Recycling/DIY

5 Upcycled Thanksgiving Decorations

This year, as you brainstorm Thanksgiving decoration ideas, consider how you can use items you already have and give them a second life. This is known as upcycling, and it's when you take something that was destined for the garbage or recycling bin and instead turn it into an item that is even more beautiful and useful than the original one. Many of these upcycled Thanksgiving decorations are so pretty that you'll want to pack them away in your self-storage unit when the holiday is over so you can reuse them next year.

1. Coffee Can Vases
Upcycled-Thanksgiving-Decorations-vase
Photo: The Shady Porch
Create simple DIY Thanksgiving decorations out of empty coffee cans that you repurpose into beautiful vases. This time of year, there are lots of fallen branches and twigs outside that make the perfect decoration to cover the outside of the coffee can and turn it into something beautiful. Cut straight lengths of branches or twigs to between 1/4 inch and 1 inch taller than the coffee can until you have enough to completely surround the can. Then use a hot glue gun to secure the branches or twigs in place. Give the vase a more finished look by tying a strip of burlap or ribbon around it. If you would prefer to not use flowers in your Thanksgiving decorations, these coffee cans also make great candleholders because the metal interior reflects the flickering light so well.

2. Recycled Book Pumpkins
Upcycled-Thanksgiving-Decorations-book-pumpkins
Photo: Crafting Mom
While it's always a good idea to donate books to schools or other organizations that can use them, it's not unusual to have books that are really beyond use, or are unlikely to be of interest to anybody. In this situation, rather than tossing them into the recycling bin, make them into pumpkins! Rip off the cover, flip to the middle of the book, and use a craft knife to cut the pages into the cross-section of a pumpkin. Don't make any cuts on the bottom of the pages so the bottom remains flat and your pumpkins will stand up. Use your first pages as a stencil as you cut all the pages of the book into the pumpkin shape. When you are done, just dip the edges of the pages in diluted orange paint, let them dry, and glue the front and back pages together to hold the pumpkin in a round shape. You can decorate the tops of these DIY Thanksgiving decorations with felt leaves and a small twig for the stem.

3. Paper Bag Fall Wreath
Upcycled-Thanksgiving-Decorations-fall-wreath
Photo: Crafting Mom
One of the easiest Thanksgiving crafts you can make is a fall wreath out of paper grocery bags. This project is so simple that even preschool-age kids should be able to help with it. Start by making a leaf-shaped stencil and cutting several dozen leaves out of your brown paper bags. Older kids can help with this step. Then paint some leaves red, orange, or yellow, while leaving others brown. Put together your wreath by attaching the leaves to a base of some sort. While a foam wreath base is ideal, alternate ideas include bending a wire coat hanger into a circle or cutting a donut shape out of a cardboard box.

4. Burlap Roses in Beer Bottles
Upcycled-Thanksgiving-Decorations-bottle-vases
Photo: Amy Allender
While they might not sound especially charming, these rustic decorations actually look wonderful as part of your Thanksgiving decor. Start by creating your vases by painting (or spray painting) clean beer bottles with white paint. If you want larger vases or don't drink much beer, wine bottles will work as well. Then create roses by folding a strip of burlap, about 3 inches wide by 2 feet long, in half lengthwise and coiling it into a rose shape. The key here is to coil tightly in the center and allow the coils to become looser and more freeform near the outside edges. Finish the roses by hot gluing a circle of felt to the bottom, pushing a wire stem into the center of the base, and securing it with hot glue.

5. Gilded Tree
Upcycled-Thanksgiving-Decorations-tree
Photo: HGTV
Your yard is likely to be full of small fallen branches this fall, so rather than bagging them for yard waste pickup, gather them and turn them into a simple Thanksgiving centerpiece. Start with up to a dozen thin branches, ideally less than a quarter inch in diameter and between 18 and 30 inches long. Pull off any remaining leaves and then spray paint the branches with metallic or glitter paint. Then trace a leaf stencil onto several colors or patterns of scrapbook paper and cut out at least 20 leaves. If you have kids, you can even recruit them to help with this part of the Thanksgiving craft. Arrange the branches in a vase or tall crock and hot glue the leaves on to create a miniature fall tree for your table. Alternately, punch a hole at the base of each leaf and tie a small loop of string in it. Then you let guests write things they are thankful for on the leaves and hang them on the tree themselves.

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