Table Crafts: Easy Homemade Lanterns

I love glass in all forms from marbles to Murano sculptures to Victorian medicine bottles. Even glass that is used for everyday objects counts like jam jars, bottles, ramekins and anything with branding set into glass such as the cursive writing on Bon Maman jars. I’m a good recycler but I can also be a terrible hoarder. Every slightly unusual jar will be kept because, of course, one day I will use it for something really useful…like putting pens or dried thistles in it…or painting them to make homemade lanterns! These are so easy to do, you just need to allow a bit of time for drying. They will add a personal touch to your table and look great anywhere in the house. Mine look good in the bathroom next to the succulents and Penhaligon’s bath oil bottles.

What you need:

Jam/ chutney/ pesto/ any jars

Paint – I used sample pots of wall paint

A paintbrush

Mug of water

Newspaper

Paper towel or an old towel to dry the paintbrush on

Tea light candles

What you need to do:

1. Wash and dry the jam jars thoroughly.

2. Lay the newspaper out,  turn the jars upside down and start painting the bottoms. If you want to have the drip effect, pour paint onto the bottom, pick the jar up at the other end (but don’t turn it over) and swirl it around a bit so the paint slides over the edges, then put the jar down again and let the paint drip.

3. For the spotted chutney jar lantern I dipped the paintbrush into the paint then let it drip onto each side. But you have to let each side dry before dripping the spots onto the others.

4. Allow to dry for at least 2 hours.

Putting the candles in can be a delicate affair. I managed to light the candles first, hold them directly over the jar necks and drop them straight in without the flame going out.

It’s fun to paint various patterns on them as when the lit candles are inside the light will play against the surrounding surfaces in different patterns.

If you like this you will probably like Paint Dipped Picnic Cutlery:

Paint Dipped Picnic Cutlery

Picnic season is probably over but this is a fun thing to do for any meal especially if you’re bored of your cutlery!

What you need:

Wooden or plastic (some are painted to look like metal) disposable cutlery

Paint – tester paint pots will do

Newspaper

What you need to do:

1. Shake the paint pots well.

2. Lay out the newspaper and dip the ends of the cutlery into the paint.

3. Hold each piece of cutlery over the paint pot and let the excess drip back into the pot, or as the paint drips you can hold the cutlery over other pieces and let the drips fall on them to create patterns.

4. Lay the cutlery on top of the paint pots over the newspaper and allow to dry for several hours.

There you go, fun cutlery!

*Ray-Stitch*, Essex Road, London

A haberdashery and coffee shop. This is the kind of combination I love!

A friend told me about a great place on Essex Road the other day: Ray Stitch. I was surprised that I didn’t know about it already since I live nearby and it combines several of my favourite things: fabric, buttons, coffee and cake. Friends and I used to have crafternoons and this seems like the perfect place for one. There’s a great range of fabrics on two floors, wool (thank goodness – there aren’t many wool shops around anymore), buttons, pins and needles in beautiful nouveau vintage (new but with old fashioned styled labels!) boxes, a range of patterns including vintage Vogue ones and, of course, coffee and cake. You can sip your Climpsons (= yummy) coffee on a deck chair outside breathing in the air of the Essex Road bus route or in the peaceful garden at the back. Essex Road is now even more full of great places with unusual names: Get Stuffed, Ray Stitch, Food Lab, Flashback, Sew Fantastic, Haggle Vinyl… I should do a post just on the shop signs!

Woolly hat and knitting with pencils…

I went to visit friends in Madrid recently who have a one year old son so I wanted to knit him a hat. I hadn’t made the teddy bear ears for the top of the hat so I thought I could do them on my journey. But, knitting needles are most likely seen as potentially dangerous crafty weapons in the world of transport security so I knew there was no point attempting to pack them. Pencils on the other hand! Pencils aren’t seen as a threat although I know from doing a self-defence class many years ago that the best weapon you can carry is a pencil or a pen – making a quick jab to someone’s eye if you can manage to get your pencil out of your pocket in time if someone is threatening you! So I took my innocent pencils and managed to knit the ears on the train to the airport. I got a few intrigued looks but I am sure it is because the onlookers were thinking “What a clever idea!” rather than “Ever heard of knitting needles?!”

Alternative Centre Piece – Sprouting Onions and Meadow Plants

A while ago I left a couple of red onions in the back of my food cupboard and forgot about them. Then one day I got a start when I reached into the cupboard and touched a rubbery feeling thing that looked like a bright yellow tentacle! I dared to find out more and discovered it was just the  onions and they were sprouting. Slight anticlimax! But I decided that it was going to be a flower arrangement substitute! So, I have continued the theme by adding bits of fern and leaves from the wild (the natural look!) part of the garden. I am a fan of making do with what you have so using old marmalade jars and plants from the garden is something you can do immediately with no preparation, although you do have to leave the onions to sprout a bit. I think they look great! See other alternative “flower” arrangements with the milk bottle and weed arrangement and the black cabbage leaf arrangement filed under “Crafts”.

Vintage Sweetie Jar Portraits

Hardly attractive but pretty amusing!

Florence is full of fantastic antiques and vintage shops. The best area for them is Oltrarno, the other side of the Arno – the artisan area of the city. I lived in this area so whenever I walked anywhere I halted almost every five metres to take photos of amazing objects from very old revolvers, statues, and seriously over the top Rococo console tables to paintings. My favourite shop is on Via Maggio and has no name, but has a small stand in the window with a business card placed on top just saying “Luca” with a phone number. I love this Luca guy! He has great taste and finds the best things! The first time I passed this shop was at night and I saw the most fantastic room through a window with oversized metal letters hanging from the ceiling with soft lighting casting “Q”, “L” and “T” shadows on the wall. This room seems to be the creative display room as another time there was a scene of a large metal structure with a crank and a rope hanging down suspending a light bulb over a small table with a lone chair,  and another day it was packed with globes lying on the floor with light streaming between them. Walking inside makes you feel like you are stepping onto a film set from a collage of eras. There are mini scenes such as tin chairs placed next to a confession box and cabinets with mini drawers for pills. One day I found a chest with a group of giant vintage sweetie jars, with bakelite lids, on it. I had to have one! I started taking portraits of friends through the jar as the rippled glass distorts faces like when you go to a hall of mirrors at a funfair.

Unfortunately my sweetie jar broke in the post on its way to the motherland (even though it was wrapped in blankets! Humph!) so now I use it as a bit of a trompe l’oeil piece.

Vegetable “Flower” arrangement

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Following on from January’s “weed” arrangement is a vegetable arrangement. I recently had a cheeseboard at a bar in Piazza Pitti (Pitti Gola –  the link is on the right) and some of the cheese was presented on leaves of cavolo nero (black cabbage). They are great! They have so much texture making the leaf look as though it has bubbles all over it. I brought two leaves home and they looked great alone in this glass jar. I added some walnuts which look pretty good too. I think Uncle Monty said in “Withnail and I” that he found the cabbage much more appealing than the rose. Point taken!

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