Archive for Eco-friendly

Mossy pathway

Posted in Creative Reuse with tags , , , , on April 23, 2013 by Lax Cat Creations

pathway

Above is my Pinterest inspiration for the short walkway on the side of our house.

Below is our walkway before landscaping and our pile of bricks (from tearing down the chimney).

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The fancier bricks were left scattered around our lot by the previous owners. The plants have some growing to do before it looks like the one on Pinterest but I really like how it turned out. It have a feeling I will LOVE it during the muddy Portland rainy season!

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Now I really need to do something about that empty space to the left…

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Microwave Cabinet – Extreme Makeover!

Posted in Creative Reuse, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

This ingenious upcycle post is compliments of Tom’s newly wed brother, Jon, and wife Carrie. They did an amazing job transforming this cabinet inside and out using pallets and a creating a butcher block top. I am privileged to share their creation…

before after

“Carrie and I had been looking for a project to do together and we had access to some tools that some friends let us use. We knew that we didn’t want to spend much money on the project and Carrie wanted to try to refurbish a piece of furniture. We looked in the classifieds for a cheap piece of furniture that we thought that we could improve.

I found a microwave stand that someone was selling for just 10 dollars.

First order of business was to disassemble it and see what we were working with under all the paint. Carrie thought of a design that would look good with a butcher block top and rustic look. We needed some material so we spent $7 at the ReStore on some old 2×2’s sitting in a bucket, a drawer, 2×4 that I would cut down for the face, and a nice piece of wood for the face of the drawer. We found some old pallets to use for the inside (free).

After a lot of sanding and some paint stripper we reached a solid wood body that was in great shape to reuse.

Carrie planed the 2×2’s down to size to get a hard edge for the butcher block. Then one by one we glued-and-screwed them together. For the end pieces we counter sunk the screws and capped them with dowels. After assembling the top we clamped it together and let it sit for a few days.We sanded the top from 100 to 320 grit, then we treated it with butcher block oil from Lowe’s ($12).  We applied four coats, scuff sanding with 400 grit between each coat. I’ve heard mineral oil can also work for this.

Once the face frame was cut and assembled, I disassembled the pallets and cut the slats to length.  The slats were installed on the floor of the cabinet and across the back to give it the rustic look.  We added a shelf as well.  Carrie wanted some legs for the cabinet and thought that we could use the left over pallet pieces. So we glued, clamped, and cut them to size.

We eventually found the hardware at Lowe’s ($10), despite looking at the ReStore.

After assembling the cabinet and putting the drawer in it was time for the finish. Using white spray paint, we coated the wood, though it was a hassle and took many coats. We would suggest using a spray gun or a very nice brush as this would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Once dry, we sanded the edges of the cabinet down to bare wood and used some old wood stain to coat the entire piece. Without allowing the stain to dry we wiped it off with an old rag. This not only stained the wood but also stained the white paint and gave it more of a cream color.

When the finish was dry, we attached the door and hardware along with the butcher block top.I tried to reuse every part of the original piece possible, but since we used a different top and left one side open we had some left over material to use for the next project.”

– Jon – Salt Lake City, UT

 
Click on photos to view gallery

I hope you find their creativity as inspiring as I do!

UPDATE:

Jon and Carrie sold this item to a couple remodeling their kitchen, making $100 in profit. They are now on the lookout for their next project. Stay tuned…

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DIY Mei Tai Baby Carrier

Posted in Creative Reuse, Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

What can you make with an old pillowcase, two curtains, a tablecloth, and 6 cloth diaper inserts? Well, lots of things probably, but how about a mei tai!

I cannot tell you how excited I am about this baby carrier.  In addition to it costing me nothing (I used what was in my linen closet), it was actually very easy to make. I am NOT a seamstress and this was my first real sewing project. Thankfully, I had my dear sister to help. She is less of an amateur than I, and owns a sewing machine to boot!

I started out following the tutorial by SkippyDooDah and ended up changing a few things to meet my needs better. I left the panel rectangular and sewed the the straps at a right angle instead of on a diagonal. This helps keep the straps from sliding off the shoulders. I added a hood and made the straps longer to fit Tom. I also made the waist band thicker for extra support.

Below are the dimensions and materials I used. You definitely want to use strong fabric or reinforce it like I did with the straps if you are at all unsure.

Shoulder straps – Two pieces- 3m x 25cm.  I used black curtains and sewed a strip of the green curtain inside for reinforcement. 
 
Padding for shoulders – I used 2 Fuzzibunz elite diaper inserts for each strap (4 total). Each insert is  28.5cm x 10.5cm. We sewed 2 together lengthwise so the total length of the padding is 57cm.
 
Waist strap – 2m 8cm x 30cm. I used a very dense tablecloth.
 
Padding for waist – 2 Bumgenius diaper inserts sewn together lengthwise. Each insert is 30.5cm x 13.5cm.
 
Body panel – 45cm x 40cm. I found that the width of a standard size pillowcase is the perfect height. It also means three less edges to sew!
 
Hood – 32cm x 22cm. I used the tablecloth for this as well. I cut off the hem of the tablecloth to make the ties.

I cannot stress how important it is to iron all of the folds before you sew. This probably goes without saying for the experienced seamstress but if you are like me and like to wing things, this is for you!

Pillowcase panel

Reinforcing the shoulder straps

Shoulder straps are sewn folded over the panel. Straps are then sewn shut from the top end leaving an opening for the padding.

2 bumgenius diaper inserts in waistband

No-sew hood ties from the tablecloth hem

After all of the pieces were attached, we sewed several lines lengthwise on all three straps. This keeps everything in place and gives it a finished look.

Since making this I have retired my moby and use this exclusively every day. I think $150 to buy a mei tai would have been money well spent but how cool is it that we made it instead?

Mei tais are extremely versatile and comfortable to wear. They can be worn in front or back for infants through toddlers. After you’ve sewn your mei tai, learn how to wrap it here.

On another but related note, is there anything more lovely than a sleeping baby?

Twisted Juniper Cat Tree – Part 2 – Platforms

Posted in All Things Trees, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

Patience. This tree took a lot of patience. In particular, fitting the randomly shaped platforms between and around tree branches.  This portion of the project was the slowest, yet in my opinion, makes the tree really pop.

Using the shape of the tree, we determined where the platforms would be, what size and shape they were to become, and how we envisioned the cats getting to each one. Saki is a spry and wiry guy, but Pixie…not so much. She could be called small, but portly. To date, most of the smaller in-between levels are unused by Saki, but Pixie will carefully pick her way to the top most every time she uses the tree.

Using a 2′ level, string line, tape measure, sharpie, and an eye for straight lines, we started in. A laser level would be a good idea too. The first points to be defined and cut were the bigger branches.  Smaller limbs can be manipulated more easily than the anchor branches.

The main tools to make the cuts are a reciprocating saw (“Sawzall”), angle grinder, hand saws of various shapes and sizes, and the good ole fashion hammer and chisel.  I generally start with the sawzall, dig with the chisel, and fine tune with the grinder.

***A word to the wise…wear some protective gear. I am no model of wisdom…***

In order to ensure the best fit and location, cut and fit the platforms one at a time. We would cut the shape we wanted, then modify as the tree demanded. To get tight and snug connections, whittling away at both branch and platform is mandatory.

We cut our platforms out of plywood scraps from one of my job sites. Scraps of this size are pretty easy to come by as they are considered useless once they are less than 16″ wide. These platforms are 1 1/8″ thick. If you cannot find thicker plywood, two pieces of 1/2″ laminated and screwed together will work just fine.

Live load testing is recommended.

To make things comfy, we rounded off all the bottom edges with a router and 1/4″ round over bit. Then, an old sleeping bag pad was cut to fit.

After trying to cut, then glue the pad in place, we reverted to cutting the pad a little big, gluing it to the platform, then trimming – much faster.  After applying 3M spray adhesive, the platforms were placed foam down and loaded up with anything heavy to ensure a good bond.

We picked up a couple of yards of fleece from a fabric store and set to wrapping the platforms. Fleece is soft and stretchy, just what was needed to deal with the irregular platform shapes.

The top was covered first, wrapped over the edges and attached it to the bottom using Elmer’s glue and staples. A second piece of fleece was cut just shy of the edge of the platforms and glued over the folds and staples.

This portion of the work was completed after all the platforms had been cut and fit into place. Minor adjustments to the tree were needed due to the extra thickness.

I used a variety of deck screws ranging from 1″ to 6″ in length to attach the platforms to the tree limbs.  My goal was to hide the fasteners as much as possible and to do so, I countersunk the screws as much as I could. Many of them are buried in knot holes and crevices that the tree offered.

A couple were driven through the fleece and platform and into the tree. In these instances, the screws often sliced right through the fleece leaving a small, barely noticeable  hole.

In cases where the holes had to be drilled, some red and black markers, then stain provide a decent camouflage. If you were a real pro, you’d probably use wood filler, but that’s above a beyond what our little life demands.

One of our platforms surrounds a branch completely and had to be installed in two pieces. The picture above and below show the fleece wrap of the platform after it has been attached to the tree.

And that is how we assembled the platforms. Comfy, clean, and secure.

The Forest Ranger that pulled us over quizzically eyed the massive juniper in the truck bed, “It’s a little early for Christmas tree cutting in July don’t you think?” Not when you’ve got 6 months of preparations… 

 

It doubles as a lovely Christmas tree, don’t you think?

DIY Fabric Storage Boxes

Posted in Creative Reuse, Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

I made these cute fabric covered storage boxes to go in my baby’s nursery. He is due any day now!

As a first time mother, I am slightly overwhelmed by the amount of “things” babies seem to need. I am also not the most organized person. My goal is to make it easier on myself by having boxes to grab some things out of instead of having to dig around in a drawer. I think I will end up using one for diaper covers, one for inserts and the other one for… something else.

I used three matching boxes that I had on hand.   (These happen to be from Swanson Vitamins where I regularly order my supplements from.) I cut out the handles, cut off the top flaps, and cut three pieces of cardboard from a separate box to glue on the bottom (inside).

I then cut three long strips of the printed fabric to wrap around the outside. I cut the brown fabric for the inside and bottom into individual pieces to fit each side.

I used regular white glue diluted with a bit of water instead of Modge Podge. It is so much cheaper and works just as well. I don’t have a specific formula for glue and water, I just mix until the consistency is right for painting. For the printed fabric the ratio seemed to be about 60-70% glue. I used the glue straight for the brown fabric which was a lot thicker.

I did not paint a layer of glue on top of the fabric as I wanted to keep as much of the soft fabric look and feel as possible.

I cut the cardboard pieces to insert in the bottom so the bottom is even and uninterrupted by the flaps of the box. I used these pieces as the template for the brown fabric pieces for the bottom (outside).

I then glued the bottom cardboard pieces in place.

Cat trap! Pixie has an idea of what I could use the third box for…

 

I glued each of the pre-cut brown pieces.

 

A metal ruler really helps tuck the fabric in at the corners.

Overall this is a very simple project that anyone can do. The measuring and cutting can be a bit time consuming but, thankfully, you can make beautiful fabric boxes no sewing required!

This adorable fabric is from the Wee Woodland collection by Keiki for Moda. I bought mine from Etsy.

Old Door + Fallen Branches = Shelves!

Posted in All Things Trees, Creative Reuse, Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

To go with our forest theme, as well as to be consistent with our habit of upcycling materials for our nursery, we decided we needed shelves that made creative use of something old and also had something woodsy. We kicked around several options and I poured through pinterest photos looking for the perfect idea. I saw several shelves held up with rope that I really liked, rustic looking but a bit too beachy. Tom had the idea to use branches as braces.

Tom also thought it would be cool to make use of an old door for the shelves instead of buying regular shelving. We found this one at The ReBuilding Center here in Portland.  Old is in many ways synonymous with quality and craftsmanship in the world of construction. This door is solid wood through and through.

Tom cut the door in two pieces.

Safety Tip: Materials painted before 1978 are likely to have lead paint so be sure to read up on it and take the necessary safety precautions!

He then cut each piece of half lengthwise.

We painted the shelves with several coats of polyurethane to seal the paint and provide a wear resistant finish.

For the supports I found fallen pine branches on my walk home from the bus stop.

Tip: Use a portion of the branch to rub and knock off all the loose bark.  This will save the mess inside and reduce the flaking of the bark after the shelves are in use.

We mounted the backs of the shelves to the wall using long screws anchored into the studs.  The shelves are leveled and temporarily held in place using a piece of lath.

The most challenging part of this project was getting the branches cut. Living in a condo with no work shop makes projects like these challenging, but not impossible.  A piece of ply wood can be used to layout the shelving location and a keen eye and patience can be used to trim and cut the branches until they meet the wall and shelves in just the right way.

The branches with less “character” can be cut much quicker using the plywood as a guide to keep your cuts perpendicular and straight.

If you have access to a proper shop, a set of clamps, and a deep enough saw, these cuts can be made in a very clean manner. For the rest of us, we’ll use the “rustic” excuse.

After the cuts are made and the branches all meet the walls and shelves in an acceptable layout, we pre-drilled holes in everything and began screwing it all together.  We used multiple screws for redundancy where the branches were thick enough.  These pine branches were soft enough that the screws could be counter sunk and hidden in the bark.

This branch was the most challenging.  It meets the lower shelf half way up and then connects to the upper shelf in two locations.  We live on the second story and Tom was  up and down the stairs for 30 minutes trimming and adjusting.

After getting everything together, we applied another coat of polyurethane to everything.  Applying the final coat to the branches first allowed any residual bark to flake off onto the dry shelf surface instead of onto a fresh coat of wet polyurethane making for an easy clean up and smooth finish on the shelves.  The polyurethane did a great job and securing the bark to the branches.

Feature Wall – Trees on Burlap

Posted in All Things Trees, Creative Reuse, Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

My favorite part of the nursery so far is the forest wall. In the apartment we rent our second bedroom has one wall with a very funky angle making it pretty much useless for putting anything against. I knew before we got pregnant that I wanted a wall with trees on it somewhere in the house. When we started planning the nursery this idea seemed like the perfect way to utilize this otherwise awkward space.

Of course, since we are renting we didn’t want to paint directly on the walls. Who wants to put their heart and soul into a mural just to paint over it later? We covered the walls with plastic, and then hung our “canvas” made of old burlap coffee bags.

Sewing the burlap bags together…

Lath screwed to the wall provided the frame for our canvas.

Tom folding and stapling the burlap to the lath. He had to do this before and after painting as the burlap stretched differently with the paint.

Finished canvas. We used white bar soap to draw our trees before painting. It is easy to erase with a spray bottle of water.

These guys love to hang out wherever we are working; Can you tell?

Great horned owl and a pair of birds. We took the easy route with these and just found silhouettes online and printed them off to make stencils.

For the leaves, we painted a large sheet of burlap with our green color and cut leaves out. I love that these leaves make our forest look brighter and happier. The silhouettes alone tended to look a bit morbid for a nursery.

Finished product! Now to teach the cats that this is NOT a new scratching post for them…

(This project was also featured in my friend’s blog that is a great resource for news and research on building material waste prevention and reuse. Check her blog out here http://reclamationadministration.com/ )