Upcycled Gift Tags

Is this an original idea? No. Is it something we maybe need reminding to do? Maybe. Christmas is a wonderful time of year but it is also a time when we all generate a lot of waste unfortunately. Instead of just tossing all those lovely cards and gift bags we receive why not cut them up into pretty tags to use for next year!

Make use of any prints on the front of the gift bag or card such as Merry Christmas or cut out around pictures such presents or snowmen. For gift bags the first thing you need to do is remove the ribbon handles (keep them to use next year too)

Once I cut open my gift bag I ruled up lines on the back. I roughly did them about 2″ x 2.5″ and cut them out. If you have a cutting tool such as guillotine this would be super easy to slice them up but I did mine by hand. Some are a little wonky but that’s ok no one is going to complain! You could cut them into any shape or even use craft cutting machine such as Sizzix Big Shot but it would generate a little more waste around each shape.

Don’t just use the fronts/backs of gift bags. Make use of the folds in the sides of gift bags. Once the bag is cut open you can easily fold the card the other way to make tiny Christmas cards. I again cut them roughly 2″ tall. These would be super cute to add to any gift

This idea isn’t just for Christmas you can use this idea any time you get a card or gift bag. I will confess this isn’t a zero waste project as some parts needed to go in the recycling bin as I cut them out. Some had marks on the reverse side of the cardboard and others were jagged edges from when I cut the bag open along the folds. Compared to just tossing the bag in the bin the waste was minimal. I was just thinking this year I was running low on tags for my presents but now I don’t have to go out and buy more which saves money and I have reduced waste. I’m keeping my cards in an old ice cream container which I will label so I know exactly where they are for next year.

Merry Christmas


Latte Mix

Are you a tea drinker or coffee drinker? For years I was always team tea drinker with the occasional coffee if I was out. I never liked instant coffee.

In 2019 I had a regular coffee catch up with a friend several mornings a week but it started to cost a fortune as Starbucks was our go to place. On my non Starbucks days still wanting a coffee hit I started drinking instant coffee sachets. I had a box of sachets at both home and work and would drink up to 3 a day. Although not as costly as a brought coffee the cost still added up. More importantly I noticed the amount of packaging waste involved. The box they came in could be recycled but the sachet didn’t say it could be recycled but even if it could when you are throwing out 3 a day that soon mounts ups. Another thing of concern was the ingredients in each sachet. Each sachet had about 13 items listed as ingredients! It is only instant coffee why the need for 13 things in it.

Looking online I wanted to find a MOO (Make Our Own) Latte mix. There are heaps of recipes out there but most of the latte recipes involved adding in instant pudding mix to give that creamy texture. I don’t want to be drinking instant pudding I just want a coffee hit. I decided to make up my own mix and this is what I came up with.

Latte Mix makes 1 batch

  • 2 cups milk powder
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar

Put all ingredients in a food processor to blitz up. To ensure an even mix I put in 1 cup of milk powder then add in the coffee and icing sugar followed by the remaining cup of milk powder. Blitz until all a fine powder forms.
Use one heaped teaspoon per cup. Place mix in cup and pour over small amount of hot water stirring to dissolve the mix then top up with water to fill the cup.

My version isn’t thick like the regular mixes as it doesn’t contain any ingredients that would make that thick texture but it is nice. Although it contains icing sugar it isn’t sweet. You could increase the amount of coffee granules if you wanted a stronger coffee mix. As a bit of luxury I use Moccona coffee. I buy a large jar when it is on special and it lasts months as you are only using 1/2 cup per batch.

I have been making my own mix for over 12 months now. I make a double batch each time and it lasts for weeks. I have a container of it at home as well as work. I bring my work container home and refill it from my home stash. These days at work I have become lazy and don’t even use a stirrer to dissolve it, I just put it in my keep cup and swish it around until the coffee granules dissolve before topping it up, this saves having to wash up a stirrer each day (I was using a plastic chop stick) The latte recipe is on our fridge and Mr StitchNSew makes me up a batch whenever he sees my stash is low. 

I no longer have my coffee catch ups and in fact have gone off Starbucks coffee having the rare one now and then. The coffee sachets haven’t completely banished from our house. Mr StitchNSew enjoys the cappuccino sachets but doesn’t have as many as I was having. He did notice in recent weeks that they have reduced the sachets down by 2g per serve but the price still remains the same. He can’t work and is home all day so if he is enjoying it I’m not going to take that away from him. I’m enjoying my coffee mix at work and home when I need a coffee hit.


Try Before You Buy – Pie Maker

A pie maker is a kitchen appliance I had heard about years ago (I think I may of even brought my brother in law one for Christmas nearly 20 years ago) I had never brought one as Mr StitchNSew always just made pies at home or got the frozen ones in the shops. I didn’t want another kitchen appliance that wouldn’t get used so that is why I never got one. I was talking to a work colleague who offered to lend us hers whilst I was on holidays in September.


The pie maker comes with a recipe book but I decided to look online as well. I didn’t know but there seems to be an entire online Facebook community addicted to pie makers! One thing I quickly learnt is that a pie maker isn’t just for meat pies. You can deserts, cakes and other savoury food in them. Basically if you can cook it in an oven or in a small pan you can cook it in a pie maker. Mr StitchNSew played around with making pies but I tried other receipes. The first was eggs. They were really easy to do only taking a couple of minutes. The next item I tried was scotch eggs. If you’re not familiar with them its a boiled egg wrapped in raw mince then rolled in breadcrumbs. You normally cooked them in a frying pan or the oven. I never make these. Again these only took minutes in the pie maker. I was pretty happy with them and they tasted delicious.

After trying it out we’ve decided to get one. As with many things 2020 is not the time to buy one as they are all out of stock at the shops (it seems many people are getting into pie makers this year with all the extra time at home) We have waited this long without one it won’t hurt us to be without one until the shops get them in again. Knowing that you can make more than just pies in them is a big draw card for us. Also Mr StitchNSew has admitted now he isn’t able to do the day long pie making that he used to do as well. The pie maker is easier and less bending for him as it’s on the bench top and not in the oven. It was good to try the appliance out before just going and purchasing one.


Upcycled Polo Shirt Pillow


Mr StitchNSew needed a new pillow, I could have easily just gone and brought one but instead I made him something that I promised I would do at some point. Both Mr StitchNSew and I went through our wardrobes before we moved culling items we no longer wore or were past their prime. Most items were easily to let go of but Mr StitchNSew had one shirt he couldn’t wear but didn’t want to toss out so I said I would turn it into a pillow like I did last year for a friend.

This wasn’t a straight forward project of washing the shirt and stitching up a pillow. For a simple project there was a few steps involved and I am actually counting this as my “More Involved” project on my Sewing Bingo 2020 Card. The first thing was to soak the shirt to try and remove the stains, unfortunately they didn’t all come out.

The next step was to mend some tiny holes in the front. I used my darning mushroom for possibly the first time. I got it a few years ago at a craft show. I think I only paid a few dollars for it or it was possibly given to me for free as charity organisation had made some to sell and people weren’t buying them. Up until now I had never worked on a project where I needed to use. It worked well to help me oversew the holes.

Before I could square the shirt up and cut out my rectangle shape I needed to adjust the button placket. The first step was to slip stitch it shut on both the outside and inside of the shirt and remove the buttons. I didn’t want it to come open or tug from the inside. There were a couple of holes that couldn’t be mended shut so once I cut out my square rectangle shape for the pillow using some of the sleeve that I cut off I made a placket cover which I slip stitched into place over the top of the placket. It does make the area feel a bit bulky but not uncomfortable. I think it looks better than if I had tried to cover up the hole but still had the button hole openings.

To insert the zipper I used the method where you mark the zipper placement then sew the entire seam but put large basting stitches where you want the zipper to be. You then lay the seam open flat, place the zipper in the centre of the seam and sew around it. Afterwards you remove the basting stitches. I’m still working out my lighting in our new place. In my old place I knew where I could sit for certain jobs. I don’t have as much natural light in the new place and I’m still learning where I can sit do certain craft jobs. I actually went and sat on the balcony for all my hand sewing of this project as with my dodgy eyesight and lighting I couldn’t see inside navy on navy. It was a good easy project to learn my light source on.

I made my own pillow insert to go inside. Once the case was finished I just measured the size an cut out a pillow form to match. Fabric is very subjective and I don’t mean to offend anyone who likes this print but I’m calling it my ugly fabric. I can’t be certain if this was fabric that was my mum’s or if I picked it up in fabric swap day for charity pouches. It isn’t fabric I would buy myself but it was in my stash needing to be used. Actually it had just been upacked from a box of yarn where I used it to cover up the gap in the top of the box. For a pillow insert no one will see it was useful fabric. I haven’t unpacked my fabrics yet so for adhoc projects I’m kind of just grabbing any fabric that I can and using it.

Mr StitchNSew is happy with his pillow. I don’t often make things for him (or I say I will but never get around to it) Everything in this pillow came from my stash so it was free pillow and decluttered a few supplies too.



Reusable Paper Towels

Earlier this year I made some reusable paper towels to use at the new place.

Paper Towels - Finished

I didn’t follow a pattern for these I just used up the scraps I had leftover from making my bat wraps. The scraps were a rectangle shape so I just stitched two pieces together and top stitched around the outside, super quick and simple. I didn’t care what my thread colour was either so I used up half bobbins.

Paper Towels - Drying

I did have a batch of reusable cloths that I was using at the old place. They were old jumpers, tea towels and towel offcuts I had. Most of them were very shabby and were binned when we moved. These are a larger size. I use them to wipe up spills but also protect the bench when I’m cooking as I will put my stirring spoon/utensil on them. This saves getting out a dish for this. I just toss them in the wash with my tea towels and they take little time to dry.

I like to make practical items. Not only are these better for the environment than single use paper towels but more economical. I want to cut back on spending money on items we can do without or reduce our usage of. Yes we still do have paper towels in the house but if we can reduce how many we use then it will reduce the frequency we have to buy them.



Mop Up Towels

Both me and Mr StitchNSew have mobility issues. If we have wet spills in our house or need to soak up on the ground it is actually easier for us to do it with our feet instead of bending over. We use what we call “Mop Up Towels” which are towels we have in linen closet just for this purpose.

I have made them before but I forgot to show them on here. I take a towel, cut it in half and normally overlock (serge) the raw edge. Really simple to do but useful for us. Our fridge leaks at times so recently I needed to make more. Normally I buy bath towels for about $10 and get 2 mop up ones from that. I was planning on going to the shops when I remembered I had a couple of kids beach towels I brought to make into a gift but never did that I was going to send to the op shop, I think I got them on special for about $5 each last year. I pulled them of the bag and cut them up getting 4 mop up towels.

Instead of overlocking the raw edges I used bias binding. Just prior to making these I had done a big clean up of my fabric scraps and found a heap of leftover binding. The strips were just enough length to cover the towels. I stitched them on by machine and enclosed the 2 ends of each strip by hand sewing so nothing would fray in the wash.

These aren’t fancy but they are practical. I am proud of these as I have saved money by using something I had in my house plus I got to use up binding scraps decluttering them from my stash. Practicality, decluttering and saving money = winning all round


Recycled Tea Towels

I never know if the term is recycling or upcycling these days anyway I’ve turned a batch of old tea towels my friend was going to throw out into a batch of cloths for her that she can use to wipe up spills or clean with. My friend isn’t a sewer so I happily made these up for her. Old tea towels are so useful.

Upcycled Tea Towels

I cut each tea towel into quarters. As each piece already had 2 hemmed sides all I needed to do was do a double folded hem on the other 2 sides and secure it with a row of zig zag. I checked to see if my friend wanted me to use a matching thread but she didn’t care so I went through all my half bobbins and used them up. I left the spool I currently had threaded in my machine as my top thread. This was a great way to declutter all the half full bobbins.

Upcycled Tea Towels 1st Batch

Previously I’d made a batch of these cloths for myself. I however never stitched the sides leaving raw edges. Mine were also cut smaller. Warning if you don’t hem them they tangle in the washing machine and the sides do fray. I was being lazy at the time. Mine sit in a basket on my bench top and I use the cloths like paper towels. Before I made these I was going through a lot of paper towels now I only grab a paper towel only if its a really icky mess that isn’t hygienic. I wash the cloths regularly when I was my tea towels and dishcloths.