Minimalist crafting with plarn

by Bella
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Minimalism and crafting do not normally go well together, until now.  Plarn turns unwanted items (plastic shopping bags) into useful items. All you need is used plastic shopping bags, a crochet hook, and scissors.

Normally, when you you get into crafting, and specifically, in my case, crocheting, you accumulate loads of supplies. When I have too much stuff, it takes over my life, so I do all that I can to avoid the clutter. This project allows me to make my yarn as I need it, and only as much as I need, so there are no left over scraps.

I was first introduced to crocheting with plarn earlier this year when I came across an old post on one of my favorite crafting blogs, Repeat Crafter Me. Sarah, the blogs creator and my crocheting superhero posted easy to follow directions on how to turn environmentally unfriendly plastic bags into  an environmentally friendly yarn alternative (click here). Then she shared a pattern of her own design for a tasteful, quick-to-make, durable, long lasting plarn tote bag (click here).

When I saw this, I thought, “how cool is it that you can make a bag from bags? ” More importantly, I realized that this tote bag makes a great reusable shopping bag. I can turn something bad for the environment into something that can do some good.

After making the bag from Sarah’s pattern, I want to share the results. It turned out even better than I expected.

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It has an amazing, natural and textured look.

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I was even able to use buttons salvaged from old worn-out clothing for the embellishment and used the plarn to sew them on, so this bag is from 100% re purposed materials.
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With a little bit of effort, it’s easy to find other patterns for everything from pot scrubbers to full size laundry baskets made from plarn. After scavenging enough used plastic shopping bags, I plan to experiment more using this minimalist friendly crafting supply.

Still here: just keeping it simple

by Bella

Sometimes in order to live a simple life, you have to prioritize and let some things go my the wayside. This has been tough for me. I have so many things that I want to do in this life that I have a tendency to try to pack too much in to 24 hours and to complicate my life in the process.

Over the last 6+ years, I’ve been learning to stop myself from taking on too much, and to focus on doing fewer things, but doing them really well.  I’ve always needed a creative outlet. I used to draw, embroider, crochet, knit, weave, sew, and try to make everything I could learning every craft out there. Having so many creative outlets required having totes, boxes, and closets full of supplies and equipment. Not focusing on a single skill meant that I didn’t have the time to dedicate to giving my best to any one of them.

Now I focus on crocheting. I love making gifts for friends and co-workers, and because I have focused on elevating my crochet skills, I now create projects that are good enough to sell (I’m sharing some quick pics of my projects below). I could never have gotten to this point had I kept spreading myself so thin while drowning under totes, boxes and closets full of supplies.

I had to chose a specialization, to prioritize. I chose what was was most inspiring my creative side and didn’t look back. This allowed me to get rid of extra craft stuff, and this in turn cleared my mind allowing me to focus and improve my crochet skills.

Nearly everyday, I fight my nature to try everything and to take on more than I should. In late summer and this fall, I have felt and still feel the need to focus on time with friends and family, cooking, reading, and crocheting. These are my priorities and the things that are inspiring me at the moment, so they are my current focus and all other things have to take a back-seat, including blogging.

I have loads of ideas on things to blog about, and I will be back when my priorities shift. See you then.

 

Sorry the images are not to the highest standard.

Watermelon dress and Mary Janes

 

Ami Minions

 

Ami owls

 

Boot cuffs

 

Super Cute Japanese Ami Elephants

by Bella

My last post talked about Zen inspiration. The simplicity associated with Zen Buddhism is not the only traditionally Japanes thing that I find myself drawn too.

A few months back, I shared pics of some of the little amigurumi toys that I make. My favorite pattern is a true Japanese pattern. It’s definitely the most complicated of all the ami I’ve ever made, but so worth the effort and pretty intense focus required. Thank you to Stephanie from All About Ami for translating the pattern and posting it for free with loads of pics and drawings that make it much easier to follow.

I’ve made 3 of them to date. The first one, I sold and have had requests for more. The two pictured here are special requests. One is for someone who was actually born yesterday. LOL!  A grandma ordered it for her grandson. Lucky I finished it early as he was 10 weeks premature. Don’t worry – I’m happy to say that the grandma says he’s doing well. The other elephant is for our eldest daughter. That’s right, we have another daughter, an absolutely gorgeous, very independent, highly intelligent and adventurous 19 year old. No, I am not biased. It’s all true. If anything, my description is an understatement. The sweet little elephant with the pink roses will be flying across the pacific to live with and be cared for by her in Australia. Lucky little bugger!

2014 Box Free Family in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. I love WordPress; they surprise and motivate us with things like this. I want to be open and share this with you. In 2014, we showed many sides of ourselves from how we enjoy life and the healthy foods that we make and eat to the choices we make and why. In 2015, we will continue sharing, showing and hopefully growing. If there’s anything you want us to cover, let us know in the comments. Happy New Year.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 350 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Preparing for winter: knitting, crocheting and comfort foods -gluten-free vegan zucchini bread

by Bella

It’s that time of year again. I personally dread the long cold winters, because I don’t like piling on layers every time you go out nor do I enjoy the treacherous ice. But I do love autumn with the beautiful colors and cool breezes. At this time of year, like most people, I want to cozy up inside and eat hot and hearty foods. I also start to crochet and Bo, our daughter gets out her knitting needles.

At the moment, Bo’s knitting a new winter hat for herself. I’m more into crocheting, and I get into phases where I crank out loads of small items; I don’t have the patience for big projects. I enjoy making amigurumi toys and have spent the last 3 winters making dozens of them. Some I’ve given away. A few I’ve sold on Etsy, but most have just accumulated in a most hated place…..A BOX!  We want to be box free, so that just doesn’t cut it. I found a local shop that will sell them. It’s a little consignment shop that also carries hand-made unique items. Now my little amis are out of the box and on display where they should be. Hopefully, they will find homes where they will be appreciated.

Here are a few of the ami that we’ve made. They’re all crocheted except for the turtle which was knit by Bo.

Ami Frog – crocheted by Bella

Ami owl – crocheted by Bella

Ami squirrel – crocheted by Bella

Ami turtle – knit by Bo

Ami bear – crocheted by Bella

I get most of my amigurumi inspiration from a series of book by Ana Paula Rimoli. She makes the cutest ami. I usually adapt her patterns to my own creative vision. You can visit her blog here where there are links to each of her books.

While at the consignment shop, the owner asked if I’d like to make some small crochet accessories for the shop. Since it’s fall and I’m getting the itch to crochet, I jumped at the chance. At her request, I’m making headbands and boot cuffs and loving it! Not only can I do what I enjoy doing at this time of year, but I feel like there’s a purpose to it, and it’s more than just a hobby. If I can make a little bit of money, that will be a nice bonus.

I’ve got several pieces in the works at the moment. Here are a couple that I’ve finished so far.

Boot cuffs – crocheted by Bella

Periwinkle headband – crocheted by Bella

I may need that extra money for the extra yummy foods we consume in fall and winter. I love raw foods more in warm weather, but when the weather turns, I turn to more cooked foods that ease the chill. I try to use readily available local produce and make lots of chilis, curries, pastas, banana bread, and fruit crumbles. Of course every thing will be vegetarian, gluten-free and organic where possible.

Recently, I made my first  gluten-free vegan zucchini bread of the season with an organic zucchini from a friends garden. It was so soft and warm and comforting just like comfort foods should be.

Gluten-free vegan zucchini bread

Zucchini Bread (makes 2 loaves)

3 cups gluten-free flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 flax eggs (3 tbsp ground flax w/3 tbsp water)

1 cup coconut oil

2 1/4 cups coconut sugar

3 tsp vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Grease and flour two bread pans (I just used an 8 x 8 cake pan and cut it down the middle like 2 loaves). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift your dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl.

In a large beat the flax eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar together.  Add the sifted, dry ingredients gradually and beat well. Stir in the zucchini and nuts then pour in to prepared pan.s.

Bake for about an hour. I like to cook it until the surface gets a little crispy and cracks. Let cool a little before digging in. It tastes best warm so make sure you’re good and hungry when it’s done. Slice and enjoy alone or topped with your favorite nut butter or some jam.