Simple Pillow

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No, no, no. This is not the simple pillow.

A few months back, I was looking for green 100% linen fabric for an art project and could not find any in the local stores (second-hand and crafting.) I did find this beautiful brown linen for only $26 a yard and I bought it, with no clue what I was going to use it for.

I’ve been wanting a pillow for lumbar support when I sit in the living room chairs for a long time, like when I’m sewing. But of course, I want it to be beautiful when I am looking at it and not leaning into it!

Fabric and craft stores are for hobbyists and their prices reflect that this is perceived to be a creative, leisure activity and not something people do to save money. An 18″ pillow insert costs between $15-$50 USD, depending on if it is synthetic or filled with feathers and probably some other factors that I am not even aware of. An 18″ zipper is $3-4 USD. And a local tailor/alterations-place told me that the cost of sewing the zipper I have into the fabric I have would cost $44 USD.

So when I found the above holiday pillow marked down to $7.50 USD, I snatched it up.

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I gutted the buck…er…um…I removed the zipper.

I sewed the beautiful linen into an appropriate-sized square using a classic back stitch.

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Here is the harvested zipper about to be inserted.

And here is the finished product, nestled into one of the living room chairs.

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Simple and high-quality, just like QuakerStylist likes it.

Bonus: I have enough fabric to make another 18″ pillowcase when I find another sad pillow on sale.

Bathroom Cup Holder

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Can you spot all the bad design in this photo?

Let’s see- That towel bar was actually useable when there was a pedestal sink in the bath. When it was replaced by this cabinet model the towel bar became unusable and worse, protrudes into the space over the countertop, making it awkward to use that space as well. And don’t get me started on the recessed soap dish/cup/toothbrush holder. This poor design should never have been manufactured. If you put a cup and toothbrushes in it, you can’t reach the soap!

Remember the QuakerStylist methods of interior design? First we declutter, then we clean, and then we add some nature. I shook things up this time.

I started this project by spraying the toothbrush/cup holder with vinegar and scrubbing to get the calcium and ick deposits off. Then I removed the plastic soap tray, because I was never going to use that thing. Pump soaps are less likely to harbor the bacteria from the hands of previous users, so I prefer those for handwashing sinks. I tried multiple products to clean the portion of the metal recess underneath the plastic tray. Turns out that was a waste of time, as the silver finish has been worn/corroded away leaving the brass underneath poking through. Lucky for me, I like this mottled metal patina. Once I got the nasty thing cleaned up, I tried to decorate it.

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First effort.
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Second effort. This one is not sustainable. There is no natural light in the bathroom, so any living plant that does not thrive in a moist cave, is going to die.

Forgot to mention: After I removed the towel bar, there were some holes in the tile (about 0.5cm x 2cm) that I filled in with black silicone caulk. Black does not reflect light, so the caulked areas are not very noticeable. If they really bug me in the future, I have a plan for them.

Both of the “pretty-it-up” efforts above left me uninspired as they felt like I was just putting lipstick on a pig. Sooooo- I pulled the whole she-bang out of the wall-

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Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

And then I removed the offending cup/toothbrush tray [which should never have been manufactured in the first place] and  put the metal recessed thing back in the wall. To me, it looked like a tiny grotto. So I found a tiny Buddha to enshrine there.

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This is a version of the “Joyful Buddha” which is my favorite one.

It may seem disrespectful to place a sculpture of a holy person in a bathroom to some persons. I think that the Joyful Buddha would find it amusing. And if he does not, he can let me know in meditation that I need to reform.

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A close-up of his Holiness.
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Long view of the sink and surroundings.

I may not leave his Holiness there indefinitely. If I find a fake cactus or Ganesh sculpture that I think fits the space better, I will retire him to a more venerated location.

Decorative Lampshade

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I actually started this project as a shade for a cylindrical lamp. But I broke that lamp when I was trying to apply the fabric. So this was plan B.

And I should have left plain, white, well-enough alone.

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But I had already washed, pressed and lined this fabric. Then selected these colors of thread from my sewing box.

And THEN I invested many hours of my life creating this pattern on the fabric.

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At this stage, I was really pleased with the project.

Then, I broke the lamp I had done all this work for. And I did not want to waste all the effort. So, I watched a couple of videos online about how to cover a plain shade with fabric.

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I made a pattern.
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I applied the fabric, as per my online instructions.

And it turned out thus:

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Meh.

The good news is that this failure did not cost me anything but my time. And I learned a couple things, so the time was not completely wasted.

Entry Hall

I decided the entry hall was boring and needed something. Which is not my usual reaction to a blank wall, so I sat with the feeling for some months to see if it would pass.

I thought about adding a chair (to put on boots) but there is a chair two steps away in the living room.

I settled on two hooks which can hold coats or a purse or a shopping tote and hat.

I like that these objects are both decorative and functional.

A Review of a Couple Books

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If you look carefully, you can spot a chihuahua sitting amongst the cushions.

Both of the reviewed books were borrowed from the library. The cover on this one is a bit worse for wear, which I interpret as that it has been checked out and read a lot.

The cover here tells the story: Bea Johnson has created an ultimate guide to reducing household waste. Her family’s story is one we have heard before. They had the large home in a nice area with a long commute and spent their free time taking care of the house and the yard and in the car. They relocated to a city home that was half the size, and this started them on the path to simplifying their lives in other regards as well.

While reducing the family’s landfilled trash output to less that a quart per year is an amazing achievement in our culture, I don’t think that that aspect of their adventure simplified their lives.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your trash output, this book will give you lots of good ideas: some simple, some complicated.

Best tip from the book: Look at the stuff that you put in your trash can and recycle bin and ask yourself how to find a way to keep from putting it there. Easy options include using reusable bottles and shopping bags to replace single use plastic bottles and plastic bags. More challenging options include making your own yogurt and buying clothing second hand and creating a compost. Probably too difficult for most of us include taking your own glass jars to the cheese and butcher shops so the staff can deposit their wares directly into your containers and teaching your elementary-aged children to say no to party favors.

Worst tip from the book: putting a brick in your toilet tank to reduce the water flow. Don’t do it! I have heard/read from several reputable sources that the bricks deteriorate over time soaking in the water and will cause plumbing problems.

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More challenging than getting your fish in a jar? Growing it yourself!

The Toolbox for Sustainable City Living will teach you how to grow your own vegetables, chicken, fish and small mammals for consumption in a city setting.

The techniques laid out are easy to understand and the supplies required affordable. It would be useful to own your own property before implementing these methods, but information is given on how to do so on abandoned city lots as well. There are plenty of diagrams and photos to help the reader replicate what Kellogg, Pettigrew and their community have achieved.

The environmental, economic and political benefits of this type of farming are also discussed in the book. I have added to my Travel List a visit to their community in Austin, Texas both to see the husbandry in action and to learn how they work as a community to get the work done.

Simple Winter Décor

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A little evergreen and a little light for the early evenings.

Here is my holiday décor for December. When the rest of your space is simple, it doesn’t take over-the-top flash to make it feel cared about and fresh.

The plate was in my kitchen. The cedar branches with berries came from a tree in the apartment complex’s yard. I was careful to trim from a side where the branches were not desirable (rubbing on cars in the parking lot.) The candle was .99 USD at IKEA.

After the holidays, the plate will go back into the kitchen, the cedar will be composted and the candle will either make it’s way to my meditation space or to the household emergency kit. Frugal, stylish and sustainable. Exactly what QuakerStylist is all about.

And I need a dose of restrained style, because this is our front door for the next two weeks.

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… and his mustache moves. Sigh….

Frugal Greeting Cards

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My basic card making tools.

My stash of home-made cards was getting pretty low, but I have been waiting to make more. The librarian at our local library told me that she clears out the circulating magazines at the end of the year and they are offered first come, first served to the general public. She even offered to reserve a few for me!

 

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I requested two copies of these three titles, because I thought they would have good pictures.

And they did not disappoint! I cut out any photo or illustration that appealed to me. I had purchased a package of 25 blank note cards with envelopes from the local craft store. They were on sale for $5 USD. Based on the size of the note cards, I created a cardboard template from a empty cereal box. I used the template to crop and frame the pictures I liked in a way that appealed to me.

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I just move the template around until I have an interesting frame of the image and I mark inside the template with a pen.
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Here you can see my template marks, ready for cutting.
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Most of the cards are made from a single cropped image, but a few are collages, like this one.
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26 varied, beautiful, handmade cards created for 20 cents each! Honestly, I like these way better than what I can find in the shops.
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I did not make these cards today, but the exact same process applies to making holiday cards.

Any two dimensional image can be used. For past cards I have used antique photos, old calendars, used greeting cards, magazines, interesting tags that came on purchased clothing, parts of a playbill, a politically incorrect children’s book that the library was giving away.

I have a file folder where I collect interesting images for this purpose. When I have enough, I buy the blank note cards and get busy!