The Best Laid Plans

Whenever I have to go out for the day, whether it’s for business or pleasure I plan to take a packed lunch with me. This is a crucial money-saving tactic, as you can easily spend £3.50 – £5.00 on lunch, even just a bog-standard sandwich! It’s easy to purchase an insulated lunch bag and a couple of mini ice packs, so you can store your lunch safely, regardless of whether you’re out and about or not. Another great tip is to take a thermos flask with you, so you can save another £3.50 or so on a hot drink. If you think you’re going to succumb to a sweet treat, mid-afternoon – then pack one! It’s far cheaper to buy a multi-pack of chocolate bars than it is to purchase them singly, either from a shop or a vending machine.

So I dutifully did all of the above and set out on my journey. Imagine my frustration and dismay when I arrived at my destination, to find I’d left the lot on the kitchen counter! The best laid plans and all that. So I ended up having to purchase items in a corner shop anyway! This was even more frustrating, as I had to break my own zero waste rules as you cannot buy anything ready-to-eat unpackaged here, except for fruit. I blame my forgetfulness on a phone call that I received just as I was picking all my belongings up to leave. That interruption cost me dearly, in every sense.

Still the other beauty of a packed lunch is you can always eat it later or the next day! Unfortunately my sandwich hadn’t remained cool, despite the cool pack I’d used – too many hours had passed, so I had to bin that.  However, everything else was ambient and I just had it for my tea instead!

Have you had any money-saving fails?

Sew Your Own Apron

I’ve been practising my sewing skills again. I’m quite chuffed with how these have turned out. I just cut around an apron I already owned, so no pattern was involved. Then I just copied how it was put together. These are very quick and easy, taking around 1 hour to make from start to finish. I used cotton fabric and bought cotton tape from the fabric shop for the ties. I have to say I’m in love with the teapot print fabric, I may just have to find an excuse to use it some more!

You just need to cut around your original apron, leaving an extra 3cm for the seams. Measure and cut out your pocket, again leaving 3 cm all around for seams. I ironed my seams and turned them over twice, attaching the tapes into the seam for strength. Make sure to turn over the ends of your tapes twice and stitch them, to stop them from fraying. Make sure you sew your side seams first, then your top and bottom hems. What a lovely gift these would make. I bought a metre of each fabric and I have loads left for other projects, so I’d estimate these cost around £2 each to make. They are so satisfying to make, there was no traipsing the shops for gifts and no-one was harmed in the making. What could be better than homemade?

Are you planning to make any gifts this Christmas?

Make Your Own Needle Case

If you’ve got a spare hour, you might like to try making a little needle case like this. It’s a great project for beginners and uses up fabric scraps. I needed a case to keep my sewing needles in. I used a 9cm square scrap of pink felt and cut double width rectangles of brushed cotton for the inside. I cut around one of the rabbits to make a little picture for the front and embroidered letters on with running stitch.

I’m not an expert, just learning and I think I should have used some embroidery thread or other cord to keep the edges straight and stop the fabric from buckling. However since this is just for me to use, it doesn’t really matter. I decided to pick a contrasting thread and used an edging stitch on my sewing machine to run a border around. This should stop the edges from fraying and help it to last longer. After this, I centred the brushed cotton rectangles and sewed them with normal, straight stitch in the middle. I used a zig-zag stitch to attach my picture, since my attempts to appliqué with my machine didn’t seem to be working. I think I need to a bit more practise- ha!

I stitched the word ‘NEEDLES’ by hand using running stitch, but going over each stitch 3x to give definition. To make the rounded parts of the letters, you just need to form a loop and catch it with an invisible, tiny stitch to keep them in place. This is a great way to aim for Zero Waste by using up fabric scraps and is something that will last many years.

Zero Waste, Recycled and Free Storage

We have recently reorganised our lounge and I needed somewhere to store my sheet music. I was going to go and buy some of those magazine storage files, since we rarely eat cereal we don’t have boxes that I could cut down. Besides, when I’ve tried that in the past – they were not heavyweight enough to cope. I was in a large supermarket recently looking for said storage options and they didn’t have any. Then I noticed that all of their products were being displayed in the ideal cardboard storage options. Exactly what I was looking to buy, except these were mine to take for free! I located a product of a similar size to my sheet music – A4 notebooks in this case and re-arranged their shelves for them a little 😉 There is no question that these would have gone straight into recycling and so I have saved that waste from occurring because I could use these in their current state.

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I’d like to say that I’ll be covering them – I could do something really clever with some old sheet music. But I know that it’s unlikely I’ll bother – they’re doing exactly what I need right now and for free!

Make it Yourself- Drawstring Bags

I’m currently learning to sew- I’ve been using a mix of online tutorials and attending a sewing course. This has been a really good combination for me, as there are just some things I need to be shown. From not being able to sew – I’ve been able to make a pin cushion, make 2 pairs of lined curtains, make a simple top, a simple maxi skirt and 2 lots of bunting. I’m seriously impressed with what I’ve been able to make and I absolutely love it. I wish I’d learned when I was at school, but I was scared of how technical sewing machines seemed and teachers never have enough time to give one-to-one attention to build up your confidence. I stuck to cooking which I had more experience with, but I am learning now – almost 20 years later!

I am currently making some seat cushions for our dining chairs and making a net curtain! I will put up some more posts showing my efforts soon. But for now, here are some pictures of some drawstring bags I’ve been making. I am not going to put a whole tutorial here because I simply search for what I want to make online. I don’t think I’m quite at that level….yet…. although I am inventing my own method to recover my chair cushions, so that will be mine to share with you here very soon! Always have a read through first and make sure the method is something you feel comfortable with. I rejected a few, until I found the simplest one I could!

I got my material for free from Freecycle and I always save any old bits of ribbon that I get, so I just re-purposed this for the drawstring. So these are basically free – you can’t get better than that. They take 20-30 minutes to knock-up and are useful for SO many different things. I actually made these from an old scarf – hence the fancy tassel detail which I couldn’t bear to cut off! My top tips are to fold one side of your fabric to save yourself any unnecessary sewing and to zig-zag your edges (if you don’t have an overlocker) for additional strength.

I use these types of bags a lot at my local greengrocer to bring home my zero waste fruit and veg. What sort of things have your sewn? Any for zero waste purposes?