecca and I talked to over 70 people about composting, recycling and worms. One lady came up to us asking if we knew anyone who wanted worms and at the same time another lady came up asking if we knew where she could get worms. To say the least we immediately introduced them to each other and let them work out the details...All round a very good day!”
- Carolyn, Master Composter Recycler Volunteer

Facility Tours

Volunteers offered tours every 30 minutes for those who wanted to learn more about the behind the scenes of the Reuse Centre. Guests were able to check out the drop-off area, sorting room, storefront and workshop room, while learning the history and fun facts of the Reuse Centre.

Photo Booth

Guests used the hashtag #reusecentre as they snapped photos at the photo booth made entirely out of reuse material.

R E U S E  C E N T R E  Art Piece

Glue guns were hot as guests collaborated on a reuse art piece to be displayed in the store. Each guest made their mark by glue gunning a few reused materials to the art piece.

‘E’ from R E U S E  C E N T R E Art Piece
Photo Credit: City of Edmonton

“Thank you very much for this opportunity. I was in charge of decorating the letters with donated items, such as pieces of puzzles, crayons and yarn. It was my first time in my life to see and use a glue gun - wonderful! The children may have enjoyed the crafting, but I might have enjoyed it the most.”
- Yoshie, Master Composter Recycler Volunteer


Popcorn, cupcakes and a reuse themed cake were distributed to guests to keep their energy high during the event. Plus, let’s be serious: it’s not celebration without cake!

Volunteer handing out cupcakes
Photo Credit: City of Edmonton

Reuse Centre themed Cake
Photo Credit: City of Edmonton

All in all, the 10th Anniversary Celebration was a success! It brought the community together and showcased the current, and still growing, passion for reuse that runs through the hearts of Edmontonians. Here’s to another 10 years!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

DIY Fabric Scrap Wallet

I've been sewing a lot of garments lately, which means I have a lot of smallish, oddly-shaped fabric scraps lying around. After scouring Pinterest for a simple, practical, scrap-busting project, I decided to try my hand at this photo-only tutorial from The lack of instructions might make things tricky for a new sewist, so I decided to share my version, with written steps.

What you'll need
  • 2 small rectangles of fabric (approximately 3" by 5")
  • 2 large rectangles of fabric (approximately 5" by 6")
  • 1 button
  • 1 piece of elastic cord (approximately 2.5") OR 1 hair elastic
  • Thread
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Optional - sewing machine
  • Optional - iron 
I used my sewing machine for this project, but it's small enough that it would still be very easy to do by hand. If you're new to sewing, check out this great guide on hand-stitching basics from Sew4Home.

Pressing folds and seams with your iron will make your project look neater and more professional, but it's not strictly necessary. Always make sure you're using the right temperature settings for your fabric. If you're not sure what your fabric is made of, start with low heat and work your way up until the fabric holds a crease.

Step 1
Take one small rectangle and fold one of the long edges under, about 1/2". Press with a hot iron to hold the fold, and topstitch to hem this edge. Repeat with the second small rectangle. These will form the pockets on the inside of your wallet.

Step 2
Matching the raw 5" edges, lay your pocket pieces on top of one of the larger rectangles with right sides (the patterned or nice sides) facing up. The hemmed edges will face each other, with about an inch of space in the middle.

Step 3
Lay your second large rectangle on top, with the right side facing down, so that your pocket pieces are sandwiched in between. Match all of the edges as best you can and pin 3 sides in place. Leave one of the short sides open for the next step.

Step 4
Place your elastic in the center of the short side that you left open. If using a hair elastic, pinch the center and place it so that it's about half in and half out of the fabric sandwich. If using a cut length of elastic cord, fold it in half and place the looped end inside your sandwich (between the fabric layers). Leave the tails sticking out and pin the last side in place.

Step 4
Sew around the edges of your sandwich, making sure to leave a gap in the end opposite your elastic. I used a seam allowance of 1/4". To get sharp, crisp corners on your wallet, clip the corners as shown in the ninth photo of the tutorial. 

I didn't clip the corners, so you'll see later that my corners have more of a rounded edge. If you want a really rounded edge, sew rounded corners instead of sharp ones and clip.

Step 5
Flip your sandwich right side out through the hole you left. Make sure to push corners and seam out. Fold the raw edges of the hole inside and press your seams so that the outer edges all lay flat and smooth.

Step 6
Topstitch about 1/8" from the edge around the outside of your wallet. This will close the gap and help keep all of the layers in place. Make sure you can fit your cards inside the pockets! Depending on whether or not your fabric has stretch and on how closely you followed the measurements described above, you may want to topstitch closer to or further from the edge.

Step 7
Fold your wallet shut and place your button so that the elastic loop can stretch over it easily, but tightly enough so that the wallet stays closed. Mark the spot and sew your button on, making sure to stitch only through the outside layer of fabric so that the stitches are hidden inside your pocket. If you sew through the pocket, you won't be able to get your cards in properly. 

Voila! You're done and you now have a custom, one-of-a-kind wallet to store your cards.

- Sarah (Volunteer)
All images provided by Sarah

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Water Station Recyclables

As the weather warms dramatically, we're spending every day outdoors soaking up the sun. But there are only so many popcicles you can feed a toddler to cool off before chaos ensues! So I've raided our recycling bin once again to create a water wall against a fence for hours of cooling fun.

It's best to find a fairly large bin to collect the water, otherwise your hose will be running non-stop. I found an old, long, flat Rubbermaid bin that works perfectly. Using 1/4" screws, I attached large plastic tubs to the fence above the flat bin and loosely enough to let the tub rotate. Make very sure you're not introducing screws farther than the depth of your fence, creating a dangerous situation for your neighbours!
Both of these large plastic tubs are affixed loosely enough to rotate pouring water from one to the other and into the bin at the bottom.
With a second plastic tub, I first drilled holes in the bottom so the water would slowly drain out.
Use a very small drill bit to make holes in the bottom of a container, allowing water to slowly drain. My son also discovered that adding sand to the containers slowed the draining process. How exciting to make these small discoveries!

I cut the bottom off a juice container and positioned it firmly upside-down so that it could fill if the lid were shut or drain when opened.
This orange juice jug is perfect to work fine motor skills by opening and closing the stubborn lid. When done successfully, my son is rewarded with a gush of water.

I used zip ties and eye screws, both found in our tool room, to fix an old soap bottle against the fence.
I added red food dye to the bottle for some colour mixing. 
The station is adjacent to the sandbox, so my son can play with his toys and make mud pies to his heart's content. I've since planted some ground cover around the area so the roots can suck up the spills.
I don't have to water the plants in this little corner of our yard thanks to all the spillage!

We've also introduced food colouring, to the amazement of my son. I put a few drops of each colour into each container and let him mix away.
The water's trajectory from bin to bin, colours mixing along the way.

What materials would you introduce to stimulate a budding hydrologist? Comment below to help grow our water wall this year!

Ellen (Volunteer) 

*All photos provided by Ellen 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Father's Day Gift Ideas - Reuse Style

With Father’s Day right around the corner, you may be wondering what kind of creative gift you could give – I’ve suggested three of my favourites. These gifts are not only thoughtful, but also incorporate a reuse theme! Another added bonus, is that these gifts shouldn’t take too long to make.

Recycled Tie Photo Album

Does your Dad have a few ties hanging in the back of his closest that he no longer wears? This tie photo album is a great way to use them to create a meaningful gift. You can print out some photos of you and your Dad to put in the album as well – he will love it!

This idea does require you to purchase a 4” x 6” photo album, unless you have one at home already. Other supplies required include sew on snaps and fusible interfacing.

For the full tutorial, check out

Displaying Tiephotoalbum_lilblueboo.jpg
 Image Credit:

 Dad’s Coupon Book

I love the simple yet thoughtful idea behind this gift. My dad is always telling me that all he wants is to spend time with me rather than material gifts. With the coupon book, you can suggest fun activities that the two of you can do together, or perhaps chores where you can offer to help.

The main item you will need for this gift is paper to use for the coupons. Old newspapers or pages from a book that’s no longer being used work great. Essentially, all you need to do is cut the paper into a number of small rectangles (using a ruler to measure them, so they’re the same size), choose one to be the cover, and add the activities/items you’d like to share with your father on each page. Feel free to personalize the pages and jazz them up a little! Then you can either staple the pages or punch holes in them and loop a piece of string/twine through so the book holds together. Check out Crafting a Green World for full details.

Displaying dadscouponbook_craftingagreenworld.jpg
 Image Credit: Crafting a Green World

No-Sew Slipper Socks

These cozy socks are a perfect gift for anyone, really. My dad loves slippers, so naturally this is one of the first thoughts I had. This idea involves adding a sole to an old pair of socks to make them into slippers.

Items you will need include sueded fabric and fusible webbing (a material that bonds fabrics together).

Standing on a piece of cardboard in your chosen socks, trace and cut out an outline of your feet. After you cut out the cardboard template, trace the pattern onto the sueded fabric and fusible webbing with a sewing pencil; cut those out as well. Position the cardboard template inside the sock where you’d like the sole to go, place the fusible webbing over the sock, and then the sueded fabric at the top. Iron according to the instructions that come with the webbing, and then remove cardboard. Voila, you have a new pair of slippers!

Visit for full instructions.

 Displaying nosewslippersocks_marthastewart.jpg
 Image Credit:
Happy Father's Day! 

- Tamara (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Reuse-It Featured Item - Cables

Old computer and phone cords can be a nuisance, cluttering up storage bins and becoming a tangled mess with old electronics. These annoying cables can actually be used to create beautiful and useful items around the house. Here our some examples of unique and practical ways to reuse and repurpose old computer and electronics cables.


With the wide variety of colours, thicknesses, and even patterns that electrical cables have, they make a great material for any kind of yarn or string-based art. This crocheted wall hanging is made entirely out of used wires from old telephone and electronics cords!

Displaying crochet-flowers.jpg
Image credit: Crochet Concupiscence


While there are many ways to up-cycle cables, this idea posted on is my favourite. You can see from the supplies list that there is nothing that you would need that you wouldn't be able to find at any craft store!


* Epoxy resin, clear formula for crafting or jewelry-making

* Cables

* Mold release and conditioner


* Resin mixing cups, stir sticks, and brushes set

* Nail file with shine and buff surfaces or ultra-fine sandpaper

* Kraft paper or newspaper to protect your worktable

* Masking tape

* Extra straight pin or toothpick to position the items in the resin

With a finished project that looks like this, it's a great way to spend a rainy weekend indoors crafting beautiful jewelry!

Displaying image.png
Image Credit:


Although it might take a bit of time, the end result looks super cool: DIY coasters out of old cables.

These are two good websites with instructions that look relatively straightforward to follow. Both of them involve using a piece of strong tape to stick on the start of your coil, and then continue wrapping around.

1. Mother Jones, uses materials that most people will likely have at home already.

2. Sierra Club 
This tutorial explains how to braid the colorful strands found inside a piece of cable for a unique presentation. I like the ironing described at the end. This is a smart way to prevent the coaster from coming apart.

Displaying cablecoaster.jpg
Image Source: Sierra Club


When your rat’s nest of cables gets packed up and moved to three different addresses all while modem, firewire, and telephone technology advances by several generations, it’s time to let go of the mess. I decided to make some jewelry with my embarrassingly large stash of unused wires.

I picked the oldest looking cable in my stash and cut each end, then sliced into the plastic coating and ripped it off. I was left with four sets of two wires wound around each other: red, blue, green, and grey.

Next, I tediously unwound the sets of wires. This took a long time and flirted with the line between peacefully therapeutic and utterly maddening. I folded the eight kinky wires in half and used just a few of the wires to wrap around the neck and make a knot. Then I simply started wrapping wires around the group. I alternated between wrapping one at a time and two at a time for a different effect. 

When my piece reached the desired length for a necklace, I used one wire to tie a few knots at the end. I used the longest piece of wire to create a makeshift bar to slip into the loop. It works, but I may replace the bar with a bead which would be sturdier.

I’m calling this craft the "Blast from the Past" upcycled necklace because not only is it retro looking but it also invoked memories of campground friendship bracelets as a child. Playful, unique, and thrifty, my kind of jewelry!
Image Source: Ellen


This cute basket is made of coloured cables that were destined for the Eco Station. You can use the basket for pretty much anything, keys, jewelry, or even spare change. For details on how to make your own, visit

Image Source:

Share your thoughts on ways to reuse cables in the comments section.