Category Archives: Thrifty Whatnots

Piano Stool

My biggest two girls are learning to play the piano. We’ve only got a keyboard at present which is sat on a desk which means that they need to be a little higher than standard chair height.

I had an old stool that I’d acquired somewhere and a load of old towels and some canvas my Dad had passed on to me. Armed with these, some sandpaper and a DIY staple gun I set to work  to make them a piano stool. Unfortunately in my excitement I forgot to take any before pics! (The top of the stool was a varnished cork tile – nice!) I started rubbing down the legs with a view to  a shabby chic paint job but since it had been repainted so many times the effect was instant! So as my love lives with the creating side I called it done and set to work covering the top with an even pile of towels to the required height. Next I stapled some canvas offcut to one side and stretched it across, stapling to the underside of the seat on the opposite side. Then I stapled the other sides trying to make sure the corners were folded in (like when you wrap a present) to give crisp edges. (It would be an easy job to whip the staples out and wash the canvas and “wadding” if a spruce up was needed.)

Now for the fun bit. I crocheted a tray cover, following a pattern from Simply Crochet magazine issue 08, alternating the colours to match my scheme. the pad was 14″ square so I made the cover to 14″ then held it at that size for two rounds before decreasing in size again for 6 further rows to about 12″ square. This makes a ” beret” for the stool pad which just slips on and doesn’t appear to need fastening on. If you did need to tighten your cover you could easily weave a ribbon in and out of the stitches of on the last rounds and tie a bow at the bottom of the seat.

piano stool beret


I now have an extra seat that I’m quite proud of and certainly wouldn’t mind bringing out at Christmas (much better than the grim looking stool as it was.)

piano stool top piano stool side





Vest top with crocheted circular straps tutorial

Marie has really inspired me to upcycle clothes. She told me about the great idea of buying the largest teeshirts and skirts possible at jumble sales for the fabric and upcycling potential. So I have a small-ish (!) stash of 10p large Ts and too skimpy beach dresses and seeing a picture of a top with crocheted circular straps I thought maybe I could do that…

circular straps

The crocheted straps (make 2):

Row 1. Foundation chain 81 stitches with htr (or chain 81, join with sl st then dc around.) Sl st into a ring. (Alter the number of stitches if you want the top to sit lower. I’m an 8/10 on top and flat chested!)

Row 2. Ch 2, [miss 2 stiches and tr into next, 1 ch , 1 tr into base of previous tr (makes a V shape)] around. Join with ss.

Row 3. Ch 2, htr around. Join.

Row 4. Repeat row 2

Row 5. Ch 2, dc around. Join.

Sew in ends.

(This is my first crochet pattern post so I do hope it’s ok. Please leave a comment if you hit any problems.)

The Sewing:

I picked out a dress in nice patterned T shirt material and a vest top that fitted me well. Then I cut out the top’s shape, using the front of the vest as a pattern, from the skirt (where there was the most fabric.) I cut the front and back pieces the same, making them a bit longer than the original top as I seem to find all tops a bit short since having kids! (Sorry photo taken after I had cut the fabric – but just to give you the gist.)

circular strap top fabric overlay

I then joined the sides and trimmed the excess away with pinking shears and folded down the top edge of the vest and simply sewed it down. (I did try and do a roll edge and hand sew but it looked terrible so opted for the machine sew with a “raw” edge  as t shirt material doesn’t fray.) I didn’t actually need to sew the underarm at this point as it got chopped off on the fit later.

circular strap seams

Be careful when machining the jersey that you don’t stretch the fabric as it with cause it to stretch and wave as shown below. It recovers after unpicking so just take it slow.

circular strap warp

When you fold the crocheted straps in half you see that they curve slightly so turn one so it curves to the left for the left arm hole and then turn the other so it curves to the right for the right arm hole. I ensured that the join was at the bottom i.e. in line with my side seam and pinned the circular straps to each side and tried it on. I wanted it to hide my bra straps which is a bit of a problem for me so repinned them making sure no bra was visible front or back.

circular strap reposition

Then I cut off the excess and seamed the arm holes before sewing the straps in place. I started at the side seam of the fabric and worked up to the top of the vest with two concentric bands of zig zag stitching, so that any excess material would work up and not cause a tuck.

I’m not a measurer and do most things by eye but I’m happy with it and it got a “did you make that?!” response from my hubby which made me grin.

circular vest finished frontcircular vest finished back

x Vanessa



Embroidered Portrait

Marie and I run a community craft group for Surestart called The Adult Craft Exchange. It’s a group for parents to gain, exchange or practise a skill whilst the preschoolers play around us. As you can imagine the projects therefore have to be relatively safe, given small inquisitive hands, and achievable, as none of us seems to have enough craft time.

My fall back craft is crochet but one of the objectives of the group is to inspire and push us into unexplored creative territory! We search out ideas on blogs and pinterest and try our best to recreate or redefine it at the group. The embroidered portrait was one such challenge and this was my take on it. (Please be aware that I have an aversion to cross stitch having painfully undertaken a family portrait alla Martha Stewart one holiday so my needlecraft is probably grim to the needle trained amongst you.)

I started off with a photo of my three girls which I liked – except for the fact that Eden wasn’t smiling. I found a nice photo of her on her own and got my lovely hubby to add her in without worrying too much about blending. He did make sure that her face was in the same scale as the other faces in the picture. We used and applied Effects, Artistic, Pencil Sketch to it and fiddled with the levels until it left only the key features for me to trace around.


With my image in hand, I then needed to transfer it to the calico type fabric I’d chosen to embroider on (much cheaper than using Aida.) Glass doors make excellent light boxes I realised! I just traced around the lines I could see and didn’t worry about any shading (though most had been taken away by the pencil sketch effect.)

embroidered portrait on the window

Once I had the outlines laid down, I started work on the embroidery. I went for a modern approach and used some bold colour combinations as inspired by this blog. I have a short attention span so I knew I would have to start with outlines only and add a little more detail to each girl as I went on.

embroidered portrait outline Eden started

Bear with the crazy colour combos (mostly around the eyes in my case)  – it needs the final step back before it all comes together. I’m sure I could have been bolder but I have to say I’m really chuffed with it. Hope you’re inspired to give it a go.

x Vanessa

embroidered portrait 1