Do you save garbage with the intent of making it not garbage?
Maybe you've been reading life hack listicles on how to reuse mint containers and cereal boxes. Maybe you've saved a lot of Pinterest links to DIY tin can tea light lanterns and desk organizers. It happens. I've been there. But, really, who has the time? Or, actually, who has the use? Is it really upcycling if you're saving garbage to make something that serves no purpose in your actual life? What happens to your carbon footprint if you decide the cereal box magazine holder, that you decoupaged with specialty foil paper and rhinestones, is the epitome of tacky and chuck it out with the regular trash when you could've recycled Snap, Crackle and Pop in the first place? The temptation to hold onto soup cans and coffee sleeves and tissue boxes is strong if you're frugal and crafty, but eventually you wind up with a room full of junk and a feeling of twice-over failure.
My biggest garbage vice is saving jars. Jars are pretty great. You can store food and doodads in them, then wash 'em and put different doodads and food in them. You can decorate them or strip off the labels and let the contents serve as decor. With all the dry goods we pick up from bulk food stores, it’s nice to have glass containers around to transfer to from the plastic bags. The plastic bags are perfect for used kitty litter. The twist ties multiply in a kitchen drawer for a time when I find a useful Buzzfeed listicle for ways we never thought to use twist ties. At least they don't take up a lot of space, right?
For a long time, I stored my crafting supplies in boxes. This turned out to be a mistake as I forgot what I had, would never use things, and just crammed stuff into random boxes instead of following my own organization system. Not checking the boxes before starting project led to doubling up on tools and materials. A few years ago, I picked up the terrible habit of drinking instant coffee in the afternoon. I quickly amassed a collection of empty coffee jars, which is not the worst habit to form in our recycle/reuse culture niche. In an effort to use my arts and crafts materials more often—and stop unnecessary purchases—I moved stuff into the coffee jars. Now I can see all the stuff I'm not using. Who knew I had so many craft knifes?
During one of my infinite Tumblr scrolls, I happened onto Eric Barclay’s transformation of used condiment containers. Brilliant. Of course I came down with a case of the Icandothats. So I took a couple of my coffee jars and painted them up.
For my first attempt, I came up with the owl/bird-like creature to paint on the jar surface. I used shoe whitener as a primer because that’s what I had on hand at the time. The shoe whitener had a built-in sponge applicator, making for quick and easy priming. After the primer, I drew on my character design with a light pencil. The trouble with drawing on oddly shaped surfaces means the design can go a bit wonky, but with an original creation, who can tell if it's wrong or an artistic choice? Once I had my design sketched on, I used some tiny brushes to apply ordinary acrylic craft paint, drew over the paint borders with Sharpie and covered the whole thing in a coat or two of gloss Mod Podge to protect from light scratches and the elements.
Barclay’s coffee mates reminded me so much of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore that I decided to transform jars into their Pete & Dud characters. When I realized that I didn’t document the process for the owl jars, I snapped a few crappy low light shots of my Pete & Dud process.
You can find tons more inspiration for painting any kind of jar on your favourite image searching platform. The great thing about painted jars is being able to store secrets or valuables or other garbage like dead batteries and ballpoint pens with one scribble left. If you can't resist the temptation to resurrect garbage, glass jars are your best bet for easy repurposing.
[Fuck mason jars, though. Mason jars used to be for jams and sweet tea and now they've been spoiled by twee hipster eateries and country-chic weddings. Now mason jars with Edison lightbulbs illuminate gourmet grilled cheese sandwich shops and barnyard wedding receptions in all the trend-following metropolises.]
How does a kid in the late 20th century get involved in crafting without some kindly maternal figure teaching the old world ways of making and making do? It helps to have a working mom who can't afford day care and desperately needs her kid to sit quietly in a corner with an activity that looks vaguely productive. I wasn't a loud, disruptive child. When I was told to sit down and shut up, I consulted my inner compass and set my bottom and jaw off in their respective directions. (To some, sitting down and shutting up is akin to patting one's head and rubbing one's head simultaneously.) But I was just the teensiest bit destructive. With pen in hand, I would scribble on book covers, legal pads, back packs, pants, toys, walls, and furniture. My mother recognized a creative need and set me up with a variety of approved activities to keep my hands occupied in a more constructive way. My potential for being an influential graffiti artist squelched by the desire to get back the security deposit on our apartment.
She didn't teach me how to do any of these crafts. Mostly she gave me a kit and left me to work it out for myself, which I would, eventually. One of these childhood crafting endeavours was latch hooking. Working from a boxed kit containing a canvas, packages of pre-cut yarn, and a chart for the pattern, I could keep busy and quiet for hours. Apparently there was also a specialty latch hook tool, which either I never had or couldn't figure out in the olden pre-Internet days of the nineteen hundred and eighties. So, by hand, I hooked the pre-cut yarn into loops around the notches in the canvas until the carpet scraps took the shape of pansies or Daffy Duck or a red rose resting across piano keys.
The wikipedia entry charmingly, and repeatedly, calls rug hooking a "craft of poverty," ostensibly because it relied on scraps that peasants would use to fashion useful and decorative rugs to make their barren hovels more cozy. By the time this craft reached my poverty-stricken family, it arrived with that new craft smell, fresh from the factory. However, in 1980s America, latch hooking was a decorative craft on the decline. These boxed kits were not rugs for floors and muddy feet and cat vomit. These rugs were for framing and displaying on the walls of a den or rumpus room or maybe even the guest bathroom. Whatever the origins of rug hooking, we were far from it. I was not so much making something useful for the home as I was working on a fuzzy puzzle while watching ALF.
Latch hooking gets a bit dull after a while and doesn't quite scratch the middle back of the creative itch. The lack of new kits that were relevant to my interests, and not yet possessing the vision to use the kit materials for a different design, I moved onto scribbling sketch comedy catchphrases on my hand-me-down denim jacket.
Jump ahead to 2006, when I had vision and a muse and access to a craft store with blank canvas and bulk pre-cut yarn. Inspired by my Robot of Leisure character, Boris, I decided to return to the forgotten craft of latch hook to create a rug of his head. To what purpose, you ask? I respond, dear reader, with an unsatisfying "I dunno." It seemed, like most ideas at their onset and in the heat of the moment, like a good one.
Ten years later, in my own version of Konmari, I'm tackling my large and diverse craft collection and asking "Does this craft spark joy?" But it's not enough to merely look at a flat lay of materials to judge the activity, one must engage with the materials. So, last month I sat down with my yarn scraps and blank canvas and created something new. With no kit and no instructions, I hooked two new 11" x 14" rugs. One was completely improvised, based mostly on which colours I had pulled out of the scrap box. For the second piece, I took time to consider layout and colour and drew a pattern onto the canvas.
If you're of the opinion that latch hooking is cheesy, dated, and tacky, you aren't far wrong. Picture rugs are never going to look elegant or seem practical. Maybe you can put up a fuzzy sailboat or impressionistic landscape in your powder room without much embarrassment. Latch hook rugs done in an abstract or geometric design have greater potential for being timeless dust catchers.
As wall decor, these rugs also shed fuzz from mere eye contact, latch hook rugs aren't great. As a practical thing for wiping your feet, these things are too delicate for the most petite tootsies. As a quiet craft project for movie watching night? Aces. If you've got leftover yarn from yarn wrapping or making pom-poms or knitting and need a way to clear out the scraps, latch hooking is a neat way to clear the stash. Get some canvas from your favourite online craft store and follow your muse.
And no, I still haven't figured out how to use the latching tool, despite having actually watched a YouTube tutorial. I have mastered the art of sitting quietly, though. Stay tuned for my Sitting Quietly YouTube instructional videos.
Hello and welcome to yet another blog about crafting and handmade things. Boy, how crafting and the perception of handmade hobbies have evolved over the years! To some, the concept of crafting still conjures memories of itchy knitted sweaters from grannies, patchwork quilts, and grade school pipe cleaner projects. While, yes, crafting does have it’s folksy, country-cute charm sometimes, it’s become much more than gingham and grandmas.
My personal crafting history goes back to childhood, when my mother gave me the plastic potholder loom with the nylon loops. I might’ve been eight years old and could spend hours making those nylon potholders, with the tacky primary colours and the occasional loop with odd bumpy texture. I made cozies for those square post-it note cubes for my elementary school teachers and my mom’s work friends. It was a pleasant hobby that kept my hands busy while watching TGIF sitcoms. I remember taking my kit to a sleepover and, while we were watching Beetlejuice, one of the girls (maliciously) stepped on my loom and broke it (she was making fun of me for using it earlier in the evening). We were poor, so I was devastated and sobbed for my mother to come and pick me up. We did replace the loom and I spent two more years weaving those squares and attaching them to other squares.
I spent lots of summer mornings watching Carol Duvall crafting on Home Show, silently vowing that I would learn how to do those things. I was, however, put off by the dowdy patterns and frumpy florals that seemed to dominate the crafty segments. One did get the sense that crafting was mostly a pastime for older ladies and, while quilts are great on a winter night, generally resulted in things more decorative than useful.
When I was 10 or 11, my mother enrolled me in a summer ceramics class at a local community centre. A couple of days a week, I’d go pick out a piece from the shelves stocked with cheesy knick-knacks and go about sanding, painting and shellacking it. Over two summers, I painted a ballet shoe, a pitcher and bowl set, several cats, a bunch of other forgettable things, and a turtle I called Barbara. Only the turtle remains. He was my first attempt at doing more than slopping one colour of paint onto a thing. He’s far from perfect, but I love him so much that he might actually be real by now.
Aside from the odd, poorly-sewn throw pillow from souvenir t-shirts, I don't recall crafting much in my teens. I did watch The Furniture Guys regularly and coveted a staple gun for the longest time. They did a lot of shellacking and varnishing, which also interested me. A brief stint in the theatre arts in university put me backstage painting sets and building props. I could shellac and varnish but the boys were hesitant to let me near the power tools.
A subscription to ReadyMade magazine inspired me to pick up some tools and start making stuff on my own again. Martha Stewart took away some of the spinster aunt stigma to being crafty and young women (and men) like myself became part of the maker culture in various ways. I started experimenting with different tools, media, and materials. Since 2003, I've tried jewelry making, knitting, crochet, collage, etching...you name it, I've probably tried it. I've made a whole bunch of crap that was lumpy, sticky, and eventually fell apart, but a few gems have survived, and I'll share those here eventually.
I like projects that are small and fast because I'm impatient and want to feel a sense of accomplishment after binge-watching television shows. Sometimes I start new projects while waiting for other projects to dry. I've got a sizeable stash of fabric remnants, scrapbook paper, paint chips, cardboard, yarn and yarn scraps, at least four different types of glue, and boxes full of things onto which other things can be glued.
This blog will serve as a gallery for past craft projects, a showcase of newer handmade doodads, and perhaps a few tutorials. If you're looking for easy crafty projects for a rainy Thursday, or inspiration on how to use some of your own materials, or even how to use a particular tool, you may find it here. Come back often to see what I've stitched, shellacked, sewn, and/or stuck to other things.
Let's go make some stuff!
Amateur crafter for nearly 30 years. Let's make stuff out of other stuff!
About the Name
Katka Rynd is a variation on my given name and my surname. After exploring those “what your name means” sites and “what your name translates to in other languages,” I discovered this variation of “Katharine,” which I find to be fresh and modern looking and still friendly —all the things you want for an Etsy shop name. “Rynd” is taken from “millrind,” the iron support used in millstones used by millers.
“Artesanato” is the Portuguese word for handicraft.