DIY Comfy Jeans Hack!

I just had to share this amazing video I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG0YssaRzls OK, so it’s for maternity jeans, but it will actually turn any uncomfortably tight jeans into a wonderfully comfy pair, with a soft, roll-down waistband. A waistband that can expand and contract with you! All you need is the offending jeans and an old top.

You just cut off the waistband and belt loops of your old jeans and the shoulders/ arms off your top. Then join the two together – et voila! I found it a nightmare to try and unpick the belt loops, so I did cut them off which left small holes. I just darned mine, but you could also just cut an extra centimetre or two off the waist so that you don’t need to worry.

I just made a pair with some jeans I was going to give to the charity shop because they weren’t a great fit, with a really low waistband and a slightly worn vest top which was too tight under the arms. So, these are basically free, new trousers and it only took me about 30 minutes from start to finish!

Ta da!

 

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Things that have gone – 14

Well, I managed to get rid of some more items! Despite thinking that I wouldn’t. I filled another bag for charity – I finished reading a couple of books that had no trade in value. Likewise we watched a DVD that was worth 1p to trade-in, so better to let a charity take it. I had a picture frame that I’d been holding onto for 20 years +, planning to frame a tapestry I completed as a child. I gave away the mounts last week, so it was time for the frame to go. I didn’t even like it! It was dark wood and ugly.

I also traded in a corduroy shirt that was a bad buy from a charity shop because it was a colour I’d never wear, with ridiculous cuffs. I’ll put that one down to experience. Finally, I found some polystyrene Christmas trees I’d been intending to turn into Christmas decorations, by covering them in sequins. Well, I completed 1 and it took so long, I never got down to the rest. Almost 2 years later, I was ready to accept that I wasn’t going to complete the rest.

I also took 3 DVDs to CEX and traded them in, one was a box set. So that’s cleared some space under the TV. Then, I traded in 2 books I’d finished reading and netted myself just over £6 for them. Not bad when I only paid £1.75 for them in a charity shop! The minimising continues…

Things that have gone this week – 4

Welcome to my weekly update of things that have found new homes. I try to keep a flow of items in and out of my home and I am currently massively trying to downsize my wardrobe. This week, 6 items have found new homes and they are all in the category of clothing, shoes and accessories- hooray! I’m sorry about the rubbish quality of the photos, I still haven’t discovered how to pull my higher quality images from eBay. Altogether, I’ve managed to put £60 back in my bank account by selling these- so averaging £10 per item – not bad considering 4 of these were purchased second-hand for much less!

  1. Red wide elastic belt
  2. Vintage denim Laura Ashley Maxi dress
  3. Vintage Topshop Fishtail Denim Skirt
  4. Laura Ashley Boucle Tweed Jacket
  5. Dorothy Perkins Butterfly Print Maxi Dress
  6. Vintage Ravel Red Court Shoes- BNWT

Stay tuned to see what I manage to get rid of, over the next week! Chow for now and Happy Easter everyone! 🙂

When Britain was Zero Waste

Having studied Home Economics in the distant past and always being fascinated by social history, I love stumbling over relevant articles on the internet. I’m also a big fan of the BBC series ‘Call the Midwife’. Apparently some have accused the BBC of presenting a sanitised version of poverty in the 1950s. However, if you search for photographs from the era you will see that they are portraying history accurately.

You see in days gone by, people did not produce much rubbish. They did not buy packaged goods, they shopped every day and only bought what they needed for the next day or so. They did not have the means to keep food fresh for longer, there were no refrigerators or freezers in general use. They also used everything up until it disintegrated – if you look at figures from the period, you will notice that they practically never threw textiles away. What a contrast to today!

Consequently, the streets were clean too. Those were the days when there was a sense of local and national pride. People cared about where they lived and everybody knew you, so you would not dare to drop litter for fear of the local bobby catching you or your class teacher!

Let’s think about it for a second….

  • Milk was delivered in churns and poured into jugs, or once milk bottles arrived – these were returned to be washed and used again. The only waste being the foil tops which were recycled.
  • Fruit & vegetable scraps were composted, along with eggshells and tea leaves
  • Soot from the fire was dug into the ground as fertiliser
  • Groceries were bought unpackaged for the large part and paper bags could be burnt on the fire
  • Cooked food leftovers were probably forced upon family members (i.e. you must eat everything on your plate or children will starve in Africa!) Or fed to pets.
  • Clothing was worn until it wore out and even then, useful fabric was cut out for re-use
  • Newspapers were reincarnated as toilet paper or fire starters
  • There were no luxury appliances needing to go to landfill and I’m pretty sure people kept their mattress for a lifetime. They recovered and repaired their chairs.
  • Anything else was sold to the rag and bone man who called at the door
  • Other hawkers were common visitors to the door – people to sharpen knives, repair china, patch pots and pans and more.

As our waste has increased, people have moved from using biscuit tins for waste in the 1900s, to medium sized metal bins in the 1950s and on to the larger plastic bins we use today, in the 1960s. In fact, did you know the name ‘dust bin’ was derived from the fact that these bins contained mostly dust or ash from fireplaces?

A Short History of the Second-Hand Clothes Market

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love to shop second-hand, be it charity shops, jumble sales, car boots, eBay or anything else! During the many years I have been a part of the second-hand market, I have built a working knowledge of the value of items and particularly those which are sought after (hint: it tends to be the good brand names, as people know those are quality items). I also have been able to develop my love of vintage style, as I find genuine vintage items in the charity shops. One of my great loves is vintage Laura Ashley garments and I hope to be able to share a little more of that on my blog soon. I recently discovered a book published by Laura Ashley in 1983 and it’s a really fascinating read. It’s called Fabric of Society – A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870 by Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt. You can pick up a hardback 1st edition for 1p, plus P&P on Amazon so it’s a real bargain!

I was very interested to come across this information about the history of the second-hand clothes market. As still is the case nowadays, second-hand clothing provides a way for poor (and financially savvy) people to buy the essentials. Then, as much as now, people were often too busy to sew or make their own garments. The Primarks of the day were known as ‘slop’ shops! I’m not sure if that’s where we get the word sloppy from. But just as today, the quality was poor and the garments did not last. The savvy people knew to buy second-hand, high quality garments that had come from the large houses. People who knew the market were very shrewd and able to judge which were the high-quality pieces. This meant if you were buying through a dealer, you’d pay a higher price than if you found the bargain yourself. Nothing changes eh?

Certain items of clothing were only worn by the gentry, such as dress coats and so, there was no second-hand market for these. They had to be turned into other garments, so they could be sold on. So, people either bought them and turned them into wool hats or caps, or traders did. These coats were also used to patch other garments. If a waistcoat began to wear, then it would be cut down into a smaller size or used to create cloth tops for boots. I think we could learn a thing or two from those days, don’t you?

Woollen garments which were so worn, they could no longer serve as clothing were sent for recycling. They would be ground down and mixed with new wool, into a fibre known as ‘shoddy’. I wonder if that’s where we get that word from also? This fibre was used to make cheap, mass-produced clothing. They didn’t waste anything and the dust from the mills, was used as manure on the hop-fields of Kent. This of course is safe with natural fibres, unlike the plastic micro-fibres that are clogging up our oceans today because we like to wear micro-fleece garments.

Old boots and shoes were patched up with anything they had to hand, even cardboard! Although that can’t have been great for anyone concerned, as it’s hardly durable or waterproof. Then they would be blackened to look good as new, if only temporarily. For this reason, people who worked outdoors often purchased new boots, even if they had to save up for them because they knew that quality footwear was essential to do their jobs safely and well!

In the 1700s and 1800s, women’s dress was less subject to change and this was because they knew how to sew! They would carry out any alterations themselves if fashions changed, or either repairing garments or cutting them down into child-sized ones. They would also tend to sell garments on themselves, after cleaning them. Old silk garments were used to line new clothing, or work boxes or dressing cases. They could also be turned into childrens or even dolls clothes!

Wool and cotton were recycled into shoddy thread and linen rags went to paper mills, but silk was not salvageable once damaged or worn. Cotton gowns were the most popular as they stood the test of time well and could be cleaned. Woollen dresses were less popular, as they did not last so well- probably prone to bobbling. Then of course, there were the furs. Any second-hand furs were mostly sold to prostitutes, as most people could not afford them – even second-hand! So much of this bears true today, if you buy a quality cotton garment it will be very long-lasting, as opposed to cheaper man-made fibres. I suspect that wool is more long-lasting today, as we know to hand wash it to keep it looking good.

The items that were most worn, such as trousers obviously tended to wear out and that’s why we don’t see many of these types of items, or working-class items at all in museums today because people actually wore their clothes out in those days. That really is a testament to the thriftiness and historic success of ‘the rag trade’, which really abhorred waste. A story that really is so relevant today!

Modern Life is Rubbish!

This equally wonderful and appalling article has appeared in today’s Guardian newspaper. I hope it raises awareness of why I am pursuing both a Minimalist and Zero Waste lifestyle. I was appalled to read that 72% of all the plastic we send to be recycled is never recovered. 40% is sent to landfill anyway and 32% leaks out of the collection system. Those shocking statistics have led me to re-evaluate my habits again. A few months ago, I told myself that we couldn’t afford to have a milkman as it costs about 3x as much as buying 4 pints for £1 at the supermarket, in a plastic bottle. But after realising the truth of the situation, the truth is we can’t afford not to!

I don’t want to be responsible for my family, or anyone else on this planet eating food contaminated with toxins from plastic. I admit that putting items into a blue (plastic!) recycling bin makes you feel more virtuous about your waste. I try so hard to buy things packaging free, but currently where I live – options are limited and I still have moments where I run out of something and end up having to buy fruit or vegetables wrapped in plastic. I vow to try harder.

On the up side, I refused a plastic bag from the fruit and veg seller at the market today. He was adamant I should take one, after my initial refusal on the basis that I had my own bags. So I said firmly, I don’t take plastic bags anymore and he accepted that! So my fruit and veg came home in my homemade, cloth drawstring bags. Small victories eh?

 

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.