Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Economizing Measures ~ Mend & Alter Clothes

I'd like to give a crash course in mending clothes because it will save 
you from buying more clothes and spending too much in having items repaired.  Most people either own or at least have seen little sewing kits, they can be found in most stores, even grocery stores.  Handy to have, especially when traveling, but not the best for real mending.  The threads in these kits tends to be inferior and break easily.

The minimal items needed: needles, thread, scissors, tape measure, pins, seam ripper & thread.

  • For needles, any sharp needle will do, I suggest ones with large eyes for ease of threading.  Most people wet the thread and poke it into the eye, I wet it, hold it tight between finger and thumb, the end barely showing, then slide the needle eye over it. 
  • For thread I suggest getting small spools of general sewing thread in white, black, brown, beige, blue and any other colors you normally wear.  There are 3 types of thread you will find in a fabric store; general sewing, quilting which is thicker and stronger and buttonhole twist  which is even thicker and stronger.  If you sew a lot of buttons on you might want to consider the buttonhole twist in the color you use most.
  • For scissors I suggest the small embroidery scissors as you can use them to cut open seams or cut off old buttons.  A regular pair of sewing shears is very handy if you need to shorten hems quite often or need to cut pieces of fabric.  The #1 rule with these is to never ever, NEVER EVER use them for anything other than fabric or thread.  Paper, plastic and so on will dull them to the point they will need sharpening and it is very hard to find someone that does it and does a good job these days.
  • A tape measure is needed if you are going to be hemming slacks or skirts and dresses.  Most are a coated fabric for durability.
  • Pins are used to hold fabric in place and any kind will do.  I've even used safety pins when that was all I had to hand.
  • A seam ripper is the handiest to use for opening seams although you can use embroidery scissors if you are careful.
  • Full size sewing shears will be the most expensive item and they are optional.  Most of these items are about $1-2 each.

Most everyone's grandma had a box or tin with these items and more than likely lots of odd buttons too.  I suggest that when an item is past wearing, to cut it up for rags and save the 
buttons for use on something else.  If you lose a button or 2 you may find enough in your stash to replace the whole lot on your shirt and give it a whole new look without buying any.  If you've looked at the price of buttons these days you will know they are worth saving.

Sewing on lost buttons is the easiest thing to do, simply go in and out the holes enough times to hold it on well.  It if is a shank button with a flat back and a loop sticking out the 
process is similar in that you are tacking down the loop part to the fabric.  It is best to take your first stitch not too tight and then to wrap the thread several times between the loop and 
the fabric before making more tacking stitches.  This strengthens the whole thing which you will need as mostly these kinds are used on coats and jackets.  Sewing snaps is pretty much the same as buttons. 

Most blouses and shirts come with extra buttons --I save mine in a decorative box in the bedroom-- If I don't have any extra but totally lose one,  I will often use a button from the bottom that gets tucked in a waist or from the top if I never button the collar as they will never be seen or missed.

The other main thing you will want to learn is to hem.  Pant legs, skirts, dresses and shirt sleeves are all hemmed the same.  It usually costs around $10 (2019) to get something 
hemmed, which isn't a lot but what if you can save that much and only use 30 minutes of time while watching TV? 

If you only need to turn the hem up once it is usually easier to leave the old hem in place and fold it up and stitch, then press with your iron.  Keep your stitches about 1/4 ' apart 
and do not pull them tight or you'll get puckers.  Thread a needle with about 18", knot one end.  Pull through the old hem or the inside edge to secure it.  Move forward in 
either direction about 1/4' and catch 1-2 threads of the fabric which is the back side of the main body and then up through the hem edge on the inside.  Just keep repeating till its done and knot the end.

If you are short and need to remove several inches of fabric then you will want to measure the inseam (inside leg seam) of a pair of pants that is the right length - same 
with a skirt using the side measurement.  Alternately you can put them on inside out and have someone else pin them up in place for you.  Trim the extra off but leave 
1 1/2 -2" for the hem.  Measure twice, cut once!  Moving around the hem turn the raw edge under at least 1/4" or more and pin it in place as you go.  Then you are ready to hem it.  You can make shorts from long pants, short sleeves from long sleeves this way and extend the life of the garment. 

These are the most needed alterations and they don't even require a sewing machine. 
One other thing you may need to do is repair a split openseam.  Match your thread color and just resew the seamwith a running stitch -- up, down, up, down -- taking thesmallest stitches you can.  I sometimes go back over it several times depending upon where the split is and how much strength it needs.  If you have a sewing machine it's even faster to mend.

From here you can go on to learn to put in gussets to give you a little more room, let seams in or out, replace zippers and so on.  About the only repairs I recommend taking to the professionals is if it needs re-weaving because of a hole or tear.  It is worth the money on a quality item.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Economizing Measures ~ Saving by De-Cluttering

This post will be a bit different as I want to write about something I've done that in the long run saved me money, but you wouldn't think that at first.  The short list of 
how it is going to save me money is:

1. I won't buy something a second or third time because I can't find it. ( I found 3 hole punchers!)

2. You reap what you sow and I have already benefited because of donating so much stuff. Freebies from the charity shop girls, etc.

3. Selling a few items on Etsy or EBay has netted me some extra 
gas money, technically not saving but I spent less than I would have.

4. Less clutter means less stress so I don't need to buy more St. John's Wort.

5. Less stuff will make it cheaper to move one day.

6. I can see what I really have and make better use of it which keeps me from buying more stuff.

There are many sites on the net that will teach you about decluttering as well as several TV shows. I've seen them and read them and learned a lot. The one thing everyone says is 
how much lighter they feel after the purge. I feel it too. I can be a pack rat so here's how I looked at it in order to actually do it. I took William Morris' quote literally:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful 
or believe beautiful."

Add to that 'If I haven't worn or used it in the last 1 to 1.5 years 
I am not going to, so get rid of it.'

Take one area or room at a time and fill sacks or boxes to haul to the charity shops. Small bags make it easy to carry and you feel like you have done a lot when you fill one. Tackling a small area at a time helps to not lose focus or get overwhelmed. Even if it is one drawer or one box, it IS progress.  Organizing is the flip side to decluttering. This helps everything have a place which helps everything stay in place. Not having a place for everything is a large part of how homes get in such a mess to begin with. 

One thing I have done is to use a plastic tub or box to put things in that 
didn't go where I was cleaning. Then I had to figure out where they went and sometimes it was AWAY. I also think about WHERE I put things. Will it be a convenient place near where I use it so that I WILL put it away?

I have shifted not only where things used to go but also what they are stored in. One weekend I patiently took apart all the 200+ music Cds and put the discs and booklets in one large notebook case that fits on an empty shelf instead of in 2 large wooden box holders. Less to dust, gives me more shelf space, weighs less and is easy to use. I should have done this years ago. The plastic cases are difficult to recycle but some people use them for crafts, picture display or to replace broken ones so they can be donated. 

Here's a site on dealing with clutter I have found helpful, they even have free calendars you can download to motivate you daily.

I say do a little at a time and keep going, it works for me.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Economizing Measures ~ Christmas in July

I know it is only July but it is time to start thinking about the gift giving time 
that comes in December. For most people it is the most expensive time of year, especially if there are children in the family. I am going to put forth some different options to the usual Christmas shopping that most folks do.

Most of my gifts for any occasion are handmade.  If you make soaps, they make lovely gifts especially when combined with a hand knitted or crocheted wash cloth. These are very nice for teacher and co-worker gifts or anyone you don't know all that well.

Bath salts and scrubs and they are also nice presents for the ladies in your life and are not hard to make, the internet has hundred of recipes, even  children can make bath salts. I put mine in recycled jars like jelly jars and I decorate the lids. I also include a spoon picked up at the charity shop or a yard sale for pennies.

How about baked goods?  A vintage tin or a box of homemade cookies, fudge or some other goodie that keeps well is always a welcome gift. I put together a basket for my boss one year of homemade canned pear butter, jelly and pickles and he really appreciated it. Baskets of all kinds can be had for less than $1 at most charity shops and you may even have some hanging around in your closet. It they don't look spiffy enough, a little spray paint from Walmart will spruce things up.

If you sew, how about a garment, pillow, table cloth, quilt, etc.?  A tablecloth and matching napkins makes a nice a wedding gift.  Buying the fabric and cutting and hemming is quick, easy and much less expensive than buying a ready made set. And you can coordinate the fabric to the colors they are using in their home.

Maybe you draw or paint or take great photos. They can easily be printed 

out on your computer printer in any size and framed using a frame you 

already have or one picked up at a charity shop or a dollar store.  If you have some watercolor paper or pick some up at Walmart, print on that for a different texture and it will give you the look of a painting. Play with the options in your photo program for more artistic looks and don't forget to sign your work of art.

Perhaps you cross stitch or do other embroidery, maybe you like to create 
items made of wood, put together great scrapbook pages, make gorgeous 
cards or jewelry, write and play music or act (think Cd's orDVDs). Do you 
write stories or poetry, are you a genealogist? You could put together a 
book on your computer of your work, make multiple copies for family 
members. Just share what you love doing, you are sharing a part of yourself 
and it will mean more to the recipient than a new sweater from the 
department store. 

All this goes for children too, they love making things and I remember making some of the neatest things in grade school for parents and grandparents and they were treasured for years.  If you feel you are not creative or crafty, then think about gift certificates of services you can do for your loved one, like babysitting, dog walking, lawn mowing, etc. 

Check out the charity and resale shops to see if there is a vintage something someone on your list would appreciate. These places are also great for finding items for children as there is usually a plethora of games, toys and stuffed animals which can easily be cleaned or books in decent condition. Check your local freecycle or craigslist and you may find what you want there either free or low cost.

Another option I have seen and done before is to either make a donation of money or better yet, volunteer time to a charity in the name of the giftee. This is a good lesson for children in helping the less fortunate be they human or animal and in showing the true reason for all the gift giving without buying into all the commercialism. 

These are presented as options and as always, you will need to decide what is right for you and your family. For me and mine, being together and sharing a special meal and a special day with thanks to God is enough, anything more is tinsel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Economizing Measures ~ The 3 R's, or is it 4?

What I wanted to write about today was how you can save money from literally ending up in the trash as well as helping out good old Mother Earth. This is the only home we've got so we need to take care of her. Don't worry, I'm not about to get all smarmy on you. What I am talking about here is save yourself money by reducing your purchases of things that get thrown away because they can't be recycled - like paper towels and napkins, paper 
plates, styrofoam and so on. The amount of money some folks spend on these items in the home is atrocious. Try cloth napkins, rags for cleaning, real plates, cups, glasses and 
flatware and take your own reusable containers to the restaurant for leftovers. The amount of water you use washing them is much less than what you spent for the item and the trash man to haul it away. And speaking of trash, check out this chart:

Decomposition Rates
Paper 2-4 weeks
Leaves 1-3 weeks
Orange Peels 6 months
Milk Carton (VOC) 5 years
Plastic Bag 10-20 years
Plastic Container 50-80 years
Aluminum Can 80 years
Tin Can 100 years
Plastic Soda Bottle 450 years
Glass Bottle 500 years
Styrofoam Never!  That's definitely something to think about. 
Below is a chart of the different numbers used for plastics.

1= Soda bottles, water bottles, vinegar 
bottles, medicine containers. 

2= Containers for: laundry/dish detergent, fabric softeners, bleach, 
milk, juice, shampoo, conditioner, motor oil. Newer bullet proof 
vests, various toys, trash and shopping bags.
3= Pipes, shower curtains, meat wraps, cooking oil bottles, baby 
bottle nipples, shrink and cling wrap, clear medical tubing, vinyl 
dashboards and seat covers, coffee containers.
4= Wrapping films, frozen food bags, sandwich bags, squeezable 
bottles, flexible container lids.
5= Tupperware®, Reusable microwaveable ware, syrup bottles, 
yogurt and margarine tubs, microwaveable disposable take-away 
containers; disposable cups and plates.
6= Disposable cutlery and cups (clear and colored), bakery shells,
CD cases, meat trays, "cheap" hubcaps, packing peanuts, 
Styrofoam insulation, Styrofoam cups and plates and egg cartons.
7= Products labeled as "other" are made of any combination of 1-6 
or another, less commonly used plastic.

Be aware that not all recycling stations will take all numbers of plastic. In fact most will not touch numbers 6 or 7 and some only take 1 and 2. Plastic is undeniably the biggest
trash headache in the world, so think about what you buy and use and see if you can cut down on even a little of it. Cloth shopping bags are a great example and last for years and I
find them much easier to handle than the plastic ones - they don't get holes poked in them! How about eggs in paper rather than Styrofoam cartons, reusable drink containers filled at home, take your own cloth or net bags when buying produce or bulk foods. Things like that are so easy and cost less.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Saving a Handbag From The Trash Again

I'm saving yet another good leather handbag from ending up in the trash.  This is a shoulder or crossbody bag.  A nice black leather in a medium size.  There is nothing wrong with it that a little leather polish and a reinforcing on the strap won't fix.
The strap had a faux leather on the back side that was dried up and cracked off in places.  I removed it along with the thread stitching and I'm replacing it with black grosgrain ribbon.  It's about half done and the original stitching holes are making this easy to repair by hand.  When done, I will have one more nice bag to sell on Ebay & Poshmark for a very affordable price.

Economizing Measures ~ Children's Birthday Parties

It's not that I ignore the expenses associated with children, it's just that I don't 
think about it because I don't have children unless you count the 4-legged furry 
kind that go "meow". But I got to thinking about birthday parties and how they 
have changed over the last 40 years. Most people now plan a huge excursion to Chucky Cheese or some other horrendously expensive place or have an 
organized theme party at home in a perfectly landscaped yard with a petting 
zoo, magician or clown. They also feel they have to invite everyone in the 
school class, the Sunday school, neighbors and cousins. You just know the 
sky will fall if you forget someone that invited your child 2 years ago to his party.

All kidding aside, huge organized parties like that may be fun and memorable 
but are way over the top. The top of your budget. I suggest a change in plans 
that you may find just as fun and memorable, less stressful and definitely easier 
on the wallet.

First of all, have your party at home or a friend's or relative's home if yours is too small. I would suggest the backyard if it is warm weather or the largest indoor room you have, perhaps even the garage.  You could also utilize a neighborhood park.

Tables and chairs. Children are not that picky, gather all you have, use pillows if need be, covered with extra pillow cases for easy clean up. Or how about blankets or sheets on the floor or ground like for a picnic? Be creative and think outside the box. Of course, if it is a small party maybe your dining room table will be just fine.

Decorations. Why spend all that money for decorations you will use once and throw away? You can still have a theme party if that's what your child wants,
but look to your creative self again. What can you and your children make instead of buy? How about flag and pennant buntings? Use paper or fabric scraps, cut and glue or tape to a string. One lady used old wrapping paper she had and made paper fans and hung them the same way upside down for her daughter's party. Cut out shields and have your kids draw designs on them with crayons or markers. You could use cardboard or cut up cereal boxes even. How about coloring book images? Balloons are fairly cheap and lots of places will fill them with helium cheap. Of course there is the old fashioned crepe paper that's also inexpensive.

Make your decorations part of the food. For a medieval feast I 
helped organize many years ago, we made Viking boats out of 
watermelons cut in half and filled them with melon balls complete with a 
paper sail on a skewer. We made bread in simple animal shapes 
like turtles and bears. We also used pita bread as plates.
Food. Make easy, no mess, make ahead snack foods instead of 
the usual chips and dip. Add carrot and celery sticks. I ate my 
weight in carrot sticks at a birthday party I went to as a child 
because they were novel, I had never had them before. Cut 
cheese into cubes and maybe have some goldfish crackers for a 
pirate party. Check some recipe sites online for appetizers and 
go with non messy finger food. The cake and ice cream can 
both be homemade. Maybe Grandma 
wants to bake the cake for you? Instead of sodas, how about 
lemonade or Kool-aid or a fruit juice punch? There's lots of 
recipes out there.

Entertainment. Kids need to be involved, not just sit back and be 
entertained. How about old fashioned games like one that used 
to be called party line or telephone. The 1st child whispers a 
sentence to the next person and so on around the room. The last 
person repeats it aloud and it is usually very different from what 
it started as. Hot potato played with a ball is fun, we even played 
that with a hacky sack in a recent training I went through for
 work. The old pin the tail on the donkey, pictionary, charades
 and many more are all great fun and pretty much free.

Presents. Presents are for the birthday child, not the guests. I am 
not sure when guest presents or favors started being used but they 
seem silly to me. If you insist on them try to come up with some
thing that won't just get thrown away and added to the landfill. 
Perhaps some cookie treats to take home or pictures of the group 
quickly printed off your computer if you have a digital camera. Or 
how about autograph books made from whatever paper you have, 
cut to the same size like 3" x 5" with 2 holes punched and a ribbon 
or yarn or string tying them together. Maybe the guests would 
enjoy making their own as a group project. Add some drawings 
to the front and let everyone sign each other's book. Now that's 

If you truly feel you are not creative and just can't make your 
own stuff for the party, try in your local area, thrift stores
and dollar stores as they will be cheaper than the party 

Most of all, have fun and enjoy the day. No one will care if your 
yard or house is not perfect, the kids just want to have fun and 
so should the grownups.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Economizing Measures ~ Alternatives to TV

I get it, pretty much everyone has their favorite TV programs.  But I found that I really don't miss TV, in fact I am much happier not having it, both the bill for Directv and the constant bad news.  There are alternatives.

For movies there are online sites you can pay for to watch movies and tv shows, like Netflix, Hulu and more.  However, if you don't want to spend money there is plenty of free entertainment on YouTube, including movies and tv shows.  Search for your favorites, you might be surprised.  Check out GoStream for movies too.  Most news channels and the weather channels have websites so you can view what's going on.

And then there's radio!  If you like talk shows, you can listen to talk radio hosts rant about all kinds of stuff.  If you are interested in christian programming, there are stations that have talk shows and preachers as well as music. There is even an old time drama show from Chicago on one of our local stations. There are kids shows reminiscent of the old Mickey Mouse Club features. Of course there are sports programs galore for all you sports nuts out there.  A local classical station has some educational spots amongst the music and who could resist The Prairie Home Companion?  Do you like paranormal and other weird stuff?  Try Coast to Coast on radio.

And of course you can always read, free books from the library.  Take turns reading out loud to each other.  Kids might love to dress up and put on a play or sing along with their favorite songs holding a spoon as a microphone.  

Economizing Measures ~ Mend & Alter Clothes

I'd like to give a crash course in mending clothes because it will save  you from buying more clothes and spending too much in ha...