At the start of the year, one of the ambitions I had for this blog was to add in more craft-based posts as increasingly it has been just recipes and the bias of my blog has shifted somewhat. It’s now April, and this is the first craft-based post this year, so clearly I’ve been pretty rubbish. I didn’t even start my New year’s resolution, let alone break it.
You may have gathered from other posts that I tend to make anything myself that can be made by hand. I think myself very lucky that I have useful hands that do what I ask of them (as a result though, they do look like labourer’s hands sadly). It’s not about ethereal, arty creativity, that I make things. It’s simply my bloody-mindness: if it can be made, I’m going to have a crack at trying. I have a lot of ideas buzzing about my otherwise empty head, a pair of useful hands and not a lot of money, all providing an excuse to be creative.
These little herb planters are so easy to make and so cheap. I bought a few pots (“Socker” galvanised plant pots from Ikea) for £1 a piece and I already had garden twine and leather cord. You could also use any old shoelaces, scraps of ribbon or butchers’ twine you had to save buying anything new.
They can also be scaled up depending on what size plant pot you can get hold of, but I’d suggest that if you are making a much larger planter, then use five or six holes and cords to support the greater weight (remember that soil + plant + watering = a lot of weight).
The cord is the crafty thing here – three cords that suspend the plant pot are also used to braid an integrated loop. This loop is braided back into itself, making it strong, secure and very neat.
For me, these mini planters they allow me to have herbs in my kitchen without cluttering up the window sill. I routinely grow a lot of herbs in my garden (27 varieties last summer and I’m aiming for the same or more this year), but the ones I most frequently cook with I like to have in reach of my cooking area, instead of traipsing outside repeatedly. Plus they make the kitchen smell rather lovely.
They make fabulous presents too, when potted up with a fragrant herb, a succulent or a baby house plant.
Notes on decorating
- You can keep these plain or paint them up as I have done. I used a small pot of water-based model paint, easily available from model shops in a huge array of colours (you can also use an enamel paint but these are smelly, harder to clean your brushes after use and take longer to dry)
- A quick spray with a car paint would provide a quickly coloured pot if you don’t want to stick with the galvanised metal. If you are using spray paint, I suggest to spray the plant pot between making the holes and braiding the cord, as you don’t want the cord to be painted (and spraying before making the holes may results in marks or scratches)
- Use masking tape with paint for spray paint to create stripes or spray over a stencil
- Also decoupage would work, but use a clear spray varnish to ensure your work is waterproofed
Notes on materials
- I picked up these small metal planters from Ikea at £1 each. I’ve also seen them in supermarkets (in the summer gardening section) and in saver/pound shops
- You do need metal, as ceramic or plastic would shatter, unless you have a small Dremel or similar tool with which you could use to drill holes
- Be really frugal and use cleaned-out tin food cans: it’d work especially well with the larger bulk-buy tins you can get
- I’ve used both a leather cord and garden twine to illustrate how to make these, showing you that a variety of materials could be used. Any strong twine will do, though do bear in mind that eventually string or twine will degrade, especially if it gets wet during watering (or you hang the pot outside in all weathers) so may need replacing at some point. Leather cord will degrade too but will last for much longer
Equipment – you will need:
- One or more metal plant pots (make sure there are NO drainage holes in them – or it’ll drip all over the floor!)
- Roughly 3 meters of cord, twine etc per pot (actually it’s a little less but this is a nice round number to work with)
- Old piece of wood
- Nail that is the same diameter (or very slightly bigger) as the cord/twine you are using
- Tape measure
- Scissors or knife
- A bradawl or small screwdriver or skewer would be useful
- Herb plant or other small plant and a small amount of extra soil (if needed to fill in any gaps)
- Additionally, paint and brush or tin of spray paint or other decoration
- Make three evenly spaced holes just under the rim of the pot, by tapping the nail through the pot into the spare piece of wood. (Do make sure it’s just under the rim or you will have problems later with water dripping out below the soil line)
- ‘Wiggle’ the nail in each hole it has created to enlarge it a little
- The nail will have made spurs on the other side of the pot as you tapped the nail through, so turn over the pot and tap these spurs down gently. If you leave them sticking out it can cut both your fingers and the cord!
- Check that tapping down the holes hasn’t narrowed the aperture and that the cord still fits through – if it’s a little small place the nail back in and give it another ‘wiggle’
- If you are using a spray paint or applying decoupage etc, this is the best time to decorate the pot (if you decorate earlier you risk scratching your paint/artwork when making the holes and if you leave it till you are finished you’ll have to mask off the braided cord, which will be more complicated)
- To make the braided cord, cut three 70 – 90cm pieces of your chosen cord (the length depends on whether you want a shortish or long hanging braid)
- Poke one end of a piece of cord through one of the holes, until about 5cm extends out from the pot
- Tie off the cord securely, using your preferred knot – I use two half hitches. Make sure it will not unravel while holding the pot in place
- Repeat with the other two cords and holes
- Grab all three long ends of the cord with one hand and, ensuring that they are as even as possible (so the pot won’t hang lopsidedly) make a loose, basic overhand knot. leave about 12-15cm of cord between the pot and the knot. Do not tighten the knot (you’ll need it loose later on)
- With the three cords, make a loose braid down about 60% of the strands
- Identify the halfway point between the overhand knot and the end of the cords and bend the braid over at this point – this will create the loop to hang the pot
- Now start to thread the loose ends into the braided part. It’s easiest if you work with one cord at a time, following a strand of the braid, weaving it in and out to match and creating a double braid pattern. Here, a bradawl or thin screwdriver will help you open up a space to push the end of the cord through as you weave. This is why we created only a loose braid. If you are having problems weaving the ends in to a double braid because it is too tight, you will have to unravel and start the braid again (this shouldn’t be too arduous)
- Keep going until you get to the knot
- Once you have successfully woven one cord into the braid, repeat with the other two, so you are left with three small ends close to the knot
- Loosen the knot a little and, with the help of the bradawl to make a gap, feed the ends of the three cords through the knot
- Pull on the knot to tighten it and once you’re happy it’s secure, snip off the ends with a little to spare (to ensure the ends don’t slipt through the knot and unravel it)
- Check that the pot hangs straight by lifting up the pot using the braided loop you’ve just created – you can adjust any ‘wonkiness’ by untying one of the knots at the rim of the pot, checking for straightness and retying
- Now’s the easiest time to paint or decorate the pot (unless you sprayed it earlier)
- Pot up your chosen plant, filling any gaps with additional soil. Make sure the soil level is about 1cm below the holes you made, otherwise when you water it will drip out of the three holes
- You can now hang your potted herbs out