Lockdown Crafts: Driftwood Candle Shades

K is always beach combing on daily dog walks and comes home with sea glass, pottery fragments, shells, interesting looking stones and pieces of driftwood. I’ve had a pile of driftwood sitting around waiting for a purpose since last year so today I’ve been using some of the smaller pieces to make these shades to sit over candle jars (I’m always wary of putting something combustible like wood near a naked flame, but it’s safer when there’s glass in between).

First a word about treating the driftwood. I submerged the newly collected pieces in a tub of bleach solution and left it to soak for a couple of weeks, to kill any worms, insects or fungus, then rinsed them with clean water and put them in mesh bags in the airing cupboard to dry out thoroughly.

I used a plastic jar as a mould, but needed to find a way to release it from the hot glue, so I began by putting a paper sleeve round it, secured with tape. I put put some strips of folded paper inside the sleeve – the idea was that if I pulled these out first, then the jar would slide out more easily. I found that the hot glue didn’t stick too firmly to the low tack tape so I taped all over the paper sleeve.

Using the glue gun, I stuck the first layer of driftwood pieces directly on to the mould. I kept the mould on a flat surface and made sure the sticks were touching the table all the way round so the shade would stand up without rocking when complete.

The next layer was stuck on to the sticks in the first layer, ensuring it was glued in at least two places. The second layer pieces were placed at an angle to the first to ensure that all the pieces were locked together. I found the easiest way to apply the glue was to hold the glue gun nozzle over the joint and allow the hot glue to dribble into the gap, then hold the piece in place until the glue hardened.

I continued until the whole mould was covered, then I pulled out the strips of paper to release the sleeve and the jar slid out quite easily. I was then able to gently pull the tape- covered paper away from the glue on the first layer.

I continued to add more driftwood pieces, including some to the inside, until I was happy with the result.

I’ve made two of the shades. I prefer the taller one, where I kept the sticks closer to vertical – the other one was more random. I really must take more care with the glue gun though. Much as I love using it, I have sustained a couple of blisters in the process!

Lockdown Crafts: A Trio Of Baskets.

I have a set of shelves in the utility room, where I store things like tea towels, cleaning cloths and freezer bags: not the easiest things to store on shelves, so I was after some baskets, but couldn’t find anything the right size so I decided to make some. All I used were some old glossy magazines and glue (hot glue and PVA). Don’t you just love repurposing things?

Using a craft blade and a ruler to get a straight edge, I cut the pages out and started by folding them into strips, long edges to the middle, then long edges to the middle again, then in half. Wherever possible I kept the most colourful side to the outside.

When I needed to join strips I either joined two or three sheets together with a thin line of glue before folding or joined two folded strips together by wrapping one round another with 1-2cm overlap and securing with glue.

Starting with the basket base, I secured the first few strips to the table with low-tack tape, using the grid lines on my cutting mat to keep them parallel to each other. I then began to weave strips through these, keeping them a right angles to the initial strips and parallel to each other. I tried to keep the weave as tight as possible, applying a dab of hot glue every so often to keep the strips secure.

When the base was the right size I folded the unwoven ends up and began to weave a strip round the basket. I made some strips with magazine covers and attached these to the strips that were forming the corner verticals, for added strength. I joined in new strips as I went, trying to keep joins behind upright strips. When the first round was complete I joined the two ends, making sure that the weave stayed tight and even to avoid the sided of the basket bulging. I also kept the upright strips as straight as possible, easing them into place to forma tight weave and not bulging out. I started each new round in a different place – joints are the weakest part, so I didn’t want to concentrate them all on one side. I found it helped keep things secure if the uprights (apart from the stiffer corner struts) were bent over as I wove the strip round and the upright were also already in the right position for the next round.

When I got to the second last round I found it was important to use as little glue as possible to secure the weave and limit it to the lower edge to allow for tucking ends in.

Once the last round of strips was woven in I made some edge supports by rolling a magazine page diagonally into a thin tube (I started it by rolling it around a thin knitting needle) and securing with a dab of hot glue.

These tubes are surprisingly strong and make a rigid top edge for the basket. I wove the uprights through as if the rod was another round of strips joining them at the corners by inserting the end of one tube into another and securing with a little hot glue (one end of each tube is thicker than the other

I finished by trimming each upright strip to about 6cm long and tucking it into the second last round of strips. I started with the outside and then did the inside, securing with a little glue around the tube.

With all the ends tucked in I gave the whole basket a couple of coats of diluted PVA glue, inside and out. This makes the whole basket more rigid as well as sealing the surface.

I’m really pleased with my made to measure baskets. I wouldn’t use them for heavy item storage but they are perfect for lighter things.

Have you tried any new crafts recently?