Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dragonfly Brooch

This is one of the first things I upcycled, before I even knew what upcycling was. I had already started buying old books, so I had the book leather. The wings are from a Diet Mountain Dew plastic bottle, the frame of it is made from floral wire and the eyes are two green, faceted, glass beads that I swiped from my wife's beading drawer. I took a series of pics as I was making it,
I guess so I would remember how if I ever wanted to make another one. So here those are with some basic instructions in case you want to make one of your very own.

The first image, above, shows the completed wire frame. The total length of the pin is about 5 inches. Basically I started with two pieces of wire about 10 inches long, I made an X with them and crossed them over eachother to get the head and body shape. It took a little work to get it fat towards the head and thin towards the tail. Once I got to the tail I just twisted the ends together. Then i took another piece of wire and looped it around the outside of the frame. The "eyes" were tied into place using thin strips of plastic from the Diet Mountain Dew bottle. To get these you just cut the top and bottom off the bottle with scissors, then you have a tube, you cut the tube open and you have a rectangle. You cut a strip off of the longer part of the rectangle that is about a quarter of an inch wide, then, cut that strip in half and you have some tiny strips. Depending on the hole sizes of your beads, you may need to cut them in half again. It's easier to cut a larger one in half than it is to try and cut a thin one from the rectangle in the beginning.
I also put a dab of hot glue on the eys as I set them in place just to be safe.

In the second shot, above, you can see a full piece of old book leather, more on that in a minute. Also present are the wings, notice that this is one piece. Using the rectangle of plastic from the bottle I cut out what is basically a vertically flattened X and then rounded off the ends. I made the top wings a little bigger than the bottom ones. Then, using an exacto knife I scored the dragonfly wing pattern into each wing. It's a lot easier than it sounds, you just score one or two large horizontal lines, and then you score several dozen vertical lines off of that, similar to the veins in a tree leaf.

I don't have a picture of the attaching of these, but it comes AFTER the next step, wrapping the frame in book leather.

The trick for getting old book leather off of the cover of an old book is to soak it it warm water. The leather was glued onto pasteboard/cardboard most likely and will be easy to pull off once it soaks for a little while. be warned though, the leather will get very tough once it dries as it's very thin. So it's best to work with it while it's still wet. For the above image I cut a few long strips from the book leather and tightly wrapped them around the frame of the dragonfly. It will kind of stick to itself on the ends, which is good, because you can't hot glue the ends until AFTER the leather has dried. I also cut a butterfly bandage shaped piece of leather and put it over the head of the dragonfly longways, making sure the eyes are still visible. So one end of the "bandage" covers his forhead and wraps around his mouth, while the other end covers his chin and the underside of his head. You can use a little wood glue to get this to stick, then wait for it to dry and come back with some hot glue to finish.

Well I wish I had taken more pics but that's all you get. To finish it up you take two thin strips of the leather and tie the wings on at the top, leave the strips hanging and you have yourself four legs. Then taking another butterfly bandage shaped leather piece cover up the top of the wings where they touch the frame. Don't forget to tie in a safety pin on the back, you can either insert the back part of it when you are wrapping the frame in leather, or you can tie it on there using the same strips you used to tie on the wings, a dab of hot glue will keep it all in place. As a final touch I turned the exposed ends of the floral wire at the tail into little loops and dabbed on some wood glue as the covering over the wire will fray off otherwise.

If you want to make one of these and get stuck drop me a link at and I will give you some pointers.

More soon! ~ The Upcycler

Welcome to my world

What is Upcycling? ~ To put it simply, upcycling is taking something old and unusable and transforming it into something usable.

I have 4 recycled tote bins in my office closet filled with old paper. Seriously. My wife can't stand it. What's in there? Well, two nearly complete sets of encyclopedias from the 1920's to start. A 4 inch thick pile of printer plates from a book on wild flowers, at least 4 atlases, french poetry books from the late 1800's, lots of cuttings from different books and magazines, it's pretty crazy in there. And that's just the paper of course. Out in the garage I have about 40 11"x11" wood trays that were pulled from a handmade mechanic's tool locker. I've been turning them into valet trays, candle trays, etc.. And then you have the box of skeleton keys that are destined to become wind chimes, the door knobs that are now curtain hold backs, the old book leather that I like to use on lots of things, cigar boxes, old metal boxes, it's all pretty exhausting really.

But, each piece was bought with one purpose in mind. To make it into something else, something beautiful and/or usable. The books are all falling apart or stained so I have no issues with ripping pages out of them and reusing the covers for notebooks or journals. And everything else is just waiting to become part of something new. My wife's weaknesses are ironstone and mercury glass, but mine will always be paper, or ephemera as it's called in the collecting world.

As a way of purging some of my materials I am starting THE UPCYCLER. It will be an online reference site for others wishing to upcycle items and I will also sell items that I have re-purposed, and will throw in some vintage one-off items to boot. Paint by number Jesus anyone?

The main website will be while the blog attached to it will be here. Please follow my blog, I will be adding pictures of newly upcycled items as often as my business,, my wife,, and my boy allow.

More soon ~ The Upcycler

Testing 1, 2, 3

This is a test of the upcycler blogging system. This is only a test.

This has been a test of the upcycler blogging system. Had this been an actual upcycler blog it would have been much more informative, longer, and possibly entertaining.