Monthly Archives: February 2013

Crafting Green

I love doing all sorts of craft.  Here are some ideas on greening up your crafting:

Use vintage fabrics or offcuts – charity shops are an excellent source of remnant fabrics and you’ll often find gorgeous vintage pieces, at very low prices.  There are some fabulous vintage fabric sellers online too…check out one of my favourites here.  Keep the tiny scraps of fabric left-over from your projects – cut up as you go and store in a bag/container to be used as stuffing.

Fabrics: offcuts, vintage and up cycled

Upcycle!  Transform worn-out, stained or torn pieces into something new – just avoid the areas of the item that have these flaws.  Old tablecloths, pillow cases, tea towels, woollen blankets, scarves, jumpers (woollen and polarfleece), jeans, shirts, and baby blankets have all found new life in my hands.  Your own cupboards will no doubt be a source of such fabrics, but charity stores again are a useful place to look.

Build up a collection of sewing bits and pieces by sourcing second-hand and vintage supplies, again from charity stores and online (ebay and Etsy are excellent).  These may have been used previously – eg, tools, buttons, remnant embroidery threads – or be old but unused and possibly still in original packaging – zippers, thread, needles, press studs, bias binding, etc!  I get excited when I scour the sewing/crafting section of charity stores…the best part is that everything is a discovery…you just don’t know what you might find!

Sewing supplies

No need to buy brand spanking new knitting needles and crochet hooks, either!  I’ve found all of mine on ebay and the local Vinnie’s and Salvo’s stores.  Ditto for yarn.  I try to tailor my projects to using what I have – patchwork squares, granny squares, softies and small items all lend themselves to using up scraps of yarn.

Buttons, knitting needles, crochet hooks

When second-hand or vintage isn’t available, choose supplies that are made of eco-friendly materials – organic/biodynamic cotton and wool, bamboo, hemp, pure wool felt and recycled PET felt.  These are all available through online sellers.

Become an organised hoarder!  Before throwing away an item ask yourself whether it could be used for craft.  I store broken crockery in labelled containers waiting for the mosaic masterpiece I’m going to create one day!  Although corks are recyclable, they are a versatile addition to your craft supplies – check out this idea for a cute home-made stamp.  Bits and pieces such as beads, broken jewellery, buckles, lengths of ribbon, and magnets all lend themselves to craft.


If you are into paper crafts, collect pretty or interesting papers, card and the aforementioned bits and pieces – invitations, postage stamps, playing cards, greeting cards, board game pieces, and envelopes are fabulous materials for card making, scrapbooking and other paper projects.  This Etsy site has an amazing array of such supplies available for purchase (all vintage/second-hand).

English: Sheet of US Postage stamps, 1940 issu...

The key to not getting into mess and clutter by hanging on to all this stuff is to arrange items into categories (buttons, ribbons, stamps, corks, papers, fabrics, etc) and store them where they can be easily located.  And if you need inspiration or ideas on what to do with anything from an old belt buckle to a pair of holy denim jeans…I give you one word only…Pinterest!


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An Australian first – Free soft plastic recycling at Coles!

I just wanted to share this fabulous news:

An Australian first – Free soft plastic recycling at Coles – RNY News.

This kind of thing gets me very excited!

I hate plastic…that it is produced from petrochemicals…that it doesn’t biodegrade completely in a reasonable time…that it is responsible for the deaths of millions of unsuspecting animals in the ocean and on land.   I would rather we didn’t have plastic in the first place, but in the world I know, it is hard to avoid.  If we have options for recycling plastic, it helps keep it out of our oceans and wilderness areas, and reduces the need to produce more from scratch.

Plastic Ocean

Plastic Ocean (Photo credit: Kevin Krejci)

Well done to the companies involved in this initiative!  If you read the link you will notice the drop-off service is currently only available at selected Coles supermarkets, however, the recycling company (Replas) is also accepting soft plastics in the mail.  I’m thinking plastic bags are very light and very squashable, so you could fit lots and lots in a post bag to send to Coolaroo, Victoria.

Trader Joes overpackaged food

Food in plastic!  Note, it’s the bag-type plastic we’re talking here; the plastic containers are mostly already recyclable.

Tomorrow I shall choose a suitably sized parcel bag from my stash of used ones, address it so it’s ready to pop in the post, and start filling it with plastics that I would otherwise be forced to throw in the bin (and feel very uncomfortable doing so).    Although I will still endeavour to minimise my purchases of plastic-clad food, I’ll feel much better knowing that this disposable packaging of mine will be transformed into non-disposable, long-lasting outdoor furniture and signage, for schools and community groups.

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Playing in the Kitchen

Miss L was lucky enough to be given her cousins’ lovely timber play kitchen a couple of years ago.  She spends hours in it – preparing picnic food, supper for her toys, whipping up cakes and batches of biscuits, making tea…not much dish washing goes on though.  Hmmm…I might have to encourage that a little.

The kitchen is stocked with a few hand-me-down items (little metal pots, fruit and vegies, teapot), but mostly it contains old real kitchenware and items otherwise destined for landfill or recycling.  Shabby or slightly broken cooking utensils and equipment that no longer has a place in my kitchen, often end up in Lucy’s – a perspex jug that cracked when it fell onto the tile floor (repaired with superglue), worn plastic mixing bowls, a  ladel and whisk, a wooden chopping board, and even old tea towels.

I find it quite silly that you can actually buy pretend packages and food containers for children’s play.  Once empty, the real ones make far superior toys for the play kitchen because they are the real thing – you can’t get any more authentic!  Plus by reusing these containers we are doing something positive for the environment and teaching our children about reducing waste.

I especially like to use containers that aren’t recyclable, since if they’re not used for something else after the food, their next destination is the bin (I try not to buy food in non-recyclable packaging though).  The containers/packaging might serve a different purpose in the pretend kitchen – think outside the square.  Plastic trays become oven trays, plastic trays with little depressions for cakes/muffins become muffin trays.

Also, containers that hold some basic cooking staples (especially for baking) and can be easily recognised by kids are a must.  Salt and pepper (in the plastic shakers), baking powder, cream of tartar, vanilla, egg cartons, butter/margarine containers all help to make the kids’ kitchen more authentic.

The tea set is a lovely, very sturdy one made of 100% recycled plastic milk cartons.  It would be very simple and inexpensive to make up a tea set from charity shop finds – espresso cups and saucers are ideal as they’re small, and likewise there are plenty of small size teapots around.  If the kids are too young to handle crockery without breakages, then choose stainless steel or plastic (if you can find it).  Or just buy a second hand play tea set…but the real stuff is very cool!

Miss L also has a gorgeous vintage Japanese tea set that was passed on to her by a special Great Great Aunty who had kept it since she was six-years-old.  That’s packed away for another year or two!

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Upcycling: Cute Picture Frame Magnets

Miss L and I did some crafting together today.  When I explained what I had in mind she responded, ‘No!  I want to do drawing with my sparkly pens!’, in typical preschooler defiance.  She did do drawing, and it was beautiful.  But she was intrigued by what I was creating and quickly changed projects.

So we made some cute little photo/picture frame magnets for the fridge, using the top rims of tin cans and old/unwanted advertising magnets.  Together.  We had fun!  Here’s what we did.


Find a tin can with a ring-pull lid.  Open it (using the ring-pull), remove lid and use whatever’s inside!  Wash and dry can.  Then use a can opener to go around the top of the already opened can to remove the rim.  One of the more modern types of can openers (like that pictured) will do the job.


You will be left with a useful tin (minus the sharp bit on the inside) to house all sorts of goodies… as well as an interesting tin ring.  (It was the need to get rid of the sharp edge that’s left at the top of a ring-pull can after opening, that led me to discover this upcycling-worthy item.)


Can you see that this otherwise piece of rubbish (well, actually, recycling!) is a perfect little frame?  (Click on the photo above to see the pattern of close lines on the rim).  So, find a sweet picture, a photo of a loved one or your child’s artwork.  Use the tin frame like a viewfinder to choose the best part of the picture then trace around the outside of the frame there.  Cut out your circle neatly.


Then glue the frame onto the picture using PVC glue (I just happened to have it) or something else that will glue metal to paper.  It’s easiest to apply the glue to the frame rather than the picture.  And remember: with glue, less is more!  Alternatively, cut your picture to fit inside the frame, glue the wrong-side edge to the front of the inside rim, then glue a piece of card (re-use an old card, cereal box, etc) on to back of the picture and frame.  This produces a sturdier result, but I prefer the neater look with the picture behind the frame (you don’t need to cut quite as neatly, either)!


You might want to leave the glue to dry a bit before the next step, which is glueing on the magnet.  Find a heavyish object to place on top – I used another tin can (with contents).  For the magnet I cut a square piece  from an old advertising magnet (I could have done a circle but I find it easier to cut square shapes).  I have a stash of these just through keeping old ones that I’ve acquired over the years.  I’m not a fan of advertising magnets – they’re not necessary, not recyclable (though at least re-usable) and create extra landfill.  But being on the receiving end of them has been unavoidable at times.  Anyway, these magnets make a nice flat backing surface for the picture, and you don’t have to go out and buy more stuff.


Apply a thin layer of glue to the magnet (printed side), then place onto the back of the picture.


Leave to dry, picture side up, with a heavy object on top.


Your lovely framed picture magnet is complete.  They look much nicer on the fridge than business names and phone numbers (and real estate calendars)!  You could also make little doll house picture frames using the same method, minus the magnet.  Or cut out pic’s and sit them inside jar lids and glue a magnet on the back…but I like the look of the pattern on the tin rim.



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Dried Fruit

I purchased a second-hand food dehydrator on ebay a couple of years ago, after I’d had a glut of tomatoes and had tried my hand at drying them in the oven.  The tomato dehydrating in the oven was not the best idea as it was the middle of summer (which is when we tend to have gluts of tomatoes) and I was required to leave the oven slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape, plus I could only do a small number at a time, having only two racks in the oven.  The oven also uses a fair bit of power…though we were on solar at least.  I did try the drying outdoors in the sun method…but our climate was way too humid for that…so there wasn’t much drying going on.


Since buying the food dehydrator I actually haven’t tried tomatoes in it!  Well, I haven’t had a glut of them again, for a number of reasons…but I’m looking forward to it happening again soon…maybe next season…just so I can pop them in the dehydrator. I have, however, tried some other fruits – mostly kiwifruit (scrumptious), banana (much healthier than those banana ‘chips’, which frequently contain palm oil), and orange and orange peel (a handy way to preserve orange peel for all kinds of uses – in cooking or around the home).  Kiwifruit has been a favourite amongst our household…in fact today I discovered my daughter had consumed half a jar full (that’s quite a lot of kiwifruit) while I was distracted on the phone!


Apart from being a way of storing home-grown produce, I love the fact that we can have preserved food in the cupboard without having bought it in some kind of plastic packaging.  Even if you’re not growing your own produce, you can still  make dried fruit inexpensively and minus the plastic.  Once dehydrated, I store the fruit in a clean dry jar in the pantry or fridge.


Of course food dehydrating is not limited to fruit.  You can also do vegetables, herbs (for cooking or tea) and spices (make your own garlic, ginger or turmeric powder if you’re growing them in the garden), flowers, meat and more!

P.S. I hope you don’t mind all the kiwifruit pic’s!  I just love how they look when they’re sliced. 🙂

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