Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Packaging Matchmaking

Now you can read "Charlotte's Web" while listening to Nick Drake and watching "Bambi", but there is nothing, nothing in the world sadder than this:

A baby slot-in jigsaw board puzzle with a missing piece.

Ah, the missing puzzle piece: gone forever or just snuggled up in the drawer of the DVD player? You'll never know with a toddler in the house.  If you are One Mean Housewife, you might also find yourself quite upset by this:

A plastic zip-lock back with hanger; packaging for some baby sleepsuits.

It's an empty packet of baby pyjamas.  Look at all that plastic.  Look at all that reusable plastic, with its resealable zip lock, just crying out to be used again for something or other.  What a waste to chuck that straight in the landfill.

Now I can't stand waste, but I don't want to be the subject of one of those Channel 4 extreme hoarding documentaries.  Once every three months after Toddler Boy was born, as I unpacked the next size packets of vests and pyjamas, I was faced with a selection of those plastic wallets and every time it was an uncomfortable experience.  To bin or not to bin: that is the scrimper's question.  Couldn't do it.  Somewhere in the whirling eddies of my intuition, I knew there was a use for them.  So I indulged myself with a spot of light squirrelling.    

I wasn't wrong, reader.

Now, you can pop bubble wrap while scratching your itchy foot and writing in biro on a banana, but there is nothing more satisfying than a perfect storage solution.  

Three different colourful wooden puzzles, bagged in the zip-lock sleepsuit packages.

It's a match made in packaging heaven.  The packets even come in varying sizes to suit the wee one's different puzzles and, because they are transparent, His Little Highness can look and choose.  How developmentally appropriate, ha.  

Hand-me-down, complete jigsaws in salvaged plastic storage sacks. Oh yes.

One Mean Housewife, for longer than is appropriate, agonises over a shoebox...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Baby Volume Control

Toddlers have a really annoying habit of growing.  Mine is always at it.  Last week he decided to grow a bigger head and expand out of his beautiful pom-pom hat, just in time for the cold weather.  Naughty child.

We had a rake in the hand-me-downs drawer and found a beautiful replacement.  However, it was three sizes up and he'd only been good enough to grow two sizes overnight.  The solution was obvious: buy a bigger hat up his porridge ration every day for a week and see if I could fatten him up enough to fill it.  Didn't work; time for an old fashioned solution.

Today, I made like my One Mean Granny and sewed him up a little pad for his hat:

The idea is to fill up the excess space at the top of the hat and keep its shape nicely.

I used a little bit of a £1.60 IKEA fleece blanket.  This is a much cheaper way to buy fleece fabric than off the roll in a haberdashers.  The pattern is a circle for the bottom panel and four curvy triangles for the top.  This shape sits nicely inside the top of the hat but two circles would probably have done the job.  I stuffed it with a little bit of wadding from a dead cushion.

Urchin to cherub in one easy step:

One Mean Housewife, examining a babygro, wonders just where you would sew in a gusset...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Scrimping Through The Eye Of A Needle

I do love my little sewing machine but sometimes I wonder if she's a bit wasteful.  Imagine!  The very gadget I bought to turbo charge my scrimping.  But sometimes I look at Janome (it's "Ja-GNOME-ay" says The Sewing Machine Man), with her two tails of dangling thread and I just see pennies waiting to go down the drain.

Her methods are mysterious but I can tell you that, to get started without losing your thread back through the eye of the needle, she needs to have these two tails dangling at a length of at least 120mm.  When you finish your piece of stitching those tails will be hanging out of the start of it and all you can do is trim them off and pull out a similar length for next time.  That means, if you have a lot of pieces to stitch, you end up with a pile of waste threads big enough to make One Mean Housewife choke on her gruel.

Tonight's project is to repurpose some redundant facecloths into reusable baby wipes by cutting into quarters and hemming off the raw edges.  I'm going to sew two dozen pieces so that's 24 x 240mm, which is a whopping 5.76m of wasted thread, and it really is good for nothing, unless you have a lot of vacuum cleaners that need destroying.

Here's my prudent plan:

Rather than trim off each piece after sewing and pull out a new pair of tails to start the next, you can put the next piece straight under and sew, like this:

That saves pulling out a length of thread just to waste it and you end up with, instead of a dozen pieces each with a tail, with a little string of bunting with just a tiny length of thread between the pieces for trimming off, like this:

23 tail-ends saved (can't save the first one) with an average join of 20mm x 2.  So that's (240-40) x 23 = 4600, 4.6 metres of thread still safely on the reel and away from helpless Hoovers and Housewives.

One Mean Housewife, desperately seeking to quantify her thriftiness, Googles the price of thread.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Rag Trade-Off

On the 5th of November I received this question from a reader:
Dear Mean Housewife x1:

I am wearing a shirt that I think is a bit too shabby even for a student, and I am about to throw it away. The question is: is it worth washing (cost of soap, hot water, electricity) in order to recycle as clean rag? Or is it cheaper to just buy J cloths or similar?

Yours ditheringly

It's a burning issue and is just crying out for proper thorough and scientific investigation.  Well, you're not going to get that here.

However, I'm interested in the answer as I have recently washed and cut several garments for this very purpose.  It's a bit of a mystery, the cost of running a wash.  There are so many variables to consider: power, water charges, soap, time spent not having a life, etc.  Let's ignore lots of them and have a rather half-hearted look at the 'details'.

This geeky forum's users reckon a wash might cost about 15p in electricity (I'm assuming you cold-fill because gas is the same price as gold).  The same geeky forum's other user reckons in his area, with low standing charges and high unit charges, it's about 0.1p per litre for water.  Waterwise reckons an average modern machine uses about 50 litres, so about 5p per wash.  Aldi's own brand washing powder comes in at 10p per wash.

So that's a total of 30p for a load of washing.  Now you could wash at least 15 shirts in one wash so I'm going to say 2p to include the shirt in question.

For that 2p, you'll get at least a dozen rags out of the front and back of that shirt (these areas are unlikely to be worn out).  You can pick up a packet of 10 Asda generic blue and white cloths for 36p and you'd have to get to the shop and back.  One-nil to the old-fashioned rag method, I think.

Martin, you may snip with confidence.

One Mean Housewife, clutching an upcycled semmet with intent, gets back to polishing the brasses.