Drawstring bag tutorial

Following a Tweet from Nikki at Thrifty Green Blogger, I thought I might make a tutorial for drawstring bags.

You can find instructions on how to make these all over the internet, from Pinterest to YouTube, but I want to throw my own hat into the ring. It’s not that I don’t think these others are any good, but I want to showcase really easy, really lazy, really quick methods. What’s wrong with doing a proper neat job, I hear you cry? Absolutely nothing at all. But honestly I’m too lazy to do one, and I think it’s better to have a go at making something quick and simple from recycled material, then using it at the supermarket, than it is having the intention to Make A Proper Job Out of It and then never getting round to doing it.

Things to consider: You’re going to want to wash these. They come into direct contact with food. In the interests of keeping microfibres at bay, you’re best to select a natural material. If you plan to use them for loose grocery items (carrots, onions etc.) or dried goods from a refillery then you want to make them as light as possible so as not to needlessly increase your shopping bill. I made mine from the cotton lining of an old dress, but old sheets are fine and if you can’t find anything else then cotton quiling fabric will do. If you want to use them for the likes of loose breads then the weight doesn’t matter – most of these things are chargd by the item. This is where you can make use of old denim, old tea-towels, and heavier weaves. For these, it’s often best to put the string along the long edge as it allows the cashier to open the bag with greater ease in order to count how many croissants etc you have.

What you will need:
Natural fibre fabric (as discussed above)
Thread
Some kind of string
Scissors
A needle/sewing machine

For ease of writing, I’m going to relate the super-easy ‘made from old jeans’ method first….

From an old trouser leg

First of all, cut away a section of trouser leg. I usually cut off the bottom hem when I do this because my hems are always manky, but if you’re a clean person, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t leave it on.

Next, turn your section of leg inside out and sew along the bottom – either with the machine or by hand. If you’re doing it by hand, you might want to try backstitch as this is slightly stronger, but the choice is totally yours.

Fold the top of the bag over to create the chanel for the draw string. I like to fold twice so that the raw edge is tucked away, but each to their own. Once that’s done, sew along the bottom of the fold as illustrated (above). This is essentially your drawstring chanel made.

Snip a tin hole through the first layer of fabric on your chanel. This is the hole through which the string will pass. Thread your string through by attaching it to a safety pin and pushing this through the chanel. Turn the bag inside out and you’re finished!

If you’ve been working with a sewing machine, this is a stupidly quick project – two lines of sewing and you’ve got a completed article. And a trouser leg will make 3-4 bags, depending on the size you need. These bags – if made from cotton such as denim – can be washed at high temperature, ironed, frozen, and reused until they rot. Perfect. Plus, you’ve managed to divert some old trousers from landfill. Winning.

You can, of course, make these from sweater sleeves, t-shirt bodies, old pillow-cases… basically any tubular fabric (though I can’t imagine socks being appealling!) . If you don’t have a pre-made tube, or if you want to use the feather-light fabric needed for items sold based on weight, you can add in the following steps at the beginning. Excuse the difference in pen – my black ink ran out…

Cut your fabric twice the width you’d like your bag to be.

Instead of just sewing across the bottom like you would with a length of trouser leg, sew up the side too in order to make an L-shape.

And that’s all there is to it, really.

Do you have any tips for make super-simple drawstring bags? Or for other ways to carry your groceries home? I would love to hear about them – here, or on Twitter.

 

Experiments with Aquafaba

A while ago, a friend of mine told me that you could make Scotch pancakes/Bannocks/Drop Scones with aquafaba instead of all the other wet ingredients.

 

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So I thought I would try it. It didn’t go perfectly, but did go better than it might have done.

Ingredients;
225g self raising flour
2 cans worth of aquafaba – in this case, half from kidney beans and half from chickpeas.
Optional – rose water and poppy seeds.

Method:
Mix everything together. Fry in a pan on a low heat.

It’s the cooking where this method begins to fall apart – in short, the outside cooks far quicker than the inside, even with the pan on the lowest possible temperature. What I think I need to do is use less liquid and whip it into fluffy peaks.

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This is the point at which you would flip ‘normal’ pancakes, however with these, the underside wasn’t even solid.

I waited until it was, but even then, the centre was doughy and moist. In the end I baked them in the oven for a time. They were edible, but still not the fluffy pancake that I was hoping for.

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As I say, next time, I’m going to try a few things differently. What I am absolutely going keep about this recipe, however, is the floral flavour combination.

Oh my goodness, the rose water and the poppy seeds are absolutely glorious together – sweet and aromatic, perfumed and light. These pancakes taste like the height of summer, and when eaten with sticky bramble jam, they’re so evocative of balmy days foraging in the hedgerows Down South.

So, watch this space – I am definitely going to experiment some more with this!

Do you have any other use for Aquafaba? I’ve already used it in chocolate mousse and meringues  but I’m keen to find other ways to make use of it! As ever, contact me here or on Twitter. 🙂

Slivers of soap

Bar soap is often one of the first things people do when transitioning to a lower-waste lifestyle. Swapping out plastic hand-pumps can save you money – a bar of soap generally lasting longer than a bottle – and as many are available in paper, this simple action can save space in the recycling bin too.

That said, there is a significant downside…

You end up with loads of little slivers of soap that are too slippery and small to properly handle. These often end up as a source of frustration and – in our house, certainly – are prone to ending up in the bin, even though they’re still technically capable of doing thier job.

The other night, though, @TinyAcorns posted a photo of a clever little cloth bag which holds all your scraps of soap together and makes then usable again.

As I already had my knitting stuff out from making the dish cloths, I thought I would have a go at replicating this.

Again, as with the dish cloths, I used a vintage cotton from my late mother-in-law’s stash, but if I were to be purchasing something specifically for this project, I might choose something a little… rougher? I feel like there is great potential for the cotton to get slimy over time, whereas something like linen, or even the rougher, heavier jute might just soften. I may experiment in future to see, but for now… cotton it is. Any natural fibre will do, though wool might shrink. synthetics will last longer, but they also shed micro-plastics so that’s a drawback.

Anyway, this is what I came up with. You might want to adjust this pattern to make it wider (add more stitches, in multiples of 3), or longer (do more rows). I think, though, that for cotton, 15cm is definitely long enough – the cloth seems to stretch quite a bit in the water.

Cast on 30 st with 4mm needles.
Rows 1 & 2 – knit.
Row 3 – (k1, yo, k2tog) all the way along
Row 4 – (k1, yo, k2tog) all the way along
Repeat these four rows until your fabric measures around 15cm. End on row 2 and cast off.

Sew up the bottom and the side to make a little bag, then either pass some string or a long crocheted chain through a row of holey bits to make a draw string

And that’s it, really.

Pros: This is a super quick, easy project that you can finish in an hour or so. It uses scrap quantities of yarn, so you don’t need to buy anything specific for it. It definitely keeps all the little slithery bits of soap together.

Cons: This particular yarn bleeds colour… which is less good if you’re washing hands. It stretches quite a bit when wet. I’m not sure how cleaning it is going to work, and what it’s going to look like over time.

You can’t really see it in the picture above, but when you squeeze the bag as if to let some of the water out, you get more bubbles. Which isn’t bad, exactly, it just means that you need to scrub, then squeeze, then rinse in that exact order, or get more blue on you than is strictly necessary.

So, would I make this again? Absolutely – like I said, it’s quick and fun and does what I want it to. Have I worked out all the potential faults yet ? Nope. Not by a long way. And that’s ok. We’re all learning what works and what doesn’t. If this doesn’t pan out in the long term, I can always have another go at making a Frankenstein’s Monster soap from the grated remains of all the other soaps. It didn’t end well last time, but that’s not to say it won’t on another occassion…

I’ve posted this project on Ravelry, in case anyone is interested. It’s just a project page with the pattern in my comments. I would love to see yours if you have a go, though. As ever, you can get in touch here, or on Twitter.

Peter Piper plants a pot of peas in paper…

Work on the garden continues, and this week I dug out one of the gifts we’d been given for Christmas so I could set to work making some biodegradable plant pots.

This little gizmo is great for so many resons.

a. It doesn’t come in plastic.
b. It isn’t made of plastic.
c. It prevents the use of plastic pots.
d. It offers a use for scrap paper (rather than it being resigned to recycling).
e. The pots it makes are biodegradable so when you’re ready to plant out, you don’t disturb the roots of what you’re planting – just pop the whole lot in the ground.

Plastic plant pots are a real bugbear of mine. Firstly, they’re prone to cracking. Secondly, they blow over in the wind or – as in the past few storms – blow away completely with your apple tree-babies in! Finally, unless you want an especially large pot which needs to be light, they’re not essential. You can plant seedlings in pretty much anything – I love a syrup can, personally, but toy stacking cups, mugs without handles, and plastic trays from supermarket meat are all completely servicable ‘pots’ too. In short, if it’ll hold water, you’re golden.

Anyway, I digress.

All you do to make the paper pots, is wrap a strip of your scrap around the thing that looks like a pestle. You then fold the overhang of paper over the bottom of the pestle and mash it into the ‘mortar’. Then you remove the resulting paper container and you’re done.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a fancy gadget to make free paper pots. If you want to use a similar method to the one detailed above, you can simply wrap your paper around a jam jar and push the base into the upturned jar’s lid (presuming the base of the jar is slightly smaller than the lid). Alternatively, you can snip at four points at the base of a toilet roll to around a third of the way up, then fold these ‘flaps’ in on themselves to create a pot base.

Whilst I do plan to plant carrots in paper pots, these particular ones are destined for peas. We have a tree-stump in our garden and I have ambitious plans for it involving peas… watch this space…

Gardens are a fantastic place to use up resources which we might not use inside. Whether that’s via compost, seeds from our food, or paper (as above), all of these actions help to minimise our impact directly and indirectly. Directly; as a way to dispose of our waste which isn’t landfill. Indirectly; by providing us with (potentially) plastic-free food with zero food miles, habitat for wildlife, habitat for pollinators, and as a way to process carbon in the atmosphere. What are your favourite things about gardening, and do you have any tips for things to reuse outside? As ever, I would love to hear them – here, or on Twitter.

Knitted dish cloths

I’ve spoken before about the knitted dish cloths I use. As I’m making some for a friend, I thought I would take the time to record the process.

There are many advantages to a knitted dish cloth – if you choose your fibre carefully then they don’t shed any plastic into the water system, they can be washed until they disintegrate (so do away with disposable alternatives), and they’re actually really good at removing stuck-on food. If you have a home compost heap, they can even end their life in there.

The choice of fibre is up to you, but I use a cotton yarn – usualy Rico Creative Cotton, but in this case, I’m employing a vintage offering that I found in my late mother-in-law’s stash.  Cotton is great because you can wash it at 90, iron it, and tumble dry it without many adverse effects. Obviously cotton is a water-heavy crop, though, so it’s definitely worth looking at what else is in your stash in terms of plant fibres. Acrylic yarn will shed micro plastics, wool will shrink in a hot wash and you can’t iron it to disinfect it, so something like hemp, linen or yarn made from old t-shirts might be a good idea.

Normally I would use 4mm needles, but as this yarn is finer, I used 3.25mm ones.

I started by casting on 40 stitches. You can cast on as many as you like, but 40 is quick, makes for easy counting, and is easy to ad-lib patterns with. In this case, I made a simple stocking-stitch square with a garter stitch border, but I often use dish cloths as a way to experiment with stitches I’m curious about (which I will try and post more on below).

In this case, after I’d cast on, I knit every row until row 10. Then I measured the width of the work – this lets me know how long to knit to make the square. I measure the length of the 10 rows, and subtract that from the width – for example, in this case, the work measure 20cm across, and 2cm long.

I subtracted 2cm for the bottom border, and 2cm for the top border from the 20cm I need to knit to make the length the same as the width,  which gives me 16cm. This lets me know how long to contine the following pattern for. That said, as it’s a dishcloth, the measurements aren’t really important – make it as big/small as you like or work until you’ve used up your scraps. Whatever you like, really.

After that, I began the pattern by knitting 5, purling 30, then knitting 5, and knitting the next row. Continuing this up the next 16cm, then returning to garter stitch is what makes the little frame.

In short hand –

CO 40 st.
Rows 1-10  – knit.
Row 11 – k5, p30, k5.
Row 12 – K to end.
Repeat rows 11 & 12 until work measures 18cm.
K last 10 rows.
Cast off.

Instead of cutting the yarn and passing it through the last stitch, I like to use a crochet hook to chain a small lenth of cable to create a hanger. I can then use this to hang the cloth on my tap. If you want to do the same, just chain 15-20 stitches, starting with the last one of your cast off and when your hook is long enough, cut your yarn and pass the tail through. Sew the end into the cloth…

And you’re done!

It’s a really simple, quick project, but as I said earlier, you can alter it in so many ways to make it more interesting.

The pattern for the above cloth, for example, is;

CO 40 st.
Row 1 & 2 – slip first stitch, knit to end.
Row 3 – slip first stitch, (knit 1, slip 1) repeat to end.
Row 4 – slip first stitch, (k, p) repeat to end.
Repeat rows 1-4 until the work measures the desired length (around 20cm), and ending in row 2.
Cast off.

Obviously, you don’t have to knit these squares – you could also crochet a granny square, but I find it eats a lot more yarn than the knitted equivalent and I’m stingy with my fibres.

I hope this has been useful. I would love to see anything you make from the above ramblings – feel free to reply here or on Twitter.

Low waste treats

When we initially sat down to take stock of what we were throwing away, one item stood out above the rest – snack packaging.

I’ve always been a baker, so cake-packaging was never particularly prevalent, but chocolate bars and crisps featured heavily. Happily, there are lots of chocolate bars out there which come in paper and foil – everything from Green & Black’s Organic, to Lidl’s most basic line. The other expenses of the week dictate which I choose, but the Lidl ones are really good for cooking with.

Anyway, though I love chocolate as much as the next person, there comes a point when you want to have something… other than just chocolate.

Obviously, alternative snack options include the usual unpackaged suspects – fresh fruit, homemade pop corn (ideally from a refillery, but even in a plastic bag, the packaging is vastly reduced), and home bakes are all excellent. Sometimes though, you just want to eat trashy sweets that remind you of your childhood.

So what are your options here?

Well, chocolate fudge is incredibly easy to make. You need:
-500g of chocolate
-a can of condensed milk.

You melt the ingredients together (either in a pan, slow cooker or bain marie), allow the mixture to cool and then slice into blocks. At this point, you can eat it as it is, or cover the blocks in chocolate and enjoy a homemade Fudge bar. All of the ingredients’ packages are fully recyclable, and if it isn’t eaten first, lasts for quite a while in the fridge.

The other pre-packaged chocolate that’s surprisingly easy to make is honey-comb/Crunchie/cinder toffee. It took me years to attempt it because… well… it just doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you could make at home. I wish I’d tried sooner, though.

I followed this recipe, then dribbled chocolate over the top. I’m considering buying a silicone mould so I can make actual bars of this – it’s absolutely delicious. The ingredients come in metal tins (golden syrup), paper (sugar), and recyclable plastic (bicarb), though the bicarbonate of soda can sometimes be purchased in a refillery, or in bulk online. I buy huge quantities at a time because I used it for cleaning, bath bombs and cooking, which reduces the quantity of waste this produces.

I would love to be able to show you some beautiful photos of these things when I finished making them, but they didn’t last long enough for that. They were consumed within minutes. Literal minutes.

My next step in eliminating snack waste will be to attempt making my own crisps. I have a deep fat frier, but before I get involved in that whole endeavour, I want to try out baking potato skins.

Are there any other recipes you know of to replicate store-bought snacks? I’d love to hear them.

 

Extending garment life with natural dye.

When I first started writing this blog, I never thought I would end up flashing my underwear online, but fast-forward and here we are – a post, solely about my smalls.

Before we go any further, I should probably explain.

Generally, when something of mine wears out, I replace the item with its second-hand equivalent. Generally. There are, of course, some exceptions. One of these is definitely underwear. So, that being the case, when I do buy underwear, I buy it with longevity in mind. For me, that means 100% cotton, bright white (the reasons to be explained below) and with replacable elastic. I can’t honestly remember where the current set came from, but they’re ingenious – the waist band has what appear to be button-holes sewn in, but they’re actually there so that if the elastic snaps, it’s a really simply job to replace it.

Above, I mentioned that I like to buy bright white underwear – that’s because I used to bleach them to extend the time they looked new. Then I realised that bleach probably wasn’t environmentally brilliant so I took to dying them when they started to look a bit grey. This worked far better in terms of longevity – begin with a pale shade and then go darker until eventually you dye them black. Winning. Only, until now, I’d been using the machine-dye packets which are probably even worse than the bleach for my septic tank.

Then I watched this video, and decided to try some of the natural dye techniques it suggests. In this case, I made dye using red onion skins and turmeric.

I won’t show you the horrible, grey ‘before’ shots of my old pants. No one wants to see those… but here are some pictures as things got underway.

I started by mixing water with some of the non-brewed condiment I bought a few months ago – a ratio of around 2 parts water to 1 part condiment. Then I added the cotton and the onion skins and boiled for half an hour. I allowed this to cool in the pan and then tossed them in the washing machine drum.

Then onto the turmeric. Again, I added a 2-1 combination of water and non-brewed condiment, then around 3tbsp of turmeric powder.

Again, I boiled this for around 30 minutes and allowed it to cool. Then I tossed the cotton in the washing machine drum with the onion-dyed garments.

I washed both at 30 with my regular powder (at this point, Asda Non-Bio), then dried them.

The results were far better than I had expected. The vibrancy of the yellow doesn’t really translate to the screen very well, but it’s like sunshine in real life.

What I didn’t realise, as I threw the turmeric underwear into the machine drum, however, was that there was already a pile of napkins in there. The napkins were, from the residual turmeric, turned a very pale lemon colour. Fine – thought I – I can use some laundry bleach on them to bring them back to white. Not ideal, sure, but at least it’s laundry bleach and not actual bleach bleach.

Well… here’s the thing. When you add an alkali to turmeric, it goes red. So there I am, stirring laundry bleach round my slightly yellow napkins and they’re turning slightly pink and it occurs to me that a lot of this ‘bleach’ is probably bicarbonate of soda. My next experiment is absolutely to see what sort of red turmeric and bicarb make.

I’m not sure how these will wear, or if the colour will rub off on other clothes, but underwear seems like a fairly safe starting point – if it does transfer to other clothes, it will be on the inside.

Like I said above, dye is a really great way to extend the life of clothing. I tend to buy ‘new’ things (i,e, in charity shops) in as pale a shade as possible so when they start to look grubby, I can hide all the stains with a new colour. I love the process too – you never know what you’re going to get at the end of it. Some of my all-time-favourite garments have come about this way.

Is there anything you do to make your clothes last longer than they would otherwise? I’d really love to hear about any methods you use.

Minimal Waste Garlic baguettes

One of the things I like to do regarding food, is to see how long I can go between meal-planned shopping trips. This results in less food waste as I’m forced to find ways to use up the odds and ends in the fridge which might otherwise go to waste.

One of the easiest, quickest, most obvious ways of using up wilting vegetables is soup and so we tend to eat a lot of it – I am a lazy cook! That said, it can get a bit samey  if you’re having it a few days in a row. For that reason, I really love to serve it with different things; oatcakes, cheese on toast, porcini bread (more on that later), and the all time favourite – a garlic baguette.

The obvious issue with these is the packaging. Some are better than others, but often you find the bread on a plastic tray within a plastic bag, or two baguettes individually wrapped within a larger bag…

As we were getting through so many of these, I decided to try and find a reduced waste alternative. Unfortunately, I can’t get butter without creating waste, but otherwise, I think I’ve got it cracked!

First, you need your baguettes. You can buy these loose at many bakery counters within the supermarkets. I can vouch for the quality of those from Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco, but haven’t tried any from other outlets. Pictured below are some reduced baguettes I bought for 11p. Yes, they came in plastic, but I’ve been keeping these sleeves after use to freeze loose baguettes so they won’t be destined for the bin for a while yet.

Plus, I’m not going to lie – I’m not going to say no to 11p bread. But that’s a discussion for another time. For now, I’m claiming that my buying them helps to reduce food waste…

In addition to the bread, you need around a third of a pack of butter, a garlic clove and a big handful of parsley. I got the parlsey from the reduced section this time, too, but when my plant outside recovers, I’ll be using homegrown again. I’ve also been known to use dried in the past and it does work though obviously you need less –  I reckon about 1tsp is a good quantity.

First of all, melt your butter. Today, I had some just-boiled water in my kettle from the cuppa I was drinking so I used a bain marie, but you could just toss the butter in a bowl in the microwave for around 20 seconds, mashing it at the 10 second mark.

After your butter has melted, mince/finnely shred your garlic and very finely chop your parsley. Mix the lot together and place this in the fridge/somewhere cool until the garlic butter has the consistency of Mr Whippy ice cream.

While you’re waiting slice across the baguette, but leave about 1cm attached the bottom. I don’t know what’s going on with the above picture, by the way. The bread looks miniature but I swear it’s just the angle…

After the butter has hardened a little, it’s just a matter or spooning it in between the slices. Slip the bread back in its plastic, or in one you’ve been saving, or another recepticle of your choice and then freeze.

To reheat these, turn the oven on to around 160C/320F and allow around 20 minutes. To make the most of the oven being on, I usually cook something else at the same time – a cake/some cupcakes/the soup in a casserole dish, for example.

If I’d purchased baguettes loose, bagged them up in my reusable bags like I normally do, and used parsley from the garden, the only non-compostable waste would have come from the butter packet.

Definitely an improvement on the pre-made baguettes, and a fraction of the price.

I would call that a win! What are your favourite ready made foods? I’d love to see if we can figure out a low waste, super-easy alternative! As ever, let me know either here, or on Twitter.

 

Red cabbage rescue

So, you’ve had your festive feast and made sure to save any spare cooked vegetables for classic leftover dishes like bubble and squeak. But what about the vegetables which didn’t make it to the pan – the half red cabbage, for example?

Cabbage is actually one of the easiest vegetables to save from the rubbish bin. Unappetising in a soup – unlike most other vegetables – it makes the most amazing fermented preserve (I’m told by German friends and relatives that I can’t technically call this sauerkraut because it’s red cabbage, but it’s definitely sauerkraut-adjacent).

First, you need to very finely shred your cabbage.

As you can see from my picture, I did not ‘very finely’ shred my cabbage. This doesn’t really impact on the taste, but when you’re grabbing handfuls of it, covered in salt, it’s much easier if it’s thinly cut.

You need to add around 1 tbsp of salt per half a small cabbage (accurate measurements there), then grab handfuls of the cabbage/salt mixture and effectively knead it in the bowl. Eventually, the cabbage will begin to give up a brine. If this doesn’t happen after around ten minutes of kneading then you probably need to add a little more salt and keep kneading.

To store the cabbage during fermentation, you will need a jar, and a weight that fits inside the jar. Please excuse my laziness in not properly removing labels from re-used jars – they do come off on their own eventually…

Decant the cabbage/salt/brine mixture into the jar – the cabbage should have reduced significantly in volume by now. Add any spices you think would be nice – we really like mustard seeds, fennel seeds, corriander seeds and nigella. Mix them all together and then begin to compress the cabbage until all strands are sitting below the level of brine.

When you’re happy with your cabbage/brine arrangement, you need to weigh it down so that the cabbage doesn’t escape as the liquid evapourates.

At this stage, sensible people would add weight inside the glass ramekin…

I am not a sensible person, so I put a jar of rosehip jam on top… Job done. But only because you shouldn’t close the jar lid as the cabbage ferments. If you do, you could end up with a build up of pressure from the gas created by the fermenting process. Place your jar somewhere room-temperaturey (again, very technical instructions) and check on it regularly to make sure no cabbage is escaping the brine.

After about 4-5 weeks, start tasting your cabbage. When it’s ‘sauer’ enough for you, remove the weight, give it a good stir, decant into another jar and put the lot in the fridge. This will then slow subsequent fermentation.

Serve as you would any pickle, but it’s especially good on a creamy oat cake.

How are you using up any leftovers this year? I’d love to hear suggestions here, or on Twitter.

DIY Lego Kits

Recently, I posted about ways to utilise the ‘5Rs’ over the festive period.  If you haven’t already, I would absolutely encourage you to go and check out the full post – there are loads of really lovely ideas for a more sustainable Christmas – but today, I wanted to focus on one of the suggestions in particular.

DIY Lego* kits.

My kids are so incredibly lucky – they’ve inherited a Lego stash which dates back to 1956 and which has been added to over the years by various generations of enthusiasts. Needless to say, we have enough Lego in this house.

That said, both children get an awful lot out of building to the instructions – my youngest, for example, learns how to build in sequence which is a vital skill for pre-reading. And for my eldest, it’s an enormous 3D jigsaw puzzle.

Which begs the question – how do I provide the experience of a kit, without actually buying a kit?

Well, the bricks have infinite possible uses, so all I really need in this situation are the instructions. And it just so happens that the Lego website comes with free instructions for their ‘Classic’ kits, and for ‘Minibuilds’.

I opted for the May Minibuild because:
– I’m relatively sure we have all the parts
– The necessary pieces are presented as a list for easy finding
– The instructions are printed on fewer sheets of paper.

After I’d printed the instructions, I went to gather the parts… There was so much Lego in the box, I literally needed to use a head torch…

And completely failed!

Unfortunately, it became apparent after around 45 minutes of searching through our giant Lego box – with a head torch on! – that we didn’t have some of the more recent pieces required. So, back to the drawing board… or rather, the Lego website…

With a better knowledge of what I could/couldn’t easily locate within the stash, I selected… none of the patterns from the website!

Instead, I did an image search on Ecosia (which – if you’re not using yet – you totally should be 😉 ) and came up with…

This!

It’s clearly not going to satisfy the older of my two children, but for my youngest, it’s perfect.

Or would be, if I could find the parts! I did manage to get an alternative for the windscreen though, and as I’ll likely have to hear about every single block my child places, I can be there to talk about how the windscreen needs to be a different piece.

To package it, I made a large envelope out of an old calendar sheet (I posted an image of a tutorial here) and drew a shoddy Lego block on the front. I’ll write my child’s name on the top too, but I don’t really want that all over the internet so will leave it off for now.

So, was it worth the trouble of the research, the searching, half building a model and failing, then frantically trying to find the parts to a second model before Husband arrived home with the children?

Probably. I mean, we have a lot of Lego. I think if I do any more of these prior to Christmas I will:
– refill my printer ink, because the print qualiity doesn’t look amazing,
– invent my own model and photograph each stage
– hoover out our Lego box more often because I found items I’d lost over 20 years ago in that box and even though I’m not hyper vigilant when it comes to dirt, even I am grossed out by this…

In the end, the whole thing took about an hour and a half, and cost me the printer paper and ink. I potentially saved a Lego box, an instruction booklet, an inner plastic bag and the blocks themselves from being dragged into being. I probably saved myself around £5.

Will you be trying to reuse your existing toys in this way? It doesn’t just work for Lego – K’nex, Duplo and other construction kits can be repurposed like this. I’d love to see pictures of any you decide to do – why not get in touch here, or on Twitter?

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* Fun fact – the plural of ‘Lego’ is not ‘Legos’. The term is actually an abreviation of ‘Lego Mursten‘, meaning ‘Lego Bricks’. As this is a compound noun, the pluralisation is added to the second word – i.e. Mursten/Bricks, meaning that ‘Lego’ remains the same, even in the plural.

The term ‘Lego’ is actually a contraction of two Danish words; Lege, which means ‘to play’ and Godt which means ‘good’, or in this case ‘well’.

Look, dad! I used my Danish language degree in real life!