A Super Simple Cushion Tutorial

I am slowly but surely teaching myself to sew. It makes sense on so many levels and brings with it so many benefits – a lot of them in line with my eco philosophy’s:

  • I can source locally made and/or organic fabrics to make my own products.
  • I can create a whole heap more upcycling projects that I spy on Pinterest (follow me here) which not only have less impact but can help me be greener – produce bags… I’m comin’ for you next!
  • It will be a whole lot easier to avoid that nasty ‘Made in China’ label
  • I will have a greater attachment and pride in my possessions because I will understand all the work that went into them!

My first project to get me into the groove has been making a recycled pallet day bed (which I can’t wait to share with you next week once it is complete!). And what does every daybed need? A million throw cushions, that’s what! As this is my first time behind the machine I didn’t want to have the trouble of zips and buttons – I wanted quick and simple. I found a few blog sites that detailed how to make this pouch style cushion and I am happy to say it was easy enough for even me to master. And I mean master… I have sewed 19 of them in 2 weeks! Here are a few being enjoyed by Velcro the little stray kitten we rescued last month (read about her here).

**Special thanks and love has to go to my amazing, stupendous, wonderful and above all progressive husband here! My first attempt at sewing a cushion was after our antenatal class where I was shown all the surgical equipment that can be used during labour and was told of all the possibilities that could go wrong. To say I was emotional was an understatement. I knew so little about sewing that I didn’t know you had to even clamp the sewing foot down and I buggered up the machine and ended up face down on the table bawling. But my man of many talents cleaned me up and showed me a few basics and I haven’t stopped since. What a superstar!  

Equipment

  • Sewing Machine
  • Pins
  • Fabric
  • Cushion Insert
  • Chalk / Pencil
  • Ruler / Measuring Tape
  • Scissors (Fabric scissors are SO worth it!)

Method

1. When you buy your cushion insert you will be given the dimensions – pictured below is Size 24: 61cms x 61cms (24″ x 24″). Measure out with your tape measure a shape the same size as the dimensions. You do not need to allow for a hem or for the stitch – you want your cushion to be snug and… well… cushy!

Mark out the shape with chalk or a proper fabric pencil (obviously on the inside of the material). This may take a bit of playing around to make sure you get it square.

This piece will be the front of your cushion.

2. Cut out your front shape.

3. You then need to cut out the two back flaps which will form the pouch to insert your cushions. There is no exact science on this and there is a little wiggle room but you want the ‘flaps’ to be approximately two thirds the height of the front piece of fabric. For example both flaps should measure…

  • As wide as the front piece of fabric
  • Approx two thirds the height of the front piece of fabric PLUS 2cms (approx 1″) for a small hem

EXAMPLE: The three pieces of my fabric were as follows;

  • Front Piece – 61cms x 61cms (24″ x 24″)
  • 2 x back pieces – 42cms x 61cms (16″ x 24″)

4. You then need to hem one edge of each of the back flaps. To do this fold the material over and pin it. My hems were 2cms (approx 1″). If you want to really crease the hems  then iron them which will flatten them. Whizz it through your sewing machine and tie off the ends.

5. Then pin all your pieces together ready for sewing- which for the amateur sewer can be confusing at first. Lie your cover piece flat on a table with the pretty outside of the cushion facing up. Then place your first flap squarely onto it so that the ugly inside of the fabric is facing up. Repeat with the other piece therefore completing the back square.

Pin along the edges securely. Make sure you pin the edges of the flaps down to ensure that they don’t get folded while you sew.

Sew along each edge and tie the threads off.

6. Once you have sewed all four sides turn your cover inside out and stuff your insert into it. Give it a bit of a plump and a fluff until it looks deliciously inviting and voila! You have a sturdy, simple cushion!I hope that made sense! I have had great success with them and have used all sort of different materials with them. The best bit is, your average store-bought, mass-produced cushion seems to retail for $50 these days. That is an absolutely HUGE mark up. If you want your life filled with beautiful cushions, this is the way to go!

 

DIY Gift Boxes from Recycled Cards

Last Christmas I was a bit of an Eco-Grinch. I got really grumpy at the fact that a time  that is meant to be about family and love and all that good stuff had morphed into a cash cow… an exercise in capitalism. But I still didn’t want to let Christmas go. I grew up in England with snowmen and amazing Christmas trees and dad dressing up like Santa – and being pregnant I want my little daughter to grow up with memories as lovely as mine. So I am on a mission to keep my festivities completely eco (and blog about it of course!).

In January – going off the theme that reuse is better than recycle – I asked all the people in my office to give me their unwanted Christmas cards. I took a whole lot down to the local school to use for crafts but was still left with a massive pile of them. I stored them with my Christmas decorations and hoped to think of something to do with them by Christmas time. And I did. Here is an ultra simple gift box that you can make from an old greetings card.

Equipment

  • Old greeting cards
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Glue (can just be a stick but Hot Glue Gun is far more resilient)
  • *If just using a glue stick you may also want pegs and paperclips

Instructions

1. Cut along the seam to separate the front of the card from the back.

2. Decide how thick/deep you want your box to be (look at the gift/item you are putting inside it to make sure it will fit!). Once decided rule a margin around the sides. I varied between 2 and 3cms (0.5 – 1″) for my boxes.

3. Fold along each line. I did this by placing my ruler along the line and then folding the paper over it… was a lot quicker and more precise.

4. Cut along the lines on 2 opposite ends only. What I mean by that is you don’t want to cut the corner squares out… you just want to create a flap. See next photo if you are unsure of what I mean.

5. Fold the flaps in and apply dobs of glue. Then pincer together to make your box shape. If you are just using a glue stick you may want to hold the flaps together with pegs or paperclips to ensure the box really sets and is sturdy. Hot glue gun is definitely preferable though.

6. And there you have one half of your box! ( Use the pretty front part of the card is the top of the box). Repeat the process to make the other half of your box.

7.  When I was drawing the margins in for the bottom half of the boxes I made the margins a couple of mm’s bigger than the top boxes so that it fit comfortably without needing to bend. E.g. my margin for the top was 3cms on each side, my margin for the bottom was 3.2cms on each side.

Other ideas…

Advent Calendar

If I had more time I would totally have made this advent calendar using the boxes and a pin up board…

From 2 Boys 2 Girls Painter Family

Tree Ornaments

You could also thread some ribbon through them and hang them from your tree filled with goodies.

Plastic Free Easter Egg Containers

Easter will be another hurdle in anti-consumerism! I have brill memories of Easter Egg hunts but how will I give these to my daughter without all that nasty foil and needless wrapping? You could bulk buy chocolates and place them in little boxes and hide them around the garden! WIN.

Stationery Holders

These could also be cute little DIY boxes to keeps your paperclips etc in!

More Sustainable Christmas Ideas

If you are looking for more sustainable Christmas ideas you may like some of these posts;

Upcycled Tin Cans

Since cutting plastic out of my life I don’t really have to deal with too much wasted food packaging. However, I am English which means there is some packaging that will never be truly banished from my world: the humble aluminium casing that temporarily houses my baked beans! Due to my jacket-tatty-with-beans addiction I have accumulated quite a few of these cans and while they are recyclable I much prefer to reuse where I can. Then while I was cruising the interwebs I spied the below picture and got all inspired…

What a sweet and clever idea! So I decided to expand on that and instead cover my cans with pretty paper – because my cans would not look as gorgeously rustic as those pictured… it would literally just be a big collection of Heinz beans cans! Either way I think the results are gorgeous and this would make a gorgeous eco solution for a wedding centerpieces which would hardly break the budget (the whole project cost me $12). Best thing about this project – it was unbelievably quick and simple.

What You’ll Need

  • Washed tin cans
  • Pretty paper (a standard can will get use half a sheet)
  • Ruler (Steel ruler would be best for accuracy)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun

Method

Wash all your tin cans thoroughly and remove labels. Having little remnants of paper is fine – they may even help with the adhesion of the paper.

Without glue, wrap a sheet of paper around the width of the can (to see the amount you will need). I always allow for a 2cm overlap.

Fold the excess amount back over itself. You can then cut along the crease line.

Then measure the length of the can as accurately as possible. If you want to have a little leeway make sure you cut the paper a little thinner rather than leaving it a little too wide – you don’t want the paper taller than the can as it will fray and get messy.

Now you are ready to roll (literally). Apply a stripe of glue along one end of the paper (the shorter end that will go across the height of the can).

Carefully place and stick the paper onto the can keeping it as straight as possible.

Once the paper is stuck to the can, flip it over so that you can see the underside of the paper and apply 4 lines of glue – along the top, middle, bottom and side of the paper. Carefully (and as quickly as possible so the glue doesn’t dry) roll the paper around the can.

If the edge of the paper is not completely stuck down apply small blobs of glue to the corners. You don’t want the blobs to be too big as they may squish out and look untidy.

And Voila!!! Repeat this for each of your cans until you have a beautiful assortment of colours and patterns.

Once you have your assortment of cans fill them with flowers and/or tea lights and use them as a centre-piece for a table or a beautiful feature on a side table or shelf.

If filling them with flowers here are two things to consider;

  1. You will have to be very careful with water as the new coating is paper and will ruin if it is wet
  2. Try to avoid cut flowers from stores! As I explained in this post they are often imported and wrapped in plastic. The ones I have used in this picture are a mixture of weeds from the verge-side in my suburb or a few flowers from my own garden. I can’t wait until my lavender bushes really kick off for this very purpose!

Anyway… here are a few more pictures. Happy crafting!

Add some tea-lights for some extra pretty mood lighting!

Since completing this project I have seen that loads of people have done similar with their old tin cans. You can follow me on Pinterest here but for the moment here are some special mentions of some other gorgeous tin can upcycling projects…

Such a stunning arrangement for a baby shower from Bump Smitten.com

Pretty pen pots from Craft Gawker.com

More storage tins… this time with ribbons! From The Ornament Girl.com/blog/

Classic White Votive Tins from One Womens Haven.blogspot.com.au

Recycled Ladder Shelf

My love of all things old continues, my latest obsession being vintage wooden ladders! I find old, worn, loved-up ladders so charming – they transport me to a realm of nostalgia in the same way that teapots do. When I look at them I think about all the excited feet that could have stood on them before… young couples painting their first home together, an excited daddy-to-be preparing a nursery or the father that is always there to help out his kids (now adults) with any renovations. Maybe this pregnancy is making me more emotional than I first thought but either way it is a symbol that warms the cockles of me heart and I wanted to use a ladder in my home. All the better that it is an old unloved material that completely cancels out the need to chop down a new tree. Check vintage stores, gumtree, Ebay, opshops, the local tip and roadside collections. And remember… the more paint stains the better!

What You’ll Need

  • An old ladder
  • Spirit level
  • Brackets – the amount will depend on the ladder size. For one this size I used two along the bottom and one to stabilise at the top.
  • Wall plugs
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Extra pair of hands is useful in this project… maybe two if you have a longer ladder!

Method

1)   After you have found your ladder you need to pick the perfect spot for it!

2)   If your ladder is a step ladder then you will need to take the two rails apart. Once apart choose which part of the ladder you will use… you may even want to use both!

3)   Hold your ladder up against the wall to measure whereabouts you want your shelf.

4)   Measure with spirit level to ensure the ladder is level.

5)   Borrow the spare set of hands and slide the brackets into place (where they will need to be to hold the ladder up) behind the ladder and quickly pencil in the holes. You want the brackets to be as hidden as possible which means the outside/underside of your ladder will sit on the bracket like a shelf, rather than being supported like a perch. If that doesn’t make sense just look at the third picture in the below sequence.

6)   Drill the holes into the walls. Hammer  in the wall plugs and then screw in your brackets.

7)   Once your brackets are drilled in, rest your ladder upon them. Put a bracket on the top of your ladder to secure and stabilize it and repeat the bracket drilling process.

8)   Once all your brackets are drilled in and your ladder feels securely ‘wedged’ you will need to screw the brackets into the ladder. Very gently drill screws into the ladder… you must be careful so as not to split the ladder.

9)   The amount of brackets you need and the way in which you organise them will vary depending on what size and shape ladder you find. Just make sure it is secure and supported. Then, the fun bit…

10)   Time to decorate! I had so much fun choosing what goodies to put on my ladder. Bobert (my leaf-tailed Gekko made from scrap metal) has pride of place and every time I look over at him walking up his little hill it makes me smile. Then I have the champagne glasses that Mark and I left our wedding venue still holding (completely accidental theft, I promise!) and I filled them with pebbles and shells that I collected the day after I met him. It is so lovely to be able to honor those little things that make your heart sing every time you look at them!

And here it is from one more angle… just because pride is bursting out my eyes like little sunbeams…

 

If you like this sort of quirky shelving you may also like my DIY Tutorial for “Book Shelves” wink wink. See that here.

I will leave you with this beautiful quote about… what else?… ladders!

One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you — suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, “Well, I’ll have a go, too.”

Margaret Thatcher

How To Make “Book Shelves”

Honestly, is there anything more beautiful than an old, tattered book? I often lose hours in vintage stores; running my finger along the frayed cloth spines, peeking inside the cover to try find a bygone message filled with love or the occasional long-lost bookmark.

With this fascination in mind, it is no surprise that I have always loved using books around my home as whimsical design features. So as soon as I spied Pinterest pictures (follow me here) using books themselves as book shelves (Say whaaaat?!)  I was hooked. Not only that but I had the perfectly drab wall just screaming for some upcycled decoration!

What You’ll Need

  • Old Books (1 book = 1 shelf)
  • 3 brackets per book – 2 for the base, 1 for the top (Aim for a bracket length that is about half the width of the book so that it will be stable and load-bearing. I am sure if you want a smaller bracket for aesthetic reasons you could manage it. In retrospect the brackets I used would be smaller… these are slightly too prominent).
  • Screws
  • Wall plugs
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Spirit Level
  • If you have a spare set of hands/muscles it will make this project a hell of a lot easier!

Method

First part is the best bit. You need to get yourself to a vintage store and find yourselves some books. Take into account the size, the spine, how the combination looks together and the book subject. I found the perfect little green book but then realised it was a book about war weapons – not a subject I really want in my house. I wanted books that reflected interests and personalities in my life. I ended up with a rare book from 1930 about sheep (my parents have 21 pet sheep), The Statutes of Western Australia (where I live) and The Generous Earth (about the beauty of living simply). Score!

Old books are so undervalued!

The thing I love the most about this method of fixing the books to the wall is that you don’t ruin the books! If you ever want to you can take your ‘shelf’ out of the brackets and have a flick through before putting it back. Even though I have seen super cool designs using books as the material I just feel wrong about damaging an old book. They are noble beasts… we must love them.

1).   Measure whereabouts you want the books on your wall and hold the base brackets underneath the book in a way that will support them. Mark a pencil line along the bottom of the book.

2).   Measure that the brackets are flat and level with your spirit level

3).   Mark the bracket holes where you will need to drill with a pencil.

4).   Line your book up with the pencil line and then draw a line along the top of the book so that you can see how thick  it is. Put your top bracket on top of the book and make sure it is completely vertical (with your spirit level). Mark the holes where you are going to drill.

5).   Shove lots of material into your ears and drill holes into the wall.  Hammer wall plugs into the wall.

6).   Screw your brackets into the wall.

7).   Slide your books into place and decorate the hell out of them with all your most loved knick knacks. I filled mine with some vintage bottles that were found in the ocean, my collection of owls (the big guy was my Grandpa’s, is 60 years old and his name is Costa) and my rolled magazine plant in an upcycled old vase (tutorial here).

So I wish you luck in your shelving!!! I will leave you with a beautiful passage that is at the beginning of what is now my top shelf. I think it is a gorgeous sentiment and I love that I have such a sweet message hidden away in my wall fittings!

Amazing DIY Deodorant

The debate over deodorant and it’s links to cancer are just about as contentious as the great dairy debate. As yet “no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer” (see studies here and here). BUT do we really need to a scientific nod of approval to be concerned or should we occasionally just employ some good ol’ common sense?

Here is what we do know…

The active ingredient in deodorant (unless otherwise stated) is aluminium and they can also contain parabens.

  • Scientists have found that the aluminium content of breast tissue was significantly higher in the outer regions of the breast, in close proximity to the area where there would be the highest density of antiperspirant. A disproportionate amount of tumours occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast which seems to support that this could be linked to aluminium-based antiperspirants. (read more)
  • Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds may be absorbed through the skin and cause estrogen (hormonal) effects (that research is in here). Estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • A 2004 study found parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from human breast tumours (see here). These findings are not uncommon as you can see from this study or this one or this one!

So (for me) even though there is no categorical proof, I just don’t like the thought of rubbing aluminium, parabens and god knows whatever other chemicals in a sensitive region near my breasts and lymph nodes. I also don’t like the thought of a chemical blocking my pores especially when those pores are trying to excrete natural toxins from my body.

An Easy Solution

Room for argument? Maybe. But lets not forget that cigarettes were once marketed as the ‘perfect cure for a sore throat’. So if I can eliminate any risk whatsoever I am going to; which is why I love making my own deodorant! It is so simple, so cheap and bloody effective!!! With 3 ingredients (that are probably already in your cupboard) you can make a deodorant that will last all day, comes free of wasteful packaging, is super cheap and has no harmful chemicals in it. Here’s how…

Ingredients

  • Cornflour
  • Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda)
  • Coconut Oil
  • OPTIONAL – Essential Oil. I use Lavender and Lemon before!

‘Cornflour’ is much easier to say than ‘phthalate’!

Method

Mix equal amounts of cornflour and bicarb soda. Maybe start with 1/4Cup each.

Add 2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil to start with and mix the ingredients until you get the right consistency. You want it to be a malleable paste . Get your Goldilocks on – it shouldn’t be too wet or dry! (if your coconut oil is too solid, warm it slightly until it is gooier).

It is kinda like make scones!

It is really hard to show consistency in a photo (especially when your camera is broken) but this is the level of ‘moosh’ you are after…

If you want, add some smelly essential oils to get a more fragrant deo. I added a few drops of Lavender Oil to mine because I love it but even by itself the deodorant smells like coconut which is pretty yummy anyway!

NOTE: If you are pregnant some essential oils should not be used. For a full list see here.

How To Store

I store our deodorant in an old beauty container but you can use a jar or any thing with a lid really. Alternately, you could save your own deodorant container if you’ve got a wind-on one and pack your deodorant into there! Reuse is better than recycle after all.

I keep mine in my bathroom and it stays at a good consistency. That being said, coconut oil melts really quickly in warmer temperatures so if your bathroom heats up you may want to keep it in the fridge. That could actually be really soothing to apply in a hot summer!

If your deodorant gets too solid, place some warm water in a bowl and then put your container into the water for a few minutes. As I’ve just mentioned the coconut oil will react quickly and become soft and malleable.

Expiry – this stuff doesn’t go off. Use it as long as you’d like.

How To Apply

Scrape off some of the mix (I use my fingers but you can use a spoon or knife or whatever) and apply to your underarms with your fingertips. It may look powdery or seem like it would be sticky but once you massage it into your pits it is surprisingly dry and fresh feeling.

My Review

My husband and I have been using this since the Less Is More Festival back in February – so it has been tried and tested on an Australian summer – and amazingly it works! Actually, more than just ‘working’ it is the most effective deo either of us have ever used. It is not a antiperspirant but it 100% stops any odour. Neither of us have even had to reapply throughout the day! Other than my Raw Chocolate (see that here) this is my absolute favourite DIY discovery – 10 out of 10 Olives!!!

Looks almost good enough to eat!

If you get a taste for DIY beauty products you may also like these recipes that I have blogged about before…

Enjoy – and let me know how you go in the Comments!