Swiftie X-stitch: Shake It Off!

I listen to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album every week. I put it on when I’m cooking, driving and relaxing in the garden. When Shake It Off was released last year I played it on repeat for about two weeks.

I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend who probably loves Taylor more than I do. We’re total Swifties.

I have started sewing again recently. I wanted to do a quick cross stitch to get my fingers back into shape. This little Shake It Off cross stitch took about 60 minutes. The pattern is below.

If you make one please share your creation on Instagram with the hashtags #kateomegamade and #swiftieXstitch. I would love to see them!

Shake it Off!

Shake it off_kateomega

 Get your cross stitch fingers ready!

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Frankenstein upholstery: how not to recover a stool


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.

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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DIY: Sew your own pillow covers


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.


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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Midlands Thrifting Haul

There are three reasons I love shopping in second-hand stores:

  1. You find bargains. If you haven’t already noticed: I love a good bargain. Knowing that I am saving money on something gives me a little high.
  2. You meet interesting people. If you go to the same second-hand shops regularly you will get to know the people who work there. Those are the people who are going to keep an eye out for that antique drinks tray you’re searching for. They are also the people who are going to give you an additional discount on an already cheap, cheap price.
  3. You buy a little bit of history. The clothes, furniture and jewelry you buy have a history. Somebody loved it and now I get to love it.

I went second-hand shopping with my dad a couple of weeks ago. We were up in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands for the day and decided to pop into two SPCA shops. The first shop we went to was a bit sparse. There were lots of knickknacks and a toddler beside himself about an “Incwredibles” poster. My dad headed to the cooking book aisle. “Even if I only ever try one recipe from a book it’s a deal,” he told me.

I spotted a box of old patterns. My mum has lent me her sewing machine and I want to make a midi-skirt. I have been looking for one for ages but have battled to find one I like. They are either too expensive or I don’t like the fabric. I am hoping to be able to make my own, which will be cheaper than buying one (I told you I like a bargain!). I bought two skirt patterns and a pants pattern. I liked these joggers from Woolworths and I think the pattern will create something similar. The three patterns cost me R6.

At the second shop we had better luck. My dad once again disappeared to look at books. They had a shelf of books which they were selling for R1. He bought The Day of the Jackal. He rates it as one of his favourite books, along with Deliverance and Catch 22.

I started going through the clothing racks. This is a very divisive issue in the thrifting world: either you buy second-hand clothes or you don’t. I’m happy to buy them if they are pretty, they fit and are (relatively) clean . In the last rack I found an olive green bush shirt. It’s nothing spectacular but it is unusual to find a bush shirt in a ladies cut. My boyfriend and I are planning to go on a few camping trips and bush adventures in the coming months. Now we can wear matching bush shirts. The shirt cost R20.


Just as I was about to pay for my shirt I spotted my last purchase. A rather worn box of A Question of Scruples was just sitting there waiting for me. This is an infamous game in my family. My mum banned my older siblings from playing it because it caused so many fights. The game requires players to predict how their opponents will respond to certain moral dilemmas. It’s a fun way to ruin friendships. It cost R15.

Have you been thrifting recently? Are you happy to buy second-hand clothes? Let me know in the comments.

Easy peasy lemon preserve

I spent the past weekend at my folks’ house. I arrived home to a brand new pair of sheep skin slippers, cat cuddles and days and days of home cooking. On Saturday we had a family get-together. There were 21 adults and 35 children (I don’t know how the mathematics of procreation works but it seemed excessive). Together we devoured a whole lamb – perfectly cooked for hours over a fire. During the afternoon some of the children engaged in a life and death vegetable battle. This involved plundering my dad’s vegetable garden for lemon and tomato ammunition. By the end of the two hour siege only a few lemons remained on the upper branches of the lemon tree. Unfortunately there were no tomato survivors. IMG_1736 We gathered up the abandoned lemon hand grenades and mortar shells in a box and tucked them away in the kitchen. On my last afternoon at home I decided to bottle some of the lemons. I will be able to enjoy them for months to come and remember the great Lemon and Tomato War of 2014.

(Before I started making this preserve, my dad made me a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon. This is also a wonderful and perfectly acceptable way to use up excess lemons!)

Easy peasy lemon preserve

  • A canning jar (I used this Consol jar but any other jar will do)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 6-10 lemons (eyeball enough to fill your jar and extra for juicing)
  • A tablespoon of whole peppercorns

1. Start off by placing a quarter of your salt and half your peppercorns in the canning jar.

2. Top and tail the lemons by cutting the ends off. Standing the lemons on one end, cut an X through the lemon. Make sure not to cut all the way through the lemons. You want them to hold their shape. Sprinkle salt between the lemon segments. IMG_1772 3. Place the lemons in the jar. Press them into the salt and peppercorns. Once the jar is full, squeeze extra lemon juice over the lemons until they are submerged. Pour the remaining salt and peppercorns into the jar.

4. Leave the jar at room temperature for three days. Flip it over each morning. This will help the salt dissolve and get into every nook and cranny of the lemons. After three days put the jar at the back of the fridge (behind the unloved jams and pickles) and forget about it for three weeks. It will be ready to eat once the lemon rind is soft. When they are ready (and you are hungry) grab a lemon out the jar and cut as much as you need. Rinse it under cool water to remove the salt and salty lemon juice brine. Cut it up finely and enjoy.

Not sure what you can use the preserve for? Try them finely chopped in tuna salad or in a salad dressing. Smitten Kitchen has a wonderful squash and chickpea Moroccan stew that calls for them.

Perfect ombré party cake

In 1995, Gary Chapman released The Five Love Languages. In the book he describes the five ways that we express and experience love: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch.

Gary says that the list is exhaustive and that everyone falls into at least one of the love languages. But that isn’t quite true for me. My love language is cake baking. It’s probably the equivalent of gift giving – except that gifts usually don’t take two hours to bake, have caramel filling and cream cheese icing. And it’s maybe a little bit acts of service, but at the end of the day you get a cake (it’s not like I’m helping you file your taxes or move house).

Ombre cake picnic shot

And the wonderful thing about baking a cake is that it’s so seldom done anymore. People think it’s hard work and messy. So they just resort to picking up a cake from the shops or ordering one from a bakery. But by baking your own, you’re going to save money and get more cake for your buck.

This cake cost just under R100 to bake – all in! You would battle to find a cake as delicious and pretty as this one for less.

This is my go-to party cake recipe (I have adapted it from this recipe). You might think “Who has time to make a multi-coloured, four layer, bunting topped monster of cake!?” You do, my friend. Trust me – it really is so much easier to make than you think.

I made it in pink for my sister’s birthday picnic and blue for a colleague’s baby shower. I have used pictures of the blue cake in the recipe below to show you how to colour your batter.

Caramel ombré party cake (Serves up to 16 people)

  • 560 grams cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 340 grams butter (softened)
  • 450 grams white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites
  • 330ml  milk
  • Food colouring
  • 1 can caramel treat or 360 grams dulce de leche
  • Ingredients for your favourite icing recipe
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Cut circles of baking paper to fit the bottom of two 9 inch round pans. Grease the pans with butter.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat together the softened butter and the sugar. It should become a light, fluffy paste and most of the sugar should dissolve. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. Beat in two egg whites at a time, until well combined.
  5. Alternate mixing in a third of the sifted flour mixture with a third of the milk. Scrape down the bowl to make sure that everything is mixed together well.
  6. Divide the batter equally into four bowls.
  7. This is the fun bit! Take your first bowl of batter (this will be your bottom layer) and start adding the food colouring. Keep adding food colouring until you are happy with the colour. Do the same with the next three bowls of batter, reducing the amount you add as you go. To check if you’re happy with the colours, smear a little bit of batter from each bowl on a plate or tissue. Ombre batter
  8. Fill the buttered and lined pans with the batter and bake for 13-17 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Keep an eye on them, as they will bake quickly. You might need to rotate the pans half way through the baking time if your oven doesn’t cook evenly – like mine!Blue ombré cake batter
  9.  Take the cakes out of the oven and let them cool slightly before removing them from the pans and peeling off the baking paper.
  10. Wash and dry the pans. Cut new baking paper and butter the pans before baking the rest of the batter.
  11. Leave the layers to cool completely.

Now you can assemble and decorate your ombré cake!

I like filling the cake with caramel treat. Place the first (and darkest) layer of cake on a serving dish. Gently spread a layer of caramel on the top. Continue until all the layers are in place – making sure not to put caramel treat on top of the last layer.

Make your favourite icing – such as butter cream icing, cream cheese icing or sour cream icing. Ice your cake and store it somewhere safe (away from the cat!) until it’s time to celebrate. I like to make a paper bunting topper to decorate it but you can always use candles.

We celebrated my sister’s birthday at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodeport. You have to take a little drive to get there but it is so beautiful. It costs R35 to get in (R25 if you’re a student still slogging away at your degree).