Sunday, 30 March 2014

Alice dress finished

I went shopping for the fabric for my fancy dress costume yesterday and I didn't find any cheap sheets like I thought I might.  In fact the fabric ended up costing me £10 altogether (not very frugal at all!) but I had made my mind up on what I wanted to make and decided I didn't want to be trying to rush something on Thursday evening and then feel stressed about it.
I bought 2 metre of poly cotton and just under a metre of white poly cotton, plus 1 and a half metre of dress net.  I started it last I just measured my chest and from shoulder to waist and marked it out on the fabric then it was just a case of trying it on and adjusting using pins...

I try on inside out then mark with pins if its a bit big, I also mark front darts with pins while I am wearing it and the back ones when it is laid flat.  I left it a bit big around the waist as I want it to pull on over my head without the need for zips and fastenings.  It won't matter when it is finished as it will pull in at the waist with the apron I will make.

The skirt was just two long rectangles at the right length, I pinned the dress net all along it ready for stitching with a few gathers ( it will get gathered further when attached to the bodice). The sleeves I just cut out too big for the arm holes so I could put pleats at the shoulder so they were full and made a band for them to fit into at the bottom of the sleeve.  The apron is just rectangles made up once the dress was finished and I could see how big they needed to be.  Then a band long enough to go across the front with enough to tie at the back. 

I also made a band for my head.  My children think I look ridiculous! Well I'm not intending on going shopping like it so they needn't worry!  I better make sure I don't need anything from the shops on Friday  after work as I want to get out of the car and straight into the house at home time.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Dress up inspiration

I need an outfit for dressing up next Friday, it has to be book themed.  I didn't want anything too outrageous as I have to work in it all day so I have been having a look and thought maybe something like this...

I'm thinking Alice not the other strange characters
(love those stripy tights)

So I'm off on a little trip to the fabric shop tomorrow to see how cheap I can get some pale blue and white cotton.  I may also try Primark because if they have inexpensive sheets it will be a cheaper option.  I have bought sheets from there before when I had to make a large banner it works out better value.  I may come back having not found a thing so then I will have to rethink but I have all week if the plan changes.  I had not planned on buying any more fabric just yet but I need a costume and I figure it will probably come out every year if I make it (around book weeks that is, I don't just randomly dress up as odd characters)
Alice in Wonderland was first published in 1865.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Floral dress revamp finished

I have finished altering the floral dress I showed the other day but I still think it needs something maybe a belt.  I will also probably wear a little navy t-shirt under it as our weather is rarely that warm.  I will see what else comes to mind but my husband likes it as it is now and it is less like a dress for a wedding which is what it felt like before.

I didn't like these little buttons, so they came off.

I added these two odd buttons from my stash, one is brownish grey the other blue.

I carefully cut off the sleeves and made two little bands from the chopped off bottom ( which I shortened quite a bit) I edged around the sleeves then used the bands to pull in the fabric at the sides of the chest.


This picture was taken in the evening with lights so colours are not that good.

I do think it needs a thin blue belt I will keep a look out in the charity shop. 

It will get some wear now in whatever combination I decide.  I know some people will probably have preferred it before but it was too dressy for day and too formal for anything other than a summer wedding I thought.  The main thing is to make things work for us I think, if you can't do anything with your clothes then pass them on to charity or friends/eBay, but if you can then why not try something.   I will try and remember to show it worn in different ways.  Total cost = free . Always the best deal.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Floral dress revamp ideas

I got a little catalogue through from next, just a little spring one that they just post out for free so I thought I would flick through it.  I didn't have the intention of buying anything but it is useful to look at ideas sometimes for putting things together or items you might want to make.  I have had this floral dress in my fabric bag for a while that was given to me for the fabric.  It is a nice dress it's just a little dated so i have been wondering what to do with it.
The length is a bit long and the sleeves a bit flouncy so they will definitely have to be changed but the next book also gave me this idea...

This little skirt is £38 on the website! I would not pay that for that little bit of fabric but its a possibility out of the above dress only two layers I think though as there is not enough for three and maybe three is a bit much?  So that was one thought, another thought is leave it as a dress but change the style..

Little thin straps?  (£28  this dress)

Or halter neck ?  (£25 this dress)
I'm not sure which I will try but that is my project for this evening and it is a much better option I think than paying those prices (but then I wouldn't) I will show the results tomorrow.  I also don't understand why the dresses are less expensive than the skirts, surely there is more fabric in a dress and you have the full outfit. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hot porridge better than cold cereal, cheap and healthy

More on food today, as I have been getting up earlier I have  been trying to make sure I eat breakfast everyday so that I don't get that mid morning feeling when my energy lags.  There are not many quick cold cereals I like as many are way too sugary and what they charge for a box that lasts a couple of days for a family is just ridiculous. I do like porridge though and it is easy, plus you can add whatever you like to make it more interesting.   A while ago my husband came back from the supermarket thinking he had a good offer because the Quaker Oatso Simple were on offer, well even on offer they are a rip off!  I buy these...

A box of this is £1 from the Aldi and you get 1kg of oats, a box of Oatso Simple is £2 and you only get 324g.  Why is anybody buying that? The Aldi version works out to 3p a serving without the milk. The Oatso Simple version is 18p per serving without milk. That is a massive difference and you can't really argue that the pre-packed ones are easier to use because they are not, unless you are incapable of putting a spoon in a box then emptying that spoon into a bowl!   I use 4 desert spoons (level) into a bowl, pour over a little soya milk and stir then put it in the microwave for 2 minutes, done.  It probably would take you longer to unfasten the pre-packed bags than to spoon it straight from the box.  I like to add just a little golden syrup ( just a tiny squirt) or sometimes some raisins. I usually feel full until lunch now, I think anybody trying to feed the children on less money should try and get them to eat porridge.  It is healthier and you may just have to experiment with different toppings to get them to eat it at first. A little bit of jam, grate just a little chocolate if that is what they are used to ( only a bit though) dried cranberries ( you only need a few).  This could save you loads on the cold cereal.   
I'm trying to be more vigilant about not wasting any food and I know I'm improving at this because we used to go to the supermarket and come back and be throwing stuff out from the previous week like vegetables or things that had gone off.  I know that is a back to front way to do things as we now check first.  Also if I've got a big bag of carrots and I don't think they will last I blanch them and freeze them in portions so they don't get wasted.  I also did this with cauliflower and broccoli last week that I knew I needed later in the week but wasn't sure it would be ok in the fridge for many more days.
My shopping bill is much more stable because of this and as food continues to rise I keep looking for ways that I can do things more cheaply so that the bill does stay more or less the same.  I appreciate hearing any tips anyone has about how you do things, you may have found a super cheap healthy recipe or a value brand that is amazing value.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Re-upholster A Desk Chair for £5 or Less Tutorial

Today I finally got round to making over my sewing table chair that has been annoying me for ages.  I bought the fabric at Ikea last year then folded it up and put it in my fabric box to work on later, well later turned out to be much later! So I thought I would show step by step what I did,  I know there will be people out there who are professionals at this who shake their heads and say that is not how to do it.  Well I did it the way that I thought was quickest and easiest and any body who wants to have a go at giving a chair a new lease of life should be able to follow what I did. I hope.
Here is my uninspiring swivel chair..
Now this is a perfectly good chair and sure lots of people have one like this, maybe in a child's bedroom or by the computer table, but sometimes we want things to co-ordinate and the one you have may not go with your new colour scheme. That is what I thought about mine, and I would always rather do something up if I can.   The first thing I did was to lay the fabric on the chair seat, the direction that I wanted the pattern to go facing the right way.
Then pin all the way around the seat and cut out the fabric allowing a seam allowance just beyond your pins.
Next drape the fabric over the back of the chair so that it hangs down to the seat at the front but down further at the back, again pin around the top of the seat back and cut around leaving a seam allowance, then cut up the sides so it looks even at both sides you can usually tell by eye but if you are not sure even it up when you take it off. 
Next you need to cut a long rectangle that will act as a skirt around the bottom, measure around from where the fabric hangs down at the back all the way around the seat to the other side where the fabric hangs down from the back.  To be safe cut it out a bit longer than you think.  make it as deep as you like, the same goes for the back of the chair.  I've done mine so that it covers the adjustable bit under the chair but some people might want it to the floor.  Pin it around so that you know you are happy with it and you can make any alterations to it, if you have pinned accurately and cut your rectangle evenly it should all be level. 

Put a pin at the centre back of the seat and the centre seat so that when you lift it off to sew you can match them up, you could use tailors chalk. 
Pin your rectangle down the overhang bit at the back of the chair with right sides together, this way you will have one piece of the jigsaw in place.  Now you need to carefully remove your pins from the back of the seat and seat, move them to the wrong side of the fabric if you need a guide, or make small notches while it is all still on the chair so you can match the notches. 
Lift it all off, sew the seat piece to the back seat piece first matching those pins at centre back.  When you have done this sew the two back pieces all the way around and down the sides but remember there will be a bit at the bottom that hangs down about 6-8inch where you will sew the skirt on, if you pinned it at one side like I said  then it will already be on one side to remind you.
Snip all around any curves this will make it lie better once it has been finished.

Sew the skirt all around the bottom of the seat and down those back bits you will need to do a little turn to go down the back.  When you have done this hem all the way around the bottom I did a double fold.
Now give it all a good press.
I think it looks much better than it did before, although on this picture I have just noticed I've got a bit of fabric tucked in at the top in my eagerness to put it on the chair and take a photo, ha!  It did poke out. I have covered chairs like this before as I did some dining chairs once so it not only works on desk chairs.  You could make a mock up first if you don't want to use your best material.  Also you could use quilting padding on the reverse of the fabric to give it a bit more structure or if it is more comfy furniture you are doing, for a living room for example. I used that when I did the dining chairs, but for this chair it was just a quick makeover needed.

If you find it is a bit loose at the back you can add a little pleat with a few hand stitches like this..
You can also do this at the sides if you want but I didn't, so there it is a chair made over for an hour or so and £5, I used one meter of the Ikea fabric and there is a bit left.  here is the barcode if anyone wants to see if they still have it..

Of course you could use old curtains or maybe pick up a sheet at the charity shop so it may cost you nothing at all.  It is a good way to get a new look on the cheap.

                   Before                                                                                                    After

I like the way it looks and I hope it has given somebody an idea of what they can do with little or no money to change the look of a piece of furniture.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Cheap healthy meal- Lentil bake

I said I would share some more inexpensive recipes for people trying to save money so I thought I would show this recipe for lentil bake. It is just something I make and not from any book. We had this yesterday with our lunch ( me and my son are vegetarian) my husband and younger son had chicken. This is a favourite if you want something to put with the Sunday lunch instead of meat.  It is good for you due to the lentils however if you are watching the calories  you will need to  use less cheese.

100g dried red lentils  rinsed  (20p)  from 500g bag from asda £1
40g of cheddar cheese ( 25p ish)  cheese from Aldi £1.99  350g
1 medium red onion  (10p ) Bag from Aldi 7onions for 69p
1 desert spoon dried basil  (6p)  Aldi 55p pot

Serves 3 good portions ( or make double and save some for next day) 61p for this side dish, so 20p per portion is much cheaper than a pack of quorn sausages!

That is all. Put a pan of water to boil then add the lentils for 15 minutes, keep it bubbling. Chop your onion and fry it in some olive oil for a few minutes.

 While these are cooking you can be grating your cheese.  I like to use this amount of cheese as I like the flavour and I do not have a lot of fat in my diet due to my vegetarian meals so some of them may have a lot of cheese or the coconut milk but as I don't have any other animal fat there is not a problem for me or my son.  I also don't drink milk I have Soya but I cannot get along with the dairy free cheese!
When the lentils are cooked drain them in a sieve, and put them in an oven proof dish. Stir in the fried onion, dried basil and grated cheese,  also sprinkle some of the cheese over the top.  I then put it in the oven at the bottom but on 240 fan while the yorkshire puddings cook, about 12-14 minutes. 
If you are like us and some of the family are vegetarian but not all it can make meals expensive if you are buying the meat for the meat eaters and the alternative stuff for the vegetarians.  A lot of the pre packed vegetarian stuff is expensive, poor quality and you don't get much. It is better to make your own.  I do buy the quorn mince as when we have that the whole family has it in bolognaise.  I have moved away from the rest of the sausages and quorn pieces though as I  am finding better alternatives for us.  I don't think this is any trouble to make so you could have it with anything really, I' ve not tried it with pasta and sauce but I might now, just a bit of garlic and tinned tomatoes would probably turn it into a pasta dish.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Fabric Brooch Tutorial

I thought I would show step by step what I did with the fabric scraps I mentioned the other day.  I decided on a brooch and here is how I went about it.
I laid out the shapes I had cut out onto scraps of denim.
Doing this gives the cotton a bit of stability if you just back it in another cotton it is too floppy. When you have the pieces in place zig zag around your shapes neatly ( I find its better to do this first, if you cut the denim out first then zig zag your shape isn't as good)

When you have gone around all your pieces cut them out carefully making sure not to catch any of your stitching. It is best to leave a very fine denim border then you can run your finger along it to make any frayed bits stand out, then gently trim with small sharp scissors.
Now you need to arrange your pieces on the table to see if you are happy with it.  I have backed the orange circle in green felt, looking at it I decided I didn't think the little white button and pale pink fabric did anything for the overall look.  I found a small piece of hot pink felt and a gold button in my sewing box (well two actually) with lots of colours in it.  I decided to add these.  If you like the arrangement you can n ow start to sew the petals on by hand, or machine if you wish.
Keep adding as you go working around a felt circle, I think if you do this by hand you can move it better, also its something you could do while sat watching the T.V. When all the petals are on place your central circles, stitch through using small invisible stitches where your button will go, then securely sew on your button.

Now turn it over and sew on a brooch fastener on the back, I got mine from hobby craft a while ago for £2.40 I think, you get 24 in a pack though so they are inexpensive. I stitched this bit by hand also as you want to make it secure through each of the little holes but don't catch through to the good side. 

I like the way the petals naturally want to curl just as they would on a real flower, you will see what I mean if you have a go.  I have a bag my parents bought me and the buckles keep coming away as they just sloton the bag. I tries this brooch over one to keep it in place and found the colours go perfectly!  I didn't plan that when I cut these bits out the other day. I like it when things work out like that.  Here it is on the bag..
This is the first bag i have used for years that I haven't made myself, it was a gift from my parents but adding this brooch makes it more mine.  I like the splash of colour.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Frugal Cashew, Cauliflower and Broccoli Korma

After reading Frugal Queens post on sharing our skills so people can make better use of their money I thought I would share this gorgeous recipe I have been making from my lovely cookbook 'Rose Elliot Vegetarian Supercook'

 (I bought it from Oxfam) I made it last night and took the photographs but after reading frugal Queens post I have sat down and worked out the prices so you can see how cheap it is (and really healthy!)  I have changed a couple of bits, like I didn't use the specified oil, I used olive oil as we always use that. Also didn't add fresh curry leaves or okra but it still tasted gorgeous and my very fussy teenage son has had it twice now and eaten it.  You have no idea what a good recommendation that is!

Splash of olive oil
I red onion chopped 25p
2 garlic cloves crushed  8p (ish)
1tsp tumeric  6p ( probably less!)
1tbs ground cumin  8p
1tbs ground coriander 20p
50g cashew nuts   33p  (£1 bag  for 150 g at Aldi)
400ml can coconut milk  50p  Aldi
1/2 cauliflower   75p (£1.50  at most  a full one)
 250 g Broccoli    25p-30p

Rice to serve with it  25p.

I use the boil in the bag ones 4 in a box for a pound at Asda or Aldi 80p.  They are just quick and cook perfect I think 1 bag serves 4 but it depends on your portion sizes.

It is quite easy to make, fry the onion in the oil for a few minutes, stir in garlic, tumeric, cumin and coriander fry a little longer ( don't burn)
Grind the cashew nuts, now I don't have a fancy grinder so what I do is just put them in a plastic freezer bag and just bash them with the wooden rolling pin, its quite stress busting also, after a bit you can roll over it, my son even came in to have a go at this!  If you have a food processor use that  but more washing up.
Add the ground nuts to pan along with the coconut milk..
Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes but keep stirring. I found 20 minutes to be enough.
You can steam the veg but I just microwave it for about 6 minutes then add to curry just before serving for a few minutes to cook through and coat.  I think you can use more veg if you want it to go further, also the recipe states to add 400ml of water but I didn't, maybe with more veg and more simmering you would.
Of course make sure you are boiling your rice while you are doing all this!  I then made a a raita dip to go with it, my way is just chop some cucumber, add some mayonnaise and a spoon full of mint sauce and stir.
You can see another curry on the go in the background as my husband and younger child both have a chicken curry. 
We also had some naan bread 2 between 4 the little fresh ones are 25-30p each. I worked the prices out roughly and the spices probably cost less per portion so about £2.55 for 4 people or 63p each only 88p with a naan each!  If you don't have the spices bear in mind that once you buy them you can make this curry for weeks.  I always have mayonnaise , cucumber and mint sauce in so this was not an additional expense.  You can also do chopped tomato, chopped red onion and a spoon of mint sauce that is good too.
Well I hope this  has helped someone or maybe stopped them from buying a take away tomorrow evening.  It is the weekend so why not try it and let me know what you think.  
I will be trying more recipes from this book so I will post on any I feel are tasty and good value.  I always change things if I think some ingredients are too pricey though.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sewing Bee and inspiration

I watched The great British Sewing Bee this evening and I have to say how much I admire those who take part in the show.  I like to sew but I personally can think of nothing worse than doing it under camera with a couple of experts ready to pull my creations to pieces! I have missed a few shows as I didn't realise it had started again as my husband or children generally have the remote even if I am in the same room as the TV.  This evening I really liked what they did with the fancy dress outfits, showing this kind of thing gives people ideas what they can do for their own children with what they have to hand.  I also agreed with the top two chosen for this, the queen of hearts and the pirate outfits, brilliant!
I have to use up some of the stash I have been given from my mother in laws wardrobe clear out, although I had to take some to charity shop as no room for all the fabric and some was fabric I wouldn't use also. There are little bits from projects too which need making up so I have cut some shapes out earlier and thought I'd make a start but they are now left on the table while I decide.
So I'm thinking either a pattern on a toiletries bag,  clutch bag, brooch, embellishment on a T shirt or maybe something else? Every so often I think I may make up lots of little bits like this and do a craft fair but I've read a few people say they have made much and sometimes just covered costs in a day so I  haven't done it.  I looked into booking a place on one locally before Christmas and it was £30 and with the small amounts I'd perhaps charge I didn't think it would be worth it.
Has anyone done one in England? If so what do you make and is it worthwhile?  I know the only way to find out is to have a go but I don't relish the idea of standing on a stall in the rain all day while people pick over stuff and then to come away out of pocket. 

Found these cute little ideas, I think I will make some of these little key rings, they can be given as gifts.

I found this idea on this site Crazy little projects.  They have a crazy monthly challenge on this site and it is 'It's in the bag' for March so I will have to make a new bag and join in.

Monday, 10 March 2014

This weeks reading

I have been reading Awaken the giant within by Anthony Robbins and finding it really useful but also a bit confusing in places.  If you go on his website you can watch some of his talks and they are super inspirational however there are parts of the book that I feel focuses too much on material things.  I know a lot of people link their  goal setting to career mainly and income but I often steer clear of the books that use this heavily as motivation.  Look at all the people who earn vast fortunes but end up with various addictions and countless divorces.  I think any kind of self help book should encourage people to look at all areas and to always want to add something to your life that will give you peace, not just ways to motivate you to increase your income.
I do feel Awaken the Giant Within covers a lot of areas but it doesn't need the little suggestions of the authors wealth scattered throughout the book the way they are, for example he mentions 'his castle' 'chartering a plane' 'looking at buying an island' (what!!!) I think this cheapens the book.  If all people want is a blueprint to be rich then they wont enrich their lives just by chasing money.  He talks a lot about contribution and he himself has set up a charitable organisation which is fantastic but we don't need to keep hearing about the expensive toys every few pages or the name dropping.  It could just be me and I will read his other books to see what they have to offer but the flaunting of the wealth for me is a no no.  I think he has done incredibly well and helped lots of people but by having these little showy bits in it could lead people to chase the wrong things in life.

I got this book from the library and I ordered it months ago but reading is something I love and thanks to the library I can read as much as I want.  My goals have always been to have a happy life with my family, to enjoy my work and to continue to learn and grow.  I don't feel any of these goals require me to be rich, of course we need to have employment but if you treat what you have with respect many people are in a position to live a comfortable life provided they can find employment. The reason a lot of people feel unhappy is because they look to celebrity magazines and so on and wish they could have all the riches they see there.  I don't think that has a place in a self help book.  People need to be inspired to be more creative with the talents they have and also to grow as people rather than acquiring things.
I feel I have had a bit of a rant  but I will be back tomorrow with sewing. Promise.   

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A few bargains for March

I have been a bit absent this last week or so. I did intend to do all sorts of sewing half term week but I didn't just a few alterations for people, then this last week I started my new job on Monday which is just a little further away and an earlier start.  So earlier morning wake ups, and then trapped nerve Tuesday morning in my back (great!) I've got through my first week and everyone has been so welcoming (although they may all think I walk funny with the bad back thing!) it was strange to leave my last job but definitely the right thing to do.  It just goes to show if something is not right change it, there will be something else if you keep looking or if it is something about yourself you need to change just keep at it.  Anyway again this week the only sewing I have done is  a few dress alterations for other people but it brought in a little extra then today we went to Matalan for essential underwear only with a trip around garden centre on the way back but while I was there they had a sale.  Now it was a winter sale but the items I picked up are easily spring items so that is a bit confusing but still here they are...
cute  skirt £7
cute  skirt number 2 £7
Both of these skirts are unlined and will see me through the spring /summer but also with thick tights or leggings Autumn /Winter too.I also got...

Thick long sleeved top £5
Same top different colour £5

Now I don't shop for  recreation I get bored and most of the time I just find that I feel the items are just not worth the asking price, I went in for underwear and saw these items that were good value and I knew they would get a lot of wear so I bought them.  I like to be frugal but sometimes you are better off getting things you know you will need when you see them at a good price.  It is also good to stay out of the shops most of the time as some people always use 'it was a bargain' as an excuse for overspending.  I know I don't do that and this is my first clothing purchase this year and probably my last for a while so it is not a problem.

I went yesterday to get my photograph taken with the children for our passports and was shocked to see it was £5 for each of us in the booth! That just shows how long it has been for me since I stepped in one of those.  I now also have the expense of the passport applications but we did decide to go to Italy this year so I can't complain, we have organised the holiday ourselves no tour operator as school holiday times are costly enough.  At the end of May we will be going here..

So some of the frugal things I do add up so we can do things we really want to  do and know that we have saved for it.  We will only be staying for 4 nights but we are really looking forward to it seeing the sights and experiencing another country with the children. We are not going to lay on the beach but that is good also if that's what you like to do, I want to see as much as I can of the surrounding area in the few days we have so if we snooze we might miss it!   No more clothes spending for me between now and then I have enough summer clothes to take and my bargains of today will pad out my spring wardrobe.

Another Shift Dress

The dress I made today is from the free New Look pattern I got with Sew magazine last month. It is very similar to the scuba dress I made bu...