Day 49 - Use What You've Got

A little slow to get today's post up - I'm in Sunday mode!!

I've just been picking things from our garden. The tomato plants all needed trimmed back - so I picked the last of the tomatoes (mostly green ones). Also a few peppers - a purple capsicum, green capsicum 2 jalapenos and a few chillis. Then finally a very colourful carrot crop!

Now to put them to good use! Some will go in salads to make them nice and colourful - but the green tomatoes I need some inspiration for!

I remember last year my mum telling me she found a recipe for green tomato cake that turned out very tasty!  I'm not sure I'm convinced I want to make a cake out of them though! I shall have to Google what to do with green tomatoes!

Any suggestions very welcome!

Are you harvesting anything tasty from your garden just now!!

Extra Moist Banana and Raisin Muffins - Day 47 Use What You've Got

A few years ago, I used to have a market stall at the local shopping centre once a month, selling things I'd made. There, I met a lovely lady called Mary, who made and sold beautiful baby and kids clothes.  We used to chat at the markets, and occasionally I'd visit her at home.  A couple of years ago, she sold up and moved down South to a retirement village to be nearer her family.  When she left she gave me piles of fabric and crafting books that she no longer had space for.  I miss seeing her around and our chats about sewing.

So what has all this to do with muffins?  Well this recipe is one she gave me. It was her favourite and she always had some made up and frozen ready to warm in the microwave and serve up with a cup of tea if anyone came calling. I had many a 'Banana and Raisin' muffin with Mary, and they will always make me think of her!

 Mary's Extra Moist Banana and Raisin Muffin Recipe

3/4 cup boiling water
1teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup other dried fruit you like - eg. dates or currents
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate or caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour

Combine the boiling water, bicarb and dried fruit in a bowl. Leave to stand for 10 mins

Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease the muffin tray.

In another bowl, combine the banana, oil, apple juice concentrate and eggs. Beat.

Stir the dried fruit and their liquid into the banana mixture.
Sift the flours into the mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon into the muffin tray.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy with a cuppa and a friend!

Notebook and pen folder from upcycled shorts - Day 46 Use What You've Got

Last week I made some mini backpacks with some old shorts I had in my stash. 

I still have some of the fabric from the shorts left, so yesterday I made a matching notebook folder:

I adapted this tutorial for the folder.

I think they make a cute little matching set.

With the all important seal of approval from my two girls, I think I'll make matching folders for the other backpacks too!

For heaps more clothes upcycling ideas - and to add any of your own - check out the ongoing linky:

And you can always follow me on Pinterest too, where I'm always adding plenty of new upcycling ideas as I find them.

Day 45 Use What You've Got - my 'other' blog!

Yesterday, I shared a video on my Facebook page relating to the ALS ice-bucket challenge.  This video really made me think about peer pressure, and standing up for what you believe in - not just following the crowd.

It inspired me to write a post about it - on my other blog, 
which is about how we're educating our kids to become the best people they can be.

I haven't kept this blog up regularly - and thought this was a good opportunity to 'use what I've got',  in order to express my opinion.

You can read my post here:

How to make a personalised fabric bookmark - Day 44 Use What You've Got

I've been sorting through and clearing my computer files recently. In my tutorials folder I found some that I made a couple of years ago for my girls to follow when they were learning so sew some basic things.  I thought I may as well make use of these tutorials and share them on the blog.

Here's one for making a personalised fabric bookmark like this:

It's a very simple and straightforward sewing projects - great for kids to get started on learning to sew!

The full tutorial is available as a free PDF download - to get it, 

Can your kids sew? Did you teach them? Do you think it's important for them to learn to follow instructions for sewing and creating things, or is it better to let them learn by experimenting and playing around with the fabric and supplies?

Do you have to spend money to make money? - Day 42 Use What You've Got

With my current challenge of 'using what I've got', when this question came up, I thought it was a good time to think hard about whether you do need to 

spend money to make money.

As I've mentioned many times before, I would love to turn my blog into a viable money-making business. To be able to do what I love doing for a 'job' would be the ideal situation for me -and I'm sure there are plenty of other people out there who would like to do this too!

What can I pay for to help grow my blog?

1. Transfer from Blogger to Wordpress. 
 I've read lots about this over the years - how you shouldn't leave yourself at the mercy of Google, who can take away your blog at a moments notice for no apparent reason, then all your hard work will be lost.  Paying for a Wordpress site with private hosting and a domain name is the solution - it's only a few dollars a month after all. 
 Well all those few dollars add up!  I have my blog backed up and all my 100+ sewing tutorials saved elsewhere 'just in case'.  Honestly, I feel I'm not writing about anything offensive or risque; so the chances of Google deleting my blog must be pretty slim.  There's always a risk in everything, and if anything happened to my blog then I've got the resources and know-how to start again, bigger and better than before! I trialled a Wordpress blog last year when I was offered free hosing for a year, and learned a lot, but didn't feel the need to continue it or transfer my current blogs at this stage. I'm happy to just stick with the wonderful free service from Blogger.

2. Paying to increase traffic, followers or likes
I'm always looking at ways to improve the traffic to my blogs and so boost my advertising and other revenue.   Recently I've been exploring the use of social media more.  On Facebook, when one of my posts seems particularly popular, I get a message from Facebook itself asking if I'd like to promote that post even more via a paid promotion, I guess to 'ride the wave' so to speak of this popular post.  I could also pay to advertise my Facebook page - the more you pay, the more 'likes' you are supposed to receive for your page.

Now over the years, I have been through some of the 'follow me, follow you' on my blog, joining in blog hops where the whole point is to get new followers, and other set up opportunities where bloggers all support each other with likes, comments, follows or whatever, just to increase our 'numbers'.

When I was at a  much earlier stage with my blog - just starting out, I'm sure this did help - having a larger number of followers and more comments on my posts did make my blog look more popular that perhaps it really was. And of course this was free not paid promotion. But over time, (I've been blogging for over 4 years now) I have built up my blog and my 'community' of genuine readers and followers.  I don't feel that paying for more is the way to build my blog now - I want people to genuinely like my blog on its own merits and follow along because they are really interested in my content.

Can I increase traffic and followers for free?
To continue to increase my traffic, I have to get my blog and content out there and noticed more and in more places. So the question would be - should I pay for advertising or promotion - or are there ways I can do this 'using what I've got' and without having to spend money?

I believe there are ways.  If I can put out good content - interesting articles, great sewing tutorials etc, then use linky parties, free sewing tutorials sites, keep on building my social network, then I believe good content will get out there and spread.   I've seen the spikes I've had in traffic from the odd 'stumbleupon' of my blog or a particular post, or a mention of one of my posts on a larger site.  These posts have been mentioned because of their own merit, not because I paid someone to promote them.  This is the kind of promotion and resource I want to tap into - genuine liking and appreciation of my work! I'm always exploring different avenues of getting my blog out there through various social media and other sites - there are plenty of free opportunities out there - just as I feature other blogs and crafters on my own blog. Once again - what I do on my own blog in terms of promoting others, is the kind of promotion I would be happy for others to do for me and have had many times over the years.

3. Pay for a better blog design and layout
Since this is a creative blog and is a reflection of my own creativity, I like the fact that my blog is of my own design.  I've learnt how to make a header, edit pictures, make clickable pictures and buttons etc over the years and I'm proud of the fact that my blog is my own creation. I've always been a big fan of DIY - for anything and everything possible.  It's so much more rewarding to figure something out for yourself than to simply pay someone else to do it for you.  
I know I'm putting in 100% effort for my own blog - and know I can change or improve things whenever I need to - there are so many great tutorials out there to show you how to do practically anything! 
Paying someone else to design my blog would kind of feel like it's going against my own principles and ideals of doing things for yourself when you can. After all - the title of my blog is 
Creating my way to Success.  Perhaps I'm too controlling, and I often wonder whether I would happily pay others to do things for me if I was rich? The answer is probably yes, as it would then free up my time to do and try lots of other fun things. However, I'm not at that stage yet, and it's nice to have full control and responsibility for my own blog and business growth.

4. Pay for blogging and money making courses
A few years ago, we got into a little property investing and made some money.  We decided that to continue to make money this way we needed to learn more and have the support of others and mentors to assist us. So I embarked on a property investing course for a few months which did cost a fair bit of money. 

 I learned a lot from the course and met some great people, but I think the biggest thing I took from the course was that success is all about commitment, dedication and persistence. Whatever you decide you want to do and achieve, you can do if you set your mind to it. It's all about finding your passion.
 There is always information out there, and people willing to help if you ask.  There are plenty of paid courses out there and I'm sure some brilliant ones, but there are also plenty of free resources - the internet, the library for borrowing books and tapes; groups and communities to join in your town or online. Not everything costs money.

I don't spend lots of money so don't expect others to either

When I reflect on what I want to gain for myself, and what I offer and give out to others, I want these two things to be similar in terms of the 'how'. My blog has well over 100 sewing tutorials available now - both in posts and as free PDF downloads. I've spent countless hours over the years creating these - because I enjoy doing it.  I make them available for free because I myself generally only use free information and tutorials.  Occasionally I will buy a book or how to course, but that is the exception rather than the rule.  So following my own rule - that is how I like to share my knowledge and skills - lots of free tutorials and encouragement to others to DIY!  
 I am currently working on an e-book for sale, but as I said, this is the exception rather than the rule to sell my work rather than provide it for free. I'm making every effort to make it great value for money and low cost - as that's the kind of things I buy for myself personally.

In researching this post I found an interesting article from The Entrepreneur Mind stating that you don't need money to make money. I love this quote from the article:

"Having no money doesn’t mean you have no


This is exactly what I'm trying to do and explore with my current challenge of "Use What You've Got". I have so many resources that I can use to grow my blog into a profitable business. I have my skills, in sewing, blogging and writing which are constantly being developed and improving. I also have a large fabric stash to work with creating tutorials and also making items to sell in my, as yet very small,  Madeit shop.  There are endless free resources available online - posts and tutorials where people are generously sharing their own knowledge and experiences about blogging and growing a business. I'm trying to make full use of all of these resources, and in turn share more of what I learn to continue passing the knowledge on!

So what do you think?
Do you believe you need to spend money to make money?
Have you already spent some worthwhile money that has helped your business grow?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Door hanger reminder notes - Day 40 Use What You've Got

A couple of days ago on Facebook, Meijo's Joy shared a picture of notepads in the shape of door hangers for leaving reminder notes on. I thought they were a great idea - as I'm always looking for ways to help my kids remember what to take to school each day!

But rather than notepads - I wanted to make something that was reusable.

So I got some cardboard and coloured paper, cut the door-hanger shape from them, stuck them all together and covered them with clear contact paper (that you use for covering books).

I made one with red on one side and green on the other..

And another with blue on one side and yellow on the other.

Then I just added a board pen and a piece of fabric (from my scrap stash) for rubbing the messages out before writing new ones.

Hopefully now my girls will be able to leave themselves notes and never forget anything for school again!

I can always hope anyway! It'll certainly be a novelty for a while!

This was a great project using what I already had in the house. It cost me nothing and hopefully will be very useful!

How do you help your kids remember what to take to school each day?  I've tried all kinds of notes before -but I'm hoping this one will be successful!

Mini backpacks from shorts - an upcycle tutorial. Day 39 Use What You've Got

I have a pile of shorts in my stash to be upcycled, 
and had the idea of making mini backpacks with them. 
The size is perfect for kids - or for adults when you just want to take a small bag that won't get in your way!

As this is an upcycle tutorial and you won't necessarily have the same type of shorts - I've tried to be as general as I can, and sizes will depend on the size of the shorts you use!

So here's the shorts I started with, together with a little plain fabric for the bag lining:

Cutting the pieces
The hem of the shorts was wide and had a neat finish. So first I carefully cut both hems off to use as the bag straps.

Next I cut the  button and hole fastening from the front of the shorts, so that I could use this for the bag fastening.

Then, the main bag part was cut from one side of the shorts:

Cutting through both layers of the shorts to end up with a folded piece of fabric:

For the flap of the backpack, I cut around the back pocket of the other side of the shorts, so this piece was a little smaller than the folded piece.

Finally I cut pieces of the inner fabric the same size as these two larger pieces from the shorts.
Now here's all the pieces for the mini backpack:

Making the mini backpack
First the flap: Take the buttonhole piece from the shorts

Lay this at the bottom and in the middle of the flap for the bag like this:

Then lay the inner fabric flap piece on top of this, flip the whole thing over and pin around the side and bottom sides (where the button hole piece is)

Then turn the flap right sides out, trim the corners

 and top-stitch around those 3 sides.

Now for the main bag part
Take the button from the shorts and place this about (1") up from the bottom centre of what will be the front of the bag.

Pin then stitch around the button using a zig zag or appliqué stitch on your machine. Remember to only stitch through one layer of the fabric!

Now place the two straps on the same part of the bag with the ends lined up with the bottom of the bag as shown:

Then fold the bag in half - right sides together and pin around the side and bottom edges:
Stitch along both sides.

Boxing out the corners of the bag
Now put your hand inside the bag and 'puff out' one of the corners like this:

Flatten the corner so the side and bottom seams are lined up - and stitch a line across like this:

Then snip off the pointy corner just above your line of stitching

Repeat with the other corner. Then turn the bag right side out.
Place the other ends of the straps on the top end of the bag as shown - making sure the straps aren't twisted!

Then place the bag 'flap' outer fabric side down on top and pin and stitch into place.

The bag lining
Take the last piece of inner fabric you have and fold in half like the outer bag part. 

 Pin along the side and bottom, leaving a gap along the bottom for turning the bag out.

Box out the corners of this piece just as you did with the outer part.

Putting it all together
Now take your outer bag and slide it inside the inner bag so that the right sides of both fabrics are facing each other.

Matching up the open ends, pin then stitch the two parts together.

Using the gap you left in the bottom of the inner part of the bag, turn the bag right sides out.

Stitch the opening closed. You could use a slip-stitch to make the stitching invisible, but since this is the inside of the bag and won't be seen, I just simply machine stitched the opening closed.

And there you have, one mini backpack!

They're a great size for little kids too! 
(This is the closest I had to a little kid for modelling purposes!)
For the downloadable PDF version of this tutorial, click here.

For more upcycle tutorials you can go here

Or for over 100 sewing tutorials for all kinds of things and all levels and abilities of sewing, go here.