Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reducing the waist size in a skirt

   I have abnormally skinny girls. No, really-my seven year old, while being average height, has the waist measurement of a 3 year old and weighs 18kgs. It’s just their natural shape, which makes sense when you have two small parents.

  But it makes buying clothes for them a nightmare, which is why I make most of them (which can also be a nightmare if you can’t alter commercial patterns or draft your own). I recently came up with this method to reduce the waist in skirts, after having to pass up so many gorgeous skirts at the Salvation Army op-shop. They sell skirts there for $1, which is how much the one below cost me. If you have a chart-matching child it’s still worth doing this for too-large sizes, as it gives you the ability to choose from so many more clothes.

  This skirt is a girls size 12, so truly huge. I wasn’t a big fan but my girls adored it (it’s an ‘olden days skirt’), and for $1 they get to have their way. Any lightweight skirt with a zipper opening and fitted waist will work-heavyweight fabrics will most likely get too bulky, and ditto to skirts already elasticised-but you can shorten the elastic in them if it’s cased.

You’ll need elastic, tightly woven ribbon or bias tape to match the waist measurement of the skirt +2cm and wider than the elastic. I used 6mm elastic and 1 inch ribbon.

*Note on elastic length-Because you have a zip to work around your elastic will be smaller than their waist measurement. How much smaller depends on a number of factors-i’ll tell you when to cut it accurately.


Start next to the zip. Fold the end of your ribbon/tape under, then stitch along the top edge, under the seam on the skirt, all the way along.


Do the same for the bottom edge. See how the bottom edge doesn’t sit next to the zipper like the top does? That’s to allow for the curve of the waistline as my ribbon is non-stretch.


  Insert elastic, using a safety pin or bodkin. Leave the elastic just poking out……


…..and stitch it down firmly. Pin your elastic down at the other end, try on the child, and adjust accordingly. When you’re happy with the fit, stitch it down the same way as the first end.


Nicely gathered waistline………


…….now fitting skinny child.


Try to photograph said child twirling, and fail fairly spectacularly.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tie-dyeing for little ones

While I let my kids tie-dye with real dyes occasionally, it’s a bit of a nightmare. This is much easier, and a good activity for a group of young kids.

Needed-food dyes and paper towel. You can get recycled, biodegradable paper towel now, which can be composted when you’re done with it.


Mix up the food dyes with water in bowls. Make the colours fairly strong, you want them to pop.

Give the kids a sheet of towel and explain that how you fold the paper affects the pattern of the dye. Suggest they try squares, triangles, crumpled balls and any other origami they can think of. When they’re happy with their fold get them to dip one corner/edge in their chosen colour-it will wick up the paper towel reasonably fast, so emphasise that they’ll only need to hold it there for a few seconds. Then remove, shake, and put another corner/edge in a different colour, as many times as you can-usually only three.

Unfold and see what pattern has appeared! Repeat until you run out of towel, most likely. Once dry use for other crafts and play-wrapping small presents, cutting and pasting shapes, mosaics, over-drawing pictures based on dye shapes etc etc.

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You can also try ‘dyeing’ paper. This is blank newsprint our neighbour gave us, and the result of using straws to add then blow the dye around. It was used as wrapping paper for birthday presents.


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Best of all? It all washes off straightaway. No blue cheek like my Frosty has at present.

Making a worm farm from a bathtub

Yes, I love bathtubs. Here’s how to make a worm farm that actually works* from one. Total cost for us-$10.60 ($10 for bathtub, $0.60 for bucket. Bricks free, tin free, timber free (from pallets)-even the nails are reclaimed. Allow more if you’re not a freegan.


Find yourself a bathtub, from the tip shop etc. Any pipe fitting is fine-we’ve even made one from a tub that had the entire plug area cut out. You need to find a place to position in where it’s sheltered from the weather-no rain, and very little to no direct sunlight. If you’re in a colder area you may want to position it so it gets some winter sunlight, as this will keep the worms more active. If it snows where you are…….well, thankfully I have no experience with that, but you might want to look it up!

Upend the tub and block the escape route-double-layered flyscreen and a couple of rubber bands does the trick nicely if you have a pipe or plug hole. If not, use liquid nails or similar to glue the screen on.


Prepare your stand. Concrete blocks or bricks work well-you want enough height to sit a bucket under the plughole to collect your liquid gold. The plank is to tilt it slightly to aid drainage-obviously, the non-plug end will sit here. Excuse the wet and dirty ground-the landlord doesn’t seem to think that water running from broken gutters and making a stream under his house is a problem worth fixing.


Sit your bathtub on top, making sure it’s steady. It should be nice and clean and shiny, worms are rather sensitive (so only use water and elbow grease to clean it out).


Add a 10cm layer of mulch to assist with drainage-this is good for the initial settling-in period, especially if you’re an over-enthusiastic beginner. It’s also good if you’re the type to forget about them-they will eat it eventually.


Throw in your workers! If you’ve bought a kilo of worms put them in a clump at one end. DON’T buy worms from Bunnings, they’re a major rip-off. Try to find someone local, and if you can’t look at Kookaburra Worm Farms, they do mail order. If your garden soil is clean and organic add some of that. Don’t buy bagged organic garden soil because that’s stupid. Yes, I have strong prejudices. Coir blocks also bulk them out nicely-right now you want them to have a bit of extra space to cushion them from temperature and moisture changes, so they don’t all die in shock.

Ours is from splitting an existing tub full, hence so much.


Put on a lid, place a bucket under the plug opening and you’re done! I know others recommend simply using paper or shadecloth as a covering, but you’ll be putting food in there so without a proper cover you’ll get lots of pests-rodents, cockroaches etc. Corrugated iron cut to the correct size works OK if you’re not handy, especially with a brick on top (anyone can use a pair of tinsnips, right?) But a timber lid, like the one in the first photo of this post, is ideal. Ours is made from old pallets. It will then also double as a seat-I have visions of an outdoor area where I can eat, then dump my scraps under my chair. Brilliant.


Corrugated iron version

When I get around to it, i’ll post about how to look after your worms and harvest the castings.

*Unlike other commercial ones I have tried, which are too small/too fiddly/too unnecessarily complicated. And WAY too expensive.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Crafting on a budget

  Crafts, such as sewing and knitting, have regained popularity over the past few years. But with that popularity has come a price hike. Add that to piles of cheapo Made-in-ThirdWorld clothes available to buy and you sort of start to wonder why you’d bother making clothes, when a simple skirt looks set to cost you $50. Especially when it’s quite likely you’ll screw it up!

  Easy solution-ditch the shops. Well, the buy new, fashionable shops. And head to your local op-shops and markets, and search out some………..

Patterns-From sewing patterns to knitting and crochet patterns to books covering everything from basket weaving to millinery, they’re all at the op-shop. I myself have a slight addiction to vintage sewing patterns and craft books-if you can’t find any except Eighties ones with massive shoulderpads, you probably live near me. At a maximum of 50c a pattern, and under $5 for books (I got six for $1 last week) you can afford to get a library happening. I nearly had a heart attack when I found out new ones are around $10-$16 each-you’d have to make a lot of each to save $$$ with them.


Fabric and wool-Much of this is ugly polyester and nylon, but good stuff does come up. Pinwale cord is popular, and i’ve made plenty of kids pants from it for under 50c a pair. I’ve also picked up Bendigo Mills wool for $1/200g, and my nanna cleared up at a garage sale, getting two pallets full of wool from a deceased estate for $50. That was four years ago and she’s still using it!

Linen-You must raid the linen section. Sheets give you large areas of fabric-flannelette for winter pyjamas and linings, cotton for….well, everything. You can make dresses from pillowcases, very fashionable in blogland a few years ago. Woolen blankets are astonishingly cheap and make excellent mattress protectors, heat resistant batting and nappy covers. I also have a slight addiction to chenille blankets-I get a rush when finding them, similar to what I imagine heroin would be like. But as they average $3 each, there’s no come-down afterwards.

DSCF7207 My pretties………

  Existing clothes-These often just need a bit of imagination to turn them into something new. Last week I helped Lols turn a woman’s tunic into a skirt for herself. As it was already hemmed and had pockets it was pretty easy. You can cut kids pants from the sides of adult shorts/pants, and use the existing waistband/pockets. Woolen jumpers can be felted and the sleeves turned into longies, or frogged and made into something else. Bags from jeans. The ideas are endless. This is a bit of a trend right now, so a search for ‘upcycled clothing’ should bring you plenty of ideas.

  Also, tell everyone you know that you sew/knit/whatever. Lots of people start up crafts then ditch them, and are happy to offload the leftovers in their cupboards to someone who’ll use them. Post on Freecycle asking for freebies, you never know what might turn up.

  Mostly, I stick to craft shops when I need threads and notions. Most have sales and member discounts, so I sign up for everything and stock up when it’s cheap.

  And because of all of this, my kids clothes average out at about $3 per item. And so I can actually afford to dress the five of them in extremely funky clothing, rather than the dregs I would be left with should I have to buy everything now they’re getting bigger.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What i’ve read-March 2011

The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense, Shelley Gare-Very good! If you commonly see total idiocy presented as serious ideas, and taken up solemnly, while you shake your head muttering “what the fuck?” then read it. Also for if you hate the dumbing down of virtually everything-surely i’m not the only one who hates being patronised? Australian too.

Grassroots #202 & 203-All caught up now.

Booms, Busts and Bushfires-Australia 1973-present, Jackie French-Yes, I know it’s a kids book, but I know embarrassingly little about Australian history (after 14+ years of formal, state-sanctioned education), and everyone has to start somewhere. Educating my own children is excellent motivation for filling in the gaps of my own education.

Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer-This sat on the shelf for weeks after the husband read it, because I was sick of reading ‘food’ books. But he kept urging me, so I started it…………and loved it. It’s really good to read a book that actually takes a point of view, instead of the normal ‘this happens, it’s horrible, but i’m still an omnivore’. Yay, someone else who feels the need to completely boycott the meat and animal products industry! I have more to write about this, don’t bring a steak sandwich to the reading ;)

The Fable of all our Lives, Peter Kocan-novel. I liked this, but it’s sort of hard to see why. It’s not technically an interesting book, but I found myself finding excuses to read it. I enjoyed the theme of the QO vs the Regime, because I certainly feel like that a lot of the time. Some rather interesting events happen which will get you thinking about our over-policed, over-paranoid society.