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.

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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

 

17 things our library provides that makes it easy to be a minimalist

by Bella

Our lives would be very different without our free library. It provides a sense of community, promotes sharing resources, skills and ideas, and makes minimalism a whole lot easier.

For the past 7 years we have chosen to live within walking distance of a free library. We are extremely fortunate to currently live in a small community that embraces, supports, and appreciates this incredible resource. As we evolve through our minimalist journey, we make use of the library more and more each year. The library has made it easier for us to live with less by enabling us to share this community space as well as materials.

I want to share 17 things that many libraries provide, most often free of charge, that you can and should make use of. Your tax dollars go to pay for these things, so why spend more money buying things that are already paid for and are there for your use.

  1. Books – Let’s list the most obvious library resource first. There are reference, entertainment, educational, cooking, crafts, and how-to books. Use these instead of having a home library. Your local library will keep the most up-to-date issues and new releases of many of these for you to use as needed.
  2. Seed library – This is becoming common-place in several districts. You can “borrow” organic, non-GMO, local heirloom seeds with the agreement that you bring back seeds from your harvest to donate for the following season.
  3. Tool library – If your library has this, you would be crazy to buy a garage full of expensive tools that you rarely use.
  4. Downloadable/Streaming media (books, magazines, music and movies) – OK, these don’t take up space, but they do clutter up your digital world. In most cases, people only read a book or magazine once, so borrow it, read it and let it return itself. Music is a little different because we will listen to the same tracks hundreds of times. Still there are so many ways to stream your favorite songs for free, like from your library, you don’t have to own them.
  5. Databases (research) – Students and job seekers of all ages, did you know that your library probably spends tens of thousands of dollars on databases for your use every year? You can use database tutorials to master a new software skill, access historical facts,f ind academic journal entries on almost any subject you can imagine, and much more.
  6. Tutoring and proctoring – If you need help with math, reading, writing, a language, getting your GED or even your citizenship, chances are that your library has a Lifelong Learning Center staffed with volunteer tutors to help.
  7. Computers and the Internet – Somethings that we, as a minimalist box free family, haven’t been able to part with are our computers and internet access at home.  It’s nice to know that if we ever take that leap, our local library can fill the void with public computers and high speed internet access available to us daily.
  8. CDs and DVDs – If you use the library computers in lieu of owning your own, and therefore can’t stream music and movies, then borrow the CDs and DVDs. Instead of amassing a huge collection of your own, just borrow them whenever you want. True, you may have to wait to get the ones that you want, but if you plan ahead and place requests early, this is a good option.
  9. Printers – Unless you’re printing multiple pages everyday, you can just go to your local library and use their printers. There is a probably a minimal charge for this, but it can be as cheaper, or cheaper than having your own printer at home. Cost it out and see for yourself.
  10. Taxes – Some libraries bring in free tax help from AARP (available to everyone, not just retirees) in the early part of the year.  One year they saved us over $4000. Libraries also stock basic tax forms. You can print out whatever they don’t have, read the instructions on their internet computers and even file on line.
  11. Scanners – Much like the printers, why own your own unless you use it constantly. Our library has a printer that you can plug a thumb drive into to scan directly to or print directly from. It will also scan and email or fax documents. Best of all the library staff are trained and can show you how these things work.
  12. Basic office supplies – Our library will let us use their stapler, hole punch, tape, notepaper, pens/pencils, headphones and old fashioned electric typewriter. In today’s world, it’s rare that our family needs these things. Even though we do still have some of these basics at home, we don’t have to, because we can just use the ones at the library.
  13. Classes and informative programs – Most free libraries invite interesting and highly skilled people from your community and from further afield to come and share and teach what they know to you, for free. In many cases, we find it hard to believe that these programs are poorly attended. Most people just don’t realize that their library provides these things. If you visit your library’s website, you’ll probably find several interesting and helpful classes and programs that you’ll wish you’d known about sooner.
  14. Kids programs – Parents spend a lot of money on things and activities to keep their kids entertained. Your local library may have free activities ranging from movies and video game nights to crafts, cooking classes, robotics, gardening, and reading to dogs.
  15. Bookmobile and Outreach – You may not even need to live near the library or own a car to use library materials and resources.  Besides the obvious options of using public transit, biking or walking, some libraries will come to you. A few districts have bookmobiles that bring a rotating collection of materials and sometimes internet computers to a locations near you on a weekly basis. There may even be an Outreach program for those who are house bound. This program delivers and picks up library materials to and from your home.
  16. A place to socialize – Meet people with a shared interest at library programs. There aren’t many places to do that where it’s free. If you really want to meet like-minded people you can even start a free group or club and use the meeting rooms at the library. Use the library’s internet computers to make posters, and to advertise your group on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter and other free local advertising methods.
  17. Common shared space – Your home doesn’t have to be huge when you have a library to go to. The library is a common space for everyone in the community to use. Find a quiet corner to read a book, use the lobby to meet a friend and sip coffee, or start that new group and use the meeting rooms as a place to get together.

I’m sure that there are more ways that your library can enhance your minimalist or even non-minimalist life. Drop in and start talking to the staff or just visit the library’s website and explore all that they have to offer.

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!

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.