'Use What You've Got'

I hate to throw anything out and have always kept all manner of things as I"m sure they'll come in useful one day for something.

I was lucky enough to learn to sew as a child as my mother and grandmother both sewed and taught me.

I have taken this skill and developed it to upcycle and create things from the resources I have and find just as our grandparents generation did. Their actions were borne out of financial necessity; ours today to do the same thing, should be borne out of necessity to stop the waste and the subsequent damage we are inflicting on the environment in which we live.

I use old clothes, fabric remnants and anything else that I can put through my sewing machine to create things my family and friends need, want and can use.

Creativity is the key to using what you've got.

Over 6 years of blogging I have written and built up a collection of over 150 free sewing tutorials, suitable for all levels of sewing ability. Anyone can sew if you're willing to give it a go. A large proportion of these tutorials have been made using upcycled materials.


I have also produced 2 sewing e-books 

One to help teach your kids to sew - and upcycle too!

And another to make your own set of 
Eco-friendly, upcycled and reuseable shopping bags .

In all I do, I try to encourage others to 

Use What You've Got

I would love you to follow my journey on social media - just click one of these buttons...

I have also written one more ebook..

"How to turn what you've got into what you need."

Which includes 3 sewing tutorials.

weekly newsletter.
To arrange purchase of any or all of my ebooks, 
click here to go to Amazon.

Contact Me

If you have any comments or questions about things I've blogged about, my tutorials, or anything else, I'd love to hear from you.

You can email me on:


I hope you will explore my blog - there's so much to find from sewing tutorials and clothes upcycling to recipes and posts abut creativity.
Enjoy and don't forget to 'Use What You've Got'!

Sugar free success

Today is my birthday. It's also the day that marks the end of 9 'sugar free' weeks, and the day I could eat yummy chocolate, cakes and sweet desserts again.
But although someone at work baked me a really delicious chocolate cake, I found myself choosing a few almonds, over the cake for my snack.

Now this is a notable thing as I've always been a big eater of chocolate, cakes, biscuits and sweet desserts. I grew up having a chocolate biscuit after lunch every day and dessert after dinner every night. I've continued that through my adult life too.  

Occasionally I've decided to try and stop eating cakes and chocolates, but never really had that much motivation to do it and the effort was honestly a bit half-hearted.

When I had kids I put on weight, but gradually over the years I've lost most of that weight.

About a year ago, I was sitting at a swim carnival with my daughter. I was wearing shorts, and she looked down at my legs and exclaimed, "Urgh! What's that??", pointing at my cellulite! Now I've had cellulite on my legs for a long time now, and haven't really worried about it that much - until that day and that comment. It reminded me that I still had weight to lose to be a size and shape I wanted to be and was happy with.  I wasn't 'overweight' but was at the top end of those charts that tell you your ideal weight range, but more importantly, I wanted to feel slimmer, fitter and run faster.

So last year I decided to focus, commit and slim down and tone up. I used my new Samsung watch to track my calories and exercise for 12 weeks and lost about 4 kg, putting me at a size, shape and weight I was happy with.  Note that it was only half the weight loss of my target, but once I'd reached this size, I felt happy enough to stop. (but at this stage was still 4kg off my 'goal weight')

Why does this matter?  If I was happy? What is a number?  
That's how I felt, so thought no more of it, I'd slimmed down and toned up, and basically did it by only eating when I was hungry - not eating because I was bored, angry, greedy or any other reason. Seems a simple enough plan and it worked!

So why am I now talking about going 9 weeks without sugar?

Well - my 'goal weight' was 60kg, which is the weight I was in my early 20s, and seems a nice round number. It was the number I always said when I tried to slim down or lose weight over the years. Yet I had reached 64kg and was happy.

So, what happened?

Well, it started on a friend's birthday at work, when there was a delicious rich chocolate cake baked and I had a slice after lunch. It was so rich that I 'had to have another cup of tea to get through the piece of cake'.
When I said this - my choice of words actually made me stop and think...should I really be saying I  have to 'get through' a piece of delicious cake, like it's a chore?  Something wasn't right.
I felt full of sugar the rest of that afternoon, then.... my daughters both called to say they weren't swimming after school as they'd planned to...  I can't even remember their excuse..reason.. whatever. But that was another trigger that made me stop and think.

I was frustrated with my girls for not sticking to what they said they were going to do. It's not about whether they swim or not, or do whatever after school activities they choose or not. It's the idea that if you say you're going to do something, you should do it. To keep on changing your mind is a bad habit - especially when your decisions affect others - who are coming to pick you up, or take you places.  I often schedule things that I want to do around my girls' plans. I have plenty of things to do that can be flexible in their timing, but their sports need someone to take them to and from and I'm happy to help them with that.  But their decisions were affecting my plans and it was frustrating.  I was trying to teach them the importance of sticking to your plans and following through with what you say you're going to do.

So....this all made me think of me saying my magical 'target weight' of 60kg over and over again for several years, but never actually sticking at my plans for long enough to reach that magic number. I'd stop when it got hard and I'd say - oh but I'm happy at this weight.  But wasn't I just doing exactly what I was getting angry with my girls for not doing? It's the old 
'do as I say not as I do'. Not good.

So on the spur of the moment I decided to follow my own advice and stick to what I said I was going to do. But initially I had no real plan.

How could I lose the final 4 kg?  I exercise LOTS, and have tried increasing that to no avail, I just get hungrier. Eating less doesn't work either - I've failed endless times on willpower for that - and sensible feelings too that when I'm exercising so much, my body needs the fuel. I'm a big believer in listening to your body.

So my spur of the moment decision was to stop eating sugary desserts, cakes, biscuits and cakes - until my birthday, which was then 9 weeks away. Over the following few days I decided that fruit was ok, and I wasn't worried about a little bit of sauce here and there and other things that may have a little added sugar, but generally I just avoided cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweet desserts.

Weeks 2 and 3 were I think the hardest. There were a lot of moments of craving, but each time I felt like having something sweet and chocolately, I reminded myself that if I gave in, I would be doing exactly what I was frustrated at my girls for doing - giving in when it got hard, not sticking to my word, and finally I seem to have found the motivation that worked!

Overall, the 9 weeks really weren't hard. One of the reasons I wanted to lose the kilos was to run faster. About 3 weeks in I got on the scales and was 2 kg lighter than my starting weight. So I went and did Parkrun ( a free 5km run ). I spent the whole run telling myself in my head that I was 2kg lighter - and that was like NOT carrying 2 bags of sugar on my usual run - so I should be faster. I pushed and talked to myself the whole way and ran a personal best time.  I did it again a week later - again going faster.

It was my younger daughter who pointed out that it was probably all in my head, which I believe is true. My weight fluctuates by a couple of kg all the time, so I hadn't actually lost the weight, was just in a dip - which I probably had lots of and had run at that weight before. The difference was my mental attitude, telling myself I should and could run faster. I believed I could and I did.

This was a fantastic motivation for me and I spent the next few weeks discovering some new sugar-free desserts and snacks, like chocolate avocado banana mousse, and a variety of bliss balls.

After 7 weeks I tried on some clothes that I've kept for 16 years, unable to wear because I'd put on weight but unable to get rid of them. I held onto the hope that one day I'd manage to slim back down and wear them again. And guess what - finally I could. Although I got on the scales and haven't really lost weight - something has changed and I can wear all those clothes I've kept for so long!

In the redistribution of my weight - I am slimmer somehow, but weigh much the same. However, I feel like I've finally reached that goal.  I thought my goal was a number - but it wasn't, it was a state of both body and mind.  

I can finally wear all the clothes in my wardrobe, I feel great and I'm running faster.

AND - as if all that wasn't enough - my cellulite has vanished!  I was talking to my girls about my success at the weekend and mentioned the disappearance of my cellulite. 
They asked, "What's cellulite?".
My reply to that question was to reach down to my thighs and squeeze to 'show' them my cellulite...but couldn't find any to show!!   I'm amazed at this as it's not something I'd set out to do, nor ever really considered as a goal. I just had in my head that cellulite was a part of ageing and I wasn't worried about it. I didn't like it but hadn't considered looking at ways to get rid of it.

So that brings me up to today, my birthday and the end of my own personal challenge.  I have various sweet things stashed in our fridge and freezer. Things I've been looking forward to eating again - in particular a Cadbury's Creme Egg (my favourite).

Over the weekend, I had started to wonder what my eating habits will return to now - and what I want them to return to. I no longer crave chocolate and sugar. I've seen such a big difference and change from sticking to my word and just cutting out cakes, biscuits and chocolate. Do I even want to eat it again?

So today when I was presented with my beautiful chocolate birthday cake, I took a very small slice and had 2 small bites. I could appreciate it was a really good chocolate cake, but had no desire to eat it, so stopped after those 2 small bites.  It just all felt wrong.  Chocolate for me is such a pleasure to eat, but this just wasn't. I was eating it for the sake of it because it was my birthday, it was the day I could start eating sugar again after my challenge, and well, you eat cake on your birthday.

But no - after those two bites I wrapped up the cake slice and put it in my lunch box. At my next break I had a few almonds and didn't even look at the cake.  
I brought the slice home and ate it after dinner. More because I still felt I should - and a big part of me wants to enjoy eating cakes and chocolate again.  I managed to finish the slice but felt full of sugar afterwards and regretted eating it.

My feeling now is that last year I learned to control my mind and only eat when I was actually hungry. This time I think I've got rid of the mental chocolate cravings - and the physical manifestation of needing something sweet to go with my cup of tea, or just because it's after dinner, have a cake.  
The plan is now to try and go with what my body feels like. If I feel like some chocolate, I'll have something small. Or if I feel like a cake - have a small piece. But if I don't feel like it - don't eat it.

I've been a big sugar eater and sweet tooth all my life - and it's hard to wrap my head around the idea that I don't want to eat chocolate cake - my favourite cake.  
I'm still learning and figuring this all out.

For those of you who know my blog - I haven't been able to spend much time on it at all, and had no time for sewing for the past year and a bit since I went back to work teaching.  I would like to sew a little again, and breathe new life into my blog.

There is so much I want to do, and my problem now is trying to fit it all in - there just aren't enough hours in the day.

So my next challenge is to find time to do all those things I want to.  Looking at what I've achieved over the past 9 weeks just by simply doing what I said I was going to do, has opened my eyes to possibilities and I'm excited!

Phew!  Well if you've read this far - thank you for taking the time.
I felt the need to share my story and it helps me to put it into words like this.

I'm not sure what comes next exactly, but I believe that 

Success comes from doing things differently.

These past 9 weeks of no sugar were started on the spur of the moment with no real plan - it just kind of developed and grew as I went along.  This is different to all the times I've tried to reach my 'body weight/size' goal as I've always planned my attack and started on a Monday.

So I figure this new approach (for me) has worked once, so I'll just go with the flow and work things out as I go.

Have you ever had an experience like this? Something you've tried to or wanted to do for years - failed and then suddenly managed it?  For me it was absolutely all about finding the right motivation. Fitting into clothes, reaching a number, running faster were all goals but never really enough motivation.
Wanting to show my girls how to be strong and committed was my motivation - to be a good role model for my daughters inspired me. It took me years to find the motivation that works - now I'm holding on to it!

Have you found your motivation yet?

My year of change

This year I have gone back to paid work teaching English as a foreign language, after several years staying home to take care of our children and doing various flexible casual jobs and working on my sewing and blogs from home. It's been a big change working set hours again but I've really enjoyed the change and the new challenge.

I haven't managed to do much sewing this year at all. I did make a toy hammock for my youngest daughter which she loves and it's great for keeping at least some of her cuddly toys out of the way!

Aside from that, all I've done sewing-wise this year is fixing and mending.  I do keep looking at my sewing machine which is hiding under its cover and thinking about the cupboard full of fabric and bits and pieces I have and wondering what I'm going to do with it all.

I'd also like to get back to learning to crochet, which I've been slowly working on for a couple of years now but has fallen by the wayside this year!

I am going to continue teaching which takes up most of my time, but I do want to get back to some sewing and make use of all the fabric and other resources I have. This is my problem and challenge to figure out a plan for over the next few weeks.

We're soon heading off on a big family trip to New Zealand which will be a lovely break and a big chance to reflect on this year which has brought a lot of change into my life. 
I want to continue to develop my blog to reflect those changes and the new direction. I still have the strong philosophy of 'use what you've got' so I'll be taking stock of everything I have from physical and material resources to my own personal abilities and talent and trying to mesh them all together to form a knockout plan for 2018!

So watch this space!
Have you had any big changes of direction in your life?  What are they and where are you headed to now?

I'd love to hear your thoughts too!

Christmas Shouldn't Cost the Earth

Christmas is my favourite 'celebration time' of the year. I love the build up, the excitement, the decorations, the music and all the fuss. BUT what I don't like is the sky-rocketing cost of Christmas both financially, to buy so many gifts, cards, decorations, clothes etc; but also the environmental cost of the throw away plastic stocking filler toys, the endless packaging, the throw away gift wrapping and overall excess and resulting wastage.  

Yes you can now buy cheap Christmas goodies - ornaments, stockings, decorations etc - but images and stories (like this one from the Huffington Post) about where these cheap Christmas things are made provide even more of a reason to make things yourself! Do you want a plastic, artificial Christmas mass produced in China, or a more personal handmade - eco-friendly Christmas just the way you want?

Christmas shouldn't cost the Earth

I believe you can celebrate Christmas in a big way and in style without it costing the Earth.

You can  'use what you've got'  to make and create decorations, gifts, foods etc and do it all in an eco-friendly and sustainable way by using what you've got and being smart.

Click on the pictures and links below to see more.

There is also a group Pinterest board where I invite anyone to add inspiration they find for an Eco and Budget Friendly Christmas. There are already heaps of ideas there - come and take a look!

And here are some tutorials for things to sew for Christmas, at little or no cost - 

Use What You've Got!

6 Super Novelty Gifts you can make yourself

At Christmas time the shops are full of all kinds of special novelty gifts to give.  They are generally fun things to give and have, but not really useful or needed.  Now I love the excitement of Christmas including the gift giving a lot, but try to be mindful in the gifts I'm giving that I'm not being wasteful either with money - or to the environment.  So I decided to see what 'novelty gifts' I could make myself - at a cost of next to nothing, using scrap fabric and supplies I had at home.  These gifts make great stocking fillers or perhaps Secret Santa gifts, Plus they are all small and light which is great for posting overseas!

I hope you can find some inspiration here to make your own 'novelty' gifts this year and save a little money - and reduce waste for the environment!

If you like the look of these tutorials, why not take a look at 
Where there are over 150 free sewing tutorials for making all manner of things and for all levels of sewing ability. Maybe you can find other gifts to make!

Teaching your kids to sew

Over the years my two girls have shown an interest here and there in learning to sew. This interest comes and goes but I always make sure to grab the moments when they're keen and interested and help them give it a go and learn. I believe that learning to sew - and other crafting skills are valuable ones for kids to learn.

But back to my girls sewing. Over the years, they've made a few things pencil cases are always a favourite:

I've encouraged them to design their own things too - here's ...well..ok, another pencil case, designed by my younger daughter:

And a cuddly turtle, designed and made my by youngest.

There were other things they made - it just seems to be the pencil cases I took pictures of!

Then a couple of years ago, I decided to put together an e-book which was a short course for kids to learn to sew. Something with a bit of structure to help kids (or indeed adults) learn some basic sewing skills which would enable them to sew all kinds of different things - particularly learning to follow tutorials as there are so many great tutorials available online now - you can learn to make just about anything!

My girls agreed to be the 'pattern and tutorial testers' for my book. After I had written each individual tutorial, I would give it to them to try and follow and make the item themselves. They would then be able to give me feedback on what they found easy or difficult and I could adjust the patterns and tutorials accordingly.

I decided to incorporate my favourite thing and one I'm passionate about into this learn to sew book too - clothes upcycling.  So the contents of this e-book can be made using an old pair of jeans and some co-ordinating fabric.  

My girls both had a pair of coloured jeans that they'd grown out of that they wanted to use - and they chose their own matching fabric to use with them.  
We had a lot of fun with creating this e-book together, and the girls learnt a lot about sewing too!

Here are all the things they learned to make following the tutorials in my e-book. Those in the picture below are the ones I made as examples while I created the tutorials - and I also used a coloured pair of jeans!

This e-book is available as a PDF download for just

So why not help your kids learn a useful lifelong skill and make some fun things along the way.

Simply email me at jillinamillion@y7mail.com to arrange or purchase or  go to my e-book page and read about my other e-book for making a set of eco-friendly shopping bags - also upcycling an old pair of jeans in the process!

Happy sewing and upcycling!