How to make a bean bag cushion chair from recycled umbrellas

             IMGP2363 Recycled umbrella bean bag cushions

From this

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Two umbrellas dumped on the ground

To this!

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using a cardboard stencil

Ever wondered what to do with broken umbrellas?  In Fiji, after any downpour of rain, along the roadside, you will see literally hundreds of broken umbrellas – ahh, they don’t make them like they used to.  By the way, one thing I discovered when I was doing this project was why my grandma always told me to buy a good quality umbrella regardless of the cost.  I have often wondered why umbrellas these days seem so flimsy and turn inside out the the slightest gust of wind.  Is it because they are so cheap, and poorly made?  Not really.  When you have to take one apart, you see the enormous amount of effort that has gone into making one.  The IMGP2359umbrella skin is hand stitched very well to the spokes at several places on each spoke, and then hammered into the top of the handle using a metal clamp.  However, when looking at the fabric of two umbrellas that seem an equal size, and then sewing them together, I noticed that not all the triangular panels are exactly the same size, even though they look it when the umbrella is up.  Actually with the cheap umbrellas, the fabric

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triangles are all quite different sizes.  This must create a tension issue when the umbrella skin is stitched to the spokes, and therefore create instability when the wind catches the umbrella.  If I were a scientist, I would do an experiment to see if the part that flies up in the wind, is the section with the biggest piece of triangle fabric compared to the others, and therefore with the lowest tension.  Sadly, or maybe a good thing for the world, I am not a scientist.

Now to the real business of this post.  Seeing so very many broken umbrellas (actually only the frames break usually, and the fabric is intact) by the side of the road after a bit of rainy weather, and needing some more furniture, I decided to see what I could do.

I took a small stitch unpicker (or scissors would do) with me and walked to the bus stop.  On the way I found two or three umbrellas in the gutter, and unpicked the fabric from the frame which took about 20 seconds each time.  I stuffed the fabric in my bag and felt bad that I left the frames where I found them.  I then got the bus 5 minutes down the road to my local market place, and got off.  I collected another 10 umbrellas there, and did the same thing, and went home.

I have since felt so guilty about leaving the frames on the road side that I take them home and use them for trellises for the long beans and cucumber plants.

People thought I was very strange and asked me what I was doing, but now, taxi drivers who have taken me home and seen the cushions I made bring me umbrellas each week when they find them on the road side!

IMGP2365I soaked the umbrella skins in a bit of bleach for a while, washed them and hung them out to dry.  The rest was easy!

Check the umbrella skins for any small breaks in the stitching, sew up the top part where it joined the top of the handle (there will be a small hole in the middle of each umbrella circle).

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Dom spray painting

IMGP2356You can spray paint a stencil pattern if you like.

Sew two umbrellas of the same size together inside out and leave a small opening to insert the filling.

Fill with foam chips or polystyrene balls, or even used and clean plastic bags and old clothes.

Sew up the hole.

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Jone and Samu

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Ellena and Kim

Sit down!

Read the paper,

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Renee having a hard earned rest

watch TV,

relax!

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Fijian Pancakes – Babakau – light and delightful

IMGP7331These little pancakes are a favourite for breakfast here, and sometimes for any other meal where I need bread, the only resort, as a trip to the nearest bread shop is a half hour walk down the dirt road, then a bus to town, then return which all takes about 2 hours.  By the time I get back, my “need” for bread has often passed, so I make these instead while I am pottering around.

This recipe is for a half batch as it is enough for us, and if you eat the pancakes the next day, while still nice, a lot of the “air” goes out of them, so they are best eaten fresh.  Plus, it makes a lot!IMGP7333

Method and ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • half cup flour for kneading
  • one and a half cups water
  • one big spoon sugar
  • 5 grams yeast
  • pinch salt
  • oil for cooking
  • sugar, lemon, lime, butter or jam for serving

First, make yourself a coffee the old fashioned way, using a small pot of water on the stove.  Keep some of the hot water.  Drink coffee and enjoy.

IMGP7306In a mixing bowl, put 2 cups of normal or plain flour, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, and half a sachet of yeast.  I use DCL yeast here in the 11g sachet, so this recipe only requires about 5 grams.  If you are making the full 4 cup recipe for a party, use the whole 11g sachet. DCL seems never to fail me.  Not sure what brand you can access where you are.

IMGP7307Add about a cup and a half of tap water or other room temperature water and mix roughly with a butter knife or spoon until it seems to start coming together (only takes about 30 IMGP7310seconds).

Bring it together with your hands until it comes into one large piece.  If it is too sticky, sprinkle on a bit more flour and cut through with the knife again.

IMGP7313Cover with a tea towel and place on a plate or saucepan lid on the top of the pot you used to make your coffee.  The water will be a bit hotter than lukewarm by this stage.

Go about your Saturday morning activities – take the kids to sports, read the paper, clean the house, practice yoga, spend quality time with your spouse, or whatever.

Just when you have just about forgotten that you are making pancakes (about an hour or two, it really doesn’t matter),IMGP7314 the dough will have risen to about 3 or 4 times the original size of the dry ingredients.

Use a large mixing spoon and turn it out onto a large board that is liberally dusted in flour (about another half cup).

Using a floured hand, pick up one side of the dough and kind of fold it in half lightly.  Do that a couple of times until the dough has been dropped onto itself maybe four times, and tIMGP7316he surface is all covered in flour.  The dough will be very light, and easy to manipulate.  If you touch the dough without flour on your hand, or if it touches the board on a part that is not floured, it will be sticky.  I normally irritate my husband by doing this in the kitchen and making a little cloud of flour that drifts to the floor, but you could do it outside.

Kneed the dough now that you can manage it, and as you do, fold it in half, turn, turn over, fold in half etc.  Just a IMGP7318minute or so.

IMGP7319Use a rolling pin and roll out the dough so that it covers the surface of your large board.

Then fold the dough into thirds, press, turn clockwise, fold, press, turn over, fold press, for a few times (about another minute).  This is just to get some air embedded into the dough.IMGP7320

Roll again to cover the surface of your large board.  Go right to the edge and the dough will be quite thin (less than 1cm thick).

IMGP7321Put a 1cm layer of oil into a heavy frypan to heat on high.

Cut dough with a knife into triangles.

Work quickly now (maybe drink the coffee you made for yourself before but forgot about!)IMGP7322

IMGP7327Place 5 or 6 of the pieces into the hot oil.  They will puff up immediately.  Turn over.  They will be golden brown and puffed up to about 3 or 4 times the size they were when they went in.

Don’t worry if the oil starts to go a bit dark as it is just the excess flour, and doesn’t affect the taste of the pancakes.IMGP7328

Take out of pan and put into serving dish.

IMGP7331Serve with fresh lemon or lime wedges and a dusting of sugar, butter and home made jam (here I have grapefruit marmalade that I made a

few weeks ago), and enjoy!

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My guests, Vuli and Koto