Craft, stitchin' and sustainable living

Monday, January 30, 2012


See this funny little fellow?  He was a gift for a work friend who has just started her maternity leave with her first little one.  He (the teddy, not the little one) was crocheted from yarn entirely from my stash and no pattern.

Now, Aussie readers, if you think you have seen a look-a-like of this fellow advertising a certain Australian brand, you're right.  I modelled him off the other 'Teddy' as a sort of in-joke at work.

He was well appreciated.

Oh, and it's now the end of January, so I'm due to check in about my year of no plastic food packaging. Here are the plastic food packaging items that went in our bin this month:
  • Three lids of UHT milk cartons (which I use for making yoghurt)
  • One vaccum sealed bag that had a whole chicken in it, and two that had sausages (meat packaging is on the 'allowed' list, but in the interest of full disclosure I'm listing it here anyway)
  • One small plastic window from a mostly-thick brown paper bag of corn chips (I was desperate for chips and these were the closest to plastic-free I could find)
Not a bad effort, me thinks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Making Yoghurt

The first gift that I unwrapped on Christmas morning was a sterile jar.  Insert puzzled look on my face and boyfriend unable to contain his laughter.  What on earth was this for?  I unwrapped a few more gifts and was very pleased to discover that I was the proud new owner of a yoghurt maker (the sterile jar is for keeping the dried yoghurt cultures).  Awesome!  I had been investigating ways of making yoghurt online, but the risky part seems to be being able to keep the yoghurt at a consistent low temperature for the right length of time.  Some people have had success, others, icky sour dairy.

This wonderful yoghurt maker, however, is pretty much foolproof.  As long as all containers and utencils are sterilized before using there's not much that can go wrong.  You simply pour your milk into the container (UHT milk, otherwise you have to heat treat it yourself by heating it to 90 degrees celcius then letting it cool to 40 degrees before adding any cultures) and either add a tiny 10th of a teaspoon of yoghurt culture or a dollop of the last batch of yoghurt you made.  It's then as simple as putting the container in the yoghurt maker and switching it on  - this then keeps the yoghurt at the perfect temperature (around 40 degrees) for your desired length of time - usually 8 - 12 hours.  Then you will have a container of yummy fresh yoghurt to pop in the fridge!

 I love this yoghurt maker.  We've already used in numerous times since Christmas day.  And it came at the perfect time as I was starting my 'no plastic food packaging' year.  It's also really cheap to make.  Double whammy!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ruffle top

I have been seeing loads of these ruffle tops getting about town, and decided that I really wanted to make my own.

It started out with a plain, grey, long-sleeved shirt that I hardly ever wore because the high neckline didn't suit me.  Around the same time, the ever-stitchy Nikkishell was clearing out her fabric stash and I became the lucky recipient of some fabric she had no use for.  This black-and-white spotted georgette was perfect for the ruffle.  I basically just made a long tube of it, gathered it, then arranged it down the front of the top.  I hemmed the shirt sleeves shorter and that was it!

The thing I learnt about ruffle tops is that there's a fine line between the high fashion look and the deranged clown look.  It look a couple of goes pinning and unpinning to try to emulate the former as best as possible.

Hopefully I didn't come out looking too circusy, but just in case, here's me trying to fit in...

Many thanks Nikki!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Year of No Plastic Food Packaging

Food purchased from our local co-op shop (byo jar)

The idea for having a year free from plastic food packaging came about because I wanted to reduce the amount of plastic coming into and exiting our house, knowing the amount of resources it takes to make plastic, and the fact that once it's used, it will be sitting about in landfill for the next 500 years or more.  Given the short amount of time that plastic is actually in use, 500 years is crazy, right?

We're pretty lucky because we live not far from a co-op shop that sells food staples in bulk - you take your own jars and containers and fill them up.  As I've mentioned before, we're also members of a veggie co-op that brings us a delivery of fresh fruit and veg direct from the farmer's market each week.  So I have absolutely no excuses to not buy plastic packaging-free fruit, veg, pasta, rice, legumes, herbs, flour etc.

In making this commitment, however I do acknowledge there are some things that I consider staples which I will need to buy in plastic.  I have narrowed this down to two items - meat and cheese.  I've mentioned before that we don't eat a lot of meat in our household, but when we do we get it from an organic, free-range supplier who deals in only sustainable meats.  There are some cheeses that come in foil or wax, but most varieties come in plastic packaging, and we are cheese lovers in our household.  These are the two items I am not willing to go without.

There are other things I can live without though - packets of chips (crisps), sweets, store-bought breads, dips and a multitude of other things.

The point is, it's not about putting excessive limits on ourselves, it's about making our lives better whilst also reducing our impact on the planet.  I might be about to have a year without marshmallows (sob!) but eating less refined sugars is actually going to be heaps better for my health, not to mention those plastic packets that will not be heading to landfill.

By the way, have you seen the film No Impact Man?  It's really worth watching.  If a family living in a New York apartment can completely cut their impact on the environment for a year, then we can all make small changes in our lives, don't you think?

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Plans

Some people seem to avoid any kind of end of year reflection, not wanting to review the things they promised they would do, which may or may not have been done.  But I bet if you actually sat down and wrote a list of all the things you did last year, you'd be quite impressed with yourself.

Fabric shopping in Amsterdam in 2011

My 2011 goals included some careery type ones, some stitching type ones, and some sustainability type ones.  I'm pretty pleased with how I've gone in all those departments.  While some of these took quite hard work to achieve, they were all things that I REALLY WANTED, so the hard work wasn't so hard once I got into it.

In 2011 I...
  • Read 16 books.  I just did the tally up, and that's way more than I thought.  However, some of them were smaller kids books (like Paul Jennings Unreal!) and some were gardening books which are heavy on pictures (but still awesome).
  • Sewed 11 items of clothing, and mended, hemmed or altered countless more.  Even as I sit here typing this, and stop to think, I'm moving the buttons on a pair of shorts to make them fit better.
  • Refashioned 3 items of clothing.
  • Knitted 5 items of clothing, including my first pair of socks which I worked on whilst travelling around Europe.
  • Crocheted 6 items.
  • I also made some things to cut down on the amount of waste entering and leaving our house, like veggie bags (no more plastic supermarket ones) and serviettes (bye-bye paper napkins).  Also towards a more sustainable household we joined a veggie co-op, made our own bread, jams, sauces, chutneys... and even laundry liquid (see excellent instructions here, introduced to me by Erica from Recycled Fashion)
Wow - that's quite a list!

Cloth serviettes means no more one-use paper napkins

So then to 2012.  I have three big themes for this year...

1. Creating
Ok, so if you look at the list above, you would probably think that I do enough creating already.  But a lot of this stuff is from a pattern, so mostly I'm just following instructions.  This year I want to do some more arty creating, less about the functional and more about the interesting and thought provoking.  I have some plans here, which I will share with you as they start to take proper shape in the coming weeks.

2. Exercising
That's gotta be the most common New Year's Resolution, right?  However I'm talking about exercising both my mind AND body.  I love it when my brain gets working and the good ideas start to flow.  I want to find the muscle that does that and give it a regular workout.  Things like learning other languages or even doing crosswords helps.  And as to the physical - I've never been a gym girl.  Way too boring and monotonous.  I have been taking acrobatics lessons for the last few years and I will be continuing to hone my skills (and hopefully perfect my handstands) in 2012.

Joining a veggie co-op was one of the best things I did in 2011.  No plastic supermarket bags here!

3. Cutting down on food packaging
I have decided to cut out plastic food packaging as much as possible.  The thought came to me when I went out to get some lunch one day, and came back to the office with some takeaway Japanese food.  I finished my food in about 10 mins and realised that I was about to throw out a plastic container that had been used for literally 15 mins.  When I thought about all the chemicals, water and energy that went into making it, and the fact that it was to become landfill after 15 mins of use, I was totally disgusted.  I then resolved to cut out plastic food packaging as much as possible.  This is my big commitment for 2012, the one that will require me to be more conscious when making food-buying decisions.

I'll be sure to keep you updated with my 'big themes' for 2012 and how I am going with them.  How about you?  Any big themes for 2012?  Travel?  Study?  Cooking up a storm?  Do tell!