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Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

I am VERY excited to tell you about these!

As you know, we’ve been on a long quest to live more sustainably. We’ve managed to find alternatives to almost all the disposable items in our kitchen – crocheted dishcloths in place of paper towels and chux wipes, beeswax wraps have replaced cling film and plastic bags, cloth napkins have eliminated our daily use of paper serviettes.

But the one area where I was stuck was finding a sustainable alternative to potscrubbers. The crocheted ones I’d made didn’t pass muster – the cotton ones lacked the necessary abrasive texture, and the acrylic ones shed microplastics into the waterways. For the past couple of years, I’ve been properly stumped.

Then I started experimenting with the hessian that lovely Pauline at The Sewing Basket gave me to play with. Success! Not only do our new potscrubbers work well, they’re also washable and completely biodegradable! Here’s how I make them…

Start with a square or rectangle of hessian (burlap). The size isn’t really important, but my most recent ones are made with a 30cm (12″) square. Make sure the hessian is made from jute – some manufacturers now use synthetic fibres. You can test this by carefully burning a strand – if it completely burns away without leaving a hard bead, then it should be fine…

Fold two of the edges in to meet at the middle. Crease by running your thumb on the folded edges…

Now fold the other two edges into the middle. This process encases all the raw edges, which ensures the hessian won’t fray or come apart in the washing machine…

Finally, fold the whole thing in half again and pin. This results in eight layers of hessian…

You now have two options. The easiest way to make these is to machine around the outside edges with a zig zag stitch. I like to stitch a couple of lines through the middle of the scrubber as well to hold all the layers together. I used cotton thread from The Sewing Basket rather than polyester, firstly to ensure that the end result was completely biodegradble, but more importantly to keep any potential microplastics out of the waterways…

Using a sewing machine makes this a very quick project…

The finished scrubbers hold up well in the washing machine, particularly if you wash them in a lingerie bag. I don’t put them in the dryer though…

I was pretty happy with these, but my engineer husband thought we could do better – he was concerned that sewing cotton still takes a very long time to breakdown. He wanted a scrubber which we could use and wash repeatedly, then put into the worm farm at the end of its life. So I unraveled long strands of jute from the remaining hessian…

…and used double strands of it to handstitch the scrubbers together. I started with a row of running stitches near the fold to hold the layers together…

…then whipstitched around the edges to finish…

The final potscrubbers will now biodegrade quickly when we’re ready to throw them out…

The handstitched ones have held up well in the wash too – I didn’t want to put this post up until I’d washed them a couple of times…

These are great for scrubbing pots, but they need to be laundered regularly, so it’s worth having a few on hand. Also, it’s best not to leave them sitting in water. They probably won’t have a long working life, but I’m okay with that – I’m just so happy to have a sustainable option! ♥

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I’ve tried several patterns for face masks over the past few months, but the one I wrote about in April continues to be a winner at our house.

Here’s the YouTube tutorial by Keiko Olsson again, and a rough draft of the pattern that I sketched from her instructions…

Today I figured out that I could make the mask from a t-shirt! By ironing interfacing onto the lining piece, I ended up with a three-layered mask, as currently recommended.

I started with an old tee that someone donated on swap day

I cut the pattern pieces from the front and back at the same time…

Iron-on interfacing was applied to the wrong side of the lining…

I then followed the tutorial pretty closely up to the sewing of the casing…

Instead of turning the casing over twice, I just folded it over once and stitched it down. There were two reasons for doing this – firstly, knit fabrics don’t fray, so there was no need to fold under the raw edge. Secondly, I needed a slightly wider casing to fit ties rather than elastic…

After stitching down the pleats, I added a small diagonal seam in the middle of the bottom of the mask, sewing with right side folded in half on itself. You can see it at the top of the photo below. This contours the mask just a little so that it tucks in under the chin…

To make the ties, first cut the hem off the t-shirt, then cut a 4cm (1½”) strip straight across the body. Turn it inside out and cut off the seams…

Now give each strip a good tug and the edges will curl inwards to form a long cord…

With a large wool needle, feed each tie through one of the side casings. This bit can be a bit fiddly and you might need to improvise…

We find the ties work far better than elastic (which we all found very hard on our ears), and allow the mask to be worn in a number of ways. My personal preference is to tie one set high on the top of my head and the other behind my neck. Additionally, hat elastic is almost impossible to buy at the moment, so being able to make ties on the spot is a bonus.

My stitching was a bit wonky but the knit fabric is very forgiving…

Lastly, don’t throw away your scraps! Cut them into usable pieces, then stash them in the laundry for polishing shoes or dusting…

These upcycled t-shirt masks tick all the sustainability boxes, but they are in no way surgical grade or guaranteed to protect against COVID19. They might, however, help prevent the wearer from spreading the disease unknowingly. According to the information provided by the Department of Health in Victoria, face masks should ideally be made with a water resistant external layer. We’ve been experimenting with  outerwear scraps with some success, but have found masks made with completely waterproof fabric to be impossible to breathe through.

Have you been sewing face masks? Please feel free to list any patterns you’ve found useful in the comments below for discussion and comparison. ♥

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I’ve been a bit quiet about it of late, but I’m still a closet denim addict.

And I have a suggestion for all menders and craft sewers – rescue old jeans and repurpose them! At our local Salvos Stores, a different coloured tag is reduced to $2 each week, which is what this heavy weight pair of Just Jeans cost me at the end of last year. It’s worth buying the biggest and most out of date pair you can find. Avoid stretch denim at all costs because it’s bollocks (ok, that might just be my rather firmly held opinion, but I don’t like either wearing or sewing it).

Cut the jeans open down the inner leg seam, lose the zip (even Reverse Garbage don’t want those, I’ve asked), and save the waistband for placemats. I ended up with nearly 1m x 75cm (about 40″ x 30″) of usable, beautifully aged, thick denim from this $2 pair of size 33 jeans…

And I use rescued jeans denim for everything from blankets to pincushions to jewellery to bags to mending patches. Oh and aprons of course. I’ve made about thirty so far. Here are a few photos from my denim archive to hopefully inspire you (put “denim” into the search box above to see more)…

I covered my neighbour Bernie’s office chair in a pair of denim jeans and turned the back pockets into matching coasters for him…

Today I cut the remaining pieces into patches in case we ever need to do a repair. All for $2!

But you know what? It’s really, truly not about the money.

I love a bargain, but denim is not a bargain for the planet. It comes with a gigantic environmental footprint, yet folks toss away their jeans once they’re out of style. If we can find ways to upcycle them, we keep these resources out of landfill…

So I urge you to look at used jeans in a different light. See them as an economical fabric resource instead of just old work clothes. Denim is durable, fades beautifully, is comfortable in the hand and against the skin, and to my eyes at least, looks even better when patched and repaired. It’s a very precious commodity, so let’s give it as much life as we possibly can. I’d love to know what you make out of your old jeans! ♥

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Tiny Phoenix Projects

Sometimes, rescuing small things and giving them a new life is even more rewarding that a larger project, because you get to see the results very quickly!

I picked up the top half of an Indian silk jacket from the $1 bin at Sewing Basket Balmain…

It became a long-strapped tote for my friend Dotti…

This particular set of welding gloves were faulty – the heat went straight through the fingers, making them of limited use as oven mitts. But the leather was glorious and thick, so I’ve been using it for patches and to make safety guards for my thread snips…

The end of a vintage roll of Japanese silk that I picked up from Cash Palace Emporium years ago was printed with manufacturer’s markings. I know from past experience that these wash out, so I couldn’t use the piece for clothing (not that I make clothing). Instead, I made a tiny bag for my crochet hooks. The West German (as it was labelled) satin ribbon was from a roll I picked up from Reverse Garbage…

And finally, I turned some rescued broder embroidery cotton into a dishcloth…

It was nice to have all my baby phoenix projects on the dining table at the one time!  What have you been working on lately? ♥

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A couple of weeks ago, I picked up $3 worth of quilting fabric scraps from the Sewing Basket in Balmain. At 10c per piece, this is what they looked like…

I’m not a quilter, but I was keen not to waste them, so I turned some of the pieces into pincushions. If you’d like to have a go at making your own, here’s a step-by-step tutorial I wrote a few years ago

My ever patient Pete walked into the dining room while these were in progress and just stared at the mound of stuffed pillows. “The trouble with tribbles is…” I quipped (it’s a Star Trek reference)…

I’m sure a few of you will understand this feeling…sometimes you just need to do “quaft” until your hands hurt. There’s something incredibly rewarding about filling a table with pretty creations in cheerful bright colours. Being able to do so without buying any new resources (the scrap fabric, broder cotton, buttons and polyfill were all purchased from donated and rescued stock) makes this a sustainable and guilt-free pleasure.

I gave a few of these to friends and donated the rest to the Sewing Basket Balmain to sell and/or give to their volunteers. All funds raised by these stores go to Achieve Australia, a disability support and housing charity…

So if you’re looking for a quick project, give these a go. You might find them as addictive as I do! ♥

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