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18 ways to upcycle old jars

If you are like us and eat a lot of lemon curd and peanut butter you have a spare jar, or several hundred, in your home. I keep all mine in the little alley way alongside our kitchen, accessible only by our back garden, a place we try to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s covered with a tarpaulin and houses our Projects. I also, bizarrely, buy extra jars from car boot sales, but just if they are especially pretty or vintage – yep, my huthband doth dethpair.

You see, you can NEVER have enough jars. They provide endless opportunities for giving thrifty but appealing gifts, for beautiful, craftilicious decoration and of course, simple and lovely storage. And for Christmas jars come into their own. Un fact, Christmas was MADE for jars. (Love and family and hope, they get a little look in too.) Despite there being already one million ways to up cycle a jar, I am still not sure the human race has even reached the full realms of what is possible.

But to get us started, here are 18 of the best…

Gift ideas

Use chalk board paint and sweets inside With a bit of tile grout and some ordinary acrylic paint you can whip up small, colourful batches of chalkboard paint. It slicks straight onto any surface, including jars, meaning you can fill a jar with sweets and label it with a cool message.

Put a figure on top and homemade finger paints inside Once you have glued a figure on top of a jar, and painted it, there is no turning back. It looks so wicked. In this instance I filled the jars up with matching homemade finger paints, and gave it as a gift to a toddler.
Decorate the lid and put a home made body scrub inside
Just a bit of cool paper and a decoupage technique (homemade mod podge) can transform a rubbish old jar. I filled mine with the easiest homemade body scrub ever.

Layer cake ingredients inside and give with instructions to make No, you  cynics, this isn’t a lazy way of giving some baking, it’s CUTE, all right? I like it.

Put together a tiny sewing kit and make the lid a pin cushion. A lovely friend gave me a sewing kit in a jar once and I just loved it. Such a gorgeous gift to receive.

Photo credit and How To from must-read Momtastic

Fill with reshaped old crayons Melting and reshaping old crayons makes a gorgeous gift for children. Putting them in a handy jar so you can see the shapes and colours against the side make it that bit more special.

Decoration Ideas

Use paper on the outside to create a beautiful tea light Cutting shapes into pages from a book and popping it around a jar to create a candle holder has to be the most simple decoration ever… oh wait, but look:

Decoupage leaf candle holder  Maybe that honour goes to the sticking of leaves to the outside of a jar to make a candle holder. So lush, and can be seasonal, in whatever season. A bit of nature in your home.

Photo credit and beautiful How to found at From Panka With Love

Glow in the dark jars You can get glow-in-the-dark paint from most craft shops, and it is put to stunning use here. How perfect for a child’s room.

A beautiful jar chandelier This is an upcycle that needs a bit more dedication, and possibly an electrician. But, if you are looking for a light feature THIS IS IT!

Christmas Ideas

Christmas snow globes A jar, a bit of glitter, some objects and some glue. Amazing. I am definitely going to craft up some of these with Ramona, I am going to keep my eyes peeled at car boot sales for especially kitcsh Christmas decorations I could feature in them.

Photo credit and stunning How To from Elisa McLaughlin Designs

Christmas in a jar Love this, giving someone everything they need to fill their home with the Christmas pong, I mean, SPIRIT. You could really adapt this idea, with what you can find that smells awesomely Christmassy.

Edible Ideas

A jar of DIY peppermint hot chocolate I love the idea of giving someone a little treat they can give themselves when the time arises. A ready to go drink would be something my husband would love.

Rainbow Cake in a jar All the glories of a classic 1980’s rainbow cake with the added gimmick of eating it out of a jar. Immense.

Photo credit and How to at the brilliant Run with Glitter blog

Berry crumble in a jar If someone was to serve me a pie in a jar I think I’d be their BFF.

You kind of get the idea here, I guess… bake things, but in jars.

Storage Ideas

Glue lids to underside of shelf, screw jars on to itThis is an ace idea, possible with just a glue gun, a shelf an some jars. Really ideal if you don’t have much surface space.

Photo Credit and How To from Good Housekeeping

Use a hot glue to spell out the contents of the jar and paint over  Another simple idea, but SO effective. I need this so that when I finally reach my one life’s ambition of having a cleaner they’ll know where to pop my tiny trinkets…

Tadah! They are my faves. What are the best ways you have seen to reuse a jar?

PS See beautiful pictures of all the above ideas on my Upcycle your Jars Pinterest board. (Crumbs, you know you have made it when you have a Pinterest board about Jars…)

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Thrifty Gifts: a jar of crayon shapes

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I found a few manky crayons in a gutter the other day, on the way to the park. I picked them up (by no means the nastiest thing I have fished out of a gutter) to try that Melty Thing. It is a genius idea; crayons get so quickly get broken/ pick up a layer of muck that every family house probably has a stash in disfavour. Just give them a new lease of life with a bit of melting into shapes action.

I have a few cool shaped ice trays, I always pick them up in charity shops and car boots and I use them for resin craft,  (Well, I did try, um, baking in the elephant shape one and melted half of it. Really, they look just like the silicon muffin numbers.)

In an act of Completely Obvious Craft Blogging here is how I did it – not the baking melt fiasco, the crayon shapes, yeah?

 

  • I oiled the shapes first, to help them pop out easier.
  • They take about 40 sec to melt, I kept them moving all the time.
  • I worked from light/ similar colours to dark so that I didn’t have to clean the pan much inbetween.
  • They take about 30 minutes to dry solid in a cold place (my kitchen table)
  • The ones that I filled less than 1 centimetre broke as I popped them out – so don’t be stingy with the liquid!
  • You will need White Spirit to clean out your ice trays and pans, so do use ones you don’t use for consumption anymore!

This is going to make a fine gift for a little tot I know- toddlers are actually quite hard to make for, beyond sewing cuddly things. I am hoarding jars for my Christmas gifts-  it must be THE thriftiest way of giving nice gifts. Start doing it and in a couple of weeks they’ll be a thrifty, gifty ideas for jars post… *raises eyebrows up and down in a conspirational- watch-this-space- kind of a way*

Solidarity stitching and a jar full of hope

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 An inner-city meadow, a three piece band, jam sandwiches, a strawberry patch,  fifty stitchers, a barn of animals and my little toddler rampaging around.  It was a weird wee scene; both very local (I’m sorry, but East London is crazy. Everyone wears such silly clothes but I KNOW they are clothes that we will all be wearing in two years time. *gah* Those hipsters) and hugely global.

We were crafting up lids to fit on to jam jars, jars that would eventually be filled with a scrumptious tomato jam – based on a recipe from a Kenyan farmer, Christine.

In a way Christine is your typical farmer – but what makes her typical is pretty surprising. She is a woman, for starters (women are responsible for most of the world’s food production). And she also doesn’t have quite enough food to eat (small scale farmers like Christine make up 50% of the undernourished and women make up 80% of the world’s poorest.)

 But Christine’s jam oozes with bold, sticky hope.

A few years ago Christine was destitute, her husband had died of Aids and with no rights or access to power, Christine and her two kids were reliant on the kindness of strangers. Now, however, she chairs a small female cooperative group who grow tomatoes (one of those mega crops that is resilient to livelihood upheavaling drought) and they make this jam to sell at the market. The jam is BEYOND delectable and is a right old hit with the customers.

That is quite a story for one little jar to contain, don’t you reckon?

A jar of hope

I guess it was in an act of solidarity that we came together in one of London’s city farms to eat said jam on sandwiches, and to let our creative juices pour out over needle and thread.  We talked about hunger, the parts of our global food system that are utterly broken, the ways people can do something, who we were going to give our jar of jam to.

Stitching my first jam lid. I had to unpick it as it was properly ugly

We have masses of tomato plants in the garden and I can’t wait for the glut to hit *probably announced a bit to hopefully* –  I am going to fill my little jar up, pop my stitched up lid on and give it to my MP, Harriet Harman.  I will ask her to stand up on behalf of small-scale farmers like Christine, to fight the powerful tentacles of huge food corporations, and to promote local food systems in our urban village of Camberwell.

Freedom from hunger. (Bit rubbish eh, but you can understand how bad my first one was if I kept this one!)

Needless to say, Sunday was probably my ideal kind of day. Dreaming together of a future where everyone has enough to eat, crafting up world changey messages and letting Ramona frolick with the farm beasts (check out this little video of her encountering a rooster) combined all the things I love.

And I think it is here,  taking what you love and doing it for a more beautiful world, where change lies.  Hope doesn’t thrive when limited to certain behaviours,  and activists fizzle out after the one millionth petition signature. But if people can marry the thing that gives them energy – be it sewing, blogging, gardening, writing poetry, being a hipster-  with their passion for justice and fairness, change will come.

Solidarity Jam:

 Makes 6 jars

 Ingredients:

● 5 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes.

● Strips of the tomato skin

● 5 cups of sugar

● 1 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded

● 2 tablespoons butter

Method

Put tomatoes, sugar and sliced lemon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork in. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can). Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will! 

Read about Oxfam’s GROW campaign and join the movement of people who share a vision of EVERYONE thriving and NOT A SOUL going hungry

It isn’t too late to join in. Perhaps you want to host your own lid stich-in and get solidarity jam making in autumn?

To get the full low-down on this beautiful project have a peep at Craftivist Collective founder (and the wonderful person I job share with here at Oxfam) Sarah, explain it in this AMAZE vid:

Have you found a way to do the thing you love for good?