Re-covering an old lounge- part one: taking off the old fabric

Yes…I know I said I wouldn’t take on another hobby, especially one that takes up a lot of space and time…but…

I was scrolling through Facebook Marketplace (as you do) and I saw a striking lounge (to me anyway) and it was free (my favorite kind). I messaged the owner, without much hope that it would still be available, only to find out that it was. Now I had to tell my reluctant partner that I wanted a new lounge.

The original picture that caught my eye.

After a medium amount of wheedling, convincing and outright bullying, he agreed to drive over and pick up our new hobby…err…lounge.

The lounge is old, faded and while the armchairs have good springs, the lounge itself badly needs re-springing or something. The fabric is thin and starting to rip in places, but I just fell in love (of the furniture persuasion).

We got the set home and unloaded it into the only open area in the humpy; beside the heater. I will work on the re-covering here, right in everyone’s way. I hope to complete it all during this school holidays, but I am probably fooling myself.

All piled up in the way

Several hundred YouTube clips later, I decided to start the project. If I start of the lounge chairs first I can learn as I go (in theory). The lounge chairs don’t need any structural work (probably) so I can develop my skills on them then move on to the big job of the lounge itself.

The clips all stress that re-covering has a sequence; the last piece on is the first piece off. So I looked over the chair and found the last piece on, which happened to be the bottom dust cover. To get that off, I had to remove the back wheels and their little timber bits.

The wheels themselves are made of wood; how amazing is that.
The bottom dust cover is removed and set aside to use as a pattern.

Once the bottom was off, I could see that the chair is webbed and has coil springs in the back and seat, which apparently means my find is from the posh end of the furniture gene pool.

A close up of the coil springs in their hessian envelope.

The next piece is the outside side pieces. The little cover plate things at the front were easy to pry off, but then things got difficult as there are cardboard strips with about a million staples under some of those folds. The piping (or welting as it is properly called…apparently) is sewn onto the red fabric and stapled onto the yellowish side pieces, meaning that there are a lot of staples to remove.

The little cardboard strips with a million staples that give the fold a nice, neat edge.
Next step; taking off the outside side pieces.

Up until now I have been using a screw driver and a pair of side cutters to remove staples, but then I ran into a problem; the pleats at the front of the chair (under the decorative plate thing) are held on with actual nails. These nails have proven themselves immune to screwdrivers and I can’t get the claw of the hammer under them as yet.

In the end, I used a hammer to gently tap the screw driver under the edge of each nail. This made a bit of a mess of the wood, but the nails (or upholstery tacks) are out.

These are the upholstery tacks from the pleated bit of the front arm panel.
It left a few holes in the timber, but I did get them out.

Now that the front arm panels and both outside side pieces are off, I can work on removing the deck covering (the deck is the flat bottom of the chair that the cushion sits on). Once the deck covering is removed I can start putting new fabric on it. Of course, that means I have to choose and buy the new fabric.

Apparently, the recovering process happens bit by bit; first the deck (for this piece anyway) is recovered, then the arms are stripped and recovered, then the back. Doing it this way means I can avoid losing bits of loose stuffing and wadding as the piece sits there waiting for me to get some free time and energy to cover the next bit. It also breaks the process down into manageable pieces for me to focus on.

The wadding on the deck will need to be replaced too.

I am off to town today to see if I can find some upholstery fabric and assorted bits of hardware…wish me luck.

I found an upholstery shop, and it carries a fabric called Sunbrella. Sunbrella is an acrylic fabric made for indoor and outdoor use. I would not normally use an acrylic fabric on anything, but this time I decided to go with the hard wearing and easy care option. This lounge will have to suffer a lot of indignities in it’s life with us (not just dogs on the lounge here) so I think it is important that it be properly dressed for the job.

We looked through the samples of colours and found a few combinations we like, then we took down the details and went away to think about it. The fabric costs about $50 a metre and there will be other needs on top of that (wadding, piping, staples, etc), I don’t want to make a hasty decision. Besides it is fun to think about the possibilities before I commit to only one.

It will take a week to get the fabric after it is ordered, so I have changed my plan. I will strip the other chair (and maybe the lounge) to the same stage as the first chair in my remaining week of holidays, then when I have the fabric, I will cover them one at a time. That means work on the project really slows down because I will be working on other things.

First possibility
Second possibility
Third possibility
The long road home, dreaming about lounges.

Which combination do you like best?

Advertisements

Checking our environmental footprint in 2018 and 2019

A gratuitous Primrose photo to get your attention

Over the years we have saved and worked towards becoming more environmentally friendly, with varying success. I thought this would be a good time to review our progress over the last two years, given the recent Global Strike for Climate action. The world seems to be asking what the leaders of our nations are willing to do to reduce the effects we are having on our planet, and while I want our governments to take this risk seriously too, I am more focused on small local and accumulative actions. I believe that the general population does not change in response to governmental decree; instead I believe that the governmental decree is a response to changing attitudes and practices in the general public. In other words; change is bottom up not top down. So… in keeping with this philosophy, these are the things we have achieved in the last two years towards being more sustainable (and the things that make us less sustainable).

Larger solar system;

We put in a new and larger solar system in the last two years so we could run an electric fridge and turn the fan on whenever we liked. This has been a game changer for us as we now buy almost no LPG gas (the previous fridge was gas fueled), we only run the generator about once a month as we do the washing using solar power and we have been able to put in a solar friendly freezer. Our life has become a LOT easier and more efficient because we have these things. We have reduced our use of fossil fuels significantly and increased our food storage potential (and reduced our food wastage too). This is a definite win in my books.

New solar panels on the roof.

Two car family;

This is definitely a fail. When I began teaching we were forced to buy another car, and I was forced to get a driver’s license. I don’t enjoy driving at all, but I do need to get to work before the school bus (which is how I got to work before becoming a teacher), so the car was a necessary evil.

The average car emits 153.0g/km of carbon (according to Lightfoot) and we have doubled our emissions in this area.

We are now a two car family.

Swap to low waste alternatives;

shampoo; recently I started to use a hair product called Beauty Kubes. These little grey cubes are great for washing your hair without having shampoo and conditioner bottles to clutter up the shower and eventually find their way to the bin. Beauty Kubes come in a little cardboard box and you simply take a cube to the shower with you when you want to wash your hair. They smell great and lather up well, my hair feels soft and clean for ages after a wash and the little box takes up no space at all in the cupboard. This is definitely a win for me. I am still trying to figure out how they are made so I can make a DIY version, but so far no luck.

deodorant; I have only made one batch of natural deodorant so far and I am still using the original batch. The containers I chose were not the greatest decision ever; the liquid mixture flowed out the bottom and bunged up the winders. Instead of struggling with the containers I just dig out a small glob of mixture and rub it into my arm pits every day. It works well. I think next batch I will add more bees wax and make a cake of deodorant that I can scrape a bit off every morning.

toothpaste; I have been making my own toothpaste for quite a while and find it economical, low waste and easy to make and use. Recently I have been thinking about trying to make a tooth powder (just because I like to try new things) and that will probably be an upcoming post. There is almost no waste involved with making your own toothpaste; no packaging except what the ingredients come in (they last a long time) and I reuse the same jar over and over to store the paste. This is definitely a win for us and the environment. I am trying to find an alternative to tooth brushes now, although I have swapped over to bamboo, natural bristle brushes until I can find an alternative.

soap; I have been making soap for our family for more than a decade. This year I swapped to making our soap from cooking oil that had been cleaned from the deep fryer. This is a win for us as the oil we buy is used twice (which cuts the total dollar cost in half) and it keeps the used oil from the compost bin.

silicon reusable ziplock bags system; we didn’t use a lot of single use plastic bags prior to buying the Kappi silicon bags, but we did use some. By swapping to Kappi bags we have been able to mostly stop using single use plastic in the freezer and have also cut down on buying plastic lunch boxes and containers. The real saving these bags have given me is in space; the Kappi bags all fit neatly in an old ice-cream container in the cupboard among the plates, while the lunch boxes and other plastic containers used to take up an entire cupboard by themselves. I love reducing the stuff I have (except wool and yarn of course) so this has been a big win for me.

soap nuts for laundry; I began using soap nuts for clothes washing this year, they reduce the amount of chemicals I am using in the house as well as cutting our water use in half. I count this as a huge win for our budget and for the environment around our humpy. I also now use soap nuts to wash wool for spinning and have been considering swapping to soap nuts for washing dishes too. My only problem is that I have to buy the soap nuts and I am looking for an Australian native alternative that I can grow in the garden.

biogas toilet unit;

Buying the biogas unit was a MAJOR purchase (and you know how I hate to spend money), but it has turned out to be a big win for our environmental footprint. The unit is still operating on the bucket of horse manure I collect from beside the road every day on the way home from work, but will eventually be attached to a toilet. It produces gas for cooking from the manure and has minimal inputs beyond our waste products (also very little maintenance required). The down side we have found so far is that the gas bladder takes a few days to refill after we use the gas, possibly because we are only feeding it horse manure at a rate of about 2 kg per day; higher value food will equal more gas.

Aquaponics system;

The trial aquaponics system has been a success and A*****e the fish is happy living in his five star solitary confinement. I have plans to build a much bigger system soon, which will be attached to a grey water filter system. This new system will hopefully grow a much larger amount of food for us and the animals. The greens we grow in the trial system have been useful and tasted great, I want more now that the theory has been proven.

Our aquaponics system.

We continue to try to be more sustainable, more autonomous and more environmentally friendly; sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. This blog is a diary of sorts for me, and reviewing our progress over the last few years to write this post has made me realise the huge difference we have made to our lives, the lives of the animals in our area and , hopefully, to the world at large, I feel proud of our efforts.

Biogas system update

I realise I should have posted about how the biogas system is working a while ago, but…better late than never.

The system took a while to produce gas, it sat for weeks looking sad and deflated, even though I fed it a bucket of horse manure every day for the first week.

Eventually the weather got warm enough and the microbes in the tank woke up and started to feed. The gas holder slowly filled up until it was just over half full. I really wanted to try out the burner to see if we have methane in the tank or just carbon dioxide (which is apparently common in the first few months).

We connected the gas line to the stove that came with the kit as soon as the gas holding…balloon? (I’m not sure what to call the thing that holds the gas) got to almost full.

The gas balloon about half full.
The gas line connected and running through PVC pipe to the house.
The gas line into the house.
This is the cute little burner that came with the kit.

The first lighting of the flame ; this was a momentous occasion. We lit the flame and it just hissed at us for a few seconds, then an almost invisible blue flame was born. We boiled the kettle for the washing up in about 5 minutes and celebrated with a coffee…then I made soy milk…and my daughter made a stew…and so on.

Our first water boil using biogas. The flame is almost invisible.

The gas balloon went down a lot in that first afternoon as we used the burner constantly (that’s what you do with new toys isn’t it?). After that I went back to feeding the system a bucket of manure every day. The colder weather certainly slows down the gas production and we don’t have enough gas to use as our only supply just yet. Once the toilet is connected to the system the feeding of the digester will hopefully take care of itself.

I am sold on biogas; even though the initial set up of the bacterial colonies takes so long (especially in Winter) and the refill time is fairly long at first, the system works and is improving daily.

Bushfires…again

I stopped on the way home from work on Friday (6th September) to take this photo of the smoke plume from the Long Gully fire. We had just been evacuated for the second time this year.

We are in the midst of another major bushfire event; the second this year. There can be no denying that climate change is having an effect on our daily lives. The school where I work was evacuated on Friday (6th September) due to bushfire threat for the second time this year and we found ourselves starting sentences about policy and procedure about natural disaster with “Last time we…”.

I went home to wait out the fire (we were a long way from the fire front then) and to worry about the families we know who live closer. People have lost their homes and livelihoods in both major fires this year and it is shaping up to be a very dangerous fire season (this is just the start).

I am worried about the lack of water in the area, I am worried about the prediction of no significant rain to come for many months and I am worried about losing everything when things are just starting to happen for us. In short…I’m worried.

The fire is creeping slowly closer to us. It is still a long way away and the highway is proving to be a line of defense, but we are preparing for the worst anyway.

My partner has managed to install a sprinkler system on the roof of the humpy that extends out about 2-3 metres from the walls. This means we can pen the animals against the wall of the humpy and keep them and our home safe if the fire reaches us. We are very short on water though and will have to save this for dire emergencies.

This is the pump that runs the sprinkler system. I wasn’t going to climb on the roof to get a photo.

We have the area around the humpy and the new house site cleared back to about 30-40 metres and it is bare dirt at the moment. There are tree heads and leaves beyond the fire break though and they will create a lot of sparks.

The clearing around the humpy. Yes, that is smoke in the air.

We have cleared everything back from the walls of the humpy so we can minimise sparks starting a fire where we can’t see it. There has been a lot of raking up of leaves over the last few days.

We cleared the walls all around the humpy and raked out the leaves.
There are gaps like this under the shed wall. We need to block them off, on the other side of this wall is fuel and other flammable stuff.
Leaf raking from one wall.

We have bins at all four sides of the humpy with old towels in them, ready to be filled with water when we hear that a fire is close. A wet towel is a great fire fighting tool for spot fires and slow grass fires. These bins mean we can dunk our towels and put out spot fires without too much running around.

These bins are ready to be filled with water at every side of the humpy.

We have our back pack filled with water and ready to put out spot fires in the humpy (they are most likely to start in the ‘ceiling space’ as the possums have built leaf nests between the sissilation and the roof and the gaps between the walls and roof could allow sparks in). This is actually my greatest worry and I want to seal the wall/roof gaps as soon as possible. We plan to buy another backpack to be available outside as well.

The good old back pack sprayer.

The lack of water is a big problem, but since our water comes from rain there isn’t a lot we can do about it. We have a small dam at the front of the property that we can harvest water from and we plan to do that to fill a small tank in the house yard we can use to feed the roof sprinklers for a half hour or so. To do this we have a 1000 litre tank on the trailer with a small fire fighter pump to fill and empty it. We plan to fill this trailer and tank arrangement to be used as a mobile fire fighting unit too. The problem at the moment is that my partner broke a pipe fitting for the pump yesterday and we need a replacement before we can get water from the dam. The roads are currently closed and I’m not sure I can get through to town to get replacement parts. Since this is a big part of our fire plan I will probably give it a go.

The trailer set up.

When all this is in place, we just wait and watch the ‘FiresNearMe’ app and ‘Sentinel Hotspots’ site for information about where the fire is and what it is doing. Facebook community pages are monitored too, even though they often give misleading information, to try to get a clue about the fire without physically driving down to the fire front and getting in everyone’s way.

Currently (11th September) the wind has died down and the Rural Fire Service stands a good chance of getting it under control before it gets anywhere near our humpy. We will still be ready if that changes (I hope).

So many people in our community have lost their homes or other property, so many have lost the last standing feed on their place for stock to eat. So many animals have lost their lives to this fire, not only stock and pets owned by people, but wild animals too. Many bird species are nesting now and some will only nest once in a season, the loss of a nest (and sometimes a mother) at this point means they will not breed again this year. Many reptiles are still in a state of torpor and can not get out of the way of the flames (and reptiles take many days, even weeks to die from burns, it’s heart breaking). Many marsupials and mammal species rely on the feed and disappearing water sources which have been impacted by the fire, they will be hungry and thirsty until it rains again.

Bell…one of our local goanna

We will do our best to provide water and feed for our wild neighbors here at the humpy; the dam at the front of the property is primarily for animals to drink from, and we put out water bowls around the humpy for the wild ones. We provide old eggs at the edge of the fire break for goanna, dogs and others (far enough away from the humpy to keep them away we hope) and fallen chaff and grain from our animals feeds small birds and marsupials. We will do our best to look after each other, it’s all we can do.

The little bit of green we maintain by emptying teapots and water bottles. looking at green after all the grey and brown is soothing to the soul.

Planting chokos…again

I plant chokos every few years here; not because they are biennial but because the geese and chooks eat them regularly and they never seem to get ahead of the predators.

Choko (or chayote) is a vine crop that is known to be very hardy and bears in HUGE quantities. I love the flavour, although not everyone does. In the past I have used them to make pickles, steamed with other vegetables and to bulk up sauces and pies (apple pie can be made with just one apple and lots of chokos. They take on the flavour of any fruit or vegetable they are cooked with so the possibilities are endless. They are so useful in the kitchen that we are trying to grow them again. They can also be used as animal food, and so can the leaves.

We planted them in a big pot this time, straight into a mix of compost from the chook pen (made up of cardboard, food scraps and chook poop) and sand. The chokos we planted are three chokos in a bag that were left to fend for themselves at the back of the cupboard. They developed long runners to push out of the bag and try to find water or soil, these runners may sprout leaves and grow, or we may have to wait until a bigger sprout pushes up from the base. The whole choko is buried in a shallow trench in the pot with minimal cover over the sprouting end.

Adding a smallish plastic container to the bottom of the pot gives the plant a water reservoir for dry times.
A mix of compost and sand will feed and support the new plant.
These chokos really want to live.
Planted and ready to grow.

It is easy to get discouraged by the amount of plants our animals eat, but we keep trying.

The swallows are back. Happy Imbolc

Sorry for the picture quality, I had to zoom right up on my phone to get this shot.

Last year we had swallows decide to build a nest in our bedroom; it was a very exciting time for us as we watched the new babies hatch and grow. This year they are back early (an effect of climate change?).

The pair flew in through an open door yesterday as if they had never been away. They bought in cob mix and feathers and arranged the nest over the day. This morning the female was waiting at the front door when we got up (there is a new wall since last year and they seem to be locked out unless we leave a door open), she flew straight to the nest and we think an egg was laid.

A blurry photo of mum on her nest.

We hope to have new babies within 21 days. The swallows have arrived at Imbolc; the time of blessing seeds, when the Earth begins to warm up and seeds sprout. The hardenbergia flowers at Imbolc and so do the snow drops, I look forward to this time of year as there is so much joy and life in the bush it is impossible to be sad.

Having swallows nest in the house is messy, but we love to have a ringside seat to the raising of babies and we learn so much about the life of so many animals by living close to them. I can see the nest from my bed; when I wake up in the morning the first thing I see is the swallows nest. What a reminder of just how lucky I am.

Up-cycled kitchen bins

This week I got all artistic and decided to paint my kitchen bins. These three bins (for Return and Earn recycling, just recycling and rubbish) have been up-cycled from old solar battery boxes; the heavy plastic is easy to clean, resistant to just about anything and VERY yellow. I haven’t been too worried about the colour in the past (we are not a family that worries about looks much), but I do like to let my creativity out to play now and then.

Kitchen bins waiting for a new paint job.
After my eldest daughter gave them a wash for me, I sprayed on a base coat of purple paint (I do love purple). I gave them a total of two coats each, but there are still areas where the yellow shows through a little.

Just cheap spray paint in a can.
Two coats of purple paint…but not on the bottom.
Then I sprayed some gold paint into the lid of the spray can and flicked globs of it onto the outside of the bin. I love the effect and I think they look amazing.

I also found some blackboard paint (in my daughter’s craft stash…shhh, don’t tell her) and painted little squares on the handles so I can label them.

Our old labeling system
Waiting for the paint smell to dissipate.

We got a freezer!!!

The only thing I have missed living with solar power has been a freezer. Well… we bit the bullet and bought a freezer that will run off our solar.

It is a Haier 143 litre chest freezer that came up as a special at our local Harvey Norman shop. This was an unexpected purchase because we didn’t realise that solar friendly freezers existed. We bought it home and plonked it next to the newish fridge, plugged it in and away it went.

It uses 220 Watts per year which makes it a very economical freezer.

I plan to fill it up with prepared meals for those work nights we just don’t want to cook (all of them). I also hope to be able to freeze garden produce (when we have it) and buy frozen food when it is on special. I am actually quite excited about having this option for preserving food and I am off to watch meal prep videos now.

New yarn storage system

wow…I have such a lot of yarn. Hand made, recycled and gifted, you name it, I have it. In my push to make more room in my seriously overcrowded craft room, I bought one of those fancy cube storage units (yes, it was a wrench to part with that much cash and yes, I did find a second hand one on GumTree the day after I bought it). We put it together one day after work, when we were both tired and cranky (which accounts for the fairly large ding in the wood of the bottom piece). We are still married, so I think we passed the IKEA test, the one where you have to put together some modular furniture as a team before you decide you are compatible.

This photo was taken after I started making bins for the spaces.

Once the unit was up and in place I went looking for a pattern for those attractive and useful fabric storage bins. I found heaps and was really looking forward to making a dent in my fabric stash when I ran across a problem; interfacing. I don’t usually use it at all, and all the patterns say I need something to stiffen the sides of my bins (makes sense). So off I went looking for an alternative. Soon I found a clip of a woman making storage bins from old clothes, she used rice bags as interfacing…and that’s when I had my lightning-strike-to-the-brain idea. Why couldn’t I use old feed bags as interfacing? They would be noisy and crinkly, but that doesn’t matter for something that will spend most of it’s life sitting on a shelf. The bags are prone to breaking down in the sun, but they would be covered by fabric, and indoors. The poly bags may be slippery and hard to sew, I found some posts about people using them to make bags, so it is possible. I decided to give it a try.

I found this YouTube tutorial to use as my basic pattern idea, I just made them bigger.

First step was to make my pattern; I wanted cubes that were about 30cm square, so I made a simple net pattern out of newspaper.

I used my newly organised fabric draws to find some fabric for these boxes.

I ended up with some interesting options. I’m not the sort of person who worries about things matching.

Next I cut out pieces for the outside and lining of my boxes.

I cut some pieces of feed bag to use as interfacing.

Then it was a simple matter to sew up the bins as instructed by the tutorial.

So far I have five done. My plan is to make a bin for every space in the cabinet and store all my yarns in them. There are still three huge plastic boxes full of yarn to go.

Some tips I have discovered along the way; use grain bags not chaff bags, the weave is too loose on chaff bags and they fray really easily.

The chaff bags fray a lot.

The grain bags are easy to sew and give a good amount of stiffness to the bins, but they are just a bit too small for the 30 cm square bins. I sticky taped two together to get a sheet big enough, it seems to have worked.

This bin is made with the grain bags.

So far I have really enjoyed this project. Hopefully my yarns will be visible and usable once it is finished.

Home biogas system- (part two)

It’s finally warm enough to start setting up our biogas system. A few weeks ago we got one of our neighbors down to help us level a pad for the unit and we gathered together all the bits and pieces we needed to set up the first part of the unit (the digester and gas collector part), we will set up the cooker that came with the unit once it is producing gas. The toilet attachment will be installed as part three of this project as we have to wait until the unit is active before we add human manure to the mix.

The unit will be to the North of the humpy, close to the kitchen and right beside the toilet. That way the gas does not have to travel far and neither does the poop.

Thanks for the help Louise.
A nice level pad for our biogas unit.

Next we laid down a ute mat made of rubber to protect the digester from any sharp stones that might be in the soil. The unit came with it’s own rubber mat, but we wanted to be sure it was protected. The extra rubber also insulates the unit from the cold soil a little.

Then it was time to put the pieces together and set up the unit itself. There is a really handy app that talks you through the whole process.

It looks like putting up a tent.
Can you believe the kit also includes a tiny tub of Vasoline to use as a lubricant for putting the puzzle pieces together?
There is even a little bucket to use as a measure when filling the sand bags (provided).

Filling the unit with water felt like a real achievement after all the brain work of putting the jig saw together. While it was filling up we got busy filling up the sand bags that become weights for the gas collector (the unit uses these weights to put the gas under low pressure so it is pushed through the gas line to the stove).

Filling with water took all afternoon.

The following sequence of photos show fairly clearly how to fill and seal the bags so there is not much air in them. This is important as the pockets the bags go into are quite narrow and the bags have to be squeezed into them.

The gas collecting bag is strapped onto the top of the digester then the gas and inlet lines are attached.
As the sun sinks rapidly into the West, we begin to fill the unit with cow manure.
A total of 3 feed bags of cow manure went into the unit tonight, we will add more over the next week.

The unit will begin to bubble and produce methane over the next few weeks and we will add the gas line and the toilet as part of the next stage. Look out for the next installment in a fortnight…