Pockets pockets pockets.

So I have a few sewing projects on the go. Something fun/creepy, something for charity, and around a million clothing modifications. We did a big clothing clear-out, getting rid of things that I don’t wear or that don’t fit quite right now my hips and bust have expanded. I found a few clothes I wanted to give away… but just because of one tiny flaw. So I decided instead to hold a few back and modify them so that they suited me perfectly. And one of the mods I’m doing is: pockets.

We all know the struggle of not having functional pockets on dresses, skirts, etc. There are even online clothing stores which stock nothing but clothes with pockets. And some of my favourite clothes don’t have them.

Fair enough, I’m not sure I could pull off pockets on a bodycon dress. So that one will have to stay intact unless I get super creative. But my wrap dress, 3 A-line skirts, fitted denim skirt, and summer dress? They’ll be getting the pocket treatment. I’ll put up pics and tutorials as I go, and we can see how well it all works out.

What’s a modification you’ve made, or would love to make, to your clothes?

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How Jon’s bag turned out.

Some of you may recall a bag I made for myself a while back.

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Well, it was Jon’s turn this time. I made him a “camping, festivals and outings bag” for his last festival work, before I resumed making the nappy bag for the baby.

Like my one, it’s 99% from scratch, including things like the zippers and the eyelets on the straps. Only things I didn’t make: the leather belts, the metal bits.

It has:

  • fairly flat colours and mostly stainproof, other than the lining
  • leather and denim features
  • solid belt-style straps
  • a drawstring close
  • a fold-over water-resistant top
  • shoulders shaped to his back with wire and padded for comfort
  • a large main section
  • a water-resistant inner pocket
  • two huge zippered side pockets
  • two huge open side pockets
  • a small sweets pocket at the front
  • ties for attaching loose items like shoes and coats
  • two hooks for clipping on headphones and other items

I think I did quite well.

Front view.

Front view.

Side view.

Side view.

Side view.

The straps.

The straps.

How the straps sit.

How the straps sit.

Fully loaded, side view.

Fully loaded, side view.

Fully loaded, on back.

Fully loaded, on back.

Yeah, we both kind of like the anime look. 😛

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

5 Things You Can Make For A Baby.

I know, it’s been forever since I posted regularly. But there’s been a wedding, a load of jam to make and far too much baby stuff to catch up on. Should be back to blogging now though!

Anyways, here are five things I plan on making for our baby. None are truly bare essentials as in I could buy them at a store or DIY them some other way. But sewing saves money, reduces stress and keeps me from buying every cute thing I see. So if you’re going through the same acquisition urges, here are five things you can make, rather than buy, to save some money and spare your sanity.

1: A nappy bag.

Retail price: From the stats used in my WIP “Baby Budget Diary” book, the average nappy bag costs £50.

Materials cost: Nothing so far! I had almost everything I am using from ages ago and I am repurposing a lot of freebies.

I know I don’t need to make one. A sports bag can be grabbed for a couple of £ and the gods know it’s simpler. But every single penny I can save is a lifesaver when it comes to this new budget book project, and, to be honest, I kind of want a cute, personal nappy bag.

2: Sleep sacks.

Retail price: £20 a piece, total £120 for the first year. I’m gonna faint.

Materials cost: £3.50, and only that high because Jon and I fell in love with this Doctor Who print sheet fabric. Is Doctor Who gender-neutral? Yes, it is. Shhh…

If you want your Winter baby to be as warm as possible and sleep safely blanket-free, you will need sleep sacks. We actually bought a second hand one for £1.50, but usually they cost over £5 even second hand, and I’d rather make some nice, personal, robust ones that can be used by the babies to come.

3: Flannel wipes.

Retail price: From my Baby Budget Diary statistics, a year of disposable wipes costs £310.70 on average.

Materials cost: £0. Free felt and fleece!

Well worth making, for many reasons. Firstly, you have to use cotton and warm water on a baby anyway for the first few months. Secondly, it’s £310.70. Thirdly, all you need is to cut nice big squares of plush fabric, big enough to cover your hand, and probably around 50 of them. You can make them pretty as well and hem them, but the basic is cutting. I will likely be done in an afternoon when I sit down to do this. Couple of days if I decide to sew. Might even drag out the sewing machine!

4: Bibs and burp cloths.

Retail price: According to my Baby Budget Diary stats, £15 average for the first year.

Materials cost: £5 for the bits I’ll use.

I actually spent £20 total on all the fabric I bought this last month. But not all of it is for bibs and rags. Not all of it is even for the baby! Around £5 will go into bibs and rags. So it’s not cheap. But they’re easy to make. Great if you need stress relief. Probably not worth it if you don’t like sewing.

5: Stuffed toys.

Retail price: The average baby’s first Christmas costs £272. Assuming an even four way split between stuffed toys, rattles and travel toys, books and educational tech, that’s £68 on stuffed toys for year one.

Materials cost: Will probably use around £10 worth of fabric at the most.

Stuffed toys are awesome to make. They can be super-cute, you know they’re safe, they are completely personal to your child, you know how to fix them when they break… just win, win, win!

So there you have it, five things I will be making for my baby. I will try and make travel pillows, lactation pads and swaddling blankets as well, but they’re not quite as exciting to talk about.

What things do you like making for babies and kids in the family?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

How To… make any jam.

This post is part of the Nutritional Health Series, check the tag for the other posts!

Jam is a great way to make use of large amounts of fruit or slightly damaged or defrosted fruit. Many people don’t think they have the time for jam, but really, it’s fast, simple and will save you a lot of money on wasted fruit and buying jams!

1: The basics.

Jams come in three distinct forms. A jelly, made from only the juice. A jam, made from crushed fruit and juice. And a compote, a jelly with whole fruit preserved in it. They are all made largely from fruit and sugar, but sometimes use gelling agents like pectin or gelatine to help them along.

2: Fruit.

You need fruit for a jam or jelly. At least 500g or 1lb of fruit is needed to make a large portion of jam, but with the microwave method you can make smaller batches! Fruit juice is also an option.

In some jams, like marmalade, you use the rinds of the fruit as well as the flesh and juice.

3: Sugar.

The most efficient sugars for jam are crystal sugars, like white sugar, demarera sugar or brown cane sugar. But soft sugars like honey, palm sugar or maple syrup can work too, with a bit more patience.

The perfect ratio for jam is between 50/50 and 1/3 sugar to 2/3 fruit.

4: Gelling.

If you’re really not sure your jam will set, consider using a gelling agent.

  • Pectin is a natural fruit gelling agent you can use to firm up a jam.
  • Gelatine comes from animal bones and collagen, but may make your jam too solid.
  • Packaged jelly is easier to use for a bit of flavoured firmness.
  • Agar is a seaweed product that is used instead of gelatine in veg*n dishes.

5: In a pot.

The traditional way. You put your fruit in a pot and simmer until it begins to break down and release fluids. Then you add the sugar slowly, stirring the whole time. Reduce the jam and let it cool.

6: Microwave.

Small batches of jam can be made in the microwave. Just crush the fruit and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl, cook for a minute at a time and stir in between until it becomes viscous.

7: Raw.

If you combine gelatinous fruit, like bananas, persimmons or lychee, with your sweet fruit and sugar of choice, you can make a tasty raw jam. Just blend 1/3 gelatinous fruit with 1/3 fruit pulp (mash the sweet fruit and squeeze the juice out) and 1/3 your sugar of choice. A viscous sugar like palm sugar, maple syrup or honey works best.

8: Jars.

Traditional jams can be preserved in a jar. Be sure to soak the jar in boiling water first and fill and seal it while it’s still hot. If you have a canning station, this may be the best option, but otherwise hot jam into a hot jar and seal works fine. My jams last a whole year like this without going off.

9: Fridge.

Microwave and raw jams are best kept more aerated in a bowl with a lid in the fridge. They keep 5-10 days, less if less sugar is involved.

And that’s how to make any jam you fancy. Almost all fruits can be jammed, but gelatinous fruits, apples, pears and berries will jam easier due to their high pectin content!

What’s your favourite jam or preserve?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… make sewing easier.

Sewing is great fun and I love making things using any craft technique I can learn. But I don’t have the most time in the world to pursue crafts. So here is how I power through small sewing projects quickly and efficiently.

1: Use patterns.

Whether it’s a pattern you download, one you ripped from an old clothing item or one you drew up yourself, starting with a pattern kills so much of the guesswork. You can just get started.

2: Improvise.

That said, a bit of improvisation can save you where a pattern falls short or doesn’t quite work. Give yourself a bit of flexibility.

3: Tapestry thread.

Using a strong thread, one that you can’t easily break with your bare hands, will result in a stronger stitch and a more robust item. You can even use fewer stitches when using a stronger thread.

4: Button hoops.

Sewing button holes is one of my pet peeves. For such a tiny space, so much tends to go wrong. Frayed ends, too big, too small and the stitching takes forever. Instead, make little fabric strips into hoops for buttons. More easily adjustable, faster to make and to mend.

5: Iron-on tape.

For hems, try using iron-on tape, a sort of meltable plastic strip that you put between two sides of a garment, then iron down. It gives you a great result that you can touch up or adjust as you please.

6: Fabric glue and paints.

This can look a bit tacky if you aren’t careful, so practise on scrap fabric and small projects, but fabric glue and fabric paints make for fun decorating a bit faster than usual sewing.

And that’s how I save a bit of time when I’m sewing something, to make sure I actually get it done before the year’s out. :p

What tips and tricks do more experienced seamstresses and tailors have to share on the matter?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

We’re All Collectors.

I’m not exactly a massive fan of junk, clutter or collections. But I also have a deep, personal struggle with some hoarding habits. I went through a few events in my childhood where beloved items were placed in storage only to be forgotten, damaged or stolen. And when you’re being uprooted again and again, however much you enjoy it, you can grow attached to things that go with you. I also find that when you’re frugal you cling onto things because you realize the value there is in reusing everything you own. Water bottles are good for mixing and transporting drinks. Egg boxes are good planters, newspaper can be formed into fire blocks…

So I spend a lot of my life sorting, organizing and getting rid of junk. And an equal amount of time gathering more junk, because I saw something on Pinterest or because planting season is coming up.

Which is where I’ve been finding out the importance of libraries. Most people think only of conventional libraries, but there are, in reality, all sorts of libraries. You can have a video library, a seed library or a pattern library, for example.

And if we’re going to keep some amount of clutter in our lives, we may as well categorize it. I keep my craft materials on some shelves, sorted by type. Some piles of fabric, some sewing boxes, some assorted material samples and some furs and animal bones. Everything I need to craft things when the urge arises. I have a specific shelf for current projects, so when the urge arises I can just leave new materials on it. If I don’t finish the project I will just get rid of the materials.

Keeping your collections in an organized library does three things.

Firstly, it contains your work. Never take out two projects at once, always put materials back and sort everything you finish.

Secondly, it reduces waste. You don’t end up throwing away a few things every time you tidy the house.

Finally, it limits your collection. Once your library is full, you need to focus on quality and can stop yourself from becoming a hoarder.

Because we all collect things, so we may as well not drive ourselves or anyone else crazy doing it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… mend socks.

Mending socks was a common practice until recently. Simply, the tools for mending and the few minute spent working were costing far less than a new pair of socks, especially in the days when you had to knit new socks yourself.

Now it’s very cheap to replace socks, but I find that certain skills shouldn’t die just because they aren’t needed every day. Maybe your son chews his way through so many football socks that you’re starting to spend a small fortune on them. Maybe you have a pair of favourite socks you want to keep forever. Maybe you just want to stretch another few days or weeks of life out of a pair. However it is, learning to mend socks can prove valuable one day.

1: Ball.

To properly mend a sock you will need a ball to use to replicate the stretching cause by a foot. For adults, tennis balls and boules balls work well, for children baseballs and marble eggs and for young children pingpong and bouncing balls. You want to drop the ball to the heel of the sock or where the ball of the foot rests whenever you are mending an area near these spots.

2: Stitches.

When there is just a small tear or hole in a sock, try stitching it. Pick a fine wool in the sock’s colour, get a wide-eyed needle and turn the sock inside out. Carefully stitch the two sides together without leaving much of a hem, as you don’t want the sock to be itchy. Then turn the sock around to make sure the stitching is solid.

3: Darning.

When some layers of sock, usually at the heel and ball of the foot, have worn clear through you will need to darn them. When darning always put the weight of your ball very near or right in the spot you are mending. Get a fine wool in the sock’s colour and a wide-eyed needle. You want the sock the right way round Place the ball and make your first safety stitch, so the wool doesn’t loosen. Then sew some bars across the hole. After that, either vertically weave another row of bars between the horizontal ones or weave some bars diagonally both ways between the horizontal ones.

If you want to match the texture of the sock, observe this video:

4: Patches.

Finally, when someone routinely wears out a certain spot of their socks, you mat want to consider putting patches in them. A felt patch inside the area or a tarp or canvas patch outside it will reinforce it, hide unsightly wear and make the sock last much longer.

And that is how to mend socks.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What clothing items do you always try and mend? What ones do you wish you knew how to mend?