My mum, who must be obeyed, put me in charge of decorations for my nana’s 80th birthday party earlier this year. My nana played a large part in my upbringing and it’s to her I owe my interest in crafting. She taught me to knit, sew, and crochet at such a young age that I find it hard to believe that my pudgy little fingers had the dexterity to thread a needle. But they did, and I am grateful to them and to her.
My interest somewhat abated during my teenage years as I was busy being an entitled little shit in the time-honoured fashion.* But I found my way back in my mid-twenties once I realised that being happy and fulfilled, for me, involved making things as well as consuming things.
That being the background of my relationship with the birthday girl, I felt that just laying out balloons and plastic banners wouldn’t be quite right.
I thought up these centrepieces while lying in bed on a week night when I should really have been sleeping. Originally they were much fancier affairs with a central tube of water to hold long-stemmed flowers, surrounded by tiny yarn balls and pearly beads, all within a statuesque glass vase. I quickly realised that this was (a) really specific and hard to find the materials for, and (b) expensive. I had one month and a strict budget. So jam jars and plastic champagne flutes became my shabby-chic saviours.**
After agonizing over which jar of pickled produce was the right size for long enough that people had started to stare, I selected eight large jars of beetroot, got stared at with greater intensity, and then picked up some plastic champagne flutes to form the central water tube/flower holder. I checked the height of these against the jar to make sure they wouldn’t peek over the edge. After the fact I was very glad I chose the ones with the detachable base. Only the stem is useful here. This sits inside the jar, supported by all the balls.
Then came the labour-intensive part: my balls.*** Originally they were all yarn but this took a long time per ball, and yarn isn’t as cheap as anyone would like. Then I tried using scrunched up bits of paper as the centre of the ball, but it was a lot of faff to scrunch paper just right so that the resulting ball would actually be spherical. Then I moved on to cotton balls and never looked back. They come pre-scrunched and you can get about 100 for pennies.
Repeat as many times as you need. I found I needed about 18 balls per jar.
The pearly beads that pretty-up the gaps between my balls came in two long strings of two different sizes – smallish and smaller. You can get them cheap in lots of places and just take the scissors to them. At first I tried artfully scattering the beads as I layered up my balls within the jar. But then I learned to my surprise that small round things don’t stay where you put them. Ever. So instead I super-glued one or two beads to each ball and left them to dry over-night.
When filling the jar I found it best to stack the balls in layered circles around the walls, rather than attempt to fill the whole jar.
Once my balls were in I measured the circumference of jar’s opening and cut a piece of ribbon about three times as long as it was round. I glued this ribbon around the opening, and let it dry overnight. Once dry I tied a bow and cut off any excess length.
And just like that I had knitting-themed centrepieces for my crafty nana. She liked them so much she asked to keep one, which is the equivalent of actual praise in my family.
* Drinking my pocket money, racking up massive phone-bills, telling everyone how little they understood me and then refusing to explain myself. BACK
** TOP TIP: it’s a lot cheaper to buy jars with something in them than it is to buy new, empty ones. Why? Because capitalism. As I type this I’m remembering that I have a large quantity of pickled beetroot in my fridge that needs to be disposed of. Although that sounds suspiciously like future-me’s problem. BACK
*** At this point I should warn you that I will be unabashedly throwing the word ‘balls’ around wherever possible throughout this post, just to amuse myself. BACK