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!

 

A Plastic Free Platter (Vegan too!)

On my quest to live a life free of plastic I found myself wondering if having friends over for light nibbles would ever be an easy affair again. Have you ever seen a dip that isn’t found in a plastic package? Occasionally you find them in fancy glass jars but if you are on the run it can be virtually impossible. But – in keeping with all my learning’s from Plastic Free July – I have found that avoiding plastic can send you down the most interesting and delicious of pathways!

The challenge: a plastic-free platter that doesn’t break the budget and can be thrown together in an hour. Impossible you say?

Well I say “Get your sunglasses out because you are about to be dazzled!”

Dip #1: Zesty Guacamole

Fresh ingredients, ready to be mixed

  • 3 x Avocado
  • 2 x diced tomatoes
  • 1 x diced red onion (small)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ Cup Coriander, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 1 x red chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Optional – 2 x spring onions

Method

  1. Cube the avocados in a bowl
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and mix together
  3. Garnish with coriander

10 minutes down… we’re on a roll….

Dip #2: Hummus

  • 600g canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed thoroughly (until the water doesn’t look bubbly)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2 if you like it zesty… i do! Highly recommend!)
  • Optional: Smoked Paprika and or toasted pine nuts to garnish

Method

  1. Place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini paste, cumin and lemon juice in a food processor and process until combined.
  2. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) of water and process again until quite smooth.
  3. Place hummus in a bowl and dust with smoked paprika if you have it or toast some pine nuts and sprinkle on.
  4. Swirl with some good quality olive oil when served.

 …booyah! that one only takes 10 minutes too…

Dip #3: Fresh Herby Salsa

And mix it! Nom!

  • 6 tomatoes (or 500g cherry tomatoes)
  • 4 spring onions, sliced finely
  • ½ Cup coriander, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 2 limes

Method

  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Then dice the flesh.
  2. Gently mix with the spring onions, coriander, mint, chilli, ground coriander, cumin and lime juice.
  3. Stand for 30 minutes (to give the flavours some real zing)
  4. Note: If you like your flavours punchy then add more lime and chilli!!!

 … with some cheating with my food processor that one is down in 10 minute too… half an hour so far and we are almost done…

 Serve With…

If you can, get to a local bakery to get two big Turkish loaves – that way you can specify for it to be wrapped in paper. It is hard at other shops to find it in anything other than plastic! Then when my guests arrived I toasted the bread and sliced it up. The smell of fresh bread was gorgeous and got everyone ready to tuck in. And you thought I couldn’t do it??? This only took me 30 minutes and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all – even the dedicated carnivores. I even got excited and made my own plastic free Ginger, Mint Lemonade to go with it! Best thing was it only cost me $35 and I had enough salsa and hummus to last until the next day when we had more friends coming over.

MYO Cordial – Sugar free!

This is a platter that is utterly brimming with nutritional benefits, is free of the 3 p’s (packaging, palm oil, preservatives) and is all vegan! If you would like to make the trio of dips together I have added a little shopping list below;

Shopping List for entire platter

Fruit and Veg

  • 3 x Avocados
  • 8 x tomatoes
  • 1 x red onion (small)
  • 3 limes
  • 2 x red chilli
  • 1 x lemon
  • Bunch of spring onions
  • Bunch of Coriander
  • Bunch of Mint
  • 3 garlic cloves

Aisle

  • 600g canned chickpeas
  • Olive Oil
  • Tahini Paste

Deli Stores that Allows Bulk Buying – take your own container! 

  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Coriander
  • Pine Nuts – optional

Bakery

  • 2 x loaves Turkish Bread

Voila…

DIY Avocado Hair Mask

While it may seem (and feel) a little odd to be mushing avocado into your lovely locks, it is actually a tried and tested beauty trick! Avocado’s are a very oily fruit and this oil actually forms a protective barrier on your hair which promotes elasticity… basically it makes your hair soft, flexible and hydrated. This nourishment also means that your hair is less susceptible to breakages and becoming dry – great for the other blondies out there!

I think the best part about it though is that you avoid using nasty chemicals that are found in your standard products, it’s cruelty free and reduces wasteful packaging. Also, a very common ingredient in your average hair products is Palm Oil which is incredibly damaging environmentally (read about that here).  So get ready to have a laugh and give this super simple beauty DIY a go!

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
  • 3 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 drops of lavender or rosemary essential oil
  • A good sense of humour

Method

1. Mash avocado. Then add lavender and olive oil and mash again.

2. Apply to hair, focusing on the ends. If hair is still a little dry then put a put of olive oil on hands and run through.

Ewww… there is salad in my hair!

3. Leave on for 10 minutes. (Good time to do a face mask as well. Go on, do the full pamper thing… you deserve it!)

4. Then I just washed and combed (while in the shower) and left it to dry. My hair really felt conditioned and healthy. I think you’ll agree that the results were amazing…

Of course I am only kidding about the last picture but I definitely did feel the benefits of the treatment. It was so nice applying a mask to my hair and knowing that it was made of organic, natural ingredients rather than synthetics, parabens and artificial fragrances.

Are there any natural beauty secrets that you use? Would love to hear in the comments. 

Healthy Banana, Sultana and Walnut Cupcakes

Vegan

Preparation time – 15 minutes; Cooking time – 15 minutes

Makes 12

I love cupcakes. I could eat ’em for every meal, every day of the week if I had a better metabolism. But I am pregnant at the moment so I guess I get a temporary reprieve. But still – it is always good to be healthy where you can so I made up this recipe and packed it full of fruit and nuts which meant I wouldn’t have to feel quite so bad about cupcake time! (Cupcake time – in case you wish to join me – is Monday through to Sunday from 4am – 11:59pm).

The great thing about using fruit in your baking is that it acts as a binder which means you don’t need any eggs and they also sweeten the muffins so you don’t have to add extra sugar. And to be extra healthy and cute I carved out little red apple hearts for a garnish and took them to my mother-in-laws for Mothers Day. All in all – cupcake win!

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 tsp of bicarb soda/baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 120ml of oil (use coconut if possible, otherwise any vegetable will do)
  • 4 x very ripe banana’s
  • 3 T crushed pineapple
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 Cup of raisins
  • 1 standard size tub of vegan cream cheese (Tofutti is available at supermarkets nowadays!)
  • 1 Cup icing sugar (give or take depending on taste)
  • 1 x red apple or some strawberries to garnish – OPTIONAL

Method

1.   Preheat your oven on 180Celsius / 360F

2.   Add wholemeal flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon, lemon zest of half a lemon (save the other half) and walnuts into your mixing bowl

3.   Place oil, pineapple, banana’s, maple syrup and juice of one lemon into a bowl. Mash until the banana’s don’t look like banana’s anymore!

4.   Pour your wet mix in with the flour mix. Put on medium speed until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

5.   Add the raisins and fold into the mixture. It will be quite a thick mix.

6.   Spoon these straight into your greased baking tin (You can use cupcake liners if you’d like but I really think they are a bit of a waste of paper!   Do you really need them?)

7.   Bake for about 15 minutes – checking with a skewer into the centre of one of your cupcakes.

8.   Once they look like beautiful golden mountains bring them out and allow them to cool.

9.   In a food processor add your vegan cream cheese, sugar and the lemon zest of the saved half of the lemon and mix until smooth. Taste test to see if you need more sugar or lemon.

10.   Spread the cream cheese frosting onto your cupcakes. If you want to be cute, you can cut out little lovehearts from red apples or strawberries and use them as a garnish.

DIY Herbal Facial Toner

Hate to harp on about it… but I hate single-use items. Things like plastic containers and wet-wipes. Things often found in cosmetics. So as I suggested in my DIY Cucumber and Coconut Facial Cleanser, the best place to start if you want to avoid these things is by making your own cosmetics.

I decided to make a herbal toner because my herb pots are going crazy at the moment. My first thought was to head for the mint but after a little research I discovered I was over-looking a herbal superstar in my sage plants.

Health Benefits of Sage

  1. Sage is rich in calcium and vitamin A which are needed for daily cell regeneration. In short it stimulates cell renewal and increases blood circulation which minimise the onset of wrinkles.
  2. Sage is high in Ursolic acid which acts as a natural exfoliant and antiseptic and treats acne, eczema and skin fungus.
  3. Sage has astringent properties which will help clear your skin and make it soft and smooth.
  4. Sage oil also assists in improving skin conditions like athlete’s foot and chapped skin as well as relieving symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
  5. Because it increases blood circulation it is the perfect weapon for cellulite. Weekly use of sage oil on cellulite affected areas has been shown to reduce it.
  6. The oil is great for brittle and dry hair.
  7. Tastes and feels nice and is a pretty colour.

Ingredients

  • 100 gms fresh sage leaves (or 40grams dried sage)
  • 400 mls boiling water
  • 400 mls Apple Cider Vinegar
Pug and Allen consider the health benefits of sage

Pug and Allen consider the health benefits of sage

Method

  • Place chopped fresh or dried sage leaves in a bowl.
  • Pour boiling water over the leaves.
  • Cover the infusion and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
  • Drain the liquid from the sage leaves and discard the leaves and pour the infusion into a measuring cup.
  • Pour an equal amount of cider vinegar into the measuring cup with the infusion and mix the liquids gently.
  • Pour it into a reused glass bottle and close tightly.

Storage

  • Store your sage facial toner in the refrigerator.
  • This toner will last a long time – a couple of months.

Application

  • Use your sage facial toner after cleansing.
  • Moisten a cloth with the toner and wipe gently over your face
  • Pat your skin with warm water.
If you have sensitive skin and it stings or shows irritation then stop using the toner. However, my husband has very sensitive skin and he was absolutely fine and actually loves the product.
Good luck and if you give it a go let me know! 

Some Amazing DIY Pallet Projects

If ever there was the perfect ingredient for upcycling it would have to be the ubiquitous wooden pallet. I make a habit of counting how many I see ditched kerbside on my morning walks and it boggles my mind to think that they are considered junk. Pallets are the perfect material to create rustic, quirky and bespoke furniture. Here are a few of my absolute favourite uses of pallets in the home.

Shabby Chic Shelving System

From Design Sponge

I am a massive fan of clutter. My husband is not. Solution? Shelving units: little contained spaces of magical clutter. This is why I squealed with joy when I saw this amazing shelf, a fabulous creation by New Zealand sensation Claire Terry AKA Madame Fancy Pants. For the entire DIY tutorial see here – I might finally be able to start working through the stock pile of pallets that I have in the shed!

Pallet Daybed for a nursery

From Ashley Ann Photography Blog

This awesome design not only uses pallets but also includes an old and beautifully worn door – hinges included! By creating a mish-mash of textures (the crocheted blanket, ornate photo frames, and the amazing collection of lanterns) it celebrates what is best about this old rickety piece of ‘trash’ – its coarseness. That is one of my favourite aspects of the upcycling movement – celebrating imperfection! This is a really simple DIY project that you can find here care of one of my favourite Phoblographers (yes I made that up) Under the Sycamore.

Pallet Bed with built in storage

From Organic Authority

Have you ever seen a more relaxing room? I love that it is minimalist but still absolutely reaks of character – especially with the trellis above the bed. Mental note, check! The great thing about pallets – and probably why they are starting to explode in the world of upcycling – is that they are really sturdy. Perfect for the base of a bed and with the added benefit perfectly sized storage slots for shoes and books. While I couldn’t find the link to make this exact version a similar version can be found here at the Flaxseed and Soynuts blog along with some other inspirational ideas for all things recycled.

Cheapest Bed Head Ever!

From Green Home Design Source

While we are talking all things bed, why not tack on an old pallet as a bed head. All you need to do is bolt two pallets together and then attach them to the base of your bed. I am going to give it a go and stencil on some inspiring, happy words onto it like this..

Image by Adorning Alabama.blogspot.com.au

Kitchen Island

From Homedit.com

In my dream house I will have this kitchen bench – but maybe in a lighter colour. This DIY requires a minimum of three pallets, a few tools and some paint. I could not find instructions on how to make this but luckily it is a very simple structure that would be easy enough to replicate with a bit of guess work. I like the industrial look and think it brings a bit of warmth into a modern kitchen.

Pallet Art

From Twiddlerhouse.blogspot.com.au

If you are already sorted for all your furniture needs you could even make a simple, gorgeous art piece from the wood of the pallets. You’ll need to get your Destructo hat on and remove the boards from the pallet and reposition them to how you like. I would saw them to be different lengths and create a bit of interest but I have seen some beautifully effective square pieces. They can be as colourful and as natural as you choose and create a truly individual piece that will be sure to get many comments from visitors. This is perfect for me as a renter, because I can actually stand the pallet up rather than drilling it into the wall. Here is an amazing DIY tutorial that I will be using on the weekend.

Proof that one man’s trash is another’s treasure!