Month: August 2016

From Trash to Treasure: A DIY Dog Toy from Old Shirts

Around two years ago, I stumbled across a fun tutorial: making dog toys from old shirts. Let me make something clear: I am NOT particularly crafty. I like to experiment and try different things, but it’s not an area where I have a lot of natural talent. But I decided to give these a try. I had lots of friends help me. And we made a big pile of dog toys to take to our local pet shelter before Christmas. They were thrilled with the donation – they told me that they had had a Girl Scout troop donate them the previous year, and the dogs LOVED playing with them and chewing them.

Shirts to yarn to dog toys

Fast forward to this week. I have an exciting new opportunity at my Church. Twice a month, I get to help run an activity for 8 and 9 year old girls. Although sometimes we will do things just for fun, our focus is on helping these girls to learn, to grow, and to look outside themselves to serve others. This week was the first activity that I was in charge of, and this immediately came to mind. If you need a Scout or youth group activity, if you are an animal lover, if you have some old clothes that you don’t know what to do with – here is a great project for you!

All you need are some old shirts, scissors, and the ability to cut and braid. When I say old shirts … I mean REALLY old shirts. Do you have any that are so stained, pilled, faded, or torn that you hesitate to even donate them? Perfect! That’s just the kind you need to make a perfect toy for your dog – or, as we did, to donate to animals in a shelter. (A simple craft that makes a free service project – I’m in!) So grab an old shirt or two, and let’s go!

From trash to treasure- A simple DIY dog toy using old t-shirts

First of all, we make “yarn” out of our shirts. Why don’t we just cut them into strips? Well, you certainly can, especially if you’re making tiny toys. But remember that the fabric will be significantly shorter after braiding it, so just cutting the shirt into strips doesn’t give us much to work with. By making yarn, you have a lot more flexibility in the sizes of toys you’re going to be making.

So get your shirt, lay it flat on the counter, and cut it up! You want your strips to be roughly an inch apart from each other. IMPORTANT: do NOT cut all the way through. Stop cutting about an inch from the top.

Transforming a shirt into yarn

This is the part that seems tricky, although it’s really not. Once you’ve cut the shirt all the way up to the armpits, you need to start the yarn process. To begin, go to the very top of your first strip. At an angle, cut across the first strip all the way to the end. This breaks loose your chain. Then open up the top of your shirt. See how the cuts are now at an angle from each other? Just cut (at an angle again) from one slit to the next. And you’ll see that your shirt begins to coil – instead of strips, you have yarn. Cool, huh?

Uncoiling the yarn

Just keep cutting and coiling (I stop about halfway through to roll my yarn into a ball so it doesn’t get tangled) until you get to the end.

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Now here’s where I kinda wing it. When you get to the armpit part, you can cut the rest into strips, or call it a day and throw the top out. But I have found that it’s really easy to just grab the top piece and continue to spiral cut my way around the shirt. When you get to a corner, curve around and keep going. When you’re done, you just need to trim the corners off of your yarn. I am able to cut an entire shirt into one huge piece of yarn, and I only end up with a few little scraps.

Turning the top of a shirt into yarn

When all your shirts are cut up – time to braid! You can experiment with lengths and thicknesses. I found that braiding six strips together makes a small braid that is perfect for puppies and tiny dogs, while braiding twelve strips makes a good thickness for bigger, older dogs. My girls had fun experimenting with loops at the end (for tug-of-war), mixing colors, and trying different lengths.

If you want to be really crafty, you can use almost any fabric! Someone donated a sheet to our project, and I cut it into big strips. I even used the bottom of my daughter’s jeans to make denim yarn! I hacked at the knees (where the holes were) and folded up the cuffs to make shorts for my daughter. And then I took the bottom pieces and treated them just like a shirt. I loved the denim yarn – this is perfect for dogs who really like to chew.

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So there it is! Trust me when I say if I can do this, you can do this. And so can kids! I found that some of the 8-year-olds struggled a bit with the cutting-at-an-angle part, but with a bit of adult help, all of them were able to do it. And they LOVED working together to braid. So if you’re looking for an activity to do with a group of kids or teenagers, ask people to give you their oldest shirts, grab some scissors, and start cutting! The dogs at your local animal shelter will thank you.

Finished dog toys

 

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Okay. Maybe it isn’t ACTUALLY the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s one of my favorites? Why?

SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE ON SALE!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This girl is really weird.” Well, yes/ I am. But mostly, I’m thrifty. I love being able to donate items to people in need. School supplies are needed by SO many different people and organizations. And this is the time of year to stock up!

I have already been hitting the sales for Operation Christmas Child. This year I’m packing 32 shoeboxes, so I need to stock up. But as I have been shopping, I’ve been picking up extras. Pens on the clearance rack for less than a penny each? Bought hundreds. (Okay. Over a thousand. Ahem.) “Penny deals” at Office Max? I shopped the sales for my kids’ school supplies, then bought items at a penny apiece for my shoeboxes. And always, I felt the need to grab more. I just wasn’t sure why.

But this week, someone reached out for help on my neighborhood’s Facebook page. Her husband’s work is arranging a school supply drive for an elementary school in an underprivileged area. It immediately caught my eye, so I offered to help a bit. And as I researched the school, it caught my heart.

Y’all, there are over 40 languages spoken at this school. 40!! Can you imagine sitting in a classroom where no one else speaks your language? Can you imagine being a teacher, knowing that you cannot communicate with your students (or their parents)? Can you a school where 95% of the students are receiving government assistance, and likely cannot afford the very basic list of supplies that the school has asked for?

Within 30 minutes of my home, kids know that they are going to be headed back to school empty-handed.

That is not okay with me.

And suddenly, I knew why I’d had the feeling to buy extras.

I bargain shopped a bit more. I price matched. I told managers what I was shopping for and politely asked if I could go over their “item limit”. And this … this is what I was able to do with $35.

Donating School Supplies on a Budget

 

This isn’t extreme couponing. This didn’t even take me that much time. I just shopped smart, I kept my eyes open for clearance deals and great sales. And hopefully, this labor of love will be a blessing to dozens of kids.

As I was pulling together my donations, I thought of the teachers who taught in this tough enviroment. And suddenly, I wanted to do something for them. And although it’s simple, this made me so happy to do. I looked on the school’s website and counted the faculty and staff (because those aides and those specialists and those secretaries – they deserve our thanks, too). Then I bundled up my school supplies into little gifts. Such a small thing, but hopefully enough to let these wonderful people know how much they are appreciated. These little bundles, along with homemade cards that my kids and I put together, will be waiting for them in the teacher’s lounge.

Simple gifts for teachers

Whatever your circumstances, can I encourage you to consider joining in my school supply challenge? Whether that means picking up an extra package of glue sticks on sale, or hopping from store to store to stock up – whatever you have the time and the means to do – there is always, always going to be someone who needs your help.

So get out there and do some good today.

Serving with School Supplies