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Janice Wells: Giving Martha a run for her money


Here’s inspiration for do-it-your-selfers

I can’t believe it. I thought I had lost it years ago, but I have recently channelled my inner Martha. I know, I know; I spent many years being “Definitely Not Martha Stewart” but I’ve always maintained that there is a little bit of Martha hiding in every woman. As young brides in the ’70s we wanted to be Martha Stewart before we even knew there was a Martha Stewart.

Everybody had their own breaking point with Martha. For me it was when I was no longer married and more concerned with keeping the wolf from the door than with keeping the house always ready for unexpected visitors with fresh flowers from my cutting garden and my homemade “essence of gingerbread” potpourri gently simmering under a candle that I made in a mould from one of the egg cups I fashioned from Martha’s “three simple ingredients hardening clay,” coloured with dye from the skins of onions I grew myself and glazed with an egg from my free-range chickens.

At one point I had four boarders and my father living with me. I had the TV on for comic relief while I was changing the sheets on all the beds when I heard Martha describe how easy it was to show your guests you care by making a spray to gently mist your sheets from lavender freshly gathered from your garden.

I hung the 10 sheets and 20 pillow cases on the line and called Janine to come over. We cracked open a bottle of gin and said, “Mist this, Martha.” True story.

Actually, now that I think of it, I haven’t channelled Martha at all. I have channelled Lori Sirove.

I’ve had three pieces of material in a trunk forever because I just knew I would use them someday. There was enough in each piece to cover two cushions, and I had a colourful patchwork couch before Martha could say “freshen your look with fabric paint and stencils made from petals from your garden.”

Back in the ’90s Lori Sirove wrote a book called “If You Can’t Glue It … Don’t Do it.” This is how she described it: “If you're the impatient type, and not too picky, and they usually go together, this book is for you! I have included more than 60 projects including lampshades, bedcovers, window treatments, slipcovers, headboards, tablecloths, screen dividers, ottomans and more! This book has hundreds of easy to follow ‘how-to’ directions interspersed with hilarious cartoons poking fun at the trials and tribulations of do-it-yourselfers the world over. Even a beginner can happily tackle any of the projects. If you can cut, staple and glue you've got it made. If all else fails, remember my golden rule, ‘If you can't see it from three feet away, it doesn't matter a whole lot!’

Lori Sirove became my new best friend. I glued curtains and covers for ottopeople like there was no tomorrow. Technically I didn’t use glue; I used iron-on tape, but with Lori’s book you could give Martha a run for her money.

So, looking at the couch in the sunroom one day, I thought of Lori and one of her tips for very easy slipcovers. The couch’s cushions are orange tweed from the ’70s and had proper slipcovers when I blew $40 on it at the Restore; nice neutral mushroomy-coloured slipcovers that would fit in anywhere.

Except I found them too boring for my sunroom. I toyed briefly with dying them and even more briefly with making new covers but didn’t think of my old best friend Lori until this year.

Lori’s method for covering square couch cushions doesn’t even include glue. Lori’s method is to wrap the cushions much the same as you’d wrap a gift and pin them together with safety pins. Don’t laugh. You can’t turn them over but otherwise they look and work just fine.

I’ve had three pieces of material in a trunk forever because I just knew I would use them someday. There was enough in each piece to cover two cushions, and I had a colourful patchwork couch before Martha could say “freshen your look with fabric paint and stencils made from petals from your garden”.

Three different floral prints on one couch might not be everybody’s taste but I love how cheerful it is in my sunroom. It’s been in use for weeks now and lasted through the grandchildren’s visits without a wrinkle. When I want to wash them I’ll just unpin them.  

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

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