STEAMpunk Cheer: 10 Post-Holiday Upcycle Crafts You Can REALLY Make!


Hoping all of our STEAMpunks had a wonderful holiday season and are excited for all of the fun and opportunities 2018 has in store!  As we have been cleaning up from our holiday festivities, I have come across many items and ingredients that are just begging to be re-purposed.  The following craft ideas have been inspired by these holiday left overs as ways to up-cycle and incorporate them into fresh projects and activities that can ACTUALLY be done, relatively painlessly and best of all, cost effectively!

1. Wine Cork Decor & Activities: Round up all those wine corks to make some unique home decor projects – How to Build It’s article, 30 Ridiculously Clever Things You Can Make with Wine Corks offers some great suggestion from jewelry, and planter labels to stamps, figurines, photo holders, and much more!

2. Homemade Salt Decor: Put your left over baking flour to good use! Whip up a quick batch of Simple Salt Dough using the recipe below to keep busy for hours.  Some ideas to create and bake include Impression and Cut-Out Ornaments, Hand prints, Picture Frames, and Jewelry Dishes.


3. Play Dough: Homemade play dough is another excellent use for those left over baking ingredients.  Visit Paging Fun Mums! for a great recipe that takes only 5 minutes and requires no cooking – a helpful video tutorial has been included.  This play dough will last a good while if stored in an air tight container.

4. Garden Lightning Bugs:  Some garden wire and a couple washers will bring new life into those old holiday light bulbs! Check out these awesome Garden Lightning Bugs found on Pinterest.

5. Holiday Card Gift Tags:  Turn your holiday cards into next year’s gift tags.  Getting ready to do this one myself! I grabbed the Fiskars tag punch linked below, just came in the mail today and works great punching cleaning through greeting cards, also includes a grommet installer and small bag of grommets to get you started!

6. Festive Music CD Signage: Need a use for old music CDs? Turn them into signage with some scrapbooking paper (can use acrylic paint or cut out lettering), and tie them up or attached to mounted backing to make an updated piece of home decor.

7. Knitter’s Ornament:  Have any yarn leftover from gift projects?  Consider making ornaments from the yarn for a special added memory of your projects.

8. Peppermint Platter & Shot Glasses: Planning to give this a try using our left over candy canes as we still have a few gatherings to attend. Make some favorite desserts, like cookies or brownies, arrange on a peppermint platter, tie up with festive cellophane for a pro baker look.  Put together your favorite dessert adult beverage or milk for the little ones in homemade candy cane shot glasses!

9. Woodslice Labels & Name Placards: Chalkboard paint turns some firewood into unique ornaments, labels, or signage!
10. Bound Holiday Card Collections: Prefer to store and collect your holiday cards as keepsakes? Consider using binder rings to create collectible volumes of greeting card memories – make some personalized covers to create annual card keeper binders!

Did any of these ideas help lead you to creatively repurpose some of those holiday items that may have ended up tossed aside?  Share your projects and your own ideas for re-purposing holiday leftovers with us!

Cheers! –modtinker @ST3AMpunks


Gingerbread House Construction & Competition [STEAM Activity]


Gingerbread house construction is an excellent teaching and team building opportunity! In years past, UCLA hosted a “Engineering the Perfect Gingerbread House Event,” highlighting several important engineering concepts that can be reinforced through the hands on activity of building a gingerbread house.  Concepts discussed dove into the molecular construction of the materials and the physics of the structure.  Read the full article by Catherine Hu here, Engineering the Perfect Gingerbread House.

Brown University School of Engineering hosts a similar annual event, The Extreme Gingerbread Competition.  Students in this competition focus on How to Build an Indestructible Gingerbread House.  Recommendations shared by Ben Schafer, chair of the department of civil engineering at John Hopkins, included keeping corners square and ensuring the roof is centered and evenly square.  Schafer and former Brown University School of Engineering student, Erica Kahn, agreed that the icing used to hold the structure together can make or break a build.

If strength is your goal, Kahn suggests substituting melted down caramel, gummy candies, and marshmallow for traditional icing.  Stating that once melted, the substance is tacky and glue-like, but becomes a very strong, cement-like substance when cool.

For those who might not have time to gather a lot of ingredients, there are Gingerbread House Kit options available!

Create Limitations & Unique Challenges for Individual & Team Builders!

  • Time limitations can put on the pressure
  • Round Robin – Allowing each team member to take a turn adding one piece at a time gets everyone involved
  • Handout Floor plans/Architectural Structure Challenges for Imaginative Reconstruction
  • Give each team member a specific role – foreman, cement mixer, builder, decorator
  • Who can create the tallest structure?
  • Who can build an “Indestructible” structure? – Find Creative ways to Stress Test! (Dropping from Varied Heights, Adding Weight/Pressure)
  • Create stories about the structures – topics may include the potential usage of the structure or creative tales about their residents.
  • Most importantly — Work Together and HAVE FUN!!!

Share your projects on the Gingerbread House Engineering post on Collaboratory Facebook Page or in the comments below!

For those local to the Cecil/Harford County Maryland area – consider submitting your Gingerbread House Projects to The West Street Village Ginger Bread House Competition!

West Street Village will be hosting a Gingerbread House Contest. The public is invited to creations for a chance to win a gift basket packed with prizes from the merchants of West Street Village.

Contest Rules:

1. All houses must be received between December 4th thru the 8th to be judged on 2nd Saturday December 9th. Winner to be announced December 10th.
2. All material used to decorate the house must be edible.
4. You may use cardboard or some other materials as the foundation for your walls, floor and roof only!

There will be 3 separate categories: Adults, children up to age 13 and 14 to 17. Same rules apply. Drop off at West Street Village. Woody’s Crab House to sponsor a $25.00 gift certificate to the children’s category for use at the restaurant or ice cream alley. Adult winner wins a basket of goodies donated by WSV merchants.

Please contact West Street Village with any questions regarding the event!

Cheers! –modtinker @ST3AMpunks

Red Hats for Newborns – FREE Patterns!

The American Heart Association is looking for knitters around the country to make red hats for babies.  One of our local hospitals, Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, Bel Air and several others are participating throughout Maryland.  The red hats will be given to babies born in February as part of the association’s Little Hats, Big Hearts project.  Details on donations and contact information of project coordinators in your area can be found on the Project’s Website, Little Hats, Big Hearts Project.

For those looking to donate to the Maryland area, this contact and mailing address for submissions has been confirmed: Ms. Fay L. Brooke, Program Coordinator, 217 E. Redwood St., Suite 1100, Baltimore, MD 21202

The Little Hats, Big Hearts project is meant to raise awareness of heart disease, which is the number-one killer of Americans, and congenital heart defects, which are the most common type of birth defects in the country.  AHA cites that more than 40,000 babies a year are born with congenital heart disease.

February is designated as American Heart Month, and through the Little Hats, Big Hearts project, all babies born that month receive a locally knitted or crocheted red baby hat along with a kit that provides resources and educational material for families.

The American Heart Association accepts donated yarn and baby hats from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31.

This project was a perfect use for the remainder of my Jessie Wig red yarn!

Supplies used for this project:


Links to additional FREE patterns can be found on Little Hats, Big Hearts Project.  Admittedly, my attempt at Hands Occupied Newborn Hearts Hat did not go as well as I had hoped, but I’ve found my groove with Sea Trail Grandma’s Easy Newborn Hat (knit flat version).  For the past week, I’ve been averaging one of these every two days during my nightly couch time.

Cheers! –modtinker @ST3AMpunks


Halloween – Maker Style!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays!  Especially when it comes to creating unique and memorable costumes.  I never fail to put together a minimum of two or three different costumes for various parties and, of course, a family theme for the big event of trick-or-treating.  My wardrobe of costuming has been growing since discovering the world of comic cons, anime, and cosplay in college – mixing comic culture, costuming, and role playing – be still my heart! Otakon in Baltimore, MD’s inner harbor was a favorite summer adventure with school friends.

I’m always in awe of amazing handmade items that can be found in Etsy’s Halloween Shop – a perfect place to pick up some crafty ideas for making your own creations.

This year I restrained myself to one couple’s costume and one family themed costume.  My husband and I got in touch with our German heritage as an Oktoberfest couple for outtings with friends and chose Toy Story for our family theme, featuring Rex and Jessie, with the help of our pint sized Buzzlight year, and we even helped one of those cute little alien’s escape from  The Claw at Pizza Planet. Due to lack of time, most of the costume bits and pieces were store bought this year, however, with the help of my Crafty Cousins I did manage to DiY most of the Jessie costume, including a Pinterest inspired Yarn Headband Wig! Sneak peek below!

Supplies I used for this Project:


Jumping a little further in the world of 3D printing these days, one of my favorite sites, All3DP, came out with Top 13 Scary Things to 3D Print Halloween.  As a long time Mario fan, I’m loving Number 6, The Mario Boo container.  But Number 13 takes the win in my book, The Frankenstein Light Switch.  This is one I’d like to try for our home workshop, my boys would get a kick out of it!


Share Your Halloween Costume Creations and Favorite DiY Projects with us in the Collaboratory Facebook Group, a Community for Sharing Knowledge, Experience, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned in all areas of STEAM!

Cheers! –modtinker @ST3AMpunks