Our Frugal Lifestyle

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Passionate about eco-frugality. I used to party hard, clubbing my way from pay-packet to pay-packet. Never getting ahead, just getting by. Then came our much wanted baby with no savings in the bank - only an old car. Changes were made to our lifestyle and we didn't turn back. In the past 6yrs we purchased a flat, found employment, lived below our means, built an emergency fund, purchased a reliable car and saw the financial benefits of our frugal lifestyle. Our only debt is our mortgage. Our aim is to manage our cash flow wisely, pay off our home quickly and eventually work for pleasure, not necessity. Join us on our journey, share insights, tips and tricks to help us and others to get ahead while having a good time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Library Bag

With the new school year commencing soon, I wanted something homemade and special for for my sweet 4 year old...

So a couple weeks ago when I saw a pretty piece of green fabric with small flowers for $2 at the Op Shop, I knew I wanted to make her a library bag. I held off buying the fabric knowing it would be marked down. I returned the following week and purchased it for $1 at half price. I also had a piece of dot fabric from a $1 dress purchased in 2010. I still have plenty of this fabric, it's a strong cotton that can be used for many future projects. You you may see it again and again. And lastly I have Hello Kitty fabric at home which was purchased new in 2005. I put these all together and sewed my Dolly a new School Library Bag.

(In Australia it's often required by primary schools that students have a library bag to transfer borrowed school library books from school to home and back again. This aids in keeping them together and protected from further wear and tear.)

New School Library Bag - Dolly LOVES it.

The library bag has cost me less then $1.50 to make. Inexpensive compared to the themed library bags on sale at the shopping centres. Also by making the bag myself I have opted out of buying more new stuff, used items already at home and purchased 1 small piece of fabric, second hand.

It's the time that is takes me to sew that is frustrating. I understand that the more I practice the better and faster I will become, but being impatient and busy means I want faster now! I thought about attending sewing classes to gain much needed skills but have decided to teach myself as best as I can with books and You Tube as a free alternative. I can't afford paying for hobby classes at this point in my life.

I found the instructions for the library bag in Kelly Doust's book, The Crafty Kid (borrowed from the library of course). It was a little tricky for me understanding some of the instructions however as I made errors I had great light bulb moments, unpicked and tried again. Kelly Doust doesn't get you too just sew, she makes you to do French Seams so the finish is beautiful and polished. Fortunately my 4 year old will be forgiving of my beginners messy stitches. But now I'm working on a Birthday gift library bag, and this one will need to look polished.

Do you sew? If yes.. how did you learn? Do you attend any "hobby" classes?


  1. The bag is lovely , and it's great that nobody else will have one quite like Dolly's. I sew. I learned at school in the 1970s when sewing lessons were compulsory - along with ' Home Economics' and woodwork.I loved it so much that I chose it as one of my 'O'levels, and studied it for 2 years from age 14 to 16 and have a qualification in it! I made clothes for myself when I couldn't afford to buy them. I used to go into shops , have a good look at the item I wanted to make, then go away, make a pattern out of newspaper, buy the fabric out of my babysitting money and get sewing. They were 'hippy' style clothes - smocks with numerous panels falling from a yoke and flowing dresses. I made my older sister's maternity clothes, and I made clothes for my own children when they were young. I am very grateful to Mrs Rae( my sewing teacher) - even if she was a bit of a battleaxe!


    I can only do basic hand sewing!

    Sft x

  3. The bag is beautiful and would cost a fortune in shops. I did learn to sew at school and hated it as they made it so long and drawn out but I did learn to do French seams which I used a while ago when making a slip as I couldn't find what I wanted in the shops. I don't do much sewing now the children are grown up. I'm not much good but children's clothes were expensive then and as a stay-at-home mum we needed to be frugal and also had the time for it. Mainly I learned from books.

  4. I'm the same - a slow learner. I must persevere though as it's a great skill to have once mastered I imagine!

  5. The best thing is no one else will ever get their bag confused with hers. I am 65.5 and learned to sew from the age of 4. At 10, I started sewing on a treadle sewing machine. At 12, I made a velvet dress and was paid! At 14 I made a dress my mother wore to church. People were complimenting her. She said I made it. Then, I said, "Mama taught me to sew." Mama said,"I did not teach her how to do all she knows, she learned by herself."

    I have made wedding dresses, outfitted the whole party, learned to draft a pattern when I was 11, sewn for children from birth, daughter in NYC has measured herself and gotten perfect fitting clothing in the mail from patterns cut from things she sent me or patterns I drafted. I can do just about anything from tailored garments to tailored drapes.

    However, amateur sewers and their instructions baffle me. They use wrong techniques, things that are just backward. But, they never asked me, so I volunteer no hints or critiques. For years, I made my panties and bras beside all the outer garments for myself, coats, anything I wanted or needed.

  6. Yes I sew. I remember my Mum teaching me how to thread the machine but that's about it. I am self taught mainly. When I first went to Uni in the late 90's, I bought myself a second hand machine and taught myself from library books. For some reason it never occurred to me to try sewing anything simple first, I went straight into dresses, shirts and trousers. So naturally my first few things were wonky or ill fitting. But in some ways that was good too, because I challenged myself immediately and my skills improved. Now I can make most things, although I've never attempted anything as complicated as a wedding dress. But it also helped that my flatmates at the time were also keen sewers, so at times we had a little sweatshop going. I remember whipping up a skirt or top to wear out that night, and because we'd be in a hurry, they would never be completely finished, held together with safety pins or even velcro! Having said all that, I think I need to do a course on patternmaking and finishing techniques, just to take my dressmaking skills to the next level.

    It is true though that you will get faster and especially when you are still making simple things, its like learning to drive a manual car or any new skill really. One day you'll just be doing it without even thinking about it. Youtube is great though, I've taught myself tons of new things from this amazing resource. In the last few years I've started screen printing which I taught myself entirely from Youtube, and now I can print my own designs onto fabric to sew into other things. Good luck!

  7. My mum showed me how to use the sewing machine when I was ten as she was sick of making dolls clothes for me. I quickly worked out things like the fact that pants are not just a rectangle with a big slit sewn up the middle! I was making my own clothes by the time I was 14 and went on to make my own wedding dress ( as well as several other people's wedding and bridesmaid dresses in the meantime). Seeing is very therapeutic for me - as I have been doing it for more than 25 years I don't really have to think terribly much about what I'm doing and my mind is free to process other things. My inclination to sew is also a very good indication of my current emotional state - when i'm happy I sew prolifically and it is nothing to make a shirt before breakfast ( I did that three times in one week once). I was blessed with sons and find myself wistfully looking at little girls in pretty little dresses wishing I had a daughter to sew one for....never mind :). Thanks for the blog. Kylie ( a fellow Darwinian now)

  8. I sew, but not all that well. I find I lack the patience to do the steps as needed. Well that is my story, perhaps reality is I am just not very good at it. I am pretty much self taught, though my mother was always making things so she likes to say she taught me.

  9. Hi Scarlet, I hated sewing at school. I had to do 6 months or sewing and 6 months of cooking. I played up and hang out with the boys (I loved the boys), the teachers were frustrated with me. I saw no point and rebelled as I felt it was too girly. Now I feel very different as it's survival with a special flare. I mean you could have a plain skirt or boiled potato or use your skills to give it razza-ma-tazz, bing, bang, boom!

    SFT, I learning small steps at the time and using library books and blogs for ideas.

    Jean, When I was a kid clothes were expensive too. I find too many clothes are in expensive and poorly made now. Meaning they tear easily and are replaceable so people just buy more new stuff very easily. To sad for our poor mother earth.

    Hi I love Op Shop. All those lovely op shop finds that you can upcycle with some sewing.

    Hi Practical, I used to sew when I was 18 with Grandmas help. But that was only for 6 months when I lived near her. I was so broke I lost 20 kilos so I cut my big out of fashion country style dresses and turned them into pencil skirts. But then never sewed again. 20 years on I'm having a go again, not from necessity as such but from a want of saving money, being kinder to my planet while still having fun and of course having pretty things.

    Hi Eve and your tree :-) Sewing with friends sound grand! I once saw a group of young women in Darwin who meet up once a month in each others home for crafty gatherings. Once a year they hire a house across the waters in the bush by the sea for the weekend, with their sewing machines, lino printers, paper, cutters, beads, knitting ect. Now that I'm crafting I would love to join them and you have reminded me of them. If any Darwinites read this could you point me in the direction of how to find them... Thanks for the luck Eve - I need lots.

    Hi Kylie, Thanks for popping in. You can always make pretty girl things as gifts for Birthdays ect.. I bumped into a friend at spotlight last week. She was purchasing the best animal fabrics with jungle animals to make her 10 yr old son some really groovy shirts. I would love that skill.

    Rhianna, I'm not patient at all and move from activity to activity. But if I can get small things done and chop and change my activity I should be able to get things completed if I push myself. My new found lifestyle is pushing me in that direction. My mum sewed very little when I was a kid. Just mainly basic mending on a big black heavy Singer that look scary.

  10. Stephanie,

    Is there a Brown Owls in Darwin? If not maybe you could start one? I am a member of the Launceston chapter in Tasmania, its essentially a monthly casual craft session where like-minded men and women can come together and either work on their own projects or something as a group . It seemed like there was a chapter in Darwin in 2009 but I am not sure if it still running or not. Our group is extremely relaxed, people come and go. I go when I am home, but as I spend 9 months of the year travelling for work I miss most sessions and its cool. Essentially we sit around, have cups of tea and biccies and make stuff for a couple of hours. Sometimes, someone will volunteer to teach something. We've done crochet, screenprinting, lino cutting in the past and now we are working on a quilt to auction off for Kiva. I've included the link for the original founding member of Darwin Brown Owls, she may or may not be able to tell you if the group is still running. If not, why don't you start one? Its very low maintenance, I am one of the founding members, and essentially your main responsibility is deciding when are where you will have the meetings. We currently go to a cafe that opens for us after hours, and we buy coffee and cake from the owner, but you can have it anywhere. We've been in conference rooms, above a sewing shop etc and everyone just brought a plate. There are no hard and fast rules, the only benefit of coming in under the Brown Owls umbrella is that you get to contribute to the blog and have the Australia wide network of available to you. But you could just go it alone. Your choice! I love the group that hires the house though. Jump on that bandwagon I'd say!



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