Friday, 30 June 2017

Making coasters from natural tree branches!

When friends come back from holiday in places like Tasmania, they sometimes bring home coasters made from tree branches. I love them and have always been very envious of people who have them. While looking through a friends wood pile a few days ago, I spotted an older piece of wood about the diameter of a coaster and wondered if I could turn it into a set of coasters to go with our "rustic" more natural homesteading style?

I asked for the piece of wood and was given bemused permission as the owner knows we don't have a fire place (yet) and bought it home.

With a bit of help from the husband and his collection of power tools, I gave it a go.

Heres what I did...

My first attempt to cut the branch onto slices involved the pruning saw and I never got through the first slice. Its really hard work to hold a small piece of wood still while you hack at a piece of hardwood!

Once the Husband realised what I was doing, he got out his power saw and set it up for me with a jig attached so that my slices were all the same depth. I simply slid the branch along the base plate until about 2cm were past the cutting blade (and it was hard up against the piece of wood held on with a clamp acting as my guide or jig) He got me to do it myself. It was the first time I had ever done this as this piece of machinery scares me silly with its power and noise but with all the safety gear on and plenty of caution, I managed to cut most of the wood into slices.

 I had chosen a hard wood (some sort of native that had fallen in a storm a while back) that was on the bottom of the pile. It had been there a while and had "aged". My husband  had tried this exact thing with a piece of the Apple Gum when it dropped a branch a few years ago. The branch was "wet" and fresh and he cut it into slices and then as each slice dried out, it split and warped. So I knew I needed a piece that had been out in the weather and was a "grey" colour rather than a fresh rich brown and wasn't split. The longer its been out in the weather (or off the tree) the more likely it is not to split was our theory.

Oce I had all my slices cut, I used a sanding block to neaten up all the edges as the saw left them all rough with burrs on the edges.

One scary thing that happened was discovering a hole in the middle of one of my slices. Actually that wasn't so scary, it was following the hole through a few slices and then discovering a wet patch... where I had sliced some big white grub thing in half. I gave the grub halves to the chookies and wiped the grub juice off the slices and left them in the sun to dry. It seems grub juice doesn't stain the wood...

Really interesting shape hole. He must have entered the tree in another part of the branch as we couldn't find the entry hole at all!

At this point I made the decision to remove all the bark. It was falling off and the only way to keep it on was to glue it on. It seemed like a lot of hit and miss as it crumbled as well as falling off in big chunks. It was easy enough to pick off the sides and I threw it in the garden to add to our layers of organic material!

I wanted to seal the slices so that they didn't stain or go mouldy if a drink got spilt on them and when I was hunting through the shed for some varnish, I found a spray can of varnish stain (that I didn't think to photograph)and decided to use that.

I popped them on an old moving box (I have so many of them at the moment) and simply pointed the can at them and sprayed.

I did a coat each day for three days on each side. Its quite cold up here and the can said 24 hours between coats. I did sand the first 2 coats but left the third. I turned the slices each time and made sure I got the sides as well as the tops and bottoms of each slice.

So once they had their three coats of varnish each and were dry, they came inside to be used on the table. The grub hole isn't for every one but its certainly a conversation starter and my admiration for these grubs and what they can bite through has definitely improved!

I can see some slight splits forming - I'm guessing the older the wood the less chance of this happening there is. I don't know if a different (thicker) sealer would help... If you do know, please let me know in the comments. I think Ill end up making more and it would be good to hear from people who know more about this than I do.

At any rate, they cost nothing and are I think quite successful! It wouldn't be hard to glue a piece of felt on the bottom of each slice to protect the table top if you felt it was necessary. You could colour coordinate the felt with the rooms colours or the wood itself - depending on how you feel.

Have you made these before? Let me know how you went and feel free to link to your post about making coasters from a natural tree branch!

Score card:
Green-ness: 4/5 for using something natural that was laying around rather than buying a piece of plastic to do the job! 
Frugal-ness: If you have the varnish or sealant laying around already, its super cheap!
Time cost: About 2 mins to cut, 2 mins to sand and 30 seconds to spray - over a week though!
Skill level: Guidance or experience with power tools - the rest is sanding and spraying!
Fun-ness: It was a great fun project and I'm quite chuffed with them - I'm thinking Christmas pressies for the family now!

Friday, 23 June 2017

HELP - My pet has hurt a wild bird!

Since we moved to the Hinterland we have noticed the amazing and very abundant  birdlife. We are really enjoying seeing the tiny Yellow Eastern Robins, the curious Crimson Headed Rosella's, the noisy and completely unafraid Cockatoos, the bright red headed King Parrots and even the bold but boringly colour Shrike Thrush...

Yellow Eastern Robin

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos 

Crimson Headed Rosella

Sleeping Tawny Frogmouth

Now identified, Lewin's Honey Eater
And so is our 14 year old cat...

She is far more interested in the birds here than she ever was back in Brisbane. I thinks its because the Robins flit around in the front yard and come right up onto the windowsills and jiggle and twitch in a very eye catching and enticing way that push all her predatory buttons.

Our cat hasn't caught one up here but with all the renovations and missing and left open doors as we fix up the new house, we found her outside yesterday half heartedly crouching, bell tinkling, tail swishing and definitely thinking about catching a flitting flirting Eastern Robin for morning tea.

That prompted me to check what I need to do if she manages to get out and does manage to get one. I picked up a business card at a Brisbane City Council Office from an organisation called BIRO - Birds Injured Rehabilitated & Orphaned that gave some great advice a few weeks ago. When I got home I had a look on the net at their website which was great and decided to share this information here as I know how hard it is to keep a cat inside and if the worst happens, its good to know what do before it happens.

From the BIRO website:

"There are many reasons why a bird may need to come into care. e.g. injury, out of its nest, habitat loss, road victim, orphaned, etc.
We are here to HELP, but we need your HELP too.
Please keep this in mind that the bird has just gone through some kind(s) of trauma such as:
 - An injury
 - Shock and stress (an open mouth and panting, does not mean it wants food)
 - Pain
 - You - you represent a threat to the bird (you are not part of their usual environment).

 - Place the bird in a box or cage
 - Keep the bird warm by covering box / cage with a large towel
 - Place it in a quiet room
 - Do not let your children or pets near it.

Then call for help - your local vet or the numbers below.

Following these steps will give the bird its best chance of getting back into the wild."

Links to helpful websites and phone numbers on the BIRO website


I hope that I never have to use this information because of something our cat does, but since there is so many birds here (and so many tourists) I'm sure that sooner or later I will find an injured bird and now I know I'll be able to do the right thing and help it back into the wild where it belongs as soon as possible. In the meantime, The cat and I will enjoy having a cuppa at the kitchen table in the morning and enjoying watching the birds going about their daily business - albeit from slightly different perspectives!

Let me know if you have links to other Bird Rehabilitation organisations in the comments section below!

Friday, 16 June 2017

How I recovered a old lampshade with gathered fabric and fringing!

I got given a set of lampshades about 15 years ago that I loved but are now a bit worn and dated. I did clean them and revamp them but as my décor changes (depending on what available at the op shops) I was finding that they don't quite fit with my current decorating direction! (that would be shabby opshop chic!) and when I spotted a piece of fabric that I fell in love with on sale, I just had to recover the lamps and then find accessories to match!

I'm not so much of a sewer as a constructor and I tend to feel my way through a project with out too much in the way of exact measuring or cutting to a pattern!

Here's what I did...

The original lamp where you can see revamp number one with leaf skeletons glued to the inside of the lamp. Its plain when its off but have these lovely leaves when its on.

First cut a length of fabric that will fit all the way around your shade a couple of inches too long and with a hem of a centimetre or so top and bottom. So a long rectangle is what I needed.. Hem the ends neatly.

Hem the bottom of the fabric with a big loose stitch and long ends  (you will be gathering it slightly later) and then using paper clips attach it to the shade level with the bottom. You could use normal clothesline pegs if you don't have large paper clips handy.

You wont need much overlap at the bottom. Most of the gathering will be at the top. If you can use the selvage edge, you wont need to hem it.

Now fold the top of the fabric into the shade to hold it out of the way.

Attach the base of the new cover to the shade all the way around the bottom with paper clips firmly.


Now pin your fabric so that the top is level with the lamp shade all the way around. This will give you the right size covering with out having to measure anything!

Now take it all off  and cur the excess fabric off if you need to and again, run a line of stitching close to the top with a long loose stich so that you can gather to the top in. To gather the fabric, gently pull the bottom thread and  push the excess material along it until you have reached the desired length. Breaking the thread is a major pain as you will have to pull it apart and start again. This link is quite a good tutorial if you have never gathered fabric before. Paper clip the whole thing loosely where you want it before starting to glue it on to make sure it fits and you are happy!.

I glued a little at a time starting at the bottom and paper clipped it tightly as I went along. I just used standard white crafting/PVA glue and its held the fabric to the shade really well.

Paper clip the bottom as you glue, taking care to spread the gathering around as you go.

Then do the same with the top glue , gather, paperclip, keeping the gathering even as you go.

When you get to the edges of the fabric, choose the neatest (hemmed) end to go on the top and try and use a gather or fold to hide it in.

Pop lots of paperclips (these are bigger than standard ones, you could use pegs instead) around the top and bottom to hold it all together while it dries. Once its all dried and holds on well the clips can come off and you can put the fringe on.

I found the perfect piece of green fringe at the markets for a dollar one Sunday morning and came home and put the fringe on that night!

Starting at the join in the fabric (that will be the back of your lamp) glue the shade for a couple of centimetres with the same white/PVA craft glue and peg or paperclip the fringe on. I didn't cut my fringing. I don't trust my measuring. Just leave it the whole length and cut it when you get back to the beginning.

Work your way around the base gluing and pegging...

Until you get back to the beginning. Cut the fringe so it joins perfectly at the base and glue in place.

Put on extra pegs if you think it needs it and wait for the glue to dry.

And voilà! A new lamp for the bedroom!

I think they are kinda fun and fit nicely with my mix and match shabby op shop chic décor!
I think I need to find a piece of matching piping for the tops. The gathering isn't so attractive from close up. I have a scrap piece of the fringe sitting in my coin purse so next time I go into a fabric shop I can match the fringing to a piece of piping and know I got it right.
It was very quick and easy to do once I had all the bits. I did "measure" the lamps while I was looking for fabric so I knew how much I would need when I found it. I know the lamp shades were a few inches wider than my hand span and at least 5 hand spands around!! As long as I got slightly too much fabric I was going to be ok! Oh and I need twice that to get the two lamps covered!!!
I chose not to take the shades off as these are more for mood lighting than for reading or detail work. It does reduce the amount of light getting out of the lamp but it provides a solid base for the fabric to rest on without me having to worry about it touching the light bulb and setting itself on fire!
I think if you took the old shade off you would have to sew the new cover onto the wire. I'm not sure I have the patience for that! 

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for continuing to use an old item 
Frugal-ness:  5/5 for finding a piece of material and fringing at the markets!
Time cost:  Probably an hour to cover the two lamps and 20 minutes to put on the fringing
Skill level: cutting, gluing and pasting - oh and a bit of fabric gathering!
Fun-ness: it was great fun to plug them in and light them up with their new covers!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Easy, cheap,good looking temporary fix for a broken window..!

When we moved into our "new to us" home a few weeks ago, we discovered the previous residents had left us a couple of windows that weren't entirely whole!

While we had the "Great Wall of Boxes" up against them, we didn't realise that the cold night air was sneaking silently in through the holes but as soon as those boxes moved, we discovered that not only are (very attractive) light summer curtains not good at keeping the cold air out, but that the holes in the windows weren't helping either.

They look like a stone from the lawn mower type breaks and whilst we can fix them, its just not an overwhelming priority right now as we sort out where everything is to go - and then of course where we put it when we need it!

I wondered if I could use the clear packing tape that I had been using on the boxes as its so wide, but I knew that would look a bit uglier than I would like... and then I found an easy solution!

Here's what I did...

This window actually has a piece of glass missing as well as a crack that leads off across the glass in three ways. So I very gently taped it up on both sides with the clear packing tape and then stuck a couple of stick on 3D butterflies from a $2 shop!

They don't look so bad and your attention is on the butterflies rather than the broken glass behind them. I tried to place them on the worst bits to hide them. They actually look better in real life than they do in this image... They are a double butterfly. A flat bit that sticks the wings down on the glass and then another set of identical wings that stick up. I cant see why you couldn't just put a normal clear/leadlighty type sticker on it instead of a 3D  one if you happen to have something suitable lying around.

From the outside the break and the butterflies aren't so obvious due to the reflections on the window. I could have put more butterflies on it but I didn't think it needed it. I have since run a bit more tape along the crack as the house moves and the crack keeps growing. The tape is on the front and the back of the window for strength and safety.

The other break was a hole punched through the window - again my guess is a stone from the mower.
It was a much smaller hole and I suspect the glass is either a different type - maybe a safety glass - or the stone hit at a really funny angle to make a hole like this.

The fix was really easy though - just a single butterfly straight across the hole and, Voila, no sneaky cold air rushing in the hole at night!

 What I really liked about this fix is that it was quick, cheap and easy and will last a few months until we are up to replacing windows and painting things like the window frames.

I don't think the colours on the butterfly's are going to last. I don't think they are going to be very UV stable but I had them sitting around, they look good and I only need to get a couple of months out of them and they will have been worth every cent of the $3 I paid for them a long time ago for another project!
Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for using things you already have for repair. 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not spending any money on a temporary repair!
Time cost: About 5 minutes!
Skill level: Basic sticking - but be careful with the broken glass!
Fun-ness: Its fun when people notice the butterfly's and comment but don't see the broken window until you point it out to them!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Wow - A TEDx event near me!!!

The amazing people at the Helensvale library decided to hold a TEDx event and I applied for a free ticket online (you couldn't get more than one) and was randomly selected to be one of the only one hundred people to attend!

The TEDx Stage at Helensvale Library
So who is TED and what is a TEDx??

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Their catch phrase is "Ideas worth spreading" and they invite speakers on topics as diverse as Artifical Intelligence, building buildings based on fractals, conservation, racism, aultruism, autism and really anything you can think of. There is a TED website where you can watch videos of the various TED talks held all over the world and there are podcasts (audio talks) of all the TED talks and then there is an hour long hosted TED talk in a radio format that examines a topic that was covered by a number of speakers (a really good one was the seven deadly sins!) I tend to listen to the TED radio hour at work as one of my jobs is simple repetition and I can listen to audio easily. Now I'm not listening to my Uni lectures, Im loving the TED talks and come home full of ideas worth sharing with my long suffering husband.

The foyer full of thing to be "making it"

So to discover that the Gold Coast Library was hosting a TEDx (Licenced and sanctioned but community run rather than run by the actual TED head office) I was thrilled and applied instantly, citing a "The danger of a single story" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: as one of my favourite TED talks and received an email a few weeks later inviting me along!

My word was Amazing in the middle left of the E
The theme for this TEDx was "Making it" - and that was open to interpretation by each speaker so we heard from an Architect who uses fractals to design some of the most iconic buildings on the Gold Coast (including Q1). We heard from a Circus performer who now runs a circus school for autistic children. We heard from a Mum turned NASA astronomer. A surfer tuned anti plastic bag campaigner and a busker musician who loves his life. There was a ballerina who now teaches grit, determination and teamwork and a woman who now runs a domestic violence charity after hearing a sad story on the radio. There were also a couple of videos from other TED talks in the States. It was entertaining, enlightening, mind opening and just plain good fun!

This is the badge I made - Green Eggs and Ham! Just like the eggs three of my chookies lay!
With my official TEDx badge! :)

 The Library had organised a bunch of things to do around the theme of "making it" and so I dutifully (and delightedly) made a badge (or two) strung "what made me, me" (mines the purple string) and made the little bot things follow lines that we drew on paper! So cool!

 There was food, more food and cuppas and cake and biscuits and nibbles and live music and star gazing and really friendly staff and cool people to talk to other activities that I never got around to doing - and this was all BEFORE the TEDx started! Oh- and it was all completely free!

If there is a TEDx any where near you, (you can check on their website to see) I really encourage you to check it out and get thy bum to a seat near you!

Awesome job, Helensvale Library staff - thanks for volunteering your time and putting on an awesome event. I'm kinda hoping you'll do this at least once a month!
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