DIYdiy projectskate pruitt

diy project: recycled thermos-style carafe

by Grace Bonney

i’ve been wanting to have a bedside water solution for a while now. unfortunately, my cat has decided he will only drink from human glasses, so the glass of water before bed is inevitably full of fur by the time i want to drink it. i love the look of vintage thermoses, so i decided to take some old bottles and jars i have around the house to create a thermos style carafe. i am going to answer the obvious question now, which is “why not just buy vintage thermoses?”. there are definitely a lot of cute ones out there on ebay and such, and if you want to do that, you definitely should. for me, the idea of those old plastic cups and thermoses just feels slightly unhygienic for my taste, but the main reason is cost. i wanted to use something i had around the house, and the total cost of this project was probably $8 (the mugs were $5) for both carafes, and it is a cinch to make. but it is entirely up to you! have fun! –kate

CLICK HERE for the full project after the jump!


1. old jars, bottles (juice bottles, jam jars are good. you want wide jars that are close in diameter to your mug and have a wide mouth)
2. plaid fabric
3. manila folder or thick paper
4. fabric glue, rubber cement, or any gel or paste glue
5. scissors
6. velcro tabs or stickers (optional)
7. ceramic mugs
8. embroidered patches or letters (optional)



1. clean your bottles and jars and remove all labels.
2. measure your manila paper to create an even sleeve around the bottle that goes to the bottom and stops right where the bottle or jar starts to taper near the top. it looks sort of like a paper cozy. allow a half inch of overlap
3. cut a piece of plaid fabric that is the exact same size as your manila paper sleeve.
4. embroider or add your patch or sticker to your plaid fabric.
5. glue your fabric your manila sleeve. use a book edge to smooth out all wrinkles and allow to dry.
6. you can now glue your thermos sleeve onto the bottle. if you want to be able to keep the sleeve and switch out the bottle every once in while, you can attach velcro tabs to the ends of the sleeve and wrap the sleeve around the bottle tightly for a snug, secure fit. this will allow you to remove it for any reason.
7. cap the bottle with your mug.



Suggested For You


  • you’re going to get the sleeve all wet when you put the damp cup back. and plastics leaech over time so it’s not exactly a long term set-up. and the mug presumably rest on the edge of the folder as opposed to the tippy bottle cap, so you need to get your diameters juuuust right.


  • sarah-
    the smaller carafe is made from an old glass jar, so you can use glass if you prefer. and the cup actually does rest on the cap top, which i why i suggested using a wider mouth bottle (or jar). it uses the wide part of the bottle for support, like a lot of carafes do. you are definitely entitled to your opinion, but i just wanted to clarify the details. thank you for your feedback though, i appreciate it! – kate

  • Great bedside reading! I just finished the Jane Jacobs book a couple months ago.

    As for the issues mentioned above, you could just use a glass bottle, and not put the cup back until it’s dry. I like this project, and it is indeed a good reuse of household objects.

  • it’s a great idea, kate! sarrrrah is correct about the plastic leeching. you really don’t want to reuse one-use plastic bottles for drinking. it’s not about preference, it’s just not a safe thing to do with plastic. they’re a different kind of plastic than the plastic used for, say, nalgene bottles. the idea is super cute, and I’d love to try it with glass!

  • the general concept (inverted mug over water container) i like and need for the same reason (like having water at my bedside but so does my cat). but a few tweaks could improve the execution a lot.

    definitely glass. plasic is a no-no.

    don’t adhere the sleeve to the container. you’re going to want to wash it eventually, either in the dishwasher or the sink, and the sleeve will get very wet and possibly soapy. if you wnt to adhere a sleeve go with something like vinal that won’t mind.

    But what i would do is take an old cork placemat (of which i have several from IKEA lying around) and wrap that around the container till it’s quite tight and then wrap the fabric around it then seal it up with glue. the cork is flexible enough with a low enough co-efficient of friction that you should be able to slide it off the glass when you want to clean, but tight enough to stay on during normal use. plus the cork will absorb the drops of water left in the mug without issue. i’d actually use two or more layers of cork for good grip as well as a thicker cork layer will hold it’s round shape better. And varying the thickness of the cork to suit the dimensions of your mug will ensure a snug fit between glass and mug. And if I was feeling super crafty, use a wood burning kit to etch some neat patterns in the side and forgo any fabric at all. add a cork base and you’ve got a cozy that you can slip on and off any number of glass jars of the same shape (i’m thinking spaghetti sauce jars which are uniform and would hold a good amount of liquid for bed time sipping).

  • Just a note regarding vintage thermoses. We can all agree that they are rad. But most of the ones I’ve come across, have disintegrated rubber seals or they smell incredibly musty (no matter how many times they are washed), and thus, are no longer functional and must be relegated to mere decor items.

  • thank you so much for all this information! i had heard the plastic bottle warnings but i did not realize it was so bad. and i love the cork idea! a solid improvement. thanks again for your comments. for reference, i used a large jam jar and it was the perfect width for my cup.

  • glad to hear that my kitty is not the only one that like to dunk her paws in my glass of water!

  • I showed your post to my man who suffers from the same issues with our cats (who knew! We are relieved actually..) He suggest using a “decoy” glass. He puts a bigger glass in front for the cats and his own behind. I personally think your thermoses are lovely, but if you find they don’t work, he recommends a decoy. sigh.

  • i like this idea. i find it very cute and eye catching. sarrrrrrrrrrrah needs to relax a wee bit, in my opinion. obviously the project is optional, changeable, and for fun as well as function…

    thanks for the recycled craft, i keep up with your diy ideas because i always find them endearing.

    thanks for another keeper.


  • My cat also only drinks from glasses, and not even plastic ones either, only glass…and the water can be only from the fridge water system. Makes me so mad because he will also drink out of the toilet, and yet turns up his nose at plastic cups…..damn siamese cats.

  • The best best best thing was the Jane Jacobs book on the nightstand. Thanks for being creative on how to solve a small-ish but persistent challenge. And who knew there were so many odd cats?

  • I agree with the problems stated above. I imagined right away that your hard work and money would be wasted after a couple of uses when the paper gets wet (it inevitably will), and I also imagined the bottle slipping out of the paper cover when attempting to poor, even if it was wrapped tight, which could be especially dangerous with a glass bottle. I suggest using oilcloth for the cover, which you can buy cheaply in vibrant patters, even plaid. It also has decent grip to avoid slipping, and it cuts down on the work because it’s firm and won’t need to be glued to another material. I would definately use a glass bottle, but opt for snaps instead of velcro because it’s more secure and won’t be affected by water. To be even more ambitious one could cut the top of the bottle to resemble the mouth of a caraf, and the mug will then act as both lid and drinking vessel. Nice diy idea.

  • My cat prefers running water from the sink. But she loves to knock the entire glass of water over onto my head and pillow at around 3 am.