Have you ever looked at a home accessory and thought that you could knock one up in about 10 minutes flat – in the process scoring kudos for crafting effort, the satisfaction of creating something unique, and saving yourself cash in the bargain? Then this new blog series is for you.
Each Make or Buy post will feature an interior accessory currently trending and highlight a lovely option to purchase one. But in addition I’ll road test an online tutorial to craft, make, or upcycle one. I’ll compare the outcomes and reach a conclusion on whether it’s worth going to the effort of making or whether it’s better just to buy one.
I must disclose at this point that I am categorically not a maker. In truth, I have not so much as sewed on a button since home economics. My heart sinks when one of the boys comes home from school with an assignment to construct the Globe Theatre (or similarly ambitious structure) from recycling material. Crafting for me is not ordinarily a pastime of choice and it poses a significant challenge. However, this is actually an advantage for present purposes: If I can create a home accessory that I’d be proud to display in my house, then you definitely can.
The project: Macrame Planter
For this post I’m featuring a macrame planter. These 1970s staples have made a big time come back, adorning all the hippest interiors. They’re a stylish companion to the houseplants which are key to achieving the phenomenally popular jungalow look. They also introduce an accessible hint of boho to any style of scheme.
Not one to be left out, I had my sights on a planter of my own. I found this lovely one at the fabulous online emporium Violet and Thistle. At just £8.50 it’s an absolute snip. (I bought it along with my gold belly basket so I’m not counting p&p).
As lovely as it is though, essentially it’s just a length of cord with some knots and beads. Surely crafting a perfect macrame planter would be cheap as chips and the work of mere minutes?
For being such a popular home item and an obvious candidate for crafting, it was surprisingly tricky to find a straightforward, easy to follow tutorial on line. I went with this “easy kid-friendly” macrame planter pattern, applying the logic that surely this would not exceed a level of complexity I could competently handle.
Sourcing turned out to be the biggest headache. For a start my pattern did not specify the exact length of cord required. But from perusing the step by step instructions it became apparent I would need a length that would loop round planet earth (twice). In addition, macrame cord is described in bamboozling weights rather than any useful measurement – like thickness of cord for example – which might help with choosing the correct product.
Additional challenge arose from the surprising discovery that actual macrame cord is priced as though it were crafted from the hair of a rare breed of llama found only in the remotest alpine plains of the High Andes. This exercise would be a total waste of time if the cost of the material exceeded the bought product from the outset. So I dug deep, tapping into my latent creativity to find a budget-friendly, aesthetically palatable alternative.
Some hemp cord from Screwfix looked promising but was so thick and stiff that, were it possible to wrestle it into a knot formation, it would approximate the size of a golf ball. Online shopping was required. After a frustrating length of time scouring Amazon for something that might pass muster, but which was also long enough, cheap enough and IN STOCK, I settled on a length of parachute cord (£7.49, postage free with Amazon Prime) which I hoped would lend a stylishly contemporary vibe to my creation.
I did also order some beads to mirror the lovely detail in my bought planter, but again I discovered to my dismay that wooden beads are unfathomable pricey. The relatively budget-friendly ones I ordered turned out to be pea sized and would require defiance of the laws of physics to be threaded onto my cord. Ah well, perhaps clean and minimal would be a winning design.
Not confident that my making abilities alone would do justice to this project, I enlisted help from three of my craftiest friends. Eilidh, Melissa, Alex and I met when our children were tots and we set up a local toy library together. Each of these lovely ladies has a well-developed creative side; I was confident I was in good crafting company.
We kicked proceedings off with a healthy measure of prosecco, then down to business. To make a planter each involved cutting a shockingly large volume of cord lengths. The process of knotting the cord, deceptively simple for the first set, proved progressively more challenging as we moved down the lengths. (It would only be fair to point out here that the prosecco continued to flow during these proceedings.) With no specifics in the pattern to guide us, we were left to guess how to choose which strand to tie with which, and how far down the lengths to place the knots.
Finally we reached the step which concluded “you can hang them up on a hook and you’re done!” Um….what?! Readers, it was not at this stage AT ALL apparent how a plant pot could possibly be supported by the collection of lengths and knots before us.
Nevertheless we wrestled our pots as best we could into “position”. (I haven’t giggled so much in a while.) Without wanting to shame any of my lovely friends, let’s just say some were better than others. With some (considerable) adjustment, ultimately we achieved four functional (kind of) macrame plant hangers.
The image above shows the bought Violet and Thistle planter (centre), flanked by the two most successful of our crafted efforts.
Discounting the rogue beads, the cost of the homemade planter came in at about £4 each, roughly half the price of the bought one. However, it was a HUGE effort to source a suitable pattern and materials. The “easy kid-friendly” description was misleading except perhaps in the unlikely event that your child is some kind of macrame ninja.
The end result had a slightly amateurish look about it. It lacked the lovely bead detailing of the Violet and Thistle one. And most disappointingly (the pattern had been silent on this aspect of the design) there was no obvious means of hanging the thing.
The unanimous conclusion: BUY IT.
It’s worth adding as a post script that I did have a lovely evening hanging out with my pals – thanks girls. If you’re looking for an excuse for a mid week get-together, which obviously can’t be solely for the purpose of drinking prosecco, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this project to you.
Has anyone had more success with macrame than we had? Are there any other crafting projects you would like to see featured in “Make or Buy” (with possible hilarious consequences).