Q is for Quilting

Day 17 of the A – Z blog challenge

Quilting is the perfect way to use up all those odd bits and pieces of fabric you have left over from other projects. It always seems strange to me that it is possible to make a perfectly good item out of the odds and sods that would normally be thrown in the rubbish bin because they are seen as scrap.

In times gone by, when we weren’t quite such a disposable society as we are today, you would never find good fabric thrown away, no matter how small. It would be sewn together into patches and made into blankets or clothing that were unique and timeless.

It doesn’t have to stay in the past though, quilting and appliqué (it’s got a Q in it!) can go a really long way in helping you to make something out of nothing.

With my own quilting, i like to do things a bit different to the usual. The family tree is a padded wall hanging backed onto wood. The bunny is made from the odds and ends of so many different projects that i made while the boys were growing up. The photo cushion is also made from preloved fabric and the photo is one of my three boys playing in the front garden about 15 years ago (the eldest is just climbing over the wall in case you are wondering how you missed one of them).

That’s not to say that i can’t do it ‘properly’ when i need to – that blue boat quilt has a really comfy blue fleece backing on it too…

And if the bits you have left are too small to do the traditional squares, you can always do triangles or use the bits for an appliqué design within the squares –

Applique square

A square i made for inclusion into a charity quilt a few years ago.

JodieOr, you can just use the bits and pieces for a complete appliqué design and then quilt the top appropriately to fit the design…

This wall hanging was a present to a beautiful woman who owned a yellow ukulele.

I’ll let you guess what her name is…

 

And it doesn’t have to be pieces of new fabric from sewing projects that you can use for these projects, you can repurpose any fabric.

Those denim jeans that have worn through in one spot but the rest is fine? Now, i know that you have

made yourselves funky handbags out of the body section, denim handbag  but there is still a load of good denim left in those legs…

…So how about some really handy utility aprons???

Although they aren’t strictly quilting…

…But these are…

Quilt tops denim

And when saving the little pieces, remember the trims. That butterfly on the denim quilt top was a patch on a pair of jeans.

So before you throw out those scraps, old clothes etc, take a closer look and see what else it can be used for. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

P is for Planning Ahead for Presents

Day 16 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Following hot on the heels of O is for Organise and matching it hand in hand is P is for Planning Ahead for Presents

IMG_3464

Yeah, couldn’t find the number 7, it’s an upside down L in the lightbox…

The lists and immediate to do items are one thing, but it can also be worth looking further into the future when making plans for saving money.

In my phone i use the notes app to keep a list of people that i need to buy birthday/xmas presents for as well as any other celebratory events that may cost me money over the next twelve months or so. When i am out shopping, i keep an eye out for bargains/sale items that are suitable for those events and pick them up as and when i see them.

Now, i have always done this – remember the skint single mum thing back when the boys were growing up? But the problem i always had was that i would then squirrel them away somewhere and forget their existence until i was doing some random tidying up and would come across them again…usually a couple of days after the event they were originally purchased for.

Doh!!

So now, i make sure that i make a note next to each name, what the present is and how much it cost. This latter may not seem so important at first glance, but i generally have a set amount of money in mind that i allocate to each person. If i can save money on a present, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they only get that one, after all, they don’t know how much i paid for it, but quite often, i will make other purchases that brings the presents up to the value of that figure. Doesn’t mean that you have to do that too, remember, they don’t know how much you paid for it, whether full price or reduced, and does it really matter what the cost is if it is something that they want or need?

Not in my book, it really is the thought that counts. The thought that somebody has spent the time to try and find something you like and appreciate rather than a ‘that’ll do’ present that was purchased while standing at the check out, half an hour before closing time on Xmas Eve.

leggings

I once received 7 pairs of leggings for my Christmas present from my (now ex) husband. He said that i always wore leggings so what was the problem?

I had given birth to my third son one month before. I was sick of poxy leggings. I’d vowed never to wear the darn things ever, ever, ever again. I was already back wearing my size 10 jeans. i wanted something a bit more flattering than leggings.

It is my birthday one week after Christmas.

He bought me another pair of leggings. I’m not kidding you – he really did!

I felt like strangling him with them.desperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356

He admitted that he’d bought them with the other pairs on Christmas Eve and thought he’d save them for my birthday present.

My motto.

Plan ahead.

 

Buy presents throughout the year so you spread the cost, but make sure they are suitable for the recipient.

…..Unless you want to get garrotted by a stray pair of leggings…

.Have a happy day.

Anita x

N is for Needs versus Wants

Day 14 of the A-Z Alphabet Blog Challenge.

This is about taking a step back from your spending habits.

Before you reach for your purse or wallet, before you press ‘buy it now’ on the keyboard or phone screen just ask yourself the question:

Do I need it or do I want it?

Either answer is a perfectly valid reason to make a purchase but this simple query might help you to clarify your reasoning beforehand.

want-need-balance 3d

If you need it? If it is an item or service that you actually have to have then there is no option for you other than to shop around for the best value that suits your needs.

For instance. I took my car to have the tyres checked at a local tyre specialist centre at the weekend because one day last week i was running out of the door to go to work and spotted an almost flat tyre on the front. Not the best start to a Monday morning i must say. Luckily, there was enough air in it still to get me to the nearest service station where i pumped it up and carried on my way. Anyway, the upshot of the checkup was that my wheel alignment was really bad. So bad, that it had worn away the tyres on the inside (where i couldn’t see), one of them was down to the inner canvas. I was lucky that i didn’t have a blow out.

So, was this a Need or a Want?

Definitely a Need. I live in the middle of nowhere with a really rubbish bus service. I am three miles from my closest local shop. Whilst the exercise would probably be good for me, it is not practical for me to be without a car. So two new tyres and a wheel alignment later, my car is roadworthy again and I am a happy bunny, albeit a £200 lighter in the purse one.

If you want it? Then you can work out how great that want is to determine whether or not you continue to make the purchase. Again, this gives you time to step back and think about why you want it, and can you get the same item elsewhere for cheaper.

For instance. Back to the coffee at work scenario that i have talked about previously. I had fallen into a habit of buying a latte from the local coffee shop every morning on my way into work. It started the day off well and i didn’t have to wait for the kettle to boil in order to have it. The coffee shop also does a discount on takeaway drinks if you take your own mug in so that also helps to sway the decision to have one. When i added up how much i was spending over the year and it came to over £500 though? Ouch, that was bit of a shocker!

I don’t need a takeaway coffee every day. I can quite easily turn the kettle on when i get in, wait five minutes and then i have a cup of coffee. I’m not saying i’ve completely stopped. There are times when that want does become a need, i think i’ve had 2 takeaway cups since the New Year when i did the maths. But as you can see, i have drastically reduced what has been spent just by standing back and asking whether i needed it or wanted it.

Probably just as well as the money i have saved went on two new car tyres and a wheel alignment…

Ask yourself the question next time you are shopping. You might be surprised at the answer.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

M is for Make Do and Mend

Day 13 of the A – Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge

Hey, i’m half way through the month and as my theme is making do and mending then it seems kinda obvious to have that for my letter M.

For most of my life i’ve been a skint single mum so as much as i would like it to be otherwise, making do and mending has always been on the agenda.

Yes, i’m a qualified seamstress. Yes, i am interested in many crafts and have quite a few DIY skills but i sometimes wonder if i would have had them had it not been a necessity to gain those attributes?

I guess it started when i was a teenager (i wasn’t a mum myself then by the way, but i was skint). My mum would always say that she couldn’t even thread a needle which meant that if i wanted anything sewn or mended i had to do it myself. Once she found out that i was actually reasonably ok at threading needles, it is amazing how much my mending pile would grow…

When i was about thirteen i asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. Mum and dad didn’t have a clue about sewing machines, and they were also skint, so they scoured the local paper and picked up a second hand one for me and put it under the tree. I loved that machine, it was an old singer, you’d call it vintage now (it was bordering on vintage then) and it would only go forwards and back but it meant that i could take in the legs of the 70’s flared jeans that my cousin passed onto me so that they fit the fashion of the 80’s.

Sewing machine vintage  This isn’t my old machine, but it is the exact version. I found this picture at Helen Howes Sewing Machines . There are plenty of other vintage machines on her site also.

I have had several sewing machines since this one, i am bereft if one breaks and i am without one – it happened when i couldn’t afford a new one once, i was without for about six months. It was emotional.

My current machine does a lot more than just forward and back. It does so much that i probably don’t use at least half of its capacity, but it does thread the needle for me and it also cuts the thread when i’ve finished sewing. It’s the little things.

sewing set up

But would i have been such a keen sewist if it hadn’t been for necessity? I guess i’ll never know, but learning and using that skill has definitely saved me money as well as helped me to earn some with Baby Dreams Stitchery.

And what of other crafts and DIY?

My dad taught me to wallpaper and paint from a very young age, i also learnt early that wood chip paper is a definite no no in the decorating stakes, no matter how bad the underlying wall state is.

I can also handle a drill and a screwdriver-yes, i do know the difference between a flat head and a posidrive. I am a dab hand at reading the instructions and then building flat pack furniture, the bunk beds were a bit awkward, had to get my (female) neighbour in to help me to put one on top of the other. The double bed in contrast was a doddle.

I think what i am trying to say here is that it is cheaper to fix something, or create it yourself than it is to discard and buy new every time. For me, the make do and mend lifestyle began as a necessity, and even though life isn’t quite so pressured financially as it used to be, it is still a way of life and always will be.

I was just walking around a certain upmarket home and fashion store and saw some really cute cushions with the phrase ‘Bee Happy’ appliquéd onto them…for £25….

I put them back on the shelf…

I can make it myself much cheaper than that…

But then, i don’t have to pay myself for the several hours labour it’s going to take either…

Have a happy day.

Anita x

L is for Lunch

Day 12 of the A to Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge.

And by lunch, i mean making your own…

I work full time and that inevitably means that i have a mealtime while i am there. Now, i am quite lucky that my place of work has a complete kitchen that i can access in order to cook something should i so wish, however, time is not always on my side in order for this to happen.

There was a time when i would think nothing of saying that i didn’t have time (read as couldn’t be bothered) to make a packed lunch and i would then buy sandwiches/wraps or pasties (gotta be done when you are Cornish) for my midday meal. This adds up though. Even getting the local shops meal deal at £3.00 a time x 5 equals £15.00 per week. Multiply this by 48 (omitting four weeks holiday per year) and you have a total of £720.00. Add this onto the total of over £800 for take out coffees that i talked about in K is for Keep a Diary or Journal, and you have a costing of over £1,500.00!

How many holidays can you take for that?

Lunch doesn’t always have to be boring either, you can be the envy of your workmates with a little creativity. Fresh salads with added extra’s that you would never get in a shop bought one. Wraps or sandwiches filled chock full of so many foodstuffs that tickle your tastebuds.

Personally, i add my home made chutneys to both salads and sarnies adding that personal touch and flavour that i just cannot buy anywhere.

Autumn chutney jars

 

I don’t sell these although that is my label. I just like them to look cool when i give them away as presents.

 

 

 

I also make a lot of soup with random flavours, depending on what vegetables i have in the fridge, and add herbs and spices to flavour exactly to my taste.

Occasionally i will just take an egg, some milk and some bread in with me and make scrambled egg in the microwave and a couple of pieces of toast. It takes approximately 3-4 minutes and you have a nice filling meal that cost you pennies.

And if i’ve cooked a big batch meal the night before, then box full of the leftovers is always tasty the next day!

Be creative with your lunch and see how much money you can save over a very short time.

And don’t forget the lunch bag as well – you can be really cool and funky with your choice of those…

You can find a PDF tutorial on how to make these bags in my ETSY shop Baby Dreams Stitchery

Let me know what your favourite home made, quick and easy lunch ideas are.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

K is for Keep a Diary or Journal

Day 11 of the A-Z alphabet blog challenge.

It is easy to lose motivation once the initial impetus has worn off so i find it helps to have a visual record to remind me of my goals and achievements so far. The best way i have found of doing this is to keep a diary.

Writing on knee

Diaries or journals can be anything you want them to be. Personally, i stick with plain A5 size lined notebooks where i am not constricted in the amount i write. I guess you have noticed that i have a tendency to waffle a bit and my diary is no exception. They do have to look pretty though.

Notebook and pen

 

Although, i’m not always quite so fussy on my choice of pen…

 

 

 

In the past i have written:

  • Daily journals: detailing what has happened during the day.
  • Craft journals: detailing the items i have made and working out the costings for them.
  • A Happiness journal: during a particularly sad part of my life when i needed to acknowledge that there were good things that happened within the day as well as the sad things.
  • And a Spending journal: to show exactly what i spend in a day/week/month and then identify where the wastage is and what can be cut back on.

If you want to be able to see where those stray pennies go when you aren’t looking then start to write them down, pin them to the page so that, even if they do try and go walkabout, you can drag them back and make them account for their wandering ways.

If just writing in a diary or a journal is too plain and, quite frankly, boring for you, then make it fun. Doodle some pictures, learn some funky writing, download some pictures from google images and stick them in to highlight your point or look in the pound shops for one cheap and cheerful stickers. There are lots of really funky ideas over on Pinterest to spark your imagination.

Also, don’t just write an accounts book for it – that really would be boring. You can see that on your bank statement.

Write how you felt about the spending, before you spent, what made you decide to buy that item?

How did you feel when you handed over your card or the cash? A heady feeling of exhilaration as you heard the familiar ching of the cash register?

How did you feel after you got the purchase home? Pleased? Or guilty?

Acknowledging why and how we spend is half the battle to becoming in control of our own spending, learning what part of us we are trying to appease through the handing over of our cold, hard earned cash to a stranger in return for another piece of stuff, another cream cake, another mug of steaming vanilla latte from the coffee shop on the corner where they just taste too good to go without – my diary worked out that i was spending over £800 per year on regular take out coffees during my working day. That was just two coffees per day on average, 5 days per week. It is amazing how much it adds up.

So, if you want to see where your money goes, track it, write it down, make it fun, identify your motives and stop what no longer needs to be spent.

So far this year i have spent less than a fiver on take out coffees. That is about £245 saved already.

Oh, and i’d recommend the happiness diary as well. It helped me out of a really deep hole.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

I is for Internet

Day 9 of the A – Z blog challenge.

The internet can be a major help as you strive towards a make do and mend lifestyle. Not least because a simple Google search can tell you how to make and mend just about anything that takes your fancy.

Obviously Youtube is the place to start with any type of new craft or DIY skill that you may find yourself lacking in.

  • I have fixed my dishwasher when it wouldn’t drain properly – had to take the drain section to pieces and found a piece of glass blocking it. As this was on Christmas Day it would have been a while before an engineer could come and fix it for me at i don’t want to think about what cost.
  • I have taught myself the finer points of crochet.
  • I have learnt how to reattach the zipper of a zip after it comes off the teeth in your hand when you are altering a wedding dress… ooo, that was not a good moment i can tell you…
  • I have found the songs i require to teach singing and signing sessions at work as well as finding some that are really not quite so suitable – but fun all the same.
  • I have found out what some never used (and probably never will be) sewing machine feet were meant to be used for after i found a random bag of them lurking at the bottom of my sewing box.
  • I have learnt jewellery making techniques i didn’t have before.
  • I have learnt how to work with Fimo – made some minion keyrings, they were really cute and friends and family loved them.

Minions

  • I’ve tried yoga – it wasn’t successful – don’t do a downward dog with a loose bra on. It doesn’t work. Invest in a sports bra. Or don’t have boobs.
  • I’ve been entertained by funny animal videos, ever seen a hedgehog being fed a treat? It’s hilarious, go find it, you won’t be disappointed.
  • I could probably continue ad infinitum, no person could possibly live long enough to watch everything that is available….

As well as Youtube, there is good old Google itself. The answer to every question in the universe plus a few that have never been asked before. Probably.

It is no longer necessary to have a costly encyclopaedia in the house, the internet can get you the answer to that query before you’d have had chance to open the first page. Although it may take a while for you to find the actual piece of information you were looking for. The trawl through the sites can rake up some stuff you never wanted to know though…or see…

Shopping is where the internet really saves you money though. Sites such as Ebay and Amazon are gradually taking their toll on the traditional high street while those seeking individual hand made items can use sites such as Etsy or Not on The High Street as well as many others in order to show their unique identity.

On top of this there is the possibility of having your supermarket shopping delivered. I believe this does save you a lot of money, even after factoring the delivery cost, by you not actually having to visit the shop yourself. You have your meal plan for the week, you have your shopping list to facilitate your planning and you buy just what is on the list because you aren’t physically in the shop to see all the special offers and impulse buys that the supermarket is trying to tempt you with. On top of that, there is the fact that you have no transport costs to get you there and back. You save on shoe leather from not walking around the shop. You don’t get stressed out by the amount of people blocking your way as they chat to that friend they haven’t seen for absolutely ages right in front of the milk aisle. This means that your diet also stays safe as you don’t reach for that huge bar of chocolate that is sitting conveniently by the check out, just crying out your name, as your reward for having to go through that hell week in and week out…

Or is that just me?

Finally, we have education.

I could not go to university when i first left school. I wasn’t actually even allowed to attend college, i had to go straight into work to start earning a wage as soon as my legal schooling days were over. Admittedly, i had no strong aspirations for any particular career, i didn’t know what i wanted to do so i didn’t put up any fight either.

Years later, when i did decide i wanted to further my education i was married and had children. I went to evening classes at the local college but that was never going to improve my career prospects. When my marriage failed, i had even more need to gain some qualifications but even less ability to go to a university to get them when i had three boys to feed, clothe, house and keep warm.

I turned to the Open University. I could stay at home, go to work and gain a degree at the same time. It wasn’t easy. Trying to fit study hours in was excruciating at times, but the flexibility of study and the range of study materials and peer/tutor support available was second to none. My first degree, a BSC Hons in Health and Social Care was sort of my introduction to computing that wasn’t being beaten at space invaders by my brother in the late 1980’s. This was in the early 2000’s and was delivered by a combination of online support and snail mail assignment postings.

 

My second degree, an Open BA, was in the 2010’s ish,  and was mainly delivered online.

Graduation Torquay 2014-15

They’ve grown a bit haven’t they!

I am currently three quarters of the way through a Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree with the Open University and it is completely delivered online.

With the increase in technology i have gone from no hoper, straight out of school and into the local factory where her mum worked to a person who can hold her own, live independently and believe in herself and her abilities. I could not have come anywhere near that without the internet and the ability to study at home without racking up tens of thousands of pounds in student fees and living costs.

So the internet is amazing at helping you save money in so many ways.

Have a happy day,

Anita x