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!

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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

Draft excluder for Zero Waste Week

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

My other half gave me a pair of his old trousers a few months ago that were fraying at the ankle, and were generally looking past their best. In short, they were no longer suitable to wear. In the past I’d have put them into the Rag Bag collection, but now that I’ve got a sewing machine, I’m keen to upcycle anything that I can into something that would be useful.

It struck me that a leg of the trousers could be converted into an effective draft excluder. Our home is very drafty in places, due to poorly fitting doors and original floorboards. I’ve been meaning to attempt this project since I acquired the trousers but, even here in Scotland, the summer weather has meant it wasn’t a priority.

With the theme of Zero Waste Week this year being ‘reuse’ however (and my theme being specifically to reuse fabric), I felt that the time had come to turn those tatty old trousers into something that could help me keep our home warm, as the temperature drops like a stone. This actually turned out to be super simple, and only took me an evening.

Here are the trousers

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After ironing them, I decided that the trousers alone were a bit boring, so I found myself some leftover felt from the kids’ craft box and cut some hearts out (as you know from this post, I have a lot of options for heart templates!)

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note the zero waste cutting!

Using a craft & fabric glue I have, I glued a heart on to the trousers to check that it would stay in place. Satisfied, I cut the leg off the trousers and chopped down one of the seams to make my trouser leg less leg shaped and more rectangular.

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I then pinned and sewed the seam back in, and also closed the fraying ankle hole. All of this was done with right sides facing.

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I then glued all of my felt hearts in place. ‘What is it about you and fabric hearts??’ My other half wanted to know. (The answer is that I think they’re sooo pretty!)

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I should at this point have let all of the glue on the hearts dry properly, which would have saved me reapplying more later when the hears started slipping about.

I then went to my bag of old clothes, towels and fabric scraps and put as much as I could inside for stuffing *

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All that was really left to do now was close the top of the leg. I used the sewing machine which wasn’t the neatest finish (or the easiest, as I had to hold back the bulge of stuffing) but it did the job.

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I was pretty delighted at how my draft excluder turned out. I fully expected it to look like the stuffed pair of trousers that it is, but I actually think this little addition to my home is quite delightful. I won’t be hiding it when guests come round.

*It may be wise at this point to check that your stuffing is safe (ie avoid flammable items)

Dress alteration for Zero Waste Week

This week, as you may have gathered, is Zero Waste Week. The theme is reuse and I have chosen to focus specifically on reusing fabric. In today’s post I adapt an old favourite item of clothing so that I can wear it again…

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

Despite enjoying a good old declutter, there were a few badly fitting items in my wardrobe that I hung on to for years, hoping that, one day, somehow, I would be able to fit into them again.

This is one such dress.

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I bought it from Monsoon at the start of my second pregnancy. The smaller size didn’t fit me over the bust (as I said, I was pregnant!) and the next size up was too big. I really loved it, so I decided to buy the dress and wear it when my bump had grown. Sure enough, when the time came, me and my wee one rocked that outfit. As soon as I was dressing for one again, however, my gorgeous floral number just made me look like a deflated balloon.

While other items were cruelly culled from my wardrobe during clear-outs, this one managed to hang on, waiting for its relaunch. Years passed, but after I recently attended a sewing class which taught me to upcycle a shirt to a skirt, I dusted off my dress and decided to (finally) make it fit. Or at least try!

I gave it an iron and made the decision to work with only the lower half of the dress. I was given advice in a beginners’ sewing class that informed me that the easiest way to go wrong with an alteration, is to mess up the waistline. My dress has an empire waist so I wasn’t sure where the advice fit in, but I pressed ahead anyway.

Luckily because the dress wasn’t designed as maternity wear, I didn’t have to deal with extra material in the front panel. I therefore simply worked out how much I wanted to trim from the sides and then placed a pin on each side as a marker.

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I then used a washable felt pen (another tip from sewing class) and drew a diagonal line from the waist to the pin.

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I then pinned the fabric to hold it in place and sewed down my line with my sewing machine.

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Only at that point did I realise that I’d forgotten to take account of the patterned band of material at the bottom of the dress. Very luckily I’d almost matched the pattern, and I decided that it was good enough to leave.   I took better care the next time though and pretty much nailed it.

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attempt 1                                                attempt 2

When I tried on the dress, and was satisfied with how much material had been removed, and that the fabric hung well, I cut off the excess material that was now part of the seam.  I then did a zig zag stitch down each side to prevent fraying.

As you can see from the top picture, my dress had a v-neck. I had been wearing it with a camisole top when it was warm and with long sleeves underneath when it was cooler, but (constantly drowning in laundry) I decided to see if I could sew a panel behind the v-neck so that I could wear it without involving any more clothes!

This was a bit of a leap of faith, but I was spurred on by the joy that I now had my dress back in working order. I also knew I could unpick any mistakes, should my experiment fail…

I went to my bag of worn out clothes and fabric scraps to see if I could fashion a panel from them. I found a t-shirt of my eldest’s that wasn’t wearable, but the bottom edge was in great condition – fresh and bright white. I roughly cut a piece of it off and hoped that if I added a pretty piece of lace trim, it might give me a camisole effect.

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I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous sewing lace onto jersey material – and no doubt there’s a sewing machine foot and a technique for that – but I just sewed the two pieces together with my machine and crossed my fingers! It was fine.

Delighted with myself, I then pinned my creation onto the v-neck of the dress. As you might expect this was a bit fiddly because I needed it to lie flat, but it probably only took about five minutes. I then sewed it on. That took at least two attempts but it was worth it.

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I have now worn the dress several times and the panel still looks great. The jersey fabric curled up at the joining seam but it hasn’t caused any problems for me. The alteration didn’t take me long at all, and, after buying so few clothes for so long, it’s great to have it back as a wardrobe staple!

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Fabric heart for Zero Waste Week

How’s Zero Waste Week going for you?

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

Today on the blog I’m using up some of those pesky fabric scraps that emerge from sewing projects. Sometimes these are the few centimetres that get chopped off the bottom of a dress to make it fit, and other times (especially for beginners like me) they can be the extra half metre bought in the hope that that little bit of surplus material will help you in correcting inevitable mistakes. I was once saved in just this way when I used a pattern that had four skirt options in it. I chose Option B (a maxi skirt) but I was accidently about to buy the amount of material required for Option A (a knee length skirt) when, on a whim at the counter, I asked for an extra metre of material to be added on. Boy, did that save my ass!

In today’s project, I’ve chosen to make a fabric heart. I’ve always loved these – I think they are gorgeous hanging from nails around the house Here’s one I received many years ago from a friend who was coming for lunch – we have it hanging on the edge of our open book cupboard:

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I’ve used fabric today from the grey cotton used in my shirt to skirt project. I’ve also managed to reduce the volume of my scrap bag which is full of worn out clothes and tiny bits of scrap from sewing projects.

I’ll be honest at this point – my fabric heart went nothing like to plan! However it did all turn out well in the end 🙂

The first thing I did in my quest to make the perfect fabric heart was to find myself a template. I have one in a sewing book but if I also discovered that if you put ‘heart template’ into a search engine, you’ll get lots of printables which can be cut out and traced. You can also use heart-shaped objects that you have lying around the house. I’ve used my cookie cutters a lot in projects such as this hand sewn card (but I’ve yet to bake with them!)

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So, the first thing I did to make my fabric heart was to trace around my template and cut it out – easy!

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I then pinned it on to my fabric and cut that out (you can use tailors chalk or washable felt pens to draw the shape on to the fabric if you prefer).

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So far so good. I did this twice and ended up with two hearts of pretty much the same size and shape.

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I then sewed them together with my sewing machine, leaving a 1.5cm seam allowance. It’s a tricky shape to sew but I was reasonably pleased with my efforts…

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…until I turned it inside out! It looked far too wonky to continue with my original idea.

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On to Plan B – which would’ve been ok if I had a Plan B…

I decided that the heart looked sweet the way it had been sewn, so I hastily flipped it back the right way round to see how it could be salvaged. My main problem was, of course, that the edge of the material was going to fray if left unattended. I would therefore need to either use a zig zag stitch (which would look terrible), learn some kind of hand stitch that would deal with the edges (that wasn’t going to happen, I was going off this project with every minute that passed), or use pinking shears, which I’ve read should stop ‘the fray’. I decided to use the pinking scissors and forged ahead like the zero hero I am!

My next task was to select some suitable ‘stuffing’ from my bag of scrap material.

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Ignoring the bag of toy stuffing sitting in my cupboard that would be perfect for this job, I selected an old pair of ripped tights and chopped them into small pieces. I also used some end pieces of wool and shoved gently eased them in too.

My heart still looked heart-like, but the bulge from the stuffing needed a little something to show that it too was in the shape of a heart. I therefore got out some red embroidery thread and hand stitched around the heart. That also added a pleasing pop of colour.

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Lastly I found a piece of red ribbon, which I hand sewed on to the heart. In the end, I had a zero waste heart I was be proud of!

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Shirt to skirt for Zero Waste Week

Welcome to the start of Zero Waste Week. The theme for 2015 is reuse.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2015

When I found that out I thought ‘good work Rachelle’ (Rachelle Strauss is the founder of Zero Waste Week). It’s a great theme. Reusing things you already own, or have at your disposal, is a key component of the sustainable lifestyle. Less waste is generated because items are used for longer, or repurposed into something more useful. Furthermore, of course, there is a lack of ‘stuff’ coming into your life which will inevitably end up as more rubbish at some point in the future.

Far from being anywhere near zero waste in its purest form (is anyone?!), I have been reusing things and writing about those experience since I started getting a bit green. Throughout the week, I’ll dust off some of those old posts and tweet them out.

This week, while writing my own posts on reuse, I have decided to challenge myself and put my newly acquired sewing skills to good use. I will be reusing fabric. I’ll show you some of the projects that I have carried out recently, and will work on a few more during the course of the week. There will be examples of upcycling old clothes, adapting clothes that no longer fit, using fabric that I would have otherwise sent to the RagBag*, and using up fabric scraps from other projects.

For those of you who are new to the blog, I took up sewing properly at the start of 2015 when I made it my New Year’s Resolution to learn to sew. There were two main reasons behind this goal:

  1. I wanted to make clothes more ethically. After the Rana Plaza tragedy of April 2013, I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t supporting a fashion industry that uses extremely low paid workers, who are sewing in tretcherous conditions. I also wanted to source my own more ethically made material, and work towards using organic materials.
  2. I hoped to reuse some of the clothes I already had – whether that would be making things fit better, mending old favourites that are looking a bit shabby, or adapting my kids’ clothes so that they could keep them as they get bigger.

Much to my surprise, I had pretty much cracked my goal of learning to sew by about March when I made this dress in a dressmaking class.

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I loved the experience so much that I promptly made another one, and signed up for more classes. I now do a fair amount of sewing on my own second hand sewing machine.

It was easy to get into the sewing part of this challenge, but after about six months of simply enjoying the creative side, and, being in possession of an increasing number of wacky and wonderful bespoke pieces (welcome additions to my wardrobe after my year of buying no new clothes), it was time to get started with point number 2 above.

A real opportunity arose when I found a course, run by a local sewing school, which promised to teach me to upcycle an old shirt into a skirt. The timing was perfect. I did my preparatory work (left my other half in charge of the kids’ Saturday morning schedule, and mugged him of an old shirt), and off I went.

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I turned up to the three hour class with a shirt and a metre of material that I’d been asked to bring plus another metre of fun material that I thought would be a nice touch to include in a homemade item of clothing .

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I chose grey as I felt that it would ‘dull down’ the reds and yellows of the shirt. While I love bright colours, my confidence in producing a wearable outfit was fair to middling and I reckoned a sensible grey might forgive the inevitable flaws in my skirt.

At this point I ask that you will forgive my lack of photos of the process – I felt weird about taking pictures during the class. However I have drawn some lovely pictures for you with my kids’ felt pens so that you can fully experience the process! 🙂 **

Step 1 was to button up the shirt and pull it on so that the neck was (sort of) my waist band – I had to leave a few buttons undone, obvs.

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This was to see how much material I had at my disposal from the shirt. If you have a very big shirt then refashioning is fairly simple without having to use extra material. No one in the class had a big enough shirt for this option though, so we moved on to…

Step 2 which was to cut the shirt as below (with the red dashes being the cut marks).

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To explain better, I cut out the side seams to remove them, and I cut under the collar and round the yoke on the back – basically saving the easy-to-work-with material. I cut it to the size I needed for the length of the skirt.

Step 3: I then cut out panels from my grey fabic. I got to choose the shape for these. The length should obviously correspond with the length you want the skirt but the wider it is the more the skirt will flare out. I decided on the smallest size of panel I could get away with to join the pieces of my shirt. I made them rectangular. I felt making a skirt from a shirt was a statement enough, without it flaring all over the place!

Step 4: I sewed the four panels together so that they looked like a big wide skirt. (I thought about attempting a drawing for this but hastily reconsidered…)

Step 5: I created a waist band and chose to sew on a frill, made out of the ‘fun’ piece of material above. This was mainly to ensure that I kept the pocket where I wanted it and to stop it sneaking into the waistband.

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The frill (suggested by the tutor) was a cute addition that I think creates a little interest. When I sewed on my frill, I added in my elastic to ensure that the top of the skirt hugged my waist.

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Voila!

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The finished article took me longer to make than the time that had been allocated in the class – I took it home and worked away on it until I was happy.

Pretty pleased with the end result, I modelled it for the children who found it hilarious that mummy was wearing daddy’s shirt as a skirt. Cute as this was, I couldn’t objectively tell whether my skirt actually looked fabulous, or if it did simply look like a shirt with the arms cut off (oh no!).  I therefore dressed it up and wore it to a family party – a safe environment.

I’m not saying that there weren’t jokes. I (stupidly!) complemented someone on their shirt and had to dodge accusations that I wanted to turn it into another skirt, and – my personal favourite – someone else requested that I make a show-stopping outfit for an upcoming school reunion, using the old school uniform! Ultimately my new skirt got the thumbs up though, so I will be happily teaming it with long boots and a polo neck this autumn and wearing it with pride!

*from my general reading around the subject of clothes waste, I believe it is likely that these would be likely to have been shipped abroad, plus it is possible that a proportion of it would have ended up in landfill

**please direct all requests for illustrative work to my agent.