My Favorite Little Repurpose

Today I thought I’d share a quick “tutorial” (if you can call it that) for my favorite repurposed item.  Nothing fancy, but kinda cool and something I’ve found to be useful.

Bath and Body Works candles.  You have every scent imaginable to choose from, they burn evenly, the wax is of a better quality than most (I think), they are incredibly fragrant (in a good way, not an overpowering way), and they have lids.  They look nice and simple, and you can peel the sticker cleanly off, which really pleases me more than it should.  Oh, and did I mention they’re constantly on sale?  I never buy them unless they’re 2-for-1.

I must’ve gotten the repurposing bug from my mom, who refuses to waste ANYTHING, EVER.  Since I like the simple, clean shape of these I wanted to try to make them stretch past their role as candle, so I came up with this little repurpose.  Once these guys burn out completely, here’s what you do:

  • Put the candle in a small pot and fill the area around it with water, a little ways past the height of the wax inside.
  • Bring the water to a boil.  You’ll want to make sure you bring the water to a boil while the candle is inside, not put the candle in when the water’s already boiling.
  • Let it boil until you see the chunk of wax in the candle start to loosen from the edges.  The goal is to melt only the wax around the edges.  You don’t want to melt all of it.  This should not take long –I’ve never timed it, but I would guess this takes about a minute and probably not more than two.
  • Once the outside of the wax has melted a little and you can see the chunk of unmelted wax loosening at the edges, CAREFULLY remove the candle from your pot (this can be tricky so perform at your own risk!  I use silicone oven gloves and I make sure I have a good grip on the candle before I lift it out of the pot).  Then, you simply dump the chunk of wax into the trash.  It should come out in one chunk and leave very little wax on the inside of the candle.  (This is where the clean and simple design of the candles comes into play.  You couldn’t do this with a fancy shmancy ornate candle that has all kinds of grooves in its shape because the chunk would get stuck and not fall cleanly out.  Can we stop talking about chunks now?)  I digress.
  • Now, put the used-to-be candle in the sink and CAREFULLY pour the boiling water from your pot into the candle.  This should help rinse out any remaining wax.  I usually have enough boiling water in my pot to fill the candle up once or twice to rinse it out.  Once you’ve done this, rinse it with cold water just to cool it down so you can handle it without oven gloves.
  • At this point, the wax should be completely gone, but I’ve found that if I wipe it dry now there will be a little bit of waxy residue on the inside of the candle.  To make it sparkling clean, I throw it in the dishwasher and that takes care of it.  It’s now an empty container (with a lid!) that you can use to hold anything your heart desires.

I use mine to hold notions.  They’re the perfect size for pins or buttons or any other relatively small item, and the lid makes them convenient to pack up and travel with if you’re going to awesome guild meetings and such.  What’s also great is that you have a couple sizes to choose from –Bath and Body has one-wick and three-wick candles that can make different sized used-to-be candles.

I’ve even used these guys to hold… other candles.  They make a great tea light holder you can bring outside without having your tea lights blow out in a breeze.  If you’d like, you could also put river rocks in them for decoration, or potpourri, or CANDY.  Really, do whatever you want.

So there you have it.  My first little tutorial on my favorite repurposed item.  If you’re a sewist, here’s another one for ya:


I’m putting this quilt to bed.

The past couple weeks (in between work, a little gardening, and some family time), I’ve been designing, cutting, sewing, and trimming half-square triangles for a quilt that I’ve now regretfully decided to hide away indefinitely.  Here’s how it went down:

Inspiration struck!  So I dragged my surprisingly agreeable man with me to Fancy Tiger to help hold bolts of fabric while I strolled along the shelves looking for the perfect prints (dinner was my treat that night so don’t feel too bad for him).  My idea was to make something colorful, with pops of black and white here and there, using Kona coal as the background fabric so the colors contrasted against the dark grey.  I picked yellows, pinks, greens and corals.  I then took to Photoshop to make a great design, and the project took shape.  I cut and sewed all 120 HST’s for the quilt, then realized as I began arranging the squares that the coral was all wrong.  The values were wrong, it looked wrong with the pinks, it just wasn’t working.  I grudgingly took the corals out of the design and started thinking of Plan B.

Back to Fancy Tiger (this time, by myself—I was a woman on a mission).  I needed a color to replace the corals.  Blue seemed like my best bet, so I found a nice batch that I imagined would be the deal-makers.  Here we go.  I’ve got blue, pink, green and yellow.  The yellow and blue would pair well together, as would the pink and green –I could incorporate these pairings into the design.

I went home, cut my blue fabric, sewed the half-square triangles, placed this stack next to my other color stacks and thought enthusiastically that this would be the answer.  “Okay,” I thought, “I think it’s safe to trim these up.”

120 HST’s later, the project is now scraps.  Mojo-less.  A quilt abandoned.

I trimmed and trimmed (120 HST’s isn’t that many compared to some of the 500-count projects I’ve seen, but it’s still no picnic).  Took all my perfectly square HST’s back to the design board and could not find a single arrangement of the colors that I liked.  Not one.  Shield your eyes from this next photo if you don’t wish to endure the dullness of the color scheme.

I wanted the quilt to be modern and colorful, and for the color combinations to be something an adult woman would like (I can’t give away much else about the possible recipient, but know that I’m very disappointed she won’t be getting a quilt this year).  I love these prints individually, but there’s something about the way everything looked together that wasn’t “brightly colorful adult mod” enough for me.  It looks a little childish, a little amateurish, and a lot uninspiring.

Rather than wasting time overexposing myself to such a lackluster project, I’ve decided to cut my losses and move on.  I have so little time for crafting as it is, and don’t want to waste any of it on something I don’t love.  Plus, I think my continued manipulation of the design of this quilt will not be doing it any favors.  Maybe in a few months I’ll pick it back up, take out all the colors except yellow, and make this:

For now, though, I’ve had too large a helping of this “quilt to nowhere” and will revisit when I’m more inspired.  Or maybe I won’t revisit it at all.  Don’t judge me.

Anyway, I’ll finish with an upswing.  All of the dullness above is nothing a little—AHEMFlea Market Fancy can’t fix!  Enjoy the eye candy and have a great week!

Slugs and Snails and Puppy-dogs’ Tails

Now that my dear friend Amiee received the quilt I made for her baby boy on his 1st birthday, I can finally show the finished product!

I modified Camille Roskelley’s “Coming Soon” pattern ever so slightly to make this quilt and, as I mentioned in my previous post, my fabric of choice was from the Backyard Baby collection that I adore.  It’s so perfectly boyish!  Anything a little guy would want is in this quilt: bugs, snakes, ant farms, beehives, snails… in other words, all things icky and squirmy.  I hope Caiden will grow to love it.

The backing is silver minky dot fabric and is so yummy that I’m half tempted to make a minky-backed quilt for myself.  Ha!  Since this is a baby quilt and I wanted it to be extra soft and cuddly, I opted not to sew on a binding with square corners.  So, instead of making a full quilt sandwich (quilt top, batting, backing), I quilted just the top with the batting, then to assemble the quilt I simply sewed the quilted top to the minky backing, right sides together, and turned it inside out to finish. I sewed the opening closed and top-stitched all the way around the perimeter, curving around the corners, to secure it.  Voila.

One of the prints has an awesome ant farm, so I free-motion quilted in a boxy, maze-like, all-over pattern (excuse my excessive hyphenation).  The quilting took a little while but was well worth it.

Here it is post-wash.  Oh, the crinkles!  There’s nothing like the finished texture of a quilt with all-over quilting (last hypen, I promise).

I had so much fun with this little guy, from the moment I opened the package with this sweet fabric, to the block assembly, to the basting and the quilting.

Each step in the process brought me much joy, and I’m thrilled to report that Amiee received the quilt with INCREDIBLE gratitude and could clearly feel the love that I put into every stitch.  What a great feeling.  In the words of Borat: “great success!”

A Bit of Everything

I’ll start where my last post left off: retreat with the Front Range Modern Quilt Guild (FRMQG). After such an epic weekend, I planned to write an equally epic blog post, but instead will keep it short and sweet. It was a blast. I got what felt like a minuscule amount done, but made up for it in late-night bonding sessions with incredible women and giggling until my tummy hurt.

As planned, I completed Kelly’s Dresden plate block and learned some new tricks while doing so. Then, the Swooning. Ah, yes, the Swooning. I made two blocks from the ever-popular Swoon pattern, of the nine needed for my quilt (nine doesn’t sound like a lot, but these blocks are huge, so nine blocks actually make an 80″ by 80″ finished quilt).

The print fabrics in my Swoon blocks are all from Laurie Wisbrun’s Modern Whimsy collection for Robert Kaufman, which is decidedly my favorite fabric collection of all time. It’s whimsical (duh), and has a wonderful folksy Scandinavian feel that I’m crazy about. Just look at the little bunnies! And the colors! So cheerful and awesome. Wait ’til you see the sheep…

I didn’t get to working on Caiden’s 1-year quilt during the retreat, but I sure did get a lot done at home the following week. I cut all my fabric and assembled all 20 blocks. What’s left for me is to sew the sashing, assemble the top, and quilt the thing! This one’s from another great fabric line, Patty Sloniger’s Backyard Baby for Michael Miller Fabrics. It has all kinds of cool boy stuff like bugs and snakes and beehives and ants and anything else “backyardy” that little boys would want to get their hands on. Here’s a little preview, but I won’t reveal too much because that’ll ruin the final reveal for Caiden’s momma.

Some non sewing-related things have gone down in Chinatown this week as well. My beloved pup, Zeppelin, needed surgery to have a tumor removed from his paw. He’s recovering and the prognosis is looking good, but he still looks utterly woebegone (thanks, Jo Rowling, for the best ever use of the word “woebegone” in the Harry Potter novels that I use any chance I get).

Don’t you just want to cuddle him? We’re hoping for this face to come back as soon as possible:

To conclude this newscast: beautiful weather in the Rockies, and some beautiful little crocus stems beginning to poke out of the ground. Hooray! Spring fever is in full force (which of course means there will probably come a typical Colorado snow storm or five in the near future). In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my tiny glimpses of green.