After Zero Waste Week

Last week I posted every day in honour of Zero Waste Week, and I thought that today I’d write a little update of how the experience was for me.

I’ve come out of the other end of it all feeling rather more positive about a few things.

Blogging

I’ve been pretty disappointed that I’ve not done much blogging this year, despite the goals that I set myself early in 2016. I have to admit that I set the bar too high and, as a result, I’ve done far less writing that I’d have liked to. Zero Waste Week gave me a much needed kick up the arse – I might have let myself down, but I wasn’t going to go back on my commitment to be a blogging ambassador! It’s got me up and running again 🙂

Food waste

Well, obviously after writing five posts and setting myself daily goals last week, I had to face my food waste head on and…it wasn’t pretty! It’s true that I’m busy, and that I prioritise keeping my family healthy and happy – but really, I was failing to notice how much food we are wasting and actually, how much of the family income that must add up to. Last week was a wake-up call.

Diet

I aim to feed my family with healthy and nutritious food (another partially met goal from the start of 2016), but blogging last week made me aware of how often I cheat with convenience food – a few veggie sausages here, the odd Linda McCartney pie there. I don’t mind making conscious decisions to feed those things to the family every now and again, but I slip up more than I’d like.

Cooking

I mentioned this in my last post, but I no longer have a block about cooking. Yay! Sometimes I felt that it took too long or that I had no good recipes. I started full on cooking last week, and now I’ve got in to the habit of it, I’m rustling up dishes all the time, as well as chopping fruit for fruit salads, and chucking ingredients into the bread maker. It’s just not so hard after all.

Other waste

I wouldn’t say I’ve fallen off the wagon in terms of rubbish but sometimes we throw a lot of packaging in the bin, and Zero Waste Week made me think about how that feels….

…not great. Something to take action on.

How was Zero Waste Week for you?

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Day 5: Zero Waste Week

Today is the final day of Zero Waste Week 2016, which has run from the 5-9 September. The theme is food waste.

My goal for the week was to reduce my food waste, carrying out small manageable tasks on a daily basis. This approach worked well for me, and I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve achieved. Although my food waste bin has more in it that an average week, that’s because I’ve spent energy sorting out my food storage, and have banished everything that was so out of date I could no longer use it.

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Here’s a peek in my food waste bin – yum!

I’ve managed to fill my freezer with lots of food – some of it cooked up with vegetables that were past their best and would, I fear, otherwise have found themselves destined for the compost.Having several portions of dinners ready to defrost is going to make it easier to meal plan, which in turn will assist me in reducing food waste.

A surprising side benefit of Zero Waste Week has been that it’s kick-started me with cooking – once I’ve whipped up a few batches of meals, I realise it’s no big deal and have been cooking more, even when there’s no almost-off food needing used up.

My biggest obstacle is disorganisation. I don’t prioritise food waste and planning normally and this has resulted in me buying more than we can eat and leaving food to go off.   I did however sort the fridge out and as you can see from the picture below, my cupboard has been organised.

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There’s even a shelf for the iron again

See yesterday’s post for the before picture.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading this week,and well done if you’ve saved anything from being wasted. Good luck to us all as we continue to try and defeat food waste!

Day 4: Zero Waste Week 2016

Every day this week so far I’ve been setting myself small tasks, as I take part in Zero Waste Week. The topic this year is food waste, and I’m determined to both reduce my food waste and establish some good habits that will ensure I chuck less rotten food out in future.

Yesterday’s tasks were to:

  1. Make a vegetarian goulash – serving the dual purpose of following my meal plan, as well as using up some elderly peppers, tomatoes and courgettes that I found in the fridge a few days ago; and
  2. Sort out half of the shelves in my big food cupboard.

I started with the goulash.

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It was totally satisfying to chop up the rescued veg and, before long, I had a vat of delicious loveliness bubbling on the cooker. That was yesterday’s dinner sorted – and with several extra portions ready for the freezer. Perfect.

Very much in the mood for my next task, I threw open the cupboard door and started hauling things out. Here’s the before picture.

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I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting this to be such a big job. In my head, I believed that I’d cleared the cupboard quite recently, but the best before dates on some of my jars and tins suggested otherwise. My last declutter must have been over a year ago.

I quickly abandoned the idea of tidying out half of the shelves in one sitting. The whole cupboard would need cleared out as any signs of order were gone. Chuck today, tidy tomorrow, I decided. There were tins on every shelf, cereal packets all over the place, and bags of crisps nestling in random nooks and crannies…you’ve literally got the picture.

I grabbed the bin, a food waste bag and made a pile for recycling and they all started filling up pretty fast.

Some of my big issues were that:

  • We had several duplicate ingredients – cooking chocolate, oatcakes, coffee (which no one in the house actually drinks!), crisps (flavours that no one likes), cake sprinkles, spices…
  • We are the (not very) proud owners of some items that we rarely use such as cinnamon sticks, tiny marshmallows and a jar of value syrup – purchased by the other half for a ‘science experiment’ done with the kids one Sunday morning.
  • There were large open packets of things like tea bags and salt that regularly need decanted into smaller caddies, as well as things like bin bags that should be kept under the sink.
  • Items such as sugar, a variety of flours were sitting in tupperwears often abandoned and past their best before dates.

Basically the main issue was a lack of organisation. Based on the evidence we clearly purchase duplicates by accident a lot. We fail to empty large packets into their smaller caddies for everyday use, and we keep things in the wrong places. This causes clutter and leaves things to go past their dates. By storing different items in similar looking tubs (although they are all labelled and dated), we end up rummaging chaotically, and missing what we need.

The solutions are pretty obvious – kill the clutter and make sure we can find what we need quickly. If we buy unusual ingredients, we need to have a plan for using them up immediately and not letting them squat in our cupboards until they’ve gone soft and furry.Ban science experiments that lead to food waste.

Today’s task will be to perfect the cupboard – organise the shelves and wash down the woodwork. Hopefully it’ll be good enough to post an ‘after’ photo on the blog tomorrow! I’d better get to it.

Day 3: Zero Waste Week 2016

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Phew, is it really already Day 3 of Zero Waste Week? I’m finding that I’m focussing much more than usual on what I’m feeding the family and, of course, what I’m managing to use up from my cupboards and fridge. I’m slowly being reminded that reducing food waste is a lifestyle change, rather than a burst of effort then reverting to old habits. I’m still somewhat resisting the effort involved, but I’m getting the hint already that time spent organising has both time and monetary rewards…

The challenge I set myself yesterday was to come up with a meal plan for the week. As I documented, I’m not keen on meal planning – I find it soooo booooring.

Was I missing something though? I took to the internet to see if I could pick up some tips and here’s some that I especially liked:

Don’t keep the fridge full to bursting, but do have lots of basic ingredients in the cupboards

This one really appeals to me (especially after chucking out lots of wasted mush from the fridge on Monday). My newly cleared out fridge is much easier to navigate, and there’s less chance of me missing the items I actually want to use. I also have food cupboards that are bursting at the seams, and crying out to be organised – perhaps they are full of those magical basic ingredients?

Chose a shopping day and make a list

Dashing to the shops frequently is a major bugbear of mine. During the school holidays we were there a lot which was okay as the kids have Heelys. They were always up for a bit of zooming down the aisles, but now it’s just me on my non-wheeled shoes and, frankly, I have better things to be doing. If I could get away with three trips a week, I’d be happy. If I plan my meals, I can maybe just plan my shopping trips.

Ask the family what they like

Genius! This was something I did at the start of the year with my own family when I was trying to work out how many family meals I had in my repertoire. The only problem is, I added what I like and what my other half likes to that list, and eight months later, I can’t remember who likes what any more.

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My ‘back of a fag packet’ list from the start of 2016

 

To confuse matters further, I’m noticing the kids’ tastes are changing. Back to the drawing board…

Keep a meal journal and remind yourself of past dishes

This is another great idea that I have also tried. I religiously filled in a little diary for ages at the start of the year which helped me make sure I was giving the family a good variety of dishes. I also found it really useful for jogging my memory when I was uninspired. I’ll dig it out.

Use an app

Ooohhh! Modern! I am a dinosaur when it comes to technology. Shamefully, I let my IT whizz of a partner deal with all the gadgety things in our home, I enjoy the tools he provides me with, then cry pathetically for help when my internet connection fails. I won’t be sorting that out any time soon I fear, but perhaps he might download me an app?

 

With all of these pearls of wisdom to hand, I set to work on a meal plan for dinners for yesterday and the following seven days:

Day 1 : vegetarian haggis, neeps and tatties

This was a request from my eldest who complained that we haven’t had it for ages because dad’s gone off it. Fair point – I make them shovel down dishes they don’t like, so dad got to grin and bear it for last night’s dinner. Plus it was quick and easy to prepare (I should’ve asked for that meal planning app before I serve up though!)

Day 2: Goulash with rice and fresh wholemeal bread

This uses up the peppers, cherry tomatoes and courgettes I discovered in the fridge. I’ve also now replaced the out of date wholemeal bread flour I found on Monday so we’re good to go. I’ll make extra portions so that there’s some to slam in the freezer.

Day 3: Lentil bolognaise with pasta

This is quick, easy and nutritious. I used to feed this to the family so often that we all went from loving it to hating it, but we’ve not had it in over two years so this dish is making a comeback!

Day 4: Baked potatoes

Everyone loves these in my family. The kids both have classes just before dinner so I’ll half bake the potatoes and leave them in the (switched off but warm) oven to finish off while we’re out. There’ll be very few dishes to wash up which is perfect because I’m off out in the evening 🙂

Day 5: Macaroni cheese

This is another dish that we avoid because my other half doesn’t like it, but he’s out on Friday so it’s back on the menu for us. Quick, easy and can be whipped up from those basic ingredients I always have in the house.

Day 6: Homemade pizza

Somehow pizza’s become a tradition at the weekend. I’ll make some dough in the breadmaker and take a frozen tomato sauce out of the freezer – I have lots of this for emergency meals. The toping can be whatever needs used up from the fridge.

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Here’s one I made before

 

Day 7: Chickpea Stew

I found some chickpeas in the cupboard and this is another quick, nutritious meal that can be frozen. (Just don’t tell the kids there are chilli’s in it…)

I actually found planning the week’s meals surprisingly easy and was taken aback at how little the ingredients will cost me. Our shopping bills are definitely on the high side so this raises the question…what are we actually buying at the supermarket??

Today’s tasks will be to sort out half of the shelves in my big food cupboard, and of course to make tonight’s goulash. I’m off to read some of the other Zero Waste Week blogs now !

Day 2: Zero Waste Week 2016

How is Zero Waste Week going for you?

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Yesterday, I set myself two small challenges to put me on the path towards becoming a Zero Hero. I was going to:

  1. cook the family dinner (from scratch) and freeze the leftovers, and
  2. clear and clean my fridge.

Those small challenges ended up taking me a while, but it was worth it as I now have three meals for four in the freezer (twelve portions!!), and a sparkling fridge.

When I decided to cook, I was just going to make double portions of the vegetable curry I’d decided on but, when inspecting the veg I’d bought for the recipe, I realised I had more than I needed – and it had already passed its best before date by a few days! I’m not a natural cook, but I took a deep breath and adapted the recipe. Basically I just chopped and chucked in all the vegetables I wanted to use up and added a bit more of the other ingredients to keep the proportions of the dish correct. An hour later, I had a huge pot of curry. I was delighted.

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Normally I would serve curry with naan bread, but I didn’t have any so decided to make a loaf in the breadmaker instead. To my dismay my wholemeal bread flour was past its date (definitely time for a cupboard clear out, I noted!) so I set the breadmaker for a plain white loaf instead. By the time dinner came around, the smell of the fresh bread permeated the whole house and the kids were desperate to get stuck in, forgetting that they are not curry fans…

I left cleaning the fridge until the evening. I’ll admit that I didn’t think this would be too big a job as I had a clear out recently. I must have cut a few corners the last time though because there were some horrible things in there. I am way too embarrassed to have taken any photos (who wants to see mouldy food anyway??) but there was a cucumber that had self-liquidised and leaked, a garlic that was going the same way – staining a shelf in the process, and some jam that had got stuck to the back wall with ice and had some floaty things in it. Urgh!

I also discovered a glut of peppers and cherry tomatoes. Some were still nice and fresh so I chopped these up and popped them into the kids’ packed lunches this morning, while others are good enough to hide in a tomato sauce or a goulash. I’ll also throw in the three courgettes I found. They look like they were bought for a reason – I just can’t remember what it was…

I feel great about yesterday’s achievements. It’s lovely being able to look into the fridge and see what I have at a glance. What can I do though to break my usual cycle of over-buying, throwing out horrible food and feeling guilty?

The answer came from KathrynH of secondhandtales who yesterday posted a comment under my post asking:

Have you got a meal plan for the week?

My heart sank a little, as of course she was right but….I hate meal planning!! It involves tying myself down, thinking really hard about cooking and food shopping (not my favourite daydreaming topics),then following the plan through all week. All week!

I’ve decided thought that it’s eminently sensible. I’m no domestic goddess and the safest way for me to break my bad habits is to write a fail-safe action plan. I even have some home cooked meals in the freezer so this week doesn’t need to be too hard.

My task for today is therefore to come up with a week’s realistic meal plan. I’m already sitting down thinking and writing about food so perhaps in another fifteen minutes, I can take my next small step towards breaking my bad food waste habits. I’ll report back tomorrow!

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

Fabric heart for Zero Waste Week

How’s Zero Waste Week going for you?

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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.