DIY Projects: The Book Vase

DIY Vintage Book Vase

Our village has an extraordinary supply of second-hand bookshops, including one that gives away books for free that have been rescued from landfill.  Every weekend we have a browse, and usually come back with new treasures.  As a result, my shelves are creaking and my supply grows faster than I can read or repurpose them. I used a vintage graphic atlas bought last year to make this gift for a friend’s new baby..

Matilda's Map Dress

I also use illustrations from childrens books to make colourful envelope liners, and make secret boxes from the covers of interesting-looking books, by removing the text block (tutorial here).

Kates secret book box

This time I used an old book full of tips for gardeners to make a simple vase for fresh flowers (I love the title; these days it would be the ‘Dummies Guide’ or similar; not quite the same..).  Here’s what you need;

Making a book vase

  • And old hardback book with a sturdy, undamaged spine
  • A cardboard box that fits inside the book, and is the same depth as the spine
  • A water bottle, with the top sawn off
  • Glue, craft knife, ruler and pencil.  Coffee, chocolate, good music all optional but recommended.

Firstly carefully remove the book text from the spine by slicing down either side of the pages that hold the book pasted to the cover. Remove the book and set aside, leaving your hardback cover which should lie flat.  Place the box (without lid) inside it to check for fit.

Carefully slice out one side of the box, leaving an inch around the edges for stability and to help it maintain its shape.  Press the long side edge of the box against the spine and then glue the box into the book cover, as shown below.  It’s best to leave several hours for the glue to set; lie it flat and place something heavy on top of it to encourage the adhesion.

making a book vase step 1

Once the glue is dry and secure, slide your water bottle into the open ‘book box’ so that it is resting on the bottom.  Use a jug to carefully fill it with water…

Making a book vase step 2

And then just add your flowers!


Add twigs for artistic effect.  Regret never having had any training in the art of floral arrangement.  Decide life is too short.

Book Vase

And then when your flowers are past their best glory, simply remove them and the bottle, and either clean out the bottle or replace it. Job done!

DIY Book Vasr

Have a wonderful weekend, when it comes!

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May The Force Be With You

Darth Vader DIY Cardboard Ship

Today I have an answer for that universal question which troubles us all at one or other time; ‘How Does One Make a Star Wars Fighter Ship Out of Cardboard?’.

Well alright,  I know that in reality it’s not a problem that many face, but it was a challenge laid down by Harry who was desperate that we should build together a spacecraft worthy of Darth Vader.  His actual specifications (‘One that really flies, Mummy!’) were a bit ambitious, but we emptied out the recycling bin and did our best….

DIY Star Wars Ship

It was a voyage of adventure (and misadventure), involving a pile of cardboard boxes, empty milk containers, a staple gun and some black and silver paint.  We took our inspiration – loosely – from the TIE Advanced cruiser that Darth Vader uses to shoot across the galaxy.  Can you see the resemblance, just a weeny bit?

TIE_Advanced courtesy of wikipedia

We tasked my husband with rummaging in the undergrowth during his evening runs in search of discarded hubcaps; he did brilliantly and managed to drag home a large and filthy selection.  Cleaning old hubcaps in the kitchen sink in order to stick milk-bottle caps onto them will be a defining moment of motherhood I think.  Still, it meant we had all our core components assembled;

Recycled materials

I sawed up cardboard to make wings and fixed them to a box (I punched holes and wired them together for strength, rather than using glue; these ships take quite a battering in astro-warfare..).  Harry was in charge of paint, a task he took to with enthusiasm.  I discovered belatedly that our paint of choice is not in fact washable; neither boy nor shirt have looked quite as box-fresh since last weekend…

Painting the Star Wars Ship

The rockets were made by spraying milk containers with silver paint and stuffing them with strips of tissue paper; I threaded a length of wire through bendy straws and used these to secure the bottles in place where they could provide jet power at the touch of a button.

DIy Milk Bottle Rockets

Star Wars Ship Straps

Foil pie cases were glued on in abundance by Harry to add a bit of bling and space-age style, as were faux jewels from the art cupboard, and then finally I cut a large square out of the bottom of the box for Harry to step through and then added wide bands of elastic to act as straps to hold the ship in place.  A star cruiser was born.

I’ve not included detailed instructions for how we made our ship because I have a hunch that this is a rather niche craft activity (though mothers of small boys – and larger ones – may find inspiration here).  Instead, here’s a pictogram of what we used and how it all vaguely came together…

DIY Star Wars Ship Materials

And now I must leave you; the universe is in peril, I hear, and Darth is on the warpath. I don’t have the time or cardboard to knock myself up a lightsaber, so I will be relying on my wits.  This means I am doomed.

All being well, however, I’ll be back on Friday with a cheat’s guide to how to make hollowed-out books for storing treasures.

See you then!

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Rocket Man!

Today the house is once again filled with swirling brick dust as our renovations continue, though it is eerily silent as the builders seem to have downed tools in search of sunshine, and have not been seen since Thursday. I’ve been forbidden from stepping in to finish the job, glue gun and apron in hand, so instead have turned my restless energies into creating…. a rocket!

Harry’s current passion is rockets and outer space, having discovered Wallace and Gromit and their adventures to the moon in search of cheese.  With the challenge of only using items already around the house, I built this in a couple of hours and it has already been piloted on several missions (‘Let’s go whooshing Mummy! Put your seatbelt on and I will press the button!’).  Making the rocket capsule was easy enough – I used an opened-out packing box from our recent move – but the domed roof gave me pause for thought.  In the end, I used a fibre matting liner intended for the hanging baskets I never quite got around to planting this summer.  Sprayed silver and with empty yoghurt pots glued on top it does the job just fine…

I cut out the viewing window by drawing round a plate and then using a craft knife.  A polystyrene wreath ring makes a good porthole, especially when wrapped in scraps of brightly coloured paper.  Cotton reels give a countdown to launch, and also provide the basis for an external control panel (below; I added one inside too for proper piloting of the craft after take-off…).

On the side of the rocket is this fuel cap and general gadget bar, made from old plastic lids and some stick-on alphabet letters

The captain needs a proper entrance, of course…  Reels provide doorknobs on both sides, for pilot access and to firmly shut the door once inside, in case of aliens (or grown-ups).  See how to make 3D stars like these here.

And finally our accessories; a spaceman lunch box (for cheese sandwiches and milk; the food of champions), a range of plastic tools in case of spacecraft malfunction – always possible when Mummy is the architect – and space goggles; this cardboard pair of 3D specs I saved from an old comic.

If you fancy making one of these yourself, come fly with us!  Here’s a full list of what we used, though the beauty of these is there’s no ‘right’ way of doing it – use whatever you have to hand.  A word on technique; I found that hot glue (from a glue gun) is the best way of ensuring everything stays in place, and craft knives – rather than scissors – are best for cutting corrugated cardboard like this without squashing and tearing it.  Toys like this will take a battering if used to their fullest potential, so I’m armed with a big role of clear packing tape to add reinforcement and repairs when needed.

Like this project? If you’re a cardboard recycling fan, you might also like our cardboard train and our cardboard shop.  And now you’ll have to excuse us; we need to prepare for  a moon landing in 5…  4 …  3… 2….

And whilst we’re talking cardboard….

The wonderful and dangerous thing about moving house is that without warning you become drawn to homewares catalogues like a moth to a flame.  John Lewis suddenly makes a stealth entry into your ‘most visited’ sites lists and ne’er a day goes by without an interestingly large package arriving on the doorstep… or so my husband complains.  Still, a happy upside of this retail incontinence is that I find myself with a wealth of large empty boxes, just waiting to be recycled into fetching play equipment.  ’Think how much we’ve saved!’ I cry, to an unconvinced marital audience. In this case, a large box (formerly housing a vacuum cleaner, since you ask) has been painted and appended with some mouth-watering clip art to make a simple play shop, through which much money has changed hands in the last 24 hours in exchange for a variety of dented plastic vegetables.

As you can see from the pictures below, the actual cardboard box with just a door and a serving hatch cut into it were just as exciting to the 2yr old in question – the paint and decor just makes it a slightly more attractive addition to the playroom…