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Category Archives: Thrifty

Thrifty Gifts: a jar of crayon shapes

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I found a few manky crayons in a gutter the other day, on the way to the park. I picked them up (by no means the nastiest thing I have fished out of a gutter) to try that Melty Thing. It is a genius idea; crayons get so quickly get broken/ pick up a layer of muck that every family house probably has a stash in disfavour. Just give them a new lease of life with a bit of melting into shapes action.

I have a few cool shaped ice trays, I always pick them up in charity shops and car boots and I use them for resin craft,  (Well, I did try, um, baking in the elephant shape one and melted half of it. Really, they look just like the silicon muffin numbers.)

In an act of Completely Obvious Craft Blogging here is how I did it – not the baking melt fiasco, the crayon shapes, yeah?

 

  • I oiled the shapes first, to help them pop out easier.
  • They take about 40 sec to melt, I kept them moving all the time.
  • I worked from light/ similar colours to dark so that I didn’t have to clean the pan much inbetween.
  • They take about 30 minutes to dry solid in a cold place (my kitchen table)
  • The ones that I filled less than 1 centimetre broke as I popped them out – so don’t be stingy with the liquid!
  • You will need White Spirit to clean out your ice trays and pans, so do use ones you don’t use for consumption anymore!

This is going to make a fine gift for a little tot I know- toddlers are actually quite hard to make for, beyond sewing cuddly things. I am hoarding jars for my Christmas gifts-  it must be THE thriftiest way of giving nice gifts. Start doing it and in a couple of weeks they’ll be a thrifty, gifty ideas for jars post… *raises eyebrows up and down in a conspirational- watch-this-space- kind of a way*

Ten new uses for old lace

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I love old lace, I gather reams of it whenever I visit car boot sales. I simply can’t say no. Fortunately there are a million and one craft projects you can create with lace, so even when I am buried beneath it, gasping through the intricate florals, I will be squawking  “Lace! More Lace!”

Here are some of the things I have whipped up, and some of the things I have plans for. Click the links to be taken through to the How-To’s and Tutorials.

1- Perfect rosettes. The picture above are some lace rosettles on a flapper-style head band I made for a favourite little rascal I know. Lace is quite forgiving and looks beautiful even if your rose is a bit haphazard!

2- Classy lightbulbs. Simply spraypainting through lace onto normal old lightbulbs just makes the most beautiful thing – and  imagine the shadow they cast! I spied this on Pinterest and it went straight on my “15 minute craft” board.

3- Encase it in resin. A little bit of resin goes along way in my books! I love encasing bits and pieces in resin – it is so easy but looks pretty pro. I love the look of this little snippet of lace, I  turned it into a delightful keyringby simply rilling a tiny hole in the corner- but it could easily be turned into some jewelry.

4- Gorgeous plant pots. Amazing what a small strip of lace can do to a boring old planter. Suddenly a gift of bulbs in a pot is taken to a lush new level, with just lick or two of homemade mod podge.

5- New t-shirts. I love making small adjustments to things in my wardrobe. Once I get some time I am going to add new life to my old tees with a touch of lace. I did it to my first DIY baby-sling too- turning it from a plain black number to something a bit, er, kinda saucy.

6- A no-sew skirt Kids love dressing up, and parents love it if the dressing up box is packed with bargainous, easy to make items, no?  Enter the no-sew lace skirt by the thrifty Missie Lizzie.

7- Handy bowl This bowl is just 15 sloppy minutes of making and you have a vessel that is tough and pretty.

8- Elegant pegs With just two minutes and a slick of home made mod podge you can upcycle some pegs. We use pegs for hanging all sorts; cards, photos, leaves we have collected.  (I also just got sent decorated pegs with strips of magnet on the back for the fridge- how genius is that?!)

9- Upcycled Scarf. I tend to keep my scarves for years (when I have managed to not leave them on the bus) so this idea of adding lace to the ends massively appeals to me, giving a bit of pizazz to a scarf you’ve had for yonks. And it looks stunning, hey?

10- And, finally… Snazzy slippers I made these slippers out of the armpit of a jumper I felted, they were so, so simple but the trim of vintage lace makes them look just a little bit fancier.

Have you made or spotted a new use for old lace? This is merely ten out of a whole UNIVERSE of ideas, so do share…

(Also, come and say hello on the Facebook page, or Twitter, or get thrifty/crafty/mother-y emails pinged into your inbox by hitting follow over on the right there.)

Campervan thrifting and the inauguration of Betty

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We always owned a VW camper when I was a kid, we’d scamp off from school a bit early and spend the whole summer trekking around Europe, hitting up spots as distant and exotic as Hungry, the Czech Republic and Berlin just after the Wall came down.

Those were the days of seatbelt ambivalence so my sister and I would often stay in bed while my parents drove, or we’d sit around the table in the back threading friendship bracelets or brushing the bright neon locks of our Trolls.

It was also the early days of video cameras and one holiday we borrowed a friend’s and my parents spent every journey  filming straight out of the window in front of them, no speaking, or even people really, just endless scenery.  One memorable clip involves the cap being pushed onto the camera lens and one family member (let’s call him, for the sake of the story, “Dad”) calling out “You have turned that off, yeah?” and the one who put the lens cap on (again, just for the story’s sake, let’s go with “Mum”) saying “Of COURSE, darling!” in a tone that really meant I’m not a complete idiot. The rest of the film is total darkness, the muffled sounds of life happening around it.

Me in my snazzy early 90’s gear. We have either broken down or having a cheap night’s sleep in a European layby

Since arriving in London Tim and I have taken all our holidays by train, with our camping gear and bikes in tow. This got a little bit harder with Ramona but we still enjoyed it. The prospect of doing it with two kids though kind of freaked us out a bit, and we began dreaming of getting back on the camper bandwagon.

Fortunately my folks were up for it too and after several weeks of arduous hunting we found ourselves co-owners of a brilliant 1991 VW Vanagon Westfalia. Although we love the look of a classic bay or splitty, we know the blood, sweat and tears  you have to pour into them so went for a newer and undoubtedly more reliable option. We call her Betty.

Betty at Bognor Regis

We took Betty out for a spin the first weekend we owned her but only got as far as Eltham where we slept in my friend’s driveway on the A21 – it wasn’t exactly fulfilling her potential. This weekend we managed to get to West Sussex where we frolicked in the autumnal vibe. WHAT A DELIGHT! We roamed around Chichester cathedral, slept over on the South Downs, and our Betty even bought the best out of Bognor as we parked up for a spot of lunch. What an incongruous place, a breathtaking, windswept, almost wild beach, and then these humongous eye-sore bouncy castles plopped left right and centre.

Ramona checking out the beautiful view (or wishing she was bouncing on an eye-sore) with her mucky chops and mucky top *wishes I’d photoshopped*

I’m not gonna lie to you, the primary reason we hiked all the way down there for one night  was because of the notoriously amazing car boot sales. So you can only imagine our disappointment when, one after the other, the car boots failed to exist! I had even googled in advance! But we turned up to THREE only to find soggy, empty fields. *sob*

Fortunately we found an afternoon one that redeemed the trip. We managed to spend a tenner and pretty much fill Betty up.

We picked up this set of mustard teacups for £2.50 – I thought they’ be perfect to keep in Betty. We also got a pair of these dining chairs. (Despite already actually being an Official Dining Chair Hospice.) We have about a billion, more than any amount of visitors could ever sit on. And they have a way of finally carking it in crashingly big public moments, providing the unfortunate party-goer with a bit of shame and a sore bum. BUT they were only a POUND and helped us really feel that owning a van was a Good Thing, collaborating with us to get items like this back home.

We got lots of other little things, handy items we needed and bits of gorgeousness we really didn’t but the batch I had to show you was this, from the “Three for £1 table”. I kid you not. . .

Gorgeous china teacups, a vintage set of dominoes and a cut glass vase, 33.3p EACH!

The weekend totally heralded good thrifty times for us and the Betty bomb. Did you have a good one? Thrifted anything amazing lately?

Linking up with Missie Lizzie and those marvelous Magpie Mondays.

Tiny Resin Collage Craft (using just an old ice tray)

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You know that old ditty “when in doubt, get the resin out”? I adhere to that in a big way.

I might have a little tiny trinket, a word from an old book, an image from a retro children’s book, or even a scrap of fabric, that I just love and want to show the world –  for me the solution is nearly always encasing it in resin.

It takes almost no skill and can be done on one of those days when you are completely lacking in creativity and nearly always turns out with a pro-looking sheen.

At the moment I am using up my Gedeo Crystal Resin, but soon will be moving on to try out a more eco version.

The key thing is to follow your instructions carefully and MIX IT TOGETHER REALLY WELL – UNTIL IT IS CLEAR AGAIN. (This is in caps because it is so critical, the only thing that will ruin it really, as it won’t set,  and then you’ll probably cry.)

I use the flexible ice tray, and fill them up to the level that I want my thing to be. I used a star mold last time, and made a scrabble letter pencil end and a tiny deer necklace.

This time I kept it plain, and filled every compartment in the tray with little papery experiments. I had someone in mind for every single one.

I popped them out after 24 hours – it is easier to get them out the quicker you do it. A couple I left in for a week and they were tough cookies, determined to stay in the tray.

Once out I drilled little holes into them, using the tiniest drill bit I have. I still need to sand the edges of them- I was kind of hoping these snaps would be a little more forgiving, mwhaha!

Some of them I made into key rings.

Some into a necklace.

I used a variety of papers- an old cowboy comic and a little piece from an old book.

I used some scraps of sewing fabric and cut up a few segments of a photo I’d taken of a million flying seagulls.

Easy Resin Craft

I couldn’t resist putting a bit of lace in, and I love how it came out, and then this little kids book image. These are my faves.

Others I have not quite made up my mind what to make them into, even though I know exactly who they are for.

What do you think? Any ideas for these tiny little collages?

Homemade Rosehip Oil – a bit of thrifty foraging

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*sings* Tis the season to pick rosehips, tralalalalaaaalalalala!

When I was pregnant the last time I was sent a tiny, expensive vial of rosehip oil. Oof, it was LUSH.  It is apparently amazing for stretch marks and scars and also adds a pre-emptive resilience to your skin. However, not one to waste such an ingredient on my vast, mostly unseen belly I used it on my face and it ended up softer and smoother than my newborn’s bum.

The oil is all gone now, and I’ve been kind of pining for it lately, knowing I’d never get my mitts on such a fine Frankincense-like substance again. And THEN I googled “rosehips” (oh man, I am such an urbanite) and turns out I like, er, pass them everyday of my life! My front garden is bursting with them, because, of course, they are just the seed pods of old roses! Heavy laden branches of them hang over my head as we walk to the park, their red skin squishes beneath my feet as we trundle to the bus stop. Glory be.

I wanted to make the most of them before all the gardeners cut their roses back, as October is the season for that. And homemade rosehip oil, with it’s skin restoring, vitamin A packed goodness, is about as easy as it gets.  Whilst this method isn’t pure seed oil, this does achieve a huge amount of the goodness and is commonly used extraction method in The Industry.

You Need:

Rosehips

Oil (any oil will do- almond oil is lovely and light for your skin but I went with normal nut oil as it is cheaper and is incredible for your skin all by itself)

Something to warm it in – I used my yoghurt maker, but a slow cooker on lowest setting will do, or keeping the jars in a warm airing cupboard/ on a radiator

A siv with a piece of cloth in/ muslin to strain it through

How to:

I filled one third of my jars with clean, dry rosehips. I topped up with nut oil. I placed in my yoghurt maker for 12 hours then strained into another squeaky clean jar.

The jars need to either be dark (snazzied up Marmite jars?) or kept in a dark place as Rosehip Oil is a little sensitive to light.

A whole jar of thrifty beauty, just like that. I reckon a jar of this – particularly if you made the jar look nice– would be a gorgeous Christmas gift, no?

(Argh, not only have I gawn and got a Christmas tune in your head, I’ve actually gawn and said the word! That’s it folks, you know what that means. It’s festive frivolity from here on in. WOO!)

(Meanwhile, my foraging neighbour Lakota has also posted about rosehips- with some delicious syrup. HELLO! Linking up with her rosehip sweetness and Ta Da Tuesday.)

Ten Alternatives to Shampoo

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At the start of this year I began an experiment with my hair.  The purist in me was tired of putting toxins into my body, the spendthrift in me was weary of pouring so much money away on these toxins and the optimist in me was persuaded by our bodies ability to cope without reliance on products! I was in a wash-every-other-day-routine and was a slave to dry-shampoo. I knew there had to be a better way.

In a typically extreme move  I totally gave up shampoo and have in the last 10 months put everything from a homemade nettle brew to mustard powder on my hair! It has gone quite wrong at times but ultimately my hair is a million times more healthy, voluminous, and grows much faster. Plus I can go away for weeks at a time and need nothing for my hair but a good bristle brush. This really appeals to my hopes of living more simply and with less impact on this beautiful earth (even though I am rubbish at this in lots of ways.)

Here are TEN options I have played with- and sometimes made a lot of mess with! Most are the BEE’S KNEE’s for me and the rest are the dog’s whatchya’s for others…

One- Water! Oh groan, I know, I’m sorry.  What kind of an alternative is this?! I hear you cry. The best, truly. It took me 9 months to realise it was all my hair needed – and now it has been one month since anything has been on my hair at all. The key is in the massage- as you soak your hair, get your fingers stuck in, pushing away at your scalp and any particularly grease-o bits. I do a five minute massage every five days. My hair is thick and voluminous and does whatever I want it to do. Whooppiiee for H20!!

Two- Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda. This gets your hair SQUEAKY clean. I make a little paste with a spoonful and a few drops of water and rub it into my scalp.  I leave it for a few minutes before rinsing.The only reason it isn’t number one is because it isn’t free and I’m a cheapskate – and also my hair gets a bit bicarb weary after too many times in a row, brittle and waxy and needs a bit of Number Three Action:

Three- Egg. I use the whole egg, whisked in a cup. I pour over my head and massage in. I leave for a few minutes and rinse well.  It leaves my hair SO clean and SO soft and shiny. However, the water must be cool! I have had a couple of scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory….

Four- Soapnuts. These are a natural cleaner and work incredibly well. My hair is like silk after- certainly the closest to shampoo I have found. I heat them in water on the stove for 10 minutes, whiz them with my hand blender and use the liquid. I am too lazy to make this my Go To alternative, but use it if my hair has become filthy. Buy them here and use them for cleaning a million and one things!

FiveRhassoul Clay. This is LOVELY stuff. For skin and hair.  It not only cleans but also conditions. I make a paste with two spoonfuls and boiling water. Once cool I smooth it into hair, after a few minutes I brush it through hair and rinse off. It is truly divine but a little on the expensive side for my thrifty self. (But doesn’t come close to the expense of good shampoo.) Buy it here!

Six- Henna. This is my once-every-six-weeks deep treatment! I mix up about ten spoons of it with hot water to make a paste. Once cool I apply it all over and leave it for two hours. (Epic I know, I use a plastic bag and grips to keep it all in place.) It needs a SERIOUS rinse, and a good brush, but my hair after is brighter, cleaner, softer.

Seven- Tea. This relies very much on the massage bit too, and the result is the same as water except you get a nice smell! Some people swear that the different aspects of the tea change your hair – chamomile adding a special softness, for example.

Eight- Lemon. Lemon has some seriously potent anti-bacterial properties and can work as a lightener for people wanting to be blonder.  Squeeze the lemon straight on to your greasy roots, massage well and leave for a few moments. I found it to be slightly drying.

Nine- Tea Tree Oil. Full of incredible properties! You would probably need a little bit too much of this to work solely as an effective shampoo. However added to the bicarb paste, the lemon or the water only wash, this makes a lovely difference. Tea tree oil is perfect for people with scalp issues, dandruff etc. In fact, one person I am VERY close to but who shalt remain nameless has had a life-long scalp issue fixed with this method!

Ten- Mustard Powder. Nettles. Mayonaise. Ketchup! These were all possible contenders that simply didn’t cut it for me! In theory they should work- they have the right mix of either anti-bacterialness or emulsifier/ acid shizzle and the internet is jampacked with people on whom these work. It just ALL depends on your hair.

A note on conditioner- Nearly all of these, bar the clay and the egg need a rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. I use a splash in half a cup of water and throw it over the ends of my hair, leave for a few minutes then rinse out. It’s a WINNER.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to not give up  and be a brave old soul – trawl through this community until you find your hair type and give things a crack! Often different hair just needs different proportions of things. Would love to hear what your routine is and if there is some magical thing I haven’t tried!

PS ‘Scuse the well posey picture! It is seriously the only shot without a beehive from the last six months! It was when I was 5 months No Poo and taken by Jenny Harding when Pretty Nostalgic mag popped over.

Seasonal rituals – welcoming autumn

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Since becoming a mother I have had a much greater desire to ritualise life. Not in an oppressive, unflexible, establishment kind of a way but as an opportunity to celebrate and add significance to moments that might just pass us by. To give our little family moments to reflect on the subtle shifting of the weather, to welcome change and participate in often ancient customs.

Ramona is an urban baby, the sirens of emergency vehicles have been her lullabies since birth, and her sleep is in rhythm with the hum of the night bus outside our window, but I still see how nature captures her heart. We kick around in the leaves together, chase the squirrels and taste the blackberries. She is fascinated by feathers and conkers and will make a collection of knobbly odds and thistly ends to bring home (and I’ll spend some time convincing her the soggy cigerette buts and manky bottle caps needn’t come home with us too…)

A for autumn, obvs

I remember the first time Ramona came out in the rain with me, it hadn’t really rained for ages so she was about 2 months old. She was in the sling, under an umberalla and I was trying to hush her off to sleep. But she wasn’t having any of it; her eyes wide, her arms flailing out, making these mews that surely meant: WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?!! Transfixed.

There is something good about being in tune with the seasons. To eat with them,  craft of them,  dress for them, and bring a little bit of them inside your home. We pin up strings of the most magnificently coloured leaves and fill vases with spiky chestnuts. A shelf of nature, rusty trinkets with a seasonal theme.

So (a tiny little bit reluctantly maybe!) welcome, Autumn, you blustery, finger chilling, bonfire  instigating spell! Get us ready for Christmas…

PS Have a peep at Juno Magazine’s beeyoootiful Pinterest board, Celebrating Autumn, for loads of autumnal inspiration, decorations and craft.

PPS Are you very good at living seasonally? Do your family have any cool ritual things you do?

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