Giving Outdated Throw Pillows a Second Life

It occurs to me that sewing might be one of those lost arts.  My cousin and my youngest daughter have expressed a desire to learn.  My older daughter zips away on her machine making pillows for her house that is being built.  It is probably a little unusual for her age.  I can certainly sew, but I am limited in what I know how to do.  I don’t often use patterns and wish I knew more so that I could make elaborate clothing and such.  Anymore though, you can purchase a machine from a craft store and they will throw in sewing lessons.  If you do sew, it is time to take your machine out and freshen up the house for autumn.

Throw pillows always add a dash of personality and color to a space but they begin to look tattered or out of date fairly quickly sometimes.  Today we are taking old throw pillows (or new pillow fills) and giving them a new look.

These are very simple and can be done by hand if one does not have a machine.

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I used a new pillow because these are going into my new shop, but I will be doing this with my old pillows for my house as well.

Measure the pillow, then measure your fabric, adding 1 inch on all sides.

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Iron!  I am the type of dreaded housewife that does not iron.  Lord, if it needs to be ironed, it doesn’t get bought or it ends up in a pile of ironing for close to five years.  But, as my grandma taught me, you must iron in sewing.  Period.  Now, iron your fabric so it looks all pretty.

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Fold fabric in half inside out.  The folded edge is one edge you don’t have to sew!  Pin the sides, leave bottom open.  Sew each side, giving it about a half inch seam.  Take out pins and run your hand along side to make sure you got them all!  (Camouflaged little suckers.)

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Now flip right side out and use a chop stick or the like to gently push out corners.

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Place pillow inside and fold in bottom seam and pin tautly together.  Hand sew or machine sew.

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Easy as that!  Now, I took that pillow before we started and used a large needle and yarn to pierce all the way through the pillow and back out, tying securely to create a crease in the middle.  So when the pillow is done, you can see that little indentation.  I carefully wove a piece of yard through the fabric and top layer of the pillow and brought back through and tied a ribbon.

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But then I found a pretty button so fastened that on!  You could also hem the open bottom instead of sewing it closed and sew on adjacent ribbons to tie closed.  That way you can change your pillow covers and wash them.

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Throw pillows can generally be washed in the washer and floofed and dried in the dryer.  If a fabric is particularly fine, place it inside a bigger pillow case and wash and dry it that way.

Hypocrisy and the Homesteader’s Guide to Saving the Earth

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First things first, a compost bin.  The very weekend we move in I do hope Doug can build me a compost bin.  He makes it with pallets, three open spaces to move the cooking fertilizer through.

The thing about apartment living is that it is really difficult to be ecologically friendly.  They don’t recycle in this town.  There is nowhere to put scraps (no chickens to be found).  There is nowhere to compost (piles of coffee grounds on the balcony would be a bit weird).  There are hills of trash here, eye-opening, mouth gaping amounts of overflowing trash near the dumpsters.  I am shocked and saddened.  And yet, my things join the piles.

I am very much against the pipeline going through Indian land. I am also very much against the fracking, hideous wind mills, and pipelines going through farmer’s land (who don’t get to protest, by the way, they just get the land stripped from them) across the country.  I can get mad and share a post on facebook about stopping the black snake then I go get in my car and drive to work.  I understand that I am among the billions of hypocrites on this lovely planet.

The answer lies, perhaps, in mindfully (perhaps maniacally) opting to use less electricity, oil, and its many ugly faces.  We know we are killing our beautiful Earth (we know she is getting mad as hell) but we seem to not know what to do about it.  Our life has woven itself so thickly through the oil reserves that we don’t know how to function.

Once I step into my new homestead tomorrow I will be starting a compost pile.  I will find recycling.  I hope someone still does it.  I will reuse.  I will be like my elder generation where one is not sure if the contents of a container in the fridge is butter or leftovers.  I will get chickens and feed them my scraps.  I will use organic methods to grow as much of my food as divinely possible.  I will get oil lamps again and still crazily unplug appliances and Doug’s IPOD.  I will use carbon neutral wood to heat my home (though it will be nice to have that back up furnace!).  I will be more mindful.  I will do the best I can.  I will walk.  I will ride my bike.  I will purchase less.  I will sew more.  I will….

We must….

Dawali and the Reusable Mug

 

forestWe stepped into the old stone house, its dark hallways lightened by small windows.  The older man with the white beard welcomed us, tall and Sean Connery-esqe.  He offered us a free farm, his kind eyes gazing softly at us.  We giddily agreed to see this beautiful place that we have dreamed of.  We had to take a small plane to get there.  It seemed to be a quick trip.  The lush green around us was welcoming.  Herbs and plants, grassy fields, tall mountains greeted us.  Vibrant green and fresh.  A group of sheep preceded by two small dogs approached us gleefully.  They stood before a large fenced garden patch waiting to be tilled and seeded.  That was when we realized it.  They weren’t real.  They were almost robotic in movement.  The animals were copies of the ones we fondly raised on our last farm.

Confused we went for a walk in this strange place.  We kneeled near a cliff and looked down at the shining waters, deep and mysterious as fish swam through the clear waves.  Suddenly several cars and RVs came driving over the water.  The water was not water after all but a copy.  A water-like surface that was actually hard and became a parking lot as the artificial fish floated mechanically.

I opened envelopes.  One from my sister.  One from my grandparents.  They contained photos.  Photos of our life.  Of things on earth so that our future generations would not forget what it was like on earth.  Someone yelled from a cave.  “Don’t tell anyone else know about this place!  Too many people are coming here!”  No birds could be seen.

We had destroyed Earth.  The animals, the plant life, our lives had been destroyed and now rushes of humans came to occupy this new planet called Dawali.  I was sad.  We cried.  We desperately tried to get back to Earth so we could warn everyone.

I awoke.

The sun shone through the window illuminated by the newly fallen snow.  The mountains in a cloudy mist.  Doug was making coffee and the gas fireplace created an artificial glow.

I thought of the waste created from one commercial store, the overflowing dumpsters near our apartment complex and times it by a billion.

On a homestead I felt secure with my wind powered clothes line.  My hand washed clothes and dishes.  Our carbon neutral wood heat.  Our huge gardens and preserves.  How can I make an impact from my third floor apartment?

I firmly believe in the power of the elements and that we will not destroy Mother Earth but rather we will feel the impact of our mindless decisions.  Cancer, illnesses, natural disasters, whatever it takes to lower the population and protect our resources are out of our hands.  I must be more mindful.  It is far too easy to throw out a bag of trash for the valet trash service.  Or to drive when I can walk.  Or not take a reusable mug around with me.  What are some things we can do to help sustain our Mother?  Our food, our medicine, our life stems from her chest, our bodies return to her soil.  We must become more respectful of our Mother.  I intend to be more mindful.  I hope you will join me.

 

 

 

The New Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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The three R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has sadly been overused and overlooked.  Folks think about the big green tub that their trash company may or may not pick up on any given Thursday to send their recyclables off somewhere.  Hopefully the rumors aren’t true and they really are being recycled.  Many people don’t have recycling services available to their homes so don’t even bother.  We tried, sorry, we’ll wait for recycling to come to our town.

Alright, now we need to slightly tweak our way of thinking so that we are not dismissing these three R’s.  We don’t want to view them as an inconvenience and we don’t have to wait for someone else to offer us a service.  It would be wise for us to start considering these R’s.  I know that we all have heard over and over again about our finite resources, islands of plastic in the ocean killing animals and fish, oil spills tainting our water and who knows what floating in our drinking springs.  We have heard of landfills the size of states and the problem isn’t decreasing.  But, when we can’t see the detriment with our own eyes, it is hard to fathom and is often easier to just go about our day and hope all that remedies itself.

Here are some easy ways to bring back the three R’s into our day to day routine, save money, and keep things out of the landfills and oceans.

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Reduce

This is one of the harder ones.  “I need this!”  I do attempt to stay out of stores all together now.  It doesn’t always work.  I try to see Walmart and department stores in a new light.  Shelf upon shelf upon shelf of cheaply made items shipped from overseas that may or may not be bought that will ALL end up in a land fill.  Boxes and packaging and cheap petroleum based items.  Tons and tons of it.  Scary.  Set it under fluorescent lights and you have the makings of a horror movie.

Do you really need it?  Probably not.

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Reuse

Things like twist ties and rubber bands can be reused in a myriad of ways.  I use the twist ties to fasten plants to trellises and cages.  I use the rubber bands to bundle produce, extra silverware, pencils, etc.

Paper bags can be reused to hold vegetables in the fridge or be used to pack a lunch.  Or to dry herbs.  Likewise, the plastic produce bags can be reused to hold homemade bread or potato chips for a picnic.

Sandwich bags and freezer bags can be washed and used several times.

Glass jars can serve as leftover containers or drink receptacles.

The obvious scratch paper can be used to make lists or write down reminders.  They can be shredded and added to compost.

Cardboard can be used to suppress weeds or make a playhouse.

Try to give everything a second life.

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Recycle

Now at some point we have to throw some things out or we get a little cluttered.  There are recycling services out there, whether the trash service that will take marked bags or a place you can drop off.  Try to recycle what can be recycled!

There are other ways to recycle.  When we need wood for a project we immediately go to the hardware store.  We have never thought twice.  Our friend, Rob, showed us another way.  He drives to building sites after hours and hauls off the wood that has been placed in dumpsters.  Perfectly good, wrong sized, wood thrown in a dumpster to haul off.  He has collected enough wood to build a goat barn and a chicken coop.

He came to our house (we are boarding his goats) and built a feeder out of wood strewn about the yard that has been here longer than we have lived here.  Now, mind you the goat kids flipped it over and are using it as a playground, but a recycled wood playground nonetheless!

Thrift stores have a ton of usable fabric instead of buying new.  They also have quite nice clothes that can be reused.  And dishes, and pretty much anything else one would need to set up house.

Craigslist is a great way to find what one needs without buying new.  I did end up buying a new cheese press yesterday because I had exhausted every avenue finding a used one, but in most cases, from furniture to cars, this service helps folks save money and reuse something instead of buying new.

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Analyzing the Trash

What is in your trash?  For me, most of the trash is paper towel (could I use clean towels that don’t attract cat hair?), plastic coverings (overused sandwich bags or bread bags…maybe I can sew some?), used cat litter (is there a litter that breaks down and can be put in the compost?), torn plastic bags (can I remember my reusable bags maybe??), and empty coffee bags (would they fill a different container?).  My business is trickier.  Wax and oils are really messy to work with and we almost have to  use paper towels and end up throwing away really gross jars and old bottles.  I wish I could find a more eco-friendly way to do business.  Could folks come over with their own bottle and fill it up?  If I could do business out of my house, maybe.  There will not be a perfect solution, we cannot go back to our great-grandparents’ time when things weren’t so over processed and packaged.

How about the recycle bin?  Beer bottles and wine bottles, organic soda cans, paper, and cardboard are the main things in there.  I noticed that if I do not buy packaged cereals, crackers, and other processed foods, I have a lot less waste.  Homemade food is not only better for us, but saves us money and creates less waste.

We could go on and on with ideas…compost, don’t buy it in the first place, make things into planters….but one day at a time.  We just need to bring the three R’s back into the forefront of our day to day and make better choices so that we can take care of ourselves and our planet.

Mulching Clothes

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I don’t like to waste.  Sometimes I get very overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff out there.  Hidden landfills, better left unthought of, filled to the brim and sealed with things that may never decompose!  Department stores and Walmarts full of disposable stuff.  Okay, I am getting depressed now so in order to not hit the liquor cabinet this early, I want to think of reusing.

Oh man, do we have stuff.  An entire garage of stuff, closets and basement and bedrooms of stuff.  Today, specifically I am thinking of clothes.  Yesterday I took five full bags of clothes out of my bedroom (and I still don’t know where I am going to put all the clothes currently drying on the line!).  FIVE!  I have friends that give me cute clothes that no longer fit, and I am good with that.  I have people in our life who are pretty certain we are struggling through poverty and give me bags of clothes (yes, I need to learn to say “no thanks”!), and we have a really nice second hand store here with the occasional sweet sun dress, skirts, or overalls that I must have.  I am attempting to get rid of this city girl vice.  The chickens and bugs in the garden really couldn’t care less how cute I am.

Many of the clothes just end right back up at the second hand store.  Renting clothes I guess we could say.  But, what do you do with the clothes that are not nice enough to be given to charity but you don’t really want to send them to sit for all eternity in the landfill?

  1. You could use cotton clothing to tear into strips and make a nice rag rug, charming in any farmhouse (even if it’s in town). I did hear that you can only use cotton for this purpose.  Someone correct me if I am wrong.
  2. Patchwork quilt….anyone have a year on their hands?
  3. Dusting rags

Here is my current problem, most clothing is a mixed blend, I already have twenty projects going right now, and I seriously don’t need any more dusting rags.  So, here is my crazy idea and you all make sure to sound out if this is the stupidest idea I have ever had.

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Take this lovely teal skirt.  It was gently wafting in the breeze outside one of those India Imports shops.  It screamed of belly dancing and cool refreshing walks in the park, and a promise of a whoosh-whoosh every time I walked.  I bought it at a ridiculously high non-thrift store price.  It promptly started unraveling at the seams, then continued to snag on everything that I walked by.  It’s not a flattering cut and I am pretty much done humoring it!  What if I took my pile of clothes; discards, couch covers that Bumble ruined, stained beyond belief shirts of Doug’s, frayed skirts and placed them in the garden walkways and covered them with straw?  Would this work?  Would this keep the weeds down?  Would it provide lovely pathways?  No one would be the wiser with the packed down straw on top and weeds would have to work forever to get their pesky heads through.  Or, would I trip over a skirt, smack my face on a raised bed, and have a huge wet, moldy mess to clean up when it didn’t work?

I am counting on you people out there!  Sound off!