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.

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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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.

STEPĀ 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 šŸ™

STEPĀ 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.

STEPĀ 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. šŸ™‚

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.


WhereĀ ToĀ 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 instagramĀ forĀ allĀ theĀ extrasĀ andĀ sneakĀ peeks!