Wise Craft

Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects Into Stuff You Love


By Blair Stocker

Formats and Prices




$15.99 CAD




ebook $12.99 $15.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 11, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Wise Craft is a guide to the homemade life, turning old things into special new objects that enhance the home. Based on the popular blog of the same name, this guide focuses on creating a homemade atmosphere that reflects your family, without spending a fortune. Instead of throwing away old shirts and boring dishes, or passing up thrift store finds that aren’t quite right, author Blair Stocker teaches how to remake, adding special touches to make them work for her home — and yours . The book is divided into four seasonal chapters, with designs that reflect different holidays and the changing seasons, allowing you to update your home according to the weather outside. Many projects are portable or perfect to do during a family movie night, making the Wise Craft lifestyle an easy one to attain.

Sixty projects include May Day cones and recycled floral mirror frames — perfect for a teenager’s room — plus throw pillow updates, a picnic blanket made from a pile of men’s shirts, spooky Halloween dishes, advent calendars, and recycled gift jars. Beautiful photography and illustrations make each project a snap, no matter your crafting background.



EJ Armstrong: Thank you for a truly wonderful collaboration. All those days playing around with ideas in your studio, and look at this! Your photography expertise and advice are invaluable!

Lisa Congdon: Your beautiful illustrations brought a new level of inspiration to these projects. Thank you, friend.

Peter, Emma, and Ian: “Thank you” will never be enough. You make me want to be better at everything I do, and always give me the best kind of advice (and the best hugs).

Jennifer: You truly are the best friend a girl could have. Thank you for always, always making the time to give advice and guidance.

Kristen and everyone at Running Press: Thank you for your expert guidance and belief in what this book could be.

Lisa Solomon: Thank you for taking valuable time from your own work to pattern test for me. You are wonderful.

Yi-Lin Lui: Thank you for providing your talent for the Gathering Bag project.

To friends who have been there for advice, guidance, and support for me as I was writing this book: Melissa Franz, Erin Harris, Christiane Zweifler, Amy Karol, Emily Demsky, Xiaonan Wang, and countless others. The support you all give means so much more than you know.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to the readers and supporters of Wise Craft. Thank you for being there, for making things with me, for being inspired by my corner of the world. This book would not be possible without you.


A beloved old wool coat becomes a checkers set for the family. Outgrown or worn-through jeans are transformed into a beautiful and functional quilt. Branches gathered on a family walk become hooks to hold coats and bags. Wise Craft is about looking at your belongings with new eyes. It’s about nurturing creativity by using less and appreciating more.

Throughout history, people have treasured handmade items. Even today, when many of our “valuables” are disposable and mass-produced, cookie-cutter material goods, there is a large segment of society that remains devoted to ancient ideals of handcrafting. There is an innate desire to create items by hand, to build a more personal connection to our possessions and surroundings. Combine this artistic sensibility with the modern awareness of repurposing and reusing, and you have Wise Craft.

I started my website Wise Craft in 2005 to share my story of handcrafting online. I never imagined it would inspire such a devoted and global following. Clearly, I am not alone in my passion for making unique, visually pleasing objects from existing materials. My goal is simply to make things that I like or can use and my inspiration almost always starts with something I’ve purchased secondhand or pulled from my closet or basement. I find that the process of creating something new from a tired or neglected item makes it feel more special, more intentional. I am not militantly “green” or obsessed with thrift. I just find that creating original pieces from gathered goods gives me a more personal connection to my surroundings and environment. It establishes a sense of value: of place, of family, of personal history.

I started handcrafting as a child, alongside my maternal grandmother. Under her guidance, I learned gardening, baking, knitting, and an appreciation for making things with my hands. I took to it immediately and felt a great sense of satisfaction discovering what I could create at a very early age. I rediscovered handcrafting when I became a mother. It has helped me connect with my kids and to nurture my own maternal role as keeper of family memories and traditions.

Never is my mind calmer than when I am sewing strips of fabric for a quilt, counting crochet stitches, or drawing in my sketchbook. Ideas, colors, patterns, and materials have become ways I express myself artistically. My kids are now old enough to appreciate the industry, creativity, beauty, and value of items in our home. And with each handmade addition to our household, I am bettering our surroundings, not just adding another cheap imported knickknack to the local landfill. Each stitch of what I make matters. It is part of our home, part of who I am, of who we are as a family. And there is something utterly satisfying knowing that the DNA of our home and lifestyle is not bought from a store shelf but meticulously stitched, snipped, and glued together by hand.

Because each season brings a sense of change and new inspiration for me creatively, there are four season-specific sections in this book, each with a distinctive color palette to draw inspiration from. Within each of these seasonal stories, there are a variety of projects, some doable in an afternoon or less, and some that require a little more time and thought. However, there is no need to confine the projects to the seasonal section they are in. The projects here are yours to adapt to any time of year, in any way that fits your own creative world. I hope you find inspiration from these projects and craft your own body of work, born from your own hands.




This book covers a wide variety of handcrafts, and it’s much easier to jump right in when the inspiration strikes if you have a toolkit of basic supplies at the ready. Store the smaller items together in a basket or bin, and you’ll be ready to go when the time and inclination hits.

1)    All-purpose cleaner, cloths, and paper towels: Items purchased secondhand always need a good cleaning before you begin your project. (Plus, all good makers clean up their messes.)

2)    A variety of pens and pencils: Ones I like to have on hand are mechanical pencils, fine-point and ultrafine-point black Sharpie pens, and water-soluble marking pens (whose marks disappear with a spritz of water). I most often use and recommend FriXion pens. Available at office supply stores, these pens write like a marker (and come in a variety of colors) but disappear with heat from an iron. Always test on a scrap first. I have heard that the marks made with these pens can come back when exposed to cold temperatures. I use these regularly and have never had that happen, and if it did, ironing could make the marks disappear once more.

3)    Scissors: Designate ones for paper, for fabric, and all-purpose. Label them and hide them from the family.

4)    A rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat: Generally used by quilters, these tools do double duty for cutting fabric or paper.

5)    A craft knife with extra blades (also called a penknife or X-Acto knife).

6)    A variety of tape, such as clear all-purpose tape, double-sided tape, painter’s blue tape.

7)    An iron and ironing board.

8)    Straight and safety pins.

9)    A yardstick, ruler, and tape measure, as well as at least one all-purpose quilter’s clear ruler (a good size for multiple uses is 8 × 24 inches).

10)  A variety of glues, such as Mod Podge, rubber cement, and a hot glue gun. Aleen’s Super Fabric Adhesive is a great one to have for gluing anything to fabric.

11)  A sewing machine in good working order, a variety of machine needles, and coordinating thread: No fancy machines are needed for these projects, but my advice is to always start with a fresh needle and good-quality all-purpose cotton or cotton/poly thread.

12)  A variety of hand-sewing needles and a thimble: One of those variety packs from the fabric store would be fine, plus a variety pack of tapestry needles with larger eyes and size 9 crewel embroidery needles (for threading yarn or perle cotton) would be good to have.

13)  Embroidery hoops: Pick up a variety of sizes inexpensively at craft or even thrift stores, to have on hand.

14)  Acrylic paint: Keep a few basic colors on hand.

15)  A variety of paintbrushes.

16)  Items to protect you and your workspace: newspaper or a drop cloth (e.g., an old bedsheet), rubber gloves, a face mask, and an apron.

17)  Screwdrivers: flat and Phillips head.

18)  A hammer and small nails.

19)  Sandpaper.



“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What’s it like?”

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine...”


Mentally renewing, awake with the feeling of endless possibilities: I truly love spring. Nature stirs and perks up and so, it seems, do we. This is when I deep clean and freshen the house from top to bottom, tip to tail. It’s the only time all year I seem to have the energy and motivation for this, so I go with it. Once that’s done, I make things. A new quilt, some art for the walls, or maybe new pieces to set the dinner table with—whatever inspires me and feels right.

Hot Plate Novels

Leather Coasters

May Day Cones

Covered Journals

Pot Handle Covers

Art Book Wall

Recycled Floral Mirror

Conversation Tablecloth

Statement Dishes

Pebble & Beach Glass necklace

Glittered Art

Leather-Covered Rocks

Pinpoint Oxford Eiderdown Coverlet

Crocheted Treasure Bag

Hand-loomed Placemats

May Day Cones

May Day cones are traditionally given on the first day of May as a celebration of spring. My kids and I have been known to leave them on neighbors’ front doorknobs, ring the bell, then (the kids’ favorite part) dash away. Commonly filled with fresh flowers, these versions are also filled with a small plant, providing something that can be enjoyed longer. Old sheet music and brown kraft paper are all that’s needed to create a beautiful cone.


Brown kraft paper (e.g., a paper grocery bag)

Sheet music (I purchased mine at a thrift store)

Sandwich-size plastic bag

A small plant with roots (e.g., a fern, ivy, or succulent)

Flowers, stems cut to 5 to 6 inches long

Single hole punch

Scraps of ribbon about 18 inches long

From the Crafter’s Toolkit:

Paper scissors

Double-sided tape


1)    Cut the kraft paper to size. Cut the brown kraft paper to match the size of a single sheet of music.

2)    Make the cone. With the plain side of the brown paper showing on the outside, fold it into a cone shape and secure with double-sided tape. Fold the sheet music into a cone shape and secure with double-sided tape. Slip the sheet music cone over the brown paper cone, leaving the edges of the brown paper visible at the top. Use double-sided tape to secure the cones together.

3)    Fill the cone. Remove the plant from its container and fit the roots and soil inside the plastic sandwich bag. Slip this down securely inside the cone. Add the flowers by poking them into and around the plant.

4)    Create a hanger for the cone. Punch two holes, 1 inch from the top edge, on opposite sides from each other at the top of the cone, through both layers of paper. Thread through a length of ribbon to hang with, and tie the ends.


*      Instead of inserting plants and flowers, fill with crayons and rolled coloring pages and leave on the doorknob of a child’s room.

Leather Coasters

When shopping secondhand, keep your eyes open for leather clothing: It can provide inexpensive leather for all kinds of projects. For these coasters, I traced silhouette images of my family and cut them out. Now, my kids think it’s pretty funny to put drinks on our faces. The patina that develops through use gives them added charm and interesting imperfections, but you can spray them with a protector, such as Scotchgard, if you prefer, to help them hold up to water rings and drips.


Digital camera


All-purpose printer paper

A piece of leather at least 4 × 4 inches, for each coaster

From the Crafter’s Toolkit:

Sharp scissors

FriXion pen or mechanical pencil

Craft glue (I used Mod Podge) (optional)

Paintbrush (optional)


1)    Create the silhouette images. Take profile photos of your family’s faces (don’t forget the pets!). Adjust the size of each image to be at least 3½ × 3½ inches and print out onto all-purpose printer paper. Cut out the image, trying to keep in any interesting details (I kept my son’s cowlick).

2)    Transfer the silhouettes to the leather. Trace the silhouette shape onto the back of the leather, using a FriXion pen or a light pencil line. Cut out the silhouette.

              Optionally, use the leather silhouette alone as it is, or glue onto a slightly larger square of leather by applying craft glue to the back of the silhouette with a paintbrush.


*      Use your sewing machine fitted with a leather or denim needle to add contrast stitching ¼ inch from the edge, all the way around, or stitch designs in the center of the coaster.

*      Paint an allover design directly on the leather, using acrylic paint.

Hot Plate Novels

This simple idea creates a totally new use for books that end up on thrift store shelves. They can protect your table from hot pots and also look modern and elegant. I used hardcover books, because I prefer to remove the spine and cover completely. That’s not as easy to do with paperback books. If there is a spill, simply rip off the top page and the hot plate is ready to be used for the next dinner gathering.


Hardcover books

From the Crafter’s Toolkit:

Craft knife

Acrylic paint

Assorted paintbrushes


1)    Prepare the book. Cut the cover off the book, using a craft knife. One clean cut close to the spine, inside the front and back covers, should remove the cover completely.

2)    Embellish the top page. Paint a solid color, flowers, or other designs on the top page of the book. Another idea is to paint words over the pages. Let dry completely before using.

Art Book Wall

A step up from the Vogue covers I used to patchwork together on the walls of my bedroom when I was a teenager, this is a unique way to enjoy the pages of a beautiful book and hide walls that may not look their best. These pages were taken from a book found on eBay, but part of the fun is scouting used bookstores and thrift shops for the perfect book. We did a similar project in our kids’ bathroom using pages from a Japanese graphic novel. Books with botanical illustrations or atlas pages would look great, too.


Book of your choice (illustrations or photos work well)

Old credit card or putty knife

Thumbtacks or push pins

From the Crafter’s Toolkit:

All-purpose cleaner and cloth

Newspaper or drop cloth to protect work surface

Craft knife

Craft glue (I used Mod Podge)



1)    Prepare the wall. Clean the wall and allow it to dry.

2)    Cut out the book pages. Lay down newspaper or a drop cloth, to protect your work surface. Cut out the book pages cleanly, using a craft knife. Prepare as many pages as you think you will use and play with placement before you start adhering the pages to the wall.

3)    Glue the pages to the wall. Lay a page facedown on your protected work surface and completely cover the back of the page with craft glue, using a brush. Carefully place it on the wall and smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles with the edge of a credit card or putty knife. Do this with each page. Hang individual pages over these glued pages with thumbtacks for a dimensional effect.

Pot Handle Covers

I love unexpected homemade touches around the house, like these handle covers, and I always feel very clever and organized when I use them. We can all use a bit of that. They stitch up quickly and simply slip over hot handles to protect your hands when cooking.



  • “A keeper for thrift-store divas and dumpster divers.”
    --Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Mar 11, 2014
Page Count
184 pages
Running Press

Blair Stocker

About the Author

Blair Stocker has been a modern crafter and prolific “creative” her whole life. After a career in apparel and textile design, she began Wise Craft in 2005 as a way to stay connected to her own creative passion while raising two small children.

Putting her skills to work on thrift store pieces, inventive DIY projects, and clever handmade items for her home, Blair formed a loyal online following. Her original work and her home have been featured on Apartment Therapy, Design Mom, Caféom / The Stir, and Design Sponge. Her work has been featured in Parents Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, and more. Blair lives with her husband, two children, and fat kitty in Seattle, Washington.

Learn more about this author