NEW AND IMPROVED

I have neglected this blog for some time now in favour of my personal blog, multicolouredsmartypants and my cookery blog, Easy Cooking on a Budget. Given the predictions about the British economy, post-Brexit, I decided it would be a good idea to create a blog focusing on home made things, homemaking and frugality. ‘Frugal Freda’ sounded like a good name, but it turns out there’s already a blog called Frugal Frieda, so that won’t work. Then I remembered the lost and lonely Unpaving Paradise Project and realised that I already have a wonderful place to address issues that relate to frugality, homemaking and the environment. Being a housewife myself and living with a chronic health condition, I want to blog about how I am going about the task of moving from disorganised chaos to organised, not-quite-so-chaotic, enjoyable family home, especially as we live in a marvellous old house which requires an approach different to that taken for the typical 3 or 4 bed semi that pervade the UK.

I have discovered a love of housework that I never knew I could have and it is a joy to be able to put my creativity to work in the process of decluttering, organising and using what I have to hand, or making something, instead of just buying whatever takes my fancy. My mother is a shopoholic and although I don’t go to the lengths she does to buy, buy, buy… well, let’s just say that it has come to my attention that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree o_O

So, welcome to the new and improved Unpaving Paradise Project. I will try to blog about once a week.

To get the ball rolling, I am making lots of Christmas presents this year. I have already made eight flannels/washcloths, and am currently crocheting a Harry Potter scarf  for my youngest child. I had to buy the yarn for the scarf, and I have ordered a Gryffindor sew-on badge, but the flannels were all made with yarn that I already owned. In my ongoing attempt at decluttering I sorted out all of my craft stuff. Turns out I could probably open my own shop, so I decided to make the most of what is already here, rather than buying more. I am also going to make some scented soaps to go with the flannels and I have some homemade vanilla extract steeping in the back of my wardrobe.

How about you? Any ideas for a frugal or environmentally-friendly Christmas? I’d love to hear from you!

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DO IT YOURSELF: BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND PRESENTS

When we were children my sister and I always had birthday parties: swimming parties, traditional ‘home’ parties, trampoline parties, McDonald’s parties, Pizza Hut parties… You name it, we did it. My friends had parties, too, most of them. It was something we took for granted, but many children nowadays don’t have them. Perhaps this is because the pressure has become too much and expectations run too high. Perhaps some parents can’t afford even a party at home, with school friends as guests, or think that they can’t because the guests will have high expectations. Who knows? Regardless, my children have usually enjoyed birthday parties, although there have been occasions where they chose a different ‘treat’ such as a visit to a theme park.

This year all three children have asked for birthday parties at home, now that we have our lovely rambling old house. We have had one child’s birthday so far this year and are planning for the next two. We made the invitations ourselves, which is a lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon if you or your offspring are creative. Because my son has autism, and his school friends have special needs, for his party we printed off a simple but clear list of what would happen, so that parents would know ahead of time, and so that anyone with autism had time to prepare. We decided to host movie parties, and to reuse any movie-themed paraphernalia. This is a fairly inexpensive way of hosting a party in your own home for older children. As a family who are trying to declutter, as well as be more eco-aware, movies that exist solely in cyberspace seem like a marvellous idea.

For each movie party we intend to watch a movie from blinkbox. For the first party my son invited a few school friends and spent an evening eating takeaway food and popcorn while watching Despicable Me 2. I bought a couple of plastic table covers with a balloons pattern, as well as some plastic plates and cups, all of which were washed afterwards for reuse at future parties. I’m not sure whether this was the most environmentally friendly option, but as paper plates aren’t washable or reusable, plastic plates seemed sensible, and I did not want my crockery getting broken by boisterous children. I also bought a funky door banner which says ‘PARTY!’ which was carefully folded after use and placed in the Birthday Box, ready for next time.

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The ‘Birthday Box’.

For the next party, my sister will be joining us and she is planning on baking the cake (she is a very good cook). The party will have a joint movie and gymnastics theme. We’re planning a gymnastics film and have several options lined up, all from blinkbox. We use blinkbox because it allows films to be downloaded, so you don’t get those annoying pauses; the computer we use is rather elderly so not up to streaming films. To continue the movie theme we have some ‘Hollywood’ cupcake/bun toppers, which can be reused if washed carefully and, as an alternative to plastic party bags, I found paper popcorn bags. These will be filled with sweets and a few odds and ends that I save for such occasions, e.g. some leather friendship bands from Traidcraft. I may crochet a few butterfly hairpins or the like as well. We’ll see.

We won’t be buying takeaway for the next party. As my sister will be with us (hurrah!) we will have a go at a traditional party tea. This part won’t be as eco-friendly, to be fair, because I do intend to buy some wrapped foods such as crisps and cake… But we’ll do what we can, which is my motto when it comes to environmental issues – doing something is better than doing nothing and doing what you can is better than beating yourself up for not being Eco Warrior Super Mum. Yeah. She’s annoying, frankly.

Onto the next subject of this post: eco-friendly gifts. I try to get a few small gifts for each child. Planning is everything. I will spend months beforehand not avidly searching but keeping an eye out for anything suitable at which point it is stored in my wardrobe. For the upcoming birthday I bought a couple of second-hand pretty dresses, a summer jacket and a gymnastics leotard. Second-hand clothing has many benefits. These clothes are far cheaper than new clothes, and have often only been worn a few times before they are outgrown. When a new item of clothing is produced, it produces a chunky carbon footprint in its manufacture and distribution especially if, for example, it has travelled half way round the world to end up in our local shop. So second-hand clothes make a lovely gift if chosen with care. I was also lucky enough to find a gymnastics beam for sale at a very good price. It is an ‘ex-display’ beam, manufactured in the UK. Although not as good as a second-hand beam in terms of its environmental impact, it does not have the carbon footprint of certain goods (although I think most of the beams on the market are British made, which means that transport emissions will be less).

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What do you think? I hope she likes it!

I have also made two gifts which I know my little girl will treasure simply because Mummy made them. I cross-stitched a picture of a spring lamb and found a frame for it (new, unfortunately, although I did try to find a suitable frame second hand), and I used some of my embarrassingly large stash of yarn to crochet a gorgeous little bag with a flower decoration. I used this free pattern from Daisy Cottage Designs for the bag, making the handle longer, and this free pattern from Attic24 for the flower. Both very easy patterns but with charming results. I then sewed a button from my sewing basket in the middle of the flower to finish it off.

Hurrah for Public Transport (and Preparations for a Homemade Christmas)

There has not been so much blogging lately as I am snowed under trying to balance studying with sorting out our lovely new old house (if you know what I mean). An aged house such as ours has its own particular set of problems for any new inhabitants inheriting all the ‘quirks’ that the previous owners never fixed. But it’s fun o_O

I am also trying to make preparations for a make-do-and-mend, pre-loved, home made, Un-paving Paradise Christmas with all the family. I have already made a shawl, wrist-warmers, napkin rings and am onto the recycled cotton crocheted flannels (which will be wrapped with home made soaps and bath bombs) and pine cone decorations. Last year I made two pairs of these lovely slippers, and will also make a couple more pairs for friends and family for this year. It’s a simple, but very effective pattern. My middle child still wears them and loves the fact that they were created especially for her, which is as much the value of a home made gift as the gift itself 🙂

It being half-term here in this Lost Corner of Middleshire, we took the children to the National Space Centre. It’s a fantastic place. The planetarium alone is an amazing experience. A particular favourite was the ‘rocket’ in the cafe, which every so often would begin to rumble and emit vast quantities of dry ice lit by red lights, to much shrieking delight on behalf of the children stood underneath. Also, if you book online in advance, you get a free annual pass. Read more here.

We travelled by train and stayed overnight as it’s a long way away, which led to some interesting questions with regard to the eco credentials of train travel: why is it more environmentally-friendly to use the train, but costs more? Shouldn’t the fact that there are 100 people travelling in just one carriage be more economical for the traveller? Why, even when you have discounts such as the Friends and Family Railcard and you book weeks in advance, is rail travel in Britain so expensive?

Reblog: Crochet Coasters Tutorial

Just in time for Christmas! I have resolved to make as many gifts as possible this year and coasters may well be one of those gifts that I will duplicate for various different people. I’m already half-way through a shawl for my mother. These coasters look great and the pattern is simple. Win, win, win!

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Crochet coaster free pattern I’ve had many, many requests for a crochet coaster pattern since I originally posted making coasters because the original pattern seems to have disappeared. If it does pop back up Ill link back to  it, but in the meantime, here’s a quick little tutorial for you to whip up some crochet coasters, for yourself or as a lovely gift!

To make these crochet coasters you will need…

  • DK (8ply) yarn – I like to use a cotton or cotton blend
  • 3mm or 3.5mm crochet hook – use a slightly smaller hook than usual because you want a nice firm fabric.
  • Needle to sew in ends

Crochet coaster free patternFirst up, chain 6 and join to form a ring:Crochet coaster free pattern

Chain 3 (counts as first DC) and DC 19 into the ring (20DC) Join with a SS into the top of the starting chain 3 to complete the round. Crochet coaster free pattern

Chain 3, DC in the next…

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CROCHET RAINBOW AMIGURUMI UNICORN – ECO FRIENDLY?

We have a little girl in our household with a birthday this week, and this little girl has a penchant for unicorns. What does the trying-to-be eco-friendly household do when it comes to birthdays? We make things. Yay!

 

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I found a wonderful pattern for a crocheted amigurumi unicorn. I am not exactly a beginner ‘hooker’ but I am not yet proficient, so I need simple patterns. This pattern is just that. It is quite fiddly in places, particularly when stuffing, but that may be because I have only made one other stuffed toy previously, many years ago. Like many crafty types, I have a rather large stash of yarn, so I decided that instead of buying stuffing I would chop up some soft acrylic aran yarn in cream and use that as my stuffing. I made the body out of Twilleys Freedom Echo DK in ‘natural’ shade, which is manufactured in England from recycled cotton. I made the mane, tail and horn from Sirdar Smiley Stripes DK in ‘Honolulu’ shade, which is manufactured from 80% bamboo and 20% wool.

 

I am uncertain of the eco credentials of bamboo. It is a great crop in that it grows quickly and is incredibly versatile, which makes it renewable and useful, but bamboo can’t (I assume) be grown in the UK, so it must have travelled thousands of miles, if it has come from China, and accumulated a fairly substantial carbon footprint along the way. Also, I have no knowledge of the conditions in which it is grown;, for example, has rainforest been destroyed in order to grow bamboo? Is the harvesting of bamboo destructive to the surrounding ecosystem? Are pesticides or fertilisers used that disrupt the local ecosystem? There are often no easy answers when it comes to making better environmental choices. The more I learn the more I realise how complex it all is… So I presume that 80% bamboo and 20% wool is better than a man-made fibre.

 

I am also thinking of trying out this recipe for a rainbow unicorn cake (using fresh ingredients instead of cake mix). So cute!

 

DIY Peg Bag

A fortnight ago the cheap and nasty peg bag that came with the pegs I bought last year ripped. Instead of automatically buying a new one, which once upon a time would have been my default mode, I decided to make one. I looked on the internet for ideas and came upon this post. It gave me the inspiration to have a go myself. Mine is not as good as the original, but it is perfectly functional and very sturdy, unlike my previous peg bag. I didn’t worry too much about getting it all perfectly counted because I want to crack on with a birthday present that I am making (and we’re moving house in a fortnight!). It was made using Sirdar Simply Recycled Aran cotton in turquoise and coral, bought from Black Sheep Wools, which I had leftover from making crocheted placemats (pattern here). I used a small hanger from my daughter’s wardrobe to go inside.

 

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The colours look a little dim on this photograph, but you get the idea. It’s actually a really bright blue and orange. It’s not the world’s best crochet… but it will do the job 🙂

Funky Granny Square Jacket

 

I made lots of presents last Christmas and gave them to friends and family. In January I took on the slightly more ambitious project of crocheting a jacket for our little Fluff. It is, at long last, finished. I made so many mistakes along the way that it’s a wonder it did get finished. I got fed up with it at one point and made a couple of other (smaller) things as gifts. Nonetheless, I have hidden or snipped off the unsightly ends and crocheted a border around all the edges. I then added some large mismatched buttons from my craft box to give it an extra little je ne sais quois.

 

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The pattern came from Kitsch Bitsch and can be downloaded here for a small fee (I have no links to the site – it’s just a good pattern). I adapted it to make a jacket suitable for my daughter as the instructions were for adult sizes. For this project I bought Rowan Purelife Renew, which is made of recycled wool. I also used yarns that I already owned, including Aran weight acrylic yarns in dark green and cream, Sirdar Simply Recycled cotton in yellow, coral and tan, plus some pure British wool yarn, both dyed and undyed. My photography skills really don’t do it justice. It looks much better in real life!

 

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