Monday, 3 December 2012

How to Be a Thrifty Crafter, Part 2

Hello my dear crafty chums! Today is the second in my thrifty crafting feature (part one here). 

I was in my early teens (stop me if you've heard this story before - this is going somewhere!) when I first stumbled across the idea of owning a doll's house as part of a hobby, rather than a child's toy. I had grown out of playing with my own beloved house years before, but as my grandad had made it for me and it was very special I didn't feel I could move it on to a new home, so it simply sat in the spare bedroom, ignored.

One day I was on a visit to Rochester with my family when I spotted a shop selling doll's house miniatures. I was instantly captivated by the idea of grown ups having doll's houses, and collecting furniture for them. I could create my dream house, or even my dream world, from any era - and I already had the house! 

There was just one problem. I could see from a quick glance in the shop's window and then a Dolls House Emporium catalogue that I had fallen in love with a hobby which cost a lot of money. I'm talking hundreds. Thousands. It's a popular hobby for the middle and upper class retired, and no wonder. I was a teenager with a minuscule income. I quickly realised I was going to have to use my imagination and a lot of creativity to turn my doll's house into the vision I held in my head. 

That Christmas, I received just the help I was looking for, in the form of these two books:

Andrea Barham and Patricia King opened my eyes to the world of making your own doll's house miniatures out of things you have hanging around your house. Perfect! Since then I have made all sort of craft projects - not just miniatures - simply by looking at household objects from a different perspective. I have added many items to my 'must have' crafting list, and I'm going to share this list with you... (yes, we finally made it to the end of my little story!)

The contents of my dressing table are made from household finds. Bits of lace, an old keychain, a candle made from a birthday cake candle and a button, and a perfume bottle made from beads. 

1. Head for your jewellery box. We all have old costume jewellery which is now out of date or broken. Grab these items like Gollum and clutch them close to your chest. They are incredibly useful for all sort of crafting projects. Next, any old Primark handbags, embellished shoes or belts. Cut the shiny bits and buckles off and add those to your pile. Old costume watch? Keep that too. Hurrah!

Just look what clever Patricia King made with an old pair of sunglasses. I'm tempted to wrap some old frames with washi tape and wear them when thinking up crafty plans...

2. We're on a roll! Head out to the garage or shed. Take a note of any semi-used pots of paint or cans of spray paint. Look out for wire, garden twine, lovely pebbles (perfect for painting!), varnish, metal washers, plywood and balsa wood. 

3. Think like a child. Remember junk modelling? Very handy when it comes to thinking about packaging. Never throw anything out without checking to see if there's anything useable on it. Cereal boxes provide useful cardboard, lipstick cylinders, toothpaste lids, metal wine bottle tops... the list goes on!

An old disposable razor and a toothpaste tube. 
Another of Patricia King's creations.

4. Now you've gone shopping in your home, it's time to shop from other people's! Once or twice a year I email friends and family, and ask them ever so nicely to have a clear out. I make it easy for them by giving them a list of things I'm looking for. The first time I did this I was in the sixth form, and hadn't told more than one or two close friends about my crafting hobby. They found my requests a little odd at first, understandably, but then they really got into the spirit of it and produced some brilliant finds, including a guitar plectrum (perfect for a spot of Tatty Devine-style jewellery making!), an old locket - which I made into a double photo frame for my doll's house, and some handy bits of driftwood! Since then I've handed this list out to work colleagues and family alike, and always find they're genuinely interested in hearing what I'm planning to make with it all. And as you never know what you're going to get your little gifts can inspire all sorts of new ideas. 

I have popped my full list of the items I ask/look for here, but first, a little word about storage. You'll need it. I only store small and medium items. There is no need to keep every cereal box that passes through your home - if you need cardboard for a project, you know it's in the cupboard. I am making my own Christmas crackers this year so have kept (and microwaved to get rid of germs) twelve loo role centres, but I don't keep the centre of every loo roll used in my house! You don't want to become like one of those poor hoarder folk off the telly... 

If you're collecting small items such as jewellery findings, I learnt early on that they need to be carefully stored and easily accessible. There's nothing more annoying than losing a precious hour of your Sunday afternoon to hunting for that teeny tiny cabochon. I use a box with lots of compartments, so I keep earrings, beads, brooches, chains, etc, in separate sections. 

I like this way of storing because I can easily take a look inside to remind myself of what I have in stock. 

I mentioned in my last post useful shops for art and craft materials. If you're struggling to find handy items for free, of course there's always car boot sales and charity shops. I've found loads of handy bits of bobs from those. It's also been known for me to buy cheap jewellery from Primark, only to dismantle it an hour later. They often have sale racks full of costume jewellery - score! 

The jewel on my mini Jubilee hat was a Primark pendant, bought for £1.50. It's supposed to look like Kate's engagement ring. 

Some handy books and blogs if you fancy having a bash at crafting with household items:

Inspiring blogs:

Do you make things out of household finds? I'd love to hear about your projects!

Have a collectible Monday,

P.S: If you have borrowers residing in your home, please treat them kindly and at least leave some useful items for them to borrow. Bea seems to think we have some here, as she thoroughly sniffs around all the skirting boards every morning.
PPS: New buttons will be in the Etsy shop before the end of the week :)


  1. I love the idea of making miniatures out of everyday items that would be thrown away. I agree that organisation is very important, i tend to go through fits and starts of being organised, when i am not it is a nightmare finding anything!

  2. Gosh, you really are a talented lady, could you show us more of your makes! Just lovely! :)

  3. A sweet post. I especially love 'grab these items like Gollum and clutch them close to your chest'. I will! I will clutch them close to my chest.

    Always nice to be reminded that we don't always need to go out and buy things to be creative!

    x Elena @ Randomly Happy

  4. Great post! I made a shoe box kitchen for a toy mouse with my daughter a few months ago. The rules were we could only use stuff lying around the house. It was so much fun, and a challenge. We are planning a shoe box bedroom for said mouse after Christmas. x

  5. I am so intrigued by the photographs of random bits and bobs! And Patricia King's creations are devine! Never did I think you could make something so wonderful from an old toothpaste tube!! xx

  6. I love the vacuum and your hat! And homemade Christmas crackers are the best - not least because you can tailor the treats you put inside to each person. I always sneak a few tiger tail balloons into mine for after dinner chaos (just put away the best china and anything else breakable!!!) x


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