Re-Purpose Re-Use

August 15, 2012

Aprons From Vintage Sheets

My website has moved. You can find the apron post on  my new website here.


August 14, 2012

Make Your Own Dishtowels

My website has moved. You can view the dishtowels post on  my new website here.


July 27, 2012

The Originals

Something I have great admiration for are the originals. Those people who have original thoughts, are creative, and do what they do because it's just who they are. I love that about my family history and know it's why I'm not overly interested in trends or what's popular at the time. I want to blaze my own trail.

Years ago, my mom and dad were blazing a trail of their own and my dad's amazing ability to turn waste into our family Gypsy Wagon was documented by Lloyd Khan in his book, Shelter. All images and copy are from the book, with the exception of my comments directly below some of the images.


Some years ago Joaquin De La Luz traded his '48 Triumph motorcycle for this vintage Chevy flatbed, and with little money, much imagination, and found discards set about making one of the most unique homes ever to roll along America's roads. For the past five years, Joaquin, Gypsy and their three kids - Heather, Bear and Serena - have moved around the country and were last seen parked along California's Feather River. Following are some tips on mobile design, and living on the fringe prepared by the De La Luz family, and from the photos you can see it's true when Joaquin says: "I love trucks."


I have found more freedom in my building designs by not confining my ideas to a planned form. If you plan what you are going to build then you have to find materials to conform to that plan.

Every area has its own unique throw-aways.

If you build a house on wheels it is best to build the frame of good solid material, preferably all the same dimension.

Bending bolt shank works better than lock washers on house trucks (esp. metal framework). See sketch above.

Never use less than 5/16" nuts & bolts on house trucks. (When bolting studs together).

Make truck level before starting to build.

Use a square: it pays off in the long run.

Notch every corner you can when building with wood.

Junk building material does not mean junk workmanship.

A good solid frame is most important even if you have to buy the wood.

I have found it  much easier to find building materials to cover a building with than to build the framework with.

Build house trucks with as low a center of gravity as possible, It is better to have steps over wheels than to have floor too high from chassis. This is very important. It means you can have more space inside and lower clearance from ground to roof outside. 4" makes a big difference.

Lower center of gravity also means much better handling on the road.

Heavy leather makes good hinges for cupboard doors.

A chainsaw can even cut round shapes like archs for truck roof.

I have found the chainsaw the most useful tool for my style of building. I used my chainsaw to build the entire framework for my house. It was built with green Douglas fir rough cut 1 x 4 that I bought new from a mill. Every board was dripping wet as it was winter in Oregon at the time. The chainsaw cut smoothly thru every board, an unequaled feat for sawing wet wood. A mini chainsaw is best for building with.




Found fretwork adorns the handmade dutch door, the dishrack finds a home on the door, an old found animal horn tip works as a latch. ~Serena

Utilize beer cans by cutting them into pleasing shapes for shingles - light weight - no rust.

Use bailing wire for "ground wire" cutting electrical installation costs in half.

After cutting out rear wall in cab of truck, join house with cab with an old inner-tube, cut & tacked to keep air tight. (Rubber allows for movement between house & truck.)

The waste of America is the richest in the world.

Building with cast-out wood you are sometimes faced with cracked pieces - cut different shapes out of whatever metal is available & tack over crack to strengthen.

Old produce crates make great spice shelves etc., many uses!

Old cans that have been discarded such as anti-freeze cans of 1 gal. size cans, can be cut and used for punched tin cupboard, making holes with a nail.

My affinity for calico was born with the curtains seen here. My mom's necklace doubles as a work of art in the window. A found tobacco tin holds pens. The treadle sewing machine I learned to sew on. ~Serena

March 02, 2012

Flower Purse

My website has moved. You can view the Flower Purse post on my new website here.


December 22, 2011

A White Christmas


Another way to make a beautiful holiday display is to group all of one color together. I happen to love white.

It's surprising how these items, none having anything to do with the other, can look so pretty together. Look around your house and see what you have in like colors, and then pull it together for a display.

It will be beautiful!

Image by John Granen

December 20, 2011

Taking a Drive

When I was a girl, one of my parent's favorite things to do was to take a drive. We'd all pile into the Crummy and set out on an adventure. Inevitably, we'd end up on the steep and twisty roads of the Salmon River, where my mom would hunt for river rocks to bring home. Once the Crummy was full of rocks, we'd stop at the little country store for an It's It (a chocolate chip cookie ice-cream sandwich).

The ice-cream was a really big deal for us, as our mom wasn't big into sugary treats, so we'd make them last for as much of the ride home as we could.

Now that I'm a mom, I love family drives too. And I especially enjoy packing treats for us to enjoy.

Packing is half the fun because you can make it all pretty - which makes everything taste even better.


Vessels like old enamelware (as seen below), wooden pop crates, and wire baskets work really well for holding the goodies.

Vintage thermoses are perfect for keeping cocoa hot.

Mugs can be stacked with little cloth cocktail napkins in between each one, which not only provide cushioning for the glasses, but also can be passed out to your family members once you pour the cocoa.

Caramel corn, nuts, or trail mix packaged in handy little paper bags are a simple, tasty, toteable treat.


P.S. Did you know that "Crummy" was the name of the vehicle that would haul the logging crews around on the job? My dad was a logger and during fire season, my mom would oftentimes become the driver for the fire crews. And since we were a family big on nick-names, our family car was always called the Crummy.

Image by John Granen.

December 08, 2011

Making Something Out of Nothing

Growing up with very little was a blessing because I was able to see the beauty in the everyday objects that are often overlooked. That's what you do when you don't have much.

When you take the time to look around at what you have, you can make anything special. Take this collection of syrup dispensers for example:


It's really simple:

1.) Gather together clear, like objects that can be used as vessels.

2.) Fill with Christmasey items such as little trees, ornaments, and fake snow or objects in a color to fit your Christmas theme such as old game pieces and glitter. (This can be done with anything you love, any time of the year!)

3.) Display as a grouping.

You can find this Christmas inspiration, as well as decorating ideas, recipes, and Christmas cheer in my book, The Farm Chicks Christmas.

Special thanks to my friend, Nancy, for letting us into her home to play and display with her collections. You can find more wonderful objects such as these at Nancy (and friends) shop, Forget-Me-Not, in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.

Image by John Granen.

December 01, 2011

The Perfect Little Bench

I always find it interesting to watch the trends that come and go in the world of antiques. I remember when trunks were popular. Now they're not. But these old pieces shouldn't be overlooked. In fact, they are so useful for turning into entryway or mudroom benches. (And they have storage space!)


I bought this old trunk/box from my friend, Hollie, at her antiques show.


I simply topped it with a standard pillow covered in my favorite vintage Christmas pillowcase and it was instantly transformed into a little bench.


I can easily change the pillowcase to fit the season.


Have a large trunk? Use two pillows or several toss pillows. It's as easy as that!

I found the trunk here.

My floor tile is from Daltile.

My beadboard wall tile, tile base trim, and tile cap is all from Dirk Elliot Tile.

I purchased my wallpaper from Wallflowers in Spokane. I'm sorry, I can't remember the brand.

November 30, 2011

Christmas Around The House

We've been decorating for Christmas and I love it when I add some cheer and the boys notice it first thing when they come home from school.

Today I decorated the bookcase in the kitchen. I organized the cookbooks by color and then just added in happy little bits I have on hand. I love that about the holidays. Just making things special with what you have.


As you know, I love displaying sprinkles, and Christmas is no exception. Little old milk bottles are the perfect receptacles. Since they have no lids, I simply capped them with cute mini cupcake wrappers.


Little vintage ornament boxes fit right in.


A vintagey looking Christmas tree cake topper adds the perfect touch to the old toy sedan.


Who says treats can't make you happy?


Cupcake wrappers and cake topper from Bake it Pretty.

Mother's brand Christmas animal crackers are from Fred Meyer.

Cheer Up canister from Fishs Eddy.

My Christmas Book can be found here.

November 17, 2011

My Old Crafts Space

At one point in our last home, I got tired of not having a crafts space and got a crazy idea to incorporate it into my tiny office (World Headquarters) nook. Jenny Doh featured it in her wonderful book, Signature Styles. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my favorite ways to re-purpose kitchen, household, and often overlooked objects for use, as I shared in Jenny's book.

DSC_2039a crp

Sprinkles in a jar are perfect for holding pens:


Pages from a vintage textile and ribbon sample book become artwork for the wall:



Pretty fabric should be displayed for added happiness. Twine is easily accessible in a clear jar. Cakestands are great for housing an array of supplies. A vintage baking dish holds rick-rack. A disposable plastic Christmas tablecloth is better utilized as a shelf liner:


A colorful old flour sifter is the perfect size for holding a big cone of baker's twine. Sturdy cupcake liners work as vessels for small objects such as twist-ties.


The entire feature, as well as My apron pattern and instructions are available in the book.

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Special thanks to Jenny for creating such a beautiful book and featuring so many creative women, and to Christina G., who photographed this story. All images seen here are by Christina G.

The sprinkles, cupcake liners, and twist-ties are from Bake it Pretty.

The cakestands are from Martha Stewart for Macy's.

The disposable plastic Christmas tablecloth is from Martha Stewart Crafts.

My desk is from Pottery Barn.

The oilcloth covering on my desk is from Cath Kidston.

P.S. Don't forget to enter for your chance to win EARLY ADMISSION tickets to The Farm Chicks Show! Click here to learn more!

August 19, 2011

Camp Tray

Re-purposing old objects into darling little trays is fun! My friend, Teri, and I found these old trail markers one summer and knew they'd be perfect for just that.


To make your own, search for any thick old wooden signs or boards that fit your style. Then choose sturdy handles - new or old, either will do - and screws for affixing them to your wooden sign/board.

Here's what to do:

1. Thoroughly clean the sign with a scrub brush and warm sudsy water.

2. Let dry. Sand any rough spots if necessary.

3. Place the handles on the sign, marking the holes for the screws with a pencil. Remove the handles and drill-start the holes for the screws.

4. Reposition the handles and screw them on.


Images: John Granen, from my book: The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen. To purchase, click here.

P.S. If you already have a copy of the book, I'd love it if you could provide a review here.


August 17, 2011

Pantry Jar Labels

Crafting material scraps such as wallpaper and fabric and be put to good use, while creating something useful for your home.

Labels! (This project is from my first book, The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen).


These labels are perfect for use around the home as they are wipeable, which makes them easy to clean. (Kitchens can be a messy place!)

1. Cut wallpaper or fabric into label shapes; I used rectangular on my jars shown here. To add a little charm, cut with pinking shears.

2. Cut two pieces of clear Con-Tact paper for each label, making them 1 inch larger in each direction. Sandwich each fabric/wallpaper label between the Con-Tact paper cut-outs; press together to seal. Trim the Con-Tact paper so that it makes a 1/4-inch border all around the fabric/wallpaper.

3. Use a Sharpie pen to write the name of whatever you are storing on each label. Affix the labels to jars or other storage containers with double-stick tape.



Jars: Martha Stewart for Macy's.

Image: John Granen, from my book: The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen. To purchase, click here.

P.S. If you already have a copy of the book, I'd love it if you could provide a review here.


July 01, 2011

An Ordinary Can

You've got lots of cans passing through your house everyday, right? Did you know you can re-purpose them into many different nifty things? Here's one very simple idea.

Start with a can.


Spray it with an adhesive spray and cover with the fabric of your choice. Wrap the rim with seam binding and hot glue into place.


Fill it with supplies like fabrics...


...or pens


or buttons, stamps, patches, ribbons, whatever you'd like.

Or make a bunch and fill them all.

Notes: The vintage can shown here was shown only for an example, as this project was done a few years ago and I didn't have a before shot. :) I prefer to use new cans that I'd be recycling anyway. (Old cans are so pretty!)

This can was spray painted so the bottom teeny tiny rim didn't distract from the project, however, it's completely unnecessary.


February 09, 2010

It Takes a Vision

I know you'll understand me here.  Sometimes, it takes a vision to see the possibilities in junky things. And when I told Colin that I wanted to find a beautiful old farm sink for our new house, I know he must have gulped and sighed on the inside before giving me his smile of approval.  The smile that says, "I think you're crazy, but as long as you're happy, I'm happy".

And so, I set out on my search.  And phew!  It was a lot more difficult than I imagined.  Salvage yards, tips from friends, a trip to Floyd and Margaret's, and emails from you.  And I have to admit, I started out really picky.  I wanted a perfect sink. No damage.  And that, I learned, was just too much to ask for because a sink that's been around since the 1930's isn't going to be perfect.  Not. Ever.

And when I was about to throw in my towel, a friend called to tell me she found me a sink and that she had already purchased it off of Craigslist.  Turns out, in Spokane, 122 other people (for reals!) wanted my sink too and she had to act fast.

The cost of my sink was $200 and it will cost an additional $250 to have it re-enameled.  It's about 4 feet long and includes a nice high back, one basin, and drainboard.  And I love it.



And the best part?  Colin loves it too.  Thank goodness.  I guess he has the vision too!

The next time you see our sink, it will be pretty as a picture and holding court as the centerpiece in our farmhouse kitchen.

Sink Considerations:

It was really important for me to find this sink before my kitchen plan was finalized.  Since it's such a unique size and includes the high back, it can't just be added into the plan easily.  It would definitely need to be designed around.

I knew that even if I found a sink with no blemishes, it would probably have dull spots, which I wouldn't like.  Because I knew that re-enameling would be almost certain, I made sure to find an expert in our area who could do the project for me before I considered anything that was blemished.  (I'll be working with Mr. Tub in Spokane).

I spoke with the expert (Mr. Tub) and found out a ballpark cost for the work and I budgeted for that. A big consideration for me is that beautiful sinks like this are extremely hard to find and reproductions can run anywhere from $2000-$4000.  So for me, the total cost of $450 was well worth it.

I love single basin sinks.  I chose a single basin for our current home as well and it works really great for handwashing large items.

September 29, 2009

Sharing Her Secrets

My website has moved. You can visit me here.

July 02, 2009

Movie Munchies

In the summer, we love watching movies on our back deck, projected up onto the outside wall.  It's sort of like the drive-in, just more comfy.  And we love lots of munchies.


This old drawer works as the perfect carry-all for all our movie munching needs.

June 17, 2009

Curtain Crush

I love simple curtains and I have to admit, even after all these years, I still have a crush on them.  And here's the good part:  I made them out of vintage sheets.  It's true.

Curtains 001

I LOVE good cotton sheets (vintage) that have that sturdy, yet soft feel.  And whenever I find them at estate sales, I buy them because they're good for so many projects.  For my home and style, the twin sized sheets are the perfect length for my windows.  And exactly right for my sliding glass doors too.  I use them in my kitchen, living room, and master bedroom.

Curtains 002

To make, I just sew ribbon tabs to the top of the sheets, and hang.  Whenever they need to be cleaned, I can just throw them in the washer, and they're as good as new.  And since they're white, the best way to perk them up if they're a bit yellow-ish when I purchase them, is to give them a quick soak in Rit Color Remover.  It turns them perfectly crispy white.

And honestly, it doesn't have to be limited to sheets.  I've found darling blankets that I've turned into curtains for the boys rooms too.  And colorful, patterned sheets are great as well.  But best of all, they're so easy and inexpensive too.

June 12, 2009


I love collecting great old pop bottles to fill with special drinks for guests.  Like these I filled with vanilla chai tea I'd brewed the day before.  Delicious juices work really well too!  To seal, I use new corks that we purchase from home improvement stores like Lowes.  And I always make sure to sterilize the bottles before use.


For this Prairie Party, we placed the bottled ice-teas in a huge old yellowware bowl and filled with ice.

May 21, 2009

Country Party

Whether you're planning a summer party with friends or a casual country wedding, it's the extra little details that can make all the difference.  Don't hesitate to pull out your favorite furniture pieces to use as clean-up stations, and to use fine linen napkins for your meal.  Mix casual and elegant, junky and fancy - but most of all, just have fun!


Wild rosehips fill a vintage dairy cooler atop atop an old dough table.  A funky enamelware tub will hold used silverware, the wired wheeled market basket a gathering spot for used linen napkins, and a chippity old wood box serves as a recycling receptacle:



An old washer is used as the gathering place for plates on one side and canning jar "glasses" on the other:


Chicken feeders make perfect vases:


Vintage silverware is placed atop linen napkins and tied off with strips of cheery calico:


May 07, 2009

Collecting Cans

Whenever I see cute old cans for sale, I make sure to pick them up.  There are so many uses for them around the house, including use as a utensil holder.


April 22, 2009

Embellished Tank

I buy a lot of vintage linens and really love retro prints.  I love the big flowery prints because they're perfect for making plain tank tops look cute.


Start with a plain tank top, fusible iron-on web, and your choice of
fabric for embellishing.

Embellished tee 2i


1.)  Cut out fabric and fusible web for embellishing.

2.)  Fuse onto tank following instructions provided with the fusible web.

You're done!

April 16, 2009

Quilted Babydoll Smock

Recently, I was inspired by a $900 Tsumori Chisato dress, and figured I could create my own version for much less.


A recent find of a huge bag of antique quilt and floursack squares at one of my favorite thrift shops worked perfectly for this project.



  • Target Cotton Tank Top - $6
  • Men's XL or XXL Fruit-of-the-Loom Cotton T-Shirt - $5
  • Thrift Store Quilt Squares, Floursack - $1


  1. Pre-wash and dry tank and t-shirt
  2. Cut tank top straight across just under chest.
  3. Cut t-shirt straight across just under arms.
  4. Gather t-shirt on raw edge to fit tank top.
  5. Pin tank top and gathered t-shirt, right sides together and stitch.
  6. Affix quilt squares and floursack materials using a decorative top stitch or hand-embroidery stitch.

Total Cost: $12

Style Tip:  This smock can be worn alone as a cute little summer dress or over your favorite pair of slim-fit jeans or leggings.

April 03, 2009

Mary, Mary, How Do Your Flowers Show?


I'm dreaming of oodles of flowers.  Spring. Summer.  Every type of flower.  And I love that there are no rules when displaying them.  Any vessel you love will do.

March 13, 2009

My Place, Your Place, Little Toy Chair Place

Place markers can be such a cute way to liven up the table. I love using tiny vintage toy chairs as holders for everyone's names.  Names can be hand-printed onto paper, folded into a little tent, and set on each chair.


January 28, 2009

Happy Little Spice Drawer

I talked about my spice drawer not long ago, and how much I love putting all my pantry and baking supplies in pretty containers.  Of course, I also want the containers to be practical. I love the little baking powder containers, as they have great lids and a metal lip inside for scraping off each teaspoonful.  So, each time I buy one at the store, I save it for my spices that get a lot of use, like baking soda and salt.


To make them cute, I just cover them with my favorite polka dot wrapping paper and clear Con-Tact paper.  Simply measure out the wrapping paper to cover the canister and cut out.  Do the same with the Con-Tact paper, cutting it just a little bit wider to overlap the paper and hold it in place.


When baking, if the canister gets messy, you can simply wipe it off with a warm soapy cloth and it looks like new again.

I also add a colorful label to the top, cut to fit just inside the recessed circle, and attach with double-stick tape.


November 13, 2008

Make Do

We've been working on some new projects for Country Living.  A new section they're doing each month is Make Dos.  Lots of little recycling, earth-friendly projects.  Our first project is in the December issue:


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