New life for old cushions

Simple sewing and a sale on towels upgrade an old glider

My former next door neighbor was a super lovely woman with an interesting life history. She also had a love of outdoor furniture, and I had asked her once where she had bought a particular set because I was looking for something similar for our screened in porch. She didn’t
remember, but several years later when she decided to replace that set, she gifted it to us.

Technically she said it was a loan, but we both knew she was never going to ask for it back.

The main piece is a glider, and it was probably built in the late ‘60s. It isn’t that cool vintage kind of piece, it’s just an old glider that had seen better days. Some scrubbing and some WD-40 fixed up the metal glider part, but the cushions were a whole other story.

The main fabric was stiff and scratchy, and they had bare spots from use and from where mice had burrowed into them when they were in winter storage.

new life for old cushions
Here’s a before look at one of the old cushions. And this is the “good” one without all the bitten off parts

My plan at the time was to replace them, so I threw an old sheet over them and we used the glider that season. At the end of the season I saw cushions go on sale and tried to find three that matched in the size I needed, and that wasn’t possible.

I repeated this scenario for, uh, 10 years. Didn’t mean to, just never remembered to do anything about it, or refused to pay the price for new cushions. I really don’t understand why outside furniture and accessories are so expensive.

At the beginning of this summer, Mom handed down a really great sewing machine. And I saw on another blog a post about how to make simple cushion covers. The technique didn’t really work for the cushions I had, but it got my wheels turning.

And then I saw this tutorial on making an envelope style pillow case, and I began to wonder if I could make something like that for my
cushions. Make cushion covers, not buy new cushions.

At the beginning of the summer, Target had a sale on beach towels. Boom! (that’s the sound the confetti cannon in my mind makes when a project comes together).

I didn’t use a pattern, but the process was pretty straightforward – sew two towels together on  the short end, right sides together.

Towels give new life to old cushions

Set the cushion on the new double long towel and overlap the top and bottom so the tucked in envelope portion would be invisible on the back. towels create covers that give new life to old cushions

I measured and pinned the sides, and sewed using the stripes as my guideline.

Envelope style cover made from towels gives new life to old outdoor cushions

 

I sewed double seams to make this extra sturdy. And while each cover is defective in it’s own way (I often lose track of right sides and seam allowances when I work), they are light years better than what was there before.

Towels sewn in an envelope style pillow cushion cover give new life to old outdoor furniture | suzerspace.com

Wrestling the cushions into the covers was also a little challenging, but it was worth it, because the finished look is great, and they can come off and run through the wash if needed.

And if they get super grungy or I just get tired of the color scheme, I bet Target has a towel sale again 🙂

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Paper Cactus

Easy to make, even easier to take care of!

Paper cacti and other succulents have been all the rage this season, and for good reason. They are cute, unkillable and really easy to make.

I’ve pinned a bunch of these tutorials and then combined them all into two plants that fit my needs best.

Here’s how I made them:

In Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is my drawing program of choice because I’ve used it for years.

Before I could begin drawing, there was a little math. But don’t panic on that- the issue is I wanted these plants to fit two pots I already had, and it’s really not that tricky to get that to happen.

I measured across the top of the pot I wanted to use – the fancy math term for that is “diameter.” To make the plant sit snug in the mouth of the pot, I need the finished piece to be right at that measurement. If I made them smaller, then it would slip down into the pot and wouldn’t look real.

The cacti are made up of multiple folded and glued wedges, so I need to divide that diameter in half to get the measurement of the wide spot of each wedge.

 

Once I had those measurements, I drew half of a cactus piece. half a cactus for a paper cactus project

This I then copied and mirrored so that my two halves were exactly even. This is important when you fold and glue them. I welded them together to get rid of that middle line because I didn’t want it cut in half, I want to fold them in half to create a ball-like shape.

two cactus halves for a paper cactus

I repeated this process for my second pot (getting the measurement and drawing a different shaped cactus wedge). And then a drew up a little flower circle, using a similar process from this project.

cactus drawing for a paper cactus

Once I had all my parts, I saved the file, and then exported it as a DXF file, because the basic version of Silhouette Studio software can’t read an Adobe Illustrator file, but it can work with the DXF format.

In Silhouette Studio

Silhouette Studio is the software that Silhouette America provides for using with the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. I set my Design Settings for an 8.5 x 11 sheet, cutting with a 12 x 12 mat, and then brought in my artwork.

cactus files to cut for a paper cactus

I’ll need 6 wedges for each cacti, plus one flower. I cut the wedges out of two shades of green paper for variation, and the flower out of hot pink for one plant, and a scrap of yellow for the other.

paper parts for a paper cactus

Final Assembly

Once I had all the parts weeded, it was time to assemble. Fold all the wedges in half, and then glue one half of one piece to the half piece of the next. Continue doing this until you have a ball shaped cactus using all 6 pieces. The last one is the trickiest to fit in – my tip here is to make sure the remaining section is really pretty dry before trying to work that one in. I use paper clips as mini clamps as I go, and I use either glue stick or fast drying tacky glue for this project. This is really similar to how the tulips were assembled in the Watering Can and Tulip Mobile.

assemble the paper cactus

I curled up the edges of the flower and used a dollop of tacky glue to adhere it to the top of the cactus. This adds a little pop of color, and also hides any of the corners at the top that might not have been glued together perfectly even.

paper bag dirt for a paper cactus

For my “dirt” I used scalloped scissors on a paper bag, and then accordion folded and then cut those strips up smaller to fill the bottom of my pot.

After these were finished, I saw a super cute, super punny flowerpot in my Pinterest feed, so I cut a similar saying out of black vinyl and adhered that to one of the pots for a finishing touch.

punny saying for a paper cactus

 

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Hand Painted Ladybug Planter

Another quick Sharpie upcycle craft

Buoyed by my success with my Happy Face Planter, I set about to use my new skill set (tracing shapes and filling them in with Sharpies!).

Ladybugs seemed a good choice for this craft, since they are basically a bunch of circles.

I traced a quarter and a dime onto a cereal box and cut them out with scissors. And then I cut out a pie shaped slice out of the quarter circle.

templates for the ladybug planter

Using a red Sharpie, I traced that shape onto my terra cotta pot. I didn’t even wash it, and I don’t care about the cracks. Switching to a black marker, I slid the dime size circle slightly downward into the big circle for the head, and slightly upward into the big circle to give me the guide for the reveal of the body. For the head and body parts, I didn’t trace the whole circle – just where it met the red one.

Outlined shapes for the ladybug planter

And then I colored them in. Just as with the Happy Face planter, you really only need a steady hand close to the edges; you can be pretty sloppy on the fill in area. I freehanded the swirls for the antennae. I let the red wing parts dry before free handing the little dots for the body.

I repeated the pattern mostly randomly around the pot, and now I have another cute planter for my deck.

 

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Etched Glasses

An easy way to personalize barware

 

Mr. SuzerSpace and I like ice-cold drinks on the weekends. In fact, we even have a special recipe for a beer based drink.

Unfortunately, one of us tends to put down her glass and lose track of it, and then drink the other person’s drink.

The obvious solution would be to etch our names on our glasses. But what fun would be obvious be?

Instead, I chose to etch “Mine” and “Not Yours” on a set of glasses.

This is an easy craft – all of the instructions are on the back of the etching cream bottle. And using my Silhouette Cameo to create the stencil made it even easier.

In Silhouette Studio

I set up in Silhouette Studio two rectangles the maximum size of what I wanted the words to be. And then I typed them inside that rectangle in a big bold font. From my paint stencil project, I know it’s best to give yourself extra taped off area so as not to drip on the finished piece.

words for etched glasses

I sent that to cut on contact paper, and then weeded the letters out of the big rectangle.  The goal is to make a stencil for the etching cream. Contact paper is a good choice here because the stencil is going to be thrown away, but it needs to be super sticky to protect the areas you don’t want etched.

I used transfer tape to move the stencil to the glass. I probably could have moved the “Mine” one without the tape, but the “Not Yours” version has those little parts inside the “o” (those are called counters) and it’s easier to move that with the tape.

Final Assembly

After I washed the glass and cleaned it one last time with an alcohol wipe to get off any grease, I applied the contact paper stencil and then applied the etching cream. I wore gloves and worked outside for this project because etching cream is an acid and I don’t want to lose any skin (or countertop).

mask for etched glasses applied to with transfer tape
Gridded transfer tape makes moving a contact paper mask for etching glasses easier.

After the required time was up, I washed off the cream, washed and dried the glass and then repeated the process on the second glass.

And now I have a very unique set of glasses for weekend drinking!

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Tiny Tip: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A quick trick that doesn’t require a 500 word essay

We spent the better part of a year trying to decide on a paint color for the house. And once we finally settled on one, I really didn’t want to lose the paint chip swatch for fear of needing to start over.

I stuck it on my bulletin board in the kitchen, but that was a little useless when I was anywhere else. Like when the paint contractor called to confirm my color choice and I wasn’t at home. I was 99.999 percent I knew the number and name, but he was going to order buckets and buckets of paint, so I needed to know for sure.

To not have that happen again, I snapped a photo of that and now it’s in my phone forever. I’m not using it to match colors (the photo isn’t really color correct) – I just need to be able to clearly see the name and numbers. I’ve done the same with specialty light bulbs (make sure to turn the bulb so that numbers and letters are visible in the photo).

Small purse from a dress shirt

A quick upcycle sewing project

Recently I became the new owner of a really nice sewing machine (thanks mom!).

I hadn’t been sewing lately, so I didn’t really have much of a stash of fabric to work with. But Mr. SuzerSpace has recently lost quite a bit of weight, and he had a nice pile of old shirts in the give-away box. I decided to spend a rainy weekend morning cutting those shirts into usable sections. I didn’t have any real projects in mind – I was just looking to square up large sections and salvage interesting bits (cuffs, button plackets and buttons, etc.)

One particular shirt had a pocket on the front, and suddenly I had a quick project idea.

I didn’t use a pattern for this – I just centered the pocket left and right and cut straight down on the sides until the material could no longer be straight (the shirt had tapered seams, so I cut off above where that started). So the width of the bag was determined by that measurement.

To chose the height of the bag, I folded the material to simulate the bottom and then adjusted the top edge until I could fit in what I wanted (my wallet, phone, keys and sunglass case).  I added a bit more for seam allowances, boxing the corners and general sewing mistakes 🙂 , and then trimmed carefully.

I pressed down a hem on the short sides, and sewed it with a straight stitch. I turned the wrong sides together and sewed them on the long sides to make a bag. This quick tutorial helped me remember how to make a box corner. For the handle, I used the buttonhole side of the button placket – I stitched each short end inside to the side seam. I topstiched around the entire top to catch the handle again and to give it a nice finished edge.

This little bag is perfect on weekends when I only need essentials, or I can drop it into my backpack during the week to keep those items separate from all my other work items. I’m definitely going to make another (there were several shirts with pockets!) – next time I’m going to step up and tackle a lining.

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Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

You know those recipes for pizza and pasta sauces? The ones with the 15 ingredients and the hours of simmering to get that authentic taste?

This isn’t one of them.

My cooking style is best described as no-nonsense.

We like to make flatbread pizzas, and we prefer a sweeter pizza sauce.

Store bought ones always taste a little flat, and even though they are often on sale, I can do better on my own.

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Pizza Sauce

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 2 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 6 oz can Tomato Paste
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Dried Oregano
  • Red Pepper Flake
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a small microwave safe container that has a lid, combine the contents of the can of tomato paste and a splash of olive oil. 

  2. Add spices to taste. And I mean really taste - add them in, mix it thoroughly and taste it. Add more of what is missing.

  3. If sauce is too thick, mix in a little water.

  4. Microwave with the lid covering the dish but not on tightly (let steam escape, but use the lid to protect the top of the microwave if it explodes). Heat in 20 second intervals stirring after each until sauce reaches desired temperature.

Recipe Notes

This creates a thick, sweet sauce which we like to use on flatbread pizza.

Because it is thick, it is also a good sauce for zoodles (those "noodles" made from spiralized zucchini) since those tend to be watery and will dilute the sauce to a better pasta sauce texture.

Leftovers can be refrigerated, or frozen.

This does not keep long in the refrigerator because it contains no preservatives, but does well in a freezer bag and reheats just fine.

Glitter Star Wreath

A Fourth of July Decoration gets 3-D from digital and traditional techniques

Fourth of July Decorating is one of my favorites.

I’m not really that patriotic a person, it’s just that my birthday is a few days after the fourth, and I like to think the entire month is mine to celebrate.

Lately on the craft blogs and Pinterest, wreaths with big stars are popping up, some made out of tin, or wood. This one, made of paper, really caught my eye.

Of course I wanted to change it up a bit.

Instead of a vintage look, I went with a glitter version (not real glitter, that’s too messy), and took cues from the original craft post on how to make the paper stars really look more three-dimensional. Instead of using stamping ink, though, I did the whole thing digitally.

In Adobe Illustrator

In Illustrator, I drew up a star, and then resized it several times so I’d have some variety for my wreath. Using the pen tool, I drew straight lines from the center of each point to the opposite side. I changed the stroke to a brush effect, and then changed the opacity to 40% so that whatever I placed underneath it would show through a bit. These lines are going to create  a shaded effect on the ridges of the stars when they are folded.

Stars with shading for a glitter star wreath

I like to work in Illustrator because I’ve used it for many years, but you can accomplish this same look in whatever design program you are comfortable with.

DeviantArt designer harperfinch has a great assortment of free background digital files that are great for projects like this. I found files for red, white and blue glitter backgrounds.

glitter background for a glitter star wreath

Because I’m going to do this as a Silhouette Studio Print and Cut project, I placed the glitter backgrounds in on separate layers in my Illustrator document, and then exported the star shapes as DXF files, and the shading and glitter layers and PNG files.

I also set up a polygon to be cut as my wreath background shape. Most of it isn’t going to be visible, but I thought the extra corners on the polygon would give me more surface to glue the stars to in the end. I exported that file as a DXF file as well, because the standard version of Silhouette Studio cannot work with an Illustrator file, but it can open the DXF format.

In Silhouette Studio

In Silhouette Studio I set up a document that is 8.5 x 11 and turned the registration marks on. I then brought in my cut file and my image file for the white glitter version, and centered them to each other.

There are three small white squares added in to block off the digital glitter background where the registration marks are – you cannot have any printing in those shaded areas or the laser detection for print and cut will fail.

print and cut file for a glitter star wreath

I saved the file because I’m going to need it later for cutting. I then sent the file to my printer, and printed two sheets.

Two more versions of this file are needed, one each for the red and blue versions. I printed two sheets of each of those as well.

To finish the print and cut, I placed a sheet of the stars on my cutting mat, making sure to have the little square in the upper left corner, matching the screen. After changing the cut settings for the card stock I had printed on, I sent the file to print.

stars for a glitter star wreath

After all the sheets were cut and weeded, I set up and cut three pieces for my wreath form. I didn’t have any stock that was thick enough, so by cutting three and gluing them together, I made my own special cardstock.

frame shape for a glitter star wreath

Final Assembly

score stars for a glitter star wreath

Using a ruler and a scoring tool, I scored the back side of the stars from the center of each point to the opposite side.

folded and scored star for glitter star wreath

And then I folded the star along each of the lines, and pinched them into the final star shape. The shading effect is subtle, but it really helps the paper look much more sturdy than it really is.

I arranged the stars approximately how I wanted them to look on the form, and then hot glued them into place. Because the stars aren’t flat, it’s a little tricky getting them glued on. Use lots of glue only on the spots that actually touch the form or each other. And be careful to not get burned squishing them into place.

 

 

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Grilled Asparagus

A simple recipe that brings out the flavor

I do not really remember eating asparagus as a kid, and I only saw it a few times at holiday meals in my early adult life. All the recipes for it seemed ultra-tricky – I don’t own a stand up steamer and hollandaise sauce looks pretty finicky to make and not have separate.

A few years ago, when we tried grilling pretty much everything to see if we could, we tried asparagus and it was a nearly instant success. The only real trick is you need a grill pan of some sort to keep those stalks from rolling into the grates and being eaten by the fire.

Simple grilling brings out great flavor in asparagus | suzerspace.com

We add garlic cloves to the pan for an additional kick of carmelized flavor, but you can skip this step if you are not a fan.

 

Print

Grilled Asparagus

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Splash Balsamic Vinegar
  • Splash Splash Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the grill with a grill pan on the grates. 

  2. Rinse and pat dry the asparagus. Cut off the tough bottom ends (quick tip – leave that bottom rubber band on and cut above it to make trimming easier).

  3. Peel the garlic. If a milder taste is desired, place the cloves in a microwave safe measuring cup with a cup of water and microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Combine asparagus and garlic in a bowl and add a splash of olive oil; mix well (I use my hands) to make sure everything has a light coating of oil to prevent sticking.
  5. When grill pan is hot, add vegetables and toss, being careful to avoid splatter from the oil.
  6. Monitor while grilling, stirring/flipping occasionally. 

  7. Remove from the grill using long-handled tongs and transfer to a serving plate.

  8. Splash with Balsamic Vinegar, and cover with foil to keep the heat in while you plate up your other grilled dinner items.

Recipe Notes

The 30 minutes of prep time includes bringing the grill up to cooking temperature; actual hands on prep time is less than 5 minutes.

For grilling vegetables, we use a cast iron grill pan, but I've had success with those thinner metal ones with the holes in them that you find in the grilling section of hardware and cooking gadget stores.

Stir occasionally while grilling - these are not fussy and do not need to be perfect; like the grilled mushrooms, the goal is get them good and charred but not burned.

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