An upcycled gift: a baby succulent and bunting


Last weekend my friend Laura had a birthday party. She is the only person I know who would choose to cook for 20 people on a day when people should be cooking for her! She is Belgian, a lovely person and a fantastic cook. For her birthday dinner she cooked a Belgian beer stew, roast potatoes and green beans. An enormous bowl of homemade mayonnaise was pass around and slathered on everything.

I wanted to make her something homemade for her birthday. I decided on a baby succulent upcycled into something special. I grabbed my supplies: a small succulent, an empty baking powder tin, a few scraps of fabric, two skewers and some thread.

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I love baking powder tins. I like buying products that have reusable packaging. These tins are so versatile and quaint. The first thing I did was punch a few  holes in the bottom of the tin so that excess water would be able to drain away from the soil. I resorted to using a thin metal screw driver and brute force. Three or four holes in the bottom should be plenty.

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Next I carefully transplanted the little succulent from his plastic pot to the tin. This was a bit fiddly and I had to redo it a few times to make sure he was snug. I used an old teaspoon to manoeuvre the soil around. Once he was in place I also watered him (just slightly) to settle the soil.

The next step was to add some bunting. Because what is a birthday present without bunting? I used two skewers as poles and placed them gently in the soil – trying to avoid the succulent’s roots. I then snipped them to the height I wanted using strong kitchen scissors.

I used this tutorial to make my bunting. But before I glued the bunting to the thread I sewed Laura’s name in split stitch.

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Once I had finished all the letters I glued the bunting to the thread and tied it to the skewers and I had a perfect little present for a lovely friend.

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An aside: I have been reading Erin’s recent posts on gift giving at Christmas (over at Reading my Tea Leaves). I really like her approach to minimalist gift giving and quality over quantity. I also think that a homemade gift can be very  special.

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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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