Confessions of a campervan convert

As a very wise lady once trilled, ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun’. Well, there’s a challenge. Always keen to find, and indeed exploit, any smidgen of fun when tackling these campervan cushions, I decided to go shopping.

My shopping list:

  • High-density foam cut into two seat cushions and two seat backs
  • Wool wadding to cover the foam and soften the edges
  • Spray adhesive
  • Plenty of fabric to cover cushions and account for (ahem) unexpected hiccups along the way
  • Various reels of red cotton and random zips (mainly for practising)
  • Wine
  • Crisps (large bag)

I went to Clark Rubber for the foam, and they were excellent. The girl worked out she could save me $100 by cutting the four pieces out of a double camping mattress, which was made of the same high-density foam. So she ripped off the cover and started sawing away, while I stood and marveled at the sheer variety of interesting rubber available. Who knew!

I decided to take the spare offcuts and squeeze them into my ever-growing ‘craft box’, to join the remnants of my previous attempts at creativity. As it turned out, it was a rather fortuitous decision…

Spot the deliberate mistake. So my first job will be to do my own sawing and sticking to cobble together the missing corner from the offcuts.

Paul and I then went to Spotlight to buy the stripy fabric. I realised when we got there I should have worked out in advance exactly how much material I would need. (In my defence, I was still hoping something even more suitably surfer-chic would jump out at us at the 11th hour. It didn’t. So stripes it is.)

I had the dimensions of the four cushions, and the length of the fabric was 1.2m. That was a shame because the cushions are 1.27m long, so what I’d hoped would be the length would now be the width. Okay, so the area would just be length x width x depth. Hmmm no, that would be the volume. This was all getting trickier than I thought. I tried adding the depth to the length twice and multiplying by the width, but then what about the other ends? And what about the hems and the seam allowance that I keep reading about?

I was feeling a bit flustered by this stage. I could sense Paul was getting one of his ‘heads’ and I was starting to see various formulas flying futilely in front of my eyes: ‘Πr²’? Nope.  ‘The square of the hypotenuse…’? I hope not, I can’t even remember how that one ends. Surely it should not. Be. This. Hard. In my mind I could see my Mum (who is a mathematician – not to be confused, as I unfathomably did many years ago, with a magician – maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong) screwing her face up in frustration. How on earth did I scrape an A in GCSE maths? I could feel beads of sweat prickling across my forehead and was on the verge of leaving the store altogether, when Paul triumphantly declared it was around 10m. Hurrah! Whether he had actually worked it out or had just seen that was how much was left on the roll, I wasn’t going to argue. So we got the lot. I’m sure the extra swathes of fabric will come in handy for something.

Overall, it was quite a successful shopping expedition, although the only items on my list that have actually been put to any use thus far are the wine and crisps. And for the time being, the element of ‘fun’ remains elusive; maybe I need to hold a little tea party on the ceiling or something, try a spot of sewing up there.

Creating a campervan kitchen

I’ve had a polite request for more campervan photos, so here’s a pictorial update on the kitchen (with as few words as I can muster!)

So our exciting delivery from Caravans Plus last week revealed a ceiling fan, a gas stove and a kitchen sink:

Caravans Plus has been a very useful supplier, we also bought the Thetford toilet and gas bottle casing there. And although they’re based in NSW, the delivery charge for everything in this picture was only about $30.

In preparation for installing the stove and sink, Paul came home every evening last week and lovingly sanded and oiled the wooden worksurface. Then he sanded it again with a finer sandpaper, oiled it again, sanded it again and gave it a final coat of oil for good measure. And then he cut a huge great hole in the middle to fit the gas stove. Still, the rim of the worksurface looks lovely and smooth:

The lid also comes down to create an extra worksurface:

It was obviously a cloudy day in Brisbane.

Paul also prepared the worksurface on the other side of the kitchen where the sink will sit. 

Neither the stove or sink are connected up to anything yet. 

The hardest bit with the worksurface was cutting around the handle next to the door – on the right hand side of the photo above. Paul used a cardboard template to cut around the edge, and the patent-pending right-angled pencil made another appearance.

So here’s an overall view of the kitchen, I think it’s looking beautiful!

Paul has already started work on the seating / bed configuration, so that will be the next chapter in the story. Just don’t mention the seat cushions. I was distressed to discover I have inherited no sewing genes whatsoever, and combined with an innate lack of patience and defiant new sewing machine, progress has been fairly slow.

The quickest route to a relaxing weekend?

Straight down the Pacific Highway, of course. After a busy few weeks at work, Paul and I had been craving a quiet, relaxing time over the five-day Easter break. So I think we were both a little surprised to find ourselves not heading to the coast, but ensconced in a crowd of other frazzled couples being herded along the pathway at Ikea. A pathway from which there is no escape. No early exit strategy. Everywhere you look people are frantically searching for a little pink card that says ‘Move directly to marketplace. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.’

Anyway, the plan was to look for a wooden work surface for the campervan kitchen. This was an about turn really; we’d always been keen to avoid the traditional pine look that you see in so many pictures of converted campervans, and were planning to use a pale laminate for the kitchen surfaces instead. But Paul loves working with wood, and was concerned that the interior was starting to look too white and sterile. I am inclined to think once we introduce the red cupboard doors and stripy seat cushions it’ll be hard to see any white, but I do quite like the idea of a solid wooden surface. Like one huge chopping board. So we’re hitching a brief ride on the pine-look bandwagon and have bought an Ikea Lagan worktop. It was almost 2.5 metres long, weighed over 30kg, and only just squeezed in the car (barely leaving room for my Ikea purchase: a single fluorescent dishwashing brush, which was looking a bit forlorn at the bottom of my huge yellow bag).

Paul’s cut two pieces of wood to fit each side of the kitchen and has given it about five coats of timber oil. He chose a Danish wood oil in the hope it would get along nicely with its Swedish wooden companion.

Wood before being oiled

In other news, Paul’s been doing some finishing touches on the cupboards and has boxed in the wheel arch at the back of the main kitchen cabinet, using the same laminated wood he used for the walls.

He’s also completely secured the toilet to the floor, which I am relieved about because I find it quite a comfy place to perch while Paul’s working, and as our driveway is on a slope, I was always in slight danger of sailing off down the van. Fixing the toilet was quite tricky, we couldn’t get long enough screws to drill far enough into the floor, and the limited space in the base of the toilet made it awkward to get the drill in to screw down. So Paul went underneath the van and used long bolts to drill up through the base of the van and through the floor, and secured the bolts with nuts in the base of the toilet.

Finally, the prize for this week’s most interesting photo surely goes to:

This is the steel box that Paul has resized for the gas bottle, so it will snugly fit our 2kg gas bottle rather than the 9kg one it was intended for. A bit of hacking and a lot of sticking has saved us sending the original box all the way back to NSW.

Earlier this week we had a bumper delivery from Caravans Plus which included a stove, kitchen sink and roof fan, so Paul’s going to tackle some of those this weekend.