Last Spring I dismantled the old garden shed I had inherited when I bought the house. The roof and floor were completely rotten but the side that was closest to the neighbour’s fence had been sheltered from the elements and some of the wood was still in usable condition. I stacked it at the bottom of the garden and set to renovating the house.
As part of my mission to live a more sustainable life I had a wood burning stove installed in September. I stacked my wood supply on an old kitchen door and used the old shed door to keep the rain off as best I could, with some waterproof sheeting at the edges and in the gaps which were exposed. The downside to this was that some of the wood got soggy and mildewed as the air could not circulate properly.
This Spring, while tidying up the bottom of my garden, I came up with the idea of upcyling the old shed and building a logstore with the saved wood. After looking at a youtube video, I realised that the door, sawn in half across the middle, would make the perfect base. I removed the slats and cut some of the old side posts to length to create a grid for the wood to lie across and to allow the air to come in from underneath. I also added a couple of pieces of post at right angles at each corner under the frame, so that it is standing another 3″ higher off the ground to help keep the wood dry. Then I made frames for the side panels from other posts, while reusing the wooden slats on both the side panels and across the back. The other half of the door was used for the roof. I left the slats on this to keep the rain out, but cut the front posts down in height and set the door directly on the front cross spar so that the roof is slightly pitched and the rain can run off.
Reusing the old door frame has made the log store really sturdy. Let’s hope that by the time the autumn arrives I will have managed to acquire a stock of wood and that it will be dry enough to burn! If you are a seasoned wood burner and have some great tips, please leave your comments below to share with others starting out on the journey of working with nature. Have you ever made anything from an old shed?
Is there really such a thing as ‘green’ furniture? As many of us seek a more sustainable way of living we are beginning to evaluate our material needs, which can evolve throughout the course of our lives. How does this affect our choices when buying furniture? Where do we buy if the furniture in mainstream retail centres can’t be reused or recycled or maybe is not manufactured according to our own personal set of criteria regarding responsible production methods, ethics, and toxicity?
The most straightforward route to a new look and feel to a home might be first and foremost giving the chairs and sofa you already have a revamp, provided the pieces are sound and still match your requirements to some degree of comfort and practicality. Wooden dining chairs can be painted or stripped and revarnished, using healthy and environmentally friendly products that will not harm you, your family or the planetary ecosystems, and seat pads or cushions can be recovered with organic, vintage and preloved fabrics. Then there is the life cycle to consider, how long can we keep it in our homes, in a closed loop? Can the item be re-upholstered or painted to fit with evolving tastes. Can it be disassembled and refashioned at some point in the future or at least recycled if you no longer want it or it becomes surplus to requirements if you downsize or move? What looks fabulous in one home might not work in a more modern or traditional space.
With the eco furniture trend growing, an increasing number of companies now specialise in contemporary furniture that is sustainable. Things to look out for are making sure that the wood comes from a certified sustainable source, checking whether it’s made with recycled materials, how easily it can be disassembled and ensuring that it is low in or free from toxicity. Another route to consider is buying good solid vintage pieces and also wherever possible buying local. There are some amazing finds on sites such as Freegle, Freecycle, and local community run schemes are popping up all over the place. If you are handy with a few tools there are some inspirational things to be built from old palettes and recycled wood. Second hand furniture can often be refashioned at little effort and expense. A table can be made by using palette wood for trestles with an old door as a table top. An old blanket box can be cleaned and polished or painted and used as a window seat with a comfy box cushion in pretty fabric. Old wooden crates can be stacked in creative configurations to create a wall unit or mounted on the wall directly for books and small collectables. A garden bench can be made from two old logs with a scaffolding plank across. All sorts of ideas are being shared online at open source sites such as Pinterest, and even many magazines now do articles on recycled and vintage projects.
Also good news is that many furniture designers are rethinking the way they work and taking into consideration a range of criteria to match consumer’s higher levels of discernment. There are some great British designers using recycled and scrap wood, giving antique furniture a new lease of life, making pieces more functional and adaptable by allowing several chairs to be joined together to create a sofa,’re-imagined’ chairs made from recycled public transport seating, to name just a few. There are even green initiatives to create furniture from waste such as coffee grounds.
How lovely to have so many choices and the potential for such unique furnishings. Could this finally bring back the life into our ‘community streets’? Imagine instead of shop after shop stocking the same old pseudo chic, an eclectic mix of inspired creations made with loving care by gifted and talented artisans and craftspeople. I’m in, how about you?
If you had lavender in your garden this summer and were able to save some of the flowers then making lavender hearts is a lovely way to use them. The heady scent is great in amongst the fresh laundry or in underwear drawers, and it also acts as a good repellent for any roving moths.
Place the heart shaped template on the fabric, lining up any stripes or patterns
2. Cut two pieces, front and back
3. Place right sides together and pin in position, matching stripes carefully. Sew round edges leaving a 2″ gap on each side away from the centre top to allow a gap for stuffing. See picture.
4. Turn right side out
5. Fold in the top edges the same amount as your seam allowance and use a little fabric glue to hold in place and prevent fraying. Position the ribbon folded in two in the centre of the back of the heart on the inside and glue lightly as this will make it easier to pin and sew once the lavender filling has been added.
5. Add lavender filling and stitch across the top edge, finishing off all ends securely. Et voila!
6. You can also make Christmas Hearts and fill them with wadding, or for an even more Christmassy feel use cloves, cardamom or anis. Shabby chic edging looks good, too.
Really eco-friendly Christmas decorations. Hang on the tree, in a window or use little ones to personalise your gift wrapping. Lovely stocking fillers, too! A good way to become more green.
Have fun being creative in the long winter evenings. You’re welcome to share your ideas here.
Do you have allergies to feathers or dust mites? Do you prefer natural fibres to fibres derived from petro chemicals? Do you look for quality products that last, rather than something that has to be replaced every 6-12 months? Cushion inner pads in 100% natural Alpaca wool could be an alternative.
Looking for ways around dependence on the oil industry and also to reduce carbon footprint of the business I came across locally based Spring Farm Alpacas. A visit to the farm introduced me to these delightful animals whose wool is naturally soft and cuddly, and it rapidly became obvious that the high standards of animal husbandry at Spring Farm ensure that their herd’s fleeces are exceptionally lustrous and full of bounce.
Wool is naturally flame retardant and does not need to be treated with any chemicals therefore making it an ideal material for people who experience allergic reactions to a wide range of substances in the home. In addition, Alpaca wool is said to be particularly hypo-allergenic.
Test driving the cushion inners throughout the cold winter months revealed that not only are the fillers soft and comfy, but they also bring a warm glow to the back on cooler evenings. Using organic cotton for the covers completes the chemical free experience. I have started with cushion fillers in 16″ size as this is the most popular. However, any size could be made to order.
Using textiles and fibres in the home that are free of chemical additives is particularly beneficial where there are young children or a small baby. There are hidden pollutants in many furnishings. Or if you just want to become more green and move away from products dependent on the oil industry, towards things that are renewable and biodegradable, then choosing wool fillers and cushion covers in natural fabrics such as organic hemp, linen and wool will help to put you on the road to a healthy home.
Use to cover a chair, as a picnic blanket or a child’s play mat
You will need:
15 pieces of material 35 x 25cm each in complimentary colours in fabrics of equal weight and thickness. Being eco-friendly, we used 100% curtain weight cotton fabric from an old pattern book
Two strips of plain fabric 135cm long and 17cm wide for the top and bottom borders
Two strips of plain fabric 115cm and 17 cm wide for side borders
1.5m Lining fabric or plain cotton fabric (137cm or more wide) for backing
Sewing thread in appropriate colour/s
A 1.5cm seam was used throughout. We recommend pressing seams open as you go for more accurate results
How to make the throw
Lay out the fabric squares and decide best how to arrange them
Sew together the top row of three and press seams open
Continue by sewing the next three together, press, and follow with the third , fourth, and fifth rows
When all the rows are sewn together, join the top row to the second row, being careful to match the seams of the squares by placing a pin into the seam at right angles to hold the two together ready for stitching. Stich together and press seams open carefully
Continue in this way until all five rows have been sewn together making a finished area of three squares by five
Find the middle of a long border strip, and mark with a pin, fold or pencil dot on the wrong side of the fabric. Do the same for the patchworked piece and match the centre points. Pin carefully in place and sew together, leaving ends extending away from sides (approx 17cm). Repeat for the bottom edge.
Repeat the above for the side borders, trimming away any excess length once you have matched the lower part of the side strip to the sides of the top/bottom borders, which now lies between.
At this point you can add a layer of wadding if you wish for a warmer, padded quilt. Pin the wadding at regular intervals making sure that the fabric lies flat and that there are no folds catching in anywhere. Basting the wadding in place will help to reduce any movement.
Lay out the completed top layer, right side up, either on a large table or on the floor, and taking exact measurements of the finished piece cut the lining fabric to size. Place the lining fabric over the completed patchwork with right sides together matching side seams and corners.
Sew around the outside edges of the throw leaving 40cm open along the bottom edge. Turn the throw inside out and press around the edges, folding in and pressing the seam allowance at the bottom opening, and then handstitching this closed.
Press the whole throw until you have a good finish to the edges and the seams are all well settled. Top stitch around all four edges about 0.5cm in, and again on the inside of the border edge. You can use the same colour or choose a contrasting colour as a feature.
To anchor the throw in the middle section, we used a small decorative flower feature stitch in the corners of every other square. This holds the layers together while allowing them to be flexible at the same time. For a more quilted effect you can sew down every seam from top to bottom, and across in a grid, but bear in mind that this requires greater accuracy in the preparation of your piece as any discrepancies in measurements will surface at this stage. You can also use crochet cotton to “tie in” the layers at the corners of the patches. Stitch through from the top with the thread leaving the end free, coming back up, down and up again, then double tie and trim the ends leaving tufts, for a more rustic or shabby chic style finish. Again you can make a feature by using a stronger colour.
From a recycling perspective, you could also use fabric from old curtains, or old shirts to make this throw, as long as the fabrics are of a comparable weight, clean and in good condition. A variety of textures and colours can be fun.
Making eco soft-furnishings yourself with recycled materials contibutes to a more sustainable way of living and brings great pleasure both in the making and use of the finished item. If you would like to let us know how you get on, or have ideas to share, or other examples of upcycling, we’d love to read them in the comments box.