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Recycling and Upcycling

Last May, we said good-bye to our little apartment above the flower shop in Connecticut and said hello to a duplex in Massachusetts. Needless to say, we were short of a few pieces of furniture here and there. To date, we still do not own a sofa so it’s convenient that we also don’t really know anyone, except our next door neighbor, Pete.

For the next five months, I also didn’t have a night table so my reading lamp was on the floor beside me. So were my books and other night time indispensables (iPad and phone!). We also didn’t have storage in the living room so boxes of videos were piled up against the wall along with the wooden crates that hold my husband vinyl collection.

Finally, one weekend, we decided to visit Ikea. I didn’t like the night stands I’d been seeing at Home Goods so I decided maybe Ikea will have something I can customize. That day, we came home with a beautiful, dark blue cabinet with glass panes on the doors. We also came home with a few useful doodads but no night table.

As my husband was assembling the cabinet, I noticed that the parts came in really sturdy, thick sheets of cardboard. They looked like corrugated boards on steroids! I kept saying how it would be a shame to just pack them off along with the other recyclables.

Then it hit me–why not turn them into a night stand?! Papier mache has been around for centuries, I thought. People have made furniture using the technique. I’ve made papier mache bowls in my childhood. I’ve decorated walls and doors with paper and glue (by the way, even if the glue isn’t waterproof, it’s not easy to remove). I’d never made furniture but I figured it’ll be a good project to experiment with and learn from.

So, to my husband’s dismay, I stashed some of the packing boards in my already crowded work room.


We don’t subscribe to any newspaper but every week we do get flyers, store and grocery newsletters and all kinds of junk mail. I started tearing those for my new project.



If you like getting your hands in the thick of things, papier mache is a good project to try. Of course it made getting to the phone tricky but I made sure I had a towel nearby. At one point, I tried using gloves but the ones I had were a bit large so they didn’t work too well.

This was the time I plowed through a couple of audiobooks. I highly recommend Louise Penny’s mysteries. They’re the kind that you don’t want to stop listening to (or reading) and, at least for my part, will elicit a loud guffaw or two.

The project took me about three weeks to finish. I had to plug up some gaps and awkward spots with paper clay. I also wanted to soften the edges of the top a bit so I smoothed paper clay on those as well. Temperatures had also dropped by then and we’d been having quite a bit of rain so I made sure to give the piece enough time to dry.


When I finally had all the layers I needed, I gave it a coat of primer. Then I dug out my stash of odds and ends and got those in. I found a rose I had pressed some time ago as well as a petal from another rose that was given to me. The daisy at the bottom was also from my stash of pressed flowers. Then I cut out a stencil using my Cricut.


Here it is, almost finished! It’ll remain in that almost finished state for a bit, I suspect. One of my Instagram friends said it can be the “happy project” that I can return to whenever I’m in between projects. I told her that was a really fantastic idea.

In the meantime, I really wanted to get my reading lamp at the right height and to give my corner of the bedroom a bit of cheer. As soon as everything was dry, I brought my papier mache creation upstairs and set everything up.


There are magazines and more books on the lower level of my new night stand. The hubby liked the finished product too.

This was a project I truly enjoyed while feeling like I did a teeny bit for the environment as well. In fact, I’ve been thinking about what to do with all the junk mail that comes every week. One can have only so many night stands, right?

That’s something to think about for sure. This website is called Paper With Everything. Maybe it’s high time I did something about all the paper coming my way!


Handmade Journal Part 2

2014 flew right in and brought the freeze along with it! Happy New Year to all and if you’re in a part of the world that’s got below zero temps going, I do hope you’re keeping warm and toasty! I, on the other hand, am trying to type on the keyboard with fingerless gloves. As I don’t happen to have delicate fingers and hands, it certainly gets in the way of my feeling out the right keys! And yes, I’m happy to report that I’m not quite the hunt and poke kind when it comes to typing. There was a typing class I had to take when I went back to college and while I’m not a typing whiz, I do get by without looking down at the keyboard for the most part!

Now on to the second part of making the journal. This is where we put everything together.


It doesn’t matter if the binding is worked from the front cover to the back or from the back cover to the front. What you have to decide is where you want all your knots (when attaching a new length of thread) to be. I like to make sure that all the knots I do are only on one end of the book, but it’s really up to you. Just make sure you leave a tail later on that can be woven through the stitches. Also, you don’t want to end up in any of the holes in the middle. You’ll see why as we go.

I use embroidery floss and a needle with an eye that’s big enough so I can thread the whole thing through painlessly. I once tried to start with thread that was long enough so I wouldn’t have to do any attaching but I found that having to undo knots that kept magically appearing took more time and was more frustrating so now I just pull out about a yard out from the skein. Then I make sure to finish off or to attach additional thread on the same end of the journal.

Insert the needle from the front of the cover, making sure to leave enough of a “tail.” Make a knot to secure the floss in place then use a blanket stitch to finish off the other holes.


blanket stitch


When you get to the last hole, finish off with a knot but do not cut the thread. You’re now ready to attach the first signature.

Take one of the signatures and align the folded edge with the edge of the cover you just worked on. Insert the needle into the hole that matches the hole on the cover as shown in the photo.


Pull the thread all the way through the hole and bring it back up out of the next hole. Make sure your thread is pulled up all the way. Now you’re going to “lift” the segment of thread that runs from the first hole to the second so that your working thread runs under it, around the stitched part, and under the next thread segment. That’s a bit of a mouthful so it might help to just look at the photo below. The needle then goes back into the same hole it came out of, and there you have your first chain stitch!


Do the same with the next hole. On the last hole, instead of making a chain stitch, you’ll simple make a knot to secure the stitches you made on the first signature.


Repeat the same procedure with all the other signatures, making sure the thread that runs through the middle of each signature is snug. The spine of your book should have a couple of chain stitch rows like the one below (and that’s why you may not want to do your knots in any of the middle holes!).


The other cover will be attached with a blanket stitch just like the first one. This time, though, just make sure to run the needle and thread through the chains so it’s like you’re combining both stitches.


The first hole is easy because you can just run the needle through the hole of the cover like in the photo above. Then run the needle through the stitch on the signature right above it and make a knot the way it was done at the start of the first cover.



Then move to the next hole and begin your blanket stitch, working from front to back. Now make a chain stitch to attach this second hole to the chain stitch above it.The same will be done to the third and fourth holes. Secure the thread with a knot on the last hole. Do not cut the thread just yet. Instead, weave a bit of the thread through the knots then cut. Do the same with any additional “tail” that might be hanging loose.



Cover the knots and the woven ends with white glue. The white glue will dry clear and you won’t have problems with the ends sticking out or coming loose.


And that’s it! All you have to do is to add embellishments as you see fit to personalize your handmade journal.



I made this one for my niece. I added charms and other ephemera using more embroidery floss. Unfortunately, I was rushing to get the present done in time for our Christmas Eve get-together and forgot to take a snapshot of the completed journal and even the wrapping. I used printed tissue wrappers that I found at Home Goods. The design had music notes all over which was perfect for my niece. I used tulle that comes in a roll (from Joanne’s) to make the ribbon and added a rose I had made from tea bags. The great thing about tulle is that it just makes everything a bit more special–at least to me. I used a black version that had glitter on it with the same tissue wrapper and the gift (a different kind of journal) took on a more sophisticated look!

I hope you try your hand at making this journal. Let me know if you have questions or if you run into a snag. I’m going to be coming out with an ebook with more detailed instructions for three different bindings sometime in February so watch out for that one! Meanwhile, try and keep an eye on items around the house that you can use for making your own journals or for upcycling into useful things.