Get Crafty: Ten Totally Un-Rubbish Things To Do With An Empty Tin Can

So; you’ve made your Spaghetti Bolognaise, and because you are frankly too busy to bother, you’ve used tinned tomatoes instead of fresh ones. Seriously, who doesn’t? But, before blithely throwing your tins into the recycling bin, take a moment to ponder whether there isn’t some better use you can put them to.

Tin cans have such a cool, industrial look to them once they have been stripped of their labels. Make the most of that and save a wodge of money at the same time!

Tip: Before you start, you will need to clean your cans and take off the labels. Washing your cans out with a bit of lemon juice will get rid of any lingering food smells.

Particularly good for short-stemmed flowers, these homemade vases are adorable and are great for dressing a lunch table due to their uniform size, customisable appearance and the fact that they are free (yippee!)

What to do:

They are the easiest thing in the world to make. Simply assemble your materials: your tin can, some simple brown packing paper (or coloured paper, if you prefer) a piece of string or ribbon, scissors and some craft adhesive or superglue.

Cover the can with paper, secure it with a thin layer of glue, and then tie the piece of strong or ribbon securely around the tin, securing it with a bow.

Et voilà!

Easy peasy lemon squeezy, and they look pretty cute, too.

Traditional terracotta plant pots look gorgeous but can be expensive. I think these look just as nice, and cost hardly anything! They also look so pretty in the kitchen and you can keep your herbs to hand for easy access.

What to do:

Simply take your tin, and either paint the outside, or add a simple band of plain or coloured paper, and tie with ribbon or string.

Take a hammer, and gently hammer in some small holes in the bottom of the tin, for drainage.

 Fill the tin with soil and plant your flowering seedling or herb. We had a tiny bay tree so I planted it in the tin – it fitted perfectly!

Remember to place the finished pot onto a little saucer or dish, so that when you water your plant it doesn’t leak onto your worksurface or windowsill.

These are so cute, and look gorgeous displayed in groups in the garden!

They are also really great for parties, as they can just be recycled after you have finished with them. These gorgeous examples were made by Charlotte Hupfield, of Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics.

What to do:

Simply fill your can with water and put it in the freezer.   Once it has frozen solid, take it out of the freezer and draw a design of your choice onto the tin with a pen.

Then, using a hammer and a nail, punch your pattern into the can (the ice in the can will keep the sides from denting and smashing as you hammer). Once you are happy with your design, simply leave the ice to thaw out and wash off the pen marks!

Before use, pour a little sand into the bottom of the tin – this helps avoid the base getting too hot, protects against accidental fires in case it is knocked over, and keeps it weighted down to stop it tipping.

Then pop in a tealight, step back, and admire!

These are a great way to use up those little half-sized tins you get if you eat lunch on your own a lot and buy baked beans for one (sob!)

Firstly, decorate your can in any way you like – you can paint it or cover it in paper, as I have done. Then simply fill the inside of the can with cotton wool or scraps of fabric, and fill the can to the top. Make sure you pack it in densely so that it will hold your pins properly.

Then, using a scrap of fabric, cut a circle of fabric about an inch larger in diameter than the rim of the can. Run a thin line of super glue along the inside edge of the fabric circle, and carefully glue the fabric onto the inside edge of the tin.

Hurrah! Look what you just made, you clever thing!

This utterly gorgeous idea for beautiful, inexpensive table numbers for weddings or birthdays comes courtesy of the lovely people over at 100 Layer Cake.

Fabulous for weddings, parties, or any occasion where you might need to number your tables, these look beautiful and cost next to nothing. That’s what I like to hear!

What to do:

1. Tape off the inside of your cans so no spray paint gets inside. Spray the outside of each can with the golden spray paint. Be sure you don’t hold the spray can nozzle too close to the tin can, which can make for drippy, runny lines down your pretty table numbers and no one wants that. You may need to do two or three coats depending on how opaque you want to the colour to be.

2. Once your cans are dry, wrap your printed number stencil around each tin can.

3. Drill. Yay! Start by drilling the outline of the number first (following the stencil line), and then work your way in. It certainly doesn’t have to be perfect, but the more holes you can drill, the more light your can will give off.

4. Slide your coloured paper into the can on the opposite side as the number. Mark the paper with the appropriate height and width (you don’t want it to cover your numbers. Next trim the paper to the correct size using your cutting mat and knife.

5. Spray mount the trimmed paper to the inside of your can (opposite the number). And you’re done! Utterly gorgeous. 

Tin cans really are fabulous ready-made cookie and pastry cutters! They are the perfect size and shape, the can itself makes an easy hand-hold to get the dough out of the cutter, and the sharp edge is actually helpful here as it cuts through the dough easily. I keep an empty can in my baking cupboard for just this purpose.

Tin cans make great storage ideas!

For a cool twist, paint them with blackboard paint and then label the contents with chalk.

You can also superglue them to a piece of painted MDF or backing board, and use them as a fab stationary organiser for your desk.


This adorable idea, courtesy of Ruffled Blog, is a great way to make lovely and low-cost Wedding or Party Favours to give away to guests.

Simply plant some lovely fragrant herbs or a pretty plants into empty tin cans, and decorate with a luggage label with the bride and grooms’ names on them and the date of the wedding, or the name of the special occasion, such as ‘Kitty’s Birthday 2011’.

Easy, adorable, cheap – and they might hopefully prove useful for your guests!

Yes, that’s right – you can actually make a pretty cool looking wine rack out of old tin cans.

Designer Michelle Kaufmann very kindly shows us how to do it here:

OK, this one’s a bit of a cheat because it’s not strictly something you can do easily yourself, but I just had to include this as I really think that this young British designer has produced something absolutely spectacular.

Designer, Northumbria University graduate and all-round clever clogs Jack Bresnahan has created a set of nine lids that will turn any ordinary can into a truly sexy industrial-chic container. Made from biodegradable plastic, the ingenious white lids will transform a can into a vase, soap dispenser, sugar caster, tea and coffee canisters, toothbrush holder, money box, or desk organiser.

Genius! Sadly for us, they are not for sale yet, but keep your fingers crossed to see them hitting our shelves very soon.

And Finally…

Tin cans really can be used for pretty much anything – even creating a designer wall finish.

Don’t believe me? Artist Clare Graham created this beautiful jewelled wall treatment out of nothing more than the lids of left-over tin cans. How amazing does that look?!


See you tomorrow!


Jessy xxx

PS: Did you like this post? Want to make me a really happy bunny?

I would be utterly thrilled if you would consider voting for me in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2011. Seriously, it would mean the world. All you need to do is click here and fill in the form. Thank you ever so much! xxx



Filed under Ideas

2 responses to “Get Crafty: Ten Totally Un-Rubbish Things To Do With An Empty Tin Can

  1. Have made/used some of these ideas before and they do work well! The paper and bow around the tin can vase is a lovely idea. x

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