W is for Work at it

Day 23 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Saving money certainly isn’t an easy thing to do. I guess if it was that easy, then everyone would be doing it and nobody would be struggling to find the pennies.

In this throwaway age, it is unfortunately, so much easier to just replace stuff with new, buy stuff instead of make it and live for today rather than forward thinking to tomorrow.

Saving money actually involves hard work. For most of the situations i have spoken about over the last month, it is necessary to do a lot of the ground work for yourselves. Whether that is by learning a new skill, researching other options either within your community or online or by being creative and thinking outside of the proverbial box for a solution to your potential spending problem.

The internet can be your best friend in helping you with this though. Youtube tutorials are amazing for showing you just how to get to grips with a sticky skill or repair that you need to know and don’t forget there are the amazing bloggers who also take the time and the trouble to present a page of tips and techniques to help you out for free.

kids-talking-clipart-people-talking-clipartAnother source of help can be friends and family, even if they don’t have the time to do the physical stuff for you, they may be willing to have a conversation to help you, and the older generation are generally a minefield of information about the make do and mend lifestyle. There was a time when they didn’t have a choice, and they didn’t have the internet to help them either. If they wanted something, they had to either work out a way to provide it or go without.

To start this lifestyle can be quite daunting though, and it takes time. My suggestion is to break it down into smaller tasks of what you want to achieve and then use that list to figure out what your priorities are.

  • You want to save money? Why? Write it down.
  • How much do you need to save? Write it down.
  • When do you need to save it by? Write it down.
  • How are you going to make those savings? Write them down.check-mark-1292787_960_720
  • Which are easier to achieve now and which ones are goals for the future? Write them down and prioritise them.
  • What will you do when you reach your goal? How will you reward yourself? Write it down – you need to be able to see a positive outcome at the end.

I would make a file of these notes and leave gaps for more ideas to be slotted in as they occurred to me. I don’t know about you, but i can never get everything out of my brain in one sitting, i do some, i go away and cogitate, i do a bit more.

businessman-with-a-great-idea_1012-219I would also leave space for comments and reflections. What if something doesn’t happen the way you wanted it to? What are you going to do then? How are you going to stop yourself from feeling a failure when real life decided to kick you up the Jacksy just to make your day? These are important points to note as well, Life can truly be a right pain in the arse sometimes and there is very little we can do about that, but we can do something about how we react to it.

Remember me saying that earlier this monthdesperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356 i had to purchase two new front tyres and have a wheel alignment on my car? Cost me over £200. That was a pain in the arse. Wasn’t expecting it. But it did save me from having a tyre blowout which could and probably would have cost me an awful lot more, and maybe not just in money.

So, plan what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Add in your contingency plan and make sure that you find a positive, no matter how small, about any set backs you face.

Then you can make this saving money thing work for you.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

U is for Upcycle

Day 21 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

No, Upcycling isn’t the art of cycling uphill, although the effort that takes would certainly help to keep you fit and mean you won’t need to spend money going to the gym. What it is, however, is the ‘process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value‘ according to Wikipedia, available here.

In other words, stop throwing away items that you no longer find useful in their natural state and make them into something better.

I have already waxed lyrical over how easy this is to do with fabric, by now i think my denim handbags are legendary, as are my quilted and appliqué specials, but it is possible to do this with just about anything. Got an old table that is scratched and seen better days? Sand it back and paint or wax it. Broken leg on a table or chair? Change the legs for different ones, you don’t need to throw the whole item away. I’m pretty sure that if you took a step back before taking that item to the dump and thought about what else it could be instead, then you would be able to save yourself a whole packet of money.

And if you are lacking in inspiration, then the internet is the place to go for ideas, personally, i can lose an awful lot of time on Pinterest and am frequently amazed by the ideas of what others have done.

The above pictures aren’t of anything of mine, they are just a few i have found on Pinterest in a quick five minute search using the search term ‘upcycle.’ Hopefully they will give you just a few ideas of the kinds of things that can be done.

I quite like that coffee pot into a terrarium idea myself….

Go see what you can find.

And have a happy day.

Anita. x

R is for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

Day 18 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

I can’t do a theme of make do and mend without using R for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair. It’s a bit of a given really.

All of these are essential in the bid to save you money and stop you from throwing items away that could be of some use to you, even in other ways.

By reducing what you use in the first place, it makes for a much simpler lifestyle as well as helping out the planet just a little bit as your consumption rate lowers.  It also reduces the amount that you spend as you head out to the shops to refill your cupboards, wardrobes etc. It’s about taking that step back before you purchase again and asking yourself if you really need that item? Can you live without it? Can you use something else in its place?

flowerpotWe needed a bucket to hold water for washing a car today. I suggested looking in the gardening shed to see what was out there. Hey presto, big flowerpot (with no holes in the bottom) to the rescue! Worked a treat.

Didn’t have to go out and buy a bucket.

Reusing and recycling items also apply to the above example. Just because something is traditionally used for one purpose doesn’t mean that purpose is the only thing it can be used for. Think creatively and out of the box. It is amazing how much money you can save by doing this.

  • Use a sheet for a tablecloth
  • Use an old glasses case to store jewellery or other small items you don’t want to lose
  • Use a cosmetic brush to clean you computer keyboard
  • Slice wine corks into thin discs and stick them to the inside of doors to stop them banging when closing
  • Use tea and coffee tins as planters
  • Cut old clothes/towels down to use as cleaning cloths around the home
  • Use old envelopes/backs of letters as scrap paper for when you need to leave a note for your son – Again – to do the dishwasher before you get home from work… (yo’d really think he’d know by now!)
  • Save butter/margarine/ice cream tubs etc for using again in the fridge or freezer, or for taking your lunch to work/family taking leftovers home after a family meal – that last one means that you don’t lose all your expensive boxes because you can guarantee that they won’t come back again…
  • Use old blankets to line pet beds
  • Cover an old baking sheet with fabric or paper, decorate it and use it as a magnetic board

And as for Repair? That just stands to reason as a sensible option for saving you money.

I’m sure you are all aware by now that i am a seamstress so, for me, repairing of clothes isn’t usually much of a problem – apart from making myself actually sit down and fix it, i’d much rather make an item from scratch rather than spend two hours replacing a zip in a pair of overalls –  but i do have those skills if i need them. I would certainly recommend purchasing and learning how to use a basic sewing machine, it will repay itself a million times over once you get the hang of it.

Regardless of my above comment about having to make time to sit and do my own mending, i do also take in clothing for alterations and repair – i’m a lot quicker at making myself sit and do that – so it is also a bit of an income stream for me. There is no reason why it couldn’t be for you also.

When thinking about replacing something that is broken, always think if it can be repaired first. Why waste money when a little bit of time and effort can breathe new life into the item and mean that you can spend that same money on something much more fun.

I only have three areas where i won’t try a fix first. electric shock

  • I don’t mess with the plumbing or water
  • I don’t mess with the electrics
  • I don’t mess with car mechanics

 

 

 

I will always call the professionals in for those. Life is too precious and if any of those go wrong it could be much more costly in the long run.

These are just some ideas to start you off, let me know what other alternative uses you have for items around the home that save you money.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

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

 

J is for Junk

Day 10 of the A to Z blogging challenge

There is an age old saying of one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and i really enjoy finding treasure of my own amongst other peoples junk.

Bins

I’ll admit, i’m not quite brave enough to go skip diving in someone’s front garden, but give me a charity shop or a car boot and i can be quite pleasurably entertained for a fair while. Basically, i just love a bargain and what can become of junk once you utilise your crafty skills quite often leaves other people calling you a fibber when you say what it used to be.

charity-clip-art

My first go to shelf in the charity shops is the books which admittedly don’t get up cycled because, well, what else would you do with a good book apart from read it…although i am tempted to try and make one of those little coffee tables out of old books that are then glued together into a seemingly random and haphazard pile…watch this space for that one…

book table  Not my photo, but really cute eh?

My second go to shelf, or rather, rack, is of the curtains, sheets and duvets. Not for my house, i don’t need anymore of those items, the ones i have are perfectly good for at least another few years, but because they are a gold mine for fabric. Have you ever looked at how much fabric there actually is in a double bed size duvet cover?  This fabric i use in all sorts of ways.

  • I have previously stated that i am a qualified seamstress. If i’m attempting to make a new garment that i haven’t made before and i think the fit may be a bit tricky then i will make a ‘muslin.’ It is a trial garment in a cheap fabric where it doesn’t matter if there are mistakes in it or if it doesn’t fit quite right because you can then use this to alter the fit before you cut into your expensive final fabric. Believe me, it’s very depressing to find out that something doesn’t fit after you’ve made up a jacket using three metres of fabric that cost £20 a metre…A cheap sheet or cover that only cost a couple of quid is perfect for this.
  • They are also good for patchwork, cushion covers, bags.
  • Reupholstering stools, chairs, sofa’s etc.
  • Using as dust sheets when you are decorating.
  • Building tents in the garden with the kids or grandkids.

In my mind, if you have a good length of fabric then you can turn your hand to making anything look good.

And unique.

Next, i will have a quick perusal of the clothing, again, mainly looking for fabric opportunities (i get most of my denim in this way) although i’m not averse to getting some clothing for myself if i see a bargain. I picked up an Animal hoodie the other day. Barely worn, retail in a shop is around the £40 mark and this one was written up at £4.50.

No way was that sucker staying there, and i really don’t care either that it was two sizes too big.

Finally, i will have a quick look at the games. We are great believers in this household of family games nights and, although we have our old favourites, we like to try something different. It can, however, work out a bit expensive to keep buying a new game every time all the family can get together, but it is often in these shops that you can find something a bit different to the supermarket specials. We have had great fun with a game called Hummbug where you have to get across the board before your opponents by picking a card and having to guess what song is being hummed. Admittedly, we had to adapt the rules a bit to suit us because my sons didn’t really know much of the 60’s era, but isn’t that also the beauty of the games night? Just having a laugh and making it work for you?

hummbug--family-game-night-free-uk

Let me know what your favourite section of charity shopping is and what you look for. I’m always open to new ideas.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

 

D is for Disposable

Day 4 of the A – Z Blogging Challenge

Today’s society relies far too heavily on the use of disposable items. We are the throwaway society that i talked about on Day One, A is for Action, and it can’t all be solved with the use of Beeswax Wraps no matter how much i love mine.

It’s not just the obvious plastic utensils, paper plates at parties, takeaway containers when we fancy a proper fish and chip supper etc, it is in just about everything we do and everything we use.

We don’t get things mended anymore. It is just so much easier to go and buy a new item to replace one that is broken or torn and yet there is, quite often, so much life left in an item if it’s just given a little bit of TLC.

I am a qualified seamstress. I first used a sewing machine back in my secondary school in the 80’s and have rarely been without one since. I feel bereft when I am without access to one. I know that makes me sound sad. On top of my day job i also take in alterations and repairs for clothing but the value of this occupation has diminished considerably over the last decade or two. Generally, it is not considered as a costly thing to do. I have lost count of the amount of times i have been asked,

‘Can you just replace this zip?’

And i take a look at the pair of jeans. I know how much of the waistband i have to unpick, how many belt loops have to be taken off, how difficult it is to get the old zip out through three rows of stitching without damaging the surrounding fabric, inserting the new zip and then replacing the belt loops individually into the replaced waistband. Oh, and not forgetting that i  am usually expected to go and buy the new zip as well, it is rare that the customer brings one with them so add on the fuel and the time to get to the shops and back. Online shopping is not often particularly good for this type of service, or maybe i’m just too picky…

And so i reply,

‘Yes, i can do that. It will take me about an hour to an hour and a half. I charge £10 an hour plus the cost of the zip which will be around a fiver. So, between £15 and £20. Is that ok?’

And the customer says,

‘Twenty quid? It’s only a zip. I can get a new pair for that!’

And so we have the definition of the disposable society.

It is quite often cheaper to throw it away and buy a new pair of jeans than it is to get the old ones repaired. They go into landfill and the clothing shop owners who make and buy in mega bulk and sell at mega cheap prices are rubbing their hands all the way to the bank.

I’m not saying we should all stop buying from these places, although i do believe that, in some cases, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a £2.50 T shirt to not shrink in the first couple of washes – my tip, buy a bigger size to account for it, believe me, it will fit perfect after a few spins in the washing machine – but i do think we need to take a bit of time to consider our purchases and what we throw away. Sometimes, just a little bit of thought can save us an awful lot of money.

And it’s amazing what you can do with a pair of old jeans…

Have a happy day,

Anita x

C is for Crafts

Day Three of the A -Z Blogging Challenge

Well, that’s a shocker isn’t it! I guess me being me, i couldn’t do anything different than crafts for the letter C. But how do they tie in with the theme of Make Do and Mend, Reuse, Recycle and Spend Less? I mean, have you seen the cost of craft supplies???

Shock emoji

I have lots of crafty skills and hobbies, my main one being that of hiding behind a sewing machine and losing myself in the flow of the fabric as it glides under the needle. When i wake from my reverie i am usually quite chuffed to discover i have a complete new garment in my hand. Can i call that C for Couture? I am also known for playing around with Crochet hooks, Cooking, Cameras, Clay (well Fimo but that doesn’t start with C) and Jewellery Making (sorry, couldn’t think of a related C word for that so gave up) and i feel that every single one of these has helped me to save a lot of money over the years. Quite a few of these i will be talking about in later posts during this month so for today i am going with the Craft of Crochet. The picture is my current work in progress, an ordinary granny square blanket made from all the odds and ends and scraps/almost finished balls of wool i have lying around here. My youngest son has already bagsied it for his bed when it’s finished.

Scrap blanket

Many, many years ago a close friend was pregnant with her first child and i wanted to make something special for her. I decided it would be nice for her to have a white baby shawl but i had no idea how to make one. My mum had tried teaching me to knit but although i grasped the underlying principles, with her being left handed and me being right handed it wasn’t much of a success. I can sort of knit now, but i much prefer one needle to two, it works up quicker to get the finished result – just call me impatient, on this subject it would be true.

I took a trip into the local library and borrowed a book to teach me how to crochet. Yes, this was in the 1980’s, before the internet properly existed and most definitely before the explosion in Youtube tutorials. In this way i managed to create an OK granny square shawl, it wasn’t perfect and it wouldn’t lie flat, but i was delighted with it, and my friend said she was too. I tried several granny square blankets after that but found that i had to keep to small squares and stitch them together if i wanted them to lie flat. Eventually i put away my trusty hook and stopped doing them because i just didn’t know what i was doing wrong and knew nobody who could tell me. Unfortunately, as this was the 80’s and digital cameras were also not around, there are no photo’s of my works of art.

Fast forward to about two years ago when i was having a random conversation with another friend while i was at work when she said that i needed to chain the corners.

‘Chain the corners?’ I said, ‘is that all i’m doing wrong? I need to just chain three around each corner?’

I went home, dug a crochet hook out from my discarded (and well buried in the cupboard of ‘he who goes in might not come out alive’ ) wool bag along with an ancient ball of wool and gave it a go.

Would you believe it?

Tadah!!

A fully flat square that just got bigger and bigger and bigger. I then went onto Youtube (i can highly recommend the Bella-Coco tutorials) and taught myself more, and then i subscribed to a crochet teaching magazine and i was off.

‘But Make do and Mend!’ I hear you shout.

‘Wool is not cheap!’ I hear you cry.

‘How is this Reuse and Recycle?’ I hear your tirade as you beat the air with your tightly clenched fists.

(Ok, i might have got a bit carried away there).

But yes, crochet is brilliant for reusable items; for making do with what you have or, as with yesterday’s beeswax wraps, for making from scratch in order to save money in the long run.

In my kitchen i have crocheted cotton dishcloths which are so much better to use than the J cloths that used to go in the bin, my cloths go in the boil wash with the tea towels.

Dishcloth

In my bathroom i have cotton crocheted flannels and bath pouf’s (the second photo was all Christmas presents for the females in my family – needless to say, their bathrooms are also full of my hand crocheted goodies).

And on my dressing table, for make up removal and facial cleansing i have cotton crochet scrubbie pads that leave my face feeling so much cleaner and fresher than cotton wool pads ever did. They go in the wash to be used again and again and again.

Yes, the wool isn’t cheap, but it’s a darn sight cheaper in the long run than buying all those disposable products. And better for the environment. Believe me, until you have cleansed with a crocheted scrubbie, you really don’t know how clean your face can feel – yep, even better than with the cream with annihilated apricot stones in!

I am generally quite popular when friends and family have babies……

So, crochet can be time consuming and i think we can agree that wool isn’t cheap, but in the long run, i find it a satisfying hobby that i can sit and do while i watch telly in the evenings. I have awesome, unique accessories and blankets throughout my house – i even have a pair of crocheted baby converse booties dangling from my mirror in my car.

Booties-2

 

The ultimate point about it though, is that i get to pretend i’m a wizardess, wave a pointy magic stick around and make amazing things happen with it…

Have a happy day.

Anita x

Oh, and most of my crafty goodness can be found on Facebook at Baby Dreams Stitchery