Jar-full-o-Yarn Centrepiece

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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.

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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.

step 1Beautiful in its simplicity: the humble cotton ball

step 2Start to wrap the yarn around the ball

step 3Once you feel the ball is big enough, cut off the
yarn leaving a tail a couple of inches long

step 4Use a tapestry needle to thread the tail through
the top layers of yarn. This should secure your tail
sufficiently to prevent unraveling

stap 5Cut the last visible bit of the tail off, and you’re done

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.

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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.

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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.

Finished table setting

* 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

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