Wednesday 28 June 2017

Everything is relative.

I originally wanted to write this article about how we consume. and then i stumbled across a homepage which was all about frugal living. Or so it said. The thing is: The way I understand frugality, they didn't really seem especially frugal to me.

And then i suddenly dawned on me, how very different our perspectives are (the one in the blog was a north-east American one, mine is a southern German one). Our lives are so different, our surroundings are different, what we consider normal or luxurious is influenced by our upbringing, by the views we acquired during our lives, on circumstances of living, income, culture, where we live, if we have maybe seen and/or understood other ways of living ... it's amazing. 

Just to give you one example: One comment on the blog was that electricity was rather expensive - per kWh about 9 cents. The going rate for a normal household in our region is about 20 cents. (Both come with a monthly meter rate that is comparable, at least something....). To me those "expensive" 9 cents seem ridiculously cheap. nevertheless, what is important is not only the price of the energy, because obviously there is not much you can do about hat, but how much you use on a regular base. We are a family of 4 and we use about 3000kWh a year. That is about average. 
"The national average monthly consumption in the US is 903 kWh/month, monthly residential electricity consumption in the U.S. ranges from approximately 531 kWh/mo. to 1,254 kWh/mo." (source U.S. Energy Information Administration (2012))." 

Now, that is a difference and that is also normality. We have a homepage in Germany called "initiative for saving electricity" that is aiming at private households. If you speak German, here is the link:   It gives really good advice on how to save electricity. 

And saving electricity means saving funds AND using resources responsibly. 

But this was just an example. Everything we do, we see from our own context, from our own way of living. But everything can be seen with different eyes and with a different mind. 

I did a litle experiment today,  it is called "What if I don't?" and it is meant to make me (and anyone who wants to rethink their everyday routine) think about what I could do differently.The rule is very simple. With everything you do, you ask yourself "and what if I don't?" an evaluate the consequences. I found it very liberating. But I will tell you about that another day. until then - try it out yourself and switch of the light in the rooms you are no using. :) 

Monday 26 June 2017

one happy oven glove

Today's small DIY is one happy oven glove. I still had so much thermolam (link to company) left, that I though I'd make some oven gloves. Yes, I did make an pot holder just last week or so but to be honest: we don't use potholders. We use this kind of oven glove.

So I sat down and made a quick pattern, which you can download (including short instructions) here (it's a pdf). The pattern has added seam allowance (the thick black line), about 1/2 inch.

It took about 2 hours to make them and I've had all th necessary material at hand. The green "grip area" is made from wool felt, about 2,5mm thickness.

Here are some pictures from the "making of"

inside cotton layer quickly quilted on one side of thermolam

all layers pinned, right sides together.

Alternative usage for the pattern:

A hand puppet (just add eyes on the top and maybe some wool as hair and if you want a tongue hanging from the mouth).

this is not my arm. :)
No additional cost, I had all the material at hand.
If you can get the exact quantities, it would be about 5 Euros, I guess.

Monday 19 June 2017

Satsuki dress (Victory patterns)

Quite a while ago I was given this wonderfully mad fabric as a present (thank you Rebecca!) and although I usually don't go for tie-dye (had a very intense phase when I was about 12 or so...), I immediately loved it. I shortly after stumbled across this blogpost with Victory Pattern's "Satsuki Dress" (she's made another one in black, also awesome!) and knew immediately: It's going to me totally mad, but that's the pattern for the fabric. It took me a while to get the pattern (because I always thought I'd suss the pattern out myself and then I thought I'd wait until summer, but then it disappeared from the homepage and I thought I better get it before it is unavailable... they probably just made an update, it is back on their homepage at the time of writing...). Anyhow, this is the company that made the pattern and this is where I purchased and downloaded it
They have other really cool brands with super great patterns. Just look at waffle patterns... but I digress. Back to Satsuki.For whatever reason it was called that. (

The fabric I had was just enough for a blouse length version and that's fine for me. The pattern is very easy and quick to assemble (did it in one evening) and the description is very clear. I can definitely recommend the pattern.
The blouse turned out as wild as I imagined and it is not something I would normally buy or make, but I somehow like it. It is perfect for a hot summer day in the garden.

Monday 12 June 2017

My machines

Today I want to tell you about my sewing machines. :) I've been asked quite a few times in the past what machine I can recommend to beginners and what I find important. 

The thing about buying a sewing machine is, you have to know what you need. As always.

Are you sure sewing is your thing?
What are you going to sew? Jeans? Jerseys? just mending here and there? Do you want to do machine embroidery?
How often are you going to sew? Every day? Every weekend? Every 6 months?
How much do you want to spend?

I can't help you answering these questions, because only you know what exactly you do and need. 
But I can tell you about my experiences with my sewing machines. 
I own a Brother innovis 950 and a Singer Professional 5 (combined over- and coverlock machine)

Brother Innovis 950

I love this little machine. It hasn't failed my but once in 8 years (and that's really because I didn't take it to the inspection and cleaning and it was all dusty inside). I have tons of different stitches and it also has a small embroidery frame (10x10cm) for machine embroidery. 
Now, to be honest with you: I hardly do any machine embroidery. Very rarely. Usually I make something for the kids and then I think - oh, that pocket would suit a little bit of stitching, but then the garment is made and I missed the right time to add the embroidery. So, to be honest that was a bit of an extravagance, as I don't really use it. 
What I absolutely LOVE is the threading automat (or whatever that's called in English). It's SO good! I wouldn't want to miss it if I ever have to get another machine. 
I also really like the auto "restitch and cut thread" button, so I don't have to manually go backwards/forwards and then cut the long threads, it is a real help. Another thing I wouldn't want to miss. 
I strongly recommend a walking foot though, it has no differential presser foot, so sewing stretch fabrics or thick quilts might be a problem. It has a special "stretch" stitch, so sewing jersey shirts is not a problem, I do tend to use the overlock for that, though. 
I like to use the double needle to achieve a "coverlock"-look when sewing with the overlock.
Also very thick fabric (jeans, 2-4 layers) can be a problem, but you can "walk" over the thick bits with the hand wheel. 
Something I do miss is a longer "arm" of the machine to have more workspace. It's not a huge thing, I am doing fine with my machine, but sometimes I would appreciate a bit more space on the right. So that's something I might look out for next time. But only if it doesn't up the price ridiculously.  (I do hope my little machine will last me a lot longer, though!). 

Singer Professional 5

Buying the overlock machine was one of the best ideas, ever. I love sewing with it, it is fast, things look really tidy and sewing stretch material works a treat. It is also very strong, thicker layers of jeans fabric  didn't impress it much. Sewing thicker layered fabric (e.g. a quilt with a thick inlay) was a but fiddley, but also possible. 
I have to admit though: Buying a combined overlock/coverlock machine was a mistake. I hardly ever use the coverlock function (I am using my normal sewing machine with a double needle for the "coverlock look finish"), because it takes so long to thread from overlock to coverlock and then back again. And getting the tension right. And you can't keep all the coverlock things until the end and then do them.
So I would recommend getting a good sturdy overlock machine if you plan to sew a lot of shirts or stretchy trousers. You can maybe get a coverlock machine if you find you are really doing an awful lot of coverlock sewing. 

You don't get the huge variety of  stitches with an overlock machine. It's more like industrial sewing, no nonsense, efficient, strong, fast.

Be warned though: You need to start a very close relationship with your overlock machine. Threading it can be tricky (I use plyers to thread mine) and you have to get the tension of the several spools just right. Once it is installed, it works absolutely perfect, though. I suppose there are now automatic threaders out there, but mine requires patient threading. 

I can definitely recommend the machines I've got, but there are plenty of companies that produce superb sewing machines that last long. 
If you are a beginner, you could start with a cheap machine of a good company and then trade it in when you see you want to have more gadgets. But by that time you might just love that machine. :) 

If you want to purely sew, just get a "workhorse" no frills no gadgets machine, sometimes shops have second-hand ones that work a treat (more metal parts...!). Getting fabrics can be a bit of a nightmare, but consider bedlinen, tablecloths and alike a super fabric source and  also huuuuuge second hand shop finds a really good source.

Monday 5 June 2017

pot leaves - Topfblätter

I had seen a pot holder like this somewhere on the net ages ago (unfortunately I don't have the source any more, so if you know whose original idea it was, let me know!). And today I managed to make one. I used thermolam ( padding made for this purpose) and some cotton scraps I've had and a piece of wool felt - so none of it should melt. :)

This is what the other side looks like:

We usually use oven mitts, but it was a nice little project to do and I've had all the material there. I might try oven mitts next, because that's what we actually use. :)

Anyway, if you want to try, here is the pattern (A4 paper)

Print twice so you can cut top and bottom leaf.
Then cut the fabric (for the bigger bottom leaf with seam allowance, for the top leaf without) and one thermolam padding the size of the bottom leaf.
Applique top leaf onto bottom leaf for each side of the pot holder.
Then attach the first bottom leave by folding the seam allowance around and topstitching.
Attach the top band where indicated. 
The other side is attached by folding the seam allowances under and then putting it on top of the other side of the thermolam padding.


Material: Thermolam 6,50 Euros (this is the price for the 1 meter, I only needed 1/10th of it, but as I had the entire meter here... so that piece would have been 0,65 Euros), 3 scraps of leftover fabric, 1 piece of wool felt (1,50 Euro), a bit of yarn in black cotton.
Time: 2 hours (including drawing the pattern).

Saturday 3 June 2017

Make and Mend Challenge - The End

So, it's June again and a year ago I started the Make and Mend Challenge - No New Clothes for a year.

How did it go?

One of the most remarkable things was the reaction of people when we were talking about my challenge. Most of my friends were like "ok, that's a good idea". And some people said: "That's a bit extreme, isn't it?" Maybe, but a good way of learning about yourself. And some said "what? WHY??" or "Oh, i could NEVER do that!" and it really made me wonder, why it's difficult not to buy anything - if you don't need it.
Part of the challenge was, that I had my own rules (you can read about them in my original post). And it wasn't about not buying anything at all, it was about only buying something, if I really needed it (and couldn't make it myself). So all I did, was not to overconsume. Only to buy what i needed. And I find it worrying, that this kind of thinking and self-discipline is looked at as something special. I think a bit of self-discipline helps you in every situation. :) 

I also found it made me free. I didn't think about fashion in the first place, I thought about usefulness. Also I didn't spend time just "shopping around", but did things that were much more fulfulling. Because going shopping just for it's own sake, let's admit that, is rather hollow. So I consciously played the piano more, did more crafts stuff, appreciated what I had more.

During this year we also moved house, which gave me opportunity to thoroughly go through all of our possessions. It was a real eye opener. Because I found I owned so many things that I didn't really need, want or like. And it was difficult. It was extremely difficult for me to get rid of some things. Even if I didn't like them at all. And it made me sad. Because a lot of the things stood for my loneliness at the time. And ashamed of myself, because it was SO MUCH STUFF. When I brought things to charity I felt like apologizing the whole time because I had so obviously overconsumed. And in the end I am also proud of myself. A little bit at least. Because I changed. I started looking at the world in a different way, I started looking at myself in a different way and most important: I acted in a different way. I wouldn't say I have changed my charactre entirely, I rather see it as finally having arrived at who I really am, being freed of the weight of consumerism and stuff. It feels a little like shedding an old skin.

To sum up the last year, my "purchase" list:

This is what I bought for myself:
- 3 bras and one pair of undies
- 1 hawaii dancer (uttlery useless, but she is standing and wiggling in the kitchen window and it makes me smile every time, yes, every time)
-  1 bottle of perfume (to replace the empty one)
-  1 eyeshadow set (that was a bit of an extravagance...)
-  1 swimsuit (long story, I needed it quickly, like "same day", impossible to make one!)
-  1 pair of shoes (that was a bit of luxury again...)
- 1 digital pattern (it disappeared from the company's homepage and I suddenly realized I really would like to sew it, especially as I had a matching fabric for it already given to me...)

What I made
- American neckline stripey shirt (disaster..., didn't wear it, recycled it)
- taken pattern from old favourite linen trousers
- Sorbetto top
- several crochet dolls

What I (had) mended
- dress to pullover (and children's hats)
- 2 paits of shoes resoled
- spotty blouse
- dyed linen trousers

And how will it continue?

I am not sure. This year was so relatively easy, that I will just continue, I think. I will sort through my wardrobe again to see if there is more I can give to charity.
I started not replacing things that broke or were damaged beyond repair immediately, just to see whether I actually felt the impact. Mostly I noticed it went very well without it.
I am also shopping by the "one comes, one goes" rule now, which means that if I actually DO buy something, it has to replace an item that serves the same purpose (sort of like an "update" to the home, not additional).
What really helped was that I was trying not to be too strict. I kept a few things in the wardrobe that will probably go out later. I also noticed that if I packed a box for charity and let it sit for a few days, sometimes it would "mature". Some more things (that I hadn't been sure about) went in, but occasionally I also took something out again. And really enjoyed that. :)
We still have a lot of things in the cellar that I have kept because they are generally useful (e.g. folders) but have no use for them yet. Which I find a bit annoying, because I prefer to just get things now when I need them and then get them exactly and 100% suitable for that purpose.

I also have the feeling that because of the fact we moved and had to get lots of things (e.g. lamps and shelves) for the new place, my shopping urge had possibly shifted to that, but as that has a definite deadline I am not too worried about it. We had made a list of things to get for the new place and after that that's that.  

My personal little reward:

While I was on the Make and Mend Challenge I stumbled of this absolutely great hanging chair, which I saw at a friend's house. So I decided if I manage the MaM Challenge ok, then I can pat myself on the shoulder and get a chair like that, if I still want it. And I Do. Hanging chairs are absolutely brilliant!

So, let's see how the next year goes. On to 3rd June 2018! Are you in? :)

PS: I think i am going to go with the "extended version" which means i will extend the "non shopping" to household things, too.  :)