The First First Monday

by Stefani on 30-March-2008

The First, First Monday

You know I am constantly amazed and in awe of the women out here in Blogland… women who create beautiful things, women who pour their hearts and souls into mindful motherhood and artful homemaking, women who stand up for what they believe in, women who are holding down the fort, women who are making their way despite the odds.

I tell ya, whenever I sink into worrying about what the world is coming to, I take solace in the fact that there are so many women out there working each and every day to make the world a better place, one child, one clothesline, one reusable grocery bag, one kind word at a time.

It reminds me of a story I read years ago, that has stuck with me. The book, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio is the true story of a woman who, through sheer grit, determination, and a heaping helping of creativity, managed to keep her family of 12 afloat by entering contests of skill. She wrote jingles and composed essays between diapering and ironing and in so doing taught her 10 children that anything is possible. Read an excerpt here (It seems that there was a movie made about the book, but I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know if it’s good or not.)

In honor of “the Prize Winner”, and all the many many moms out there, doing their best with what they have, (and because it’s just a lot of fun) I’ve decided to host a monthly contest of skill, here at Blue Yonder.

Tune in on the first Monday of each month for a new contest, with a new topic, and a new batch of prize goodies to give away. And while I know that today is not actually the first Monday of April, I just couldn’t wait to get started! So here we go…

April’s Blue Yonder First Monday Contest is:

Tell me your most creative repurpose. Maybe you’ve woven plastic bags into bathmats or sewn all your grandpa’s old handkerchiefs into a quilt. Perhaps you saved up your yogurt containers to use as candle molds or you’ve turned an old clawfooted bathtub into a strawberry planter. Tell me how you’ve taken something old and given it new life with a new purpose.

Enter by telling me about your repurpose here in the comments section, or by commenting with a link to a photo or blog entry about your repurpose.

You can enter as many times as you like between now and midnight CST, April 30th. On May 1st, I will announce this month’s winner, along with the details of May’s contest.

Your entry can be an idea that strikes you this month, or something you did two years ago, so long as it is your own creation.

The winner will be chosen by me (and perhaps a committee of cohorts that may or may not include my mom, husband, neighbor, children and the check out girl at Wal-Mart).

The most creative/useful entry will receive:

Your very own copy of “The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio”
A biggo bar of my all time favorite soap, Pre de Provence’s Linden.
A few boxes of the best ever Japanese Curry Packets (Japan’s boil in bag version of fast food)
The lovely thrifted red doile in the photo above, a package of genuine Texas Bluebonnet seeds, a jar of Miss Ruby’s Ya Ya Peppers (snack food of the gods), an official Junk Gypsy Tape Measure (because every girl needs one!) and whatever other little bits and pieces of Blue Yonderness that find their way into your prize package!

So let ‘er rip, gals. How have you given new life to old junk?

Sarah Jackson March 30, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Oh gosh. Now I have to go back and look at everything. What a fun contest! And I can vouch for the yumminess of those curry packets. I had one for lunch yesterday. mmmm…..

MadWoman Meg March 30, 2008 at 9:46 pm

What a wonderful idea, and one that will likely draw all of those creative people out of the woodwork.
Sadly, I have not a creative bone in my body in that respect. I think the closest I have come to breathing new life into something is taking all the past experiences from my life that were upsetting or traumatic and using that energy in my writing. It occasionally shines through in my own blog.
Not what you are looking for, and that’s fine. I’m so looking forward to seeing what entries you get this month, not to mention the topics for the future.

You rock!

Beth March 30, 2008 at 10:53 pm

What a fun idea… Can’t wait to enjoy all of the creative entries!

Eren March 31, 2008 at 4:01 am

He, he…you have no idea how fun this will be! Great! Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!!!

erin March 31, 2008 at 5:22 am

this is going to be fun!

natasha s March 31, 2008 at 5:53 am

What a FANTASTIC idea.
I am going to check my library right now to see if they have that book.
BTW,I just adore the picture of your babe in the tent below,great capture.

Susana March 31, 2008 at 6:52 am

came here via Vintage Chica…great place you’ve got. Love this contest idea!!

kirsten March 31, 2008 at 6:56 am

how fun! (i’ve seen the movie – it is awesome – i blogged about it once, i think!)

Julie @ Letter9 March 31, 2008 at 7:09 am

Great idea. Must think. Hmm…

Elissa March 31, 2008 at 7:36 am

I love your BLOG! Have been voyeuristicly reading for quite some time now, but recently started blogging myself and today i’m feeling brave enough to leave a comment. I think I am still a little too timid to actually ENTER your contest, but I thought you should know that I absolutely think YOU are one of those amazing women and that you are inspiring a lot of people out here… including me!

Molly March 31, 2008 at 7:45 am

Okay. Love this. I’m up for it, but haven’t time to offer anything new for the contest. Instead, I’ll enter my repurposed book cover. The link to the post is here:

Totally enjoyable getting inside your head in your posts, as always. Thank you so much for the continued inspiration!

collins March 31, 2008 at 7:59 am

This has got me thinking…
Also I read this book 2 years ago. I give it to my friends to read whenever they are feeling stressed and down. I love it, it’s one of my favorite books!

Tara March 31, 2008 at 8:06 am

My most creative repurpose that I can think of offhand was using an old window screen as a magnetic surface to hold my pattern instructions. Let me explain.

In my sewing area I have a smallish table that holds my sewing machine and containers to hold tools like scissors, pens, pencils, etc. I was always losing or dropping my pattern instructions and because my walls are plaster, I couldn’t really thumbtack them to the wall, nor would I want to. One day out at my favorite flea market/antique mall, I stumbled across a very cool, shabby old window screen with the wooden frame still attached in all its paint chippy glory. I instantly thought it would be a great way to create a magnetic board to hold my pattern instructions. I bought it (I think it was maybe $10), brought it home and hung it on the wall, right over my table and sewing machine. I use some plain old magnets to hold my pattern instructions at eye level so I can read them as I’m sewing and not have to take them down each time I need to check something. One of these days I’ll do a blogpost about it. I’ve just been too busy sewing!

lina March 31, 2008 at 8:28 am

Go Stefani! I love this idea. My personal challenge at the moment is to see how many things I can make from 4 thrifted sheets I bought recently. So far I’ve managed lounge pants, a soft toy and an art quilt…more ideas are in the works including summer clothes for my little girl, bags and some more quilty goodness. Thanks for the book recommendation – have to hunt this down in the library.

Lina x

Golden March 31, 2008 at 10:11 am

What a great idea! I don’t have a blog, but I’ll tell you the story here!

Three years ago, my kids and I planted our first strawberries. We had just a few plants. That first summer, not expecting much, my kids tended to those plants with all their heart, delighted when it began to grow it’s first fruit. Each day we’d check. Not ripe yet. Maybe tommorrow. And so on.
Only to come out one morning to find it eaten by some animal. We were crushed.

The next summer, same thing, only worse, with plants more abundant with fruit. I had tried that strawberry netting with no luck. They still someone managed to get in there.

Last summer, someone was giving away a broken guinea pig cage. The metal was intact, but the plastic part on the bottom was cracked badly. Did anyone have a use for it?

ME! ME! ME! I snagged it, removed the bottom plastic tray and caged in my strawberries with the protection they deserved! That summer, we finally were able to eat our carefully tended strawberries!

Now I just need to find another one as the patch is expanding!

Jennifer March 31, 2008 at 11:06 am

What a great idea! I had never heard about “The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio” until the movie but I thought it was great! A little sad but a good movie.

Carol T March 31, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Ironic that you should have this contest as I have just re purposed some carrier bags and easter egg foil to make a bracelet and some of the ladies in my yahoo group are now making along too. Hope this counts! Great blog, good read.

Natalie March 31, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I love this idea! I have to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, which I found quite by accident. I saw pictures of bluebonnets and thought you must be a Texas gal like me. Then I saw you have a link to Backyard Farming just like I do, and I KNEW you were a Texas gal like me! I look forward to visiting your spot often.

Mary March 31, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Not a very craft entry, but my daughter LOVES to stack things. For about a year and a half we saved every yogurt container we emptied and they were her absolute favorite toy. At 18 months, she could get so engrossed she would spend 45 stacking and unstacking those things. Cheapest toy we ever had, and her favorite!

meg March 31, 2008 at 1:14 pm

ok that sounds like an excellent prize package. here’s my repurpose…i take thrifted suitcases and cover them w/images from thrifted kid’s books 🙂

melissa s. March 31, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I just found your blog and I’m so excited about this idea! My 4-year-old is begging to ‘put bugs in peanut butter’ after sharing your post with him (don’t worry, i’ll set him straight on the real process), so I’ll be back to comment on repurposing later… love those colored peeps too!

molly March 31, 2008 at 6:20 pm

oh this is good! I love this idea…I can’t think of ANYTHING at the moment, but I’m going to put some thought into it. Although I can think of some other people who have great ideas and should definitely enter.

eek! you are too fun!

Mary March 31, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Similar to the repurposed sheets: I found the coolest pink/orange/red bedspread with pink dangly puffy balls at the goodwill and turned it into as many things I could. I’m now working on bedspread #2–green chenille with dangly threads. (Pick of some of these things over here on my flickr page:

Diane April 1, 2008 at 5:46 am

Excellent! So… this is our household entry. We don’t have a Weber. But we love to grill some chickens or kebabs. What to do? The summer is so short that there’s not much point in investing in a BBQ we will only use three times a year. The junk yard solved our problem. Lucian brought home a brake drum and cleaned it up (mostly) and voila, grill! His dad made himself one, too. Once when we were over there he couldn’t get the coals to go so he brought out his shop-vac (excellent re-purposing of the shop-vac…) and put it on an extension cord to reach outdoors and got the grill REALLY going…

Pecos Blue April 1, 2008 at 7:32 am

Sounds great. For easter we did not want to buy anything new or any junk so we made all the stuff for our son’s basket. Including of course a bunny. I needed a quick and easy idea that would not require shopping. I looked up several ideas and created my own bunny in one hour using an old sock. Check out my site.

great idea and blog.

melissa April 1, 2008 at 8:21 am

This (on my flickr page here: my most-used repurposed item. I made a vase with holes in the rim as a self-arranging flower vase for summer zinnias (I am a potter) but it sat languishing all winter. So I stuck chopsticks from Vietnamese takeout into the holes and use it to dry my plastic zipper bags. I wasn’t willing to pony up the $20 or so for a wooden bag-dryer, but this one does the trick!

val April 1, 2008 at 2:26 pm

I’ve done so many things over the years but none have photos except one! so, I guess I’ll be submitting that one! yeah!!!!!!!
I will try to link to my blog (I have it on there..) But here is my entry. I saw a large skirt on sale at Target. I loved the fabric but it wouldn’t fit me. So I bought it anyway and made 3 different aprons out of it!

Jacquie April 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Since I love making old things new again…here goes. I made a quilt for my husband from a bag of 2 inch squares of vintage shirting stripes that he proudly found and encouraged me to buy when we were shopping together at a flea market. One day I started sewing them together and they ended up looking like stained glass windows or really funky ties. Since my hubby found them, but would never wear anything so bold, I chose his color favs, blue, yellow and white (never another color shirt and only yellow when the others are all dirty) to surround the crazy striped windows. You can see the quilt at Just click on the Vintage Windows link in the sidebar. He loves it. It hangs right outside his office door.

Annika April 1, 2008 at 8:48 pm

My favorite re-purposing–not the most creative or original or functional, but my favorite–was cutting up my son’s receiving blankets to make a quilt. I haven’t actually sewn it together yet, but if I can do it this month that will be my entry. And if I don’t get to it, I hope someone likes the idea.

Louise April 2, 2008 at 1:12 am

Here is my entry! I don’t have a ‘before’ shot – but this repurposed chest of drawers was a skanky laquered pine – mid 80’s vintage. Very unattractive. I wanted to redecorate it and transform it into an inspirational piece for my daughter Darcy who has some major health challenges.

Anyway, here is my blog entry:

I would love for you to check it out!

meg April 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm

my best project was the “sewing book” I made. I gutted an old hardcover book and fixed it up to house all my sewing supplies. You can see it here:

miguette April 3, 2008 at 6:07 pm

What a great idea! After reading over all these comments I truly feel like we, as parents, are starting a new revolution with our kids. Not that repurposing is a new idea, but it has never been celebrated to such a degree.

Bravo everyone!!

And here is my contribution. I have signed up for a monthly craft show in our region that focuses on repurposed crafts. In doing so I have found so much beauty in the racks at the local thrift store. I have been turning vintage linen tableclothes and bedsheets into bibs, and gorgeous tea towels or tossed away embroidery projects into totes and purses. I also love searching for one of a kind mugs, teacups, or knick-knacks to turn into pincushions. I am of the belief that one can never have too many pincushions.

I have plenty of pictures of all of my projects on my blog.

Thanks for this, Stef. I’m looking forward to many more entries and ideas!!

miguette April 3, 2008 at 6:45 pm

OH! I have to add one more, but this is actually my husbands doing. Just follow the link;

Lasso the Moon April 4, 2008 at 9:31 am

Thank you for mentioning that book. I love it and the movie–I think it changed the way I view my own life. Love your idea for the contest!

I don’t have a picture yet, but I’m taking on a huge repurposing project. I’m taking the long strands of scrap fabric that I’ve torn to find the grain, and I’m braiding them together into a rug! At this point it’s still a really long, thick braid, but I hope to start sewing it into an oval soon.

Katherine April 4, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Oh, your contest is right up my alley! I love re-purposed projects. Here’s one of my favourites:

I used two felted sweaters and some fabric scraps to make a teacosy – complete with the pockets that were a part of one of the cardigans originally.

Katherine April 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Here’s another link to one of my re-purposing projects. It’s the first quilt I ever made and I used my sons’ flannel receiving blankets to make it.

Katherine April 4, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Okay, my girlfriend really wanted me to enter this re-purposing project. I know others in blogland have made these lounge pants using sheets, but I also made some using pillowcases.

emily April 4, 2008 at 7:41 pm

i can think of nothing. nothing. but i’ll be thinking about it. why can we never think of the things we need at the time that we need them? does that have to do with age? or with motherhood? ack.

and meg’s comment cracked me up.

Em April 4, 2008 at 9:39 pm

OK, I’ll enter! I learned about your site via Meg at Montessori by hand….

Check out my repurposed fencing and chair-back in my garden… the link is below…

The fencing (used to be 6 ft high stockade style) was left in our back woods (by the previous owner) to rot I guess, and I had the chair out in the garden for about 6 years, but since the rest of it recently gave out, I thought I could use the back for some snap peas to grow up like a little trellis!

val April 5, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Let me think. I like to repurpose stuff. I

made a skirt into 3 aprons here:

ooooh….this is fun………thanks for the party!

Joanie April 6, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Love this and love the sound of that book. I’m new to your blog, great stuff. My favourite story of repurposing is from my sister-in-law who says her mother (my mother-in-law) stitched up her older brother’s (my husband’s) Y-front underwear to hand them down to her when they were little – yikes!

My favourite repurpose projects are from regular old rubbish. Here are a few favourites in our house:

Christie April 9, 2008 at 11:16 am

The movie is a tear jerker, but so rich and satisfying to the soul. I saw the role of my mom in our own family in this movie–it made me appreciate her strength so much. Thanks for blogging your appreciation…even for those women like my mom, who are not in blogland.

Megan April 10, 2008 at 9:26 am

I’m so glad you had this to get my wheels turning and my hands working. It made me realize that it’s been a long time since I made anything from something else and I was ready for the challenge. I love the outcome. Check out my baby booties made from an old sweater at:

Barbara April 12, 2008 at 6:34 pm

what a fun idea! this is my entry:

Barbara April 12, 2008 at 6:35 pm

hehe I just looked at Megan’s idea, and I see we are both on to something!

mommymae April 13, 2008 at 3:59 pm

when my socks wear out and get holes in them, i cut the top off and i’m making a really long sock-scarf. i wear quite a variety of socks, so it is a rainbow of colors and various patterns (mostly stripes.) i’ll take a photo and send it on when it’s done…soonish. sock season is almost over, so i plan to finish it and be done. of course, this means i won’t be able to wear the scarf until next year.

Pam April 14, 2008 at 10:44 am

My repurpose is to use discontinued upholstery sample peices that I get from furniture stores to make purses and pillows. Check out my blog for . I have also refinished and repainted most of the furniture in my house, and have used concrete laundry sinks as planters. Love the contest!!! Can’t wait for the final choice. Thanks for the great blog!

Erika @ peace of my mind April 22, 2008 at 11:11 am

I love “The Prizewinner…” and actually live nearby Defiance, so it’s fun that you mentioned the book. The movie is good too, but a little too ideal, perhaps.

Anyway, here is a link to one of my repurposes.

Great contest idea.
I enjoy your blog!

Erika @ peace of my mind April 22, 2008 at 11:51 am

Here is one more entry just for fun.

darci April 24, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I cried reading the sample chapter. I shall be going to the library to see if I can find this book. Once I think of something I’ve reused and made beautiful I will post about it.

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