Author: Zara (page 3 of 3)

Nine: It’s Hip To Be (Granny) Square

When I started my foray into crocheting I purchased a range of wools from the op shops I frequented to make a granny square blanket from second hand wools. Granny squares are one of the most popular stitches to learn when you’re starting out with crochet and are typically made into a blanket with lots of small granny squares joined together or can be one continuous granny square. No doubt your grandparents had one of the aforementioned styles of crochet blanket to warm their cold arthritic knees at night whilst dunking a scotch finger into a steaming mug of horlicks.

Initially, I started making small granny squares in a variety of colours to join up together to make one mega blanket to cover our leather couch in winter to ease the chill (this is still a WIP). Then one day last year I found myself crocheting a yellow square and simply didn’t stop. Over the year, I would come back to my granny square and kept going until that yellow skein ran out and then joined in a second skein of a different yellow wool.  At the time, I was experiencing stress and anxiety and found the rhythm of crochet soothing and distracting from my chaotic brain.

I wasn’t sure why I was making the blanket, but it was therapeutic so I didn’t see a need to stop. Then, when my brother and sister in law announced that they were expecting in the new year, I knew who the blanket would be going to – my new niece or nephew! There was still quite a way to go on the now baby blanket so as I visited op shops, I collected yellow wools and added them in as needed, continuing on my merry way.

Towards the end of last year as my mental health improved and social engagements increased, I found myself crocheting less. It wasn’t until the new year with the start of this project and the nearing deadline of the baby’s birth in early-mid March that I picked up my piece again. On track to finish the blanket by the due date, we got a call that our new nephew Charles had arrived earlier than expected.

Well, this sent me into a crocheting frenzy, I had one evening and a morning to finish off the blanket before we visited the hospital! I whizzed through my final round of granny stitch and decided to do a different stitch on the edges. Two rounds of double crochet in different tones, followed by a round of picot stitch (learnt from a you tube tutorial) and the blanket was finished!

On the whole, I am very happy with the blanket and it’s been nice to reflect on how the practice of crochet has played a part in managing my anxiety. My counsellor referred to it as my stress blanket, but I prefer to think of it as my healing blanket. I hope that for many years it provides warmth and comfort to my nephew Charles, just as it warmed and comforted me.


Seven: Rosemary & Lemon Salt

In my last share house I became loved for my freaking-awesome-roast-potatoes and today I am going to let you in on my secret to making said freaking-awesome-roast-potatoes: Rosemary and Lemon Salt

I’ve made this seasoning rub a few times previously, so including this  as one of my projects feels as if I am cheating slightly. Although, I have been chipping away on some larger projects, so this one was a quick and simple filler project.

As the name Rosemary and Lemon Salt suggests, it is made from rosemary, lemon and salt. The lemons came from my Aunts property out in the country, I grabbed the rosemary from a bush on the St Georges Road bike path on my ride home one afternoon and we purchased the rock salt at the Food Co-op we’ve started going to. So, in total for 4 cups of seasoning, it cost me 50 cents!

To make the salt, it’s a matter of mixing together the lemon zest, finely chopped rosemary leaves and the sea salt (which I partially crushed up in our mortar and pestle). The ratio of ingredients is one cup salt, three tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary and the zest of one lemon.

The salt is delicious rubbed onto the skin of a chook before you roast it  and any roast vegetable. But you really can’t go past tossing your potatoes in olive oil and adding a few generous pinches of this scrummy salt. I do have another secret when it comes to my roast tates, but I’m not willing to give that one away….


Five: Washing POW!

I have often thought that it would be interesting to make my own laundry washing powder and now that I am actively looking for items to make, it seemed like the perfect time.

For my recipe, I was pretty lax and just went with the first one that popped up on my Google search. It was 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, a grated bar of organic soap and 20 drops of lemon or lime essential oil (you can view the recipe here). I found the borax and washing soda at an IGA and Simon picked up the essential oils at our local health food store. Rather than buying organic soap, I used soap I had already from a display I did in TAFE when I was studying Visual Merchandising (I had around 10 bars).

It was simply a matter of measuring out the items, grating the soap and giving it a mix. I made a double batch, popped the finished product in a plastic container we had lying around, dubbed it Washing POW! and whipped up a label (cause I’m nerdy like that).

I had a few questions around why you would DIY this household product and after going through the process I am now on my way to having some answers. Below are the questions I was contemplating and I’ve gone into a few of the details of my findings.

Is it more environmentally friendly?

Yes and no.

Yes, as you are using ingredients which have less chemicals and nasties in them. However, there are some great healthier options available, including the brand we have been using up to date, Simply Clean. What I really like about this brand was reading the ingredients list and seeing that they have listed what every ingredient does and why it is in included.

No, because the two key items you need to use (the borax and washing soda) both come in plastic vessels (one reusable, the other not), although it may be possible to find them at a bulk food store or in alternative packaging. Comparing store bought, you can buy environmentally friendly laundry powder in a cardboard box, made by Aware and it is endorsed by Planet Ark, but the Simply Clean washing powder comes in a reusable plastic bucket. The Aware brand also rates well with Shop Ethical!, a rating system we often refer to assist us in making informed purchasing. Simply Clean is currently not included in the ratings.

Do the clothes clean as well? 

I haven’t tried my Washing POW! However, my bestie gave me some of a batch she made up and neither Simon or I have noticed the difference in the end results. We were using the home made and Simply Clean interchangeably which helped with the comparisons. Other people may notice more of a difference, but for us it was much of a muchness.

What are the cost comparisons?

My ingredients cost as below (for a double batch), the prices are based on what was used, i.e. I only used half the washing soda so halved the cost. As I used soap I already had, I researched the cost of the soap I used to give a more accurate cost comparison.

  • 1.92 – Essential Oils
  • 4.60 – Borax
  • 2.30 – Washing Soda
  • 1.60 – Soap

I made 1.3kg of powder in total, so it came to the cost of $8.01 per kilo of Washing POW! This compares to $10.90 for Simply Clean and $5.59 for Aware.

So will I continue to make my own laundry powder? Probably not. Considering you can buy an environmentally friendly product for $2.42 a kilo cheaper in cardboard, it just doesn’t seem worth it. However, I’ve still got about half a dozen bars of soap I need to figure out what to do with…

Three: Basket case

Knitting never worked for me, I could never quite get the hang of it. As my hands tried to manage the two needles and the wool I’d fumble my way through the steps producing a mess of knots. Sometime in the middle of last year I decided to try my hand at crochet. A youtube clip played at half speed and a few hours later, I was crocheting granny squares like a pro.

Beyond granny squares, I’ve made a scarf for Simon, a cushion cover for my bestie, a wine bottle holder and am currently working on a blanket. With all of these projects, I’ve managed to find wool at Op Shops. My most recent crochet project was making a box, using shop twine (from Bunnings, hopefully I’ll stumble across some at an oppy). I took the pattern from a book I found at a second hand book store entitled Simple Crochet, by Erica Knight (I expect I will make a few things from this book).

I decided to start with the smallest size box and half way through realised I had interpreted the pattern wrong! Luckily, after some basic maths-ing I figured out how I could adapt the pattern to the sizes I made. Apart from this hiccup, making the box sides and bottom was pretty straightforward. The twine was a bit harder to work with than wool, but I got the hang of it reasonably easily. When I came to sewing the box together I found that the sizes were all a bit different, this is probably due to the tension of my stitches or simply miscounting! I found I had to undo one row of stitching on a shorter side (known as ‘frogging’ in crocheting circles) to make sure it all matched up .
After I stitched together all of the sides and the bottom, I found that it didn’t quite hold its shape with the sides being floppy! The pattern called to use strips of fabric around the top of the basket (see left) so I added this using some fabric left from many moons ago. This addition added a little more stability, but I decided to carefully pull through some fine gauge wire Simon had on hand through the fabric strips I’d just crocheted on to see if that would do the trick. Thankfully, it paid off! The incorporation of the wire helped immensely, adding more rigidity that I expected.

The box lives on our coffee table and has become the home for our remotes. Looking ahead, I would like to make two much larger boxes for Simon and I to use for storage under our bedside tables. I will probably need to consider using a twine that is more rigid, as my wire trick probably won’t work for a box that size, but I’ll deal with that when I get to it!





Two: Bags full

Look under your seat!

When I first moved to Melbourne I remember shopping in Brunswick feeling like a criminal walking out of the supermarket carrying my loot in plastic bags. Looking back, I was the only one judging myself at the checkout, but that feeling of knowing that I was contributing to the plastic problem has stuck with me.

Since then, I have done pretty well at remembering bags and refusing to put tomatoes/potatoes/etc in a plastic bag (much to the cashiers frustrations, I am sure). Even if we ‘ban the bag‘,  the majority of food items come packaged in plastic anyway! We use Fregie sacks for fruit and veg and moving forward we’d like to purchase as many of our pantry staples (rice, legumes, nuts and seeds) in bulk to reduce our plastic wastage further.

There are a few great bulk food stores a short drive away (Source & Ceres), as well as a food co-op at Brunswick Uniting Church which we plan to check out in a few weeks time. To supplement the Fregie sacks we already have, I decided to make some fabric bags to add to the rotation.

I found a metre of so length of cotton drill in my fabric stash (which I used in a styling photoshoot I did a few years earlier featuring a cabbage as a model) and got sewing. In total, I made nine bags of varying sizes, used some cotton string we had on hand for the drawstring and all in all am happy with the results (apart from the pattern ending up sideways on a few!).

They should be hard wearing and have already proved handy on a trip to stock up on a few staples. Next step is to find a way to note the item codes on the bags to assist the check out person!


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