Monday, 29 September 2014

Making aprons from pillowcases...!

I am making Aprons for various people for Christmas presents and I don't want to buy a big lot of material make them all the same nor spend a fortune on different materials. While I was op shopping the other day I saw some pretty pillow cases and thought to my self - that's the kind of material I need for my apron project, but is there enough to make an apron out of? So I bought a few - they were only a $1 each,

And here's what I did...



The pillow case that I loved with the blue and green flowers was really thin. So I bought a matching pillowcase and lined the apron with it. It just added a bit of weight that I thought would make it wear better.

 

After undoing all the seams of the pillow cases (the rip open very easily and then I just iron them flat into one great long piece of material) I cut off a strip on the long side to become the apron ties. Then I ironed it in half longways and then ironed the seams as well.

 

 I cut the remaining pillow case into three (almost ) equal lengths and then sewed them together as I was after a wide piece that I am going to gather into a nice full apron later.
 

With the right sides together I pinned the blue pillow case (also opened up and ironed flat) to the flower pillowcase and sewed three sides together.


Then I turned it in the right way so I have a giant envelope!


With the right sides out, I stitched all the way along the top of the apron with the longest straight stitch that I had on the machine. Then pulling on the back thread I gathered it in gently until it was the right width to fit from hip to hip. Once you have it right, knot the ends of the thread so it doesn't get bigger again.


Find the middle of both the apron and the tie. Pin the apron inside the waistband/tie starting at that middle point you found on both.


I started sewing the lower part of the tie at the end and kept sewing across the front of the waistband and all the way to the end of the tie. I did go back and forwards as I got to the apron part to strengthen it.


Then I used the same stitch along the top of the apron ties.
 

Then I sewed around the edges of the apron front, just to hold it all flat...
 

And pegged it on the line so I could photograph it!
 

Its very basic and simple but I think its quite lovely!
 

It would have been quicker to make this with a single pillowcase but I like the way the lining peeps out as you walk in this apron. Its a bit retro and the friend I had in mind for this one loves retro things so I really wanted to use this pattern!

If I had just cut the remaining material in half instead of thirds, I could have made a longer, less full apron. But this one works for the person I had made it for!

Patchwork aprons would be fun too if you find several pillow cases that go together. I could have put a pocket or some ric-rac on it as well but I didn't think of that before I had the lining on and the waistband pinned properly - So this one went with out! I think it would be better to do all that before you line it so all the stitching is hidden by the lining. Of course if the material is thick enough and you don't need a lining, then you can add embellishments at any time!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for making something out of things you already have or have bought from an op shop!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for only paying a couple of dollars for a couple of Christmas presents that are chock full of fun and love!
Time cost: about an hour... It took me a while to get the waist band to sit right!
Skill level: Guessing and thinking ahead!
Fun-ness: A nice way to spend an hour in the morning sunshine!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Fixing holes in plastic buckets!

We have had a few fires recently in the brazier in the back yard. Its lovely to gather with a coffee and sit and chat into the evening with friends and family. Some one collected up some twigs in our new (to us) plastic bucket to get the fire going with. The next morning we found the bucket must have been a little too close to the fire as it had two melt holes in the bottom of it...

I wasn't so keen to throw out such a handy bucket and so we had a bit of a think and here's what we did...


The bucket with two decent holes in it!
 
 You can see the burn holes. Too big to patch with a blob of silicone this time...
 
 
We cut the corner out of an old ice cream container that happens to fit into the corner and covered up both of the holes.
 

Perfect!
 


Not the most glamorous look - but its a bucket not a bridal dress!
 

Generous amounts of silicon go around the outside of the ice cream container ...
 
 
Like so...
 
 
A blob around each hole...
 
Hold it down firmly to seal the holes and stick the ice cream container on properly and then...
 
 
Fill with gravel that you have lying around - Sand would have been better we reckon but old gravel from a path was all we had! Something that moulds to the buckets contours will work. You need an even weight across the silicon seal. 
 

 
Leave the gravel in the bucket for at least 24 hours and then empty out. We have got some dirt stuck to the silicon that leaked out from under the ice cream container.
 

 
But it holds water again! Cool!
 
This might not work on all buckets. It could be a bit tricky finding a container that has the same contours as your bucket but you could always make individual patches for each hole if you needed to! We used sink sealer type silicon because it was what was in the garage. I guess as long as its water proof, any silicon would work.

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for fixing and not throwing a bucket out!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for a free fix.
Time cost: A few minutes to get the patch in and stuck. 24 hours to set.
Skill level: Cutting and pasting - like most of my projects!
Fun -ness: Great fun not to have to throw out an almost perfect bucket!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Click and Collect online shopping saves me money!

I don't mind grocery shopping - when its on my terms and my time. I'm not so keen to go shopping with the husband as he is a great consumer and loves to spot all these fabulous bargains (fabulous according to the supermarket, not usually to me) and fills up the trolley... usually with things I wasn't intending to get and then it all has to go back on the shelves! We all know the pitfalls of shopping with children, when we are under pressure, when we don't know what's for dinner, when we are hungry, tired or just not in the mood.

I have been menu planning for a while and find its a great way to take the daily dinner stress away. I have been doing a fortnightly plan for a while and it works well for us. I'm a bit of a fan of the Cheapskates and Simple Savings sites and recently decided to go for a month menu plan as they both recommend it. It took a little more time to do than a two week plan but the savings in time and money have been quite substantial.

The biggest saving for me has been buying my groceries on line. It probably takes about as long over all, but saves me soooo much money and stress that I think its worth it.


Here's what I did...

*This post is specific to shopping online with Woolworths, Qld,  Australia - and its a long post... You have been warned! :) Most useful to people able to use it, I think! ;)

I use Woolworths Click and Collect system. I believe Coles has a version but there are a lot more pickup area's for Woolworths than Coles - well at least in my area.


The difference between "delivered groceries" and "click and collect" is that I get charged $30 to get it delivered and only live a few kilometres away from the supermarket, where as the click and collect has no extra charge. You simply choose and pay for your groceries on line, nominate a time to pick them up, jump into the car and slide into the pick up lane and they are there waiting for me, packed and ready to go into the car.

The big advantage is that I don't have to step foot in the shopping centre and so am not tempted to get anything else from anywhere else. I have seen Mums not even need to take the kids out of their car seats as they are within arms reach of them at all times when picking up groceries. I have spoken to lots of Mums who say that this alone makes it worth it. They can leave the kids to play while they shop on line at home with a cuppa and a biscuit and then bundle the kids into the car and pick up the groceries without having to unbuckle them from one seat and pop them in another and traipse through the shopping centre and then the supermarket and put up with the whinging, tantrums and demands.....

One lady I spoke to a lady in the pick up lane who lived on the Islands just off the coast. She shops once a month on line, comes over with the 4x4 does all the jobs that need to be done on the mainland, takes the kids to a park, picks up the groceries and heads back for the barge in the afternoon - much less hassle and much less stress for her whole family.

The other big advantage is that after a big monthly shop, I am tired and often fall for the end of isle specials - chocolate especially, while I'm standing in queue... Its much easier to resist those specials when I'm on line shopping!

So how is it done and what do you need to know?

First I have a menu plan and from that I write my shopping list. As I look through my recipes and/or make the decision of what's for dinner each night, I pop the ingredients on a list. I divide mine up into meat, veges, dairy, etc so I can see what I'm doubling up on - 2 lots of sausages (one for a stew, one for a BBQ and then one lot of sausage meat to make meatballs with. That gives me the flexibility to look for a bulk special when I get to the shopping stage. It means that if sausages are on special I can use them for making meatballs instead of buying the sausage meat separately. If I didn't have my list like this I might not have noticed three lots of sausage.

Then I go and look in the fridge, freezer and pantry. You will be surprised at what you already have and what you could use instead. The dish could use the chicken you already have rather than buy some or maybe change the meal to chicken stew as you already have some and drop the beef stew... if I have enough of it already - I cross it off the list.

I also have a master shopping list with soap, shampoo, shoe polish, light bulbs, cat biscuits - non edibles - as well as basics such a flour, sugar, bread and tea that might not appear on the dinner ingredients list. Again - check the pantry before you start to order.

Then I log into Woolworth's online shopping site. Its free and they know no more about you than they would if you shopped in store - you can always fill in the details with not so real details if this doesn't sit well with you - but remember, you will have to pay with a credit/debit card at the end of your shop.

Then I simply create a list - if you look around you will see the "list" icon. Its a pad and pen symbol near the top of the web page. Click on it to open it.



 Then after I have typed in each item on its own line you click on the "find these products" and the site takes you to a page with all those items on it. So if butter was the first thing on your list it will list all the butters items they have along with anything with the word butter in it - butter cookies, butter chicken, butter beans.... etc.





Have a look down the left hand side and see if you can see the dairy, canned, fresh etc categories. When you use those ones it refines the search down to butter, dairy rather than everything with butter in it. Once you find the item you are looking for, simply select the item you want along with the quantities. It will go into your cart on the right hand side of the page.




Go back to your list and search the second item on your list the same way. This way you aren't searching random areas hoping to find what you need. The list function has a save button on it and you don't have to search for the same products each time. Just skip to the next item if you already have butter, for example. I leave it on the list anyway to remind me to check weather I have my regular items or not.

If you aren't getting the results you want - have a look at the top for the search bar. It can take a bit of practice and insider knowledge to get this one right. For example the home brand honey puffs are under honey poppa's. You cant find them under anything else - both words spelt right too... I have resorted to getting the packet out of the bin to find the right name to search. You can search by brand as well which can be handy!



Once you have been shopping with them a few times, the top row starts to become your regular/staple items that you have bough a few times before. So when I put in cream, I get both sour cream and whipping cream on the top line as I have bought both of them a lot in the past.

You can also shop by category from the left hand side. once you click on dairy, the menu will expand where dairy was to include cheese, yoghurt, cream etc that you can click on to further refine what you are after. It depend on how well you know what you are looking for!



There is also an online specials tab in the top lot of green tabs. This a good place to look to see if what you want is on special or to see if what is on special and worth getting.



I find meat to be quite good value on line as they always give you a bigger piece than you ordered and there is no extra charge - but this depends how you feel about supermarket meat... If I order 1kg of chicken, I usually get 1.2kg picked and waiting for me as they don't cut it to the exact size that you ordered. If you are ordering pre-packaged meats, the same thing happens. If there isn't a 1kg piece when they go to the meat cabinet, and only a 1.5kg or a 998g they will give you the 1.5kg for the 1kg price you have already paid. Not a bad system. I haven't had any problems with being undersold and I have been doing this for well over a year now.

For fruit and vege, there is a note section that you can let the picker know what you need. For example if I want a red onion for a single salad I will say "please, just a small one. Its just for a single salad" and usually I get a small one otherwise they will automatically pick the biggest red onion they can find! Again - I haven't had any problems ordering fruit and veg as they are picked by a human from the actual supermarket - not from a warehouse or from "out the back". But they will also go out the back if something isn't on display to see if they have it there for you too!

In that note section (when you are paying and checking out)  I usually write something about using as fewer bags as possible and not to bother bagging cereal boxes and loo paper. I also add a nice note to the picker like "thank you" and "have a nice day".

You will need to choose your location to pick up from and I usually also check the window for availability when I first log on. That lets me know how much time I have to get my order in and to plan my day. It remembers your preferred pick up location but you can change it if you are going to another place for some reason.



I have discovered that if I pick and pay before 11pm the day before I want my order (when I'm that organised...), I can usually get it first thing in the morning. If I order before 7am, then I can usually pick up about lunch time. If I get my order in before 9am I can pick up after 4pm. Check before you commit yourself by paying that the time that you want to pick it up is suitable for you that day. Because your order is picked by real people and they have to have a closing time to give them time to get more staff in if they end up with hundreds of orders that day! If I'm ordering it after 9am I will probably not be able to get it till the next day - that's the major pitfall for me. If I'm not organised - I have to go in or wait an extra day.

You also have to order more than $30 before it will allow you to pay for your order. You can, however, use the shopping cart as a shopping list - adding to it as you remember what you need and then paying for it when you are ready to get it all.

As you are checking out, there is a list with all your items on it. On the left is a check box for "substitutions". I check this box so that if they are out of stock of the brand I ordered, they will replace it with the next expensive item. ie, if they are out of home brand baked beans they will give me a can of some name brand baked beans at no extra cost. This doesn't happen often but kinda fun to try new brands when it does! If you don't check the box allowing substitutions, they will just refund you the cost of the item when they are out.

Another advantage is that I can get the husband to pick up the groceries on his way home! You have to show ID when you come to pick up your order, so as long as you and the person picking up have the same surname, there isn't a problem. I believe if you send a note with the person picking up and maybe ring the store to let them know, someone else could pick up your groceries for you at a pinch. If you run late from your allotted time slot. The groceries are still there waiting for you. They are packed into crates, fridges and freezers waiting for you - not on the dock! I believe they call you the next day if you don't come in and put the groceries back into stock and refund you if you don't contact them in 24 hours - but I haven't done that... yet!

I haven't tried going in early either... I'm simply not that organised!

When you get your order in your car, quickly scan it and check that you have all your items against the list they give you. You can see the through the bags and you don't need to unpack everything. Back in the beginning I had a few issues with missing items but I think its more or less resolved with the handheld computers they use these days when they pick your order. If something is missing - they will send some one to get it for you on the spot. If you notice its missing when you get home - check your emails before you call the store. It might be completely out of stock and they have already credited the item cost back to your credit card. However, the store has always been good at getting a missing item for me if I call them and let them know.

Something else to keep in mind is that if you do do a large shop and you go over a certain amount ($150 I think, but don't treat that as Gospel) then you can get it delivered for free. The delivery fee is waived at a certain price point making that option a lot more viable for the monthly shoppers! Again - check before you pay to see if the system will give you free delivery at a time that suits you.

I have been using the Woolies Click and Collect system since just after they started it and I really like it. This post is just to share information. I don't get anything from Woolies for this (I don't think they even know I've written it!) It took me a while to get the hang of it but I think its worth persevering with it, gaining the time and saving the money. I have halved our shopping budget since I started doing this as I don't fall for all the specials on the shelves and its easier to stick to my list at the kitchen table than in the supermarket itself.

I still find myself in the supermarket each week as people turn up unexpectedly and you haven't a biscuit in the place. Or maybe Woolies was out of big cans of Olive oil and so was I, so I have to go and get it from somewhere. Or I simply forget to order something and sooner or later need to go and get it.

I get my veges at the markets or local farm weekly and most of my meat from a butcher out west who delivers a monthly order to a local organic farm. I get my milk delivered, which cost extra but we never run out and I help keep a local in his business. I get my seafood from a fishmonger when we have it and we do a cheap "junk food opportunity" at the local food court on a Thursday night. They have 1/2 price specials to get rid of their stock after 7.30pm so I give every one $10 and tell them to get what they want and to give me the change. I usually end up with a Laksa or a salad and the students/kids, a fast food burger. Everyone is happy!

Let me know if you have tried it or know any other tips to ordering on line!

Score card:
Greeen-ness: Not sure supermarkets are green...
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for saving money!
Time cost: Probably about an hour for your first shop as you muck around trying to figure out how to make it work. Half that time once a month once you are sorted.
Skill level: Basic computer skills - and knowing your way around your local woollies!
Fun-ness: Nice to be able to shop after dinner or before breakfast without the hassles and with a cup of tea!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Sock darning!

During winter, it got a bit chilly here in Brisbane (it went under 10 degrees at night a couple of times!! Freeeeeezing!)  and I decided to darn a whole heap of my socks instead of buying new ones. It was quite therapeutic and I enjoyed playing around with different wools and techniques. Socks are so cheap these days but I like the idea of repairing something more than buying something so even my $2 socks "got the treatment"!

Here's what I did...


Darning mushroom and real wool.


In the past I have used what ever wool was floating about the house. Usually acrylic and usually brightly coloured. Im not a knitter, so wool is usually used as a trim or embellishment, hence the bright colours, but for this project I decided that if I used pure real wool and not fake plastic stuff, it might matt or felt together as it gone worn and washed - at least that was my starting theory!



 
First find your hole to darn. If you can get to it before its a hole - when its just worn - you will make it a lot easier for yourself!





 
This is one of last years patches that I want to fix. It was done with acrylic wool.
 
 
 
And this is another. The patch has held but I have worn more of the area around it. Its a good example of seeing how you actually reweave the wool to fill the hole.
 

 


Start by popping the sock on your darning mushroom. I got mine from a second hand shop but have seen them at material shops for under $5. Thread your darning needle (you need a darning needle as they have a hole big enough for wool to go through).
 



Start by sewing a running stitch on a good solid part of the sock outside the area that needs to darned. Then run the next row next to the first row but start heading towards the hole or worn area. The idea is that the starting stiches are anchored in a strong part of the sock. Don't knot the end of the wool. Just hold it against the mushroom with a finger when you need to pull on the thread.
 
 
Keep going back and forth across the hole until you are back on "solid sock" on the other side!

 
One you have done all your up and down stitching, its time to star weaving with your side to side stitching. You are literally reweaving the hole with new thread. I am actually going around last years darn, weaving the strong sock to the old darn.

 
 
 


Finish off by just running the end of the thread back across the darn. Don't use a knot at the beginning or at the end otherwise you will have a lump in your sock that will be really annoying when you wear it!

Sorry the photos aren't the best. I was so settled on the couch that I didn't want to get up and get the real camera - I used my phone camera and its not the best...
 

Darning socks is more about honing a skill rather than saving lots of dollars. Although I have found that socks with a higher cotton or wool percentage wear better and darn better than cheap polyester socks. So maybe buying better quality socks and darning them when they finally need it is better than constantly buying cheap non natural ones! I really envy people who can knit socks - I think they would be the ultimate kind of socks to have!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for keeping something out of landfill - although a pure wool or cotton sock could go in the compost heap or in the worm farm!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for using items already in the house!
Time cost: Maybe 10-15 minutes per sock. I managed to do all of mine in an hour and a half.
Skill level: Straight line stiching!
Fun-ness: Great fun to fix something and be able to wear it again!
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