Introducing my lovely little urban backyard hens
Inspiring words from Harry we even care about wildlife?

For my mum: Handmade felted wool bags for camera, sunglasses & makeup

I will be setting myself a number of eco challenges this year. My first eco challenge is: 'All gifts given will be made predominantly of recycled materials'. Ideally, I will make these gifts myself. However, i am being realistic and allowing for some gifts to be bought, as long as they are made from recycled materials.

The first gift of the year was for my mums birthday. I started off with old wool blanket, woolen vest that had shrunk in the wash, and a selection of old buttons (the photo also includes a blue scarf but i didn't end up using that)....

Felted wool for recycling

 and ended up a few hours later with this....


...A camera case, make-up purse, and sunglasses case. I even made a reusable gift bag from the leg of a pair of recycled denim jeans (I use these gift bags instead of conventional packaging for my Flannel Fings products).

Gift bag made from recycled jeans leg

For those of you who want to know more about making these bags read on...making things from felted wool is surprisingly easy. You don't even need a sewing machine.

To make a recycled wool gadget purse:You need old wool clothing or blankets that are made from 100% wool (or at least a high percentage of wool). Charity stores often have old wool blankets that are perfectly fine except for a hole or two. You then assess whether the wool needs to be felted. You want the wool to not fray when it is cut. If it does fray you need to felt it. Many wool blankets will not need felting but wool jumpers definitely will. You can easily felt wool in the washing machine. You then decide what you are going to make a case for. e.g. sunglasses, ipod, camera, make-up, toiletries. The options are endless. Wool is even waterproof if it is lanolised so you can even make bags for carrying wet swimwear or used cloth nappies or wipes. Make a simple pattern using your item, allowing a few centimeters on either side for the seam. You then cut your wool using your pattern. Design your 'decorations' and cut them out of a different coloured felted wool. Sew 'decorations' on using a simple straight stitch (by hand is perfectly fine if you do not have a sewing machine). Sew on all decorative buttons - except the one that is pretending to be a 'proper button' (the one to close the purse) (I'll come back to this one in a moment).

Make a pattern  Cut your wool  Apply decorations 

Pin the purse in place and then sew around all sides using a blanket stitch. You can do this by machine or by hand using wool or embroidery thread. Here is a great tutorial for hand sewing felt using blanket stitch. You then need to apply a clasp to close the purse...But who wants to muck around with sewing button holes! Sew on a small snap closure inside the purse and then simply place a decorative button on the outside...I got this idea from Amy Karols great book Bend-the-rules-sewing.

Blanket stitch  Apply press stud closure  Apply decorative button

Continue the 'made from recycled materials' theme by making a reusable gift bag from recycled material.

To make a denim reusable gift bag: Cut the leg off an old pair of jeans at the height you would like the bag to be. Make sure the bottom of the jeans are not frayed as this will end up being the top of your bag. Turn the cut leg inside out and sew up the cut end of the leg. Turn the correct side out and place your gifts inside. Tie with a recycled ribbon or scrap of fabric. Simple as that! I use this tutorial to help me tie nice bows.

You can also make reusable gift bags from any fabric. Julie's recent reusable Christmas wrapping post seen at Towards Sustainability provides plenty of inspiration...

Go on...make a gift from recycled materials...I challenge you!

Next gift I need to make is for my 2 year old nephew...Ideas very welcome.

Information on the environmental benefits of recycling fabric can be found here.

Happy Recycling!