Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

May I talk about scissors?

Good scissors are IMPORTANT. Crappy scissors cause injuries and induce RAGE. I’ve owned these three pairs for over twenty years now and the only rage I’ve suffered has been when someone used my FABRIC scissors to cut paper. And plastic. Let’s not go there.

I complained to my young fashion designer friend Luca about it, and he sent me this in return…

When I found out that my adorable, craft-loving daughter-in-law didn’t have decent scissors, I immediately ordered her two pairs of Mundials – an 8” fabric pair and a pair of barbers scissors (like the ones on the left above) which I use for fine paper cutting.

The pointy ones arrived without a guard, so I whipped one up from a scrap of leather for her. Then I made guards for my three pairs as well.

The Chinese have a cute superstition – if you give someone something sharp like scissors or knives, the recipient has to give you a coin in return. If they don’t, it’s believed that your relationship could be “cut”. I extracted two gold coins from Monkey Girl just to be safe – I don’t believe the superstition, but it’s hardly worth taking the risk with a new daughter-in-law!

Do you have good scissors? I love my scissors. I even like saying “scissors”. Hmm. I’ll stop now. ♥

Read Full Post »

Project Penny

Before lockdown began, I decided I wanted to improve my mending skills. So I bought this wonderful book, filled with interesting stitches and detailed instructions…

Then I decided I needed a biiiig mending project. One I could repair slowly and practise on over time.

Thankfully, lovely Elaine at Cash Palace Emporium is as unable to walk away from vintage textiles as I am. Although even she was fooled this time, as this beautiful 80 year old pure wool shawl of fine Kashmiri embroidery was folded into a tiny package with only an undamaged portion showing. When she got home and opened it up, there were more than a hundred holes in it, some of them several inches across, and a couple large enough to put a hand through. I bought the piece from her at  Rozelle Markets for $10 (and only because I insisted on paying something for it – she wanted to give it to me for free). I brought it home and gently washed it by hand and hung it out to dry.

I tried marking up the holes but soon ran out of safety pins…

The first thing I did was visit The Sewing Basket in West Ryde to pick up some gorgeous Appleton wool for mending. I was overjoyed to subsequently discover that they’d been donated by my friend Andrew’s parents…

Then I tracked down the perfect darning mushroom. I have a collection of these now (are you surprised?) but this one is my current favourite. It’s a good size and weight, comes with a detachable handle, and is hand-turned by a craftsman in Western Australia from local timbers. I find it really comfortable to hold in my left hand while I’m sewing with my right. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Roy’s Etsy store. And please remind me to show you my darning mushroom collection sometime!

And I was off!

The damage to the shawl was so extensive that I backed large sections of it with reclaimed white silk, saved from a torn vintage kimono, also from Elaine. I machine stitched some of the more damaged areas to stop the whole shawl from disintegrating. The plan is to mend or embroider over the machined sections…

I practised English darning, Scotch darning, seed stitch, buttonhole, honeycomb and chainstitch darns…

It’s all pretty messy but huge fun and I’ve been learning a great deal…

Then, I decided I needed a dragon. So I found a pattern at Urban Threads for $1 (wonderful website if you’re an embroiderer) and transferred it to some wash-away interfacing I had in my stash…

Her name is Penny! She’s quite well camouflaged on the shawl, except for her metallic green eye and gold-trimmed wings…

I was going to wait until my shawl was finished before showing it to you, but I’ve just realised that it will never be finished. It’s so old that new holes are appearing as I mend. That’s not a bad thing, because I love an ongoing project!

Are you working on anything at the moment? I’d love to hear about what’s keeping you entertained at this time! ♥

Read Full Post »

Everyone has a method for cooking corn on the cob, but I reckon Pete’s is by far the easiest (the man is a genius).

We don’t do anything to the cob – we don’t remove the husk or silk, nor do we wash it. If there are lots of fibres on the top, we cut them off with a pair of kitchen scissors.

Then…we put one cob on the turntable of the microwave and cook it on high for one and a half minutes. (our microwave is 1000 watts).

Then we turn it over and cook it on high for another one and a half minutes.

That’s it.

Honest.

Let it cool for a minute or two so you don’t burn yourself, then peel it and eat it.

You can scale up to more cobs at one time, but that involves a bit more trial and error. Please let me know if you try this – it would be nice to know it works in kitchens other than ours! ♥

Read Full Post »

The Sewing Basket

♥ A post for the sewers, knitters and crocheters. ♥

. . . . .

Look, I should have told you about this earlier.

And I would have, except a pandemic struck, and they had to temporarily close their stores. But now a small window of opportunity has opened up again, so I thought I’d fill you in on The Sewing Basket stores in Sydney.

They’re run by Achieve Australia, a charity providing accommodation and services to people with disabilities, and they’re staffed almost entirely of volunteers. And not just any volunteers, but fabric and  wool obsessed men and women who also happen to be passionate sewers, knitters, quilters and embroiderers. My friend Dan and I walked in and immediately realised that we’d found our happy place. We’re missing our new friends there at the moment, particularly Rhonda at Newington (if you’re reading this, Rhonda, we’re waving to you from the other side of the internet! ♥).

Everything in the store is donated. If you’re a sewer, you’ll understand just how wonderful that is – firstly, that you’re getting to rummage through decades of carefully stashed treasures, and secondly, that a place exists where you can donate your excess and have it snapped up by fellow fabricholics who will genuinely love and appreciate it.

Here are a few photos from the Newington store, which is currently closed. There are three stores – Newington, West Ryde and Balmain…

The prices are extremely fair, and because it’s staffed by volunteers, almost all the profit flows through to the charity. Here are just some of the items I’ve picked up so far – mostly craft items, as I’m trying to limit how much new fabric I bring into the house!

This box of (very) tangled Danish flower thread was extremely old, as evidenced by the cards used to hold the floss. It cost me $3 at West Ryde, which I’d have happily paid for just the heavy waxed cardboard box. I spent a joyous couple of hours untangling and sorting while watching Mamma Mia 2. Frankly, if anyone can suggest better relaxation therapy, I’d love to hear it…

I decided that I’d like to learn to embroider, so I brought home this vintage kit for just $2…

It was made in California in the 70s. I found the kit at Newington and the square frame ($4) at West Ryde…

The instructions were hilariously complicated, especially for someone who has barely done any embroidery before. Luckily the West Ryde store had an old embroidery handbook for $1…

I’m still working on the unicorn, but I did manage to finish this small piece. The kit was $1, the hoop to work it on was $2, and the frame was another $1. I pay more than that for coffee. And it was definitely worth $4 to learn that I don’t love French knots…

There are heaps of unfinished projects for sale – quilts in various stages of production, half finished tapestries and lots of partially embroidered table linen. This very old Danish cross stitch from the Balmain store was half completed, with rust spots and lots of loose threads at the back. I didn’t particularly want to finish it, but I also had trouble leaving it behind after someone had put so much work into it. It was $2 and came with the instructions and remaining threads…

So I brought it home, washed it, embroidered in cream thread over the rust spots, then sewed it onto the denim blanket I made last year. It now sits on my bed and makes me very happy every time I see it!

Perhaps the oldest item I’ve found so far is this sheet of transfers from 1924. It cost me $3 at Balmain. There are oodles of vintage knitting and sewing patterns, particularly at Newington…

Before this post gets too ridiculously long, let me show you just one more thing! I picked up these old bridge tablecloths from West Ryde for just $4 each! They needed de-staining and minor repair, but now they’re the perfect thing to cover rising bread dough…

Someone had gone to a tremendous amount of effort, embroidering the card faces on each corner…

. . . . .

So…why am I telling you all of this when the stores are closed?

Because just this week, they’ve announced that their Balmain store will be open by appointment Wednesdays to Saturdays from next week onwards! Balmain is a quilter’s paradise, but it also has a decent stock of dress fabrics, wools, craft books and haberdashery. Oh, and wonderful vintage sewing machines! You can book a time to pop in and have the whole store to yourself for half an hour! If you’re interested, call or text our darling friend Pauline who manages the store on 0477 900 031 to make a time. And please say hi for me! ♥

The Sewing Basket Balmain
450 Darling Street (Cnr. Elliott Street)
Balmain NSW 2041

Read Full Post »

Ten years ago, I went through a phase of writing posts about frugal living. They’re listed here, and you might find them useful in this current climate.

The thing is, back then, I was mostly concerned about not wasting and saving money. But when I read back through the posts, I realise that they’re equally applicable for times when we have to stay at home and limit our trips to the shops.

In times of difficulty, being able to eke every last ounce of goodness from what we have at hand has a two-fold benefit: it saves us money, time and trips, but more importantly, it reassures us that we have the necessary skills and resources to survive on very little.

Last week, I uncovered an old packet of chicken mince in the freezer. It’s become surprisingly difficult to buy chicken in Sydney – Pete thinks that’s because it’s less daunting than a leg of lamb, so folks who would normally eat out have grabbed it as a safe option for home cooking. Our one kilo of free range chicken mince became 75 dumplings the first night – enough to feed four adults…

…and curry puffs two nights later…

I had a little stale bread – half a sourdough fruit loaf and some wholemeal – which I turned into two leftover bread and butter puddings. I followed our very simple recipe but omitted the ricotta as I didn’t have any at hand…

I also used treacle from the pantry and some packets of sultanas which my mother inexplicably found in her handbag one day…

The occasion called for a generous splosh of Calvados…

Et viola! One for us, and one left on the back deck for our friend and neighbour Will to pick up…

The next day, Pete and I discovered that cold leftover leftover bread and butter pudding is delicious…

A lifetime ago in a kindergarten playground not far away, a fellow school mum said to me “when times are hard, it forces you to tighten up and take back control. And I don’t mind that, because it makes me feel strong”. At the time, she was talking about her financial difficulties, but her point is still valid today.

When life is easy, we all get sloppy – food gets thrown away, we discard materials instead of reusing, and we fly by the seat of our pants instead of planning ahead. Now is the time to tighten up and take back control. May you all feel strong and powerful today! ♥

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: