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Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

When I was twenty-one, I worked part-time in a little cross stitch shop called Topiary Lane during uni holidays. While I was there, lovely Rhonda taught me to make these pincushions.

I’d completely forgotten about them until I came home with my pile of Japanese cottons recently. Some of the pieces were too small for furoshiki and as I’m not a quilter, I was keen to find something else to do with them other than juggling balls. These little pincushions are quite easy and quick to assemble, they make a fabulous gift, and if times get tough, you can sell them for $10 each like Rhonda used to!

Start by tracing and cutting two circles of fabric. I used a small side plate as a guide which resulted in a large pincushion, but I was keen to keep as much of the pattern as possible. A small tea cup saucer produces a more standard size…

With right sides together, join the two pieces together, leaving a gap.

Edit: Margo suggested clipping the seam carefully at regular intervals to prevent puckering. It works! There are some great instruction son how to do this here.

Turn right side out, stuff firmly (but not to rock hard), then turn in the open edges and whipstitch closed…

Thread a large needle with embroidery cotton in a matching colour…

Start in the centre of the base with a few backstitches to lock the thread in place…

Push the needle through the middle of the pincushion to the front and through a small button…

Repeat at the base – it’s a bit tricky to line up the buttons, so watch your fingers. The aim is to pull the centre of the pincushion in slightly. Sew through both buttons a couple of times to secure, then tie off the thread by wrapping it a few times around the bottom button…

Cut a long piece of embroidery thread (from memory, Rhonda used thin ribbon but I didn’t have any on hand) and tie it around the bottom button. Wrap a couple of times to secure, then bring the thread to the front and wrap it around the top button. Pull gently to form “petals”…

Continue wrapping the thread from front to back, going around the middle button each time, until you’ve divided the pincushion into six sections…

I went around twice, resulting in a double thickness of embroidery cotton at each divider. Finish by tying the thread off around the bottom button, wrapping the loose thread a few times more, then trimming carefully…

These are great fun to make and a good way to use up the big bag of polyfill leftover from my sock toys. The only tricky part is getting the needle through the middle buttons, but once you’ve managed that, the winding bit is easy. I’m going to make smaller ones next for Christmas presents! ♥

PS. Here’s the one I made this morning, using a smaller template and following Margo’s suggestion in the comments below to clip the seams every 2cm or so. It worked a treat! I’ve used a scrap of Japanese woven indigo and sashiko cotton this time, and made eight sections instead of six. ‘Tis a cute wee thing!

pincushion

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Furoshiki!

Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloths, used to store clothing, transport goods and wrap gifts. They’re seriously cool, and they may just save the world.

My darling sister bought me this book earlier in the year…

Inspired, I hemmed a basketful of square cloths, declared them to be furoshiki, then proceeded to use them to wrap everything from coats to groceries to iPads to fossils…

A furoshiki has two advantages over a bag…firstly, it can be untied and thrown into the washing machine, and secondly, it can be folded to specifically suit the item in question. I’ve been making them out of my stunning fabric finds from Cash Palace Emporium.

I love that I can go out in a scarf made from vintage kimono silk (please excuse the bed hair)…

…then whip it off dramatically and fold it into a purse…

…or a grocery bag…

…or a flower pot carrier…

This is how I BYO wine bottles to restaurants these days…

I cut the back out of my torn dressing gown and used it to wrap up all my surplus knitting yarn…

My matching scarf and furoshiki wrapped veg gave the neighbours a good giggle…

…and when we were caught short on shopping bags at Costco recently, my furoshiki came to the rescue…

We’ve been making handbags…

…and wrapping gifts…

. . . . .

My sister reckons she’s created a monster, but it’s great fun and good for the environment. In 2006, the Japanese government created a furoshiki in an attempt to reduce household waste from plastic bags. They provided this instruction sheet with it (here’s the higher resolution pdf)…

If you’re interested, the two books by Yamada Etsuko are fabulous and both are available in Kindle format through Amazon…

The only important thing you need to know is how to tie a square knot – if tied properly, it shouldn’t pull out. It’s worth practising a few times to get it right. Here are the instructions from Etsuko’s book…

If you’re a sewer, this is the perfect excuse to use up some of those beautiful pieces of fabric you’ve been hoarding. Originally, furoshiki sizing was based on kimono silk, which was traditionally 14″ (35.5cm) wide. The fabrics were sewn into pieces two or three widths across.

If you’re making them at home, I recommend 70cm and 100cm squares – the 70cm ones are a good size for wine bottles and iPads and books, whereas the larger ones are great for groceries and shoulder bags.

Let me end by sharing this hilariously wonderful video clip with you – the Furoshiki Samurai is a young man determined to spread the environmental message throughout Japan. Enjoy!

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“Why do you do it?”, my friend Ellen asked me.

She’d popped in to pick up a couple of loaves (one for her and one for our neighbour Lou across the road) when the doorbell rang and Will arrived to pick up the third loaf of the four I’d just baked.

I thought for a minute, then I explained.

Four one-kilo loaves of freshly baked, slow proved sourdough bread cost me $2.36 in flour (59c each). It used to be less, but I’ve recently upgraded the bakers’ flour I’m using. I’d had to bake anyway as we’d run out of bread, but we rarely eat more than a loaf a day and it always feels wasteful to run our big oven just to bake a single.

Mixing up four kilos of sourdough by hand isn’t much harder than making a one-kilo batch. Our high hydration overnight technique (my current go-to formula) involves just minutes of hands-on time, so the only tricky bit is finding a container large enough to hold the dough as it proves on the bench…

And then…I get to have cups of tea with the neighbours when they pop over to pick up loaves. They send me photos of their kids scoffing Vegemite toast and the lunches they take to work the following day, often with suggestions and feedback. It helps to fortify the powerful bonds we already share as a community. Best of all, every bake saves four families a trip to the shops to buy an $8 artisan sourdough loaf.

If I’m honest though, my neighbours are doing me a favour, because they give me an excuse to bake in bulk. Over the past ten years, sourdough baking has become a huge passion – I adore the feel of the spongy dough, and messing about with different shapes and slashes, and the oooh moment when I lift the roaster lids to see how much the loaves have risen. It may be one of the oldest and most prosaic forms of cooking, but it has never lost its magic on me – every single loaf feels like a gift and even after all this time, I still find myself marveling at the alchemy of it. It saves us heaps of money (even with all the loaves that go out the door) and it keeps everyone I love fed. That’s a pretty addictive combination!

Duck fat and smoked paprika twists for our neighbour Mark, who very kindly mows our front lawn!

If you’ve never baked bread before, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Our basic yeasted tutorial or, if you have access to some starter, the basic sourdough tutorial and the overnight sourdough tutorial, are all good places to start. And if you’re already an enthusiastic baker, I’d love to know who you share your loaves (or other baked goods) with! ♥

Sorry folks, I don’t have any more dried Priscilla starter at the moment. I’ll let you know when I have more to share!

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Sock It To Me!*

*with thanks to Maree at Around the Mulberry Tree for the title suggestion.

A final update on the stripey socks!

In case you’ve just joined in, here’s the background story on the socks we’ve been collecting from our podiatrist Richard. Happily, the scanning technology has now improved, which means the socks will no longer be needed (or subsequently discarded).

Of the last batch we picked up, forty cleaned and tumble-dried pairs were delivered to the folks at the Mustard Seed Op Shop in Ultimo for distribution to the homeless…

I’ve discovered that the cotton-rich heel-free tubes make perfect heat packs, filled with 500g of whole wheat and stitched across the top. They cost me just 80c each and take five minutes to put together…

Serendipitously, my neighbour popped over that afternoon with a migraine and neck pain. She’d baulked at the $40 wheat packs from the chemist, so I popped one of mine into the microwave, then draped it over her shoulders…

I split the side seam on one sock and turned it into a useful bag

Stripey sock juggling balls only require two seams and if I cut carefully, I can get all three balls from a single sock…

I filled another sock with flossy salt to form a soothing eye pad. I chilled it in the fridge for an hour or so, then my young friend Grace tested it out for me…

It takes four socks to make a beanie, but then again, I do have a large head…

I’d managed to wear a few socks out at the toes, so I turned them into fingerless gloves for my morning walks. I emailed Richard to tell him that I’d been out in my matching hat, socks and fingerless gloves, and he deadpanned… “You have issues I’m not qualified to work with”…

A couple of photos to finish…Richard the Sock Monkey…

…and Karen the Sock Owl…

It’s been great fun – thanks for coming on this socky journey with me! ♥

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I know, I know…making juggling balls isn’t your usual Easter craft project, but I’ve had so much fun that I thought I’d share them with you anyway.

. . . . .

Start with three pieces of scrap fabric, each 10cm wide by 18cm long. Woven or jersey cottons work well.

Fold one piece of fabric in half, right sides together, and stitch along both sides to form a small bag…

Turn it right side out and poke out the corners…

Fill with 75g of rice, lentils or small beans…

Bring the seam lines together at the top to close…

Fold under a small seam allowance and pin…

Now either handstitch the opening closed with a small slip stitch OR carefully machine it closed, making sure not to run over any of the filling (a narrow machine foot helps here, as does making the bag from stretch fabric)…

Make a big bowl of these little pyramid sacks and leave them on the table for folks to play with. Small people love them and they’re relatively painless on impact (I’ve been throwing them at the boys to check).

There’s a lot of research to suggest that learning to juggle is good for your brain – I’m a bit rusty at the moment, but I’ve been practising hard!

Here’s my earlier post on juggling, and my video from 2014…

Have a fun Easter break!

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