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Christmas Gifts from Recycled Materials

written by: RobinCoe•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 5/20/2011

The trash around your house can be the inspiration for a wonderful gift for a loved one during the holiday season. A homemade recycled gift prevents useful raw materials from going to the landfill, reduces consumerism and can add special meaning to the gifts you give.

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    What seems like trash to you may be cherished by another. Those old burlap bags that came with your coffee or rice can be sown into hip bags, purses, laptop bags or backpacks. Paperboard boxes from cereal or frozen foods can be transformed into journals, while those candy wrappers can be weaved into a purse. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

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    Old clothes such as sweaters and t-shirts can be transformed into something new and useful. Everyone has a bag a clothes sitting at the back of their closet. Instead of hauling it off to a thrift store; or worse, the landfill, put it to good use this holiday season.

    One method of using old clothes is to cut your material into long strips. Sew each strip of material to make your own scrap, recycled yarn. You can use this to make hats, scarves or just about anything you can knit or crochet.

    Old Sweater Rug

    1. Find between 4 to 12 old wool sweater from around your house. Felt your sweaters by washing them in hot water, and then drying them in the dryer with hot heat.
    2. Cut a strip about 1 ½ inches wide at the bottom of the sweater by cutting upward. Make as many strips as you can from the sweater. Once you are done, use your sewing machine to sew the strips together firmly so that you have a roll of felted sweater yarn.
    3. Cast 24 stitches onto size 19 needles and knit in stockinette stitch until you get to the size of rug you would like.

    T-Shirt Blanket

    1. Select 25 t-shirts you want to transform into a blanket. Cut a square from each t-shirt that measures 13 inches on all sides. Make sure to cut through both layers of each shirt.
    2. Lay your squares out so that you have 7 rows across and down to make your quilt. Sew each square together by putting the right sides together and stitching ½ inch in.
    3. Once all the squares are attached, lay the blanket on top of an old sheet. Cut the sheet to the size of your blanket. Sew the 2 pieces together with the right sides together around 3 sides. Turn the blanket inside out, and sew the opening with a whip stitch.
    4. Sew a down and up stitch at each point where the squares of your t-shirts meet so that it is now attached to the sheet underneath.
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    There are an endless amount of crafts you can make to recycle your used paper. Select a handful of used paper that has text or pictures printed on it. Tear your paper into strips. Roll the strips around a wooden skewer or toothpick until it forms a bead. Dip your bead into a glass of water, and then let it dry. You can experiment with making different sizes and shapes of beads, and then string them together to make necklaces or bracelets.

    You can also tear the pages out of an old magazine, fan fold each page, and them weave them together to make place mats or even handbags.

    Magazine Ornament

    1. Cut 30 circles 3 inches wide from the pages of a magazine.
    2. Stack the circles together. Fold the top circle in half, and staple the center of the line.
    3. Fan out your circle to make the ornament. Sew thread through all the layers at the top so you can hang your ornament on the tree.
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    Ornaments are a popular gift item every year. Often, they best ornaments are personalized so that each year the tree becomes adorned with memories from the years before.

    Aluminum cans from soda-pop can be easily transformed into ornaments. You can get the kids involved with this project, as well.

    Aluminum Christmas Tree Decorations

    1. Use scissors to cut the bottom and top of an aluminum can. Get the sheet to lay flat by rolling it backwards.
    2. Cut out shapes such as diamonds or squares from your aluminum sheet. Cut a second shape that is about 3/16 shorter on each side than the last one.
    3. Put the 2 pieces of aluminum on top of each other. Use a hammer to fold the edge of the large shape over the smaller one.
    4. Put a piece of cardboard under your metal. Use a pushpin or awl to poke holes in the aluminum. Get creative and make designs on your aluminum with the holes. Press holes all along the border, as well. This will help to keep both layers of metal together.
    5. Thread a 4 inch piece of thin wire through a hole at the top of your ornament. Twist it at the base so the wire stays secure. Add beads to the wire for decoration. Make a decorative loop above your beads to secure them in place. Now you can hang your ornament on the tree

    Tip: Save your tabs from aluminum cans. You can attach these together like chain mail once you have a few hundred to make gift items such as purses, clutches, necklaces, bracelets and even dresses.

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    Carson, Tsia. Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle. Harper Collins. 2006.

    Nicolay, Megan. Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt. Workman Publishing. 2006.

    Wasinger, Susan. Eco-Craft: Recycle, Recraft, Restyle. Lark Books. 2009.