The dilemma most non-art-school-graduates face when attempting some crafty DIY project is that whatever goal you've undertaken—whether knitting a sweater or building a table—ends up looking lousy and costing you more in supplies and time than a simple trip to Target. Maybe that's why they call it "shabby chic."
So if those brilliant-sounding ideas in ReadyMade magazine bum you out because you don't have a table saw and eight feet of plywood handy, don't worry. Hopefully, you can look at all the junk piling up in your closet and use it to create something cheap your friends will covet (or copy). Some may involve a little extra legwork, but they shouldn't break the bank. Everyone's dusty pile of clutter is different, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
Cut the top off of an empty cereal box and snip the sides at an angle of your choosing. Cover the cardboard with fabric, paper or your own works of art—use double-sided tape or glue to stick it on—and then start organizing your dog-eared issues of
. Once you've decided which glossies to keep and which to recycle, check out catalogchoice.org. Sponsored by the Ecology Center, this website lets you stop getting those damn mass-mailers for good.
Before you throw your broken dresser on the curb, snatch a couple of its drawers for later use. They make great bulletin boards or a perfect addition to that bare spot on the wall right by the front door—the one you look at when you realize you can't find your keys. Sand down any rough spots and paint or stain. Mount the drawer on the wall; the bottom surface of the drawer can serve as a bulletin board—stick some pushpins in, attach hooks inside to hang your keys and you're set. If the drawer is mounted securely, add some larger hooks and use it as a coat rack as well.
Whether you've just uploaded your entire record collection onto your iPod or are beginning to doubt the kitsch appeal of that Kenny Loggins LP you bought on a whim, you probably have—or know someone who has—a piece of vinyl to part with. Crafters were onto something back in the '70s when LP ashtrays started appearing. But if you're over those, think about other ways to reuse scratched or just plain bad records. Besides warping your collection, heat can be handy in making vinyl malleable enough to mold into a small flowerpot. The spindle hole makes a convenient drainage device if you add a small piece of wire mesh. Heat your oven to 200 degrees and set a metal bowl top down on a baking sheet. Perch the record on the bowl and bake it until it's pliable. Make the edges of your new pot as wavy as you want—it's like pottery, without the pesky expense of a kiln or Patrick Swayze.
Admit it: They start to pile up. Living with old wood floors is a luxury many Portlanders enjoy, so treat them with love and slice your old corks in half. Glue the halves onto the bottom of your bed frame, and keep the notches on your bedpost, not on your floor.
Pay attention to what you drink. Brown Budweiser bottles aren't so aesthetically pleasing, but a bottle of Blue Boar can make a stylish water glass. (Note: Attempt this project before drinking beer.) Use a cheap glass-cutter (around $4) to score a line into the bottle at a height of your choosing. Making a deep score and taping off a straight line beforehand should guarantee a level lip for the glass. Have a bucket of cold water handy, then hold a lighter or candle flame near the line and rotate the bottle a few times to heat it, making sure not to touch the flame to the glass. Immediately place the bottle in the cold water, then tap around the line until the top separates (goggles will ensure no errant glass shards find their way into your eyes). Wet a piece of high-grit sandpaper and—gingerly!—sand the edges. Work your way down to a finer grit until the surface is smooth enough to drink from—then pour yourself a beer.