Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anatomy of a Healthy Craft Drawer

Ah, the magical craft drawer! Before the days of having this lovely vintage dresser (which I use as a sideboard), I had to stuff all my 'craft stuff' into a Rubbermaid wrapping paper box designed to fit under the bed. It worked very well, actually, but I am so happy to be able to up-size to a full-length drawer to fit all of my gathered paper and tinsel treasures.

See, the thing about being broke is that you can't afford many of the little 'extras' in life; extravagant gifts professionally wrapped in crisp, new, forest-unfriendly gift wrap is one such example.

 You have to learn to "make do" with what you have, a concept I've understood very well ever since I was about 4 or 5 and attempted to make my own snow globe. I must have been watching The Polka Dot Door or some other CBC kid's show that had a craft segment, and they had taken empty baby food containers, used plasticine to affix various items to the lid (which was destined to become the base of the snow globe), added water with a few drops of food dye (I made mine magenta, as always) and flakes of dessicated coconut for snow. The coconut snow flitted about the make-shift snow globe beautifully on the television. Mom said she didn't have any coconut flakes. The girl explaining the process on the TV said that if you didn't have coconut flakes you could substitute for rice, which I did.

Rice sucks. It's not a good alternative. Glitter would have been a better choice (we probably didn't have that, either). I remember shaking my little snow globe and turning it upside-down to see the rice slide straight to the bottom like a rock in a pond. Hardly the same effect. I was utterly disgusted.

Panettone tin stuffed full of salvaged ribbons, bows, feathers . . .

Since that time, I've learned that it is important to have all manner of 'craft stuff' on-hand at any point in time (my pantry is also well-stocked. Ironically, I always have coconut flakes and never seem to use them in baking. I should make a snow globe out of spite!). I've also gotten much better than the aforementioned television presenter at creative compromises, learning the properties of various plastics and papers and being able to make good substitutions where necessary.

Looking back at previous posts of mine (yesterday's was the real kicker), I realised that I've become that smug, over-confident person I cursed on all kid's craft programs (and in my adult years, Martha Stewart). "Who has all that sh*t on hand?!" I would internally scream. Well, these days, it's me. (I have become 'successful' in my own craft-centric viewpoint, I guess!).

Rather than opine on my current comfortable state of affairs (contrasting back to the days where we didn't have construction paper and double-sided tape), I thought I would share with you the contents of my craft drawer, to date.

If you don't have a drawer, at the very least find yourself a hat box or other largeish storage bin.

The drawer contians scraps and various items I've accumulated from past Christmases, birthdays, holidays and other events, not to neglect the routine day-to-day detritus that builds up. It's not ALL garbage, and part of the way I attempt to achieve "Zero Waste" in my home is by reusing what is reusable. And arguably, that's more things than not!

So without further adieu, a visual tour of the contents of this craft drawer. Please note that there is a separate storage area for yarn and sewing notions, and I appear to have fabric in several places in my home. The fabric here is just the $0.25 sample-size stuff from the Dressew bins which I intended to use as giftwrap (or, more likely, I liked the look of and thought I'd buy it and find a use for it later. Not very thrifty, spending money with no clear plan in place, but trust me - I'll use it eventually!).

I think I purchased the sticky-tape kimono fabric from Rice Terraces (Broadway and Granville, by de Serres). They have a website: riceterraces.org but it doesn't appear to be functional

It's wrong to destroy works of fiction (but this book SUCKED). Leftovers from hollowing out a book that I turned into a clock (author had same name as recipient). I think the clock is much more useful.

Various junk - the front side of greeting cards, shellacked fortune cookies, sponge-tipped paint brushes, paper plates from I don't even know where, the sticky stuff you use to stop things sliding on boats, and a peacock decoration from Dressew

Little boxes and drink containers (washed) are great for packaging small gifts, particularly baby-sized crochet items. I had styrofoam clamshell packages too, but used them up when I made Hamburger Coasters for giving away. It's good to reuse styrofoam and plastic - although they SAY it's recyclable, it still often ends up in the dump.

Boxes and containers from Christmas. The paper stars made up my non-traditional Christmas tree! The popcorn tin is going to get painted and probably decoupaged, when I feel inspired.

A gold plastic vinyl (ooh, bad!) tablecloth remnant - good for crafting AND as a painting drop-sheet. Various fabric  pieces from the big bins at Dressew - your $0.25 can go a long way there!

Pipe cleaners are amazingly handy. The red plastic onion net has a very interesting pattern - one day I'll do something artsy with it. For now, I use them to store flower bulbs over the summer in my hall closet!

Tissue paper might be THE single most useful item in my craft drawer. All of this is reused (gets a nice, crinkly quality to it after use!). It's good for wrapping gifts, but it's also terrific for making tissue paper flowers and borders of tufted tissue paper (I don't know what to call that process, but I used it to make a giant Valentine 2 years ago!). Can also be used in papier mache if you don't have paints to colour it with (need white glue or acrylic spray).

Gift bags are easily reused. That birthday one I've seen on 3 separate occasions, and this is the first time I've received it! Talk about making good use of it! Gift bags combined with salvaged tissue paper is a winning combination.

Plastic leis (yuck!), bows, more pipe cleaners and I think that's some raffia sneaking in under the black and white feathers. Doesn't look like much now, but keep it mind that it also doesn't take up much space!

I think the black foam came with a computer component. Pretty sure the white batting is leftover from an amigurumi project (if you make small enough amigurumi, you can stuff them with yarn clippings - I have a whole shoebox full of yarn trimmings and it's quite handy to have)

$0.79? No way, paid $0.25 for that pack of pipe cleaners, the one craft supply I never had on hand (visit Dressew!). The construction paper scraps might look small, but remember that SMALL is easily stored! Don't underestimate leftovers because of their size!

Cello wraps (nasty plastic - reuse it to death!) and wrapping paper scraps. The green berries and fruit (kiwi and lime) paper is actually what I used to line my kitchen drawers (stuck clear sticky plastic over top of it to pseudo-laminate it and make it cleanable with a wet cloth).

The beauty of having a craft drawer (and doing a visual inventory) is that you discover lovely things you forgot you had! I bought this awesome craft paper in Victoria years ago. Forgot all about it!

I love those candies, and the tube they come in is the perfect height to hold my crochet hooks! This is an extra one, so it's kept with the corrugated cardboard piece and the little boxes.

Paints - acrylic, watercolour, tempera and even acrylic sealant spray. I wonder where my Modge Podge ended up? Here somewhere! Acrylic paints are great, even though they're plastic-based. Tin pie plates make for easily-mixed paints. They're recyclable if you own a proper palette to begin with.

And finally, the 'utility' drawer, where all the scissors, cutters, epoxy and glues, tapes, strings, tacks and glue sticks (hot and cold) live. Craft punches, staple-less and regular staplers and batteries also reside here. I have 3 packs of EarthZone recycled newspaper pencils for gifting, used envelopes (and new), origami paper I don't want crinkled (the craft drawer tends to do that for me), and various other bits and pieces like bamboo skewers.

And so we conclude the tour! I hope it was inspirational - sometimes it's difficult to know what to keep. Will it be useful? What can I even do with this? These are questions that in time will crop up less frequently - eventually you'll be able to quickly appraise what is useful to you and what isn't. What tends to happen, of course, is that you'll just start to find MOST things useful, which means you'll need a bigger craft drawer. But it also means you're REUSING, and that's definitely a good idea!

Everything has a use, so long as it's safe (i.e. you can disinfect/clean it, it won't cut you, and it doesn't breed bacteria or carry viruses on it . . . so don't even think of touching a discarded syringe, for example! Or broken glass, since you don't know what bacteria are living on the sharp surface that could cut into your skin). Another no-no is one that's more likely to tempt you: the styrofoam trays meats and fish are packaged on at the supermarket. My Mom never let us use those for crafts, and after a degree in Microbiology, I'm tempted to call her up and thank her for that. Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 are NOT your pals!

Have something that you feel MIGHT be useful but don't know what to do with it? You can ask me (comment below!) or do a search with the words 'recycled' or 'reuse'. Thriftyfun.com  has forums dedicated to this - you might find several ready-made ideas awaiting you! Don't forget the term "repurposed" and do make sure you check out Etsy.com for inspiration, just in case!

Design*Sponge has a great section for 'before and after', best for bigger things like furniture. They also have some great ideas in the DIY section for smaller things - you may find inspiration there!

I'll leave you with a craft project I made when I saw a pile of disused filament Christmas lights in the grass at Arbutus and Broadway. I didn't know exactly what I'd do with them (I actually thought I'd paint on the light bulbs with glass paint and hang them as individual ornaments or tie them to Christmas gift parcels), but it came to me later the same day.

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