Putting Days Gone By to Good Use

“Isn’t this just what we expect from the Amish” writes the person who shares today’s creative re-use of an everyday item.

Sunflower Envelope



Any idea what he meant?

 Indiana Amish Letter



Now you see it.


Letter Interior



I guess it was too pretty a scene for someone to just throw away.


Closed Envelope

What re-uses of old, finished, worn-out, used-up, out-of-style, or “no-good” items have you come across–Amish or otherwise?

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    1. Juanita Cook

      Love this idea and it makes for a very pretty envelope too.

      1. David

        There is a company in the UK who buy misprinted maps and then covert them into plain white envelopes by using the other side. Wish I could remember the name of the company but I do remember opening up the envelopes and the maps being of Germany.

    2. Karen Winemiller

      Love this! I’ve re-purposed old 5 gallon buckets & turned them into nesting boxes for my laying hens. I’ve also use some 2″ pvc pipe that my boyfriend used to make a paint booth, then it became my grow-out pen for my pullets & now it’s being re-purposed again into a goat shed for my Nigerian Dwarf wethers.

    3. Pretty Envelopes

      “Putting by gone days to good use.” Very clever title! I love making those envelopes myself and have been for many years. We also sometimes use wall calenders for art projects in school. One such example can be found on my blog, search ‘Winter Windows’.

    4. MaryAnn Pepe

      Great Idea!

      Now that is “thinking out of the box!”

    5. Ada/KJV

      Well, Since You Asked...

      I’ve used old newspapers to make earrings.
      I’ve used an old goldfish aquarium for my pet snapping turtle.
      I’ve used an old washbasin (and the bathtub) for my other pet turtles (who later ran away).
      I’ve used thrown-away plastic Coca-Cola carrying-cases to start plant seeds (apparently this does not work for gourds; do I get points for the attempt?)
      I’ve used unwanted fingernail polish to paint earrings.

      I’ve re-used ducks: They were going to be “put down” (because they were unwanted), but I had a home for them! 🙂

      (By the way, they were two females: Ham and Hoss. Were.)

      Come visit my new blog! I need feedback!!!! (It is so lonely over there!) plainpathwaytohim.wordpress.com

      Ada/ KJV

    6. Margaret

      Our Mennonite aunt and uncle used the cereal box inner bags as wax paper, detergent containers as watering cans and bird houses, and just about everything as a planter. They lived on the farm our uncle was born on for over 95 years…and really never threw anything away that could used a second, third, or umpteen time. They both died several years back, six months apart. Miss them every day. They taught us to be “green” before it was popular!

    7. Bernadette W.

      Putting Days Gone By to Good Use

      I am not an Amish or Mennonite person. But where I live; my family does all of these things that people have mentioned above. Plus we love to make envelopes out of Calendars. Doing all of these things save a lot of money. Our slogan in our family is: Why buy things; if you don’t have to. Especially if you have the items at home to make things like you need.

      But I love the way Amish people do things. I even try to live very simple like them in certain ways. I just keep the basic things that I need and I don’t clutter my closet with a lot……………of clothes and new shoes all the time. I own only 2 pair of shoes & 1 pair of slippers. I pair of shoes are for Sundays or special days and the other pair is of working in. I do drive though.

    8. Bernadette W.

      One more thing: This is the best website that I have ever read for information about different things.

      Thank you for having this on the internet!

      1. Creative uses of old things

        Well that is a make-your-day compliment! We mostly cover things related to Amish here but as you can see that can spill into many aspects of life. Thank you Bernadette 🙂

        Am enjoying these examples of reuse and repurposing. I guess I’m not that creative, probably the most creative bit I can think of is turning one of my excess of coffee cups into a coin holder. I’m not even sure that counts 😉

        1. Bernadette W.

          Thank you very much for your very nice comment! You made my day also!

          Plus another thing I like about the Amish and this website is: They know how to conserve on things. They don’t go out and buy lots of books, etc.; like we do. They buy only what they need in certain amount of quantities. Plus they make their own clothes, quilts, etc. Which are very beautiful! I think if I could speak their language; I would join a Amish community. But I can’t speak that language.But I wouldn’t have any problems living like them at all. I like things simple. Like they say; if you can’t pay cash for it; then you don’t need it. Right?

          Plus you are a very good author;when it comes to writing about these people. I really loved all the emails that I have been receiving about them. Thank you so much!!!

          Have a great day!

          1. Paying cash

            Well thanks Bernadette! Yes I think there is a lot of value in that saying–at the least it will probably keep you out of trouble 🙂

    9. Don Curtis


      Mark gets cards from folks who have made envelopes from calendars and such.
      He knows of Amish who cut up old denims, shirts, dresses, etc and then weave them into rugs.
      Mark took the old rinse tubs he used to use on wash day and turned them into planters for in front of his barn.
      As far as planters go he has seen old shoes, horse water tanks, tea cups and all sorts of containers used to plant posies in.
      The Amish haunt thrift stores. Mark says that a group of ladies will get a driver and go to Columbus to go through all of the thrift stores and come back with the van full of clothes, childrens’ toys, board games, books, you name it.
      Any kind of container is saved for reuse: ice cream buckets, Cool Whip tubs, onion net bags, bread bags, etc.

      1. Carol

        thrift stores

        Recently as I was going into the Salvation Army Thrift Store, I met several Amish/Mennonite ladies coming out with bags of what appeared to be clothing. Obviously, there weren’t going to be wearing it, so were they buying it to recycle into rag rugs or something else? Just seemed curious to me, but there probably is an answer so simple I can’t think of it!

        1. Ada/KJV



          I volunteer at a church-owned thrift store. When we purge clothes or sort clothes, we put them in specially marked bags and send them to a gathering place for other thrift stores. There is a lady who pays BY THE POUND (or extra for ‘gold items’) for the bags of used clothing. I think she re-sells the items or gives them to needy people overseas. I can’t remember which….

          By the way, if anybody has any substantial leftover yarn from previous projects, give it to a church owned thrift store! The one where I work at uses it to make “prayer shawls” (a don’t know if this is a Methodist term or if it is just a nick-name) for people on their prayer list.

          In Christ,
          Ada/KJV Conservative

          *By the way, I’ve started a new blog. I’d be glad to have any of ya’ll stop by and leave a comment. I just started, so it’s kind of slow over there (and a lot of people are shy!): plainpathwaytohim.wordpress.com

          * Sorry about the “ya’ll”! I am Southern, and more-than-occasionally drop it in my writing and lingo. (Once, at the thrift store, I dropped a “ya’lls- selves.” It was a good thing I can laugh at myself!)

          1. Ada/KJV

            Did I Just Post That?

            Just read my own comment. I never knew I sounded…like that. And I was controlling my un-orthodox vocabulary (“ya’ll, “come in and drop by”….)!!!!!

            That’s it! It is so clear now that college is wasted on me!



          2. Bernadette W.

            Prayer Shawls can probably be any religion. But I know Catholics use them a lot. And they do call them this name. Hope this helps you out!

            Have a nice evening!

    10. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Nice! 🙂
      That’s all I can say, well, that and I think I might start being creative to make my life a bit more earth friendly.

    11. Emily

      Similar Trends...

      This was a great post to see and it reminded me of something we saw in the general store in the Homer, Michigan settlement. When sifting through many of the handmade items for sale at the store, I came upon some soap that had beautiful paper rings, with a sticker applied with the seller’s name/info.

      Upon closer inspection, I realized that the paper rings were actually small slices of the pictures from calendars, repurposed as a colorful background. It really did make the soaps stand out; every soap seemed to have its own unique feel to it as a result.

    12. Al in Ky

      One of my favorite things I ever bought at an Amish store was a door mat made out of baler twine,which is used to tie hay or straw bales. I bought this at Community Country Store, Kalona, Iowa. It was made by the father of the three sisters who ran the store. When I went back the next year and wanted to buy another one, one of the sisters stated their father was now deceased, they had no more baler twine door mats, and he had not taught anyone else how to make them.

      For many years, one of my aunts bought old wool coats at thrift stores, cut them up into strips, and made beautiful braided rugs from them — some large enough to cover almost all of a living room floor.

      One of my Mennonite friends gave me a small poster (which was really the back cover of the Mennonite-Your-Way directory). I
      have it hanging on a wall in my house and it says:
      “In Praise of Mennonite Simplicity”
      Use it up
      Wear it out
      Make it do
      Or do

      I think this would be true of many Amish people also, and think
      today’s Amish America topic fits well with the phrase “Make it do”.

      1. Love that saying! Made me a copy. Oh my, baler twine rugs! We had one many years ago. My uncle had made it, but one day it took a sad end…met up with a lawn mower, after our dog dragged unto the lawn. How the person mowing didn’t see it, is beyond me. O well…

      2. Bernadette W.

        Al in KY;Thank you for your wonderful comment! I like that saying that you posted regarding a Mennonite saying. Very interesting!

        Have a wonderful day!

    13. Bernadette W.


      Does anyone know how to make those braided rugs? Do you need any particular kind of material? And is there a pattern on the internet that I could follow?

      If anyone could help me out: I would appreciate it very much!
      Thank you! Have a wonderful day!

      1. Ada/KJV


        I got some old (literally) yarn from the thrift store (where I volunteer). On the label was a pattern, but, of course, I threw it away because I did not have enough yarn!
        Try this link: http://www.bernatpatterns.org/bernat-rug-yarn-2/

        Funny, it’s called a “recycle project.”

        In Christ,

      2. Ada/KJV

        Oh, yeah, by the way...

        By the way, Bernadette, all you need (according to the old pattern) is a lot of yarn (rug yarn preferably) and a really big crochet hook. You chain a good bit (you are making the rope you will roll into a rug), then add width to it by double crocheting. Then you sew it together with thick thread/yarn.


        1. Bernadette W.

          Do you know by chance what size Crochet hook? & also what thickness of Rug yarn? Is it 4ply or what?

          Thank you for your help!

          1. Ada/KJV

            Gauge and Yarn


            Because I no longer have the label, I cannot speak for sure. However, I still have the actual yarn, which, when put up against a measuring tape, is 1/8 inch thick.
            To my understanding, you would use three strands of this yarn at a time. I don’t think gauge matters too much. It’d probably be an afghan hook or one of those huge crochet hooks that Boyes makes (it is plastic and blue).


    14. ann

      I’ve done that for over 20 years and have no idea where I first got the idea…from my Amish relatives???? Don’t know now!!

    15. Alice Mary

      The “big thing” now at public libraries is called “maker spaces”—a place in the library where patrons can let loose their creativity (sometimes just a small table in a corner, or sometimes whole big rooms with video-making supplies/art supplies/3Dprinters, etc.). In my opinion, I think it would make more sense to do it in schools in the evenings (we pay such high taxes for schools here, might as well make better use of them when the kids have gone home for the day). But my POINT is, we’re always looking for cheap materials for crafts for little kids, elementary kids, teens to use in craft programs. My Mom was that way, too, making candle holders out of small soup cans, etc.

      I would LOVE to see photos of various Amish-made (from recycled materials) items here! Does anyone have some to share? I think it would be a good resource and inspiration to recycle/re-use some of the things cluttering my house. You, too? 🙂

      Alice Mary

    16. Bernadette W.

      Thank you for your help! I appreciate it very much!

      Have a nice evening everyone!

    17. Carolyn B

      Erik and Amish America Community, howdy!

      If I didn’t require a three foot path for my wheelchair, I’d be a hoarder of thrifty stuff. I enjoyed this article and the comments so much. Not being the least bit crafty, I must content myself with others’ talents.

    18. Bernadette W.

      Does anyone know where I can get a book that shows how to quilt like the Amish with their beautiful pattern designs & how to do their small hand sewn stitches?

      PS: I have never quilted before: But I am really interested in learning how. And I figured doing things by hand would be much easier for me to learn then using a sewing machine.

      If anyone knows: Could you write it on a comment here?
      Thank you so much!

      1. Ada/KJV


        I have a book from my thrift store that has a few Amish quilts in them, in addition to a how-to section on quilting/stitches. The book is called “Quilts & Afghans from McCall’s Needlework & Crafts”. It was “distributed by MacMillan Publishing Company.” The ISBN is 0-02-496670-3. Library of Congress Catalog Number is 83-51236.
        It was published in 1984.

        The Amish quilts are the:
        Bear Paw Quilt [“Hailing from the Amish country of Ohio, this old favorite patchwork pattern often is made with many scraps. But it an have dramatic impact in just two colors- here, black and a strong blue. Nine pieced blocks are set with plain joining strips and borders.”- McCall’s

        Amish Diamond Quilt [“With the elegant simplicity that is the hallmark of Amish design, a simple geometric design is worked in a sophisticated blend of colors, then elaborately finished with several exquisite quilting patterns.”]

        Ribbon Stripe Quilt [This most unusual turn-of-the-century Amish quilt can be made with fabric strips or ribbons- or both. With its easy-to-piece pattern and straight-line quilting, it is an ideal project for beginning quilters.”]

        All quotes from “Quilts & Afghans from McCall’s Needlework & Crafts.”

        I’ve never quilted, yet these sound easy, yet they require lots of fabric, time, and patience.

        In Christ,


        1. Ada/KJV

          P.S for Bernadette


          I found this new blog yesterday. The family that writes it is Plain (but not Amish, I believe).
          The blog is as such: http://sheperdshillhomestead.com/category/homemaking.

          Search: “Make a Quilt”

          In Christ,


          1. Bernadette W.

            Thank you very much for your help also! I appreciate it very much! I will definitely check that website out!

            And again: Thank you very much! God Bless!
            Have a nice evening!

        2. Bernadette W.

          Ada, Thank you so much for what you wrote me! I really appreciate this information! I’m thinking I could pick this book at one of two stores in my town where I live. One of the stores is: Walmart-This is a possibility or another store is: Ben Franklin craft store. I will check them out and if I can find this book I will let you know.

          And again: I really do appreciate your help! God Bless!
          Have a nice evening!