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

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

 

F is for Freezing

Day 6 of the A -Z Blogging Challenge

By freezing i don’t mean literally sitting wrapped in blankets with icicles hanging off your nose. I’m really not that mean…well, not all the time anyway.

freezing person

I mean F is for Freezing your Food.

This has to be one of the biggest areas where wastage occurs and money can be saved.

I have always been a skint single mum. I have raised my three sons to adulthood almost single handed from the ages of 7, 5 and 3. They are currently 24, 22 and 20. I’ll be honest, i have no idea how i didn’t break them in the process, but we got there somehow and they are now my best friends.

But anyway, bringing them up and keeping their stomachs full was a pretty major task and one that i like to think i have excelled at, and that is mostly down to the canny use of the humble freezer and home cooking.

I have always batch cooked as well as buying reduced, on the date goods and frozen them. It is only in recent years though that i have acquired, in my opinion, my biggest money and time saving options which i still use regularly even though i am now down to only one son living at home and i really wish that i had known about them when the boys were younger.

The slow cooker and the soup maker. They both make large amounts, without much effort (i work full time and am studying for a Masters degree, i don’t have much spare time) and with virtually fool proof results.

I also find that if i am home alone for my evening meal, i quite often can’t be bothered to cook for one and that is when i reach for rubbish food or the cake cupboard. Having the ability to take out a home cooked frozen meal and just add some sort of carbs to it suits both me and my purse admirably.

The soup maker makes approximately four bowls of soup in about 20 minutes. At the weekend, i gather up whatever veg are lying forgotten in the bottom of my fridge, rough chop it, add a stock cube and some seasoning and press go. I then portion the finished soup into four plastic containers (the reusable kind) and pop them into the freezer. Soup for lunch for most of the working week sorted. Butternut squash and sweet potato with a bit of paprika is a particular favourite of mine but i quite often end up with random taste experiences such as ham, sweetcorn and mushroom, mushroom and carrot, leek and parsnip….and of course, just random vegetable soup…although it usually has mushrooms in it, i like mushrooms…

As for the slow cooker? I can give you any number of meat or vegetable dishes that can be cooked and then separated into containers and frozen for consumption on another date, but I have yet to find anybody else who knows that you can cook perfect jacket potatoes in a slow cooker. Just prick them, wrap them in foil as you would for the oven and bung them on low for about 8 hours. Bearing in mind that the slow cooker uses approximately the same amount of electricity as a normal light bulb that is not as excessive as it sounds. You then come home from work to yummy jacket spuds and all you need to sort out is the filling. My other trick with this is to cook a whole big bag’s worth and freeze in pairs what i don’t eat that evening. Then i just need to put them in the microwave the next time i want one or two for my tea, or i can take them straight to work to heat there. The possibilities are endless and have you seen the price of those frozen jackets in the supermarkets? Bet mine taste nicer.

Only thing to remember is to not freeze them still in the foil…it’s a bugger to pick it off a frozen spud, don’t say you weren’t warned!

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

 

B is for Beeswax Wraps

The A to Z Blogging Challenge

A recent discovery in my bid for a more sustainable lifestyle are Beeswax wraps. I am so totally in love with these!

Beeswax wraps-2

I take a packed lunch with me every day to work. Quite often this consists of home made soup which i make in batches and freeze in reusable plastic containers that i can then put straight into the microwave. However, when i have had a lazy weekend which involved me not getting around to making said soup i revert to the good old favourite of a sandwich which would then be put into a plastic sandwich bag. This piece of plastic would then go in the bin once i had eaten my lunch. In my hunt for a more planet and purse friendly option i came across these. If looked after properly, they can be reused again and again, they are chemical free and the perfect alternative to cling film, sandwich bags and foil.

What makes them so amazing? They use the heat of your hands to fold around anything, i have recently seen them referred to as ‘self cling fabric’ as well.

And the cleaning? You just wash them in hot soapy water with your normal dishes – not the dishwasher though, that is too hot, and will make the beeswax melt. Similarly, these cannot be used in the microwave (i just bung a plate on top of any bowls etc). It is also recommended that you don’t use them for raw meat because of the risk of contamination through not being able to clean them at an incredibly hot temperature.

On my search for these i also looked out how to make them and where to source the ingredients, mainly because i have a fabric stash a mile high that needs to be used up. The ones in the photos are wraps i made myself and when my next delivery of beeswax arrives i will be having some up for sale on my ETSY page and my Facebook page, both of which are called Baby Dreams Stitchery. So keep an eye out here over the next week for some fab designs – don’t you think the Minnie Mouse one is adorable? That particular one is currently sitting in my fridge covering half a tin of mushy peas…but i have a fair bit of that fabric left to make more. I also have some pretty funky vintage Paddington Bear earmarked for this project as well, although i don’t have much of this fabric left so there won’t be very many made.

So, as far as i am concerned, beeswax wraps are the bees knees. They have resulted in a considerable drop in the amount of single use plastic i use in the house (that tin of mushy peas would previously have had a sandwich bag pulled over the top) and my family are gradually nicking the ones i have made faster than i can make them – the ones for Baby Dreams Stitchery will be hidden from their prying eyes and thieving fingers…

For those of you who are vegetarian, it is also possible to get soya wraps which are purported to work in a similar way, but i cannot comment on these as i have not researched them…yet…

Check back tomorrow to discover what my C is going to be in this alphabet challenge and seriously take a look at making the switch to beeswax or soya wraps, i mean, how much clingfilm and how many sandwich bags do you get through in a year????? I bet you’d be horrified if you stopped to work it out.

A quick google search has told me that in 2017 there were 260 official working days in the year… i’ll let you carry on with the math from there as only you know how much single use plastic you use in each lunchbox for your family…

the-scream-edvard-munch

Feel free to let me know your answer…

And above all,

Have a happy day.

Anita. x