Monster knees.

Since I pared down my wardrobe I have only had one pair of jeans to wear.  I am beginning to re-think how I went about removing items from my wardrobe, mainly because I wear my jeans and tees so often and so hard.  I definitely need more of these than I previously thought.  A month ago my favorite (read: only) pair of jeans tore at one of the knees. I planned to patch them, but in the meantime I bought another pair of jeans (which are passable but nowhere near as good as the torn ones). This morning I woke up and went to put on my jeans only to discover they were dirty.  It was totally a jeans kind of day, so I immediately set about planning my patch. I’d seen Monster Knee Patch tutorials before (most notably when my gorgeous friend patched her farmer husband’s work pants in this way… He wasn’t happy but I thought it was great) and was eyeing them for my repair. I perused a few this morning and then set to.  I used left over placemat material from the tool belt I made, plus a bit of t-shirt left over from a baby sleeping bag I made years ago and some vintage buttons. It took about 45 minutes including toddler wrangling, bobbin winding and machine unsnarling. You know that’s pretty good for me.  You could probably make this in about 10 minutes. Here is my take on the monster patch (previously thought to be appropriate only for kids).

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The up-cycle project inspired by Zach Braff.

When Big Poppa and I first met we spent many, many hours lying around watching Scrubs. We’d hang out for every new season, buy it on DVD and watch it until the discs wore out (I mean this quite literally). When we met we used to joke that all we had in common was a mutual love of Bill Murray, but the thing that probably kept us together was our common brand of humour. We loved the crap out of Scrubs and both of us were pretty fond of Zach Braff. We didn’t write this song, but we probably would have if we’d thought of it first.

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So, years ago, when I discovered this t-shirt available for sale of course I bought it for BP. Of course I did. BP was leaner then (okay, if I’m going to be fair we were both so much leaner then), but he’s always been particular about the shape of his shirts and he prefers black, so he never wore it much. With all the decluttering and shifting of stuff, I just haven’t been able to pass this one on. It doesn’t fit BP and it doesn’t fit me, but maybe one day…?

Today a post that promised 25 minute sewing projects came up in my feed. I’m always looking for 25 minute sewing projects, because then I am absolutely certain they won’t take me more than 8 hours. Waking today and realising that no one had any plans (an oasis in a storm of activity) we decided to have a pyjama day. Big Poppa has been working on a mixtape for someone special, so I figured I had time for a mini project. This DIY kids nightie caught my eye. Even better – it boasts that it’s a 15 minute project. That’s only about 4 hours in Mama time. Super!

I rummaged through the sewing box and found the vending machine t-shirt. At men’s size XL I knew I was stretching being able to do this in just 15 minutes, but I figured I could probably get something to work. Even if it just kind of worked. Little Fearse is never particularly critical of my sewing adventures, so I reckoned it was a safe bet.

The Fearse Family: Zach Braff t-shirt upcycle.

It took me about 2 hours in the end. Due to the size of the t-shirt I also had to cut out and reset the sleeves. I only knew this was a possibility from reading other t-shirt up-cycle tutorials previously and I’m sure that if anyone who actually knew anything about sewing checked this out they’d be horrified. It works, anyway, and Little Fearse (although very grumpy for these photos) seems wiling to wear it. And I reckon she looks just as spiffy as Zach Braff.

Mama xo

A rookie mistake.

BP and I made a rookie mistake last week. I call this a rookie mistake because it’s the kind of decision we would have made thoughtlessly in our pre-BNN life. And here we are, 19 months later, making the same sorts of mistakes. Unlearning life-long habits is hard.

My laptop isn’t functioning all that well and really needs to be kept in one steady place. In addition to this my back doesn’t thank me for using my laptop as it’s intended (on my lap). We decided to get a small desk for our living area so that I could remain a part of the gang while using my computer.

BP recalled, with sentimentality, how much he’d loved his childhood desk The Fearse Family: A Rookie Mistake– an 80s style map top desk (chunky and brown). He asked around and found that it was located at his sister’s house. She kindly offered to have it fixed and delivered it herself.

We have had it less than a week and it has served its function as a table for my laptop quite well, but it has also quickly become a new surface to add clutter to. We knew this was going to happen. Everything we have learned about removing clutter from our home tells us that we need less surfaces and less storage, not more. Everyone who has lived in a house knows that it is going to take less than a month for those drawers to be loaded up with stuff.

Although we had already discussed the need for a dining table in the front room, sentimentality clouded our vision and we brought in this desk that is all wrong. During the winter months we only heat the front half of our house. The back half has few blinds and curtains and most of the heat would be lost. The only time we use that end of the house is for eating dinner. We could easily have solved this issue and the desk issue with a small, compact dining table in place of the big, chunky desk.  If we had a dining table here it would still be a surface, but at least it would be one that we had to clear every night to eat.

I’m disappointed in our thought processes which basically showed no growth from our impulsive decision making prior to our first buy nothing year.

Of course now we have a fierce Fearsian stand-off. BP is sentimental and wants to hold on to the desk and I am a cold-hearted clutter clearer and want to move it on (or at least out of the house) to make room for something more practical to our purposes.

When you make significant changes to the way you lead your life, you owe it to yourself not to relax on those ideals. We have worked too hard to claw our way forward to now allow ourselves to slip backwards into old habits that don’t suit our purposes.

This week, to help us remember how far we have come, BP and I used ingenuity to repair a squashed, shattered and near destroyed washing basket. When I bought this basket, several years ago, I bought the cheapest one I could find. Everything about it was nasty. It didn’t take long for it to start deteriorating. Recently someone sat on it, or stepped on it, or was pushing someone else around in it as though it was a car and it collapsed into itself. Since we’re working on reducing our waste, and there was no way this was recyclable plastic, we knew that we had no choice but to find a way to repair it, or reuse it. I made the decision to buy the shittiest, cheapest basket I could find and I’m now responsibleWashing basket
for where that ends up. So, how do you repair a shattered plastic washing basket? Start by connecting all the broken bits back together with a few handy pipe cleaners, then insert a hardy backdrop (in this case some cardboard that came as the packaging for one of Little Fearse’s birthday gifts) and go to town with gaffa tape. Ta da! I reckon it will last us another decade, don’t you?

The daily decisions we make about our consumption and about the things we bring into our home need constant examination. This way of life is not yet ingrained in us, which is not helped by the fact that it is far from the norm in society. I see that there is a shift and change happening around us and I hope that things will change in this lifetime. All I can control are the choices that I make and hope that I can mostly make good ones.

Mama xo

The Winter of Contentment.

We really challenged ourselves in April. I mean, more than usual. Every day in April we were working on the Minimalist Game, putting together the dolls’ house and working around the (worthy) challenges of avoiding the supermarket. It was a great, eye opening month, but I was glad when it was over.

I feel like I spent most of May catching our readers up on April and now we’re here and it’s June and in many ways, I’ve run out of words. So here, instead, are some pictures of fun BNNish stuff I’ve been doing lately.

The Fearse Family DIY Cress Men

Making Cress Men on Easter Sunday. Little Fearse asked to see the “Cress man and cress lady” every morning and gave them a kiss hello until their hair was ready to eat.

The Fearse Family DIY Scrap Material Rag Doll

Making a Jemima style rag-doll from a very sketchy pattern in the 1980 edition of Play School’s Useful Book. Little Fearse helped choose all the materials and even sacrificed her favourite (but very worn) PJ pants for Jemima’s striped leggings. An old pair of jeans was used to make feet and the rest were scraps found at the bottom of my material bench. One of her arms has already fallen off twice and she was given a much nicer Jemima for her birthday anyway, but it was a really fun holiday activity to do together.

The Fearse Family DIY Old Jeans and Place Mat Tool Belt

Making a tool belt for a friend’s third birthday using a place mat, old jeans (the waist band of the jeans was used as the belt part – vintage buttons were added to make it adjustable and they even kind of matched the place mat) and tools collected from the op shop and market. I looked at lots of tutorials for these but ended up making my own by combining different ideas. Worth exploring!

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Curtain Material Zoo Skirt

I used some vintage curtain material to make my first ever Little Fearse skirt, using a combination of this tutorial and this tutorial. I made this one for a special trip to the zoo. It’s very zooey

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Fabric Scrap Dolls' Bedding

Little Fearse has been asking me for awhile to make blankets for Maggie in the dolls’ house. Yeah, true, this did take me al of about three minutes to sew, but I love the material Little Fearse chose from my new stash of vintage fabric scraps. I look forward to whipping up some more blankets for the rest of the dolls’ house inhabitants.

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Scrap Patchwork SKirt

Using the same lot of vintage scraps and a similar concept to the zoo skirt I patch worked some of my favourite scraps together and (lacking elastic) I used an op shopped skirt (with bonus shorts inside!) and attached my patchwork to the skirts original waist. I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out.

You know, Winter isn’t my favourite time of year, but I’m really determined not to let it get me down this year. I hope that with the satisfaction I gain from these mini projects (plus lots of reading, which I’ve been indulging in more and more lately) I will while away the gloomy days and bring on Spring a little faster.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Library

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

 

The thing I love the most about the library is that it wasn’t a library when we began. It wasn’t an anything. In the time the dolls’ house had been played with it was simply a landing. No furniture, rarely used in play, just there. I’m not sure what inspired the library, probably the desk that came in the raw wood set from eBay. Here’s the nothing room before we began…

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If you know me, if you’ve been reading along – you’ll get the library straight away. This was all Mama. If Big Poppa had his way this would probably be a music studio. If Little Fearse was designing it? I dunno…a zoo? A museum? But it was up to me and I made a library.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (The Library)

I pretty much love everything about the library. The bookshelf is simply a printed out picture of a bookshelf from the ‘net modge podged to the wall. If I had time to be fiddly would I customise the books? Chuck in my favourites? You know I would. Maybe a future labour of love. When Little Fearse unveiled the dolls’ house Marge was sitting drinking a cup of coffee. The first thing Little Fearse said was “Ooooh, coffee!” It just struck me as a place Marge would enjoy, hidden away from her needy family.

I made the chair. I had grand plans to make a whole lounge suite, but I ran out of time and fortunately our friend donated the suite for the living room. I used the material from some old curtains that hung in my parents’ first house. This chair is not perfect, but I kind of love it. I wish I had a full sized one to lounge in (in my own study, of course). I got the pattern from one of the books referenced in our first post. Big Poppa cut the wood, my brother Loc helped file them down to size. The rest was done by me. It was exceptionally fiddly and took a lot of glue and a surprising amount of material, but I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

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The table came with the lounge suite and the lamp with the bath and second toilet (see in the background of the lower level – I kind of figure a household of 8 needs more than one toilet).

The desk is one of the secrets of the dolls’ house. It was raw wood with blue shelves (you can see from my dodgy paint job some of the blue coming through). I painted it with some of the guache paints we got at the Reverse Art Truck. It’s not ideal, but it was the best I could do. The map on the desk part is the block BP and I lived on when we stayed in Brooklyn for a month in 2009/2010. I am kind of annoyed at how the desk turned out, but I still love that it bears that map and that I managed to find a way to memorialise the map without having it hanging around, useless forever, with a bunch of other sentimental paper bits and pieces.

The gorgeous brass pot was found at the market with the two photo frames (in the bedroom and living room). I think it’s beautiful.

For those who’ve stuck with me throughout the tour – thanks. I wish I’d been more organised and published the whole series at once, but we live, we learn. This really has been a labour of love (the house and this ‘blog tour). I appreciate you coming along on the journey.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Bedroom

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house make over

 

The bedroom was a pretty unimpressive shade of 50s pale green before the makeover. Like a less dazzling version of our new bathroom green.

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Someone who has had the in person tour of the dolls’ house asked us why Marge and Homer sleep in the same room as the kids. Well, aside from relegating the kids (or the parents) to a cupboard under the stairs we didn’t really have many options here. This room is our designated bedroom for all types. Grandpa Simpson sleeps here, Krusty the Clown sleeps here, Doctor Hibbert sleeps here. Everyone sleeps in this room. This has, so far, caused no major problems in the dolls’ house. I’ll let you know if any arise. (Let’s also note that it isn’t that dissimilar to our own house where Little Fearse’s bed is in the part of our bedroom probably designed as a dressing room…)

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (The Bedroom)

 

The best features of this room come from the same angel who gave us the best features for all the other rooms; the gorgeous fireplace and the double bed. The bed needed a bit of work. One end was detached and the mattress as covered in a faded striped fabric that was fairly heavily marked from years of play. I reglued the bed head and searched through my fabric stash to find this gorgeous vintage material featuring kids and cats in silhouette. I wish we had a bed spread like this on our bed!

The double bed mattress before updating the material.

The double bed mattress before updating the material.

We found the beautiful vintage photo frame at the market with the one in the living room. The photo was taken at our nephew’s school fete in the photo booth. We both really loved this picture of Little Fearse and thought it would make a very cute addition to the house. Lil Fearse was pretty stoked to find herself on the mantle.

The camera came from the container of bits and pieces from the op shop. There is also a camera case somewhere that hasn’t yet made it into the house. The wardrobe and bunk bed came from one of the eBay lots. I stained the wardrobe slightly to make it less raw. There is a cradle somewhere that went missing somewhere between purchase and putting the furniture in the house. I’m sure it will show up one day. The pram and tiny baby (Little Fearse’s absolute favourite thing in the house…she loses it constantly, though) came from the same set.

The map on the back wall is another secret of the dolls’ house. It is from a map of Geneva that my parents used on their trip there in the late 60s. Don’t look too closely, I accidentally cut it out upside down!

The other secret of the dolls’ house in this room is the Mos Def poster (I can say that, because he wasn’t Yasiin Bey when this photo was taken). This photo was on a gig flyer. It came from our pretend honeymoon (pre-actual honeymoon) in New York when we booked out a suite in the Hotel Chelsea and went to see Mos Def play at midnight in the Highline Ballroom. I can say with certainty that it was the best gig I have ever been to. I love that we can commemorate that in the dolls’ house.

I hope to one day add a rug, some curtains, maybe more pictures to the walls. I’d like to add some clothes to the wardrobe, too. Future endeavours.

The last room will be one that is very close to my heart, the library.

Mama xo

Dolls’ House renovation: The Bathroom

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

 

You’ll now be accustomed to our drab before shots. Here’s this one.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

It has been been pointed out to us that the bathroom in the dolls’ house is ridiculously large. This is not unlike the bathroom in our actual house, which is the size of a single bedroom. Not only is the bathroom ridiculously large, but it is also absurdly non-private. I kind of like this about the bathroom, but maybe one day I’ll make some little folding screens to go around the toilet and bath. I’d also like to add a shower one day. Here she is, all jazzed up.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (Bathroom)

The bathroom (slash laundry) was painted with some green paint left over from a side table we did up for Little Fearse’s bedroom before she was born. (You know, the one she still doesn’t sleep in.) Admittedly the paint job is a bit rushed. We decided against adding curtains due to time restraints, but I’d like to add a sheer curtain some time that can stay across the window. Just to add a bit of privacy, you know? 😉

The ironing board, vacuum, washing machine, mop, bucket and broom all came from a set Little Fearse’s Nan bought for her at Aldi. You never know what you’re going to find in that place.

The toilet was from our dolls’ house angel (the piano and table and lounge suite friend…I think she really needs more credit for this house than we do at this point). It’s a very cute toilet actually – I love the chain and the fact that it’s porcelain. The bath was bought with a set of random things on eBay. It was a simple raw wood bath. BP painted it white and added the hook for a tap. I found the rubber ducky, soap, shampoo bottle and a small hair dryer that is in one of the vanity drawers in amongst the container of things I found at the op shop.

The vanity is one of the things I am most proud of designing. It is also the thing that Little Fearse likes destroying the most and I have had to reglue the sink and mirror several times already. This started off as a baby change table purchased with other nursery stuff on eBay. It was raw wood with red handles. I painted it with the wall paint and the handles with the gold paint we got from the Reverse Art Truck. BP screwed a hook into the top for the tap. I glued one of the bowls from the kitchen on top for the sink and glued a mirror from an old purse to the back (it’s plastic but quite reflective).

As well as curtains and some screens we plan to frame some small paintings from a MoMA guide to hang on the bathroom walls.

Next room: The Bedroom.

Mama xo