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Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

Make and Thrive

I’ve always had a problem with the expression “Mend and Make Do”.

I understand the history behind it, and during a period of war shortages, it would have been a critical mindset. But the notion of compromise irks me, because mending and making help our family to thrive, not make do.

My most recent project has been to replace our fitted sheets. After more than a decade of daily service, our king sized Lands End sheets have finally given up the ghost. The fabric won’t be wasted though – I’ve turned the usable parts into beeswax wraps, the thinner sections into large furoshiki to bundle up out of season blankets, and the really torn bits into rags.

I was keen to purchase new sheets from Sheridan Australia – their fabrics are sensational and I’ve long been an admirer of their many sustainability and social justice initiatives. I didn’t end up buying from them in the end (the $300 starting point for a KS set was out of my budget), but their website is definitely worth a read.

So I went back to what I know, and made some new fitted sheets. They’re actually a doddle to sew, providing you can wrap your head around the big numbers. If anyone is interested in knowing more, let me know and I’ll try to draft up a rough tutorial.

In 1994, I’d purchased a roll of thick pure cotton sheeting – a Country Road second, I was told – from Fox’s Fabrics for $1 a metre. Oh how I loved that shop! Old Mr Fox was a wizard at picking up bargains at auction, and Maude and I used to visit almost weekly. The giant roll I bought has since been used for everything from bags to beeswax wraps, and face masks to dress toiles. I’ve also made bedsheets for the entire family from it, and I found two king sized top sheets leftover from an earlier set I’d made (it always seems to be the fitted sheet that wears out first!).

The first sheet was slightly too short, so I added a section from the worn out fitted sheet to extend it (the bits which had been on the side of the mattress were unworn). I then boxed the corners and sewed some leftover boxer short elastic (another Fox purchase from 1994) around the outside and voila…new king size fitted sheet…

The second sheet was larger, but I’d run out of boxer short elastic, so I used the drawstring elastic I’d purchased from The Sewing Basket in Newington. Donated by Bonds Australia, I’d been trimming it down to make mask straps, but it was also perfect for the sheets. I started by pulling the cord out from the middle channel…

The elastic was then folded in half and zigzagged around the edge of the boxed sheet. I used a wide stitch, stretching from front and back as I sewed (see video below). When I make these, I don’t pin anything (too lazy), I simply stretch the elastic, encase the edge, stitch, then move on to the next bit. The elastic on fitted sheets doesn’t need to be precise! My KS fitted sheet used up approximately 5 metres of the elastic, which meant I ended up with a super high quality thick cotton fitted sheet for just $5 and about 40 minutes of my time. It’s hard to argue with those sorts of numbers!

In case you’re wondering, the hand wave was a signal to Small Man to keep filming, rather than a Liberace style flourish…

. . . . .

To finish off the sheeting story, I sewed a new linen flat sheet from a rescued quilt cover. It also needed an extender piece, provided by the other side panel of the old fitted sheet…

Here’s an upcycling tip – sheeting is the great find in thrift stores. Most people are put off by used bed linen, but it’s completely fine if you’re selective. Avoid fitted sheets and pillowcases, as they’re usually very worn and often a bit gross. Flat sheets are always worth a look, particularly if they’re vintage. But quilt (doona) covers are the real treasure – they’re usually barely used and offer a wealth of fabric for very little money. I picked up an as-new vintage Sheridan (back when it was still made locally) pure cotton quilt cover, queen sized, for just $12 recently at the Salvos. It’s nearly eight square metres of super high quality fabric! A soak in Napisan followed by a hot water wash brought it back to new.

Over the past year, I’ve gone through a lot of drawstring elastic – firstly for mask straps and now for sheeting – so I was keen to find something to do with the excess cord…

I ended up attempting my first macrame project in over 40 years, following this very clever tutorial…

Tah dah! I stitched three cords together to make a thicker handle, and the bag ended up a lot smaller than the one on the tutorial, probably because I was using thinner cord. It’s the perfect size for carrying a bottle of champagne to a restaurant though, 70s hippy style…

Best of all, it made use of a resource which might otherwise have gone to waste…

See how this is so much more than simply making do? Being able to repurpose and rescue materials, save money along the way, exercise creativity, problem solve…it’s all about thriving rather than just surviving.

Do you have a project on the go at the moment? I’d love to hear about it! (I’ve just started a slow stitch journal which I’ll tell you about soon) ♥

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Sustainable Gifts

Low impact, sustainable, homemade, artisan…our approach to gift giving has changed significantly over the years! These days we hardly ever set foot in a shopping mall during the festive season, choosing instead to make presents at home, or to source them through opshops (thrift stores) or reuse centres.

Here are some of our gifts for Christmas 2020 (warning: spoiler alert)…

As always, we started with chocolate. Monkey Girl and I had a fun afternoon chocolatiering, then wrapping our creations in rescued boxes, foodsafe paper liners and raffia ribbon (all from Reverse Garbage). I still need to whip up a couple more batches to go with the cookies that I’ll be baking next week…

Pete made a batch of his fabulous apricot jam from a large bag of fruit that we were given at the Addi Road Food Pantry

Trays and trays of apricots were headed for landfill because they were blemished and ripe! We bottled the jam in jars leftover from The Wedding in February

‘Tis the season for beeswax wraps and we’ve had a production line going. These ones were made from an unused Ikea doona cover that Bryan gave me before he went back to Singapore. I recently saw tiny (28cm/11″ square) beeswax wraps for sale at Harris Farm for $40 for a set of three. By contrast, our humungous wraps are 60-74cm long x 46cm wide (that’s about 24-29″ x 18″). And they cost me less than $2 each to make…

A chance find at The Sewing Basket in West Ryde led to the coolest beeswax wraps ever

I turned a thrifted sheer curtain (it was new but I washed it anyway) into two outdoor food protectors, one for me, and one for my hostess-with-the-mostest neighbour Faye…

A couple of vintage Chinese painting books picked up at The Bower in Marrickville were the perfect gift for my daughter-in-law…

…and this little book of cocktails was just $3 secondhand. The illustrations are frame-worthy!

Lovely embroidery artist Han Cao has become a friend over 2020, and her art has brought me a great deal of joy during this difficult year. Here’s an earlier post I wrote about her work. I’ve been buying her postcard packs to use as gifts and last night I gave this card to our old friend John, because it looks exactly like he did in 1983 (the bloke in the middle, not one of the horses)…

A pile of unfinished quilt squares that I bought from The Sewing Basket Balmain earlier in the year became five useful bags

Small Man and I adore a bit of trivia, so I grabbed these boxes from The Bower for just $2 each. They’re a little after dinner fun as we wind down towards the end of the year. These didn’t come with a board which is completely fine – we just take turns quizzing each other – although they were made in 1984, so some of the answers are no longer correct!

It’s been a while, but this year I picked up tools again to make angels from my stash of vintage Swarovski crystals. They’re the perfect small gift…

This secondhand baby Groot planter was picked up for $5 at the Inner West Garage Sale Trail a few weeks ago. We sent it home with the Big Kids, completely with succulent…

Finally…I found the perfect gift for my young friend Grace (who’s now nine – can you believe it?) at Reverse Garbage

Discarded by an art school, this stack of press-out paper dolls was just $2 (there were about 30 cards in the pile)…

The stencils for her clothing were just $1 each…

Bethany sent me a photo of her daughter’s creations this morning. I love Grace…

So that’s where we’re at with just over a week to go until Christmas!

I’ve baked a fruit cake and made a steamed pudding, so dessert on the big day is now sorted. We’re glazing half a free range ham for Christmas lunch, and because it’s the festive season, Pete is letting me serve it with tater tots (or potato gems, as we call them here). I can’t wait! Some last minute baking next week and we’ll be good to go.

How are your festive preparations going? It’s been such a strange year and we’ll all be celebrating in different ways – Australia is out of lockdown now (social distancing restrictions still apply) – but I know that a lot of our overseas friends are still very limited in terms of numbers of visitors permitted. I hope that whatever your current situation, you find a way to eke out a little peace, joy and headspace in the coming weeks! ♥

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We’re trialing our upcycled Christmas gift packaging!

This year, we’ll be giving away cookies in these noodle boxes from Reverse Garbage. They were donated surplus packaging and I bought a stack of 50 for $5…

I’ve lined them with rescued sandwich paper and filled with two sorts of cookies, wrapped in misprinted food safe paper and ribbon offcuts, both of which were diverted from landfill to Reverse Garbage…

And I added Charley Harper stickers for decoration – pretty happy with how it all looked!

We like to give small, homemade gifts to family and friends – putting them together has been a tradition for Pete and I for over 30 Christmases now.

I wrote a post about it in 2009 (the very first year of this blog), and if you’d like more festive gift ideas, check out our Christmas page! ♥

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It has now been over a month since we started visiting the Addi Road Food Pantry every week.

Over that time, our previously weekly visits to Harris Farm have dropped to once every three weeks, and we’ve eaten more vegetables than ever before. We spend an average of $10 at the Food Pantry on purchases, then add a $10 donation. So on top of donating a box of food to a family in need each week, plus rescuing edibles that would otherwise be destined for landfill, we’re also saving $40 a week. In fact, everything you see in the photo above cost us just $7 (plus the donation).

Shopping this way has forced us to become more creative in our meal prep, but it’s been worth it as the results have been delicious!

This salmon feast was put together entirely from rescued food…

A free loaf of day-old fig and walnut artisan sourdough became three bread and butter puddings, two of which went to neighbours. Our friend Will declared it to be the best yet…

This Japanese inspired salad has been a staple in our house for over 30 years and it always has two ingredients: corn kernels and tinned tuna in oil. The can of corn, cos lettuce, onion, cucumber and sourdough were all from the food pantry, to which we added a tin of tuna from our cupboard stores. It was simply dressed with balsamic vinegar, oil from the tuna, and black pepper…

Small Man isn’t a huge fan, so he had baked bean toasties and undressed greens instead, made from Addi Road sourdough, tinned beans and salad veg…

This Croatian cabbage soup (a riff on this recipe) is quite different to what we would usually prepare, but it was surprisingly tasty. As my dad used to say, it didn’t cost a brass razoo!

We used (a portion of) the two cabbages we’d been given (one green and one red) and added some bacon bones we’d picked up for free at Harris Farm (a one-off, I think, as we haven’t seen them since). I also added mushroom mortadella – a somewhat strange freebie that was included in my Black Forest Smokehouse order some months ago. At the time I didn’t know what to do with it, so it was stashed in the freezer. The stock was leftover from our last batch of Hainanese chicken rice, frozen for another day. The spices were in the fridge.

I couldn’t believe how delicious this was! Comforting and nourishing, without being gut churning like raw cabbage is for me. We accompanied the soup with slices of dried sourdough. Again from the food pantry, a day old artisan loaf donated by The Bread and Butter Project (look them up, they’re cool) was sliced and dried in a low oven for several hours until rock hard. Perfect croutons with soup!

This entire pot of takka dal was made from an Indian packet mix ($1.50 or 3 points) to which we added frozen garden rapini. With rice, it fed all three of us for dinner…

Finally, let me share with you this week’s $10 purchase. Australian grown wasabi macadamias, Italian made pesto, Teriyaki sauces (which Small Man loves), ice tea infusions and Persian fairy floss, all past their best before dates but perfectly fine, a loaf of day old sourdough, a mountain of vegetables, and three frozen meals prepared by Chef Neil Perry’s team (not shown in photo).

I love that we never know what’s going to be there, almost as much as I love knowing that every time we shop there, it helps to reduce food waste! 🌿♻️💚

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Reverse Garbage Acrylic

Here’s a quick and frugal tip for my sewing (and building) friends – Reverse Garbage in Marrickville has a mountain of acrylic offcuts on sale at the moment at bargain prices…

I brought home four long 3mm thick strips for $2 each. The largest was 20cm x 84cm (8″ x 33″)…

These make PERFECT roller cutting rulers at a ridiculously cheap price. 3mm is the same thickness as the commercially made ones, which means the blade rolls cleanly next to the edge – resist the temptation to buy anything thicker. I have a 6″ x 24″ branded ruler that cost me $25 secondhand (it retails for over $50 new) and is often too short for my projects, so these longer ones will come in very handy.

I gave two of the offcuts to my quilter friend Dan and she added a strip of tape to mark the cutting line for her tree skirt project…

It worked a treat!

At the moment, Reverse Garbage is absolutely packed with treasure, so it’s a good time to visit if you haven’t been for a while. They have an entire aisle of Christmas decoration supplies, lots of sticky things (double-sided tape, foam etc), sewing supplies, cotton lace, packaging supplies and just about everything else you need for festive crafting. And while you’re there, make a day of it by visiting The Bower, Addi Road Food Pantry and lunching at the Egyptian food cart! ♥

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