From the Stash

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Sometimes I get so involved in projects, I actually overlook posting about what I am doing. So, this is a bit of a catch up on my recent sewing endeavours.

The first was a valance to cover the ensemble base of our bed. We originally had a bedspread which covered both the mattress and base but that has not been the case for a number of years. I did buy an elasticised cover for the base several years ago, however, it was only moderately successful in my opinion. After lengthy consideration I finally decided to try making my own version. I used a piece of light-coloured upholstery fabric from my stash to cover the ensemble base and then joined some strong black cotton fabric for the fitted side panels.

This is a glimpse of the side of the bed once it is made. The black fabric-covered base is barely noticeable so I regard my mission as a success.

The next project was completed in less than a week once I set my mind to it. I have a patchwork knee rug which I made a few years ago for my mother. We have had some particularly cold evenings and GMan was rather envious as I snuggled under it while watching television. I set to work to make another one.

The first step was to select the fabric. As I sort through fabric I regularly identify small pieces which are suitable for patchwork. I cut them into 5 inch squares and sort by colour. So it was a simple process to grab the number I needed from the bag of blue fabrics.

In progress.

The squares were all salvaged scraps. The wadding was from an old polyester doona which I disassembled and reused. The plain edging was an old pillowcase and the backing came from a worn-out doona cover.

The final step was to add the binding. I cut and made my own bias binding from yet another piece of salvaged fabric.

Both of these items have been created entirely from fabric which was destined for landfill. We have so many resources already in circulation and it makes sense to utilise what we have.

Honouring the Handiwork

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I am regularly given pieces of fabric, garments and bed linen to use for upcycling into Boomerang bags and other projects. In recent months I have acquired a large quantity of these items from a local thrift shop. These are pieces that are deemed to be unsuitable for sale for a variety of reasons. The process of diverting them to our group assists in saving these pieces from going to landfill.

We have discovered that simply washing some articles makes them usable again. Thrift shops are not laundry services so it is important that anything you choose to donate is clean.

Some stained and torn articles yield sections of good fabric which we are able to use.

However, there is one group of items we receive that can be a challenge. These are the partly completed craft projects. I have received pieces of embroidery, patchwork pieces and even fabric painting at times. I feel an emotional responsibility to utilise these pieces if at all possible. They represent effort and skill from an unknown maker and deserve to be honoured.

Here are a couple of examples I have recently completed.

A piece of calico with fabric painted flowers has become the front of this bag. It is complemented by plain blue handles and back of the bag.

A contrasting inside pocket completes the bag.

Several small strips of patchwork provided me with another challenge. I joined them in an acceptable pattern before making the rest of the bag in a matching navy fabric from a doona cover. The contrasting handles are a similar fabric to the patchwork and were lurking in my stash from another donation.

I am so glad that I have been able to give these pieces of handiwork an outcome which is so much better than landfill.

Safely Salvaged

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I seem to have been gripped by a level of inertia which has been difficult to shake. I suppose you could call it writer’s block. I have plenty of material for blog posts but have simply not had the will or focus to actually write and publish them. Part of the problem has been the heavy focus on our upcoming federal government elections on Saturday. The other has been the weather. The rain was relentless for several days and even when it was not raining the humidity was 100%. Today was a little better but a return of the heavy rain is forecast for the next 3 days with a high likelihood of greater than 100mm (4 inches) over the weekend.

Anyway, enough of excuses and back to the title.

Today I want to address textile waste – garments, household linens and unused fabric.

As with anything, the best actions we can take to minimise waste are:

  1. Buy only what we actually need.
  2. Buy secondhand where possible.
  3. Take care of what we have to increase its longevity.
  4. Repair or upcycle if applicable.
  5. Ensure it is disposed of or recycled responsibly at the end of its useful life.

Most of us at some time have donated to or shopped at op shops but do you have any idea of what happens with the donations before they make it into the shop for sale?

Donations are received, sorted, priced and made available for sale. Many op shops are overwhelmed by donations and sadly, a portion of what is donated ends up as landfill. Donated items may be unsuitable, dangerous, damaged, soiled or otherwise unacceptable.

I routinely receive donated textiles which are otherwise destined for landfill and our local Boomerang Bags group are often able to use some of the fabric for making reusable bags.

However, sometimes I am surprised by some of what I receive. Remember, op shops do not provide a laundry service so it is make sure that your donations are in a state which is saleable. It is even a good idea to fold garments so that the volunteers can easily identify them as clean and cared-for clothing.

Today I soaked and laundered these three dresses which were in the last bundle saved from landfill. I can only only surmise that at least 2 of them had been deemed unacceptable due to the fact that they had not been laundered prior to donation.

They are all natural fibres (cotton and linen) and in good condition.

I have now sold 2 of them and the funds received have been donated to our local Waste Action group.

We should all do everything we can to ensure that we minimise what ends up in landfill.

Staying on Track

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I know that there are many and varied opinions of ‘to do’ lists. I have used them in differing guises and with varying degrees of success over the years.

Now that I am retired there is really not a great deal pressure to get things done. My lists are simply a memory aid more than anything else. I jot down things I think of in the notes section on my phone and while I do not follow it exactly, I do refer to my notes each morning. There always seem to be plenty of things that get rolled over to the next day (or week).

One of the things I had been meaning to do for some time was to make another pair of sock protectors for GMan. Last night I cut out 2 pieces of fabric.

This morning I joined the seam, hemmed the bottom edges and turned a casing and added elastic. It took about 15 minutes of my time and they were done.

Another item ticked off the list.

My list is also very flexible. For example, I had intended to clean the kitchen windows today, however, we woke to high humidity, drizzling rain and low cloud which meant that we could barely see the backyard. It does not seem like the ideal conditions for cleaning windows so I am off to work on tidying my sewing room instead.

How do you plan your day?

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Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Bagging a Bargain

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Most of us are trying to make the most of our grocery budget as food prices seem to be increasing on an almost daily basis. Extreme weather events driven by the impacts of climate change along with global conflicts are combining to disrupt supply chains.

This is the background upon which shoppers are doing their utmost to spend their food budget wisely.

There are not many, if any, items which can regularly be purchased for $1/kg. So, when I spotted Roma tomatoes for $1/kg at our local greengrocer, I took advantage of the bargain. Although the tomatoes were loose on a display stand, I discovered that I could purchase an entire 10kg box for $10. This was too good to pass up.

Here is my haul.

Of course, a bargain is only a bargain if there is no wastage. I have spread the tomatoes out on the kitchen bench and there are no soft spots or blemishes – all absolutely perfect.

Tonight we will have slices of fresh tomato on our pizza. Tomorrow I will make salsa to have with our bean tacos and I am sure they will feature in other meals over the next week. Other than that, I may dehydrate some, make pasta sauce and bottle or freeze them whole.

Making the most of seasonal and often cheaper produce makes good sense as we try to stretch our budget a little further.

After the Flood

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Some of you may have been wondering whether I had floated away. We certainly had a lot of rain but not as much as others in south-east Queensland or in the continuing flood emergency in NSW. My heart goes out to all of those people who have lost homes, businesses, their livelihoods and in some cases, lives. The toll has been tragic and more is yet to be revealed.

We have been interstate for the past week and returned home to the detritus now that the water has receded. Thankfully, this is only our backyard and it will recover. We have very little planted in these areas as we know that it is a natural watercourse and it becomes inundated whenever there is really torrential rain. However, this event was somewhat out of the ordinary and the water remained for several days until it eventually drained away.

Imagine if this thick layer of mud and silt was through your house. I cannot begin to imagine how thousands of residents are facing the massive heartbreak and clean-up.

We have lost the majority of the garden mulch from beside the driveway – most of it is combined with the mud in the photos. A couple of small trees did not survive the onslaught of the water. The mud and mulch will eventually becoming top dressing and the grass will regrow.

Many others are not so fortunate and will need massive assistance to recover and rebuild their lives.

Climate change will continue to make these disasters more extreme and more frequent. We must act decisively and immediately if we are to have any hope of limiting the damage and not condemning our children and grandchildren to an unbearable future.

Too Wet

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I have been working on a few small projects over the past few days but did not have a full story or photos to share.

All of that has come to a grinding halt as we retreat indoors as the predicted wet weather has struck. There was light rain during most of the day yesterday but it really began in earnest about 6pm. In the next 12 hours we recorded 176mm (7 inches) of rain.

This is what our backyard looked like when I awoke this morning. We have had intense and/or prolonged rain in the past which has resulted in a view like this but is has not happened for several years.

These are a series of photos of the lowest section of our back yard. The water is over a metre deep in some parts. The cause is two-fold. The driveway of the property next to us acts like a dam which causes the water to back up. We live on a mountain and the water from the steeper land above us finds its way to this area which would have been a natural watercourse in times past.

While the bottom of the garden floods, there is no risk of any inundation of the main part of the garden or the house due to the slope of the land.

This might look and sound quite dramatic, it is not a major problem as we have chosen to leave these areas of our garden as open grass so it suffers no real ill-effects as the water usually drains relatively quickly through the porous, volcanic soil.

It is not actually raining at present, however, the forecast is for continuing heavy rain for the next 48 hours.

We will not be venturing out as we have everything we need here and there is bound to be some localised flooding as well as potential landslips and and fallen trees.

Are you sufficiently prepared to manage if you need to stay at home for a number of days or longer? Please share your tips and ideas.

Community Connections

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Most of what I write about in this blog pertains to house and home. However, there is much more to my life. Extended family gatherings, cultural events, exercise, enjoying the natural environment and of course, travel are some of the various activities I enjoy. Travel has been somewhat curtailed in the past couple of years but we have still managed numerous shorter trips closer to home rather than major overseas travel.

The other thing that I am both passionate about and find satisfying is involvement in community groups and activities.

This week has seen plenty of action on that front. I am directly involved in 3 groups. The first and smallest is a local residents group for our semi-rural area. There is minimal action in this group but as the secretary I did attend a committee meeting this week and have minutes to finish and distribute.

The other two groups are separate but closely aligned in purpose.

The first is Boomerang Bags. This is a global grassroots project which was started on the Gold Coast in my home state of Queensland, Australia. It seeks to tackle single use plastic pollution by creating reusable alternatives from salvaged and discarded fabric. I have been involved for a little over 4 years, the last 2 co-ordinating our small group. One of my earlier posts gives a bit more information.

My other foray into community action is a fairly recently-formed waste action group which goes by the acronym of WAM. Late last year we co-ordinated several community events during National Recycling Week. There are many and varied ideas for directions the group might take but the overarching theme is about reducing consumption and waste, both of which are very important to me. I regularly address these themes on a personal level in my blog posts. Watch for more about we are doing as a community to encourage everyone to make a difference.

Recovering

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As I mentioned in my last post, GMan and I have been unwell. Yes, we did have Covid and despite being a relatively mild dose, it was not much fun.

It is only in the past couple of days that I have managed to do much other than potter around in the sewing room and throw together an evening meal.

This morning I cleaned the window above our bed and the associated insect screen. It is quite a treat to see it looking so clean. I am embarrassed to say that I could have just about written my name in the dirt on the screen.

One thing I have realised since being sick is that I am really going to have to rethink how I tackle tasks around the house. The days of cleaning half the windows in the house in a single day are probably behind me. A much better idea is going to be to do a little bit more often. I might even clean another window tomorrow.

I hope I am back on track to have a new post for you every day or so.