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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The Garden Haul Comes In.

Interrupting the recipes for a quick update on the garden foods.

Well, we’re not quite there yet. Beans are not yet ripe, neither are tomatoes. Still got plenty of greens to harvest, as well as around 4/5 of the potatoes. The carrots and beets and turnips could do with another growth spurt too. But both in preparation for moving and because things ripen at different speeds, a load of stuff has already been coming in.

The raspberry bushes. Not actually “ours”. Wild-seeded.

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Raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrant jam prep.

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This year’s attempt at restocking the jam supplies. Got blackberry jam to make soon, then elderberry jam and apple sauce. Hopefully plum jams, but we don’t grow our own so that depends on overstock from neighbours.

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Just a little peek into the top of our bag of frozen blackberries. Pretty much every time I’ve gone out, I’ve been picking early blackberries and freezing them. The picture doesn’t show it well, but the bag has around 1.5-2L of blackberries in it. They will need rinsing from frozen, defrosting gently, adding to however many fresh ones I can gather as September advances, then stewing down for more jams!

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The very last batch of rhubarb. Probably going to be a tart, or maybe a sweet sauce for topping a flan. Now’s time to move the plant roots into pots, to move down to our new place, ready to plant out next Spring.

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Around 1/10 of the potatoes, because we ate half of this batch before I took a photo. Digging them up 1/5 at a time, starting with the shallow ones, to prevent parasites and rot from getting them first. They’re possibly the starchiest potatoes I have ever had. 😀

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And finally some of the greens we are growing. No pesticides, so a bit nibbled, but fine to eat.

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Here are some fresh greens, early beans and herbs being prepped for a stew.

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In short, the garden is serving us well this year.

Sadly my pea plants were not as robust as the beans, though, and produced only a handful of pods before succumbing to the sun during my week of absence. There’s always next year, though!

 

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 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.

10 Things That Grow In Clay And Frost.

If you’re anything like me, you love to DIY as much as possible.

Which means that growing food in difficult soil winds us up continually.

Here are 10 things that survived clay soil and frosty winters year after year here, making garden food easy to grow and maintain.

1: Potatoes.

Adored worldwide as a staple, potatoes survive almost anything. Normally by early Spring the leftovers of my Winter harvest has begun chitting (technical term here, no laughing!] and I can plant them out. But even when I didn’t my potatoes reseeded themselves from the tiny spuds left behind last year.

Literally any time a potato grows shoots, plant it out and see what happens.

Just don’t plant out chitting potatoes straight into frost. Plant out clean ones early, green ones later. The shoots can be devoured by frost and you will waste good potatoes.

2: Woody berries.

Woody berry bushes like blackberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries all do great in our soil and even through frosts. They thrive in hedge areas.

3: Parsnips.

Our parsnips reseed themselves every year, although I will often let a single ‘snip become fully mature and harvest all the seeds to keep over Winter, to minimize crop loss. They do great and are actually tastier once the first Winter frost has nibbled them.

4: Brassicas.

Not great at reseeding themselves in our soil, but they are persistent. Still got three broccoli bushes from two years ago. They have never floured, so I never picked them, but I gather the leaves in Winter and they dutifully regrow in Spring.

5: Marjoram.

Cut back and dry out your marjoram over Winter, leave it alone over Spring and Summer to regrow. It’s a beautiful, fragrant herb that does well pretty much anywhere.

6: Strawberries.

I always thought strawberries were fickle plants that keeled over and died at nothing at all. Apparently only the leaves are. I planted our strawbs out where they can be guarded by weeds and parsnips and they are thriving. They just need a bit of foliage around them to help retain enough water, a wall against late frosts and a little sunshine and they produce berries even in the harshest soil.

7: Mint.

Mint grows everywhere and will dominate your whole garden.

8: Rhubarb.

Rhubarb is not at all hard to grow. Just make sure the roots don’t get choked by grass or weeds as they get established, pull the stems out instead of cutting them and clear up after Autumn is over. They will grow back.

9: Chives.

A little like mint, established chives will regrow year after year without a problem and slowly creep across your garden.

10: Raddishes.

Never had bad luck with raddishes anywhere. Sometimes not had particularly good luck and this soil is awful for them compared to milder, softer soils. But they still grow here. Sow them out, wait, and they will rise up for you to eat all through Summer and Autumn. They don’t really reseed, though, as we eat them before they flower.

And those are 10 plants that survive our garden. What troubles does your garden have? Got any gardening staples?

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.

Being All You Can Be. Part IV: Self-Sufficiency.

In Part II I outlined how there are three pillars to being all you can be: finance, self-sufficiency and enjoyment.  And all of them are crucial to being a well-rounded person.

Part III addressed how finance is important to being all you can be, and a few ways of contributing financially.

But where you cannot afford a service or product, where your financing abilities fall short, you needn’t go without. After all, if you need to, you can do almost anything yourself. Here are some self-sufficiency skills which will save you money on projects you may not be able to realistically outsource.

  1. Grow your own. If you can grow the food you eat, you eat better and save money. Consider getting herbs and a bonsaid lemon tree for the kitchen; tomatoes, courgettes, oranges, strawberries and raddishes on balconies; carrots, potatoes, rhubarb, berries and cabbages in small gardens, and fruit trees and various crops in bigger gardens.
  2. Cooking, cleaning, laundry. Outsourcing these, even in the form of buying prepared meals, hiring a carpet cleaner or getting ironing done at the dry-cleaner, is expensive in the long term. Cut costs by looking after your hosue from scratch yourself.
  3. Basic plumbing and electrics. Plumbers and electricians cost an awful lot. Which is fine for big jobs, after all we don’t want a flood, death by electrocution or both. But when it comes to changing light switches and cleaning u-bends, we should be masters at looking after our house’s workings.
  4. Woodwork. Anything from mending a shelf to making your own pagoda, the more woodwork you can do the better your house can look for less.
  5. Feminine arts. As with woodwork, repeated again. The more you can make and mend on your own using sewing, knitting, crochet, darning and weaving, the less you need to buy to look and feel great.
  6. Literally anything. Think of things you spend on and ask yourself: can I do that? You may be surprised!

Next week we will look into enjoyment, the things we can do to make the most of all the time and money we free up with the previous two pillars.

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.

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!