Dusting off the laptop

Welcome back!

I have just deleted two tedious and rambling paragraphs explaining my absence from the blog for the past few months. Basically I got the cold, then I got the flu, then I got the cold again. My immune system must have got a good battering because I visited the GP after 5 weeks to be told I was ‘probably in the early stages of pneumonia’, and an antibiotic was administered. I now feel amazing (health, I think is one of these things it’s hard to appreciate until it’s compromised), but I emerged to a house that needed a good clean and tidy, ironing and a freezer that needed replenishing.

It has taken over a month since being unwell to be able to motivate myself to post on the blog again. While it’s lovely to be back in full health, and I’ve finally got the house whipped into its usual state of ‘could-be-clean-in-half-a-day-for-visitors’, I’ll admit I’m overwhelmed by trying to meet the goal I set myself for writing two posts per week on the blog. Plus my other New Year’s Resolutions have slipped a bit, although I’m still working towards them all.

However, I am reminding myself that it is still only April and that any steps taken towards success are better than none at all. Much better.

Once again, therefore, I’m picking myself up and carrying on. In the time since I’ve been better I have defrosted my rundown freezer and started filling it up again with healthy and delicious food. I have devised a new ‘system’ (I use the term loosely) to keep track of what’s in the freezer and make meal planning a little easier. A list on the wall of what’s in the freezer saves me opening it and rummaging around.

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I have resumed my knitting class, and despite missing two sewing classes (out of an eight week course), I managed to catch up at home and finished my latest dress with my classmates.

Perhaps most importantly, I have printed off my list of goals for 2016 and pinned them in my kitchen where I can see them several times daily. I want to stay on track. I really believe that the goals I have set are important and part of what I want to accomplish this year.

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I’ve had a set back, but I’m going to go easy on myself and post when I feel like it. I’m still very much working towards my goals for 2016!

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar

The reusable topic of my reusable cup

 

Today’s blog post is about my reusable cup

 IMG_3151ta-da!

If it looks familiar, that may be because I’ve written about it before. What??? I hear you ask. Are you actually going to try and squeeze out another post about a boring old cup?

Well, yes I am!

When I wrote my first post back in January 2014, I was a newbie to the reusable cup gang (membership= 1 in the circles I move in!!), I had limited experience of using one and, given that my children were very small, I tended to avoid buying hot drinks because, well, they were never bloom’ hot by the time I got to drink them…

These days have passed – I now have a minor caffeine addiction and I am more likely to be found with my reusable cup in my bag than spare pants*. Oh how times have changed:-)

So, first things first, I’ll start with the introductions…

The white model above is the reusable cup which came into my possession around the end of 2013. I purchased it from the Onya website and while I was very happy with the look of it (similar to its disposable cousins), the feel of it (can be held without risk of burning), I really hated the smell of strong silicone which also affected the taste of the drink. The kids dubbed it Mummy’s Stinky Cup. Enough said.

As a result, I wasn’t sure I’d last the pace with this particular cup. However, while I wouldn’t recommend the model to anyone, I found that over time the smell and taste of the cup improved dramatically with time and plentiful washing, and as a result, the kids have moved on to bullying other inanimate objects.

In my first post, I estimated that I’d use my cup around 20 times in a year. While this was accurate based on my lifestyle at the time, I now probably use it now, on average, once a week. I seem to spend a lot of my time either in soft play cafes or waiting for my children to come out of their various sporting activities.

I think it is therefore realistic to estimate that I’ve saved over 100 disposable cups from landfill. Given that the onya website estimates the environmental impact of producing the reusable cup is equivalent to 10 uses of my cup, I can truly claim to have reduced my damage to the planet.**

What about everyone else? (Oh yes! I am adding a truly evangelical angle to this post!)

I certainly am alone every single time I use my cup. None of my friends carry one to cafes, and I’ve never seen anyone else with one unless they are bringing a coffee out with them from home. Every few months I ask staff in the two soft play cafés I regularly visit (that only serve disposable cups) if anyone else is using reusable cups yet and the answer, tragically, is no. Only me.

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This isn’t to say that people are against using their own cup. Friends often show an interest when I put my cup on the table and they commend me for using it, it’s just that no one has joined me in bringing out their own cup. Yet…?

It’s also worth saying that the staff in cafes always serve me quite happily – I had initially wondered if anyone would refuse to use it, on the basis of some Health & Safety rule that I was unaware of. One member of staff told me that where he comes from in Spain, everyone brings their own cup and the cafes are left with shelves of unwanted disposable cups.

I had a little rummage around the internet to see if I could present you with some stats about disposable coffee cups. I thought I’d give you a few bullets of facts.

I searched for ages in the end, and while I came across lots of shocking facts about cups and the damage they cause to the environment as I expected, I found it confusing to get a clear picture of the issue today. There was little that was bang up to date (my guess is that the numbers of disposable cups being used varies widely each year as some people find reasons not to use them, and others possibly increase their usage). Also there was copious information about disposable cups that are used not just for hot drinks, but for water in workplaces, hospitals, schools etc., which I’ve chosen not to focus on in today’s post. I will however refer you to this article, written in the Guardian by Rebecca Smithers in July 2014 which gives us the following facts:

  • Over 2.5 billion disposable cups are being chucked each year in the UK
  • That is enough to go round the world five and a half times
  • Nearly all of these end up in landfill, creating 25,000 tonnes of waste.

The more I think in my mind of these cups going round the world (or those that end up in landfill filling London’s Albert Hall, which is the other visual image she offers), the more I wonder why on earth more action is not being taken by governments, by businesses, by the person on the street…by me failing to turn back to get my own cup if I shut the door without popping it in my bag.

I’m certainly going to resolve to refuse disposable cups every (single teeny tiny) time I’m out, and if you feel the same way, then here are some issues to think about to find a cup that suits you before you make that all important purchase:

  • Does it need to be safe or light enough to carry in your bag?
  • Will it fit under a coffee machine?
  • Is it the right size to fit in your drink of choice?
  • Does it matter if the lid leaks?
  • Do you care about the smell and taste of the material it’s made of?

Typing “buy reusable cups” or something similar into your search engine will lead you to a fine selection, but here’s an article by Erica Buist in the Guardian where she’s reviewed some cups for you.

Now you can see the benefits of refusing your disposable cup – and I’ve shown you how to go about getting your own – so…come on! Join my club!

How have you got on with your reusable cup? Would you recommend it?

 

*for the kids. FOR THE KIDS.

**note, as I’m still drinking tea shipped from abroad, using hot water and washing the cup, I am still causing an environmental impact…

Cushion making

In 2015 I was on a mission to acquire sewing skills that would enable me to produce clothes more ethically. I completed a number of evening classes which took me to the heady heights of producing my own (lined and pretty fancy) party dress, which I wore with pride on Christmas Day. I didn’t even care that I was the most overdressed person in the family(when did everyone start dressing down for December’s main event?!)

However, while I do well at sewing under the instruction of an experienced teacher, I drop back a few leagues when I’m sitting by myself at home with my own sewing machine…

A few months ago, I decided to replace the cushions on a sofa – to clarify, I mean the scatter cushions, not the actual big cushions that make up the sofa! I decided that this should be a task within my capabilities but, alas, when I got out my beginners sewing book, even altering the measurements of the cushion in the book to the size I wanted to make, sent me into a bit of a panic so…I signed up for another short course.

As a result I replaced the cushions (my kids chose the fabric):

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I made another for a different seat:

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and I even managed to make some as Christmas presents in this fabric:

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I’m fairly delighted with my progress for the following reasons:

  • While party dresses are all well and good, in my life they are of limited use! What I need to be doing is using my sewing skills to avoid relying on chain stores. My issue is that these shops generally fail to inform me who sews their products, or what conditions their employees are working in.
  • To be able to allow my children to pick fabrics adds more meaning to the items in our home, plus I hope it shows the kids one of the benefits of making your own things. (I have a grand plan that in several years’ time when they leave home they will take with them some basic skills – including sewing).
  • I have increased the repertoire of gifts that I am able to make. I’m keen to get away from purely consumer-driven culture of just throwing money at things, in an attempt to show someone how much you care. The more time and thought that you can demonstrate has gone into a gift, surely the more meaningful that offering actually becomes?
Plus
  • Sewing cushions is really quite satisfying and (now that I know how) very simple!
Hmmm…what will I sew next?

Cooking, cooking and more cooking

For the past twelve days I’ve been on a mission to get my two foodie* New Year’s Resolutions off to a great start. As a result, my hands are raw from constant dish washing, I’m running out of tupperwear and my house stinks of cooking (I’m writing this with a scented candle burning), but… it’s happening! The freezer is filling up, and my family are showing interest in their meals again.

I’m feeling excited about finally getting on top of healthy eating, plus the reduction of our rubbish that’s happened as a result. I’d be lying, however, if I said it was effortless. Far from it – I have to plan meals a few days ahead, which involves scouring for recipes, making shopping lists, and popping out for ingredients. I realise though that I’m not in a routine yet. In addition, I’ve done a lot of time consuming batch cooking which will save me hours in the weeks ahead.

If you are even vaguely interested (!), then here are the evening meals I’ve provided for my family since the New Year began. I’ve only recorded the side dishes we’ve had where I’ve had to specially to prepare them to a recipe, but mostly we have veg and sometimes potatoes:

1 January: Steak Pie

2 January: Vegetable Crumble

3 January: Chickpea Stew

4 January: Pasta Bolognaise

5 January: Tomato Sauce with pasta

6 January: Vegetarian Haggis

7 January: Homemade Pizza

8 January: Quark Pasta with roasted butternut squash done in cumin & coriander

9 January: Chickpea Stew

10 January: Tortilla with roasted butternut squash with caramelised sugar (thanks Snail of Happiness!)

11 January: Vegetarian goulash with brown rice

12 January: Tomato and Mozzarella tart

On top of that I’ve batch cooked;

Lentil soup, vegetable soup and curried carrot soup (some of the meals above were also part of a batch)

and baked:

Flapjacks, pear pie, marble cake, quark cakes and countless loaves of bread in the breadmaker.

(I’ve linked to recipes where I’ve discovered them on the internet).

All of this food preparation has been both exhilarating and exhausting! My other half is truly delighted with the increased preparation in the kitchen and has been helping with other jobs around the house and child care so that I can get off to a good start. The kids are still doing a fair bit of poking at their food with forks (but what is it Mummy?!) but they are loving the extra baking I’m doing, and there have been some pleasant surprises – such as my youngest loving chickpea stew.

In an attempt to reduce our food waste I’m finding that no sooner have I prepared one dish than I’m looking for a recipe for another, to use up leftover lemons or half a leek, which keeps my momentum up.

Will I keep this going? I certainly hope so. I can slow down now that I have several meals prepared in the freezer, but I’m aware that healthy meal preparation is a habit, and I’ve got to keep working away at it so that it becomes part of my lifestyle. I’ll keep you updated on my progress!**

*1.I will dramatically increase the amount of food that I cook from scratch, using organic ingredients where practically possible, with the aim of reducing the packaging I contribute to landfill. 2.I am going to provide healthier and more varied food for my family.

** and I’ll include photos in the next food post – they won’t upload and my IT support is currently at work😉

 

 

Preparing to prepare food

In my last post I outlined my New Year’s Resolutions. The first three (writing, sewing and knitting) are a pleasure so, if I’m not doing them, it’s likely to be as a result of time constraints, or being unable to justify them as a priority against the background of a busy family life. My last two however involve food planning and preparation – definitely more of chore!

With that in mind, I decided to jump right in at the start of the year and get off to a good start with cooking and baking from scratch.

As everyone who wants to succeed at anything knows, a little planning goes a long way. Often when I go to prepare a meal, I can only think of a handful of food options – and usually we’ve either eaten them recently or the kids hate them! I therefore grabbed a pen and piece of scrap paper one night with the family and got everyone to shout out every meal we’ve ever had.

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It was a surprisingly fun exercise and the kids happily shared their thoughts on each dish as I wrote it down (my other half kept quiet, he’s just happy he’s not responsible for the cooking!)

So now at least I have a list of ideas to keep handy when inspiration has deserted me.

I have been procrastinating over my next task for over a year. I wanted to find new recipes. In the end, it was a simple and quick job. I opened up netmums and mumsnet, went to their recipe pages and printed off the first ten that I thought looked easy and tasty.

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Finally I bought myself a small diary in the sales (£1) to record what I was making each day, plus what we ate for dinner every night. This is a way of monitoring my progress and motivating myself by being able to see a log of my good work – that’s the idea anyway…

To date (6 days in!), I’m happy to report that my methods are working. I’ve been cooking and baking most days. I’ve also been batch cooking and freezing the spare portions for those days the kids have classes after school, and I’m short of time to prepare food.

Realistically, after having a good break over Christmas, I know my energy levels and enthusiasm are much higher than they will be as time goes on, but for now, I’m off to a good start. I’ll keep you updated on my progress!

New Year’s Resolutions – 2016

Happy New Year!!

It’s not the most original opening to my first post of 2016, but it’s sincere. I hope that you have a fantastic and fulfilling 12 months ahead.

I am starting this year full of hope. I have concocted five goals that I want to work towards on the blog – some build on my previous efforts towards creating a more sustainable lifestyle, some are new, but all (I hope) will bring new and exciting opportunities to learn. Equally as important is that they are all absolutely achievable, as long as I’m willing to put in the effort – and I am! I really am!

So, without further ado, here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016…..

  1. Increase my blogging. I’d like my posts to average out over the year at 2 per week, therefore I’m aiming to end in December around the 104 mark.

I love my blog, I really do, but I’ve found that without disciplining myself to write, it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when life gets busy or stressful. I miss writing though, and without the motivation I get from publicly sharing my progress, I’m in danger of achieving less. I’m also missing my pals in the blogging community, so for lots of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to breathe some new life into my blog. It’s good to be back!

  1. To build on the good work I did last year when I learned to sew. I want to save more clothes from landfill by altering them or upcycling them into other items. Where I do make clothes from scratch, I want to start using some organic fabrics.

My motivation to learn to sew grew from my decision to take a step back (if not completely away) from the fashion industry. I don’t want to support slave labour or environmental damage. I want to use my new sewing skills to extend the life of the clothes in my family and ultimately prevent them from being left to rot and leach chemicals into the earth. By increasing (from nothing!) my use of organic fabric, I will – slightly – minimise the negative environmental impact that producing those materials cause.

  1. I will continue to learn to knit, with the aim of being able to produce items that can be gifted.

Last year, while doing really well with my knitting, I got carried away learning some complicated techniques. This year I must focus on producing pieces that can be given away as lovingly made and thoughtful presents, which have been created as ethically as possible.

  1. I will dramatically increase the amount of food that I cook from scratch, using organic ingredients where practically possible, with the aim of reducing the packaging I contribute to landfill.

I failed in my goal to keep reducing my rubbish last year, and I’m sure the amount of ‘convenience’ foods I bring into the house contributed to this. It’s time to reduce our rubbish and improve our diets! This will also help with goal 5…

  1. I am going to provide healthier and more varied food for my family.

I am bored of the food I cook, bake and buy. When the kids complain about the same old stuff, I tend to agree rather than reprimand – it’s got that bad! I amn’t keen on cooking and creating food but I’m going to grab the metaphorical bull by its horns and throw myself into this challenge. It’s time to cook new meals, bake (some of) our own snacks and find out what it is that those self-proclaimed foodies love about meal times. I want my family to look forward to their meals and be excited about what delight is served. I would like someone at some point this year to ask for seconds!!!

Good luck to everyone out there hoping to live your dreams in 2016, you can do it!

If you want to see how I got on in achieving my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, check out yesterday’s post.

2015 New Year’s Resolutions – how I got on

It’s that time of year again when I like to post a round-up of the progress that I have made on the blog in the last 12 months. Today I will be revisiting the five New Year’s Resolutions that I set myself one dark night, as 2014 drew to an end. I’ll also share with you how I got on by marking my own work pubicly (oh yeah!).

Usually by this point, readers are fairly up to date with my progress, but this year I’ve been decidedly crap on the blog – a meagre 24 posts. All of this is soon to change as you’ll see in my next post, but for now, let the 2015 assessment begin…

(Resolutions in bold, assessment below)

  1. Buy a very limited number of clothes for me, and a (less) limited amount for my children. I’d also like to avoid buying clothes to give as gifts. My aim is to prevent supporting the (largely) unethical fashion industry (see my post from 2014) Where I do purchase clothes I will endeavour to use tools, such as The Good Shopping Guide, to buy as ethically as possible.

I am still putting in a really good effort at keeping my clothes consumption to a minimum. When I decided to buy no new clothes for myself in 2014, I didn’t expect to be doing this well two years later. The items I bought for myself this year were mainly basic items that ‘supported’ the rest of my wardrobe – tights, underwear, a neutral pair of shoes, black leggings and a swim suit. The swim suit was the only purchase that fell into the categories of fashionable or luxurious. I purchased it in Fat Face, which does pretty well in terms of ethical High Street shopping (see link), and it was the only new item I bought for a family holiday.

I pretty much failed in my quest to buy fewer clothes for the children. I do try to buy them stuff in a bigger size so that, in theory, I’m buying less in the long term. I also use the Fat Face sale in an attempt to make some of my purchases more ethical, but I can’t kid myself – my efforts in this area are lacking (plus I really like Fat Face!)

While I definitely bought way fewer clothes as gifts (80% less?), I didn’t manage to cut them out completely. Especially when friends have babies, I find it so convenient to buy clothes as they are useful, easy to post and exchangeable.

Overall score: 6/10

  1. Learn to sew. The aim of this is to allow me to efficiently mend the clothes my family already has, plus – in time – try my hand at adapting the children’s clothes so that they might continue to get wear out of their outfits as they grow. One day I’d like to attempt making my own clothes from ethical materials, but I accept that this may not be something I achieve in 2015.

Ok, I’m shoving my modesty aside here to announce that I totally rocked this resolution! Within the first few months of the year, I’d made a dress and on Christmas day, I wore a much more complicated little number that even involved full lining! I’ve upcycled, adapted, mended and invented. I’ve even managed to sew some things as gifts for Christmas. I found I quite like sewing, which definitely helps:-)

It is with relief that I realise I wasn’t expecting to make my own clothes from ethical materials this year. Although I have upcycled fabrics, and made use of some offcuts, I have yet to purchase any organic materials – this will feature in 2016’s goals (with no allowance for failure!)

Overall score: 10/10

  1. Learn to knit. I would love to master this skill. Ideally I will learn to make gifts for others as well as household staples such as socks, using UK wool. For 2015 I will aim to be able to produce a few basic items that would be of a high enough standard to give as presents. This cuts out poor worker conditions, and reduces the air miles my finished items have travelled.

I did well on this resolution. I started on a high and made a pair of mittens which were duly given away as a birthday present. I got somewhat distracted from my goal of being able to make household staples by falling in love with an intarsia cushion cover pattern – much more complicated that was necessary at this point in my knitting career – but I’ve stuck with it and learned a new skill and yes, I did use UK wool.

Overall score: 9/10

  1. Go supermarket-free for Lent. This will be the third year that I’ve given up supermarkets for a specific period. Each time I do it, I learn more and get less dependent on using them. I like to support local businesses and opt out of the poor environmental practices that are rife in the supply chain of supermarkets. You can read how I got on last year in my concluding post and please, if you’d like to, join in!

I completed this task with only a small blip when I used a supermarket chemist to pick up a prescription, realising too late that it was a supermarket-related (it was a stand alone shop, not a counter in a supermarket!!)

My blogging on the subject was pretty sparse and my shopping unadventurous so I’m dropping this from my blogging goals for 2016, in the hope that my writing will be marginally more interesting than watching a wall of wet paint dry. I will however, continue to go supermarket-free for Lent this year, so the subject may be alluded to.

Overall score 9/10

  1. Reduce my rubbish. I will continue to monitor and reduce my use of single-use plastics, plus I will aim to put out less rubbish – half a black bag per week would be a pleasing reduction. My local authority is finally due to collect food waste in April so I should be able to get rid of all food waste (as opposed to the limited items that can go in the garden compost) so with a boost like that, I have no excuses!

While I have done a fair amount of work in the past on reducing my rubbish, I think it is safe to say that I made little (if any) progress this year.  In our household we recycle everything that the Council picks up and we are now able to recycle food waste fully.  We still have our faithful veg box which comes in (almost) zero plastic and we’ve stuck to a lot of the changes we made for Plastic Free July but I can’t think of anything we’ve done this year to specifically reduce our rubbish.  I’m awarding myself points for keeping up good habits but, as no progress is made, I end on a depressing end result of…

Overall score: 4/10

Despite the ups and downs in my scores, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my progress, and am aware of just how powerful writing goals down can be in terms of helping to turn them into a reality. I’m currently working away on my list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2016, which I’ll be posting in the next few days.  Next time there’ll be no fails!!

How did you get on with your goals for 2015?

Bunting for Zero Waste Week

It’s Day 7 of Zero Waste Week and I have to admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both the writing side of the reuse theme, as well as the creative side. Although today’s post is the last of this week, I’m sure that this is a topic I’ll be writing about again soon on the blog – I certainly have enough fabric at home from old clothes to use up, plus I now have a list of things I’d like to make. The project I’m sharing today is still a work in progress but I’m hopeful that this post will be enough to inspire and instruct, should you be tempted to do something similar.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

One of my children is surprisingly fussy about the clothes they wear. There are key pieces in the wardrobe that are firm favourites, and said child will wear them whenever possible, whatever the occasion. Inevitably, of course, eventually those outfits stop fitting and (unlike toys which I have almost a 100% success rate of sneaking out of the house without anyone ever noticing) those favourite outfits carry on being requested.

For a while I’ve been trying to come up with ways that I can upcycle the outfits for other children in the extended family so that they are still useful, and so that my wee one knows they haven’t just disappeared. Nothing was acceptable though until yesterday (perhaps inspired by Friday’s bunting birthday card), when I suggested that we used the material to make bunting to hang around the bed.

Bingo! My wee one loved the idea, and so I’ve been working away on a mock-up, to ensure I get the bunting right when cutting up the precious outfits. I actually really love the idea that the bunting can be added to over the years, with each piece of fabric  having a story to tell.

Here’s my progress so far…

I made a triangular template from a sewing book – the straight line at the top of the triangle is 19cm and each diagonal side is 22.5cm.

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I then found an old pyjama top of mine and ironed the larger panels of fabric (remember this is just a mock up!)

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I then cut off a front side panel and folded it in half. I pinned my triangle to the fabric.

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I cut out my triangle on the folded fabric which gave me two triangles.

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I then pinned these together (right sides facing each other) and sewed on the two diagonal lines.

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I turned the triangle inside out and snipped the extra material away from the point of the triangle so that the bunting would have a sharp tip.

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I flipped the triangle back the right way around, and poked the point of the triangle with a knitting needle as suggested by my sewing book (for extra sharpness!)

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The next stage is to make all of your triangles and sew them together with bias binding, leaving equal spaces between them. I didn’t have any bias binding so I have improvised with a piece of white paper for the purposes of illustrating what to do! This is as far as I got…

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To hang your bunting, it’s suggested that you make loops at each end of your bias binding. It’s therefore obviously important to factor in a good length of binding when attaching your triangles. The loops may be a good hiding place for the extra binding if, like me, you are hoping to add triangles as time passes.

I’d love to see pictures of any homemade bunting you have!

A massive thank you to everyone who’s read my blog, commented and liked posts during Zero Waste Week:-)

 

Card Making for Zero Waste Week

So far for me, Zero Waste Week has been especially productive – not only have I got lots of sewing and writing done but I’ve actually produced some things (such as a draft excluder and a shopping bag) that I will make good use of.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

At the start of the week, I had quite a few of my posts either drafted or planned, but yesterday I wasn’t sure what project I might showcase. I also had a card to make for a party this weekend. Could I, I wondered, combine my post with card making?!

I started making my own cards as few years ago as it meant that I could:

  • Avoid the plastic sleeve that many shop bought cards come wrapped in (I’m a little obsessed with avoiding plastic)
  • Give less business to the supermarkets where I used to pick up my supplies (regular readers will know that I have given up supermarkets for Lent for the past couple of years)
  • Get value for money – is it just me that thinks greeting cards are overpriced, especially in a market where you can buy clothes at unethically low prices? Weird.

I have also found that card making gives me a pleasing creative outlet. Here’s a post that shows some of the cards that I’ve made in the past, and I’ve included a wee photo of one of my favourite makes ever!

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Anyway, back to the issue in hand. My theme for Zero Waste Week is to reuse fabric and I had a card to make – how would I combine the two?

I knew I had to keep it simple as I’m still very much a beginner at sewing. I decided to do a search on the internet so typed in a few key terms e.g. ‘fabric’ ‘cards’ and lots of ideas popped up. I decided to keep it really easy, as I was especially keen not to waste any materials in the making of the card, and wanted to get it right first time (it is zero waste week after all).

Here’s what I did:

I found a plain brown card in my stash – these are my very favourite as they are so simple and I think they can look really effective. I drew an arc on my card in pencil and stitched along it with the sewing machine. I think this would look at least as effective with hand sewing and embroidery thread, but I was curious to see if I could use the machine.

I then got my ink stamps out and stamped the words I wanted to use.

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Both the sewing and the inking could have ruined the card as it’s easy to make mistakes, so I did them first so that if they went wrong I didn’t spoil any other work.

Having decided on a bunting picture, I rummaged through my fabric scraps and found some that were suitable. I cut out a triangle from white paper to use as a template and then cut round it, leaving roughly half a centimetre on each edge.

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I then used my pinking shears to (hopefully) stop the edges fraying and simply arranged the ‘bunting’ on the arc, and glued it on with craft glue suitable for fabric. I added the birthday boy’s age in the form of a wooden number from my craft box, and ….

Ta-da!!!!

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You may recognise the red scrap from this project, the dinosaur from this one and the grey from this one.

To take the zero waste theme further, you could use scrap card to make the birthday card, and scrap paper for the bunting. (For more ideas on how to reuse paper, see fellow Zero Waste Week Ambassador, Jen’s post)

My card is ridiculously simple, but now that I’ve used fabric for card making I’m keen to experiment and improve. Perhaps next time I’ll hand sew a border in or cut out a shape (a fabric heart perhaps?!) to use as the main feature.

This project probably cost me about 50p to make and allowed me to use up those tiny, but lovely, fabric scraps that are wasted from other projects. It took about 30 minutes all in to produce this ‘work of art’, but I reckon if I made a few at the same time I could easily reduce the minutes taken per card. I declare it a zero waste success!

T-shirt shopping bag for Zero Waste Week

The King of the reusable item is surely has the cloth bag. Here in Scotland we have been charged 5p for plastic bags since 20th October 2014, and that has dramatically reduced our consumption, as this article via the BBC explains.   Wales has been on board since 1st October 2011 (go Wales!), and Ireland since 8th April 2013. England is to follow suit on 5th October of this year.

I have a lot of cloth bags, which I discuss in this post. I thought I was prepared for the bag charge and, for a while, my supply of bags was more enough. However, what I failed to account for is the plastic bags I used that had nothing to do with shopping. For example, when I passed on clothes, books etc. to family members or friends, I would usually have put these in a bag (guilt free of course as I was reusing the bag). I also used them as bin liners, for separating items in my case when I went on holiday, and for kneeling on when I worked in the garden. The list purposes for these bags went on and on. The other thing I failed to account for was that, although I already refused most of the plastic bags I was offered in shops, I acquired them (whether I liked it or not) – usually from people giving me useful items they were passing on.

My plastic bag collection saw me through a few months but slowly I stopped finding myself in possession of them, meaning that my stash of cloth bags had to be put to good use, as I started using them instead of plastic bags for things other than shopping.

I now have numerous bags around the house which hold knitting and sewing projects. I always use one for the kids’ water bottles when we are out to stop them leaking into my own tote. I now lend them out when I pass things on to the family and, although I get them back eventually, it can take time.

My very favourite cloth bags are the Onya bags which are fantastic for the following reasons:

  • They are super strong (some of mine are made out of parachute material)
  • They fold up into a tiny pouch so are very easily transportable
  • They come in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can pick whichever size best meets your needs
  • They are machine washable

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I was going to invest in some more (I have about 10 already), when I started thinking about projects that I could blog about during Zero Waste Week. Perhaps I could make some cloth bags! I remembered that Jen from MakedoandMend-able site had made a shopper out of an old t-shirt, so I searched her fantastic blog and found an easy-peasy tutorial.

My other half had a clear out earlier in the week and gave me a whole bunch of weird and wonderful items that had been languishing in his wardrobe. I think that after he saw my shirt to skirt project, he perhaps overestimated my sewing skills and thought I could turn them into a whole wardrobe of loveliness for me:-)

There was a t-shirt in there that I thought would make a great shopper. (I am still taken aback that this t-shirt exists – we have been together for years and years and I don’t think I’ve ever clapped eyes on it before! Apparently it’s too small so he’s never worn it.)

I pretty much followed Jen’s tutorial to the letter.

Here’s the t-shirt

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I chopped the arms off

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I took the liberty of also chopping off the bottom seam as thought that would make it easier for me to sew.

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I then simply turned it inside out, pinned and sewed along the bottom seam (zig zaging the edge to prevent fraying), turned it back the right way and I had myself a new – if not especially photogenic- shopper.

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Here it is in my car boot full of shopping!

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I may cut the neck to make it a bit bigger as I found myself stuffing items in the arm hole, but that was okay!

If you like this idea but don’t sew, then I found this tutorial from mommypotamous who offers the same bag, but uses a clever method to join the two sides of the bag at the bottom. She also uses a much prettier t-shirt than mine, which makes the bag look very cute. I reckon making her version would be a good craft project for kids who are able to use scissors.

Happy Zero Waste Week everyone!
Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015