Recycled Book Art

book artIf you’re wondering what to do with some of your old (or just plain boring) books, there are lots of ways to recycle them into something else.  One way is by turning your book into a work of art. By cutting, folding and gluing pages, you can create a book mobile (not to be confused with a bookmobile), a decoration for a bookshelf or art to mount on a wall.

Keep in mind that older books may have more brittle paper and can be harder to curve and shape. You may also want to consider the thickness of the book pages — you can layer thin pages (like the ones you find in telephone books) to create see-through effects, while thick pages may be better to create pop-up scenes.

See some beautiful examples at Pinterest – Discover Ideas about Folded Book Art.

Or watch a video by Brusspup of how to create 3D Paper Steps.

Chocolate Sand Casting

Chocolates made by sandcasting with brown sugar.

Chocolates made by sandcasting with brown sugar.

With chocolate sand casting, you can create edible items molded in unique shapes – shapes as varied and far out as your imagination will go.  Perfect for custom gifs and holiday treats.

In this project we’re going to follow the steps of sandcasting – molding metal objects by pouring molten metal into a mold made out of sand.  But since sand and molten metal are a little hard to digest, we’ll make chocolate objects using molds created with brown sugar.

Click here to download step-by-step instructions for Chocolate Sand Casting.

Vortex Cannon

Vortex Picture1
There may not be many practical reasons to create a cardboard box that shoots rings of dust or fog, except it is F-U-N.

The vortex cannon creates spinning rings of liquid or gas, also known as toroid vortices, and shoots them across the room.  (These are sometimes commonly known as “smoke rings.”)  All you need is a large box, a compass (or you can make your own), scissors, smoke, fog or dust for the rings, and about 20-30 minutes.

This cannon has enough power to knock over a pyramid of styrofoam cups, but not cause major destruction – as you can see in this video from the URN Science Show.

Download the instructions here:  Vortex Cannon DLC FINAL 2

If you like this project, you can graduate up to more elaborate versions with an adult’s help.

Recycled Planter


Using household recyclables to create a planter is a fun and simple way to make your home or classroom a  little “greener”, and does its own watering!  Also perfect for starting seeds indoors and growing seedlings until they’re big enough to plant in your garden. Read more of this post

Doily Lamp

Click here to learn how to make your own doily lamp.

We love this idea of creating a lampshade out of a balloon, doilies and lots of glue! The simple steps with awesome results make this project perfect even for young kid makers.

Doilies are decorative lace shapes that people put under collectibles and plants to make them look prettier. Lots of people have extra doilies stashed away at home or you can find them easily at thrift stores or yard sales. The design of doilies makes this project more interesting because once the glue sets and the balloon is popped, your lampshade is full of lovely holes for the light to shine through. The light casts designs on your ceiling and walls (making it a cool night light, too). This project is a creative reuse of an existing material, making the best of its design for a new function.

Click here or on the photo for the full instructions for Doily Lamp at the Dos Family blog. Maker Isabelle adds updates on the project as a result of the many maker questions,  suggestions, tricks and tips this post received. She got comments and questions from makers around the world, showing how maker friends help one another get better at what they do.

TIP: To make your lampshade a lamp, you’ll also need a hanging light bulb kit. You can find these cheaply online, like here for $9, or at a local hardware store. Like maker Isabelle, we recommend using a cool, low wattage light bulb for this project.

Keep calm and make on, kid makers!

Party Pennants

To celebrate MAKESHOP’s First Birthday,  we presented this simple sewing project for making party pennants.

This project is perfect for makers just learning to sew and a great way customize your next bash!

Here’s our step-by-step instructions for party pennants.  You can also download our Party Pennant How To.

*SAFETY NOTE: Sewing by hand is best to learn with an adult helper until you build your confidence and experience.  Remember kid makers, store and use sewing pins and needles with care and never hold pins or needles in your mouth while working.

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T-shirt Bags

Nothing is more comfortable than your favorite T-shirt . If you’re like us, kid makers, you may have a few shirts you don’t wear but don’t want to throw out. Now we have the perfect upcycling fix:  Make bags!

So grab your oldest summer tee and make one of these t-shirt bag projects:

*SAFETY NOTE: Ask an adult to help or be nearby whenever you’re sewing. Metal needles are sharp and you should have an adult help you use a sewing machine to ensure your safety while you make amazing things.  

What’s “upcycling”?

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Leaf Blower Hovercraft

Have you ever dreamed of building your own flying machine, kid makers?

Learn to make a leaf blower hovercraft with kid maker Ethan and his assistant, maker Matthew Beckler of Wayne and Layne. It’s cheap, SO EASY and can even lift the weight of an adult. We can’t wait for you to try it yourself.

Click here for full project instructions.

Let us know how your hovercraft flies at

© 2012 Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Hardware Jewelry

Kid makers, do you want to take your jewelry game to a new level or make an awesome gift for someone you know?  This instructional video with Maker Rebecca will show you how to create one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets and keychains using simple materials you likely have at home.

All it takes is some hex nuts, washers or other hardware you can find in your garage, basement or toolbox, and some string, twine or ribbon.  And you’ll have some seriously tough jewelry you made yourself.  .

© 2012 Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Special Feature! Junk Pile Party: Shelter

Kid makers told us they loved the idea of a contest where teams compete to build the coolest thing … out of junk.  This is a great way to have family and friends take on a creative, collaborative project and best of all, compete against each other!

The MAKESHOP Show presented Junk Pile Party, a special feature filmed live at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, in 2012. Two teams led by kid captains competed with the theme of SHELTER.  They were given 45 minutes and a pile of junk to make a creative and (sorta) structurally sound shelter.  Materials included a parasol, upholstery fabric and a hubcap. The two teams in this episode are Tori’s Toolmasters and Heavenly Creations.  So sit back and enjoy this episode of the Junk Pile Party, with host Dave English.

© 2012 Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh