A Bouquet of Shells

Over the last few weeks, we have been busy having fun, hosting pirate baby showers for my older daughter.  One was at my younger daughter’s house, and one was here at my house –  I’m going to show ideas from both.

At the first shower I filled a little treasure chest with things a baby pirate would love – teething rings, rattles, socks, etc.  We had it on a table with a “crow’s nest” made out of a laundry basket, a packing tube, and a pirate monkey.

pirate decorations

These decorations “anchored” the gift table.

At that shower the food took center stage.  We decorated with a cupcake stand “Desserted Island” and a wash tub full of “grog”.  My daughter created palm trees out of bell peppers and carrots, and set them in an oasis of hummus.  (About 25 years ago, I made those same palm trees for my daughter’s pirate birthday party!  I saw them in Meredith Brokaw’s Penny Whistle Party Planner book, which came out in 1987 and has been used many many times in our family.)

pirate buffet

pepper octopus

An octopus made out of a pepper.

cupcakes and toys

The “desserted island” of cupcakes, and adorable toy animals.  We wanted to put gummi sharks on the cupcakes, but could only find candy octopi.

For the shower here, I wanted the centerpiece to look like it could have been created from things that washed up on the beach, or turned up in a treasure chest, so I decided to substitute shells for flowers.

pirate bouquet centerpiece

Bouquet of Pirate Booty.  And yes, I did handweave that towel!

The hardest part was figuring out how to affix the shells to stems, but once I figured that out, the arrangement went together quickly.  Most of it can be taken back apart, so you can use knitting needles or grilling skewers for the stems.

If you would like to create one like it, you will need:

  • shells  (I used a bag of shells purchased from a hobby store, as well as some sliced shells and one starfish)
  • household sponges or other sponges out of dense craft foam
  • knitting needles or skewers of different lengths
  • strong craft glue (I used Gorilla glue)
  • beading wire
  • floral picks
  • floral foam
  • a few straws
  • some sort of vase (I used a flower pot, and an old silver coffee server)
  • optional:  strings of pearls or gems (I used old faux pearl necklaces from my grandmothers, and pearl bead gift trims from the clearance aisle of the craft supply store)

For the shell “flowers”,  cut cubes from a household sponge to support the shell on a knitting needle “stem”.  Wedge a sponge piece into each shell, and then wedge a knitting needle between the sponge and the inside of the shell, or even stick the needle right into the sponge.  The sponge pieces will compact and expand to hold the needle in place.  They will need to be different sizes, depending on the size of the shell and the knitting needle, but 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes worked well for me.

Play around until you get the shell balanced the way you like it.  Double-pointed needles work well, but you can use the kind with rounded ends too – if the rounded edge won’t fit into the shell, you can stick that end into the floral foam.

attaching shells

Shells can be wired to floral picks, or set on knitting needle “stems” with small wedges of household sponge.

For the shell slices and the star fish, wrap the wire from the floral picks around or through the shell.  You can also use beading wire to criss-cross around shells or starfish to bind them to the knitting needle.

shell sponge glue

Large shells require large sponges, glue, and a couple of hours of drying time. I used some old, dense foam stamp sponges.  I set a drinking straw between the sponge pieces, and threaded a needle through it after the glue set securely.

For really big scallops, use the Gorilla glue to glue big chunks of sponge to the inside of both shells, and glue a piece of straw to the sponge.  Gorilla glue expands and it will mold itself around the straw and harden.  Wait about two hours for the glue to dry.  Then you can thread a knitting needle into the straw – it will support the shells, but you can reuse the knitting needle later.

Fit the floral foam to your container.  Arrange your shell “flowers” the way you like them.  You can place extra shells, Spanish moss, or gems and pearls between the knitting needle “stems” to hide the floral foam.

floral foam

The knitting needles are set into the floral foam…


… and the extra little shells are dumped in to hide the foam.

I did two different arrangements – one was in a white flower pot, and it was just the shells.  The other was in an old silver coffee pot, and I had craft pearls of all sizes flowing out of it too.  This is not the most bomb-proof of centerpieces, but the whole arrangement did fall out of the flower pot onto the floor once, and none of the shells even broke.   I just had to readjust a few of them.  Also, this was for a small party of ladies, for just a few hours – if you are planning a bigger, rowdier party, you might want to run some stress tests!  The shells with sponge wedges seem pretty secure, but the ones with beading wire seem easier to displace.

When my mom came to the shower, she brought me a basket that I loved, and I thought it would make a nice base for the arrangement.  To avoid having to start from scratch, I figured out a way to place the existing flower pot base into the bigger basket and hide it.

I turned a bowl upside down in the bottom of the basket, and set the flower pot on that.  Then I took two large squares of cloth, folded them into triangles, and rolled them up.  I twisted them together and wrapped them around the flower pot, both to hide it, and to stabilize it inside the basket.

fabric rolls

Two square yards of fabric, rolled up to stabilize the flower pot arrangement inside a larger container.  One of these shows antique coins, to fit in with the pirate theme.

fabric twist

Twisting the fabric together gives more body and stability.

I cut some greenery that looked sort of like seaweed to me, and filled in around the shells.  That was my favorite version of this arrangement.

shell bouquet

You can’t even see the white flower pot, but it’s in there.  I also tried surrounding it with limes, and shells, but I like this version best.

We had a wonderful time at the shower!  Everyone had to drive for hours to get here, and I appreciate it so much.  Our family gatherings are rare and precious, and I am so glad we could have one in honor of our new family member!