Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls – Gluten Free!

Today, for the first time, I’m posting a recipe to my blog! It’s one that’s near and dear to my heart. I grew up watching my grandmother make chicken soup every week but sadly I didn’t attempt to make it myself until after she was gone. What I wouldn’t give now to ask her a few questions about all her ‘recipes’! The fact is though, my grandmother never wrote down a recipe; she cooked by intuition; a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Matzo balls are delicious dumplings my grandmother always made to embellish her chicken soup but before we get to the matzo ball recipe, we’re going to need some chicken stock! Just thinking about her soup brings back the best childhood memories 🙂 No one makes better chicken soup than my grandmother did, but I think this recipe will come pretty close!

Chicken soup isn’t just a winter favourite; we enjoy it year round by freezing big batches. Nothing could be better than a steaming bowl of soup with matzo balls; chicken soup for the soul, as they say!

Step 1: You Will Need (for Chicken Broth)

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  • Large stock pot
  • Three packages of chicken bones (totalling about 3+ pounds)
  • 1 breast or leg with skin (about a pound)
  • Two small onions, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
  • 3 sprigs rosemary or two cubes of frozen from the garden (optional)
  • 2 celery stocks, cut in pieces
  • 3 carrots, cut in pieces
  • 1 small turnip, peeled and cut in half (or a piece of a large one)
  • Small parsnip, cut in pieces
  • 1 large bay leaf (or 2 small ones)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper – or you can use whole black peppercorns (easily removed when strained). If you use ground black pepper, just be aware that it will leave black specs in the soup.
  • Bowl of cold water with large spoon
  • Approximately 18 – 20 cups of water (enough to cover all the ingredients in the pot)

Start cooking early in the morning; the soup takes 4 – 6 hours to develop flavour.

We use 3 packages of chicken bones (ours weighed almost 3.4 pounds) and one breast or leg (another pound) for our soup.

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Because a package of chicken comes with at least two pieces, we froze the other leg for our next batch.

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Buy organic vegetables where possible. I like to prep the veggies first before handling the chicken to avoid cross contamination (and also to have them ready to go).

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At our grocery store, both bones and chicken often go on sale the day before their best before date; when that happens we buy as much as we can and store it in the freezer until we’re ready to use it. Using chicken bones is an economical way to make the broth. The chicken and bones for our soup cost us just over $4 – which works out to less than .25 a bowl and worth every penny! The bones retain a lot of the actual meat and you’ll find the outcome is just as flavourful as spending a ton of money on chicken pieces!

You’re just a few steps away from rich golden broth!

Step 2: Grandmother Knows Best

Cut all the veggies and gather your seasonings.

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Place the bones in the pot.

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My grandmother always removed the skin from the breast or leg first but still added it to the pot. I think she did that to make it easier to remove and cut up the chicken after the first two hours of cooking.

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ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY after handling chicken and wash anything that came into contact with it too (i.e. counter, faucet handle) to avoid contamination.

Pour cold water into the pot until it’s just covering everything (I usually use about 18 – 20 cups for the size of the pot and ingredients I’m using). Note that at any time during the cooking, if the liquid evaporates too much you can add a cup or two of water back in, which my grandmother often did (but don’t overdo it or you’ll dilute the flavour!)

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Bring the water to a boil over high heat and move onto the next step to skim the soup.

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Step 3: Skim the Scum

Turn the heat down to a rolling simmer and then skim off the solids and foam that floats on the surface using a spoon dipped in water.

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Keep a bowl of water on the side to transfer all the particulates to. It takes about 20 minutes or so of skimming before the soup is clear and the rest of the ingredients can be added.

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If you don’t remove the scum, it will not affect the flavour in the least however, it does affect the look of the broth. As you can see below, on the left is a beautiful clear broth while on the right the stock is cloudy. Which would you prefer to eat? I’d rather take the extra time to end up with a professional looking broth!

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The next picture shows all the stuff that was skimmed from the soup. Don’t be tempted to dump it down the drain; it can clog your plumbing. You can pour this through a coffee filter to catch the particulates and dispose of the solids in your green bin – then you can put the filtered water down the sink.

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Step 4: Add Other Ingredients

Once the liquid is clear, the aromatics go into the pot along with the seasonings. Adjust the water if necessary so everything is still covered.

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Cover the pot with a lid, but leave it slightly open.

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There’s nothing better than the aroma of chicken soup bubbling away on the stove! Make sure at this point that the bubbles are just barely breaking at the surface; turn the heat down further if necessary and check the soup every once in a while to make sure it’s not cooking too rapidly or over-evaporating.

After two hours, take out the chicken breast, or leg, and remove the meat from the bones. Put the bones back into the soup. Once the chicken has cooled, you can cut it into pieces or shred it to put back into the soup the next day (or use in a salad). You can store the meat in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.

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Simmer the soup for a total of 4 – 6 hours; I find that the longer and slower it cooks, the more collagen-rich the broth gets. As I mentioned before, if you notice the liquid over-reducing during that time you can add a few cups of water back in.

Step 5: Stain the Soup

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When the soup is done cooking, get a clean pot and set it on a cork pad (because the bottom will heat up quickly once the liquid is strained into it).

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Strain the liquid through a fine meshed strainer into the empty pot. Allow the broth and solids to cool down to room temperature and then discard the solids in the green bin. We sometimes put the pot into an ice bath in the sink to cool the liquid faster if we’re short on time.

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There’s usually some decent chicken meat still left on the bones which I eat it as a snack (the chef should always get a snack for his/her effort!)

Once the broth has cooled down, cover it. Sometimes the bottom of the pan is still warm, so I set the pan onto a cork pad on the fridge shelf.

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Leave it in the fridge overnight so the fat solidifies on the surface.

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Step 6: Skim the Fat – Watch the Video

Watch this quick video of skimming the fat from the soup after it’s been refrigerated overnight and heating up a bowl with matzo balls and other goodies (subscribe to my YouTube channel while you’re at it)!

When reheating the chicken soup, it’s nice to add back in some fresh vegetables (such as sliced carrots, celery or even frozen peas near the end) – and cooked chicken – as you’ll see in the video! Keep the lid covered until the raw veggies are tender, and the is meat heated through, or your delicious broth may evaporate into thin air before it’s ready to eat!

Step 7: Skim the Fat to Prepare to Make the Matzo Balls

The next morning, take the soup out of the fridge and remove the solidified chicken fat from the top. You need to reserve this fat to make the Matzo balls.

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We divide the fat up into small containers with 1/4 cup in each one. We often freeze one batch of fat (called ‘schmaltz’) so we can we make fresh matzo balls at a later date when we want them.

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Alternatively, you can use all the fat to make a few batches and cook the matzo balls all at once. They can then be frozen in Ziploc bags. We use the medium ziplocks and freeze about 4 – 6 at a time – as you’ll see when you get to the matzo ball recipe.

We also divvy up the chicken stock and freeze most of it for later using Ziploc screw top containers. It’s the perfect amount for the two of us for one or two meals. A note about freezing the broth: don’t be tempted to add in cooked chicken pieces or veggies or even matzo balls; it can all tend to go mushy and cloud the broth if you freeze it together with the soup.

Below you can see the towering results; well worth the effort for liquid gold!

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Step 8: Gluten Free Matzo Balls – What You Will Need

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Until gluten free matzo was available, I was unable to make decent matzo balls for the soup; thank goodness it’s available now!

The secret to a delicious matzo ball is using the chicken fat; you could substitute plain ‘ol oil, but why would you want to?

You will need:

  • ¾ cup matzo meal (grind Manischewitz GF Matzo-Style Squares in food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon salt (for the water)
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) chicken fat (called schmaltz) or oil if you don’t have fat
  • (1/4 cup ground almonds + a tablespoon broth to moisten – optional)

This recipe will make a fairly firm matzo ball with some bite. My grandmother always included the ground almonds, which I love, but when I’m going to be serving them to guests I leave that extra ingredient out (due to potential nut allergies).

Step 9: Preparing GF Matzo Balls

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Mix eggs with the ‘schmaltz’, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into the dry mixture and gently mix with a fork. Don’t over mix or they may be tough.

Cover the mixture and place it in the fridge for ½ – 1 hour. Don’t skip this step as the liquid needs to get absorbed to achieve the proper consistency before cooking.

Step 10: Cooking the Matzo Balls

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil on the stove.

After the matzo ball mix has chilled, lightly roll teaspoon fulls into 1″ balls. You may need to keep your hands damp to prevent the mixture from sticking.

I roll and lay them out on waxed paper all at once, but you could also drop them directly into the water if you roll fast. Gently separate them in the water if necessary to prevent sticking.

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When all the balls are in the water and they float to the top, lower the temperature to low. Cover tightly and simmer for 25 minutes at a rolling simmer. DO NOT STIR. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and transfer the matzo balls with a slotted spoon to already heated broth. Simmer 15 minutes more in the soup.

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Step 11: They Freeze Well Too!

When I freeze the matzo balls, I never leave them in the broth. I put them on a tray and pop them into the freezer for an hour. Then I pile them into portioned out ziplock bags (I used the medium size) – about 4 to 6 to a bag so my husband and I can share them when we heat up the soup.

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Don’t forget to add the date for both the matzo balls and broth! Using painters tape and a marker, you can make removable lables so you can re-use the containers again and again.

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Step 12: Reheating From Frozen

Thaw both the matzo balls along with the frozen soup in the fridge. Reheat the chicken broth first on medium heat and keep covered so the chicken soup doesn’t evaporate. I’ve forgotten to cover it on occasion and it can disappear fast into thin air!

After the broth is hot, add the matzo balls and cook it together for another 15 minutes (keep the pot covered) and serve.

If you’re adding carrots, put them in right away as they take longer to cook. Add the matzo balls after 10 minutes and let them cook in the soup for about 15 minutes more. Add cooked chicken during the last 10 minutes and thawed frozen peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Reheating From Frozen

Enjoy (and Subscribe)!

If you keep the freezer well ‘stocked’ (pun intended) you can enjoy chicken soup with matzo balls whenever you have a hankering for some good ‘ol comfort food.

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This is my very first recipe on Craft Rehab! Up until now, I’ve only written about sustainable crafts (and home and garden renos on Birdz of a Feather Home), but maybe I’ll have to expand to include gluten free recipes too now that I’ve gotten this first one under my belt.

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If you’d like to see more recipes, leave a comment and let me know; I’d appreciate the feedback!

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If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share – and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already! You can follow right here on Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (link below) for more great crafty projects and hacks.

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Tarnish Free Jewellery Cabinet Upcycle

Today, I’m sharing an updated post that I originally wrote about on Birdz of Feather Home. It’s the most dramatic furniture transformation we’ve done and since we’re all about upcycling garbage finds, I had to bring it over to craft rehab readers too!

If we find something in the garbage that inspires us (or even just challenges our common sense to leave it there), we don’t hesitate to try to find another use for it. The worst that can happen is that the project is an epic fail that ends up back in the garage again…. luckily that’s never happened!

When hubs found this old tool cabinet in the garbage, it was so beat up I thought it may be beyond repair. He thought it might be a good little cabinet to keep my craft stash in, but I had a better idea for it since he assured me there wasn’t anything about it that he couldn’t beautify!


I needed somewhere to store my silver jewellery and wanted to try out an idea I had to keep it from tarnishing before I had a chance to wear it (more about that solution later). This cabinet provided the perfect home for my jewellery – and purses, once we added a shelf. With a lot work, we were able to breathe new life into it and upcycle it for a new (and prettier) purpose. One less thing for the landfill!

In the Beginning…

Here’s how the cabinet looked before – on both the inside and outside. It took quite a bit of body filler, sanding, some primer and a few coats of paint to transform it – which all goes to prove that you CAN turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse afterall.



You Will Need…

  • 3 long handles (two for the drawers and one for the side to act as a grab bar)
  • Hinges sized to the same as the old ones (if still in good working order they don’t need to be replaced)
  • Locking mechanism and catch (if still in good working order they don’t need to be replaced if you can order a new key)
  • Rolling casters (2)
  • Metal legs (2, we got ours at Ikea)
  • Sand paper – various grits (we used a range from 180 to 120)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paint sprayer if available (or brush and roller)
  • Body filler such as Bondo or wood filler
  • Sheet metal or metal mesh (make sure it’s magnetic)
  • Screws
  • Earth magnets
  • Small and large plastic zip bags

For the Shelf:

  • Melamine board
  • Iron-on edge tape
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Painters tape
  • Rubber roller
  • File
  • Shelf pins (4)

To Start

Start by removing all the drawers, doors and hardware. We removed the wooden knobs, hinges and also the locking mechanism. Give everything a good sand on all surfaces – both inside and out.

Hubs used auto body filler to smooth out all the deep dings and fill them in, but wood filler would probably work too. Use according to directions, then sand the filler absolutely flat and add a coat of primer to all pieces, inside and out. We used an off-white paint we had on hand as a top coat and applied it with a sprayer for a professional finish; hubs did two coats. If you don’t have a sprayer, a brush to get into the corners and a foam roller works well to achieve a smooth finish.


Working a Little Magic With a Lot of Elbow Grease

After the piece was puttied, sanded and painted, we replaced most of the hardware: long metal handles instead of the wood knobs, hinges and also the door locking mechanism so we had a key. The picture below shows a closer look at the detail of the updated handles, legs and and caster wheels added to the drawers.


It’s handy to have a cabinet that can be locked when storing jewellery. When we occasionally have strangers in the house, it’s a bit of added peace of mind to secure the doors to protect items that aren’t necessarily worth a lot but have great sentimental value!

To get the cabinet open, you have to use the key to release the right side of the door. The left side can then be opened by reaching in and squeezing the catch to release it (the last picture shows the door locking mechanism and its components).

We turned the cabinet into a rolling cart of sorts by mounting wheels onto the right side for mobility while legs on the left side help keep it stationary when it’s in place. We also added another handle on the opposite side to act as a grab bar so it could be lifted and re-positioned. The trick to keeping the cart level is in making sure that the legs and wheels are exactly the same height. I like the looked of combining them, but if you can’t find legs and casters that are the same height, you could use four casters or legs instead.

Before and After Transformation of the Exterior

Here’s the before and after transformation of the outside of the cabinet, but there is more to be done on the inside!


Inside Transformation – How to Store Jewellery and Keep It Tarnish Free!

The inside of the two doors is where the transformation really gets smart. Hubs cut metal panels to fit the inside dimension of the doors; make sure there’s room all around so it still closes easily! He spray painted the metal panels with a durable car paint and then installed them with screws to the insides of each door.

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We then added a bunch of high quality earth magnets.

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I used resealable plastic pouches in two sizes to organize my jewellery. Large pieces such as necklaces go into the larger plastic bags and then small pieces, such as earrings, in the smaller ones. If I have a matching set, I just double up by inserting the small bag of earrings into the bag holding the larger item to keep them all together!

For silver jewellery, this resealable bag system is ideal. Who wants to spend time polishing? Not me. If you squeeze the air out of the bag before it’s closed, your silver pieces will stay tarnish free – just be sure to close the bag tight and they will always look great!

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While the beauty of this system is that my jewellery no longer tarnished between wearings, I can also easily see what I have when I open up the doors. The magnets make it a cinch to keep it all organized.

Add a Shelf for More Storage Space

Adding a shelf makes the transformation even more useful; who doesn’t want more storage space? Making your own melamine shelf is easy.

Start by measuring and marking the inside of the cabinet where you want the shelf on each side; green tape helps to make your marks and can be removed when done.

Jewellery Cabinet 014_bof.jpgHubs prefers to drill the holes in two stages, starting with a pilot and then finishing the hole with a larger sized bit. Before drilling the four pilot holes, add some green tape to the drill bit to mark the depth to ensure you don’t drill too deep (determine the depth of the hole by holding the drill bit against the shelf support pin).

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Switch to a wider bit (to match the circumference of the shelf support pin). Apply some green tape to the new bit to mark the depth to drill (as you did with the pilot hole).

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Test it out first by drilling a left over piece of scrap board to make sure the shelf supports are going to fit properly into the hole.

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Proceed to make your final holes in the cabinet and insert a shelf support into each one.

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Apply Edging to Shelf

Mark the melamine board to the depth you want (ours was 10 3/8″) and length. Deduct 1/8″ from the length measurement for clearance on the sides and cut out the shelf. We used a circular saw with a straight edge clamped to the board to get a straight cut. At this point, you’ll have raw press board on the outside edges and will need to apply some iron-on tape to give it a finished look. We only taped the front edge, but you could also do the sides if you choose. Since you don’t see the back, it isn’t necessary to edge it with the tape.

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Heat up an iron to a high setting.

To apply the edging, clamp the shelf into a workbench (if you don’t have one, find a ‘partner in grime’ who will offer up a second set of hands to hold it as you work). Cut a piece of iron-on edge tape slightly longer than the length of the shelf (you’ll file all the excess off later).

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Test it for fit, then place the tape glue side down over the edge; centre it so that it overlaps slightly along all edges. Apply the iron to the tape and keep it moving to melt the glue. Make sure you get all the edges and don’t stay too long in any one area or you’ll run the risk of burning or melting it!

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When ironing is complete, apply pressure along the length with a roller to ensure good adherence.

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Let it cool completely before moving onto the next step. The picture below shows how it will look before the extra material is filed away. There are power tools you could use to trim away the extra material, but hubs went ‘old school’.

File the Edge

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Take a fine file or rasp and run it at an angle in a downward/forward motion along the edge of the tape.Continue filing off the extra material along all edges until the tape is totally flush with the shelf. Be cautious when filing at the ends; ours wasn’t quite glued down and we had to iron it again to reactivate the glue before proceeding.If it’s not glued down properly you could accidentally rip a chunk off and expose the fibreboard underneath, which would be difficult to disguise. Take the shelf out of the clamp and then you’re ready to install!

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Install the Shelf

Rest the left side of the shelf onto the shelf supports with the other end angled upward. Then slide the right side over the supports until it drops into place. If the shelf is too tight to lower into place, you forgot to leave the 1/8″ clearance – that’s what gives it enough play to install it. You’ll have to shave a bit off and try again.

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Before and After Transformation of the Inside and Final Reveal

As you can see, the shelf now provides more storage space for anything you like. I initially added some linens and magazines, but then realized it was perfect for my purses and a few shoes stored in boxes!

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The before and after transformation is quite dramatic when you consider the piece was found in the garbage and looked like it should have stayed there!

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If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share! Follow right here on Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (link below) for more great crafty projects and hacks.

Here are a few of the things you may have missed if you haven’t yet subscribed:

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  6. Main Page to explore more….

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Yeah Baby! Turn a Headshot Photo Into a Cardboard Portrait

At Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab, I’m all about crafting sustainably. I’ve been playing around with ideas on how to utilize pictures and decided to try a portrait cut into cardboard. What could be more sustainable than upcycling a piece of cardboard from a box? It’s easy on the pocketbook too because the cardboard is free!

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I found this picture of Austin Powers on the internet and sized it to print 8 1/2″ x 11″. However, you could utilize the same technique and use your own photograph by converting a colour picture to black and white using the threshold settings in photoshop (see ‘Working with Your Own Headshot Photo” further ahead).

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The corrugation adds to the contrast, so decide whether you want the lines running vertically or horizontally (I chose vertical for mine).

I first changed the grey in the internet picture to white in photoshop because I wanted a two-tone effect.

Watch the groovy video (and subscribe while you’re at it!) then continue reading to get your craft mojo on!

What you Will Need

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Painters tape
  • Printer
  • X-acto knife
  • Sculpting tools (as shown below)
  • Pencil
  • Curved scissors

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Print Black and White Image

Print your picture. I mirror-imaged it first because I initially thought I could flip it upside down on the cardboard and use a pencil to trace the image onto the background. I thought the printer ink would show up if I pressed hard enough but unfortunately that didn’t work out.

I thought of using carbon paper, but couldn’t find it. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t because it would inevitably show up on the finished piece if I didn’t cut accurately. I even tried rubbing pencil on the back and then tracing, but the pencil just smudged everywhere!

Instead, I cut out some of the white areas with a curved pair of scissors, then taped the image to the cardboard with painters tape. I cut right around and through the paper with an X-acto knife. Even though I ended up using the mirror image of the original picture, I wasn’t too fussed about it.

When you place your image on the cardboard, don’t forget to position it so it lines up either horizontally or vertically with the corrugated lines. When done, remove the paper. The image below shows the faint image you’ll get after cutting. It doesn’t look like much now, but it will!

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Go Over Again

Ensure that all your cuts have pierced through the top layer. Go over any areas that didn’t get cut through with the X-acto knife, paying particular attention to the corners and small details so you won’t have any problems lifting the top layer.

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Remove Top Layer of Cardboard

Start with large areas first and then do the details. Insert the sculpting tool underneath an edge and use it to help lift the top layer of cardboard, exposing the corrugation beneath.

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When trying to lift around areas you want to keep, bridge across the area with the sculpting tool, as shown, and slide it along to prevent breakout.

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My sculpting tool had a double end (flat and offset). The offset end shown below comes in handy for running along the corrugated lines to remove the glue and help lift the top layer.

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Take Your Time

Go slow and work on each area at a time; you may need to use the X-acto knife on occasion too so keep it handy.

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Add Text if Desired

A picture of Austin Powers wouldn’t be complete without a catch phrase! I printed out the text on white paper, cut the letters out and arranged them.

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I use a pencil to lightly trace around each letter and then cut them with the X-acto knife. I used a ruler to help with the straight lines, then free-handed the rest.

Consider the font style when making your selection; a non-serif font such as Arial would probably be more legible, but I wanted to experiment.

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Yeah Baby, You’re Done!

Clean up any stray bits of cardboard and you’re done!

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Now onto using your own photograph!

Working with Your Own Headshot Photo

This would be a fun project to do if you have photos of members of the family that you want to use instead of pulling something off the internet. It’s just like making a stencil!

You’ll need a high res photo and graphic software program, such as Photoshop. Note that I’m using Photoshop CS5.5; the whereabouts of each feature in your version may be slightly different.

If your picture is not a headshot, just crop it close and make it into one.

Because I couldn’t find a high res shot of Austin, I’m going to demonstrate how to do this with a picture of Kiera Knightly. Here’s the step-by-step:.

Step 1. Open your colour picture in Photoshop. Use the lasso tool (or any other tool you’re comfortable with) to outline the headshot.

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Step 2. Go up to the toolbar and click Select / Inverse.

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Step 3. Delete the Background.

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Step 4. Copy the layer (Ctrl J on a PC or Command J on a Mac). I like to keep the original as-is just so I can always refer back to it if I have to.

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Step 5. Click on Image / Adjustments / Threshold in the toolbar.

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Step 6. Adjust threshold so you have a good balance of detail. Mine ended up being 103, but yours might differ.

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Step 7. On the toolbar, click Filter / Filter Gallery / Cutout.

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Step 8. Soften the lines in Cutout by sliding the bars for Number of Levels, Edge Simplicity and Edge Fidelity. I used 2, 0 and 1 for my settings but yours may differ.

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Step 9. Finished ‘stencil’ is ready to print.

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Next up on Craft Rehab, I’ll be showing you how to do a Pop Art Portrait and turn it into a one-of-a-kind serving tray, so subscribe if you don’t want to miss it!

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Here are a few of the things you may have missed if you haven’t yet subscribed:

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  1. Soda Bottle Vertical Garden
  2. Paint Can Water Feature
  3. Paint Stick Pallet
  4. Blue Jean Planter
  5. Paint Chip Portrait
  6. Main Page to explore more….

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share! Follow right here on Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (link below) for more great crafty projects and hacks.

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Front Porch Privacy Screen

Today I’m bringing back a popular post from my original Birdz of a Feather Home site, but showing you more detail of the process.

When our neighbours decided to store their garbage bins at the side of their house we had more than just a curb appeal problem. Every time we came and went out the front door we were met with an unappealing view of their trash.


Even after we installed a new walkway, screen door, painted the front door red, and added flower pots, although it was a big improvement, it still wasn’t enough.


Here’s what the view looked like from our front door – yuck.


Our solution was to build a custom privacy screen. Privacy screens are a fun weekend build and a great way to use up scrap wood. Hubs ripped wider pieces of cedar left over from a fence project for me to work with.

I set up a cutting station on the driveway to cut the pieces to length with our mitre saw.


I came up with a quick sketch of what I had in mind so I could lay it out and visualize it. I set up sawhorses and then laid out my pattern according to my plan, starting with the side pieces, then filling in the cross pieces and lastly the lattice. I built the lattice section in the centre piece-by-piece, but you could also add pre-made lattice and save yourself some work.


Once I had my design finalized and figured out, I moved it all over to the garage floor because it was easier to glue and pin-nail on the ground (below I’m working on a different screen).


Once everything was complete, here’s how the privacy screen for the front porch turned out (with hubs doing his best Vanna White impression).



Hubs then built a planter box so we could train vines up the lattice and further hide the unsightly view.


We used L-brackets screwed into the brick to support the screen on the top and bottom. and the planter box just sits right in front of it on the porch itself.


The vines start out sparse but by summer we have a lush wall of green 🙂

For more ideas on how to add privacy screens around your property, see this post.


Another great idea to camouflage the view by the front door, if you have the same situation as us, would be to plant an entire vertical garden using soda bottles and aircraft cable. I did the one shown below indoors for my kitchen, but it would look fantastic as a privacy screen outdoors too! You could stagger 3 or more columns side-by-side for better privacy. For the full tutorial on how to do it, click here.

Soda Bottle Vertical Garden_Birdz of a Feather

Here’s a quick video of just how easy a vertical garden is to make:

Just before we finished our front yard, hubs and I transformed our backyard too. It went from this sad bit of landscaping done by the previous owners:

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…to this lush oasis (thankfully by the time we were done, our neighbour in the back removed the gargantuan satellite dish!).

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For tips and tricks on how to plan a full-blown small backyard makeover, be sure to check out my post ‘How Does Your Garden Grow‘. It will break down the steps we took to achieve our dream garden – from planning the space to laying a patio to even installing a pond – and show you how you can do it too! You’ll find individual links to all our backyard projects!

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Soda Bottle Vertical Garden

Here in Canada, even though it’s Spring, it will be quite a while before our winter blahs turn to green pastures again. It’s a great time of year to introduce a cheap and cheerful hanging system to brighten up your indoor space with plants!

Using empty soda bottles for this project ties in perfectly to my philosophy of sustainable crafting – using what you have – to create a vertical garden. And the best part is that they are free! We’re not soda drinkers, but we found an entire box of empties in our neighbour’s blue bin on pick up day (nicely organized in a Pringles box!) and wisked them away to make our hanging garden.

Watch the video and subscribe to my YouTube Channel while you’re at it! Then follow along with the tutorial and get planting!

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Along with the soda bottles, you’ll also need:

  • 1/8″ galvanized aircraft cable wire,
  • cable ferrules to crimp the wire,
  • a wire cutter and cable swage tool,
  • metal washers (#6),
  • S-hooks (3/4″),
  • a cork back metal ruler,
  • piece of metal strapping,
  • marker,
  • loop turner (or other long, thin object)
  • masking tape,
  • wood burner with a pointy tip,
  • aquarium gravel,
  • waterproof clear caulking or epoxy putty,
  • soil, and;
  • plants of course!

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I used a combination of succulents and Himalaya mix potted plants from Ikea. At $3.99 each, they’re a real bargain and I was grateful to be able to find them at this time of year!

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I used 5 bottles for my hanging garden, but you could make as many as you like. When the weather gets better outdoors, they would make a great hanging screen on a massive scale too!

To start, remove the lable from the soda bottle. I used the lable to cut out a rectangular piece measuring 5 1/4″ x 3″. I folded the lable in half lengthwise and marked the centre of each side.

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I applied the lable back onto the bottle through the middle of where it was glued. I found that with the combination of the glue residue and static cling, my particular lable stuck really well.

Mark the four corners with the black marker and measure out no less than 5/16″ from the centre on each side and place two more dots on the bottle.

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Remove the lable. Apply two pieces of masking tape to a metal ruler and place on the bottle lining up two of the dots you marked with the black marker.  The metal ruler should be placed on the outside of the line you’re going to cut – it will give you a cleaner line when using the wood burner.

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I use a wood burner to cut through the plastic (you could also cut the plastic with an X-acto knife instead). Make sure you’re using the tool in a well ventilated area; doing this step outdoors is ideal. Also ensure sure you have a heat-proof surface to leave it on while you work –  and to be safe in case you forget to unplug it!  I leave mine on stand with a metal tray beneath it.

Heat up the wood burner with a pointy tip installed. Insert the tip starting at the spot you marked earlier and use the edge of the ruler to guide the wood burner along until you’ve reached the second dot at the opposite end. Do this as steadily and quickly as possible or you will distort the line if you leave it in a spot for too long and over-melt the plastic. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be cutting through the plastic with ease.

Remove the ruler then move it to the other side and cut through the bottle in the same manner.

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I used a scrap piece of metal strapping and bent it into a curve around the bottle. I used it in the same manner as the metal ruler to guide the wood burner and cut the plastic on the shorter end of the bottle. Once all 4 sides of the rectangle are cut, you can remove the inner piece of plastic, but don’t toss it (we’ll use it later).

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Take the tip of the wood burner a make a hole through the two dots you marked 5/16” out from the centre of the lable. Only hold the tip for a second or you’ll make the hole too large; it only needs to be big enough to pass the aircraft cable through.

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With the bottle facing right side up, insert the long loop turner through the hole straight down until it reaches the bottom of the bottle (you can even substitute a piece of spaghetti!).  Mark the spot with the marker and do the same for the other side. Turn the bottle upside down and burn a small hole through the two spots you marked.

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Now we’re ready to construct the hanging system. Measure out two 12″ pieces of aircraft cable for each bottle and cut with wire snips.

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Insert the wire through one end of the metal ferrule, bend it into a loop and insert the same end into the other side of the ferrule. My loops were about 1/2″ in length. Place the ferrule into the swage tool and squeeze it tight to seal it on both ends of the metal.


You’ll end up with wires that look like this:

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This video demonstrates how to hand swage (it’s not necessary to use the thimble in this project):

Thread a washer through the wire so it rests on the loop you just made. Insert the wire through the hole in the bottom of the bottle and through the top hole. Make a loop in the top of the wire using another ferrule as you did before and fasten it with the swage tool.

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Continue with the rest of the bottles until each one has two wires threaded through the holes with washers on the bottom to support the weight.

If using outdoors, be sure to add a few more drainage holes in the bottom. For indoor settings, I would suggest adding a drop of waterproof clear caulking  or epoxy putty to cover the bottom two holes (from the inside) so you don’t get water leaking through and dripping down the wires. The epoxy putty will be easier to work with because you can roll it into a tiny ball and squish it around the holes. If using caulk, to control it from oozing too much onto the wires, you can squeeze some out onto a plastic lid and use something like a coffee stirrer to apply it around the holes on the inside of the bottle. Make sure the wires are sitting tight against the bottom of the bottle (you could tape them as they dry if you have to) and let the caulk or epoxy dry according to the package directions before moving onto planting.

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Planting and Installation

Lay down some plastic on your table surface to catch the mess if doing this indoors! Gather up your plants and planting materials (soil, gravel, scoop).

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Be sure to purchase a soil suitable for your plants; here I’m using cactus soil for one of the succulents.

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Remember the plastic piece you saved from the middle of the bottle? I used it to confine the soil to the middle section of the bottle (so I could conserve on the amount of gravel I had to use), but you can choose not to use it if you prefer and fill the whole container out to the sides.  Cut the plastic in half along the width and insert it into the bottle so the concave part surrounds the wire (facing inward).

Put a layer of aquarium gravel in the bottom. This is optional, but it helps with drainage. (Note that if you’re doing this project for outdoors you can skip the gravel altogether and just add more holes in the bottom of each bottle for drainage).

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Add a layer of soil to give the roots something to grow into.

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Lift the plant out of its container and work loose most of the soil around the roots. Plant in the bottle and surround with more soil to secure. Don’t overfill the soil or it will wash over the edges when you water the plants.

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Continue planting the rest of the bottles until they’re all done. Now you’re ready to hang!

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I put all the finished bottles into a cardboard box and transferred them to the kitchen. I installed my hanging garden on the side of the sliding door that is non-working so we still have access to our backyard. To prepare, I hung two shower curtain rings over the curtain rod above my sliding glass doors. If you don’t have a curtain rod, you can substitute eye hooks and screw them into the wood trim the same width apart as the wire holding the bottle (approx. 5 3/4″). I created two new hanging wires (about 24″ long) and hung them from the curtain rings to start the garden at a suitable height. We used 3/4″ S-hooks as connectors.

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Then my husband hung each bottle, one at a time, connecting them as he went with the S-hooks in between until he reached the bottom.

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It’s hard to get a good picture with the backlight from the window, so I tried closing the binds, but I can attest that the hanging garden looks stunning in the kitchen! You could change the configuration and adapt this idea for any window; just add a few more columns and stagger the plants.

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I hope you enjoyed another sustainable crafting project; if you did, please pin and share!

Here’s a sneak peak of what’s coming up on Craft Rehab. I’ll be showing you how to turn a photo into a pop-art inspired serving tray, so subscribe if you don’t want to miss it!

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And don’t forget that as soon as I have 50 subscribers to my Youtube Channel, I’ll be showing you how I made this duct tape portrait too (click to watch it come together before your very eyes).

A few more of my recent projects are shown below; you can find a complete listing of crafts on my Homepage.

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Stained Glass ‘Pond’ – Add Curb Appeal to a Winding Staircase

I’ve always been attracted to the vibrant colour of glass. Stained glass is a hobby I learned about 15 years ago and I couldn’t wait to put my skills to work when I bought my current house!

In Canada, it’s winter for far too long and I wanted to find a way to enjoy my pond no matter what the season – so I made this one in glass and installed it in the corner of our winding staircase! Today, I’m showing you some of the details on how I did it so you can add some curb appeal to your winding staircase too!

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Before and After Transformation of the Stairs

The mosaic artwork was only a small part of the transformation of our staircase, as you may have seen in the previous post I wrote on Birdz of a Feather Home.. We started with blond wood and worn carpet, which were both stripped. Hubs then applied a darker stain on the wood and sealed it. The finishing touch was a new carpet runner. The pictures below show the before, during and after of the staircase makeover.C_Stair 1.jpg

New carpeting adds the final finishing touch:C_Stair 2.jpg

Step 1: Add Some ‘Curb Appeal’

Now for the curb appeal! That little piece of real estate in the corner of a winding staircase is the perfect spot to add a stained glass mosaic ‘pond’; it will add interest and colour to an otherwise boring spot. As you can see below, the corner is still quite bland.

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Here are the supplies you’ll need for this project:

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  • Brown paper
  • Pencil/marker (not pictured)
  • Plywood backer (if necessary); thickness will depend on the depth of your own staircase corner platform)
  • Carbon paper
  • Large format photocopies of your design (at least 2)
  • Scissors
  • Rubber cement (not pictured)
  • Glass cutter
  • Glass grinder
  • Cutter oil
  • Rubber coated gloves (to prevent glass cuts)
  • Grout
  • Rubber spatula
  • Tile sponge
  • Stained glass pattern shears (not pictured)
  • Bench brush (to keep work surface free of glass shards, not pictured)

Step 2: Make a Paper Template

I started by making a template of the corner platform by using brown paper, weighing it down and tracing the shape (my turtle ‘weight’ is foreshadowing what’s to come in the glass version!). You may have to tape a few pieces together to get the full size if you don’t have paper long enough.

It’s advisable to remove your quarter round first before you trace the pattern! If you can removed it without breaking, you can re-use it once the mosaic is installed. Otherwise, you will need to replace it to give your mosaic piece a finished look.


IMG_6264_bof.jpgIf you have carpeting on the platform to begin with, when you remove it you may find that you will need to fill it in with plywood, as was the case with my situation. If you don’t need to build it up, then make sure when you add glass on top of the base that it doesn’t extend above the trim: you don’t want to do this technique if it’s going to result in sharp edges that are higher than the trim!

I used the paper template to cut 1/4″ plywood as a backer to fit the corner and act as a base for the mosaic.

Step 3: Draw Your Design

Once you have your paper template, you can draw your design. Be sure to develop a colour code and mark the colours with a letter; also be sure to number each piece.

At this point, you can use carbon paper to trace your design onto the plywood backer (or directly onto the surface of the wood that’s already there if you don’t need to build it up). Tape the template down securely with painters tape so it doesn’t shift and be sure to transfer ALL lines and letters/numbers; you can peak under the paper as you go so you don’t miss anything. Once the paper is removed check that it’s complete and then set it aside again for later so you can add the cut mosaic pieces directly onto the backer. I also pre-drilled some holes into the plywood where I planned some circles in the design so I could screw the plywood onto the base and secure it, then cover those spaces with glass gems.



Step 4: Photocopy Your Pattern and Start Cutting

Take your artwork to a large format printer and have them print off at least two copies.

Use a special pair of stained glass pattern shears to cut out the pieces from one of copies. The shears will remove a small sliver of paper between each piece leaving you with enough of a gap to add grout if you wish. I used a shear that’s 20% thinner than most others that are typically used because I wanted a smaller gap and the option of not having to grout the piece once it was done.

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The intact copy of the template will be used as the new master template to arrange the glass pieces on. When the paper pieces are cut out from the template, sort them by colour so you can cut like colours all at once. Apply rubber cement to like-pattern pieces then lay them on the sheets of glass selected for the each element. Rubber cement allows you to lift and re-position the paper if you have to so you can plan your cuts and economize on glass.

Step 5: Cut Your Glass Pieces

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Watch this video to learn the basics of cutting stained glass:

Use a glass cutter to score the glass and cut each piece. When you score the glass, there’s no need to apply excessive pressure. A steady firm score is all you need and you should hear a gentle ‘hiss’ as the cutter passes over the glass. I used a pistol grip cutter; it gives me more control and is much more comfortable to use than a regular straight cutter. In the second picture, you’ll see an example of both styles of glass cutters. They both have oil reservoirs which automatically dispense lubricant to the glass surface; a real convenience on large pieces like this mosaic.

I also wear rubber coated gloves on occasion to prevent glass cuts. The specialize gloves shown for stained glass work are a tight fit and are still flexible so allow a good range of dexterity (unlike other gloves).

You can use running pliers (shown above) to help you break out each piece of glass you score. The video I linked to from Delphi Glass provides great instruction on the basics of cutting glass and reviews the different styles of glass cutters and the tools.

If you want to learn how to cut glass, there are many courses at community centres and night schools; I suggest you check one out. They are generally reasonably priced and a lot of fun! I took a stained glass course at a studio in Toronto called ‘Glasstronomy’ ( where I learned how to cut glass. I still consider myself a student in the art of stained glass.

Step 6: Grind the Pieces

Once the pieces are cut, use a glass grinder to take off any bits of glass outside of the cutting line on the paper. A glass grinder is a water cooled piece of equipment with a diamond wheel that can shape the edges of the glass more precisely to each piece. It best to run every piece briefly along the wheel just so they are not sharp and can be handled when it comes time to glue them to the backer.

The video at the following link shows the features of a similar glass grinder to the one that I used for this project (I don’t have an affiliation with Glastar, I just think they make a stellar grinder):

The gadget pictured on the grinder helps to hold the smaller pieces of glass without getting your fingers in the way of the grinding wheel.

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Place the finished pieces on the master template to check for sizing. Continue cutting your other pieces of glass and fitting them onto the master template. Adjust any pieces using the grinder if you find that they still need to be finessed.

Step 7: Glue to the Backer Board

Now you should be ready to glue your pieces down onto the wood. I used a pre-made tile mastic right out of the tub and literally just spread it onto the bottom of each piece of glass in an even coat. Then I stuck it down to the wood.

I also glued on some fused glass for the eyes on the frog and turtle.

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Let the whole thing dry at least 24 hours before you transfer the mosaic to the staircase for installation. In Step 9, further below, you can see where there are circular gaps in the design. This is where I will hide the screws; they’ll be covered with glass gems later once the mosaic is installed.

In the meantime, you can pour out a bunch of glass gems  to sort through them and check to see which ones best fit the gaps. Set aside the ones that work best.

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Here, I’m testing the fit of one of the glass gems.

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In addition, I found some nice pieces of abalone shell to add to the middle of the lily pads; I could have left them as-is but I liked the extra sparkle they brought.

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Step 8: Transfer Onto Cardbord to Transport

Transfer the mosaic to the staircase in a piece of folded cardboard.  I found that folding the cardboard and sandwiching the glass in between is the easiest way to carry an awkwardly shaped mosaic like this and prevent it from getting damaged on the way:

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To attach the mosaic to the corner platform of the staircase, I used the pre-drilled holes I made earlier.

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You can screw the plywood to the platform right through these holes:
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Once all the screws are installed, you can add in the finishing touches: the glass gems and abalone. Here’s how the mosaic looks with them in place to cover up the screw holes:
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You can also replace the quarter round trim that was removed previously around the perimeter of the walls.
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Step 9: Before and After Comparison

These pictures show a comparison of the before and after. The vibrance of the glass mosaic makes me smile every time I pass by; the pictures really don’t do it justice!


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It’s a welcome change to the dreary little spot it was before and will definitely tide me over until summer when I can enjoy my real pond again.

Step 10: Grout

If you wish, you can grout the glass mosaic just like any glass tile. I use a non-sanded grout that you have to mix with water. I mix it up in small batches and then apply it with a cheap kitchen spatula from the dollar store to help me maneuver into the corners (a regular grout float would be too awkward and messy)! Once the grout is applied you wipe it off the surface just as you would for any other tiling project. Let the grout dry 24 hours and then remove the haze with a soft cloth and buff the glass to a shine.Stained Glass Pond 086_BOF.jpg

For now, I chose not to grout my mosaic just yet, but when I do, I won’t be grouting around the glass gems. The reason for that is so we’ll be able to remove the mosaic again if we ever move; just in case I don’t want to leave it behind.

Stained Glass Pond 028_BOF

Free Koi Pattern to Try

The attached Koi pattern was designed by glass Artist Laura Heathcote for Spectrum Glass in 1999. It’s available as a free download (for personal use only) but  I’ve included it here for you in case you’d like to give it a try: Koi_Spectrum Pattern_Birdz of a Feather.

If you’re intimidated to try a real stained glass piece, I’ll be experimenting with faux stained glass and hope to bring you an easier project soon!

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share. And don’t forget to follow right here on Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (link below) for more great crafty projects and hacks. A few of those projects are pictured below; you can find a complete listing of crafts on my Homepage.

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Industrial Remote Control Holder

Now that the mancave is nearing completion, Hubs has been enjoying his new TV in total bliss. What isn’t blissful is the myriad of remotes he needs to operate everything and the places he leaves them. They are an eyesore when they’re laying on the couch or scattered around the room, but can quite literally be a pain in the derriere when I accidentally sit on one!

When I looked on Pinterest for some awe inspiring ideas, I couldn’t find a single one. As a matter of fact, every remote control holder was downright ugly and utilitarian.

Hubs has built a few items for his new digs out of black iron gas pipe so what better way to tie it all together than to make him a remote control holder out of the same material?

We found a great source for 1/8″ pipe and fittings; as a matter of fact we bought out the company’s entire supply just so we could play with a few other ideas too!

I started playing with the configuration, size and scale of the holder. Once I had a configuration I was happy with, I scrounged around my craft studio for something to support the remotes in the centre. For that I found two different widths of horsehair braid (the type that’s used to trim the inside of a hat).


I applied the narrow braid on top of the wider one, which acted as a backing, and secured them both to one side of the pipe. Then I measured my remotes to determine how big the opening needed to be for each one. I left slack in the top piece to accommodate each remote and fastened it to the backing it with a pin so I ended up with ‘loops’. I fastened the braid to the other side of the pipe, again using a pin.



I slid the braid off of the pipes, then I used a very specialized piece of equipment to permanently secure it where I placed my pins – a stapler! It not only does the trick, but it works well with the industrial look I was going for.

The tricky part was getting the remotes to rest properly on the bottom of the pipe since it is curved. I had an epiphany that solved my dilemma – magnetic hooks! Magnets stick to iron and I remembered I had some in my stash.


Luckily I had two packs, because I needed four of them! By positioning the magnets on the back of the pipe along the bottom, and tilting it toward the back, it gave me the perfect angle to rest the remotes on.


Here’s how it looks from the back:

Remote Control Caddy_back.jpg

Here’s a sneak peak of the mancave and the remote control holder – you’ll see more of the mancave on the video! I’ll have the full Mancave reveal on my sister blog, Birdz of a Feather Home, soon.


By the way, the remote control caddy is now right beside the couch in my Husband’s mancave so his remotes are close-at-hand – not by the TV as shown in the picture above and video below. I only positioned it by the TV for ease of filming it in use 🙂

Watch the video to see just how easy this industrial remote control holder was to put together!

Speaking of the Mancave, now that it’s done, we’ve remodelled the TV room upstairs too. Here’s a before and after shot of what we did to our corner fireplace.


You can find the remodel here.


If you haven’t already subscribed to my Youtube channel, click this link. I’ve got videos of all my cool projects – including a time lapse video of how I did this duct tape pop art portrait  of Elvis. I’ll be posting a full tutorial on the how-to once I get more subscribers to my Youtube channel, so if you want to see it, subscribe today!


NOTE: For anyone who isn’t crafty but is interested in purchasing a remote ready made, I’m now selling these in my brand new Etsy Shop at this link. I’ll be making these to order, but only black-on-black – not the black/white combo shown here.

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share. And don’t forget to follow right here on Birdz of a Feather or via Bloglovin’ for more great hacks and crafty projects. You can find a complete listing of projects on my Homepage.

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Duct Tape Pop Art Portrait

Watch the video of me making a duct tape portrait to reveal whose portrait I’m making.

All you need is duct tape in about 9 different colours (the more, the merrier), scissors, a piece of foam core or plastic for the backing and a paper cutter (the paper cutter is optional).

When I can get 50 subscribers to my Youtube channel, I will post the full how-to tutorial right here on Birdz of a Feather so you can make one too.

Sharing the video in your social media groups will help me get to 50 new subscriptions faster, so help make that happen!

See you back here soon for the full tutorial and don’t forget to follow me here on Birdz of a Feather (link in the footer or on the Homepage) or on Bloglovin’ (link below)! If you follow, you’ll get an e-mail next time I post a new  project (and maybe it will be full instructions for this one)!

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