Mooky Cow and Cheval posing in reusable produce bags
DIY, DOWNTIME DIYS

DOWNTIME DIYS #3: Reusable Veggie Bags

HI. TWO POSTS TODAY COS I WAS BAD LAST WEEK. Anyhoo. Here in Australia, our supermarkets have gone back and forth about plastic bags vs no plastic bags at checkouts. They seem to have settled on no plastic bags, and offer several types of reusable bags for sale for very little dollars indeed (we call these Coles bags or Green bags depending where you shop I guess). Some of the more pricey ones of these are really quite nice.

But despite this push for more sustainable, more aware shopping, they still package many things in excess plastic, AND they provide plastic bags for unpackaged fruit, veg, nuts, and bulbs/tubers (onions, garlic bulbs, ginger, potatoes etc). Now we do have a wide variety of stuff available in supermarkets here, and people do like the option of being able to buy exactly what they need and not waste produce. But these bags do not have handles, and are very thin, and therefore rarely get reused.

There has been a big push in both the DIY and eco-aware communities for reusable veggie bags made from a variety of fabrics/materials, and there are even commercial varieties available for sale. But today, I am here to show you that you can make your own (and even some for your friends!).

So. Let’s go!

MATERIALS:

  • 1m plain cotton/strongly woven mesh (I bought a remnant roll of 3m of mesh, and used less than 1m. So 1m should be plenty).
  • 5m (or more depending on the size and number of bags you make) of cord/string/rope – whatever you choose to tie your bags with. We are making drawstring bags
  • Sizeable safety pin
  • White thread and needle if sewing by hand
A pile of white mesh fabric, and a coil of white twisted rope

And that’s pretty much all you need. OK. Here we go.

STEP 1: Lay out your fabric on a flat space – a table or counter (if it’s big enough) or you can use the floor like me – and fold it in half (length or width ways doesn’t matter for this). May fabric was a remnant roll which means the edges weren’t perfect, and gave me a good place to start working out the size of the bags I wanted.

If you like, you can use old newspaper or magazines to mark out the size of the bags you want. Think of what sort of produce you usually buy. You can use a pencil or some blackboard chalk to mark it out (or tailor’s chalk if you have some). Remember to leave some space for seams if you don’t have an overlocker or are sewing by hand.

White mesh bag pieces
I literally just fold and cut. I rely on my overlocker/sewing skills to even out the edges.

STEP 2: Cut! Don’t be afraid. Cut out your bags. If you’ve been smart and cut as you’ve gone along, you should be able to get away with having a fold along one of your edges. This should be the bottom of your bag, as it is still woven and uncut and will provide the strongest edge (especially if you buy a lot of potatoes).

STEP 3 (OPTIONAL): As I am working with mesh, and I have an overlocker, I chose to overlock all the edges of my bags pieces before I start an actual joining of seams. You can do this by hand with blanket stitch, but it could be time-consuming. You can also do this with zig-zag stitch on a standard sewing machine. This is step is not necessary.

METHOD 1:

White mesh fabric pieces in an overlocker

STEP 4.1: Now we fold each piece in half (with any uncut folded edges being the bottom of the bags), and we close up each side. Now, those with overlockers can continue as normal, standard sewing machines can use either zig-zag stitch (if you have a loose weave/stretch fabric) or straight stitch, and hand sewers should use back stitch – it is very secure.

PLEASE NOTE: we have folded the fabric in half, right sides together, and we join them with the inside of the fabric facing outwards. This way, when we turn them right-sides out, it will look nice. For most of the fabric used for this type of project, it really doesn’t matter, but some plain coloured fabrics will have a more saturated and less saturated side.

White mesh bag shells

STEP 5.1: Still with right sides facing, we fold over a section on the top to create a hem (edging) that will go all the way around the top of the bag. Pin in place, and leave one seam area open/unpinned. This will create a tube that we will feed our rope/cord/string into to make the drawstring. Sew down, leaving a gap at the unpinned seam.

White mesh bag pieces with hem being sewn in sewing machine

METHOD 2:

STEP 4-2: Take your bag piece and fold in half, right sides together. One section may have an uncut fold and this will be the bag bottom. Or you may not have a fold in which case you can decide which will be the top – you should sew this bottom edge closed before continuing with this step. Pin one (only one) of the side seams together (this means one of the joins between two pieces of fabric that will create the side of the bag), and sew.

STEP 5-2: Lay your bag flat with the right side facing down. At the top of the bag, fold down a section to create a hem that will go across the top (this means both sections, including the join). This will make a casing for the drawstring! Pin down and sew a little line near to the very bottom of the fold where the raw edge meets the main bag fabric.

Now you may notice that the tube is open because we haven’t sewn up the second side. Sew up the second side, leaving the tube openings open.

STEP 6: OK, back to the main bit. The two above methods are just options for having the drawstrings inside the bag (Method 1), and outside the bag (Method 2). It really comes down to personal preference.

White mesh bag with cord draped across it

OK. Attaching the drawstrings. Lay down your bag flat and lay your cord across the top along the seam. For smaller bags, I cut four times this (see pic), but for most bags I cut three. You may add a little excess to account for the knot. Cut your drawstring to the desired length, and take your big safety pin and attach it to one end.

white cord with safety pin attached

Feed the pin into one tube opening, and push and scrunch, and release the fabric along until the pin comes out the other opening. Adjust your drawstring, and tie a knot at the very end of each end of the rope.

White mesh bag hem with safety pin and cord inserted
White mesh bag hem with cord and safety pin inside
whit emesh bag with drawstring fed through
white mesh bag with drawstring knot

NOTE: Be mindful with twisted rope that it begins to unravel as soon as you cut it, and it might get caught in your casing if your fabric is mesh or rough. Take it slow, and keep a pair of tweezers handy.

white mesh bag with drawstring
interior of white mesh bag with internal drawstring

STEP 7: REPEAT for each bag, or do each step in batches. Turn right side out and enjoy!

pile of finished white mesh bags
Mooky Cow and Cheval posing in reusable produce bags
Check out my toy children modelling these reusable bags

Hooray! An actual sewing Downtime DIY. This should take you about 30 minutes to an hour depending on your speed of sewing/confidence, or in my case the amount you flail around doing dumb things.

You can use these bags and this tutorial for many things, and you might have enough fabric left over to make some bags for your friends!

Save the planet, and live a more planet conscious life by doing simple things like taking your own bags to the supermarket to choose and weigh your fruit and veg. Check out your local fabric stores for remnants and scraps and the ends of rolls to use to make your bags, and look out for scrap rope/cord pieces too! You also don’t need to add the cord just yet if you don’t have it – rather you can add cord as you come by it – the bag should work just fine without closures.

Just remember to wash your bags to prevent any produce scraps from lingering, festering, and creating a new environment of their own. And when your bags are old and unusable, wash them and turn them into cushion stuffing!

Well. that’s enough yapping from me. Double update today cos I didn’t post last week. Share this one with your friends and try it out and tell me how it goes.

steamed dumplings in a blue and white dish with chopsticks across the top.
EVERYDAY EDIBLES, FOOD

EVERYDAY EDIBLES #2: Homemade Dumplings

QUICK NOTE: Apologies for not posting last week. My sister was visiting, and I was busy napping and making these dumplings! She liked them though, so you have a second opinion. Try them out!

Nom. I LOVE dumplings. Particularly steamed ones. I’m not a fan of the fried or boiled varieties, and not a fan of fried food in general, though I do eat some fried stuff. I digress. I’m quite late for Chinese New Year, but here is my guide to making simple dumplings at home!

NOTE: These are pork and chive dumplings, but you can use any filling you like 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g pork mince (or another main filling of your choice. Veg used as a meat substitute should be chopped small or mashable (Makes 54 dumplings!!!)
  • chives – I used a packet of dried diced chives, but usually I use 1 bunch of fresh ones – to your taste buds.
  • garlic and ginger to taste
  • salt, pepper, maybe some chilli powder
  • soy sauce
  • a little water
  • dumpling wrappers – I use two packs of Double Merinos brand Gow Gee Pastry
Double Merinos Gow Gee Pastry packet

From here, you can add any other ingredients you like. I sometimes dice a little onion, or you can try adding some more veg.

Right, steps. Here we go.

STEP 1: If you have time, do this beforehand, cover, and keep in fridge to marinate. Otherwise, you can do it as you’re cooking and it still tastes just fine.

Mix wet ingredients together in a bowl. The amount you add of the spices and condiments is really up to you. The water is important because you need to mix everything together. Not too much though. You can mix using a spoon but this is more fun to mix by hand.

dumpling filling mix
meat mash

STEP 2: Preset your stove and countertop – I like to get my steamer set up on the stove and start the water boiling before I get around to folding the dumplings. I also like to use baking paper to line my steamers as they are metal and cleaning them is a massive headache if stuff gets stuck.

For your countertop, you will need a chopping board, and a small dish of standard room temp tap water. This is important.

Double stack metal steamer trays with baking paper
double stack metal steamer trays with baking paper, and metal steamer base with water on stove
wooden chopping board with six empty dumpling wrappers


STEP 3: Folding time! I can fit 18 dumplings per steamer tray, and with this amount of ingredients, I can make 3 trays (54 dumplings). I only have two steamer trays so I have to do some quick switcheroos, but it works.

18 is a multiple of 6, and my chopping board can comfortably fit six open wrappers with room to spare. So. I lay out six wrappers, then i dip my fingertips in the water, and brush them lightly over the wrappers. This makes the wrappers stick together when you are folding them into fun shapes! You can use a pastry brush but the effect is the same, and you don’t want them too soggy else they collapse.

OK. Place a blob on mix in the centre of each wrapper – Pro Tip: use less than you think you need – see my tiny blobs). Then I fold each wrapper in half to make a semi-circle. I hold the folded semi-circle in the centre of the flat side, and pleat one side in (approx 3 pleats), and then the other side. This makes the dumpling look like a money bag (different type of dumpling), but when it steams and cooks, it will relax the folds so it looks somewhat like a fan.

I am by no means an expert, so do try your own folding methods! This is meant to be fun!

wooden chopping board with six dumpling wrappers with filling on them
some of these seem a little big.. :/

STEP 4: By the time I fold the first 18, the water has nearly reached boiling point, so I can load up the first tray. USE TONGS. BOILING WATER IS BOILING AND WILL OUCH YOU.

While these are steaming away, fold the next lot, and load the next tray up. I tend to put the second tray on the bottom, the first tray would have cooked a bit.

If you have a third tray, repeat the above steps. If you’re like me, and only have two, then fold the next lot, and store them on a plate or chopping board (or both, in my case, cos I stupidly took out a tiny plate).

excess folded dumplings on a tiny plate
tiny plate
excess folded dumplings on a wooden chopping board
and the rest on the chopping board
18 dumplings on a metal steamer tray
semi-cooked dumplings.

STEP 5: The dumplings won’t take long to cook, but be careful that they are not slightly undercooked. Wait for the smell to permeate your home, and some of the juice to leak out a bit. Then you can transfer the cooked ones to a plate (if placing on a platter or holding plate, place a double sheet of paper towel on the plate/platter first to soak up the oils that you don’t want to eat).

If you have more dumplings waiting to be steamed, you may load up the tray again, and swap positions on the steamer stack. I reused the baking paper as it is the same foods.

18 cooked dumplings on a metal steamer tray
DOUBLE STACK. Cooked dumplings. See the shiny sticky look – that’s important.

Leave to cool, serve with condiments, and ENJOY!

These are really simple, and really quick, and steaming means they are a bit healthier than the fried versions. WARNING: They are VERY filling, so don’t be fooled if your eyes are bigger than your stomach!

steamed dumplings in a blue and white dish with chopsticks across the top.

Thank you for following my recipes! And apologies again for missing last week. You get two posts today to make up for it!

Two different utensil holders in warm metal tones. One with spoons, and one with a hairdryer
DIY, DOWNTIME DIYS, HACKS

DOWNTIME DIYS #2 [HACKS]: Painted Cutlery Holder(s)

I’M LATE OMIGOD. Sorry. Yesterday was my birthday and I was doing a whole lot of nothing. This week’s DOWNTIME DIY is pretty simple, but I discovered some cool effects with these techniques so here goes.

I bought these simple stainless steel cutlery holders from Kmart – one for cooking utensils, and one for my hairdryer which needed an easily accessible home. I like warm metal tones so I have a lot of golds, bronzes, coppers, etc around the house (actually an apartment but whatever). So because these were stainless steel, I decided a simple hack was to paint them. But it’s in the painting that I worked out some techniques to get interesting effects.

Two different utensil holders in warm metal tones. One with spoons, and one with a hairdryer


METHOD 1:

The first one I did was the hairdryer holder which is a soft gold now after some spray painting. Aside from the usual “spray in well ventilated area” – i.e. outside – I recommend a matt finish spray and one that is not too liquid in it’s consistency. I use JET brand spray paint at $4.99 a can. You will only likely use about a quarter of a can for this as it is fairly straight forward. I think I did about 1 and half coats for this.

So. I flipped the tin upside down (let’s be honest, it’s a metal tin with perforations) and put my hand inside to hold it up and sprayed from a fair distance away while rotating the tin. I recommend a light but consistent press on the nozzle, and anywhere from 30-50cm away. This gives a lighter coat and makes the paint look softer. WHO KNEW!

The second coat was a lot faster as I did a bare minimum overlay as I was already enjoying the colour. I left it outside to dry after each coat, and I feel that it was particularly windy, and the dust particles have blown through and around the tin because the colour looks even softer now. Almost powder coated! FREE POWDER COATING. Especially if you live next door to a stable yard like me.

Gold metal utensil holder with hairdryer
Yes, I shed a lot of hair. Sorry.

MATERIALS:

  • Stainless Steel metal object (doesn’t have to be a cutlery holder but definitely better to be stainless steel to avoid rust)
  • Spray paint (JET brand is great)
  • Newspaper/drop cloth/rag for setting down
  • Air and outdoor area for drying/spraying


METHOD 2:

Bronze/copper metal utensil holder with paint tube, palette, and paint covered square sponge
Woo! Getting outside! Fresh air!

OK, number two. This one is slightly more interesting perhaps? I have a copper/bronze theme in my kitchen (kinda) and wanted an interesting cutlery holder for my millions of coconut shell cooking spoons. For this one, I used acrylic paint and a tiny square of sponge that I had leftover from another painting project.

So. Put some paint into a palette or plate or on a piece of cardboard or whatever you use for mixing/decanting paint. I used a bronze acrylic paint by Reeves. Now this sponge square was from a dish scrubbing sponge that I cut up so it has a small rough side, and a larger soft side. We are using the SOFT SIDE. Trust me on this.

Use the sponge dry. DO NOT WET. Dab into paint and get a good amount on the sponge and start dabbing onto the tin. I placed the tin on a newspaper and angled it slightly, and rotated as needed. Don’t daub the paint on or drag the sponge. You want it splotchy.

Once the first layer is done, you can go back straight away and fill in any gaps and do a second layer. The paint would have dried a little on both the tin and the sponge (more importantly, the sponge), so you won’t take anything off. The interesting part is happening with the sponge. By drying, it has stiffened in place, so when you put on the second layer, there will be some definition in the pattern that is forming on the tin and because you’re dabbing, you will get parts with more paint than others. Finish layer, leave to dry.

You can leave it outside, and it should dry within an hour. When you go back it will have dried into a pattern that is rough to the touch, and depending on the paint you used (or if you mixed some colours), you could end up with something that looks a bit like a bronze age artefact! Kinda. I think it looks cool.

So try it out! Cut the sponge into whatever shape or size you want, combine the two methods I’ve described, or try different colours with different coats! Make cool things. Show me!

MATERIALS:

  • Stainless steel object (see above)
  • Acrylic Paint (I used Reeves paint in a tube in the colour ‘bronze’)
  • Dish sponge (you can choose whatever size/shape you want)
  • Palette (or something that can be used to hold paint)
  • Newspaper
  • Air and outdoor area
Copper/bronze metal utensil holder with coconut shell spoons
Many many spoons


And that’s it from me. It’s a fairly simple pair of hacks, but I am super happy with the results, and hopefully you will be too if you try this out! Hacks don’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Often, a simple colour change with a cool effect that can be easily achieved, will go a lot further to maximising aesthetic potential, and creating a fun and unique object that you can proudly say YOU upgraded from its original form!

HAPPY PAINTING!

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Bowl of stew being held underneath by a hand.
EVERYDAY EDIBLES, FOOD

EVERYDAY EDIBLES #1 – Garden Variety Roo Stew

Whew. We made it. The first Everyday Edibles! Woo! Also, I made an error earlier – there’s no way I’ll be able to make these weekly and have enough stuff to post, so both Downtime DIYs and Everyday Edibles will be fortnightly, on alternate Tuesdays.

OK, with that out of the way, welcome to my first recipe for the year! Now, keep in mind that I rarely work in fixed amounts so a lot of this involves your own intuition. Don’t be afraid! Try it out!

Note: You may use your common or garden variety kangaroo meat for this or some fancier game. The vegetables used here are standard garden variety, and can be found almost anywhere.

Bowl of stew

INGREDIENTS:

  • Kangaroo fillets – these are medium sized slices of kangaroo meat, often the really good bits. Though really, it’s a roo – with that little body fat, almost everything is a good bit. Not sure ’bout them legs though. I used approx. 500g. It came in a pack in Coles.
  • Cabbage – I used about a third of a standard head (ball?) of purple cabbage, but you can use cabbage of any colour.
  • Broccolini – this is baby broccoli, and I used two bunches
  • Garden peas – I had a can of garden peas that I used. Drain first. Or you can use fresh peas. Let’s say about two cups?
  • Water chestnuts – again, I had a can. 1 cup approx.
  • 1 small shallot onion – finely diced
  • Wholegrain mustard – I used about 3-5 tablespoons, but I cannot tell for sure. Add according to your taste.
  • Outback Tomato Sauce – this is by a company called Outback Spirit, and is v. delicious.
  • Coriander leaves – chopped or ripped, add according to taste.
  • Ginger – add to taste
  • Garlic – add to taste

Plus salt, pepper, and I added chilli powder. OK. Bear with me on the instructions, as I just cook and often don’t time things or know what’s going on.

HOW TO MAKE:

STEP 1: Prep your pot – I have a nice medium sized tubby pot that has become my favourite one-pot-meal-cooking-pot. Turn fire on, place pot, and while it is heating up add salt (I use freshly ground Pink Himalayan Rock Salt), pepper (freshly ground 4 peppercorn mix), chilli powder (this is from Sri Lanka, but you can find chilli powder everywhere these days), and coriander leaves (chopped or ripped). Once you’ve added those, the pot should be hot so add in your oil (I use Rice Bran oil), and stir your seasonings around a bit.

Black pot with oil, diced onions, coriander leaves, salt, pepper, and chilli powder, sits on a stove
I forgot to add the garlic and ginger. Add here.

STEP 2: While that’s heating up, dice your onion, then add it in, and stir. This is a good time to add your ginger and garlic (I use paste), though I added it later with the first lot of mustard because I forgot. Made no difference, so don’t worry if you forget. Add all of that and stir.

While that’s sizzling, slice up your roo meat. Though you can slice it beforehand, as I had to move the pot off the burner as it was about to burn. I decided to slice each fillet into smaller slices width-ways – these were about 2cm wide and about 6cm long (3/4 inch wide and about 2-3 inches long), but you can cut them however you like. Put pot back on stove and add to pot. Stir.

The key to cooking, I believe, is good stirring action, and a lot of it. STIR STIR STIR. MIX. FOLD. STIR.

Sliced kangaroo meat sits on a wooden chopping board. There is a small serrated-edge green-handled knife also on the board. The board is on a terrazo benchtop
Same as before sits on the stove, now with added sliced kangaroo meat.

STEP 3: Let that cook happily on the stove, it will take a little bit of time so you have a reprieve. Time to tackle the cabbage. Man, cabbage can be really annoying. But, I cut off about a third in smaller segments, and sliced length-ways where I could, and long slices where I couldn’t. The rest of the cabbage was wrapped and put in the fridge for the next set of lunch meal prep. I thought I would not have enough, but a little cabbage goes really far and turns out to be quite a lot. Add to pot, and mix in. At this point, you need to start folding the newly added stuff into the mix because it will get more cumbersome as you go. Folding is lifting and tucking under – kind of a scoop and drop situation. You need to do that and let it cook before it gets incorporated enough to stir.

Same benchtop and board as before, now with a purple cabbage, a third of which has been sliced off.
Yes, I rinsed my board in-between. I also washed it proper at the end. This is a bit less than the third, but I did slice more afterwards and I ended up with about a third.
Same pot as before, now with added sliced purple cabbage.

STEP 4: Rinse and prep your broccolini. You can remove any excess leaves down the bottom of the bunches, and chop off the very ends. I then simply chopped them in half width-ways, so that I have plain stalks, and stalks with trees, and put them in the pot. Fold, mix, stir.

Goes without saying that you should always rinse your vegetables. RINSE YOUR VEG. PLZ.T

Same pot as before, now with added chopped broccolini
Can you see what I mean about plain stalks and stalks with trees? I didn’t know how else to describe it. :/

STEP 5: Add in your peas. I simply drained my can before mixing them in. Peas are small and slippy so are much easier to incorporate. Fold, mix, stir.

Same pot, now with added garden peas

STEP 6: Here’s where I went, “oh shit, the moutarde! (mustard), and realised I hadn’t added the ginger or garlic either. I wouldn’t put too much of those, just a bit to encourage the flavours. Mustard wise, I scooped some out straight into the pot, and mixed it in. Fold, mix, stir.

I then added the water chestnuts. Same as the peas, I drained the can, and then dumped them into the pot. Fold, mix, stir.

Back with the pot, and now with added water chestnut slices
These give a really nice crunch to the dish, and take on that lovely purple colour that the cabbage leeches.
Same pot, but everything is mixed through, including some wholegrain mustard

STEP 7: Jeez, there’s a lot of steps to this. Time for sauce. I just poured it on. See the pic to see how much I added. I went, “oh shit, the sauce!”, and poured some on. Lol.

Then, fold, mix, stir. Then I let it cook a bit before adding more mustard, followed by still more fold, mix, stir.

Don’t be put out if you don’t have that particular sauce. A smokey tomato sauce will work just fine. Or a good herbed tomato-bbq mix.

Same pot, now with added outback tomato sauce on the top. There is a hand holding the bottle of sauce on the left of the pot. The sauce is by a company called Outback Spirit
Try this company. They also do really cool meat and herb blend sausages that tie up really nicely with the sauces. I wish they did Aussie game meat to tie up with the sauces. Maybe in the future.

And we’re done! I think the order stuff is added is really important. I didn’t want the roo to overcook as it gets tough and chewy. I was also worried that the cabbage would be too soggy or the broccolini would be discoloured and soft, but everything worked out correctly. Even the late addition of mustard and sauce didn’t mess up, though I suggest adding sauce at an earlier stage too. The main flavours were meant to be mustard and tomato and a slight roasted meat flavour, and it turned out pretty well, so I’m happy.

Same pot, but cooking is over and everything is nicely mixed through.

I understand that many of you may not be able to try this as kangaroo meat isn’t readily available outside Australia (hell, it’s hard to get it here too sometimes), but you can substitute beef or even venison! Works well with game meat. Someone try it with some venison and tell me how it goes.

The stew has now been served into a bowl, the inside of which is white. The bowl is on the benchtop and a metal fork sits in it with the stew. The stew is primarily purple and greenw tih interesting textures from the different ingredients.

WOO! Done! I hoep you enjoyed that. I love cooking, though I often have to psyche myself up to doing so, cos I am constantly tired. My relationship with food is complex, and often changing. I have some dietary issues and food dislikes that mean it’s easy for me to avoid a lot of unhealthy food (I eat little dairy due to lactose intolerance, and I dislike deep fried food), and I eat less carbs, especially pasta and bread. But I do get bored with food and cooking, so I try to mix things up and keep things interesting. I’ve developed a bit a of a rep for throwing things into a pot and it magically becoming tasty. Yae for useful skills!

I also don’t have a lot of space, so I like meals that use one pot (not counting the rice cooker or microwave). I also don’t usually use recipes or fixed amounts, and I apparently have the atha (hand) for judging quantities. In Sri Lankan cooking, we don’t measure spices, and if someone has a knack for judging the quantities, we say they have the hand for it. I pick shit up and put it in and it works. *shrug* I have learnt to understand flavours and combinations, and how to make things work together.

Close up of the bowl of stew

Anyhow, thank you for tuning in (lol), and please try this and share your results with me! See you next week with a Downtime DIY!!!

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A rectangular wooden frame inlaid with hessian is on a blue sheet leaning against a white wall. There are many earrings hanging off the frame. There is a small wooden bowl with rings in the front.
DIY, DOWNTIME DIYS

DOWNTIME DIYS #1 – DIY Jewellery Frame

And here we go with the first DOWNTIME DIY!!!! Excite! This one I have made many times and can be used for many things besides jewellery.

So. I have a lot of earrings. Like, a LOT. And many of them have hanging parts or interconnected sections and when they’re all lumped in together in a box, they get tangled and break. As I rent, I cannot install things into my closet doors (they slide anyway, so it’s a moot point), and I needed a solution to both maintain the quality of my earrings, as well as keeping them organised and within easy reach.

A rectangular wooden frame inlaid with hessian is on a blue sheet leaning against a white wall. There are many earrings hanging off the frame. There is a small wooden bowl with rings in the front.
This is a smaller frame I made to take to Sri Lanka, so that I have a place to hang my jewellery when I am there. I don’t take a lot when I travel so it’s alright for it to be smaller. The bowl I bought at a local shop in Colombo called Paradise Road. Good for rings and hair gadgets.

I don’t know where this idea came from, but I happened across a massive frame tossed out on the street, and thought to make into something new. Which resulted in many, many frames being made and gifted (ok only like 4 in total), and an idea for DOWNTIME DIYS came along with it. You may have seen similar things. That’s OK. I’m not claiming that I own this idea, I’m just telling you how to do it.

MATERIALS:

  • wooden frame (wood is a must, unless you can work out how to use a metal frame?)
  • hessian (also called jute, or gunny like gunny sacks. Maybe even sacking material)
  • paint or wood stain
  • staple gun
  • paintbrush or staining cloth
  • sanding block or sandpaper
An empty wooden frame sits on a bamboo stepstool, and leans against a balcony railing. A staple gun, pot of wood stain, a paintbrush, and some hessian fabric sit in front of it. There is a leafy tree in the background.
Lookit that tree! I used a pretty big brush for this, but stain is hard to remove so I’d recommend using a brush you don’t want to use for anything else, AND one that you are happy to sit in turpentine for awhile between uses. I think this photo was taken halfway through the staining process.

STEP 1: Start by cleaning your frame. Make sure any dirt is removed, and any frayed strips are snipped. Then, starting with a rougher grade sandpaper (or block), sand your whole frame. As you go on, you can use finer and finer sandpaper for a really smooth finish. I admit that I am quite lazy with sanding, as I generally stain my frames, and the roughness soaks up the stain quite well. Stains also double as light sealants, I find and help to smoothen out the finish. Though I recommend an actual sealant if you want to make your frame waterproof.

If your frame is already painted white or a pale colour, or has a coat of primer on it, you can go over the top with your paint choice, provided that it is thicker/more saturated and darker than the existing coat. Painting/staining will take time as you need to flip the frame over to do each side, and dry in-between each application.

Leave to dry. Preferably overnight. This DIY really extends over at least two sets of downtime 🙁

STEP 2: Flip your frame so that the back is facing you, and lay it down flat (try and find a clean surface, though I tend to put some fabric down on my carpet. DO BETTER PEOPLE.). Most frames have a groove along the back to fit a picture in, and this groove is where we’ll set in our hessian.

Measure out your frame, using the grooves as the edges of your quadrilateral. I like to stretch my piece of hessian over the frame to gauge the size, or, if the frame is thin enough, I use the whole frame as a measuring guide. Before you cut, make sure that you have a bit of excess – a 2cm seam allowance all the way around should be plenty.

STEP 3: Once your hessian is cut, stretch it over the frame (groove side still up), and choose a point for your first staple. There are two ways to go about this, I feel. Either start in the centre of the top or bottom grooves, and work your way across before doing the other end and then the sides; OR start in a corner and work outwards. There are many ways, of course, but these are the two I use, and I choose which one depending on where my hands fall naturally.

Whichever way you staple, make sure to stretch the hessian taught as you go. Do not be afraid if it rips a bit – hessian has this remarkable quality of simultaneously being fragile as anything, and tough as shit. It will hold. If in doubt, add another staple.

One thing to look out for if you’re new to staple guns, is the recoil. While this is not a major shock to the system like in guns (ew. guns bad. BAD.), it can be a little jarring if you don’t expect it.

Best thing you can do is take your time, and stretch each section as you go, and maybe stretch other parts too! Employ some clamps, or useful assistants! Find a way that works for you. Hessian is forgiving, and the frame will be fine.

STEP 4: Before you tidy anything up, always stand up your frame, and check the tension of the hessian. Tap lightly, but surely on the back, then the front, and check the amount of give (or bounce, shall we say), in the fabric. This will tell you if you need to remove a few staples and reset. You can also do this as you go, and gradually build up/maintain the tension.

Once the hessian is securely attached, take a scissor (or a razor or set of clippers if you’ve got them), and carefully cut away any excess that might stick out over the height of the groove.

Then check over the frame for any little extras that might need fixing. This is such an important step in any project, I cannot stress this enough. This is the difference between a professional quality job, and one that looks homemade. I’ve had a few problems with the staples cracking the wood on the outside or pushing through, but I’ve chosen to either paint over them, or leave them be (depending on aesthetic), and so far, they’re holding well.

STEP 5: And you’re done! Almost. Now you wrap it up (if it’s a gift), or take it out to where it should be and start hanging stuff on it! Be it jewellery, badges, postcards, mementos/souvenirs, whatever. The best is that you can change this up whenever you like, and if you treat it like an art installation, it can provide both relaxation and decoration. 🙂

A tall, rectangular wooden frame, backed with hessian, leans against a white wall on top of some shelves. It has many earrings of a variety of shapes and colours hung on it. There are other pieces of jewellery in the foreground.
TA DA! I have a lot of earrings, so it’s lucky I have a big frame. This is the first one I made, and the only time where I didn’t have to buy the frame. The little indents and weird holes are filled in with a coppery-bronze paint. It’s also a bit scuffed, but I like the aesthetic.


Where To Get:
Frames: Object recyclers/found object resellers such as Reverse Garbage, or look out for a council cleanup in your suburb
Hessian: fabric stores such as The Remnant Warehouse, gardening stores, Bunnings Warehouse and other retailers
Staple Gun: I got mine from Officeworks, but you can get them in hardware stores or possibly even Kmart. Kmart is magical.
Wood Stain: Hardware or paint store, timber store, resellers like The Bower might have small amounts

An arm on which five white rectangular frames are being carried
I got five frames for I think $2 each at Reverse Garbage.


So that’s it from me. I hope you enjoyed this DIY, and feel inspired to try it out yourself. I enjoy sharing these with you, so there’ll be more to come. Please send feedback. I like feedback.

Follow me on instagram for all the extras and sneak peeks!

Nush is wearing a cosplay costume - army green pants, a purple and white tunic with long front and back panels with gold trim, black waist armour, a red belt, and a white turban with red trim. She is crouching and facing the camera.
COSPLAY, DIY, FULL SCALE

FULL SCALE #8: [COSPLAY] – Wrathion (World of Warcraft)

FULL SCALE #8: [COSPLAY] – Wrathion (World of Warcraft)

Hello hello. I am here! I promised a post, and boy is this a big one. Time for more cosplay!

First a little background on the character: Wrathion is a character from the Warcraft game universe, more specifically the MMORPG World of Warcraft. Players will be familiar with this character as his storyline is important to in-game world events, and you even undertake quests to save his egg from destruction as part of some levelling up quests. He is the last of the Black Dragonflight – the corrupted dragon species, the leader of whom – Deathwing – tried to destroy the world and was thwarted by heroes (players) in Cataclysm (Expansion 3). He is only three years old when we first meet him in Mists of Pandaria (Expansion 4), so his dragon form is a ‘whelpling’, or cute-little-baby-dragon-with-tiny-wings. But as dragons live for hundreds of years, his human form is an adult male. Keep in mind that he is only three, so is still a child. He is however, extremely knowledgeable, and has a network of spies that he presides over, making him an important player in game world.

The reason I enjoy Wrathion so much, is that he is intriguing – he has no real true alliances, he still exhibits childlike qualities, but he determined to redeem his species and change how people view him. Though he makes some questionable decisions affecting the game world as a whole (and setting up for Expansion 5 – Warlords of Draenor), he remains singularly different to the other major players in Warcraft lore.

I would like to point out, that as a person of colour, he is one of the few characters available for us to cosplay without colouring our skin. WoW is generally good like that, with a whole rainbow of skin tones, but it is nice to have a brown character to cosplay. Dragons are also genderless, which makes Wrathion ripe for Rule 63 and genderbending cosplay, and indeed he is a popular choice for many at overseas conventions, though with significant edits to his outfit.

Read more on Wrathion here and here.

Wrathion Cosplay 2

OK, let’s get into it. I was very late in making this, and had no idea how hard it would be until I actually started, but hey! This is kinda what I do – flail around until I get a burst to get moving.

So let’s break it down. Basically, it’s a pair of army or parachute pants, and a long sleeve colour-blocked tunic with long front and back panels. Doable.

Wrathion Cosplay 3
Woo! Back view!

The pants have dark red stripes on the inside of each leg and wider bright red panels on the outside. I actually added some pockets into the pants, and put in some sneaky slits in the side panels to allow pocket access.

Most cosplay costumes need to be sneakily altered/adjusted to allow for pockets/pouches so that you can carry your shit.

These are standard tapered pants, with more volume in the top, and an elasticated waist. Both colours are poplin.

Lookit! My sneaky pocket slits!

The tunic was also not difficult – the purple is a stretch fabric of some kind and the white is a bengaline. Simple alterations of a standard long sleeved t-shirt pattern, with the centre extended.

Wrathion Cosplay Side Panels and Sleeves
Lookit! My beautiful and painstaking painting. This was actually rather fun and relaxing.
Wrathion Cosplay Sleeves
Detailing in gold paint. Do before sewing together!
Wrathion Cosplay 4

OK. The weird side/waist armour things. Eck. Not my favourite part of the final look, but necessary to achieve accuracy. They are meant to be scaled armour pieces. The bases are made of this lovely thick black denim, then covered with a scale-embossed vinyl. The bigger panels are overlaid with smaller scales made from the vinyl. Edged in some crappy gold trim. The three pieces are lined up and attached together, so that there’s a set of three on either side.

They also kept slipping down despite being pinned to me. Definitely needing a redo if I wear this again.

This goes for the arm armour (lol) too. Vambraces? Maybe. Idk. They are also a triple set, without the extra little scales. They have a couple of strips of elastic holding them on my arm so then didn’t slip too bad.

The belt is a strip of red poplin edged and detailed in gold paint (I ran out of trim, and there are two different golds used in his outfit anyway). The brown leather cross-body belt is made up of leather scraps.

The front and back panels. These damn buttons had to be lined up and sewn individually, and my poor friend that I was making a cosplay for at the same time, was kind enough to help me mark the placement of each. Thanks Benny. I got lucky with the tassel trim here, and the wide gold band is not too bad. Detailing done in paint.

While we’re here, I’m going to briefly mention these damn epaulettes. They’re crap, I know. Ergh. They worked at the time and that was what I needed.

Snazzy.
This is a better view of the back. Sitting was pretty comfy actually.

OK. Thank you. Onto my favourite piece – they absolute crowning (literally) piece in this ensemble. The turban. Ah!!! I had never made a turban before this, and I wrapped the basic form in ten minutes with three strips of cloth! When you’re determined, you’re determined. And son, have you met me?

The first cloth strip was short and I used that to tie around my headform (Gloria!) and used the tails as the flaps detailed with gold that you see sticking out under the turban. This was never actually attached to the actual full turban so it moved a bit. The next two were long pieces so I wrapped one around the head to build up the height, and used the third one to make the flat loops that give the bulk and final form. There are some stitches around the crown to give the indentation, but not much else is holding this together. The red strip is a completely separate loop that I detach – it simply slips over the top and holds everything in place. Glorious.

Make hats. Truly. Such fun.

Wrathion Cosplay Crouch
Goddamn girl. This is my best facial expression pic, as well as the one where I look most like the character. Should make this the feature. Imma do that.
Wrathion Cosplay Crossed Legs
My boots! As seen in my Winter Soldier cosplay. Super versatile, these.

Look. I tried making spats with leather scraps, but it didn’t work OK? OK. Now enjoy the turban, and let’s jump into the final details.

Wrathion Cosplay Selfie 1
It me!
Wrathion Cosplay Selfie 2
It me again!

The necklace is made from the same scale-embossed vinyl, but it turned out better than the other stuff made from it. Cute red gem is not just for decoration – it’s accurate! So are the red eyes, though Wrathion’s are more full glowing eye, but this is what I could do.

As I was doing a Rule 63 cosplay, I took some artistic license with a few aspects. Namely, the scale make-up. I wanted to have fun with this cosplay – that is ultimately why we cosplay isn’t it? I also wanted to make a reference to Wrathion’s dragon form, which is black and glowing orange. These selfies were taken at the end of the day so the orange part has faded a bit, but the scale effect is pretty cool.

I think the eyeliner and lip colour are actually accurate to what he looks like, and he doesn’t really have hair in his human form, but mine is long so I made a simple braid. I also added a pair of coiled snake earrings as I don’t have the hoops he wears.

He does wear gloves, but I left mine at home. Oops.

Wrathion Cosplay 1

WELP. So this was awesome. It was my first ever Comic Con, my first time cosplaying with this much intensity, and two people recognised my character!!! I am validated.

____________________________________________________________________

As always, details below. Thank you for holding out for this post (I am slow, I am sorry. It’s like 12.45m on Monday now), and thank you for coming along on this journey.


Fabric: The Remnant Warehouse
Contact Lenses: Primal Conctact Lenses via The Party People
Boots: Rubi Shoes (bought years ago)

Location: OZ Comic Con – Sydney
Photos: Niamh Kyriacou and Benjamin Pinto

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REAL TALK

REAL TALK #5: Refresh, Renew, Restructure

Hello and welcome back friends. Or welcome back me. I have returned after many many years of trying to work out what to do with this blog and where I want to go with it. I’ve spent time working out domain charges and hosting, and getting my lovely friend Juliana to do all the heavy lifting with re-jigging this site. See her work here.

Here’s what we’ve done, and what you can expect in the future.

The site has been organised and streamlined to make it easier to view and easier to categorise and post on my end. We have also updated the Projects page and renamed it Works so as to properly organise and categorise my posts into what I hope is an easier format for viewing and searching. You may have also noticed the changes in titling of these posts – I am reworking everything to fit into series or ‘playlists’ as it were, in the hope that – in the future when I have many posts – followers can find things easier and follow along with the stuff they are interested in.

So here is what I have so far:

  • REAL TALK is a series that covers any non DIY posts, especially those that give out pertinent information, and my random musings on life. This such post is one of them. These will not be frequent, but will show up intermittently as and when needed, or when I have a thought I wish to share.
  • FULL SCALE is a series that showcases all of my major DIY projects (particularly clothing and costuming) that take time to do, be it over a few hours, a weekend, or a very extended time frame like many months. There will be smaller sub-series in here such as [COSPLAY], that I feel require an extra highlight of their own. I hope to post one of these every month, maybe on a Sunday, life depending.

 

Now the two series that I am super excited for:

  • DOWNTIME DIYS – a series of small DIY projects, usually home decor/storage solutions/simple upgrades that can be done in your downtime – be that half an hour or across a few hours. I have a bunch of these lined up and they are exciting and super fun. I’ve been doing a lot of these in an effort to continue making and creating when time is restrictive/life is forbidding. This will be WEEKLY, though I am unsure yet as to the day.
  • EVERYDAY EDIBLES – i like to cook. By no means am I a great chef or even a super good home cook, but I like to try different things and new flavours and styles of cooking. I am trying to eat less carbs so that is part of my journey of food discovery too. I tend to cook and a lot of Asian-inspired one-pot simple meals, and I want to expand my repertoire and keep my interest in food and cooking alive. I also like to make drinks – and as someone that generally doesn’t drink alcohol (maybe once every two years?), I like making sparkling drinks and iced teas, and interesting juice combos. This will also be WEEKLY, and again am unsure which day. Watch this space.

Alongside these are two mini series:

  • GIFTED – a series that fits across everything, focusing on gifts that I have made that I feel are worth sharing.
  • HACKS – a series where I attack pre-existing or recently-purchased items and hack/update them to get the look/feel/attributes I am after. This one is super fun.

 

And now for the biggest news. So far, I have talked a bit about my process but have mostly extrapolated on the background to the project and other little associated anecdotes. That is about to change. From here on out, DOWNTIME DIYS, EVERYDAY EDIBLES, and HACKS, will be instructional! I will attempt to post clear, concise, step-by-step instructions within the posts, and material lists and ingredient lists, as well as handy tips, so that YOU can make things too!!!

 

Phew. This is tiring and a little stressful but pressure is my friend. It is. I swear. These past couple of years have been tiring, but i have been crafting and making so I do have a range of things to post up here. Watch this space. First actual post in forever will come tmrw. And it’s a FULL SCALE.

 

See you tmrw.

<3 Nush.

 

ps: Yes, I like alliteration.

pps: Send me feedback.

 

Follow me on instagram and see some of what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

 

CLOTHING, DIY, FULL SCALE

FULL SCALE #7: Floral Bodice

Yes, flowers for spring.

But at least, I’m not making any grand statements about new trends and fresh ideas. Calm down.

Hello after a very long time. Many apologies. I was away in Europe – as you know from my previous post, and then when I returned, I got caught up in life and settling back in. Apologies for the poor quality photos from Versailles, but we only had a phone camera on hand. Thanks to Kenny, for kindly taking photos.

On to the DIYs. Oh, how I stuffed this one up. Lordy.

So this floral fabric had been sitting around in my stash (read: pile) for a very long time. It was only a short piece and I didn’t know what to do with it. When we were planning our trip to Europe, I decided to do what I always do before holidays, and make a bunch of crap. Cos why not?

 

nushrbgwm-3
Floral Print Bodice Top | Photo: Kristy Wan

I decided not to pattern match. I like the mish-mash effect and it makes for a more unique piece.

 

I have used this bodice pattern a million times over and it’s really simple and versatile. You can get it here at Crafty Alex’s Etsy shop. I like this sweetheart style – it’s a really versatile style that can be used with crop tops, bodices, dresses, swimwear and much more. It’s also super flattering for my shape (perhaps not when I stand like this :/ ), and is comfortable to wear when you you are off-centre like me. My entire left side from shoulder to pelvis is wider than my right, so my centre line is a bit off. This kind of top really helps disguise that though, so yae.

 

nushrbgwm-8
Floral Print Bodice Top | Photo: Kristy Wan

Check out my super uneven skin tone. This is what I meant earlier by I really screwed this one up. Even though I’ve made this top so many times, I didn’t adjust the heights properly so the zip is weird. I’m loving these straps though – lingerie elastic is amazing.

 

I need to wear brighter colours more as they really lend well to lifting my mood. I tend to be quite introspective and live in my head a lot so getting out and getting outside is key. Bright colours and fun patterns help to add some joy to life, and since my personal style is pretty unique anyway, I’m not fussed about things not matching or fitting with trends. That kind of mental freedom is precious.

 

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Floral Print Bodice Top | Photo: Kristy Wan

The top does roll about a bit, but that is because I stuffed up the length as well as the heights and it is a teeny bit too tight. When I wore it in France, poor Kenny had to keep zipping it up  – the zip unzipped if I took a big breath. The top does have cups sewn in so I don’t need a bra – that alone is a new and exciting thing. It is rare for me to not need to wear one, so having inserts is super cool.

 

I was not sure what to pair this with as it was too cold for shorts or a skirt, but these crepe de chine pants from Grana worked pretty well. Thanks to Grana and A Pair & A Spare for these pants – I won them in a competition and they are comfy as hell.

They also have pockets. Winning.

Styling this sort of top can be awkward. While I don’t care too much for trends, I do often imagine myself to be skinnier than I am, and when I make my clothes a touch too small, it makes styling worse. Growing up in an image conscious culture makes me very aware of my body, and while I love it and what it can do, I also know when it doesn’t look nice in clothing, and it makes me anxious to try and work stuff out to look even halfway decent.

 

nushrbgwm-4
Floral Print Bodice Top | Photo: Kristy Wan

The fun thing about this top is how it looks different in different lighting situations. Here in direct sun, much of the pattern fades out and the remainder look almost tie-dyed on (Are you seeing that? It does, right? Or is that just me? :/ ). And earlier, with being back-lit, the colours are more vibrant. Fun.

 

The zip didn’t fall down too much on this outing, and we were doing a lot of walking. As some of you may have guessed, we went to the Botanical Gardens, which are free to visit and very very cool. Yae plants. The photo above is in the Fernery, where they have many types of ferns. Plants! Nature! Sunshine!

I didn’t get too roasted either, which is always a plus. And I got to hang out with Kristy, who is a very cool human in very small packaging. Us small humans need to stick together.

 

nushrbgwm-1
Floral Print Bodice Top | Photo: Kristy Wan

This is probably my favourite photo. My hair was having a damn good day. Go hair. Go me. Go Kristy.

 

Having seasonal clothes is awesome, but I will probably make this a year round piece because I’m special like that. Stuff your trends and rules.

I also want to apologise to anyone who follows me regularly. I promise I’m trying to post weekly, but between working, looking for work, making things, taking photos, and waiting for photos, weekly is pretty tough. But I will try.

Thanks for reading, and do get in touch if you have any questions.

 

Location: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Fabric: A remnant piece from The Remnant Warehouse

Photos: Kristy Wan | Fubbai

 

 

CLOTHING, DIY, FULL SCALE

FULL SCALE #6: Half Circle Skirt

I love wearing circle skirts. Have I said that before? Well. when I first entered the world of circle skirts, I thought of them as poodle skirts and that only one style was possible – full circle, knee/calf length. How wrong I was.

There are many kinds of circle skirts and they all have different shapes once worn. This one is a half circle (I think. Judging by how much it rises when I spin) and sits much flatter along the body before flaring out. It also has less pleats when it’s worn and shows off your shape more.

The gardens in Versailles were amazing yesterday and these little maze gardens allow for amazing alignment and symmetry. They really do go on that far behind me.



I’ve already posted about shape and size in my previous entry so I’m not going to rehash that here. I will say though, that circle skirts have helped me accept and embrace my shape.

You can’t really see the little black polka dots and that is upsetting, but this is my favourite photo of the lot. This skirt is the best I’ve made with the cutting and sewing both turning out super well. Those hems are boss.



This skirt was amazing to wear – the cotton is very light and breezy, and the fit and fall of the skirt lent itself well to the comfort factor. Creases easy, but the creases fall out just as quick.

I always feel like I make mistakes with everything that I sew. But this one is pretty good. The zip went in fine and the hand stitching of the hook and eye closure above the zip is ridiculously neat. 


The sheer respectability of the length of this skirt means allows for it to be worn in many situations. Although, the lightness of the fabric means it will need an under layer if worn in winter.

Look at the fountains! I love the length and drape of the skirt. I am so pleased with how this turned out!



Still. It was amazing to wear to Versailles and it held up well throughout the day.

Yes, I’m in France. #eurotrip

Photos: Kenny Cheung (thanks Kenny – Kenny is my crazy juggling friend. Go check him out)

Location: Château de Versailles

Fabric: on sale at The Remnant Warehouse

DIY, ISLANDS

GIFTED #1: Botanical Mural Throw

OK, OK. So it wasn’t an octopus. Or a cephalopod of any kind.

I made my sister a painted throw/blanket/wrap/coverlet for her birthday. Last year, I made her a 1920s-style triangle shawl with the same green fabric and golden fern fronds. There was fabric left over and I got inspired by MACC and HGTV’s Botanical Jungle Wall Mural to create this huge throw thing. Continue reading “GIFTED #1: Botanical Mural Throw”