Frugal Living

Cheap and easy, family friendly recipes that can be made in bulk, repurposing ideas, make not waste projects, cheap and easy ideas for things to make for your home and children.

Crafty warmth


Nestling under the duvet on a chilly winter's night with a great book, a mug of cocoa and a hot water bottle to toast your feet … Top textile designer Lisa Stickley shows you how to keep snug

Things you need

Medium weight cotton (I have recycled an old soft cotton curtain) for the main body, cut to size (see template below, where each square represents 5cm x 5cm).

4oz polyester wadding, cut 2cm smaller than the main body all the way round (see template – cut 1 front piece and 2 back pieces).

light weight fabric (cotton calico is ideal) for the lining, cut to the size (see template – cut 1 front piece and 2 back pieces).

1m length of bias binding (2.5cm wide)

What to do

Bond the panels and wadding

Lay the front outer fabric piece right side down on the ironing board. Lay the front wadding piece on top and then the front lining piece on top of that, rather like making a sandwich. With a hot iron, press the sandwich pile so it flattens the wadding slightly and loosely bonds the three layers together. Repeat for the two back pieces.

Add the bias binding

Cut two lengths of bias binding to slightly longer than the width of the back pieces. Fold these pieces of bias binding in half lengthwise. Slot one binding strip onto each of the straight edges of the back pieces. Pin in place. Stitch the bias binding in place, trapping all three layers neatly together. Backstitch at the start and finish to fasten the seam.

Join the panels

With right sides facing, lay the top back panel on to the front panel so the top edges line up. Then lay the bottom back panel on top of this so the two back panels overlap in the middle and the bottom edges of the back and front panels line up. Pin in place through all the layers. Starting at the bottom edge, stitch all the way with a 2cm seam allowance. For extra strength, backstitch a couple of times when sewing over the bound edges of the top and bottom back panels. Backstitch at the start and finish to fasten the seam.

Fill the cover with the hottie

Turn the hot-water bottle cover right side out, pushing out all the corners. boil the kettle, fill your hot-water bottle and slip it into the cover.


• Made At Home by Lisa Stickley is published by Quadrille, priced £16.99. Buy a copy from the Guardian Book Store. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Crafty warmth
Posted by OneProudMomma at Friday, November 12, 2010 6:25 PM

How to make a zip-up purse


Turn leftover fabric into a neat little purse. It's quick, easy and economical, says Perri Lewis

Sometimes I just want to whip something up in half an hour, rather than slave over a project for weeks on end. So what's the best thing to make? For me, it's those little fabric purses that you'd pay a tenner for if you bought one from Accessorize. It puts small and otherwise useless fabric pieces to good use, and it's a brilliant stand-by gift for a lovely lady of any age.

You've got plenty of variations on the standard instructions all over the interweb: this one on the CRAFT blog has a zip on the side; this one on Skip To My Lou is lined; and U Handbag's tutorial has a rather neat travel card pouch on the side.

However, I reckon this method is the quickest and easiest. Using upholstery fabric means that your purse will be sturdier and more hardwearing than if you used cotton (although, of course, you can use whatever non-stretchy fabric you fancy), and cutting it with pinking shears means you don't have to worry about hemming and neat seams and all that fiddly stuff. And if you've never had the confidence to sew in a zip before, this is a cracking little project to start off with.

What it costs

I forked out £30 for my pinking shears because I wanted to invest in a decent pair, but you can pick them up for £9.99 in Argos. A short plastic zip can be bought for about a pound if you go to a market stall, or around £2.50 from a high-street haberdashery. I used scraps of upholstery fabric, left over from some bunting I made for my mum, using one of my last tutorials. It was originally £7 a metre from John Lewis.

What you need

Upholstery fabric
Pinking shears
Sewing machine, zipper foot and thread/needle and thread
Embellishments: buttons, sequins etc to decorate (optional)

What to do

1. Buy a zip that is as long as you want your purse to be wide, or a little longer (you can shorten a zip easily using this tutorial).

2. Cut your fabric using pinking shears. You need two pieces that are the same size. The width should be 2cm longer than the zip, and the height 2cm longer than you want the final purse to be.

3. On one piece of fabric, fold one long side over 1cm and iron the fold in place.

4. Pin one long side of the zip to the edge you just folded. The fabric should be about 2mm from the zip's teeth.

5. Sew the zip in place (using a zipper foot if you have a machine, or using a strong needle and thread and a backstitch if you don't).

6. Repeat steps three, four and five with the other piece of fabric. When laid flat, your purse will look like a zip with a piece of fabric sewn on either side.

7. Do the zip up. Position the purse so the right sides of the fabric are facing. Pin them together. Make sure the tops of the two pieces of fabric are aligned so the purse is nice and neat when you sew it up.

8. Sew down each side of the fabric, 1cm from the edge. Unzip the zip.

9. Sew the long bottom shut, again, 1cm from the edge.

10. Turn the purse the right way round. Use a chopstick or pencil to poke the corners out (if they don't make a nice right angle, chop the corner off the inside seam).

11. Decorate if you fancy (and have the time).

• Perri blogs about making stuff at © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

How to make a zip-up purse
Posted by OneProudMomma at Wednesday, July 28, 2010 9:37 PM

A Memory Rag Bag


My children form very strong attachments to their clothing, I'm not sure why - I only remember feeling that strongly about the three bears embroidered on one of my pillowcases when I was little. The pillowcase wore out and I was devastated, so my Mum cut them out and appliqued them to a t-shirt for me, I was over the moon when she did.

My daughter just has a huge growth spurt, going from age 10-11 years clothing to 13-14. She's managed to miss a whole age range in the middle! However, this meant that her favourite clothing would no longer fit her. She was really upset by this as some of the clothing had been given as a gift for her birthday, other jeans she had bought herself with money she had earned. She had memories of playing in park, my 40th birthday party and her Grandma, all in what would appear to anybody else to be a pile of ripped and stained play clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for her, something that would mean that she wouldn't lose those memories. So I came up with an idea - I'd make her a tote bag. Tote bags are fashionable at the moment, and a nice size tote bag would be great for when we go out on day trips, so she can carry her artists pencils and sketch books, plus other things.

To start with I gathered a selection of clothing who's colours and textures complimented each other. Then I washed and ironed it all - 4 pairs of trousers, 1 blouse and a t-shirt.

Pile of clothes  

I then sat and cut out all the useful pieces of fabric. Splitting the trousers up the seams, cutting around the pockets, rescuing the stud fastening on the front of the blouse and the embroidered sequin motifs.

fabric scraps 1  fabric scraps 2 fabric scraps 3 

I knew I wouldn't use all of the fabric up - I kept a large amount of grey denim back to make her some slippers - but I was still quite frugal with what was deemed unusable, mainly just the waistband, hems and fly. I decided that the t-shirt, being very soft, should be used to line the bag.

I looked through the various scraps of fabric and decided that the central feature of the front of the tote bag would be a large button fastening pocket (from the back of her jeans) this would give her a secure place to keep her inhaler, phone and purse. From there I just kept adding panels of fabric.

central panel  

Next I started to muck about with a sort of rough patchworking. I didn't measure anything out, just stitched stips together, cut across them, turned them around, stitched them back together again. I made some interesting panels, which I then attached on either side of the pocket panel.

small patchwork panels  

I decided that was the right size for a tote bag and stopped there. I then made a rough patchwork back panel. Again, no measuring as such, just stitching bits together, cutting, turning and stithcing again.

back panel  

I then stitched the two panels together and started work on the handles. I wanted something soft and strong, so I opted for padded plaits. These took longer to make than the rest of the bag! First I made 6 long tubes, placed three of them together and stitched across the end to hold them together. I then used some reclaimed wadding from an old cushion and stuffed each tube. The stuffed tubes were then plaited, and stitched into place on either side of the bag.

handle 1   handle2  handle 3  

handle 4 handle 5 handle 6

Next, I made the lining. I placed the t-shirt over the bag and cut the lining to the correct size. I stitched the side seam, leaving the bottom and top of the lining open.

t-shirt lining

I reinforced the top of the lining with a strip of denim and then stitched it into place, taking care to stitch the straps in between the lining and outside of the bag.

reinforced lining

I pulled the lining the correct way out and then stitched across the bottom seam of the bag (which was the hem of the t-shirt)

Inside out bag

The final step was to stuff the lining back into the bag, and stitched across the handles on the outside just to reinforce them.

Voila - one frugal, memory, rag bag - and isn't it beautiful!

Rag Bag  

Posted by OneProudMomma at Wednesday, July 28, 2010 7:49 AM

Make your own table linen


Appliqué is an easy way to completely transform a plain, vintage tablecloth into something contemporary and stylish

Appliqué is an easy way to completely transform a plain, vintage tablecloth into something contemporary and stylish, and at the same time cover up any stains! You could also use a vintage linen or heavy cotton sheet – I used an embroidered Swiss cotton sheet which was in perfect condition and wonderfully heavy. If you want to start with new fabric, organic cotton sheeting is ideal – it is extra wide, 2.85m/112in., so you can easily buy a piece big enough for even the largest dining table.

What you need

A hand sewing kit
Safety pins
Items to use as circle templates – plates, jars, CDs
Large piece of organic cotton, vintage tablecloth or vintage sheet
Scraps of medium-weight, washable fabrics which don't fray too much
Embroidery threads

Note: You may prefer to iron lightweight interfacing onto the fabric scraps before cutting them out. It stops the fabrics from fraying and wrinkling

How to make it

1. Pre-wash the base fabric and all the scraps you use for this project as you don't want colours running in the wash. Also use a dye grabber when you wash, to catch any excess. Wash and iron the tablecloth/sheet/fabric. Mark any stains with safety pins so you can easily find them to cover with appliqué. If you are using new fabric, cut to the required size and hem all the edges.

2. Cut circles from medium-weight fabrics in a range of different sizes, from 6-20cm/21/2-8in. I used about 60 for this project. Spread out the cloth and pin the circles in a nice arrangement over the cloth, covering any stains if necessary. Pin in place, again using safety pins.

3. Starting at one side of the cloth, sew the circles down. Sew around the edges of each circle using either slipstitch (a) or blanket stitch (b). Slipstitch is much faster, so it depends how long you are prepared to work on the tablecloth! Tack or use more pins if required and smooth out each circle to ensure it doesn't wrinkle as you sew. Press when all the appliqués are attached.

It is quick and easy to make vintage linen napkins to match by sewing just a few small circles onto one corner of each napkin.

Buy Sew Eco: Sewing Sustainable and Re-Used Materials at the Guardian bookshop © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Make your own table linen
Posted by OneProudMomma at Tuesday, July 20, 2010 10:45 AM

Crocheted Rag Rug


This is a project I completed some time ago so unfortunately I don't have any work in progress photographs. I will be making another rug soon, so I will document that with step-by-step instructions.

Crocheted Rag Rug  

To make the rug you will need a lot of old cloth - the rug above contains old pillow cases, flannel pyjama trousers, a pair of velvet jeans, some lining material, an old valance, a bit of an old curtain and a t-shirt. It was the first rug I ever made and I was aiming for an oval shape, unfortunately I was making the pattern up as I went along and I mis-counted which is why it is somewhat mis-shapen. Next time I am going to either make a circle or square/rectangle.

You will need a really big crochet hook to make a rug (a 10mm / number 000 is good) and be able at form a chain and single crochet stitches as described here.

To prepare the rags they will first need to be thoroughly washed and dried. Cut the rags into 1" wide strips as long as possible.

The rags will need to be stitched (or knotted) together so that you can use them in the same way you would yarn. There is a particular way to knot the rags, if you choose this method, which I will detail later when I make the next rug - it is not a straight forward knot as it needs to lie flat when the rug is crocheted.

Then you will make a few chains stitches to form the centre of the rug (it is the equivalent of casting on in knitting) and carry on with the single crochet stitches until the rug is the size you require. The rug above is just over 80cm long.

Some instructions for crocheting rag rugs say to stitch the edges of the rag strips over to limit any loose threads and make the rug neater, personally I find this time consuming and boring. I like the odd stray thread and a bit of knot showing through - I think it adds to the charm!

The photo below shows in more details the different fabrics used and how closely the stitches are formed.

A close-up view of the rug

When you look at the back of the rug you can see the knots where the fabric strips have been joined together. The loose ends can just be pushed in between the stitches to hold them into place.

Back of the rag rug  

Posted by OneProudMomma at Sunday, July 18, 2010 2:14 PM

How To Upholster A Cheap Chair


Reupholstery and a little TLC can transform a cheap chair into a statement piece of furniture. In this extract from Revive!, a new book on recycled interiors, Jacqueline Mulvaney shows you how

Try working with a piece of furniture that you find at an auction house or junk shop. When I talk about furniture picked up at auction, I'm not talking antiques. Consult your telephone directory to find a saleroom in a small town rather than one in a big city, which can be a lot pricier. Most sales have preview days, and it's worth having a browse and looking closely at any pieces that catch your eye.

Check for basic soundness: is it fit for purpose, is it riddled with woodworm, is it more trouble than it's worth?

I have found a wooden-framed chair with a back and seat that need replacing. The chair is a lovely shape and will work well with my other furniture. It's not an old piece, cost just £8, and as it only needs stripping and small areas of fabric replacing it's perfect in terms of time.

Obviously, if you are feeling brave and have the time you might well want to try something more ambitious. If you decide to use a chair, try to find a chair with a removable seat.

What you need

Old chair
Paint stripper
Rubber gloves
Furniture wax or limewax
Tracing paper or pattern paper
Upholstery tacks
Sewing machine
Embroidery thread
Textile or craft adhesive
Staple gun (optional)

What to do: Stripping and cleaning

Before I strip and clean the chair I'm going to remove the pieces of fabric so I can use them as patterns. The chair has been coated with a thick, dark varnish and is generally a bit grubby. I'm using a product called Nitromors, which is a powerful paint stripper. If you are going to use a substance such as this you need to work outside or with very good ventilation. Wear a mask and rubber gloves, keep it away from pets and children and try not to splash it on your skin. Just follow the instructions and you'll be fine.

I'm going to wax my chair once I've finished removing the old varnish; this will bring out the grain and protect the wood. You can also limewax your piece; this will stain your furniture slightly and give it a chalky appearance. Limewax can be purchased from most good DIY stores or picture framers.


Try to use the existing upholstery as patterns for your new cover. Think about the type of fabric you are going to choose. I want this chair to be functional rather than merely decorative, so delicate fabrics won't work. As the areas to be recovered aren't huge I'm going to treat myself and buy some fabric. This is cheating, I know, but the website I'm going to use to source my fabric specialises in reclaimed fabrics. It's run by a lady called Donna Flower who is incredibly knowledgable, her website is a pleasure to use and she is constantly adding new fabrics. As I only need a metre of fabric and the chair was so cheap I think I can justify this little diversion.


Using tracing paper or pattern paper make yourself a pattern. Cut out your shapes from your selected fabric. I need to ensure that I cut sufficient material to allow me to pull it taut over the chair frame, but I don't need to hem the fabric because any uneven edges will be hidden by the trim.

My next step is to replace the seat cover and back of my chair. Starting with the chair back I am going to secure the fabric with upholstery tacks. As the tacks are visible I'm going to create a trim to cover this edge.


Taking a bundle of ribbon, I'm going to join a variety of lengths and widths to make enough to fit around the fabric on the back.

When you have the desired length of trim, set your sewing machine to embroidery mode. Using contrasting machine embroidery thread, stitch a trailing motif along the length of your ribbon. Don't feel you have to use an embroidery hoop for this; any distortion created through stitching will add rather than detract from your final trim. Using a good quality textile or craft adhesive, stick your finished trim in place. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

Fitting the seat cover requires the fabric to be stretched tightly across the pad making certain that the corners are neat. If the seat is removable, then take it out first. Pin the fabric in place as you work before tacking the fabric in place on the underside. The new seat can now be replaced. If you want to you can use a staple gun to secure the new fabric to the base. It's sometimes easier to get a tighter, more professional finish if you staple rather than tack. You should now have a unique piece of furniture which is both useful and lovely.

• Revive! Inspired Interiors from Recycled Materials is published on 10 May © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

How to reupholster a cheap chair
Posted by OneProudMomma at Sunday, July 18, 2010 12:01 PM

Tea Cosy Craft


Brighten up the breakfast table with a handcrafted tea cosy. Top textile designer Lisa Stickley shows you how

Tea, cake and a little Herbie Hancock on the radio in the background are all particular favourites of mine. This is a nice easy project to ensure that your tea will be steamy hot even after the cake is gone!

What you need

1 sheet of paper or newspaper, A3 or larger

2 semicircular pieces of mediumweight cotton for main body (I have used a damask)

2 semi-circular pieces of lightweight cotton for lining

1 rectangular piece of cotton for loop, 4cm x 10cm or thereabouts

2 semi-circular pieces of 4oz polyester wadding for insulation

What to do

Click here to download some helpful illustrations (pdf)

Step one: Cut out the pieces

To make sure the cosy fits, lay your teapot on its side on to a large piece of paper. Draw a semicircle around the teapot, adding an extra 5cm on all sides to make the pattern for the main body and lining. To cut out an even shape, fold the semi-circle down the centre lengthwise and use the best drawn line as the cutting guide. Using this paper pattern, cut out the fabric for the main body and lining. Cut the wadding 4cm smaller than the template all the way round.

Step two: Make the loop

Fold a 1cm hem on each long side of the fabric piece and press. Fold the fabric down the middle lengthwise so the two turned edges meet. Press and pin. Stitch along the open side, stitching as close to the edge as possible for a neat finish. Backstitch at the start and finish to fasten the seam. Stitch the same line along the opposite side to finish the loop.

Step three: Make the main body

Place the two main body pieces right sides together. Fold the prepared loop in half and sandwich it between the two main body pieces at the centre top, with the raw edges of the loop in line with the raw edges of the main body. Pin in place. Pin the two body pieces together along the curved edge. Stitch together with a 5mm seam allowance, catching the loop into the seam as you sew. Fold a 1cm hem over to the wrong side around the base and press, but don't stitch this just yet. Turn the tea cosy right side out.

Step four: Make the lining

Place the two lining pieces right sides together. Pin in place along the curved edge. Stitch together with a 5mm seam allowance. Press. Fold a 2cm hem over to the wrong side around the base and press, but don't stitch this just yet.

Step five: Finish the tea cosy

With wrong sides together, slot the lining inside the main body. On each side sandwich a cut piece of wadding in between the main body and lining and flatten into place. Pin the base of the main body to the lining, making sure the pressed hem is neatly lined up and any stray bits of wadding are tucked in. Stitch the base together all the way around, stitching as close to the edge of the hem as possible for a neat finish.

Put the kettle on for a cup of tea, and I recommend a generous slice of angel cake!

• Made At Home by Lisa Stickley is published by Quadrille, priced £16.99. Buy a copy from the Guardian Book Store. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Tea cosy craft
Posted by OneProudMomma at Friday, June 18, 2010 10:40 AM

Horse Print Floor Cushion With Reused Polyester Fibre Filling


Jenn on her new floor cushion

A couple of years ago I saw a lovely old fashioned style panel print of some children with horses. I just knew my daughter would love it, and thought it would make a lovely floor cushion for her bedroom. The problem was it was so large that it was going to cost a fortune to buy enough stuffing to fill it, so I started to save the old lumpy fibre filled pillows and cushions.

Today I decided that we probably would have enough, unfortunately the panel was much larger than I remember, but there was enough filling so that the cushion is usable.

  1. Wash and throughly dry the old pillows and cushions.
    Old lumpy pillows
  2. To start with you need to open up the old pillows and cushions and remove the filling.
    Lumpy hollow fibre filling
  3. Shred the filling, taking care with the lumps so that the fibres are seperated out.
    Shredded hollow fibre filling
  4. Stuff the item of choice.
    Empty Floor Cushion
  5. Stitch the opening closed.
    Stitching the opening closed

Horse Floor Cushion With Recycled Hollow Fibre

Posted by OneProudMomma at Monday, May 10, 2010 12:03 PM