Armed and dangerous

Early days in Brownies, then Scouts, left me with a problem. I have a problem throwing things out.

We were always directed to bring some piece of what you might consider garbage, but what to our troop leaders was raw material, to the next meeting. None of the troop leaders I had, had much interest in ritual and ceremony. We made stuff, we did stuff. We had cookouts and sleepouts in the woods, on the beach. But most importantly, we made stuff.

As to what we made from the stuff we brought in to make other stuff - well, we were always bringing in the empty cardboard cylinders from the middle of the toilet paper rolls, and while I remember that the projects were much admired, I can't for the life of me remember what we made from them. Deranged animals, probably.

We made fans from tongue depressors and shirt cardboards. Of course few mothers have tongue depressors lying around, so the instructions were given in October: "The next time you're at the doctor, ask for a few..." The loot from perplexed doctors was saved up until spring, to make fans for use in summer. We made anything floral from different colors of tissue paper, and also from the toilet paper that wouldn't go back on the roller without its liberated cardboard cylinder. We went wild making holiday decorations. No pipe cleaner or popsicle stick was safe. Wreaths were made from cut-up Christmas cards, trimmed with costume jewelry fragments, little bows, scraps of wrapping paper, broken ornaments.

We made practical stuff as well as beauty-ful decorative objects. We made baking rings from tuna cans. Tuna cans that escaped being made into cooking forms were filled with carefully melted candle ends, into which a rolled up strip of shirt cardboard was inserted. This was an emergency source of heat and light. We also converted very large juice cans into stove tops with can opener and tin snips, to be used with the burner for cooking on our cookouts.

The greatest source of projects, though, was pantyhose (now known as tights), unwearable due to holes, tears, or runs but suddenly, dementedly, useful again. The hose were washed and dried before being brought in, of course. They were cut into rings to stuff things. What parent would not rejoice at being given a net citrus bag filled with pantyhose rings, to use as emergency filler when a cushion needs a little help? Or as a waterproof outdoor back cushion...I also remember filling the feet with pine needles, and topping the little package with a festive tie made from a shoelace, this to be hung in closets to prevent moths. If only one foot of a pair of hose was damaged, the undamaged leg would be cut off at about knee height, to become an emergency coffee filter or wine strainer - you know, for when the cork breaks. Yes, even as 9-year-olds we wanted to Be Prepared for wine cork emergencies. My mom accepted these little offerings with good grace, although she later admitted that she found the idea of making coffee through the foot of a stocking somewhat, er, unsavory. I'm sure the moths had a good laugh, too.

Some of the lessons must have stayed with me on some level, because although I don't make bungee cords out of hole-y tights, or floral arrangements from the components of a toilet paper roll, I still save corks. And a few years ago, a mad impulse prompted me to buy a glue gun.

This is something that works, people! I made an improbable teetering heap of wine corks to decorate the bar of a friend who was giving a party. She was kind enough to be thrilled. I glued a bunch of corks together in an orderly fashion, to make a trivet. And another trivet. And -- well, my early trivets are kind of random, but the more recent ones actually have textural patterns.

Now the thing about the glue gun is that once it's heated up and raring to go, you don't want to glue just one little break and put the gun away. I stalk the rooms, desperately seeking something else to glue. Himself has been heard to mutter words like "menace," or "when's dinner?" but I can't risk missing the chance that something, somewhere, may need glue-gunning.

I also find myself, once again, pulling on tights, despite the knowledge that they'll pop a hole or snag, because thanks to certain manufacturers, I'll continue to restock my supply of raw materials for coffee filters. Or wine filters. If you open several bottles in one night, someone's bound to have a cork problem. And if they don't, I'll snag the corks before I leave. You never know.


  1. I think one of the first posts I read on your blog was something crafty about how a J.Crew item was made using various materials. Can't remember exactly but Christmas tinsel comes to mind...

    I save my corks too but since most of them are from red wine they are stained. I use them as filler in large outdoor plant pots. It helps reduce the weight a bit and allows for good drainage, keeping the soil from becoming too compact. I'm not very crafty it would seem.

  2. Excellent! You were a very good Brownie!
    I was not and part of the problem: I don't like making stuff, even as a child. I am not crafty at all. I wish I was more so, then I wouldn't mind doing little fiddly jobs like sewing buttons on etc.
    I have an image of you prowling around with your glue gun!
    xoxo that's is a good gardening tip!

  3. I remember having to make stuff in elementary school, my Mom kept it for years but then I convinced her to turf it. I never really liked making things out of crap!

    My sister-in-law used to save wine corks to make Christmas decorations (horses). Actually I still have mine, it's still intact!

    Funny post!

  4. Southern Belle Ph.D.January 28, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I just have to say you are such an interesting person! I never know, when I arrive at your blog, what I will find. Thank you for the smile I have and the memories!!

  5. Hi xoxo! Plant pot filler - genius!

    I think the post you mean might be a comment on JCA in response to some overpriced unwearable and generally dubious JC holiday items - wll try to add a kink to my Domestic Goddess page

  6. Hi, Dani, I too can't bear mending, especially when the item should never have needed mending in the first place. I do think there's something delightfully deranged about the glue gun though.

  7. Hi, Southern Belle, glad you enjoyed!


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