Made with Love: Three Powerful DIY Crafts
I'm sentimental and couldn't bear to part with my daughter's baby and toddler clothes. I tucked everything into plastic bags at the top of her closet, thinking that someday I'd make them into a quilt. When Eva was not quite 5, the bags were bursting. I decided it was finally time to tackle that project.
I'd seen quilts made from sports-team shirts or concert tees and the patterns were pretty simple. I'm not an expert seamstress, but I can sew a straight line, so I figured this was doable. Sorting through the clothes reminded me of poring over an old photo album: Here was the tiny onesie Eva wore home from the hospital, there the flowered halter she wore to a picnic when she was 3.
Eva was fascinated by the strips of fabric that I cut, some of which she recognized and some she didn't. Either way, she loved hearing the stories behind every piece. This quilt was about her, so I let her assemble the fabrics into squares, then help me sew them together. "You can turn the machine on," I'd say. "Now move the wheel until you see the needle go up and down four times." I guided each square through the sewing machine as Eva stepped on the pedal.
Piecing the quilt together became part of our bedtime ritual, something Eva and I did while chatting about school and friends and her little brother, Ben. Because we spent only about 15 minutes a day on our quilt, it took a year and a half to finish -- but it's so meaningful because Eva had a hand in creating it. Each of the 96 fabrics on the quilt evokes a memory of my daughter's early years, but they also remind me of the wonderful bond we developed as we sewed together.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
After 23 years of marriage I'm still crazy about my wedding china, a blue-and-white floral pattern called Scilla, by the British manufacturer Burleigh. Even after we had three kids, my husband and I continued to use the set every day. Before long, piece after piece began steadily biting the dust. I'd try not to get upset each time a plate or bowl shattered, but I couldn't face dumping the broken parts into the trash. Instead, I'd sweep them into a gallon-size Ziploc bag that I stowed away in a kitchen cabinet.
I've always loved making over hand-me-down furniture. When I repainted our old kitchen table a whitewashed blue one summer, I realized I had found the perfect spot for my wedding china. I would use those bits of blue and white to create a mosaic pattern around the table's rim.
Of course I had absolutely no idea how to mosaic anything. Thank goodness for YouTube. I watched a few videos on technique, picked up a mortar blend from the hardware store and got started. Because I was creating the mosaic on the side of the tabletop, I had to find a heavy-duty superglue that would hold the pieces firmly in place. When I finished the design, I slathered mortar over the top and wiped the china down with a wet cloth.
I absolutely love how it turned out. The design is subtle, but beautiful. When our family sits down at the table for a home-cooked meal, I feel like everything has come full circle.
Charlotte, North Carolina
I've always been crafty and I like the challenge of recycling something that's outgrown its original purpose and turning it into a handmade work of art. Two years ago my friend Howard, who'd just retired from his law practice, was giving away his silk ties and offered me some. The fabrics were irresistible. I picked out a few dozen, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. Then one day I woke up with the answer: They were going to be pillows, and the first one would be a gift for Howard.
I'm not exactly a seamstress. I have an old sewing machine that I got years ago. But I arranged and rearranged the fabrics, weaving together about 20 ties in different shades of brown and gold. Then I pinned them together and sewed the edges to a faux leather backing.
Howard was thrilled when I gave him the pillow. Each tie reminded him of a meaningful occasion in his career. He kept saying, "I remember when I wore this one!"
Since then I've continued to collect ties and play around with colors and designs. Making pillows is my way to unwind at night after work. I call it "unwinding with a purpose," because within three or four nights I have a finished pillow. It's also offered me an unexpected way to give back. When a friend's husband died suddenly, I asked her to send me his ties. I knew I could help her by making something personal that would remind her of happy times with her husband.
Studio City, California