Repurpose and Recycle to Ease Tight Holiday Gift-Giving Budgets

Take an old tea cup or piece of stemware and melt candle wax into it around a wick. Now you have an instant designer candle.

Money is tight for everyone… well, at least everyone I know. So why not repurpose some of the items you already own and give them as gifts? It is not as difficult as you might think and once you start looking at items with a different eye, you might be surprised at what you come up with. Chances are good that you already have most of what you will need to make some wonderful gifts.

So that you are not being creative all by yourself, invite your friends over and turn the repurposed gift creation time it in to a girl or guy night. Have everyone bring the bits and pieces that they want to work on, include a few adult beverages and some easy snacks, and have a blast. Anyone can run to the store and purchase a gift for someone but when you put some thought and time in to creating a unique item for a person; that is the gift that will not end up in the next garage sale.

You might be surprised at all the things you can do with old vinyl records. If you don’t have any lying around the house, you can pick them up for almost nothing at thrift stores. Chip or fruit bowls made from old LP records are amazing and you can also make smaller individual serving bowls from 45 rpm discs. Here is a link with instructions on making a vinyl record bowl.

I would bet that you never thought about making a hanging lamp from a vinyl record. Melt your LP according to the above directions, paint the melty piece if you desire, purchase the hanging pendant lamp fixture from a craft store and viola, you have a one-of-a-kind light for your home. Another easy vinyl record gift is a clock. You can purchase the works and hands, as well as the numbers, at any craft store or you can get really creative and create or paint your own numbers. There are many more wonderful things that you can make with vinyl records at minimal cost.

Melt an old vinyl LP record into a fruit or snack bowl. 45 RPM discs made great individual-sized bowls.

Another use for an old vinyl LP is to melt it into a lamp shade or turn it into a clock.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please be sure to use fans to keep the air circulating because melting vinyl smells awful. Also be sure that you are using vinyl records and not the thick acetate records.

I bet that you did not know that CDs were meltable, too. They do not droop and melt as well as vinyl does, but they get more of a curly look and bubble up, which gives a textured look. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil on a baking sheet and lay your design out, you can cut the CDs with tin snips to get different shapes. Set the oven to 250 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes or until you get the desired texture. CDs don’t always fuse together so you might have to finish off your design with a touch of glue. CDs also make wonderful sun catchers to hang outdoors. Just grab the desired number of CDs, some clear fishing line and something to hang them from such as a stick, rolling pin or any item that you can drill small holes in to.

My all-time favorite things to repurpose are silver-plated flatware. You can do so much with flatware, such as taking a spoon and making a fashionable ring to creating a beautiful wind chime. Your imagination is the only limit… well, that and whether or not you want to pull out the butane torch and play with fire.

Make plant and herb identifiers by pounding sliver-plate flatware flat and etching the names of the plants of herbs on them.

Turn old trunks or suitcases into extra seating or a table with extra storage.

For the gardener in your life, you can make unique plant markers with tea or tablespoons. I start with placing the spoon on a wooden cutting board and take another small block of 2-by-4 just a little larger than the bowl of the spoon. Place this piece of wood over the bowl and, using a hammer, pound away on it until you flatten the bowl. It only takes a couple of whacks. I then use a rubber mallet to gently flatten the bowl until it is perfectly flat. Finish it off with the etching bit of a rotary tool by writing the name of different herbs or plants on your newly flattened surface. To polish or not to polish is up to you. I personally like the look of polished silver. An online search will reveal a treasure trove of wonderful and simple things you can do with silver-plate flatware.

For those needing a small table or an extra place to sit, pull out your old school suitcases. You can put legs on the bottom, leave the outside as is or spray paint it. If you make a table, it does double duty as extra storage and, honestly, who does not need extra storage space. Once again, an Internet search will lead you to a wide variety of easy to follow directions on making a chair or table from a suitcase.

Old wooden yard sticks make for great backing for hat and coat racks.

Use old photographic slides to make a shade for lamps or sconces.

A few other handcrafted gift ideas:

• Make a necklace using old clip-on earrings or brooches;
• Make candles in beautiful tea or coffee cups, as well as vintage glassware;
• Make mosaic planters using all the chipped and broken dishes you have (or is it only dealers who have boxes of chipped dishes lying around?);
• Make a hat rack using old doll limbs or umbrella handles as the hooks and wooden yardsticks and rulers as the base;
• Turn you old suitcase in to a stereo speaker case;
• Crate ceiling or sconce light shades using old photographic slides or negatives;
• Make window shade using old slides;
• Make a quilt or create plush animals from men’s ties.

I would love to hear your ideas on “upcycling” vintage items and please post a link to your projects to share with us all.

Don’t forget, wrapping your gift in a unique and fun way. You can purchase vintage tins, wood boxes or even vintage wall paper to give your repurposed, handcrafted gift the perfect final touch. It is like getting two gifts in one.

Happy gift making and giving!


Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.

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