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thrifty

Craftiness, Thrifty

Quick and thrifty retro bird decoration

12 February, 2013

*****Warning: contains strong, possibly offensive views*****

You know what I hate? PINK. UGH. It is so disgusting. I have no doubt that my hatred of it is in part because of how it is now a prescriptively female colour, to the extent that nearly all girl kid’s clothes have to have a smattering of it, just to identify them. How ridonkulus is that?

I don’t own one single pink item of clothing, not even a ribbon. Putrid, vomity Shade of Average.  *Begins petition to have it taken out of the rainbow*

Of course, unless it is on something retro. Retro pink is an altogether different kind of thing, no? I have quite a few 1960’s duvet covers in bright, bold, flower power pink and they are completely rock and roll. Ooh, yeah, 40 year old pink bed linen has got it going on.

Let me tell you a really cool and quick craft trick. If you smother fabric in a mixture of PVA and water (or homemade mod podge- click here for the recipe) and then leave it to dry, it turns into paper! Not actual paper, obvs, but you can cut it and treat it in the same way, so it doesn’t fray, snips super easily and bends to your will. It means you can do lots of papery- style crafts with it but they will be loads more sustainable and hardy, water proof and quite possibly in cooler patterns. Hooray!retro bird garland

I made a little string of retro birds and hearts – in fact you can catch me making this garland over on the Netmums Youtube Channel- eeep! It is a cool way of getting into the loving vibe of February, but also of showcasing some of those retro bed linens my husband doesn’t want to sleep in (see? SEE? It is so prescriptively feminine… or they have so obviously been slept in by many old ladies…)

I drew around my homemade bird cookie cutter on to the back of the fabric and then cut them out.retro fabric bird

I placed them on this old velvet ribbon and used some of the beautiful buttons from my Nana’s old button tin to sew them on.retro fabric valentines birds craft

Are you upcycling anything for Valentines Day this year? And, also, if you love pink, I don’t mind, honest. When it comes to YOU I’m quite colourblind.

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Craftiness

Three Free last-minute Valentines gifts

10 February, 2013

I saw a tweet this week from a magazine, something like “Our list of Valentines gifts for under £50″…

I almost spat out my tea and the just-dunked biscuit I was inevitably munching (this womb-baby is a total biscuit fiend.) UNDER FIFTY QUID?! I did chuckle. It was the kind of creative pride in the list; “Behold! We have unearthed some items you can buy to show your love, and they cost, like, less then the weekly shop!”

What a parallel universe I live in. I don’t think I’d spend half-a-hundy on ANYTHING that wasn’t a grocery bill, or an electricity bill, or another kind of necessity. One hundred million percent NEVER EVER on a pressie! Blimey, Tim is lucky if he gets a pair of socks (fresh from his clean laundry pile.) (Jokes.) (Sorta.)

I don’t think I’d ever spend that kind of money on a pressie because I am completely confident that the love felt from a gift has absolutely nothing to do with the amount it costs, but the amount of thought gone in to it.

There is an equation, I read about it in The Book of Very Serious and Scientific Calculations for Life, under the Gift chapter:

Thought x intention = love felt

Settled then.

Of course, it is all very well for the people who are glue-wizards and stitching-queens to say this, but what about people who don’t know their papier-mache from their decoupage? Well, I STILL think there are options. In fact, here are three.

As long as you have access to a bit of paper and a pen, these three gifts are free, can be created quickly in an emergency and will no DOUBT provoke love to bubble up, spring-like, in the recipient’s belly and come gushing forth all over you this Valentines Day.

The first comes from one of my favourite bloggers, Kat from Eco Empire. It is completely genius and involves folding a piece of paper into one of those fortune teller things that were all the rage in the playgrounds across the world in 1995. You fill it with date ideas and get it out once a month. It shows an absolute commitment to special time spent together, and a real care over thinking of the kinds of things you’d like to do together.origami valentines date craft

The second is from a blogger I have just recently found and whose creativity and writing I am really enjoying, Evie S.  On their eighth year anniversary she did a little illustration, summing up their time together in numbers. What a cool way to think about the things you have been through together, and see where your journey has bought you.valentines illustration

Lastly, this is one I did a few years ago for Tim – 52 reasons I love you. Back then I did it on a pack of cards I tied together with ribbon. This year I have scrawled them on 52 hearts I cut out. A reason for every week this year. Some are pretty silly “You make the BEST gosh darn porridge every morning” (He really does.) And others speak more about his nature, the Who that I see more every day even though we have been together for YONKS.

a jar filled with reasons i love you valentines

The very best bit about this simple gift is how much it makes you dwell on all the things you love about them. You think 52 is impossible after you have poured your heart into the first 7, but since finishing it I keep thinking of more. (Sorry, bit yuck, eh.) I put my 52 reasons in a jar, because, you know me, if it can’t go in an old jar? Not interested.

52 reasons valentines craft

So, magazine, take your unthrifty fifties. My Valentine is getting a piece of paper. Cos as Plato said, or was it Ghandi,  or Yoko Ono…  (Hmmm, I’ve got a feeling I’m getting closer…) Money can’t buy me love!

PIN FOR LATER:
Quick and free valentine gift ideas

Craftiness, Thrifty

DIY Cookie Cutter

29 November, 2012

Just a really quick post today, I am running around like a blue arsed fly getting things ready for the Oxford Street Fairtrade Christmas market on Saturday – woooo!

I needed a cool bird (it HAD to be a bird) cookie cutter to make a Christmas decoration with, and our collection is limited to one lonely, lowly gingerbread man shape. We make gingerbread men biscuits all the time (I say we, but Tim is really the baker), they are Ramona’s faves- she calls them “The Boys”, which makes for quite cute exclamations like “YUMMMMY! ME LIKE BOYS!”

I had a rummage in our Throw-Everything-In cupboard and came up trumps with a ream of sturdy metal. Anything would have done – a strip of copper, or the bottom of one of those aluminum take away trays cut into a strip would be ideal (especially as you wouldn’t have any questions abut toxicity.)

I sketched the shape I wanted, and with a pair of pliers bent it into a bird.

I am SO excited by this new prospect of being able to twist metal into a myriad of shapes – it will be nice to have quirky biscuits, but also I am thinking about being able to cut shapes out of air-drying clay. Wheeeee!

*Forgets the Christmas Fayre and spends day with a pair of pliers*

Green things, Thrifty

Thrifty foraging: fruit leathers

24 September, 2012

You know I love to save a penny (an actual genuine coin not avoiding going for a wee, yeah?) and will often go to great lengths to do so. In extreme cases I have rummaged through bins at the market and come away with a harvest festival style haul, and I make a lot of Stuff in an attempt to not buy Things. This is the Way of Paying the Mortgage and Also Spending Your Saved Pennies on Old Bits and Bobs At Car Boot Fairs.

I have dappled in foraging for food before. Whenever we pass a blackberry bush all plans are on hold while we stuff our faces, turning up at destination with purple mouths and fingers. And I will often get nettles from the local park to bung in our soups, but I’m not going to lie, whilst they ARE packed with iron, it IS primarily for the irrepressible joy of answering our guest’s question of “Yummmy, what IS this?” with “NETTLES!!! HARRHARRHAAAHA” *witchy laugh*

However, today it has been ALL GO on the foraging front. I was given “The Thrifty Forager” by Alys Fowler for my birthday last week and I spend every spare minute reading it. Honestly, that Alys is tighter than ME. She will spend the afternoon digging around for roots of things, spend an hour cleaning it and then a night infusing it and then a day making chutney out of it, with cardamom, all to save about 70p.

What an inspiration.

It was chucking it down today, but I had made up my mind to get out there and so stubbornly I went.

I was planning to get some mulberries but on my way to the mulberry tree saw a huge windfall of fruit beneath the cherry tree. We have loads of urban cherries round here, they were planted yonks ago as a budget and pollution hardy bit of foliage. I popped over the fence and only had to endure one shout of “Lost something, love?” (not said with much love) and a handful of suspicious glares.

It was a good job I got so lucky with the cherries as the mulberry tree was a she-devil. There were only about 3 ripe berries on it and every time I reached for one my hair (er, bee’s nest) got tangled in a wizened branch and I had to spend several minutes unknotting myself.

With a fairly plump bag  I scurried round the corner to another park where I had spied some crab-apples earlier. Obviously crab apples are totally rank but Alys assures me they cook up good and are a potent source of pectin- perfect for jams. Again the wind had well hooked me up as I was able to scoop handfuls of clean, freshly blown off apples into my getting- heavier bag. (You said blown off… hehehe.)

I then spent about a million years, with a lot of elbow grease, making a tiny amount of fruit leathers. They are those chewy fruity rolls, quite popular at the moment with the little ones. Ours were delicious, basically free and despite the hard labour, made me feel BRILLIANT. There is something about putting in a bit of effort in order to get a cool live-off-the-land-y result that makes it totally worthwhile.

Of course, I jest about all the work. Foraging like this is an activity in itself, a way of connecting with nature in an extremely urban setting, and a chance to spot the wild beauty amongst the housing estates and fried chicken shops. It is also an opportunity, just for an afternoon, to step out of a global food system which is pretty wrought. Where there are equal numbers of obese and malnourished people, where supermarkets throw out their waste and pour bleach on so no one can salvage it and where staple crops in poor countries are being turned into fuel for rich ones. GAH.

As I untangled my accidental dreadlocks from the vengeful mulberry tree I was able to reflect on all this. And as my fruity leathers got stuck in my cavities I pledged to GET RIGHT ON BOARD WITH THIS FORAGING MALARKEY!

FRUIT LEATHERS

  • Some foraged fruit
  • Sugar/ honey/ lemon/ spices
  • 1 cup of water to every 4 cups of fruit

Cut off the bad bits of fruit and then chuck in the pan with the water. Add any spices you like- I chose a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook slowly until the fruit softens. Mash it all up. Have a little taste. Mine was made with unripe mulberries, sour cherries and rank crab apples so needed a fair bit of sugar to help it along. If you have found succulent pears, sweet blackberries and juicy plums you might not even need a single grain.

Push it all through the siv. (This was the bit that made my muscles groan but I didn’t want to waste a speck)

Smear it on to baking paper as thin as possible, mine was about 0.3 cm.

Put it in your dehydrater, airing cupboard or oven on loooow heat for between 4-8 hours. I got bored at 3 so ours is less leathery and more gummy-chewy. The drying process preserves it completely so it will last forevs in your fridge but ours will be gone by tomorrow lunchtime so Da Nada.

Have you tried a bit of foraging? Made anything ace?

I am linking up with a Green Blogger Meet and greet hosted here, weeee!

And also the October Festival of Food.
Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.

Stay connected! Be sure to “Like” the 
Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.


Festival of Food Carnival

Finding things, Our recycled home

Our recycled kitchen – a makeover from new to old

9 August, 2012

Around this time last year I posted that my dearly beloved had ripped out the kitchen due to us finding a retro cooker that we wanted to install. It just felt rude to bung such a nice nostalgic beast in our existing Nineties kitchen so we decided to let our love of all things old reign supreme.

Another year later and it is about time I did the final update, our makeover from new to old.

The before pictures aren’t terribly good. They never are, eh?  I think this is because there is often nowt to shine, but also because of some deep reluctance to spend too much time peering at it all. Let’s just say there was ALOT of pine cladding.

Left hand side BEFORE

A low hanging ceiling with weird fake beams. Laminate flooring covering up stunning Victorian boards.

A huge pantry – it was an original, ancient cooling sytem but it just took up so much space. A boring tin sink with an ill fitting cabinet.

It was all so very dark and dreary.

*extreme makeover  voice* It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears but here is our new bright and cheery family kitchen….

We ripped out the cupboards. We were lucky to find some exactly matching vintage tiles in the basement of a derelict house round the corner, we popped those up to cover the spaces we’d exposed.

Tim runs a youth club in the place I used to go to Seacadets as a kid- they were chucking out the old benches so we made shelves out of them. The very benches I would have been resting my sorry, freckly young ten year old self.

The enamel tins are our new pantry- we found them in France when we drove 12 hours to a car boot.

Somebody close by had hired a skip for a house renovation so we pulled the excellent bench tops straight out (with permission, of course!)

These are old lights from a butchers- we found them on Ebay, £17 for the pair. To find them we didn’t type “vintage” or even “traditional” but “trditional.” Is it terribly wrong to benefit from other people’s mistakes?

Tim found this whole sink for £25 on Gumtree, and got to grips with plumbing to install it. Using some old table tops and doors from an old cabinet he carpentered a unit for it. (Cor, Kiwis are bloody ace. Do marry one, if you can.) The tiles, we  swapped with a local cafe, in exchange for building them some veg beds.

The retro blind is really a sneaky table cloth, and some of our Midwinter crockery sits upon a shelf we found in a bin and painted blue, and you can also spy the hooks I made from vintage spoons.

And here is the star of the show, our beguiling old oven. He was casted off, into the streets, along with these cupboards either side. A good clean, and a lick of paint on the cupboard doors, and they add a cheer from yesteryear to our kitchen.

When our fridge broke we took the opportunity to get one that fitted in with our theme. We had to hire a van to bring it home from the furtherest corner of Essex but we are so glad we did. It isn’t that old so is still efficient (although its huuummmm would tell you otherwise) but hails from the States which is why it looks so different. It has an ice maker much to my husband’s utter joy.

And this little corner adds a little pop of colour – we found it in someone’s garden and snazzied it up with some paint.

We had help with plastering the ceiling, and Tim picked up enough to some other walls, but other places we just exposed the brick. I love the texture of all the rubbly walls, recycled wood and shiny, colourful kitchen paraphernalia.


We spend such a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking, drinking coffee and eating so we are pleased we did this, despite saying we initially wouldn’t bother. I know it isn’t your usual makeover, and loads of you are possibly looking at the BEFORE pictures thinking it looks miles better HAARHA. But we love it’s quirky little self, it gets my heart all a flutter.

What do you reckon on this cornicopia of found objects?

PS The small and superior photos were taken by Jenny Harding during the Pretty Nostalgic shoot. She does a lot of gorgeous vintage style shoots.

PPS I’d love you to enter my giveaway – retro and Cath Kidston fabric, a 1982 Twinkle, a Midwinter tea cup and a glue gun! (An obvious mix!) Come over and say hi!

Craftiness, Thrifty

Dominoes Fridge Magnets – the quickest, most fun craft ever

26 July, 2012

Van Morrison sings a song, Domino, that is BURSTING with memories for me. It is the opening track of “His band and the Street Choir” and was played on almost every family gadabout in my childhood, all of us bundled up in our VW camper, rumbling along from South London to Eastern Europe.

It has been soaring through my mind for the last week- since scoring two sets of Dominoes from that epic car boot fair. One for 10p and one for 50p. I thought one of the sets would be ideal for crafting so got to thinking what they might be good for. I had a few ideas, but settled on some nice traditional Fridge Magnets.

I have sheets of magnets I bought online for £2.50 a sheet. They aren’t the strongest BUT they are so slimline and it is fab to be able to cut them perfectly to shape. I use about 1/4 of the sheet so 50p plus the 10p for the dominoes brings this revitalised game up to a grand 60p expenditure.

I did it primarily for the asthetics and was pretty happy with the result, but not completely over the moon or anything. Then our 5 year old nephew came over that day and played over ten joyous games  of Dominoes with Tim. He had never played before but he just loved the simplicity of it, and there is something cool about playing a game with on a fridge. And now I am sold on the idea and think a fridge basically looks bereft without a whole set of Dominoes on it.

Like VHS’s and Barbies, Dominoes is one of those things that are part of the furniture of charity shops and car boots, so don’t pass them by another time. What a thrifty fun gift this would make, eh?

What d’ya reckon? Have you crafted anything with Dominoes? Want to get a song stuck in your head that respectfully honours this sunny summer we are experiencing? Here is Van with Domino live, with all the glories of the Seventies right there…
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25LhUHKVYMo]