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Apron Pattern

A quick post to share my denim apron pattern with you!

These have been so popular that I scribbled the instructions into my journal so that I wouldn’t lose them. The aprons can be sewn in any woven fabric, but denim is particularly sturdy and easy to wash. They work best with large, straight-leg jeans, preferably in a non-stretch denim. These are happily out of fashion at the moment, so the thrift shops (and possibly our wardrobes) are full of them. I’ve been picking them up for $2 a pair at the Salvos.

Here’s the apron I’ve just made for our friend John from an old pair of Levi’s…

It’s best to draft the pattern on paper first…

A couple of extra notes:

  • Overlock (serge) or zigzag around the outside of the pocket piece, then hem. Position the top of the pocket about 14″/35.5cm from the top of the apron, and topstitch three sides into place. Double-stitch the top of the pocket to secure, or hammer in rivets. Stitch down the centre of the pocket if you like.
  • Overlock (serge) or zigzag around the outside of the apron, then hem. Don’t try to do a double hem as it will be too thick (and the curves will be a nightmare).

I hope you have as much fun making these as I’ve had! ♥

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My name is Celia, and I’m a denim addict.

Which is hilarious, because until a month ago, I hadn’t worn a pair of jeans in close to a decade.

You see, to look good, jeans need to be snug and at 53, I no longer do snug. Plus new jeans cost a small fortune, and they’re massively taxing on the environment.

But then I discovered that I could buy secondhand jeans for next to nothing and adjust them to fit. Anything beyond my sewing skills goes to our local tailor, who will run in and hem a thick pair of jeans for just $20. An almost too loose waistband is just as good as an elastic one, and as my mother and sister will attest, style is always optional when it comes to my dress sense.

But I digress..I was going to tell you about my rescued denim.

A couple of weeks ago, lovely Greg, the owner of Vintage @ 313 in Newtown, traded me a large bag of denim offcuts for a couple of loaves of sourdough. All the pieces were legs cut off old jeans, which had been upcycled into those frayed shorts and mini skirts that are so popular at the moment. Greg had pulled them out of the manufacturer’s dumpster (he can’t bear waste any more than we can) and I was keen to find a way to give them a third incarnation.

The denim was pretty stinky when we brought it home, but a 60°C hot wash in Napisan fixed that pretty quickly. The fabric itself was as sturdy as iron…

I started by opening each piece at the side seams, and then trimming them 16″ (roughly 41cm) wide by as long as the offcut would allow…

Then it was a simple case of overlocking (serging), topstitching and hemming to create this very tactile denim patchwork…

My second project was a denim bucket bag…

Followed by a patchwork version…

Here’s the other side – the strap is the inseam of a huge pair of donated Levi’s…

I added a zippered pocket and lined the bag with 20 year old cotton from my stash (last used to make toddler’s pants)…

Dotti asked me to make her a denim headband, and the mania really started to set in…

Small scraps and leftover pockets became juggling balls…

My friend Maude, who is clearly even more of a Womble than I am, took all the trimmings home to turn into bag handles…

I’ve explored the art of slow mending, Japanese boro style. I started with a large $2 pair of distressed jeans (a fashion trend which annoys me no end) from our local Salvos Store. After patching all the holes, I took the waistband in by two inches, and the hems up by three. I’m seriously chuffed with how they turned out!

It makes me ridiculously happy to have sumos on my butt…

You’re probably wondering how I can afford this extravagant new hobby!

Well, it was actually very simple – I’ve given up my daily coffee routine. On our morning walks, Big Boy and I had fallen into the habit of buying a hot drink (decaf piccolo for me, chai latte for him) as a “reward” for climbing out of bed and getting some exercise. But once I started rescuing denim, it dawned on me that every $4 coffee I had (piccolos are tiny, and I wasn’t even getting a caffeine hit) could buy me two pairs of old jeans from the Salvos. Five little coffees a week? Or ten pairs of old jeans while supporting a charity? The maths wasn’t hard to do.

Of course, I didn’t need to give up the coffees, nor do I need ten pairs of jeans every week (I can hear Pete groaning as I type this). I could easily find the money, but a little perspective always helps to keep life real. And as an added bonus, I find myself appreciating the coffees I still have even more…

Finally, a photo to make you laugh!

Some background first – I was watching these fabulous videos by Junky Styling in the UK, who used to refashion old clothing into funky new pieces. Here’s an example…

I was inspired! So I cut the crotch seam out of an old pair of jeans and slipped them over my head to see if I could turn them into a tabard or poncho. Remember my motto…style is always optional.

I sent a photo to friends, who were mostly kind in their reviews. But thankfully, Pete pointed out that I looked like a nutter, and my darling friend Dale agreed, declaring that someone had to act as wardrobe consultant on the emperor’s new clothes. I laughed until I cried…

I’ve been having heaps of fun! If you have any suggestions on other uses for my rescued denim, I’d love to hear them! ♥

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Upcycling Denim

Did you know that a new pair of jeans can take up to 13 years’ worth of drinking water to make?

After reading that, I went to the laundry and rescued the boys’ torn jeans from the rag pile and mended the ones that were still wearable. They’ve still got plenty of life in them…

Then I made an apron out of one leg…

And another one out of three legs…

I was hooked! The vinyl on Small Man’s desk chair was flaking away, so we covered it with a patchwork of jeans’ legs. It’s now more comfortable than ever…

After cutting the legs off the jeans, I was left with the waistband and pockets, and it occurred to me that the belt-loops were the perfect size for little denim rings. So I carefully unpicked them, cut them to size, and handstitched the butted ends together. Voila!

If you want to try making these, cut the loops to lengths of 6cm – 7cm, depending on your ring size. I have sausage fingers, so I rarely wear rings, but the denim has enough give to be comfortable and non-constricting. The added advantage of course is that you don’t need to be precious about them in any way. Just remember to take them off before you wash your hand…

It’s quite addictive, as they only take minutes to make…

I made a matching bracelet and ring set from old Levi’s…

My boys won’t wear them, but my other young friends can’t get enough of them…

Having used up my stash of old jeans by this point, I decided to hit the op shops.

I’ve discovered that if you shop carefully and search for fabric rather than fit, you can pick up secondhand denim for a song. The cheapest place to find it is at Salvos stores – their clothing is colour tagged, and each week, a different colour goes on sale for $2 a piece. These are the pieces that have sat on the rack the longest and they’re usually the least fashionable, but they’re perfect for upcycling.

As you can see from the receipt below, I picked up eight pairs last week for $20 (orange was $2, blue was half price)…

A couple of them were brand new! Sadly they didn’t fit anyone, but I’ll find something clever to do with the fabric…

Next on the drawing board are zippered bags, more aprons, and possibly a denim patchwork blanket. I’m threatening to make a Siberian parka out of them as well, but Pete has declared that he won’t be seen with me in it.

Do you have any denim upcycling ideas? I’d love to know them! ♥

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We’re now entering the sixth month of our waste reduction plan, so it’s a good time to stop and take stock. Some of the changes we’ve made have stuck and become part of our everyday lives, but a few things haven’t worked as well as we’d hoped.

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Perhaps the biggest success to date has been in replacing single use dining and kitchen items with reusable ones. We haven’t used a paper serviette all year, and we’re still on the same roll of paper towels that we started a couple of months ago.

After five months of constant use, our cloth napkins are still going strong (albeit a bit stained), as are our knitted/crocheted dishcloths and waffle weave towels. Everyone enjoys using the napkins so much that I doubt we’d be allowed to go back to paper ones even if I wanted to! I was concerned about the extra washing involved, but our most recent electricity bill wasn’t any higher – in fact, it was a tiny bit lower, probably because we’ve been making an effort to use the ECO setting on the front loader.  It also helps that the Japanese tenegui are so open weave that they line dry very quickly.

Surprisingly, all our utility bills are down this quarter – gas is down 16%, electricity just 3.2%, and water, somewhat unbelievably given the extra washing we’ve doing, is a whopping 17.6% less than the same period last year.  We’ve put it down to being more conscientious about using the half-flush button on the toilet and the ECO setting on the dishwasher and washing machine – apparently the latter can save up to 30% on electricity and water compared to regular washes. We’ve also made an effort to use appliances less, preheat the oven for a shorter time, take shorter showers – all small things, but obviously they’ve added up over a three month period.

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The reusable teflon BBQ sheets have worked so well that I’m now using parchment paper less than once a fortnight. The thinner ones are brilliant under sourdough loaves and cookies, and the thicker ones are great for roasts and other savoury bakes. They’re easy to wash and store – the trick is to either lay them flat or roll them up, as folding them causes them to crack. I’m forever grateful to Helen and Tanzles for suggesting them…

I bought my thin sheets from Magic Cooking Sheet online but the thicker ones I found on ebay for just a few dollars each. I also saw some for sale at our local Bunnings in the barbecue section.

I made a holder for my bread liners using two toilet roll tubes and a scrap of recycled wrapping paper…

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You’re probably sick of me rabbiting on about the beeswax wraps (my friends certainly are) but honestly, they’re so good! Do have a go at making your own as they can be hideously expensive – our easy tutorial is here. Best of all, if they’re homemade, you can easily touch them up with a bit more wax if they start to get a bit thin.

My latest discovery? The wraps help prevent oxidisation. I wrapped diced potato and sweet potato for half an hour while I prepped other ingredients, and they stayed pristine…

They also stop ginger from going mouldy and slimy – this piece was in the fridge for over a week and a half and it still looked like new…

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We’ve reduced the amount of single-use plastic coming into the house, simply by taking our own mesh bags and furoshiki when shopping, and the difference has been noticeable and significant. But we’ve been unable to go completely plastic-free – how do I buy a box of Weetbix without a plastic bag in it? Or a whole chicken? What about medications, most of which come packaged in foil and plastic?

All we can do is try to handle whatever plastic we end up with as responsibly as possible, by reusing what we can and recycling or REDcycling what we can’t. And the continued effort really does make a difference – I peeked into our red bin last night as it went out and was delighted to see that there was still only one small bag in it.

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Speaking of which, the biodegradable bin liners haven’t worked as well as we’d hoped – they’re thin and flimsy and don’t cope well with the kitchen waste we still produce. We’re wrapping what we can in newspaper while we try and think of other options (the newspaper isn’t ideal with anything damp or soggy).

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The Bokashi bins have been a partial success – we now have two worm farms running, but neither of them will eat the fermented waste product. That’s partly because Big Boy and Small Man are now saving their green kitchen scraps, so there’s always more than enough vegetable leavings to feed both farms and given a choice, the worms won’t eat anything else.  We’re still diligently filling the Bokashi bins though, and then burying the remains once they’ve broken down. It’s working ok, but it’s not perfect yet.

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Big Boy and Small Man both cart their KeepCups with them whenever they go out, and their lunches are always packaged in either a beeswax wrap or a reusable lunch box.

Small Man is a true eco-warrior – he pulled me up the other day when I was being lazy and went to throw a teabag into the bin (our teabags are made of paper, so we can remove the tag and string and Bokashi them). And it occurred to me that perhaps the most important benefit of our waste reduction plan was the example it was setting for our sons.

Thanks for joining us on this journey! I’ll keep you all posted on how we go and as always, I’d love any tips or advice you have to share – I’ve learnt so much from you already! ♥

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Here are the posts so far on our Waste Reduction Plan:

27 Jan 2018  A Waste Reduction Plan

2 Feb 2018  A Long, Rambling Catch Up

15 April 2018  Our Waste Reduction Plan – Progress Report

20 April 2018  Our Waste Reduction Plan – Fine Tuning

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Tips and tutorials for making your own eco-friendly products:

Mesh Bags

Mesh Bags (pattern at the end of the post)

Furoshiki

Knitted Dishcloth

Crocheted Cotton Dishcloth

Crocheted Acrylic Dish Scrubber

Beeswax Wraps

Cloth Napkins (second half of post)

Sewing a Utensil Holder

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Frugal Living

Our cashflow this year has been snug.

Irene and Denise, our wonderful financial advisers, read us the riot act about not having enough for retirement if we didn’t start funneling every spare cent into super immediately, so we’ve been trying our hardest to do that. But as a result, we have substantially less disposable income this year.

That’s ok, because even though I don’t like it, we’re really quite good at it. We’ve had lots of practice. And it’s very empowering – there’s a sense of achievement and control that comes with tightening the reins.

The first thing to go, of course, was fine dining. We’ll still have the occasional fancy meal with friends, but for the most part, $60 dinners have been replaced by $13 curries and rotis at Spice Alley. If I’m honest, that’s a win, because I far prefer eating there to anywhere else…

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Instead of buying large quantities of meat in bulk as we used to, I now haunt the “Save Me” section at our local Harris Farm Fruit Market.

There are spectacular savings to be had  on high quality grass fed and free range meat nearing its expiry date. I won’t buy chicken or mince that’s getting too old, but I’ll happily come home with pork, lamb or beef cuts with a day or two left on them. They’re usually reduced by 30% – 50%.

I picked up a 2.2kg free range pork loin recently for $12.84 and turned it into two containers of stir fry strips, three boxes of pulled pork, a jar of lard, and two boxes of stock. That’s five family dinners’ worth. The rind was cut into small pieces and frozen to enrich future stews…

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For retail therapy, I’ll pop into Reverse Garbage once a fortnight with $20 in my pocket. That’s always enough for me to come home with craft treasures, like rainbow ribbon at $5 a bag…

Or a mountain of handbag vinyl in bright colours for just $14…

I made dancing ribbons and a windsock…

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…and the vinyl was paired with zips and pulls (also from Reverse Garbage) in these funky little pouches…

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We are blessed to have access to wonderful free art in Sydney, especially with the Biennale currently showing, and I’ve been trying to visit all the spaces before it ends on 11th June. My favourite so far has been Carriageworks and I highly recommend a visit if you have time. Marco Fusinato’s enormous installation is great fun, but be warned, the video below is loud!

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On Saturday, I popped into the Art Gallery of NSW to view their Biennale pieces, but it was hard to go past the huge John Olsen painting on the ground floor. I sat and stared at it for a while…

Reclaiming the Inner Space by Indian artist N. S. Harsha was very impressive – I liked it as much for her use of recycled packaging materials as I did for the design. The hand carved wooden elephants were particularly lovely…

The Art Gallery is a fascinating old building, with creaky parquetry flooring and hidden wings just waiting to be discovered. While looking for the Adrienne Doig tapestries, I stumbled across the Gallery library in the basement (complete with stern librarian). This piece appealed to me very much…

Indigenous artworks form a large part of this year’s Biennale, including these adorable creations by the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists of Alice Springs. They’re on display at the MCA

…as are these elegant and touching burial baskets, woven by Ngarrindjeri artist Yvonne Koolmatrie…

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I’ve picked up the latest batch of stripey socks from lovely Richard (if you’re new, you can read about the socks here and here). As always, I’ve Napisanned, hot water washed and tumble dried them…

socks1

We delivered 120 sanitised socks to the Exodus Foundation for distribution to the homeless, and kept the rest to play with. Here are a few new craft projects to add to the list.

I cut rings from the socks and zigzagged them closed. They make brilliant elastic bands for holding beeswax wrap in place…

…and, as my friend Anita discovered, fabulous hair ties…

I created padded coat hangers using scraps of fleece and a pairs of socks…

An old idea worth mentioning again simply because it’s worked so well…after months of catching every oil drip and keeping my shelf completely clean, I’ve replaced the sock around my olive oil bottle…

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Lastly, Priscilla’s sourdough loaves continue to keep us all fed – at about 50c loaf, it’s something that we never need to scrimp on! And the beeswax wraps do such a good job of keeping them fresh, that we’re now wasting very little…

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It takes a bit of thought and creativity to live more frugally, but it’s so empowering. Do you have any tips to share with us?

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