Search
Close this search box.

Crafty pleasures

Did you gather yet more ‘stuff’ you don’t need over the holiday season? We think outside the box and explore some quirky, crafty and downright inspired ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

Joanna Cummings 

We are, apparently, a nation of hoarders. Clothes, books, old bus tickets…we just can’t seem to throw anything away. Can you honestly say you don’t have a drawer full of old phone chargers? And we can’t stop consuming either. This is an increasing problem as pressure builds to help mitigate changes in our climate.  

Enter the familiar phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle”, which has been used now for many years in an attempt to make us all more environmentally friendly. This might mean, for example, reducing the documents we print on paper, buying more second-hand clothes (reusing) or popping your glass, aluminium and cardboard into a separate bin for recycling. One major supermarket is even making clothes out of recycled water bottles. 

However, another ‘R’ is sometimes added to that list: repurpose, also known as upcycling. If you get creative, there are all sorts of ways you can repurpose items from around your home and avoid adding more ‘stuff’ to landfill – and the good news is, you can enjoy it too. Here are some of our favourite ways to combine being green with a fun new craft or hobby… 

Tin cans as toy instruments 

If you’ve got some children to entertain – or you’re a young person yourself – you can’t beat instruments made from items in your kitchen. Well actually, you CAN beat them, and that’s the point! Cut off the neck of a balloon and stretch the bulb over a can, securing with an elastic band, for a basic drum; fill an old plastic tub with dried pasta or bottle caps for an impromptu shaker; or even scrape a chopstick up and down the ridges of a tin can to create your own ‘güiro’. Simple but classic. 

Bras as bird feeders 

If you’d like to welcome more wildlife into your garden, then a birdfeeder is often the way to go. But there’s no need to go out and buy a fancy birdfeeder – an old bra will do. The straps make them easy to hang, while the cups are perfect for holding lots of seeds and other snacks. Rumour has it, the local wildlife in Dolly Parton’s garden is VERY happy. Failing that, look out for a bra bank in your area – Against Breast Cancer is asking for old bras to raise money for their research. 

Crocheting with carrier bags 

Keen crafter? You could try crocheting with old plastic bags. Lots of crocheters are making bowls, purses, laptop sleeves and even hats from unwanted bags, and the bonus is, they’re waterproof! Just cut your bags into long strips, tie them together as one long rope, then crochet your chosen pattern as usual. 

Books as storybook clocks 

Anyone who has children in their lives knows that picture books can end up extremely well-loved. If a child’s favourite hard-cover book is looking worse for wear or losing pages, turning the cover into a clock is a lovely way of giving the book pride of place in the bedroom. You simply remove the pages, drill a hole in the centre of the cover and add your clock pieces (clock kits can be bought online or in hardware stores). The storybook clock can then either be mounted on the wall, or propped open as a tabletop clock instead. 

Spoons as garden markers 

Gardeners, grab your old dessert spoons! Here’s a new fun way to keep track of your herbs. You start by hammering your spoons flat, then spraying them with outdoor paint. Then, paint on whatever words you like and use the conveniently long handles to push them into the ground. This tutorial recommends decoupage instead of painting, but we suspect that wouldn’t hold up for long in the UK climate… 

 

Hair today, (oil) gone tomorrow 

An unusual way to help the planet 

You may have heard of knitting with human hair and cat fur, but here’s an even better way to reuse hair clippings. Matter of Trust is a California-based organisation running various programmes to help the planet, one of which is ‘Clean Wave’. This programme uses donated hair – as well as fur, wool and fleece – to create felted mats to help clean polluted water. These mats soak up damaging petrochemicals in oceans, rivers, storm drains, filtration systems and more; their research has shown that 1g of hair can absorb between 4g and 5g of oil. You can sign up here to donate hair, or purchase hair mats for workplaces or to help protect wild habitats such as beaches. Find out more about the project’s global partners, including in the UK, here.

Latest news from Mensa

More from Mensa

Crafty pleasures

Did you gather yet more ‘stuff’ you don’t need over the holiday season? We think outside the box and explore some quirky, crafty and downright inspired ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

Joanna Cummings 

We are, apparently, a nation of hoarders. Clothes, books, old bus tickets…we just can’t seem to throw anything away. Can you honestly say you don’t have a drawer full of old phone chargers? And we can’t stop consuming either. This is an increasing problem as pressure builds to help mitigate changes in our climate.  

Enter the familiar phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle”, which has been used now for many years in an attempt to make us all more environmentally friendly. This might mean, for example, reducing the documents we print on paper, buying more second-hand clothes (reusing) or popping your glass, aluminium and cardboard into a separate bin for recycling. One major supermarket is even making clothes out of recycled water bottles. 

However, another ‘R’ is sometimes added to that list: repurpose, also known as upcycling. If you get creative, there are all sorts of ways you can repurpose items from around your home and avoid adding more ‘stuff’ to landfill – and the good news is, you can enjoy it too. Here are some of our favourite ways to combine being green with a fun new craft or hobby… 

Tin cans as toy instruments 

If you’ve got some children to entertain – or you’re a young person yourself – you can’t beat instruments made from items in your kitchen. Well actually, you CAN beat them, and that’s the point! Cut off the neck of a balloon and stretch the bulb over a can, securing with an elastic band, for a basic drum; fill an old plastic tub with dried pasta or bottle caps for an impromptu shaker; or even scrape a chopstick up and down the ridges of a tin can to create your own ‘güiro’. Simple but classic. 

Bras as bird feeders 

If you’d like to welcome more wildlife into your garden, then a birdfeeder is often the way to go. But there’s no need to go out and buy a fancy birdfeeder – an old bra will do. The straps make them easy to hang, while the cups are perfect for holding lots of seeds and other snacks. Rumour has it, the local wildlife in Dolly Parton’s garden is VERY happy. Failing that, look out for a bra bank in your area – Against Breast Cancer is asking for old bras to raise money for their research. 

Crocheting with carrier bags 

Keen crafter? You could try crocheting with old plastic bags. Lots of crocheters are making bowls, purses, laptop sleeves and even hats from unwanted bags, and the bonus is, they’re waterproof! Just cut your bags into long strips, tie them together as one long rope, then crochet your chosen pattern as usual. 

Books as storybook clocks 

Anyone who has children in their lives knows that picture books can end up extremely well-loved. If a child’s favourite hard-cover book is looking worse for wear or losing pages, turning the cover into a clock is a lovely way of giving the book pride of place in the bedroom. You simply remove the pages, drill a hole in the centre of the cover and add your clock pieces (clock kits can be bought online or in hardware stores). The storybook clock can then either be mounted on the wall, or propped open as a tabletop clock instead. 

Spoons as garden markers 

Gardeners, grab your old dessert spoons! Here’s a new fun way to keep track of your herbs. You start by hammering your spoons flat, then spraying them with outdoor paint. Then, paint on whatever words you like and use the conveniently long handles to push them into the ground. This tutorial recommends decoupage instead of painting, but we suspect that wouldn’t hold up for long in the UK climate… 

 

Hair today, (oil) gone tomorrow 

An unusual way to help the planet 

You may have heard of knitting with human hair and cat fur, but here’s an even better way to reuse hair clippings. Matter of Trust is a California-based organisation running various programmes to help the planet, one of which is ‘Clean Wave’. This programme uses donated hair – as well as fur, wool and fleece – to create felted mats to help clean polluted water. These mats soak up damaging petrochemicals in oceans, rivers, storm drains, filtration systems and more; their research has shown that 1g of hair can absorb between 4g and 5g of oil. You can sign up here to donate hair, or purchase hair mats for workplaces or to help protect wild habitats such as beaches. Find out more about the project’s global partners, including in the UK, here.

Related Resources

Got What it Takes

Take the Mensa IQ Test to see if you have what it takes to join the world’s highest IQ society.

Share this online