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Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Ugly Duckling Who Became A Swan

From Trash to Treasure: Reviving Grandpa's Woodshop Creations for a Plaid-Inspired Christmas

Discover the heartwarming journey of transforming discarded treasures from my Grandpa's wood shop into festive ornaments. Join me on this eco-friendly adventure, where salvaged materials and creative flair turn an "Ugly Duckling" into a cherished holiday keepsake. Watch the video and get inspired for more upcycled yuletide creations in 2024!

WWII vet
The one with the ornery grin 

Frank was the OG Up-cyclist in our family.  He made so many things over the years, but especially loved working in his wood shop.  He could be found tinkering around, seeing what his next creation would be (sound familiar?).  Frank, who was my grandpa was the most amazing person.  Highly intelligent, could carry on conversations for hours on end about any subject, and so knowledgeable about life in general.

He served in WWII, a time he never spoke of.  Gave us grandchildren advice unsolicited, and sometimes not appreciated.  We were kids, what can I say?  To have one more conversation with him... you know I am not even sure what I would pick.  I'd probably let him lead, and see where the conversation led us; you just never knew where the destination of his conversations were heading, but I am convinced he knew when they began.

I have mentioned a little here lately about the auction we had for my grandparents belongings.  If you know me, then you know how difficult it was for me to go through their belongings, and see strangers walking off with their possessions.  

Bidding on many items (winning several) myself, I found some were just out of reach.  Apparently, there are a lot of folks out there who enjoy my grandfather's items as much as I do.  He was quite the person, larger than life through my eyes.

After the auction, we had to go through what was left, the discarded items some folks thought were trash and left behind.  I am not sure if it was me being me, or if it is the fact I am a sentimental schmuck, but I was astounded with what even the auctioneer deemed "trash".  I loaded those items up, bringing them all home with me, on a mission set out to recreate and give new life to those discarded misfits.  Are you getting a vision of Santa's workshop, and the dentist who deemed himself a misfit?  I am... perhaps that is me?

As you know, this will be another one of my Eco-friendly Yuletide Creations.  Earlier this year, I started on this journey, and I like to think I made a difference in the amount of trash leaving our home.  We try to do all we can to make those landfills less filled.  I know not everyone is interested in it, but I like to think there are a good many like-minded folks out there who find it an interesting topic and do what they can.

I plan to keep going for round two, another year of more salvaged festive decor, upcycling everything in sight I can, so stay tuned for more ideas coming in 2024.  Let's get started on this Ugly Duckling, turned "Swan", shall we?

Sidenote: I got a bit fancy, creating a video for this project, click on the link to see how to instructions, or keep reading for more details.

Bird Project

You see, it all began with me going through a box, and stumbling upon these duck and bird wood cutouts.  My grandfather made them many years ago.  I believe he was making yard spinners at that time.  You can see the fancier birds (more to come on those ornery kiddos soon) are made from thick wood, and my duck here?  Just thin scrap paneling.  

Duck in Flight

At first, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with these precious finds.  As you can see, someone even stepped on it, a footprint can be found.  I cleaned all of the birds and ducks with Clorox Bleach Wipes, removing any dirt and debris, but the footprint simply would not come off.

I sat and stared at this little guy for awhile, and as luck would have it, inspiration struck, a secondhand seasonal delight!  I giggled to myself with my Eureka moment and got busy right away applying Mod Podge to the duck with my finger. 

Wood Duck

Once the Mod Podge completely dried, I had to make a final decision on how I was going to cover this Ugly Duckling.  I thought a tartan plaid would go perfectly in the spare bedroom I have been working on.  

Truth be told, I prefer a more masculine touch when it comes to decorating.  Not always something that comes out when you see our home.    

Plaid wrapping paper

Once the Mod Podge had dried, I placed a piece of tartan plaid wrapping paper (how economical, and more bang for your buck!) over the duck.

Then I laid wax paper over the tartan plaid paper and applied a hot iron over the wax paper, creating a bond between the Mod Podge and duck.

Use Wrapping Paper in home decor

Once my duck friend and paper had bonded, I flipped it over to begin cutting around, leaving about one half inch of paper around the cutout so I could sand the paper off for a more finished look.

What to do with trash

He received another round of Mod Podge, using the iron method to seal in the paper, giving it longevity.  I also added a bit of rub-n-buff to the sides, and all along the edge.  I felt this gave our duck a high-end look, reminding me of the decor of the past.  A piece I envisioned found in our once booming Hickles long ago (I sure do miss that place).  

I was pretty pleased with how he turned out and snapped a pic of him in my crafting area (a messy table and long term project to beautify our basement someday).

Tartan Plaid Project

Next came the styling of our ducky... I finally decided he would greet our guests as they enter our home, and since I walk by this area several times a day, I smile thinking of Grandpa each time.  

Upcycled Christmas

Since we are decorating small this year for Christmas, I nestled him inside the tree in our entryway.  Can you imagine an entire tree full of these fun, now repurposed Christmas ornaments?  I can!  In fact, this may be a future project.  

I am a bit mad for plaid here at the cottage, it just doesn't show much in our decor.  Don't worry, that is about to change soon, an upcoming share after the new year chaos when we get the remodeling project behind us.  This holiday recycled craft will have a permanent home in our spare bedroom.  

Upcycled wood cutout

I like that I can keep all of these items in our foyer throughout winter.  Yep, I will even keep the tinsel out because, why not?  I love a bit of sparkle, and it seems Christmas and winter is the perfect time to bring it out.

What do you think?  I like to think Grandpa would be proud his ducks didn't go to the trash, and is smiling to himself thinking she's at it again

One of his model airplane paint bottles also received a happy festive makeover by simply hot gluing a bottle brush tree to the top.  It goes to show you, it doesn't take a lot to save items from the landfill, just a bit of creativity.  Keep an eye out for more creative trash to treasure ideas coming in 2024.  

Upcycled Paint Can

We wish you a Merry Christmas, and hope you enjoy the holiday festivities with friends and family alike.  We will be enjoying the holidays and taking in all we can while gearing up for 2024, more ideas, projects, recipes, crafts, and just life moments coming soon.   

Don't Forget to Pin for Later!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Would you like to comment?

  1. Hi Cara! I love how you transformed your grandfather's wooden duck! It turned out fabulous and so did the bottle brush tree idea! I felt the same way as you, when we sold everything of my Dad's parents! It was so hard watching people walk off with their beloved items! Can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve for 2024!! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    1. Thank you so much Donna, I was so excited to take one of his items and make it over. It is so difficult, isn't it? I was a bidding machine, but it went so fast, and I got hung up on a few items in a bidding war, that I missed out on other pieces I had really wanted. It just wasn't meant to be is what I keep telling myself. :) Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.

  2. It's amazing how you transformed the duck (such a great idea); it's lovely that you got to give something not taken at the auction a new lease on life.

    1. Thank you so much Molly, I love reusing those old, tired items into something new when I can. Everyone else saw trash, which made me think treasure!

  3. I can't even imagine what it must have been like going through the process of clearing stuff out, watching it sold and then going through the items that were left behind, Cara. You are one tough lady! I LOVE the new life you gave this duck and the bottle brush tree too. It's such a sweet way to honor your grandpa. Hope you're feeling better each day and will be completely on the mend soon. I can't wait to follow along and see what you do in 2024 too! Big hugs, CoCo

    1. I am not sure how tough I am. It was difficult since spending time with both my grandparents was a favorite time in my childhood through adulthood. I was so happy to give an item from my grandpa new life, I like to think he would be happy too. Thank you CoCo, I am hoping to feel better soon and can get back to creating again. I just haven't had it in me to do it yet. My big plans are not getting off to a very good start, but I'll get there.