Frankenstein upholstery: how not to recover a stool


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I found this little stool at Resurrection, a charity  shop on Melville’s 7th Street. I didn’t like the fabric but the I loved the shape of the stool’s legs and its proportions. I flipped it over and saw that the seat could be removed. The shop was having a 50% sale so I happily handed over R82.50 and took it home.

It took a while to decide what I would do with it. I settled on recovering the seat with spotty blue and white fabric that I had left over from a skirt I made. My next task was to hunt down a staple gun. Luckily a friend had one that I could borrow.

So this weekend I gathered my supplies and sat down to make over the stool. I flipped it over and tried to unscrew the seat. The screws wouldn’t budge. Even enlisting the help of my stronger armed boyfriend didn’t help. We had a closer look and realised that the stool’s previous owner had used a fair bit of glue when they inserted the screws.

To recover the stool properly I would need to take the stool apart (forcefully) and then put it back together with a drill. But there were two things standing in the way of this responsible plan: I don’t own a drill and I wanted to recover the stool now.

I decided on a compromise. One day this little stool will get the love and attention it deserves. I will forcefully and lovingly take it apart and recover it properly. But for now (whether now is two months or two years) I will have it in my lounge and it will look lovely.

I started recovering the seat and taking pictures for the blog to show you how I did it. I even took a picture of the staple gun to show you that you would need a staple gun! By the fourth picture I realised that there was no way I could post these pictures and tell you with any authority that this was the way to recover a stool. So this isn’t a tutorial for how to recover a stool, it’s rather an example of making something work until you have the money or the tools to do it properly. And to be honest there was no skill involved. I pretty much wrapped the seat of the stool with my fabric, slide the fabric under the frame and staple gunned the hell out of it. It’s not pretty down there.

But you know what? When you look at it (not too closely) you can’t tell. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. That’ll do little stool, that’ll do.

IMG_4319-001If you enjoyed this post follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for email notifications (at the top of the page). Pop by on Friday morning for my Weekend Reading post.

Weekend reading: adulthood, blogging and meatballs


“Adulthood” Is a Myth. Fake it ’til you make it. Or something. A Practical Wedding has published the most wonderful essays on what it means to be a “grownup”. In this essay Hayley Cotter talks about waiting (sometimes desperately) for that “adulthood” feeling.

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Growing a minimalist wardrobe: step 1. Erin, from Reading My Tea Leaves, offers some useful advice to those wanting to slim down their wardrobe.

Smitten Kitchen: Lamb meatballs with feta and lemon. I made these for dinner this week and they are delicious! The lemon, mint and olives are a welcome change from a normal tomato sauce.  I served the meatballs with mini pita breads.

The Next Big Thing. Daniel, over at Manhattan Nest, has bought a new house! It’s tiny and hidden in a mini forest. I can’t wait to see what he does with it.

When Blogging Becomes a Slog. The New York Times takes a look at Young House Love‘s (temporary?) exit from the blogosphere.

Suzelle shows us how to peel a lot of potatoes. You will need a drill, toilet brush and bucket!

No-sew pot plant bunting


image2You will need:

  • A pot plant (a bonsai tree will work best for this)
  • Fabric
  • Thread or string
  • Glue
  • Scissors

1. Measure how much string or thread you will need for your bunting to reach between two branches of your pot plant. Allow extra for tying two knots.

2. Start cutting diamonds out of your fabric. I folded my fabric in half and eyeballed five triangles (I only ended up using four). As you cut out your triangles place them along your piece of sting. Fiddle with the spacing until you’re happy. Iron your diamonds closed so that they lie flat.

3. Open the diamonds and place glue on the inside. Take your thread and place it along the crease. Close the diamond (now a triangle) and using your nail push the thread up into the crease. You want it to be very snug. Attach the rest of your diamonds in the same way.

4. Take your bunting to your pot plant. Play around with the placing and attach it to the branches. Don’t tie your knots too tightly or you will damage your plant. You will need to keep an eye on the knots and loosen them if they start restricting the pot plant.

If you have a pot plant that doesn’t have strong branches you can attached the bunting to two skewers and push them into the soil (like I did with my sister’s birthday cake bunting). It would be a great way to spruce up a pot plant if you were giving it to someone as a present.

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Four blogs you should start reading right now


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One 

Smitten Kitchen is the first real food blog I started reading. You must make Deb’s caesar salad deviled eggs (I do every Christmas). Her banana bread crêpe cake with butterscotch is equal measure delicious and impressive – perfect for parties. I once survived a whole week eating her pink lemonade bars. Follow Deb on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Two 

A Beautiful Mess is a homemade lifestyle blog (with an emphasis on homemade). It was started by two sisters, Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. They post inspiring room renovations (like this dining room and kitchen), easy craft projects and some pretty delicious cocktail recipes. They have two great photo editing apps that I use all the time: A Beautiful Mess and Party Party. Follow A Beautiful Mess on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Three

Manhattan Nest is probably my favourite blog at the moment. Daniel bought a house in Kingston, New York, that was in desperate need of a lot of love. With each post you get to see him slowly and hysterically transform the house into something gorgeous. His kitchen renovation was when I fell hard for him. It is gorgeous and black and white and everything I ever want in a kitchen. Don’t even get me started on his laundry room. Follow Daniel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Four

Sometimes I wish A Practical Wedding wasn’t, you know, called A Practical Wedding because every time I tell someone to read it they give me this “Oh, you’re a crazy lady that wants to get married” look. Which, in all honesty, I might be but this website is about so much more than just weddings. It’s about the big, important things we all go through in this crazy journey called “becoming a grownup”. There are posts that ask How Do You Know When You’re Ready For Kids? There are invaluable posts on The Chores of  Adulthood which discuss cleaning, planning and budgeting. One of my favourite parts of the website is the comment section – A Practical Wedding readers know how to leave good, wisdom imparting, soul soothing comments. I always finish reading the posts and comments with a feeling that someone out there in the Internet gets me and that I am a little less alone than I thought. Follow A Practical Wedding on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What blogs do you think I should be reading? Leave a comment below and I’ll check them out.

Should you move to the Maboneng Precinct?


IMG_3549In February this year we moved into an apartment in Maboneng’s Revolution House, on the corner of Main Street and Kruger Street. We moved for a number of reasons. We had been living in a garden cottage attached to a digs for almost a year and we wanted more space and more privacy. We also wanted to explore new parts of Johannesburg.

When we thought about moving to Maboneng we tried to do some research on the area. You can find articles that question how integrated Maboneng is and the effects of gentrification in the area. These are important to read if you are thinking of moving there. My opinion of Maboneng has changed since I have lived there but that’s a blog post for another day.

What I couldn’t find was an account of what it was like to live in Maboneng. So, after living there for seven months, these are the five things I wish I had read about.

1. The noise

Maboneng is noisy. And it’s not always noisy in a cool “I live in the city” kind of way. Sometimes it’s so noisy for so long that you start going a little bit crazy. From Monday to Thursday it is better. You can expect normal traffic and a few rowdy people on the street. There’s weekly drag racing. It’s wonderful if you want to be woken up at 1am by screeching tyres and screaming women.

From Friday to Sunday things really kick off. There is always a party happening somewhere in the area. It could be across the road or it could be three blocks down the street. Either way it’s going to feel like it is happening in your flat.

I think part of the problem is that Maboneng is trying be both a place where people live and a place where people go to party. Maboneng is only going to work if it is a place people want to buy apartments and live. The residents need to be the first priority and I don’t think they are. Last week they closed off the street that our balcony looks on to and set up a stage in the middle of the street. They also placed a row of portable toilets right under our balcony (we’re the bottom left balcony in the picture below).

Maboneng balcony

2. The cold

Our apartment is a 86 square metre studio – so about the size of a two bedroom apartment. It has double volume ceilings and ceiling high windows that wrap around the whole apartment. The floor is polished concrete and there is no insulation. My sister likes to refer to it as “the tomb”. It’s cold.

We moved into our apartment at the end of summer. It stayed cool during the warm summer nights and all we had to worry about were the mosquitoes. But then winter came and it got so cold that it was almost unbearable. Our apartment only gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight a day. After that the sun slips behind a building, never to be seen again.

There’s very little you can do to warm the apartment up. Heaters don’t work because the apartment is so big and made of concrete. Our only solution has been wearing layers (as I type this it is 2pm and I am wearing track suit pants, a hoody, a puffer, socks and sheep skin slippers) and buying an electric blanket. If it gets really bad we try to get out of the apartment because it’s usually warmer outside.

Maboneng window view

3. The grim

The apartment’s kitchen and bedroom have open shelves. (A side note: there is no built-in storage in Revolution House apartments). Open shelving looks very modern but it requires two things: you have to be very tidy  and you have to clean a lot. I do neither of those things well.

Keeping things clean is nearly impossible. There is a constant layer of grease and dust on everything. I think every kitchen has this problem to a certain extent but I have found it to be much worse in the CBD. Somehow (even if you try to keep your windows closed) a fine dust covers everything.

One block down from us is a corner where people burn rubbish: mattresses, plastic, wood, wire. Most mornings we wake up and there is a plume of smoke rising from the corner. I think this smoke contributes a lot to the grim and dirt in our apartment.

4. The space

One of the main reasons we moved to Maboneng was the apartment we found. It is a corner unit so we have lovely big windows and more space than most of the other apartments. We were also very lucky because our apartment came with blinds. All the apartments in Revolution House have enormous, ceiling high windows. Sleeping past sunrise without blinds would be pretty tough. They also provide a little but of insulation. The bathroom is also great. It has an enormous bath – it’s really like a plunge pool.

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5. Security

When we moved to Maboneng one of our main concerns was security but we don’t feel unsafe in the precinct. Our building has 24/7 security in the foyer and the guards are very helpful. I actually feel safer spending a night by myself in the apartment then I did when we lived in a garden cottage in Melville. I know that no one is going to come through my window and if I have a problem I can call a security guard.

The only time that I have felt unsafe is driving through the CBD. I have had people trying to open my doors and following me through the traffic. They were pretty scary experiences so now I sit in the traffic on the freeway.

For a while we parked one of our cars on the street and we had no problems. Now both of them are parked in secure parking. It is quite pricey through – you’ve looking at about R500 per parking bay per month on top of your rent.

If you have any questions about what it’s like to live in Maboneng you can post them in a comment below.

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DIY: Sew your own pillow covers


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This brown pillow has been on our couch since our student days. But now we’re ready to say goodbye to the old deer. He’s a bit tired and some of his stitching is starting to unravel. I wanted to replace him with something bolder and brighter.

I had picked up some blue shweshwe and yellow piping for another project that I haven’t got around to yet. So I decided to use it to make a new pillow cover. This is a quick project which took about an hour from start to finish.

You will need:

  • Fabric
  • Piping
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Scissors

Step 1: Wash, air dry and iron your fabric.

Step 2: Take the old pillow case off your pillow and measure each side of the square. My pillow case had lost its shape a bit and each side was a slightly different length. I used the largest side (43cm) to make my square and added on 1.5cm for a seam allowance. Grab some newspaper or a magazine and make a pattern based on your measurements. This will help you cut your square straight. Pin the pattern to your fabric and cut out one square. IMG_4018Step 3: Fold a 1/4 of the template down so that you are left with a rectangle that is 3/4 the length of your pattern. Fold the fabric in half, pin the 3/4 rectangle to the fabric and cut. This will give you the two rectangles which will make up the back of your pillow cover.

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Step 4: Take the two rectangles to your ironing board. Fold one of the long sides of your rectangle over by 1cm and iron flat. Fold it over again and iron in place. Repeat with the other rectangle. Using your sewing machine, sew the hems in place on both rectangles. (Don’t worry about the safety of your other fabric. Your cat will guard it for you.)

Step 5: Place your large square right side up on the table. Take your piping and pin it along the edge of the square. The stitching on the piping should be 1.5 cm away from the fabric’s edge. When you get to a corner, take your scissors and make small cuts on the edge of your piping. This will help it lie flat.

Step 6: Head over to your sewing machine. Place the foot of your sewing machine on top of the piping. Position the needle directly over the piping’s existing stitching. Slowly sew on top of the piping’s stitching, removing the pins as you get to them. When you are done you will have a square with piping attached to the outside.

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Step 7: Place your square (piping side up) back on the table. Take your first rectangle and place it right side down on top of the square. Match its raw edge with the top raw edge of the square – the hem should reach 3/4 of the way down the square. Take the second rectangle and place it right side down on the square, with its raw edged lined up with the square’s bottom raw edge. It will over lap the other rectangle and will reach 3/4 of the way up the square. Pin the three pieces together.

Step 8:  Head back to your sewing machine. Turn the pillow cover over so that the square is facing upwards. You will be able to see the stitching where you attached the piping earlier. Sew directly over that stitching, removing the pins as you go. Turn the pillow inside out and press with an iron. Place the cover back on the pillow and you’re done!

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Sunday breakfast: blender pancakes


Saturdays are busy. They are for tea with your sister, fabric shopping and baking.

And then Sunday comes along. You wake up late and drink coffee. You catch up on the news and you plan your breakfast. You don’t want a work breakfast (cereal or toast) but you also don’t want to be stuck with heaps of washing up. Sundays are never for heaps of washing up.

So you make pancakes. But not pancakes that need you to sift flour and beat in the milk and whisk in the eggs. No, you make pancakes where you chuck everything in the blender, blend until smooth and pour.

For me (a South African), pancakes are meant to be thin and plate sized. You sprinkled them with sugar, cinnamon and lemon. You roll them up. For my boyfriend (a Brit who studied in the States), pancakes are thick and smaller. They are for drenching with honey and butter. These are the boyfriend’s pancakes – thick and American.

Blender pancakes (adapted form Nigella’s American Breakfast Pancake)

This recipe will make about nine smallish pancakes – perfect for breakfast for two people. It can be doubled for bigger crowds or hungrier tummies

  • half a tablespoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • large egg
  • 150 ml milk
  • 115 grams plain flour
  • butter for frying
  1. Put everything in the blender. Don’t worry about an order.
  2. Blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides once to make sure all the flour has been incorporated.
  3. Head up a non-stick pan. Add a bit of butter. If you’re using a non-stick pan you don’t really need it though.
  4. Pour the batter straight from the blender into the pan.
  5. Flip it over once bubbles start to pop through the top of the pancake.
  6. Serve warm.

You can use this recipe as a base for any pancake variation you like. Try plopping a few blueberries or choc-chips on the pancakes before you flip them over in the pan. I love adding a few raisins.

Heap the pancakes up on a plate and serve them with butter, jam and syrup. My favourite topping is double cream, almonds and honey.

PartyPartyIf you enjoyed this post follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for email notifications (at the top of the page).