DIY · Zero Waste

DIY Wool Dryer Balls

This is probably my favorite DIY, period.

Making my own dryer balls was probably one of my first zero waste switches.  My skin is very sensitive to synthetic fragrances.  Dryer sheets makes my skin very itchy, so I’ve always opted not to use them.  Also, there are some debate out there that dryer sheets might contain potential toxins.  Although most of the claims are unfounded, I like to stay away from “questionable” products until a definitive conclusion has been reached.  There are many benefits to using wool dryer balls, such as:

  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Cut down dryer time
  • Saves $$$
  • Customizable scent
  • Reduce static cling
  • Eco-friendly

Since these wool dryer balls last a very long time, you can essentially replace your dryer sheets with them.  For a while, to accommodate with my sensitive skin issues, my mom used silicone dryer balls.  However, they deteriorate quickly under the hot heat and ripped within a year.  So although they did do their job, they didn’t hold up long enough to be cost-effective.

The wool dryer balls will cut down your drying time, thus saving you money on electricity.  You can also add your own essential oils directly on the dryer balls during a dryer cycle, and your laundry will smell so good!

I’ve made this DIY 4 times now because I love it so much, I make it for friends and family. Originally, I made these dryer balls using wool yarn from my local crafts store.  You can see the finished product on my featured image for this post.  But then I realized that one skein of yarn produced only 3 dryer balls, and it was quite expensive.  A skein of wool yarn usually costs $6 without coupons or discounts.  The other downside is that wrapping thin wool yarn into a good-sized ball is time-consuming.  Although I did like the look of the felted yarn balls, I wondered if there was a better alternative.  I am happy to announce a cheaper, easier, and faster alternative to making these wool dryer balls.

Materials
– 1 wool sweater
– Acrylic or cotton yarn
– 1 pantyhose
– Fabric scissors

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A few notes on the materials:

  1. Make sure your sweater is 100% wool.  We want this wool to felt (turn it into this fuzzy texture).  A good way to see if it’ll felt is to look at the care instructions.  Typically, wool that felt will say “Dry Clean Only”.  You want to look for those.
  2. For the yarn, you want to make sure you use acrylic or cotton yarn (not wool yarn) because the wool yarn will felt around the pantyhose, making it difficult to remove.
  3. For the pantyhose, you want to make sure you use a thin nylon pantyhose that you don’t mind cutting up.

Since I knew I was going to be cutting up a wool sweater, I hit up my local Goodwill for an affordable sweater.  Since these are going to be bouncing around with your clothes, you want a neutral color that won’t bleed onto your other clothes (stay away from reds!).  I start at the L-XL section, because hey, you get more fabric!  I don’t really care about the condition of the sweater, because it’s going to be cut up anyway.  I just care that it is 100% wool.  I found a large women’s sweater from GAP for $3.99.  I ended up paying only $1.99 for it because at my local Goodwill, they offer a 50% discount on certain colored tags throughout the month.  I am lucky because this week, green tags are 50% off.

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I removed the price tag and the labels with my scissors.  Then I laid the sweater flat on the floor.  There are many ways you can do this, but I like to cut off the sleeves first.  Then I cut the side and top seams to detach the front and back.  Then you will need to cut the sweater into 1-1.5 inch strips.  Take one strip to start, make a knot at the end (this is your starter ball), then slowly and tightly wrap the rest of the strip around it.  When you come to an end, tuck the ends in.  Keep adding additional strips of fabric until you reach a good size ball (like a tennis ball).  For this sweater, I used 4 strips per ball.

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Once you have your collection of balls, you are going to put them in your pantyhose.  I typically use a really old pantyhose that has been torn or is irreparable.  Cut off one leg of the pantyhose.  Start stuffing your dryer balls in to the pantyhose.  Once all the dryer balls are in the pantyhose, cut strips of cotton or acrylic yarn about 5 inches long.  Tie a knot between each ball.  This will prevent the balls from felting to each other.  I don’t tie a dead knot because I like to reuse my pantyhose and yarn to make this project again.  When you are finished, it should look like a long yarn caterpillar.

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To felt them:  I recommend washing this first with towels or bedding, because those typically are washed in a hot cycle.  You are going to throw your wool caterpillar in with your regular load.  Set it to a hot wash cycle.  Then throw everything into the dryer and dry on high heat.  Typically, it should felt in one wash/dry cycle.  But don’t unravel your caterpillar yet!  To check: use your fingernail to gently pick at one of the balls.  If you can feel the wool strips moving, it’s not done.  You just simply have to do the wash/dry cycle again.  When you pick at it with your fingers and it’s not moving, it’s felted.  Carefully remove the yarn and release your brand new dryer balls that you made yourself!

To use:  Toss 2-4 balls for a small/medium load, or 4-6 for a large load in the dryer.  If you would like, you can drop 1-2 drops of essential oil on the dryer balls to give your clothes a nice fragrance.  I find that when I drop essential oils in, it will last several cycles, so I only do it once a month.

I did a quick search on Amazon and found that 6 of these dryer balls cost around $15.  For $2 in materials, I made 12 dryer balls total, and it only took about 30 minutes.  Totally worth it!  I hope you enjoyed this DIY tutorial.  If you tried it out, let me know in the comments below if it worked for you :)

DIY · Zero Waste

DIY Body Butter

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This is my all-time favorite body butter recipe.  I make big batches of this over the holidays as handmade gifts.  You can buy all of the ingredients in either minimal packaging or simply package free.  It’s so luxurious and it has improved my skin drastically.  The great thing about this is that you can customize it with essential oils to your own liking.

Body butter uses 3 components:  butter, solid oil, and liquid oil.  As you look at the ingredients, you’ll see there are more ingredients that are solid than liquid.  We do that to keep the body butter from melting once it is done and sitting in room temperature.  If you live in a warmer climate, you might want to increase the amount of the butter ingredients to ensure that it does not melt.  You can also add in a tiny bit of beeswax if you live in a warmer climate and find that the body butter is too soft.  This recipe is super easy to remember.  Just remember the ratio is 1:1:1:1.  For my personal use, I typically do 1/4 cup for everything.  The body butter will last me around 2 months.

Ingredients
– 1/4 cup shea butter
– 1/4 cup cocoa butter or mango butter
– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– 1/4 cup light oil (sweet almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil)
– Optional: essential oil of your choice

A few notes on the ingredients

  • Shea Butter: Loaded with vitamin A and minerals, shea butter is ultra-moisturizing, can even out skin tone, and help skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
  • Cocoa Butter: Full of antioxidants, cocoa butter is often used by pregnant women to heal or avoid stretch marks.  Improves skin elasticity and reduce skin dryness.
  • Coconut Oil:  Naturally antibacterial and antifungal.  Coconut oil smells amazing and its consistency will help create a soft body butter.
  • Sweet Almond Oil:  Mild and hypoallergenic, sweet almond oil is easily absorbed into the skin.
  • Avocado Oil: Full of vitamin E, avocado oil will help firm up and strengthen the skin.
  • Jojoba Oil: This oil is extremely moisturizing and helps trap in the water and moisture in the skin.
  • Olive Oil: Non-clogging and full of antioxidants.

I encourage you to try using different butters and oils when making your own homemade body butter and see which one you like better.

Method
1. Using a double-boiler, melt your oils and butters over medium heat until it’s all melted.
2. Let the mixture cool down and place the bowl in the fridge for an hour until hardened.
3. Remove from the fridge and 7-10 drops of your favorite essential oil.  (My favorite essential oils to use for this body butter is either sweet orange essential oil or a combination of lavender and lemongrass.)  Using a hand mixer, whip the body butter for about 5-10 minutes, or until light and fluffy.The consistency we are going for here is like whipped cream with stiff peaks.

*The consistency we are going for here is like whipped cream with stiff peaks.  You will probably achieve that in 2 minutes, but keep whipping to for another few minutes (this will help keep the body butter in its whipped consistency).

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Shelf life and storage:  the body butter, in theory, should have the shelf life of the ingredients (typically 1-2 years).  I typically will use mine up in 2 months, and it never goes bad on me.  Usually, in the winter, I can get away with leaving the body butter in the bathroom and it’s fine.  But during the summer, I typically leave it on the nightstand in my bedroom where it is cooler.

DIY · Zero Waste

Zero Waste Beeswax Food Wrap

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In going forward with the zero waste lifestyle, one of the hardest things to give up for me was plastic food wrap.  When I have a block of cheese, a casserole dish, or leftovers in a bowl, I want to just reach for the plastic wrap.  When we finally ran out of plastic wrap, I started looking for a sustainable alternative.  Hallelujah, I found beeswax!

My favorite part about making these beeswax food wraps is that they are so easy to make, so easy to maintain, and beeswax is safe to ingest, so you don’t have to be afraid if a teeny tiny bit falls into your food (which is highly unlikely).  You can also have a lot of fun finding cute fabric to brighten up your kitchen.  I got my fabric from the Japanese discount store, Daiso.  But you can use any cotton fabric you have.

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There are two methods in makng these beeswax wrap:

You’ll Need:
– Cotton cloths
– Beeswax pellets or Beeswax bar
– Cookie sheet
– Small paintbrush (for method 2 only)

Method 1:  Cut your cotton cloths to your desired size.  Use pinking shears if you don’t want to sew the raw edges.  Pre-heat your oven to 250F.  Put about 2 tbs of beeswax pellets (or beeswax shavings if you have a block) on a cookie sheet and place it in the pre-heated oven.  Remove from oven when the beeswax has completely melted (3-5 minutes).  Cover the cookie sheet with cotton fabric and let the beeswax soak through, making sure you get all the edges.  Hang dry.

Method 2:  Cut your cotton cloths to your desired size.  Use pinking shears if you don’t want to sew the raw edges.  Pre-heat your oven to 250F.  Lay your cotton fabric down on the pan and sprinkle about 1tbs of beeswax evenly on the fabric.  Place in the pre-heated oven for about 3-5 minutes, or until the beeswax has completey melted.  Remove from the oven and use the paintbrush to spread around the melted beeswax, making sure all the edges are covered.  Hang dry.

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These sheets will dry in about 5 minutes.  After that, I rinse them under cold water with a mild dish soap.  The cold water will further firm these wraps up.  I store them folded and flat in a drawer.  When you first use them, you’ll find that they don’t cling super well to your bowls at first, that’s perfectly normal!  With a few uses, they will start to be a little bit more flexible and will cling much better.

Cleaning and Care:  Always clean these beeswax wraps with cold water (hot water will melt the beeswax) and a mild dish soap.  Beeswax is naturally water-repellent so they should dry pretty quickly.  When you find that your beeswax is no longer clinging (people say it takes about a year), just repeat the process to revive your wraps.

DIY

Dresser & Nightstand Re-Do

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So I’ve been doing a bit of DIY all over the house.  Another major project that I took on was the spare guest room.  Unlike my room which screams out “girl’s room”, I tried to make this one a bit more gender-neutral.  One of the tasks I did was repainting the dresser and nightstand.  Before it had a shiny polish.  It was nice, but with our house’s brown-beige tones, it really didn’t stand out.  So I wanted to repaint it to a color that was more vibrant and able to pop out.

I did both the nightstand and the dresser at the same time, and it really didn’t take that long!  In addition to painting the furniture, I also spray-painted the knobs black for a more contemporary look.

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*Bonus:  I also whipped up a twin-sized headboard for the guest bedroom.  You might recognize the fabric … it’s the same as the fabric I used for my reupholstered armchair!  For now, this room is done.  I might hit up Goodwill at some point and find some nifty artwork to refurbish for this room.

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DIY

Re-Upholstered Chair: Zebra Edition

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After the success of the last reupholstered chair, my mom quickly requested that all the shabby chairs in the house be reupholstered.  This project was a lot easier than the reupholstered armchair project.  The chair pad was held together by four screws.  So all we had to do was unscrew the chair, reupholster the padding, spray paint the chair, and reassemble!

DSC_0268 As you can see, the chair itself was in decent condition.  It was just a bit outdated looking.

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Lightly sanding the area surrounding the scratches will help even out the grain once you spray paint it.

DSC_0270My favorite way of buying sturdy fabric: curtains!
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Chair pad is done and waiting for the chair to finish drying.
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DIY

Fabric Upholstered Headboard

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Over the course of the past week, I’ve been doing a lot of DIYs around the house.  First, I repainted my room!  I wish I’d taken a before photo so you guys can see the drastic difference!  But the picture below should give you an idea of the color my room used to be!  It was this sandy-brown that my mom chose when we first moved in.  It was incredibly hard to match furniture with, as it also had strands of orange in the paint color.  Finally, my mom conceded and let me re-paint my room to colors of my choice.  I chose shades of sea foam green/blue.  Since my furniture before were brown or white, I didn’t have to change any of my furniture.

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Oh here are my best friends.  This is embarrassing.  Oh well, they don’t read my blog.  Moving on.  The second thing I did for my new bedroom was making an upholstered headboard.  I’ve always wanted a headboard, but they are so dang expensive!  Upon reading so many design sites talking about how easy and affordable it is to make your own headboard, I decided to give it a try.  It took only two hours (including getting the material!) and I am in love with the results.  My last step to my bedroom re-do will be adding some accent artwork on the walls.  I’ll take pictures of the whole thing once I’m finished.

A lot of design websites out there make their headboards that are meant to be hung on the walls.  Nothing wrong with that.  BUT, my mom hates drilling large holes in her precious walls.  So I had to come up with a headboard that could stand on it’s own (or with the help of a bed pushing against it).  Here is a rough plan of the lumber:

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I only gave out the width measurements of the lumber since all beds are going to be slightly different sizes (in accordance to the bed frame).  But I hope this is self-explanatory:  the gray rectangle is the plywood which will serve as the headboard, and the green rectangles are the planks that will serve as structural support.

I got all my lumber from Home Depot (they will cut the wood down for you for free, and you can keep the leftover wood for other projects).  For all the upholstery stuff, I got from WalMart.  Originally, I wanted to do deep tufts.  But upon seeing this fabric, I decided that it would look better without tufting.  So a tip for lazy people who don’t want to drill holes:  buy fabric with a distinct pattern!  Oh, and you might be wondering what the total cost of my project was … drumroll please.  Only $50!  I tried to save money in all aspects.  I bought the cheapest but still durable plywood to work with, curtains instead of yards of fabric, and mattress topper instead of actual foam.

Materials:
– Lumber
– Fabric (I used one panel of curtains!)
– Foam (I used one full-size mattress topper)
– Quilt Batting
– Foam/Vinyl Adhesive

*I had hammer, nails, and staple gun on hand.

Steps:
1) Measure, measure, measure!  Make sure you have all your measurements worked out before you get your materials.  The last thing you want to do is getting ready to work and then realizing that you don’t have enough of this and that.  Make sure all your wood is sanded down nicely.
2) Lay the plywood down on a working surface (I did it on my garage floor).  Lay the three supporting planks like the picture above.  Using 1in nails, nail approximately 8-10 nails for each plank.  When you are done, flip it over.
3) Cut the mattress topper so it fits the headboard.  I was making a full-sized headboard and used a full-size mattress topper, and I was able to do two layers of the foam padding.  Once the foam padding is down, use the adhesive to make sure they stay in place.
4) Lay the quilt batting over the foam.  Gently flip the headboard over again so it is facing down. Gently pull the batting away from the center, making sure there are no creases or wrinkles.  Using your staple gun, staple the edges of the batting on the planks on the backside.
5) Using the same technique you did for the batting, do the same with the fabric.
6) If you have leftover batting and/or fabric, you can really make your legs look pretty by upholstering them too!

Let me know if you are going to attempt this project.  I’d love to see your results!

DIY

DIY: Re-upholstered Armchair

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A few months ago, my mom’s trusty leather armchair began tearing.  Over the course of a few weeks, the tear got so big that it became unrepairable.  My mom was about to throw out the chair, when I suggested that we try re-upholstering it.  I’ve seen so many design blogs that did such amazing reupholstering work, I thought “why not give it a try?”  As it turns out, simple things as putting new fabric on a chair can breathe new life into the furniture.  The project only took an afternoon to do, and it was so cheap!  We only spent $3 on this project (the spray paint, we had everything else on hand!)

Materials:
– Furniture spray paint (we used black)
– Fabric
– Staple gun

What I learned from reading from design websites is that there is really no tutorial, as all chairs are built differently.  But the steps are quite similar.  Here is what we did:  1) We took all the staples and nails that held the fabric together;  2) Move the foam to the side (save for later);  3) Spray paint the furniture and let dry;  4) Staple, pull fabric, repeat!

The old chair actually had nail trim on it that we saved.  We ended up using some of it to cover up the staples we had on the top of the armchair.

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Collecting the nail trims…

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Mama hard at work taking the chair apart.  Oh!  This gives you an idea of the chair before.

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The repurposed nail trim.