Potato print pillowcase pants

Good day, crunchies and crunchettes!  Today I have another exciting upcycling, sewing machine project to share with you. It’s easy, it’s fun, and best of all, it’s pants!



This make-your-own-pants tutorial from The Guardian’s website has been on my ‘must try this’ list for a while, and when I had a load of pillowcase fabric left over from another project, I seized the chance for a bit of underwear craftage. The only problem was, the pillowcases were plain white and peach coloured, not nearly fun enough for new pants. So, I decided to unleash my inner 5-year-old and make a potato stamp. Huzzah!  After all, what’s the point of new underwear if it’s not fun?

Please do read The Guardian’s tutorial for more comprehensive instructions.  I made the polka dot pair pretty much according to their plan, but then I’d run out of knicker elastic and I wasn’t finished playing, so I made a second pair a bit differently.  So, I’ll give you a quick how-to for my improved Potato Print Pillowcase Pants.

You will need:

  • fabric
  • fabric paint and paintbrush (I used Dylon fabric paint)
  • a potato, knife and chopping board
  • sewing machine and thread
  • shirring elastic

TAKE HEED! It’s easiest to use stretchy fabric. I did not, and the polka dot pair came out way too small (hence the ribbon ties).

First of all, cut your fabric to shape. You can use an existing pair of pants as a pattern. If you do this, think about how stretchy your fabric is. (this is where I went wrong). If you’re using fabric with no stretch, like me, it’s easiest just to measure your hips and figure out the shape for yourself. Warning: they will look enormous!


All cut up and ready to beautify

Next, get your stamp ready. I used a new potato, since my design was so small. I cut the potato in half and nuked it in the microwave for 30 seconds to dry it out a bit. Trust me, don’t cook it for any longer than that or you’ll have a delicious-smelling, mushy stamp.

Draw your shape on, and carve it out carefully with a knife.


I made a cute heart. Awww.

Then, just use a brush to apply some paint to your stamp, and get printing! When the paint is dry, iron the fabric according to the paint instructions, and…

you’re ready to make some pants!


Look how pretty.

First, I ironed flat and pinned all the hems. This took quite some time, but it was worth it. If you’re using jersey fabric you don’t really need to bother with this step. You lucky thing.


Nest, pin the side and bottom seams. This would be a good time to try the pant-shaped-things on, to see if you’re on the right track, and adjust accordingly. When you’re satisfied, go ahead and sew the seams.

Almost finished! Are you excited? I am!

Finally, load the bobbin on your sewing machine with shirring elastic. Sew around the waist and legs, and you’re done!

Tip! Make sure you sew with the printed side facing up, or you’ll end up with the elastic showing. I made this mistake a couple of times, and believe me, I do not like to unpick and re-do when I’m sewing.


New pants!



I think I’ve found my new go-to craft for all fabric scraps.  Beware, fabric, lest ye be turned into pants!


Put your sexy new pants on and dance around the house like this.


Before you go, I want to give you a sneak preview of a SUPER EXCITING EPIC MEGA-PROJECT I’m in the middle of right now.  It should be done in the next few days, and I won’t give you any hints other than telling you that my fingers are pretty darn sore, but here’s a close-up to whet your appetite.


What can it be?!

 Speculate away, my friends.  Until then, have fun making your pants!



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Easy top / skirt

With less than two weeks to go until my move to sunny Savannah, I am in need of some pretty, summery clothes.  Here’s a really simple way to deal with this problem.

I saw this turorial on Sew Like My Mom a while ago, and have been dying to try it.  It is so well-explained, and looked so easy that even a haphazard sewer like me could probably do it.

Crunch time came on the day I made the half-and-half dress. I was on such a high after having actual sewing success that I just kept going, and made this top in the same afternoon!  I mentioned before that I had loads of material left over from the original dress that I hacked up – well, here’s where a lot of it went.  I present, the Top Skirt.


Sorry for the terrible mirror shot…

The tutorial over at Sew Like My Mom explains exactly how to do it, so I won’t bother.  I did make a few modifications though.  Firstly, I didn’t simply make a skirt out of an old t-shirt like she did.  Oh, no.  I decided to go one step further and make a combo top AND skirt!  (*gasp*)

I basically just added removable straps.  It was very easy.  I just took some scrap fabric and sewed 4 loops to the inside of the top, like this:


Make sure you put them a couple of inches below the top edge, or they will peek out.

The original dress happened to have a tie around the waist, so I just cut it in half, then trimmed a bit off each end to make the loops.  I attached a couple of old bra strap hooks, and voila!  The cool thing about the loops is that I could change up the straps to whatever I fancy, maybe a pretty piece of ribbon or something.

So, my spangly new garment can be worn as a strapless OR bestrapped top, OR a skirt, like this:


Fancy, right?

Also, it looks seriously cute by itself, like a tiny toddler dress.



When I’m finished with it I could find a 3-year-old to give it to.

So, there you have it – an easy and fun way to make something new.

Happy crunching!


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Hack it up, patch it up.

Well.  I have been living here in visa limbo at my parent’s house for a couple of months now, and the ‘change one thing every month’ project has, needless to say, completely fallen apart.  For now.  I will begin again, and hopefully cajole Adam into it too, once I get to the US.  Still waiting on that visa, but the good news is that we do at least have a place to live!  We’re getting there.

With nothing else to do all day except wait to hear from the embassy, I have been crafting with unprecedented ferocity.  I’ve been knitting and crocheting like a demon, and (most excitingly) playing with my mum’s sewing machine!  Sewing is fun but very hit-and-miss for me, since I have something of an avant-garde approach to it.  I generally dive in headfirst without bothering about things like measurements or precision.  Sometimes it even works!  So now we come to the point of today’s post – a fabulous dress I made by hacking up some other stuff and sticking it together again.

These kinds of dresses have been around for a while now, and my feelings about them have followed the same pattern as my feeling towards most trendy things: that’s weird / what’s the point of that / hmmm that one’s nice / man they’re cool / I WANT ONE.  The penny finally dropped when I was in H&M a few weeks ago (they have loads at the moment, like this one).

I looked at them and thought, 25 quid?  No chance.  It’s just a top and skirt stuck together right?  RIGHT? So I decided to make my own, and took myself to the nearest charity shop.  Here’s how to do it.

First of all, you obviously need 2 parts.  I liked the fabric of this dress and chose a plain vest top.

ImageApologies for the terrible picture.  Anyway – the dress was a fiver and the vest was a pound, I I think.  So far, winning.  I also got some really wide elastic to use as my waist band.

Next, I separated the dress into top and bottom halves.  It turned out that the skirt was so big that I only needed to use half of the fabric for my skirt (I made an adorable top out of the other half!).

Thirdly, I  tried the vest on and pinned my elastic waistband to it at belly button level. Then I sewed the elastic to the vest, before trimming the rest of the vest away.  Sew first, cut second, to avoid horrible mistakes and it being too short.  Finally, repeat the process by sewing the skirt to the bottom edge of the elastic.  Simple!

Here’s my finished dress.


Success!  It cost me maybe £8, and I had plenty of fabric left from the original dress to make other stuff.

Yay, sewing.


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A Long Overdue Post

As some of you may know, I have been moving around a lot since Christmas and I’m about to change continents twice in the next 4 months.  My ‘change one thing every month’ project has been put on hold for this period of upheaval, and will be resumed once I start my new life in the USA.  It seems a bit pointless to seek out new things here in Jeju when I’m leaving so soon, and I don’t want to buy any oils etc. for making toiletries, when my main goal is to reduce the amount of stuff I have to lug around.  I’m currently in the middle of packing and I can tell you, it’s bad enough as it is.

I have been doing a fair bit of knitting and cooking recently, but in my usual way I completely failed to take photos.  You’ll have to believe me when I say that the spinach and mushroom ravioli I made from scratch was divine; as was the green tea shortbread and sugar-free vegan carrot birthday cake.  And the knee-length socks I knit myself are so cozy and cute.

I did manage to get my lovely friend Jessie to take some photos of me modeling the hats and gloves I knit recently, so here they are.

Pattern for the glove part – I used the same lace / cables pattern as the hat.

So, while I haven’t been doing much in the way of lifestyle change since December, I have been doing lots of inspirational reading and watching, and I really want to tell you about it.

In particular, I want to tell you about the amazing ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ by Barbara Kingsolver.  I strongly urge all of you to read this book.  Seriously.  It follows a year in the food life of the author and her family, as they pledge to eat only foods from their local area.  If they can’t grow it or find it locally, they learn to live without it.  As well as being wonderfully heartfelt and entertaining, it is also well-researched and thought-provoking.  Kingsolver intersperses anecdotal tales of life on the homestead with information about the greed, corruption, chemicals and lack of care in the global food industry that really will terrify you.  We all need to read this book, and learn from its message of getting back in touch with the land, and feeding ourselves with seasonal, local, organic vegetables.  We need to change our perception of organic produce as a luxury commodity, and instead see it as a necessity for our health and the health of the land we live in.  You can get organic, locally-grown produce very easily regardless of where you are, and it need not cost more than the money we already spend getting imported, nutritionally barren fruit and veggies from the supermarket.

Read me!

Anyway, I don’t want to get too preachy.  Indeed I am in no position to do so anyway since I have yet to start purchasing organic and local (yet another thing on the list of ‘things to do once I get to America’).  But this is something I am coming to feel very strongly about, and I believe that for our own health, if nothing else, more of us should feel the same.  To hear a more eloquent voice on the subject, *please* read the book.  It will change your life.

Okay folks, that’s it for now.  In the future I must remember to write more frequent mini-posts of things as they come up rather than monthly epic sessions such as this one.  Also, must take more pictures.  I’m leaving Korea this weekend, so see you on the other side!

Happy crunching.

PS:  Read the book!

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Christmas knitting

So, now that everyone has opened their gifts (somewhat early, in Adam’s case), I can reveal what has been occupying most of my sitting-down time for the last 3 months and caused me to be that weird woman at parties who is knitting in the corner.

First of all, I give you… the stockings!

There they are!

I made fourteen in total, at a rate of about one each week. Eight for Adam’s family, and four for my brother and his family. Then, just when I thought I was finished, a friend here on Jeju asked me to make two more, so of course I was more than happy to oblige. In another classic Helen move, I mis-counted when I ordered the yarn, so I didn’t have enough left for my own! I will make one before next year when it can join the other Mathews’ stockings on the mantle. (^_^)

Here they all are, thrown in a big pile on the floor (my phone provided for scale, these things are huge!)

So much knitting!

Each stocking has the recipient’s name on it, plus a nice snowflake motif. I went with red for the girls and green for the boys, so there is some uniformity without them all being the same. This was the first time I’ve knit with double-pointed needles, and my first sock, so it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the construction of socks. For the knitters among you, the pattern can be found here.

So that was a big project. But not only have I been knitting stockings like there’s no tomorrow, I have also made my first foray into garments with Adam’s Dude sweater.

I finished it!!

A few months ago when first really getting into the swing of things with knitting, I made the mistake of asking Adam if he wanted anything, and let him browse the patterns on Ravelry with me. He spotted an amazing pattern for this sweater from The Big Lebowski, and of course had to have it. I was slightly terrified intimidated by the prospect of this being my first piece of clothing, but I thought I’d give it my best shot. So I ordered the yarn and got started. The yarn, by the way, is just heaven. Pure, undyed Peruvian highland wool from Cascade yarns. It arrived still smelling of sheep. So, I got stuck into this project at the same time as making the stockings, and, OH WAS IT FUN! It was so rewarding watching the beautiful patterns emerge, see all the pieces of the sweater take shape, and finally actually wear it. It wasn’t too hard to execute and didn’t take as long as I thought it would (I thought finishing it by Christmas was a long shot but it turns out I had plenty of time). I sent The Dude off to Adam in early December along with all the stockings for his family, and he couldn’t wait more than a few days to open it, so here he is wearing it. Hopefully a more complete picture will follow soon (hint!)

The Dude abides.

He seems to be pretty smitten with it, so I’m pleased. There are one or two changes I want to make when I get to see him and it in the spring, but otherwise I’m thrilled.

Of course, this is not the only knitting that I’ve been up to, oh no! I’ve also made a couple of smaller presents for my most wonderful friends, M-J and Lorna, although M-J is exercising discipline and not opening hers until Christmas so no photos of that yet. For Lorna, I made some fingerless gloves with some beautiful yarn I found. I also made myself a pair. (^_^)b

In non-knitting based Christmas DIY, I also made cards for everyone, as usual, and some seriously tasty mince pies. Alas these all got posted / eaten before I thought to take pictures, my blogging instincts clearly need some work.

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September – November: Teeth, Hair and Kindness to Fish

Alright, alright, so I started a blog but then didn’t actually get round to posting any content in it.  I have been very busy with some projects which will be revealed in next month’s entry.  I have made the switch to a few homemade products this autumn, though, so I will tell you about them now.

The first major thing I started making for myself was toothpaste (and mouthwash).  There are few things simpler than making your own toothpaste and it’s oddly satisfying to use.  Let’s make some together – ready?  All you need is:

  • 2 parts baking soda (make sure yours is aluminum-free)
  • 1 part salt
  • a few drops of peppermint essential oil (This is optional and makes it taste good instead of just tasting of salt)
  • something to keep it in (I use a Tupperware pot)

Just mix the ingredients together and you’re ready to go.  Of course, at this stage it is a powder, not a paste.  This is fine by me.  I like the gritty, scrubby texture of it.  If you want a paste, just add a bit of water (useful for more even distribution of the essential oil), or indeed glycerin if you have some.  I usually add just a few drops of water, for a kind of thick powdery paste.

Dip your toothbrush in and scrub away!  My teeth feel great, and I swear they’re a bit whiter.  At first I tried it with no essential oil, and found the salt taste hard to bear.  I got used to it after a few days, but was delighted when I got hold of some peppermint oil, it makes brushing so much nicer.

Then I started making my own mouthwash.  This is also extremely easy, and recipes seem to vary pretty widely so I just chose a few ingredients that seem to be beneficial and which I also have lying around.  I make a 500ml bottle of it, and this lasts a couple of weeks.

My mouthwash recipe:

  • 500ml water
  • a good few drops of peppermint essential oil (I like to go a bit overboard on the oil)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons vodka

Just give it all a good shake each time you use it.  After a good scrub with your homemade toothpaste, this will leave your mouth feeling fresh and minty.

You may wonder why there is salt in my toothpaste and vodka in my mouthwash.  Each ingredient is included for a reason, and that’s something I find particularly reassuring about making my own things – I know what’s in it, and why.  There’s noting superfluous or dubious.  Baking soda kills all those bacteria in your mouth.  Salt is an excellent abrasive, to scrub off those coffee stains.  Peppermint oil tastes good and gives you fresh breath.  End of story.  So my teeth are clean, white and healthy and no bunnies were tortured in the process.  Hooray!

As for the mouthwash: vodka is another good destroyer of bacteria, I threw in some more baking soda for good measure, to make sure my gums stay healthy, and lots more peppermint oil.  Soon I will start including other oils that are good for the gums.  In the past couple of weeks I have been experimenting with using peppermint tea as a base for the mouthwash instead of water.  I reasoned that herbs are good for your teeth and gums, and that you can never have too much minty goodness.  Also a bottle of green stuff looks fancier on my bathroom shelf than what appears to just be a bottle of water.  I was congratulating myself on my ingenuity until I realized the other day that my teeth looked a bit yellow after using it, and thought that perhaps after scrubbing with salt, rinsing with tea is perhaps not such a good idea.  So I have switched back to the water base.

You may notice an abundance of baking soda.  It seems that this is going to be a recurring theme in all my homemade products – apparently there’s nothing baking soda can’t achieve.

Speaking of the wonders of baking soda, did you know that it makes amazing shampoo?  On to October’s big change…

I stopped using shampoo about a month ago, and I never intend to buy it again.  Before you all recoil in horror, let me tell you that my hair has never looked or felt better.  From the first wash with my homemade shampoo, it instantly felt thicker, less flyaway and more obedient.  Four weeks later, it is shiny and soft.  I am in love.

Making this particular switch is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I was anxious about it as everything I read talks about this horrific-sounding ‘adjustment period’ of several weeks, during which there’s no telling what your hair might do.  Basically, the problem is that shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils (as I’m sure you all know).  Your hair copes with this wanton pillaging by over-producing oil to compensate.  So it gets greasy.  How do you respond to this situation?  More shampoo of course!  Now you’re locked in an endless battle between your hair and shampoo.  Now, baking soda doesn’t disrespect your hair in the same brazen manner.  It politely takes away the dirt and grime, without taking the oils that your hair needs and quite rightly produces.  The initial problem is that your hair doesn’t instantly catch on, and continues producing oil at shampoo-fighting rates, so there will indeed be an adjustment period as it realizes that this is no longer necessary and that the oil workers can in fact put their feet up with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

So anyway, I was worried that my head would resemble an oil slick for 6 weeks, and decided to wait at least until the summer was over, when I could feasibly hide under a hat when it got ugly.  Then, after all that worrying and reading about how awful it would be, I barely noticed a difference.  For the first week, my hair was just glorious and I talked about it to anyone who would listen.  During weeks 2 and 3, my hair was, granted, slightly greasier than normal.  But I did not have to call in sick or even hide in a hat.  Now, in week 4, my hair is no longer oily at all, it is lush and shiny and it feels wonderful.  Hooray for independence from shampoo!

So, here’s how to do it yourself.


  • 500ml water
  • 1-2 tablespoons baking soda


  • 500ml water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

That’s it.  That’s all you need.  AND, before you ask, I don’t smell like vinegar.  It’s well diluted and it doesn’t smell at all once my hair dries.  The purpose of the rinse is to neutralize the alkalinity of the baking soda, and leave your hair lovely and shiny.  Also, I quite enjoy the mildly vinegary smell immediately after my shower; it makes me think of fish and chip shops…

To wash, just pour some of the shampoo over your head, give it a good scrub with your fingers, and rinse well.  Then pour over some of the rinse.  Granted, it is not as much fun as using foamy shampoo.  And when you’re washing it doesn’t feel like it’s achieving anything.  But when your hair is drying, you will see how clean and soft it is.

The amounts of baking soda and vinegar I give are extremely approximate.  And how much you need varies according to your hair.  Most recipes I read called for 1 tablespoon baking soda / vinegar in a cup of water – I figure a 500ml water bottle is about 2 cups so I throw in around 2 tablespoons.  But I am not fussed about really measuring, I just eye it.  Also, I extended the tea-instead-of-water experiment to the hair products, and I like it.  At the moment, both shampoo and rinse are made with a base of jasmine tea.  As I read more about what is good for hair, I may change to a different tea and/or add some essential oils.

So, there you have it.  Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo and rinse – done.  Instead of being full of shop-bought products of dubious origin, my bathroom shelf now looks like this:

Left to right: toothpaste, mouthwash, (ducky), shampoo, rinse

My final change this autumn is my reversion to full vegetarianism.  For the last 2 years or so I’ve been one of those annoying people who call themselves vegetarians but who in fact eat fish (and other miscellaneous tentacled sea creatures found in Korean cuisine).  Although begun for reasons of convenience, and continued because in fact I really like fish, this never really sat well with me and I always vaguely planned to become an actual vegetarian again in the future.  Well, welcome to the future.  I realized that, (a) I rarely eat out, (b) there are plenty of veggies and indeed vegans on this island that seems to manage just fine, and (c) calling oneself a vegetarian when one eats fish is raging hypocrisy and very annoying indeed.  So, maybe 2 or 3 weeks ago I decided enough was enough.  No more tuna kimbap.  No more delicious spicy fish stew.  No more fish and chips! (That particular consequence just dawned on me yesterday, and I was actually quite downcast about it).  It has taking me this long to actually reliably remember that I’m veggie again – to stop almost buying cans of tuna at the supermarket, or to think about grabbing a quick tuna kimbap for dinner.  Now that it has sunk in, I feel much more at ease with myself and able to face all the lovely, angelic veggies and vegans here on Jeju.

‘Til December, dear friends – I hope the length of this post has compensated for its tardiness.  To give you a hint about next month’s offering, there will most likely be some more body products and some knitting.

Happy crunching.

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Dear family and friends…

This blog will follow me as I attempt to make as many things for myself as possible, be it bathroom products,  clothes or vegetables.  I will try to change one thing about my lifestyle every month.  This could be something small like ceasing to buy white flour, or something big like starting to grow all my own herbs.  Those of you who know something about my gardening skills will know how difficult the latter will be for me.

Basically, I want to be as self-sufficient as it’s possible to be within a working, urban lifestyle.  Next time you buy something ask yourself these questions, “Do I know where this came from?  What’s in it?  How did it get from the plant/animal to me?”  This awareness of where products come from, or a scary lack thereof, is driving me toward making my own wherever I can, or if that’s not possible, making sure I get things from responsible sources.  Not only will this benefit my health, but also my wallet AND the environment.  What can possibly go wrong?

Some of these changes will be easy to make.  Some will be hard.  Some will be as easy or hard as I choose to make them.  Take eggs:

Problem -Where do these eggs come from?  Were the chickens miserable?

Easy: Buy free range eggs.  Job done!

Moderate: Buy free-range, organic eggs from your local farmers’ market.  Mmmmmm, farmers’ market…

Hard: Buy some chicks and raise hens!

Raising chickens sounds fun, but I’m not there yet.  I can barely raise cilantro right now.

With each new foray into the unknown, I will keep you updated with how it turns out, as well as telling you how to do it, should you feel inspired to give it a try yourself.  I have already begun with a coupe of minor things, which I will post about shortly.

Happy crunching!

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