Monday, January 30, 2012

Upcycled Sushi Tray Bracelet Tutorial

This month's Etsy Fort Worth "Upcycle THIS!" Craft Challenge contest secret ingredient was disposable plastic sushi trays.

This is my entry; a step-by-step tutorial to make your own bracelet with one of these pretty trays!
You can click on any of the photos below for a closer look.

Tools and Supplies:
✧ One disposable plastic sushi tray with at least 2x5 inches of flat usable space in the bottom
✧ 6 yards embroidery floss, 6 strand (I used DMC color #498)
✧ 2 hex nuts, 1/2 wide (3/16" inside)
✧ Small circle hand punch, 1/16"
✧ Scissors
✧ Saucepan
✧ Tongs
✧ 2 Wide rubber bands
✧ Non-tapered drinking glass, 2.5-2.75" in diameter (or another cylindrical object)
✧ Tape
✧ Big-eyed needle (optional)

Grocery stores often have this kind of trays for their sushi. You can find plenty of inexpensive options (and non raw fish options if you're not a fan).

First, I recommend washing your sushi tray (if it has been used for fish or food) in the dishwasher.  I put mine on the top shelf and made sure the 'heated dry' setting was off, just to be sure it didn't warp the plastic.

This is what the original tray (9" x 6.25") looked like (to the left).  You can see there is a section framed in the middle. That's the part I wanted to use for mine!  

Using scissors, I cut into the tray and trimmed the sides off so I have just the flat part of the bottom of the tray (right).

Then I cut around the shape in the center. This will also work with a smooth tray. Your cut out piece should be a rectangle about 2x5". I suggest rounding the corners.

**Please note, I originally cut out around the larger rectangle, so the next few photos show the steps with that piece.  It ended up being too big so I trimmed that outer edge off to be left with the innermost section of the tray which is the 2x5" piece.

The next step is to warm up the plastic piece in a pan of hot water. (You will want to have your rubber bands and glass or other cylindrical object ready before you start this step so go ahead and peek to the next step first). Keep the water just under boiling. DO NOT BOIL!  This will cause the plastic to get too brittle and crack when it cools. It also takes some of the shine off the plastic and leaves a nasty whitish tinge in areas. Just be patient and watch it for several minutes.
Use a pair of tongs to turn the piece over so that the blank side is facing up, and press it gently to the bottom of the pan in the middle.  This should encourage the ends to start to curve upward in the right direction.  Keep coaxing the ends to curve by using the tongs to pick up the plastic and bend it gently by pressing against the bottom or side of the pan. You shouldn't have too much trouble getting the plastic to start to shape.  If it is still too rigid, give it a little bit more time in the hot water and you'll be able to feel when it's a little bit easier to mold.  
You won't be able to achieve the final perfect curve during this step...that's what the next step is for!

When the plastic is nice and flexible and starting to curve in the right direction, remove it from the pan with your tongs and act quickly to use rubber bands to hold it in place around a cylindrical form like this un-tapered drinking glass (it should be about 2.5-2.75" in diameter.  This one is 2.75" across).  The idea is to secure the plastic in place before it cools too much, so if you're not fast enough you may need to get it back in the water for a few extra minutes and try again.  You'll be able to feel that it's too rigid.  

You may want to use thick rubber gloves so you can handle the plastic comfortably, but honestly I didn't because it was cool enough to touch within seconds of taking it out of the water.

Leave the plastic in place on the glass for at least 15 minutes.  When it is completely cool, you can remove the rubber bands and it will hold this shape!  Be gentle as you continue from this point on, because after it cools it returns to being just as rigid as before, so could still possibly snap or crack if you try to bend it too far.
*This is the stage I realized that although it looks really cool, the size of the piece was too big (above left).  I carefully trimmed off the outer rectangular area with a pair of scissors (trimmed piece, above right).

Next, I used the 1/16" small circle punch to make 8 holes along the bottom edge of each side of the cuff.  As you can see I did a TERRIBLE job of making a straight line.  I would suggest using a white wax pencil to mark where the holes should be and try to line up the punch to your marks.  I made my holes about 1/8th of an inch up from the edge of the plastic.

For each side of the bracelet, I cut eight 10" sections of red embroidery floss (so, 16 sections total for the bracelet) and used two through each hole.  I passed the ends of two pieces of cord up through the first hole and down through the second hole, then tied a double knot on the underside.  I repeated this for each of the other sets of holes. 

Then I slid all the ends of the bunch of cords through a hex nut, and tied all the strands into one knot, snug up against the hex nut on each side.

Now, we are almost finished!  
The next few steps will make a square sliding knot around both bunches of cord, so that our bracelet will be adjustable! 

 First, cross your ends past each other and tape to the outer side of the opposite end of the cuff.  Be careful not to pull too tightly, you don't want to crack the plastic.

Next, turn the bracelet so that one of the stitched ends is facing you and it is lying on its curved back (see below left).

Take a 24" section of embroidery floss and put it under the middle of where your tassels cross.  We'll refer to these cords as the 'anchors' from now on. Tie a 'normal' knot to secure the string in place.

Then, to begin the square knot, bring the right end up and over the anchors, loosely so you leave a loop on the right side between the tying cord and the anchors.  Now bring the left side up over the right end, then pass it under the anchors and up through the loop on the right side.  Pull both ends to pull it tight. 

Make it snug but not too tight, your knot needs to move easily.

This completes the first half of your first square knot.  

The second half is the same but in reverse:
Bring the left end up and over the anchors, leaving it loose to make a loop (see above right) and pass it under the right end.  The right end passes under the anchors (make sure it's over the left end first) and then up through the loop on the left.

Repeat with several more knots until you have about a half inch in length for your sliding knot.  To finish, you can either tie a regular double knot with the tails (on the underside of the knot which will be against the wrist when worn) and then trim , or you can use a needle to weave or sew the ends back in through your knot.  I personally don't like gluing because the glue can stick the sliding knot to the anchor chords and then won't slide!! ( I guess I need a little more practice).

This is a pretty good video which shows you how to tie the sliding square knot.
I think it's harder to explain that it is to actually do! 

One last step:  in order to prevent the ends from slipping all the way out of the sliding knot, I tied small knots in the tassels about 1/2 inch away from the square knot on both sides.  The ends need to be able to pull through far enough so that you can get your wrist through, so to figure out where to place the knots find out how far you need to slide the slider. These little knots will be like stoppers.  
I took four strands at a time and tied a knot in them, so that the tassel would keep its shape as a tassel!

You could also tie a tiny knot at the very end of every strand, or tie knots and add beads at the ends...etc.  There are lots of variations for this bracelet.  Have fun and please let me know if you need further help with ANY of this; I know there is a lot of info and a ton of steps.

I'd also love to see your own version of the bracelet, if you use this tutorial to make something similar, post them here in the comments so everyone can see!

I LOVE to be pinned on Pinterest :)  I hope you'll share with the world by pinning me if you like what you see here!

Green Crafts Showcase


  1. Love it! My daughter is loving all of the ways to resume plastics- they are on a recycling thing in school right now and in the middle of projects and papers- great job! (Anything with embroidery floss is worth it:)

  2. Hey! Thank you so much for entering the Green Crafts Showcase! The bracelet is so adorable! I didn't think about using a sushi tray-- so genius! We're going to post the top 5 projects this Friday so be sure to check back!

    Thank you!
    -Bonnie @ Crafting a Green World


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