Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 4)

Forty: Funky fresh facewipes

 

After a big day (or a late night), the last thing I want to do is wash my makeup off. All I desire is to crawl into bed and sleep (mmmmmm….sleep). Historically, I’ve used make up wipes to deal with my laziness, but as I’ve written before I’m trying to move away from single use items.

I figured that reusable make up wipes could be made at home. After doing some research, I decided to use this method as a guide, making a few adjustments along the way.

Rather than purchasing washcloths (as suggested by the method) I grabbed a pair of flannelette PJs which died an early death (due to a big rip in a location difficult to repair) and tore up a legs worth into 15-20cm squares and overlocked the edges. I then shoved all of these squares (14 in total) into a jar.

Now, for the solution! I mixed together boiled water (to kill any bacteria in the water), witch hazel (an astringent to remove excess oil) as well as some jojoba and vitamin e oils (apparently oil dissolves oil, and my face gets oilyyyy). The method I was following also called for castile soap, but a few other mixtures I read did not include this ingredient. So, cause we didn’t have castile soap on hand, I just omitted it from the mixture!

Once I’d measured out each item and had given it a vigorous stir, I poured it into the jar over the squares I’d prepared earlier. It’s been great on the nights I’ve been feeling lazy to just pluck out a wipe and remove the day from my face! I’ve got a small container in the bathroom which I pop the used wipe in and once they’re all used I’ll put them through the machine with a load of towels.

I’m also considering looking up a method to make body wipes, I’m heading to Nepal in January/February for two weeks as part of my work. There will be a stretch on the trip where the possibility of bathing is unlikely, so it might be wise to take some as a way to keep….ermmm…fresh!

Thirty-Nine: Stress Scarf

I’m pretty darn good at finding wool in op-shops and a few months ago the yarn-gods were kind, bestowing upon me five skeins of 100% New Zealand 8-ply wool in a brilliant shade of red. For some time now, I’ve been wanting a  red scarf/shawl so I knew exactly what I’d be making with my new haul.

When I found the wool, I was about two months out from the major event I run. Event management is a pretty stressful job and through the planning process I have to make sure I have space in my life for stress reducing activities. Crocheting is proving to be my ultimate stress busting activity so the project became known as my ‘stress scarf’ around the lunchroom table (myself and a few of my colleagues will often crochet on our lunch breaks).

I spent quite a while on Ravelry trawling for a shawl and after much deliberation decided to actually pay for a pattern (usually I’m a cheapskate and find free tutorials online). The pattern I chose was a simple design, incorporating pom-poms…so I couldn’t say no! You can check it out here. 

After crocheting for some time, I realised that the pattern was asymmetric. I’m a very symmetrical person so I did not handle this very well…but I was too far into the project to turn back. So I decided to finish the project and if I never wore it to give it away or pull out the whole thing and start with a different pattern. Making the pompoms was great (I might use them on a blanket I’m working on at the moment) and it was great to learn the combination of stitches used to create them. I blocked the shawl to help it sit evenly and wove in the ends.

I finished the shawl ages prior to the conference (I’m not sure if that is an indicator of the stress of the conference or the amount of time I spend crocheting!), but it was too warm to wear it to the actual event itself (in late October). When the weather has permitted, I have worn it and I have to say I enjoy wearing it much more than I expected. The frequency in which I wear the shawl next winter will be the true indicator, but if I’m not a fan the next conference won’t be far away, so I’ll need some stress relief!!!.

 

Thirty-Eight: Beeswax Wraps

If you’ve explored the plastic free world at all, you’ve probably come across beeswax wraps. A replacement for cling wrap, they are made from thin cotton fabric and infused with melted wax to make a pliable, waterproof covering for food. The wax softens with the warmth of your hands and is then flexible and able to be moulded to your bowl.

A few years back I made some beeswax wraps by grating beeswax (which I purchased online from an Apiarist) evenly over fabric squares (all scraps I had lying around at home) and melting it in the oven. The wraps weren’t great, the wax became soft but lacked the cling factor (check out the method I followed here). After some more research I found that including a few other ingredients along with the wax was the trick…jojoba oil for some extra softness and pine rosin (resin from trees!) to add tackiness.

Finding jojoba oil was no problem at all, I ordered it yonks ago when I made deodorant from the same online store. Pine rosin was harder to source! After some research I found that rosin is often used by dancers and gymnasts to create grip on slippery floors. So, I looked up a local dance store in Essendon and to my delight they stocked rosin, so I got to work.

I found that my previous grate, spread, melt procedure meant that the three ingredients didn’t combine, leaving pools of wax, oil and rosin scattered across the fabric. Some googling led me to a method where you used a double boiler to melt and mix the items together, then use an old pastry brush to paint the mixture on, pop in the oven on a tray to even the wax out and then hang up to dry.  And apart from leaving a sticky residue on the bowl which has proven impossible to remove, it worked a treat!

I made fifteen new wraps and even re-waxed the wraps I made a few years ago (they are so much better!). All of the wraps were made from fabric I already had on hand and I’m really happy with the end results. And I’ve got a heap of Christmas gifts ready to go 🙂

Thirty-Seven: Curbside Chairs

Many moons ago I came across a pair of much loved chairs by the side of the road just outside our house. It appeared that someone else had had given up partway through a reupholstering attempt and I thought I would pick up where they had left off.

After quite a while taking up a lot of space in our garage that we didn’t really have to spare an ultimatum was set; either work was to commence or the chairs needed to go. So we began to finish the task of stripping back the chairs in preparation to reupholster.

Partway through, I discovered what I assume was the reason the previous owners halted work on the project; a nasty crack in one of the chairs. But I wasn’t about to give up that easy. So I measured up and set to creating a brace from some leftover hardwood I had lying about from some other long forgotten project.

Meanwhile, Zara had taken the old vinyl covering and made up a paper template for our new upholstery. Using her sewing skills she was quickly able to cut out and sew the top layer to a calico backing for extra durability.

Then life got busy.

But after a hiatus of some more moons work continued. I threw a lot of elbow grease into sanding back the timber before getting a few coats of stain/varnish on, giving the old chairs a fresh breath of life.

Now the end was in sight and we set about powering home. Some heavy duty cotton webbing stapled on, cut the high density foam to shape (tip: foam is the same texture as bread, so use a bread knife to cut it!), then it was time to put everything together. Some more staples on the underside and some nice brass tacks for the top and the chairs were finally complete!

From hard rubbish to comfortable spare chairs.

Thirty-Five & Thirty-Six: Blanket bender

Part of the thrill of crocheting (I just Nanna’d up a whole nother level with that statement) for me is finding wool at op shops which I can save from landfill and turn into something pretty and practical. A few times I’ve found bundles of a half dozen skeins of the same wool at an op shop, clearly abandoned projects by a fellow crafter. Finding enough wool of the same style and dye lot second hand is pretty rare, so even if I don’t have a project immediately in mind for the yarn, I grab it anyway and wait for inspiration to strike.

This habit of mine led to what I am now referring to as my blanket bender. I found 5 skeins of a lovely peach pink 100% wool at the oppy near work and couldn’t go past the $5 price so added it my wool stash. I spent some time wondering what to do with a colour that is neither my style or complimentary to my colouring, but nothing arose. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to expand my crochet skills and learn how to make hexagons. So, I used that as my starting point and got hooking (using this tutorial from Bella Coco). A few hexagons in I realised that the colour of the wool would be perfectly suited to my (then) 7 year old niece Charlotte, so I decided to turn the wool into a blanket for her.

In my wool stash I also had a two colour yarn in a darker peach pink and off white so added some hexagons in this style, along with a number of white or off white hexagons to complement. Joining the hexagons as I went meant that I finished the project quick smart! I added a border around the edges to finish it off and after finally blocking the blanket last month (In finished the crocheting in early May), it’s now ready to give to Charlotte on Christmas day.

  

After I realised I had a blanket for Charlotte and had already give one to my nephew Charles when he was born in February, I decided I wanted to make blankets for each of my nieces and nephews for Christmas so they each have something made by me. So, I set myself the task to make three more blankets by Christmas (this was in June/July).

The second blanket in my bender is for my nephew Noah. I taught myself another crocheting technique, the ripple blanket, using another Bella Coco tutorial (I think I might have a crochet crush!). It took me a few goes watching the tutorial on slow motion to get the hang of it, but it was pretty straight forward to pick up.

Noah’s blanket is shades of blue and grey, this colour combination in the ripple pattern means it looks a little like the ocean. Again, all the wool was from op shops (some even from Tassie when we went there in June). It does pose a challenge buying second hand wool as you cannot control the ply, I’ve tried to combat this by collecting yarns of a similar ply and choosing forgiving patterns. I’ve been doing the same for the other two blankets which will end my bender, which will have to be done by December 24th!

 

I’m really happy with both of the blankets, I learnt a two new techniques as well as the importance of blocking (the process of wetting your project, laying it flat and measuring it out and letting it dry so it is even in size and sits well). With blocking, I think I’ll block hexagons individually in the future to make the size more consistent.

And now, to continue my bender….I’m working on a green blanket for Arthur and a purple/navy/deep pink blanket for Evelyn. I better get hooking because I need to complete those, as well as a (large) handful of other creations to fulfil our I Made That! challenge of 2017. Stay tuned for Blanket Bender Part II.

Note: The main creation phase for these projects took place in April – July, I am only now just getting the chance to sit down and write about them. 

 

Thirty-Four: Drawer divider

Like many people we have a drawer with miscellaneous cords, cables and adapters which gets very messy very quickly. No matter how hard you try to keep related things together you can never find what you’re looking for without pulling everything out and sorting through it.

Well, I had a spare hour or so and decided to rectify that situation in our drawer.

So after a quick measuring of the drawer and drawing of the measurements all I had to do was cut out the pieces from some spare MDF and slot it all together.

Voilà! Now there is a bit of order to our cord, cable, adapter drawer.

Thirty-Three: Homebrew

I like beer. I like making things. I guess homebrewing was inevitable.

Brewing at home is so easy. To get beer you only need a handful of ingredients and very little equipment. The essentials are malt, hops, yeast, water, an airtight container (with an airlock) for fermenting and bottles for storing your end product.

This post is about my latest batch, which is actually my third brew. So far I have used cans of pre-hopped malt extract for all my brewing and I can wholeheartedly say that this is a great way to get into homebrewing, though I would advise spending the little bit extra and getting a premium quality can from a homebrew supply shop rather than a cheap Coopers can from the supermarket. As easy as cans of malt extract are I plan on switching to the brew-in-a-bag method for brew № 4, a technique I might write about at a later date.

Please note, as usual this won’t be a “how-to” kind of post, rather it is an account of my experience making something for myself and hopefully contains some useful tips for anyone starting out. If you’re interested in homebrewing make sure you read something a bit more detailed than this post (I have found this page quite useful) as I’ve definitely left important details out for sake of (attempted) brevity.

My first two tips are: sanitise thoroughly and don’t drop glass thermometers on tiles. The flavour of your beer is greatly effected by your cleanliness and you can easily lose an entire batch to some funky flavours if you get lax. I have found no-rinse sanitiser works great and it makes it very easy to quickly ensure your fermenenter and utensils are clean. Not dropping thermometers is pretty self explanatory.

Sitting your tin of malt extract in a pot of boiling water for a while before opening will make it a lot easier to pour and I swirl a bit more boiling water around the can to get last of the syrup out. Most recipes call for additional malt and it usually comes in the form of a very fine powder. Powdered malt will clump very quickly when in contact with any moisture (even moisture rising from the warm wort). I had clumpy problems with my last brew, so I carefully sprinkled it as I stirred which seems to work. I also tried putting a small amount in a separate container and adding a little bit of water in an attempt to make a thick syrup. This did not work very well.

Once you have all your malt dissolved you need to add the yeast. I have always purchased good quality yeast and avoided the yeasts that might come with a can of extract, as yeasts actually contribute a great deal to the final flavour of your beer. You need to ensure your wort (the unfermentated water-malt mixture) is in the recommended temperature range for your yeast otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Once you have pitched the yeast seal it up and install the airlock.

Now the waiting.

Fermentation duration can vary depending on a huge range of factors, so using the airlock bubbles or simply counting the days are pretty bad indicators of whether or not the yeast has eaten all the sugar it possibly can. Luckily there’s another method that is really easy and accurate; checking the specific gravity. Basically the specific gravity of your brew is how dense the liquid is – as the yeast converts sugar into alcohol the brew gets less dense and the specific gravity drops. You measure specific gravity when you first put the brew in the fermenter with a hydrometer (readily available and cheap) and you know fermentation has finished once your specific gravity stays the same over a couple of days. This method has the added bonus of sounding sciencey. I have found that my brews take 4-7 days and I usually just wait for the airlock to stop bubbling before taking hydrometer readings.

Brewers yeasts need to stay within a particular temperature range; too hot and you will get undesirable flavours, too cold and it will just stop fermenting. This was the first time I have brewed in the cooler months and I ran in to some troubles keeping my beer warm enough. I ended up using a heatpad (a flat heating pad you sit your fermenter on top of) and wrapping an old towel around the fermenter as insulation. Then I realised my yeast could handle much lower temps than I thought.

Once my specific gravity was steady it was time for bottling.

Bottling is the most tedious part of homebrewing, but the golden rule helps. The golden rule of homebrewing is to imbibe a golden brew whilst brewing (or bottling). Again, sanitising is essential for ensuring your beer is drinkable and if you are planning on making more than one brew in your lifetime, I strongly recommend investing in sanitiser injector (a nifty device for squirting sanitiser into your bottles). A bottling wand is also handy but – if you are quick with the tap – not entirely essential.

As the yeast has now converted all the sugar it can you need to add a little bit back in just before bottling so that it can produce the CO₂ you need to get a bubbly beer. This is called priming and there are two different ways to do this. One is putting a little bit of sugar into each bottle before adding the beer (bottle priming), the other is to add the sugar to your beer before bottling it (batch priming). I have decided to use the batch priming method and transfer my brew to another bucket before adding the sugar. This allows me to leave all the sediment (or trub) in the fermenter and easily dissolve the priming sugar without stirring up all the gross muck at the bottom which makes for a much clearer beer.

Be careful and precise with priming! There are calculators to help you determine how much sugar to use. If you use too much you can create too much CO₂ and your bottles might explode, which is both very dangerous and a waste of good beer. This brew I have aimed for a higher carbonation than I have attempted before, so I have isolated the bottles in the back shed just in case.

After a couple of weeks in the bottle I had a taste but was very disappointed. It was still quite syrupy tasting and was not at all bubbly. I figured that it had been to cold in the shed and the yeast had not been able to do its job properly, so I left it a bit longer. Now it has been in the bottle for about a month and half and we have had a good run of some warmer weather it is tasty a lot nicer and had a good amount of bubble to it. Homebrew benefits greatly from a few (or more) months bottle conditioning time.

It is a good idea to label your homebrew with at the very least a name and date and this can be done with masking tape and a pen. I enjoy going a little further and design my own labels as a bit of creative outlet. This is actually pretty easy. You can simply print your design onto normal paper, cut it out and paste it on. After reading around many forums I found someone recommending milk as glue (just brush a little bit of milk on the back of the paper and stick it on). I tried it and find it to work very well and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to glue a label on glass. It stays stuck even when the bottle is damp from condensation and performs admirably in a bathtub full of ice. The best bit is it comes straight off with a soak in warm water and doesn’t leave any horrible residue making cleaning your bottles for reuse easy.

Last step, enjoy the beer. You’ve earned it.

Last last step, make more.

Thirty-Two: Daisy Dishcloths

I’m a Chux women, sponges just aren’t my preferred washing implement. The need to use a dishcloth has stayed with me and as we’re trying to move away from household items that have a limited lifespan we’ve been looking for other options.

When we first moved in together Simon purchased some Full Circle dishcloths, which are made from 100% organic cotton and have loops in the fabric to help with scrubbing. They’ve great to use and we just keep them cycling through the wash so we’ve got a fresh one when needed. However, I’d prefer something that uses recycled materials, why deplete the worlds resources further?

I came across a good DIY option when we were holidaying in Tassie earlier this year. One of our Air BnB’s had dishcloths made from retro towels, they looked fantastic and did the job of dishwashing well (the pile of towels makes these dishcloths good for scrubbing). So, I filed this project away in my mind. I noticed recently that our exisiting dishcloths were getting towards the end of their lives, so one evening I plucked an old school towel that was getting ratty around the edges from our linen cupboard and got to work.

 

Making them was simple, I cut the towel into squares (or squarish shapes) and simply overlocked around the edges. My overlocker thread collection is limited, but thankfully the bright yellow I had contrasted well with the blues and greens. I think it took me about 15 minutes to complete this project and now we have eight daisy dishcloths ready to put into rotation!

 

Thirty-One: Shelf Desk

Living in a smaller house has its limitations. For instance as much as I would love to have a huge desk to put my computer and accompaniments on I really do not use them enough to justify the space it would take. So I set up on the edge of a shelf and it actually worked pretty good, except that there wasn’t enough space to have the mouse on the same shelf as the keyboard, which was a little awkward.

So I devised a solution.

Using scraps and timber reclaimed from past projects no longer in use  I was able to put together a shelf pretty easily and only needed a few bits of new hardware to get it built.

The design is pretty simple, with a single piece of MDF serving as the desktop and a length of sturdy timber running from left to right at the front and back. The back hooks onto some dowel in the holes on the shelf unit and the front is supported by a pair of adjustable arms.

The adjustable nature of the support arms made the connectors a little fiddly to make, but were totally worth it as I can now ensure the desk is level no matter what height I set it at.

A couple of cabinet hinges to attach the other end of the arms to the desk and it was done.

The result is not perfect. The main issue is that it bows a little in the middle as I did not brace it from front to back, and it could be improved aesthetically. But considering it is probably only a temporary set up it certainly does the job.

Thirty: Oh deer!

Many moons ago I purchased an AMAZING rug from Savers for $25. The rug is made up of a repetitive pattern of deers mid gallop set in oval frames surrounded by ferns and filigree. A combination of neutrals and a delightful green (which my google of ‘shades of green’ likens it to ‘pear’).

For a brief time the rug resided in one of my share houses loungerooms and while it brought me much joy, it also brought much dirt (and housemates dog’s pee) upon itself.  I spot cleaned the rug, removed it from the compromising situation and since then it’s been stored away. Originally, I had wanted to turn it into a wall hanging so when we made the move to Brunswick, I decided to make that happen.

One morning I got inspired to hang the dear thing. I found a piece of dowel in the shed, cut it to size and crocheted a some twine I had into a more fashionable hanger. I sewed tabs along the top of the rug, slipped the dowel through and then hung it up in our bedroom behind out bed.

  

To be honest, it doesn’t look as good as I imagined it would, which saddens me. I’m not sure if it’s because it doesn’t suit the space or because there’s inconsistencies in the colour because of spot cleaning or because the weight of the rug on the tabs I sewed have caused it to bow and sag along the top. Rather than writing it off completely I think I will get it dry cleaned, hoping the colour sorts itself out and fix my tabs up. Hopefully then, it will be as dear as I imagined it would be!

Note: Since making this wallhanging and getting around to posting it, I have taken it down and we’ve put up some other prints. Hopefully I’ll find a place for the hanging at our house, or find a good home for it.

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