Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Fixing tears in a curtain!

Long before I met my husband, he had a band of woman who ran around helping him to various domestic chores that he was (and probably still is) incapable of doing! One of his harem - the lovely Agnes- made him a set of curtains for the lounge (as an aside, she was the girlfriend of one of his friends and is now married with a swarm of kids to that same guy!). She did an amazing job. I thought they were professionally made! But after eleven or twelve years of hanging in the same spot, there were some tears appearing in the high stress area where they are pulled shut in the evenings. I looked at them every morning thinking something needed to be done about it as a shaft of sunlight streamed through the gap and onto the ceiling.

It was that whole "a stitch in time saves nine" probverb coming to life right before my very eyes...

Finally - with the sewing machine already set up and the (almost) right coloured threads in it, I got the husband to take the curtains down for me...

Here's what I did...

I was going to put a patch on the back of these tears when I first decided to fix the curtains...

But unless I wanted to unpick the pleat and then resew it which I thought was going to be a bit beyond my sewing skills, I was going to have to find another way of fixing it.

See how the tear is across the pleat as well?

In the end I opted for a basic sew in a straight line along the tear with a zig zag stitch...

Which worked quite well even though I didn't have the tension right on the first one.

I decided to hand sew the tear that was in the pleat part as the foot of the machine wouldn't go anywhere near it. It looks super dodgy here in macro...

But once it was hanging back up - you could barely see where I had fixed it - even with the sun behind it!

Not so bad at all! And much better than a hole!

I think this worked better for me and my skill level than if I had tried to patch it. I really am a straight line (ok wavy-ish line) sewer who would like some sewing lessons for a Christmas present (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge). I reckon if I had left it much longer I would have had a real problem on my hands and probably would have had to get it professionally fixed or asked Agnes to carve out a spare hour of her day to fix it for me - with three kids under four years - I bet it would be easier to ask her to fly to the moon!

If I had not procrastinated for so long, I might have been able to fix it with even less hassle! For me it was a case of having the planets align (sewing machine out, in the mood, the right threads and the husband in the mood to take all the curtains down for me) before it was ever going to happen. Giving the curtains a wash while they were all down also made a big difference!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for fixing rather than replacing
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not having to spend any money
Time cost: Procrastination - 2 years. Husband taking curtains down - 3 minutes. Sewing 5 minutes. Washing- 1hour. Drying 30 minutes (this is Queensland!) Hanging back up another 3 minutes!
Skill level: Straight(ish) line sewing and the incredibly tricky reverse stitch as well!
Fun -ness: It wasn't so bad after all that procrastinating!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Another easy rag quilt in the making...

Since we have had two new babies in the family, I am making another rag quilt. This one is made out of a flat child's sheet that no longer has its mate and an old towel. Rag quilts seem to be very forgiving for the beginner quilter (um - that would be me!) and fairly quick to make into the bargain. If you have always wanted to make a quilt - I reckon one of these is the way to go!

Here's what I did...

Find a pleasant place to sew...

Preferably with a view that includes chickens! 

Cut out all the cool pictures on the sheet and then put them back to back with a layer of towel in between so that you end up with a sandwich of picture, towel and then picture.
Play around with the arrangment until you have them all in lines that are roughly the same length

This time I chose to quilt each one with a different pattern... Just to see if it could be done. (and it can) Traditionally, rag quilts have been quilted with an X accross the square. Have a look at the links at th bottom of the page for variations on a rag quilt.
As fun as this is - I forgot that I would lose some of the picture to the seams...

Then I joined the panels together into strips

And then the strips to each other...

Which gives me a quilt with a front like so...
And a back like thus...

Now all I have to do is sew around and then snip all the edges, which would have been so much easier to do if I hadn't sprained the knuckles on my right hand playing basketball yesterday! Oh well, I will be able to catch up with some blogs while Im sitting around unable to do much with my mangled hand in the meantime...

I'll update as soon as I can hold a pair of sissors!

For some great tutorial on rag quilts, have a look at the instructions for my first one here, or have a look at this You-Tube video tutorial here, or these links here and here. This is a link to a pretty striped rag quilt

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for creating something new out of "old" items.
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for only paying for the postage and not the gift!
Time cost: Probably about 4 hours all up over 3 days
Skill level: Basic impatient beginners sewing in a straight line level!
Fun -ness: This one is great fun - such bright happy colours!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hiding scuff marks on work or school shoes!

When I started one of my jobs I decided (after two ten hour shifts!) that I needed new shoes...
I found a big block of time one week and I went to all the shoe shops in my area with a budget of $100 to spend on a pair of shoes that I was going to be in for a great percentage of the week. They needed to be black and the needed to be comfortable.

I finally settled on a pair of shoes from a cheaper shoe shop that were black leather with a non slip sole and were only $40 which was kinda cool too! And they were soooooo comfy!

After a month I started getting a really sore ankle at work. It took me a while to realise that the heel on my left shoe had collapsed and I was walking on an angle on one foot each night. No drama's, I found the receipt and went back to the shop for a replacement and would you believe, they were out of stock of my $40 shoe. I was happy to pay more for another shoe but they didn't have any thing else that fitted or was suitable for work.

Because I had work the next day and I needed to have some shoes so in the end I opted for a $30 pair that were synthetic uppers lowers and in between. They were comfortable, black and ok for work so I took them.

I wore them to work (with an old pair in the car just in case) and they were fine. They were comfortable, possibly not as nonslip but they scuffed too easily.With all the performance in getting the shoes in the first place, I decided to just wear these until they die and then go back and do the rounds for a good pair after Christmas. So I needed to make them look a bit more presentable...

Here's what I did...

I'm not sure what I kicking with my right foot all the time but that's the worst part of the shoe
(bad photo - early morning light was a bit too tricky for my wee camera today!)

This gives you a better idea of what the scuffs are like
(I should have done this when I had woken up a bit more methinks!)

I simply coloured the scuff mark in with a black permanent marker!

Not perfect but not so shabby either!

I did this once with some sneakers that were being worn at a wedding by a child. Long story, but he turned up with not the new black sneakers/joggers that were bought for the purpose but ones that were black with some green stripes on them. I spent a few minutes colouring the green over with a black permanent marker - and you'd never have known (in the photos anyway!) that they weren't the brand new special wedding shoes bought especially for the occasion!

I think that if I keep scuffing these shoes in the same place I'm going to have a hole in my toe shortly. I think the pen will wear off but since its such a quick thing to do, I can touch up my shoes each time I walk out the door.For a quick fix its great but the lesson is really to by good quality shoes in the first place!

This would be a quick fix for those school photos, birthdays and other special occasions that you want to make a good impression at!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not buying new ones and getting more life out of the shoe
Frugal-ness: Hmmm - being frugal has cost me in this case for needing to replace and repair an inferior shoe but 5/5 for the quick fix!
Time cost: Took a lot longer to blog than to do!
Skill level: Colouring in - and staying within the lines!
Fun-ness: I feel much better now that my shoes look slightly more professional!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

How to make a two litre milk bottle scoop!

Here is yet another use for a two lite milk bottle!

I needed another scoop for the chook feed - the last one simply disappeared - and while I was looking around for a suitable receptacle my eye fell on the two litre milk bottle that was ready to go into the recycle bin... I wonder, I thought, if I can fashion a scoop out of it. My husband is usually the one to do things like this but as he was safely ensconced at work earning money I decided that if it didn't work - I could afford to sacrifice an empty milk bottle and then I'd simply sic him onto making one when the next bottle became available...

Here's what I did...

Take your average two litre milk bottle... and give it a though wash.

And with a marker pen, mark a cutting line that starts just under the handle and then goes in a "S" shape down to the opposite corner. Mirror that line back up the other side.

Then cut!

And Voila! One free, two second, recycled (or is that upcycled) plastic and very hip scoop! 

I use mine in the chook grain - but I'm sure it could be used for flour or any other bulk food stuff - or even as spades in the sandpit or in the bath! You are only limited by your imagination and your families milk drinking capacity!

Because the scoop is cut with the corner at the bottom, it makes it really easy to fill up the chook feeder - like thus...

My husband make this for the chookies dining pleasure! Pretty cool huh?

This is nice and easy to make! It took me a while to work out that you cant make a flat scoop with two litre milk containers as the handle is on the corner. So I have made a curved bladed scoop. If you need a scoop with a flat blade, try a three litre milk container as the handle is on the side, not the corner! If you are making a sandpit or even a bath toy - the cut off bit will make a smaller handleless scoop that will be just as handy for your child's imagination (or maybe that bit could go in the flour bin for you to play with?) Don't forget to leave the lid on or all your chook food/flour/sand will fall out the back!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for getting a second use out of a common bin filler.
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for upcycling and not spending a cent!
Time cost: Maybe two minutes...
Skill level: Cutting (no pasting this time!)
Fun -ness: great fun to figure out the cutting pattern without the helpful suggestions of the husband! I think Im quite clever now!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Chemical free harliquin beetle control

One year for Christmas we bought a couple of citrus trees to first use as a Christmas  tree and then to plant in the garden. A wonderful plan that would give us a living Christmas tree one year and lemons and lime leaves for ever more!

Well, for the first few years the lemon and lime tree were just doing the growing thing. For the kaffir lime tree - that was fine cause we were after the leave off that tree, but for the lemon, I was getting a bit worried as I was keen on being able to pick fresh lemons and use them when ever I wanted - and it simply wasn't happening.

A few years ago I spotted a beetle on the lemon tree. A year or so later, there were quite a number more. By the time I realised that these bugs may have something to do with my lack of lemons, I had an infestation. I consulted Dr Google and discovered that these kinda pretty bugs were in fact Harlequin beetles - or Stink Bugs to the kids - and they were sapping all the life out of my new lemon tree growth.

They needed to go. Like most of you reading this, I'm not to keen on chemicals for lots of reasons and so I decided that there must be a better way.

Here's what I did...

In the first instance, I made up a boiled garlic, chili, soap mixture that is meant to deter bugs from your plants. In the case of these beetles, I was better off knocking them to the ground and bopping them on the head with the bottle for all the distress I inflicted on them with my spray. I wouldn't say they revealed in it, but it sure as heck didn't slow them down.
This is an old dog flea bottle now used for garlic chilli spray!
I tried knocking them off with a rake or broom and feeding them to the chickens - but the chooks wernt even gonna have a taste of these little suckers.

I tried blasting them off with a high pressure hose. It was very satisfying. About 1/2 an hour later after a shower and a cuppa to celebrate the departure of the bugs, I noticed something moving in the grass. Every single one of those bugs were heading back to the tree!!! I couldn't believe it. Within an hour, the tree had all its bugs back in place, sucking away at my lemon flowers!!!

 So this meant war!

The solution that finally worked for me is a bit gruesome but very effective. I got out the vacuum cleaner and simply gave those little suckers a taste of their own medicine! I just sucked 'em right off the tree and into my wee brown paper bag filled vacuum cleaner!

Now if you are going to try this - here's a few pointers!

First electricity and water don't mix, so watch were you have the plug and lead in the garden.

Secondly, this doesn't actually kill them.... So do it on rubbish day just before the truck is due so you can put the bag straight into the bin with its twitching smelly cargo. If you are so inclined, a quick squirt of fly spray into the bag will probably deal with them - but for me that defeats the purpose of the exercise. If you don't have a bag vacuum cleaner - borrow one. I don't think I could cope with trying to get them out of a bagless vacuum cleaner...

Oh, and take the vacuum and bag to the bin - the live ones start crawling out quickly and its freaky (well for me anyway!)

Thirdly, be prepared to have a shower afterwards. They squirt their smelly bug perfume at you and it stinks - they are aptly nicknamed!

The whole operation makes my tummy squirm. If it makes you too queasy, I'm guessing a 10 year old will think its a real life video game and get right into it for you... :0
And you may not even have to bribe them!?!

I have had a note in my diary for years about this time of the year to do it and I'm seeing a huge decline in the Harlequin bug population each time. The other advantage of this method is that it is selective. The lady bugs and spiders are still there and able to get on with doing what it is that they do. They don't get caught up in the chemical warfare as collateral damage.

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not using chemicals. 3/5 for 10 minutes worth of electricity... Unless you signed up for green power... Then you can have a 4/5
Frugal-ness: 5/5 If your vacuum bag is full and needs to go in the bin anyway so you don't have to waste a new one.
Time cost: probably one of the worst 10 minutes of my life!
Skill level: Vacuuming and dry retching....
Fun -ness: Not at all.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Slowing Down, the Slow Living Essentials Way - Septemer 2012

I have been following Christine at Slow Living Essentials for a while and in January she set a challenge to record on our blog, monthly, how we have "slowed down" under nine categories - I have been doing this for the last eight months and really got a lot out of it. This is my September reflection on Slowing Down - the Slow Living Essentials way!
This update is sooooo over due - but I would still like to participate. I'm going with the "better late than never" theory for this check in. My plan was to use the long weekend to make a leisurely post, then register on Christine's site and spend part of the day in the hammock with a cuppa and the laptop visiting all my bloggy mates and generally spending the Queens Jubilee holiday on my backside. As it turns out - I did spend all of the Queens Jubilee holiday on my backside, but at the hospital! Our latest student got a huge festering abscess in a sensitive place and I simply couldn't abandon her to the bureaucracy of Queensland Health - the Health Professionals, absolutely (they were more than wonderful) but the forms, the questions, the paperwork, the change of shift, all the different departments and the sheer volume of ink needed to get a young international visitor through the bureaucracy - Never!!! We were there for two solid days... But she is fit healthy and smiling again now the pain has gone!

Then I had to work my four jobs, have a birthday, have a small gathering to celebrate, run a wedding reception, clean the house, do a grocery shop, update my First Aid certificate, look after my chookies and - well you get the idea, blogging ended up being the thing that didn't get done until today!

Anyway - Here's what I did over the last month...

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
This is always fun in our house. Our student made us Spaghetti carbonara, a Baked Salt Pie, Pizza and Calzone (no points for guessing what country she is from!) all from scratch and under instruction direct from Italy via skype!
We will reciprocate with Crocodile and Kangaroo later this month!

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve.
Not a lot in this category this month. Although I was at the supermarket at the right time and managed to get a fair bit of meat for just under 1/2 price...!?!

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
We are pretty good at this category these days. Doing this check in reminds me that we do a lot of this stuff automatically, its a chosen lifestyle that just happens now without a lot of thought.

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade products.
Hardly any commercial products left in the cupboard under the sink - which I guess is the objective of the exercise!

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month?
Now, this category I can actually report something positive for a change! I have finally managed to grow something and get it all the way to the plate!!!

Ok, so its only a lettuce and some spring onions, but its a lettuce and spring onions that I grew all by myself!!! I am super pleased as we have huge "green thing eating critter" problems and I have spent more on fortifying my garden than anything else in recent months. So much for a frugal homegrown, environmentally friendly meal - my husband calculated that my chicken Cesar salad lettuce cost me some where in the vicinity of $100 in wire, about 3 hours of labour to build, 20 tons of greenhouse gas getting the wire in about 5 car trips, 4 or 5 temper tantrums and about 250 litres of tank water...
Hopefully, I'll get a few more lettuces out of the same plot to reduce my cost per lettuce...

Oh and I sold my first dozen eggs to the neighbour too! I have an idea that I cant sell her eggs, so I have sold her a fancy egg carton and gave her some of my eggs for free! (may this goes under "Create"..?)

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
I made a rag quilt at the beginning of the month for my new nephew! Ummmm....
Does making up checklist for new staff at work count? It was a beautifully laid out document! Conversely, doing this update also shows what I don't always get around to doing...

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
Am loving my latest Uni subject - the anthropology of healing and illness. Its about the difference between disease (the pathogens) and illness (the experience) and how different cultures view these two states. We were given a book to read called "The spirit catches you and then you fall down" (Anne Fadiman). Its about a Hmong family living in the states after fleeing from Laos and their epileptic young daughter - or more to the point, what happens when a Strong shamanistic culture come up against the American Health system. Absolutely fascinating - Excellent story, even if you aren't studying a uni subject. I got my copy from the local library.

ENHANCE: community: The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.
For a few days this month, I got to join in with the local medical community. I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" my time with them but it was very comforting to experience lots of real compassion, sensitivity and professionalism from all the staff involved in the couple of days I spent at a bedside at the local hospital.
I'm still attending Yoga (work permitting) and really enjoying a new group of like minded people!

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family.
This has been a great month for celebrating! We've had a couple of babies born into the family (Welcome Oliver and Eli!) Picked up the baby Barnevelder Chickens, been to a friend child's bowling birthday party, Caught up with some old friends over coffee, celebrated our wedding anniversary and had a birthday as well! Great fun!

With my Uncle at my Birthday BBQ
IMPROVE: Change or create a habit, work on an aspect of mind, body and soul that needs a wee tweak.

Hmmm, I haven't given this months 'Improve" much thought as yet - I have done fairly well with the chocolate. Ive bought maybe 3 things in the last month since my first challenge - much better than every time I got petrol or groceries! I am conscious about drinking water and managed to get at least my litre a day - much, much easier than I thought it would be. More often than not, I was well over the litre I had set myself - this is a good habit to get into as its getting very hot here in Brisbane already...

So back to this month... As its getting lighter earlier, I tend to get up as the sun rises. So that means I have been waking at 5.30am in recent times. So this months challenge is to go to bed at 9pm each night that I am actually at home to do so! I have two jobs that have me out till all hours of the night once or twice a week, but the rest of the time, I shall endeavour to stop what I'm doing and go to bed at 9pm so I get enough sleep.

I love this check-in at the end of the month! I love cruising over to other blogs and catching up on whats been happening for others and enjoying reading about every ones exploits, thoughts and ideas. I do always leave comments but have noticed that sometimes they don't come up on the comments page or I can't get past some of the 'security' devices ("type in these letters" thingys). So, even if you can't see my comment - know that I have been visiting!

Thanks for the opportunity to share again Christine!!! Have a great (whats left of the) month everyone! - Kara xx
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