Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sustainable Christmas - decorations 2

I made these candleholders for the dinner table by covering the aluminium base of tealights with sparkly gold and white ribbon. Then I glued green and bronze glass beads onto that. I plan to use them next year too, just pull out the depleted wax and push in a new one.

The flame casts lovely glows through the coloured beads.

I'm thinking to make one for each person and lay on the table beside the wine glass.

Sustainable Christmas - decorations

We are hosting Christmas at our house this year for the first time ever. I brought a box from my parents' house with all the decorations we had and made as children. But I wanted to add a few new ones. I cut up old magazines for paper chains:

The pictures of Christmas food made the most colourful pieces. They look really jolly hung up.

I also made a Christmas mobile with a wire coathanger. On this one there's a string of glass beads (use a broken necklace), felt stars (I stuffed with fleece and sewed on right side with blanket stitch), and snowflakes. You can use scraps of white paper from partly-used printer paper. Just trace around a circular object, cut out the circle and fold in half. Fold in half again and as many times as you can, so you have a cone. Snip out little triangles, star and circle shapes with scissors, then unfold and hang with narrow ribbon or jute string.

It's weird having snow motifs for a summer Christmas, but it does make you feel cooler!

Sustainable Christmas - tree

I saw a great sustainable version of a Christmas tree last weekend. A friend had bought a large Old Man Banksia in a pot and decorated the branches with gold baubles. They buy one every year and when Christmas is over, plant it in the garden. What a great idea.

Their garden looked pretty good too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sustainable Christmas - wrapping

This year I wanted to avoid buying wrapping paper. Most stuff is terrible quality this time of year, anyway. It's hard to keep it from tearing, getting covered in sticky tape, and all wrinkled.

Small things I just wrapped in brown paper and jute string with a little bit of red ribbon.

However for larger family gifts I've got another tactic - fabric wrapping.

I found some really pretty Christmas tea towels at Spotlight. Now, this is wapping you can re-use an unlimited number of times - immediately!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sustainable Christmas - gifts

The most sustainable gifts are things that your individual recipients truly need. Failing that, something that can be eaten! And failing that, something either homemade or something that by its use can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle.
This year I'm giving:
homemade rose geranium sugar
homemade calendula skin salve and aloe vera cleanser
knitted long socks
non-leaching, re-usable stainless steel water flasks

This is my absolute fail-safe ecipe for aloe vera cleanser, from Josephine Fairley
In a blender, mix together 30 ml aloe vera gel
50 ml olive oil
30 ml rosewater
4 drops rose essential oil
2 drops grapefruit seed extract (for preserving the cleanser - however I ran out of this and the cleanser still kept fine out of the fridge, during the winter at least)

If you have your family, friends and neighbours saving their cosmetics containers for you, you can repackage your own creams, stick on cute labels and voila presents for female relatives.

You can make yummy-smelling shaving oils for men too - these are so overpriced commercially - by adding a few drops of an essential oil (my man likes sandalwood, but try rosemary or eucalyptus too) to 30 ml or so of almond or olive oil. A little bit goes a really long way. One of the great things about shaving oil is you don't need moisturiser after the shave.


I finally finished the dolly I was making for T's second birthday. I wrote about this in the book, but dolls are great for children to develop nurturing skills - and these shouldn't be monopolised by little girls! Instead of complaining and wondering why boys aren't as good at communicating and caring as girls, let's start giving them some tools to develop those.

This dolly took about three hours sewing. It's stuffed with real sheep's fleece, which makes it soooo much more cuddly. It's made with hemp jersey for the face and hands, but you can very successfully use a piece of cotton jersey from a t-shirt. If you need a more beige-y colour, dye it in coffee. The fabric for the sleeping bag is a small piece of stretchy corduroy that a lovely fellow doll-maker gave me, from when she made pants for her son. It's great to use corduroy or velvet for cuddly dolls, but be aware that the lie of the fabric will make it smooth as you run your hand one way and rough when you rub it the other. I made this so it was smooth as you run your hand down the front.

I used a pattern from a book called Kinder Dolls, here. The title rather cleverly crosses the meaning 'more kind' with the German for 'children'.

T had seen me sewing this, so when he was unwrapping it on his birthday and a little hand poked out of the wrap, he commented matter-of-factly, 'dolly hand!'.

I've asked, and apparently it is a 'he' and from that first day, enjoys first place in the cot with T.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Broccoli thief

What sort of garden pest do you think left this damage?

I already do a daily check for those little green caterpillars (a garlic spray - made by blending up a few cloves of garlic with hot water in the blender, then straining into a spray bottle - is good for these). But I'm not sure how to deal with the current broccoli thief...

I like how he seems to think he's a Very Hungry Caterpillar; holding his hands well away while he just uses his big new teeth to chomp into the tenderest spot of the floret.
I live in a rented house and we're not allowed to plant anything into the beautiful low-maintenance native garden. So I use these white insulated boxes that you can pick up at the vegetable store. I'm not sure what they're made of or how easily they break down into the environment (need to find out!). However, they are great for growing vegies, particularly in winter, when the material they're made of really work well to insulate winter seedlings from the cold.
It didn't matter about the loss of the broccoli in the end. Last Thursday we had a freak hailstorm with stones 3 cm in diameter, that decimated my garden. This was only a few days before the official start of summer!

Monday, November 24, 2008

editing the manuscript

My friendly editor Jody has sent me the edit of the manuscript, and I am supposed to be re-editing right now. Tomorrow afternoon I send it back to her and after she looks at it, the book goes to the typesetter! This is my first book experience (I used to work for a weekly), so I'm learning a lot. It's a very long process and not easy either.

There is so much in the media about the terrible recession we are headed for. It makes me wonder if readers are going to still have enough care for turning 'sustainable'. They may be more worried about whether they can pay their mortgages. So....I'm thinking about changing the title. Buying Less for Baby - A Parent's Guide to a More Sustainable Life.
The contents of the book will be exactly the same; however the reasons for buying it may subtly change. I mean, the different priorities behind the reasons may be re-ordered!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Make mittens from leftover felted wool

I blogged earlier about how to felt wool jumpers to make pull up nappy covers.
You'll probably have lots of little bits left over, but never throw out! You can make heaps of other stuff with this lovely felt.
I know it's getting hot now, but don't you have friends in the Northern hemisphere whose children you're dying to make something for at Christmas? You can make really cute little mittens, so easily. As long as you can do blanket stitch (see here)

First, cut around the shape of a child's hand (or an adult's, if you have big enough pieces of felt). Sew them on the right sides with blanket stitch and they'll look really cute. I made two pairs in about half an hour. I'm planning to make some larger ones, using the jumper's wrist bands as the mittens' wrists.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eco Tanka baby-sip bottles

I hate the way plastic bottles make the water taste, and it's no good for your health. After I lost my Nalgene bottle (what a sad day - but I fear mine might have had Bisphenol A in the plastic anyway) I found a new bottle made of extra-light stainless steel that I really like. They make a baby/toddler sippy bottle too, so I got one.

Called Eco Tankas, they're made in New Zealand. The sippy bottle is called the Teeny Tanka.

The only problem with this excellent product for children is that if you lie it down it leaks out of the sippy part. I guess they need to refine it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pram amuser

When T was small he loved it when I hung little things to play with across his pram. But you don't have to go out and buy something. If you finger-knit or crochet a length of yarn you can string that across, and then tie little toys to it.

Small dolls are lovely for this.

I've been going to a Steiner doll-making group for a few weeks, and the women make these tiny little dolls, with bodies like little bags, from scrap fabric, and heads made out of stretch hemp or old jersey t-shirt material. You can make lots in a small amount of time, then tie them all together in a row - perfect for a pram amuser!

I found an online tutorial for similar dolls here

At my group though they make em even simpler - just a small bag of some left-over fabric.

If you use different textures for each doll and different coloured wool hair and things they will all have great individuality!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Diaper-Free arrived!

I just got the book I ordered second hand on Amazon. It's called Diaper-Free, and for non-Northern Americans, that means No Nappies!

I didn't detail this idea in the book, for the simple reason that I don't have much personal experience. I didn't want to push others to do something I wasn't prepared to myself.
However I do want to try this as soon as I have the opportunity (Baby Number 2).

Elimination Commnication, or Natural Infant Hygiene, is all about beginning the communication process regarding toileting right from the newborn stage. You can start weeing your baby in a bowl at one day old. That's pretty exciting to think.

As the child grows he or she becomes naturally attuned to saving her or his bowel movements and wees for the pot. You hold him or her over it, close to your own body. It's not at all the same as what I did - letting my toddler wee and poo everywhere until he finally became more aware of it. The baby is aware right from the very beginning, rather than needing to be re-educated about doing things in the toilet instead of in a nappy. Weeing and pooing in a nappy is, after all, what we originally taught him or her, to do. How confusing for the child, to then be told this is undesirable!

From an environmental perspective, what could be better than this idea of baby toileting? By-pass the entire debate around cloth water guzzlers and disposable landfill crims (though I think this debate is a complete red herring, distracting from the real issues).

It sounds time-consuming, to watch your baby for signs of needing to go to the toilet all the time - particularly when the baby is doing wees every twenty minutes or so, like at first. But as I read, I begin to think it can be done. I know a woman at T's playgroup who does this while caring for her very active 3 year old Down's Syndrome daughter, and she has a 7 year old as well. So how time-consuming can it be?

My main question at this stage is - can natural infant hygiene be practised if you don't sleep with your baby? Since the book seems to assume this, I feel a bit alienated - we don't usually sleep with T, unless he is sick or upset.

I do understand the logic of co-sleeping, and all my Japanese friends (in Japan, that is) do it with their babies. But I just have reservations about what it means for the marital relationship. Most people I know with more than one baby sleep separately - each partner with a different child. I would miss A - (not sex - more the cosy marital chats after the lights are out, that kind of thing - not to mention my comfortable sleep). But if you have baby in another bed (or even another room), how do you know when he needs to pee in the night? Or does not doing co-sleeping even cut you out of the much-vaunted level of 'connection' parent and child have to have to do Elimination Communication? If anyone has any wisdom on this front, I'd be so glad to hear it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Manuscript in!

It's still a while before my book The Sustainable Baby comes out (sometime in July next year), but the first milestone has been achieved. I finished the manuscript and it's in the editor's hands! It feels pretty good. The next great thing is that the manuscript editor actually lives here in the same village - I'm pretty excited to meet her.

I think this kind of book is way overdue - I wish there was something like it when I had T. How to fold cloth nappies; how to make baby cereal; how to build homemade toys; how to stretch a tight budget to still be able to give a child the richest possible world, surrounded by beautiful things.

The subtitle is A Parent's Practical Guide to Consuming Less, and Living Better.

Hope it lives up to all that!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sewing your felted wool pull-up cover

This is to continue the last post on making a felted wool pull-up nappy cover.
Last time we talked about felting an old jumper.
For the next step, it's great to use an old pair of PVC pull ups or something else that fits your baby. Either cut out around it, making it a bit bigger to make allowance for the seams, or if it is a really yucky non-breathable plasticky thing, just unpick the seams and spread it out to make it easier to cut around. Finally a good use for those plastic things.

I used an acrylic wool one and cut in the general shape, making it a bit larger in the process.

If you don't have something you can use, there are a couple of online free patterns for training pants which you could probably use. A good one is here
However, note that this pattern has a seam at the crotch (how uncomfortable would that be!) so when you cut out the paper pattern, join this seam together and keep your wool seamless.

Now, take your cut out woolen piece and sew side seams together. Sew wide-ish hems at legs and waist, to insert pants elastic.

I make mine loose so they fit over massive night-time nappies with added boosters.

Make channels for the elastic, around the waist and around the legholes, sewing by hand if the fabric is too thick for the machine. Thread elastic through.

You're pretty much done, but since you've come this far, why not make a nice cut-out in wool felt (a sheep or something) and applique it on the bottom? :)
I'm going to do that when I finish editing and get a bit of time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Felting wool for pull-up covers

I'm going to blog the details for sewing the cover next time, but for now, how to prepare the wool for sewing.

Take an old woollen jumper and throw it in the washing machine with a towel or something else you can wash on a hot wash. Do several jumpers at once to save energy. You need a small amount of wool wash in there too. Do a hot wash with a cold rinse, and you should find the jumpers come out pretty well perfectly felted. You can cut right into that felt and it won't fray.

A good source for old jumpers (apart from your father's wardrobe) is your local op shop. After all, you only need a piece of wool - the fashionableness of the item is not your concern. So you can often pick up a bargain that no one else wants and that would otherwise languish on the shelves (making you feel like a recycling genius). Jumpers with frayed sleeves, moth-eaten holes and stains can likewise be utilised. The only prerequisite for your jumpers is that they have a high percentage of natural wool (100% is not necessary) . That will ensure a good felting. Jumpers with designs and cables are fine too.

Other items you should gather are pants elastic for legs and waist, and polyester thread for the sewing. Cotton thread will absorb the urine and cause leakage. An ordinary needle is fine on the sewing machine - it will be thicker than most fabrics, especially if there were cables on the jumper, but with care you can manage it.

OK - leave your jumper to dry in the shade and take a rest. Next time we'll look at cutting out and sewing.

Recycling an old wool jumper into a nappy cover

Making your own breathable nappy covers is really so easy. I wrote in the book that wool covers are the best for night-time use if you are using cloth nappies. They keep baby warm and dry even when there is a lot of wee. And they don't need much washing at all, as the lanolin is a self-cleaning property in the wool. But wool covers are impossibly expensive (worth it, of course, but you can't always buy even what is really worth it, right?) I really wanted some more woollen covers for Torsten to use at night, so I tried what seemed to be a really good idea - felting old jumpers and sewing them into covers. This method is tried-and-true - see a good exposition of it here However, the problem I found was that the jumpers tended to shrink too much for making a toddler-sized cover. Perfect if you're making for a newborn, of course. The other thing is that sewing the cover right up the front, as this method suggests, means you have seams right where baby wees. And seams are where wee can sometimes leak. Aaaaanyway... I found a way out. Enter felted wool pull-ups! I'm going to blog next on preparing felted wool to do this.