Archive for the ‘Recycling’ Category

Soapy twists and squeaky turns

A few months ago, in a fit of creativeness, I ordered a block of ‘melt and pour’ soap. Soapy Twists is a company that makes and sells in India and the glycerine M&P soap arrived promptly by post. Sadly, the creative dust got buried under the carpet of work and routine.

But yesterday, I visited K, where our friends farm organically, live sustainably and save thousands of paddy seeds in beautiful mud pots. So this week, making soap is my small contribution to sustainablity – I was inspired to melt and pour!
M&P is also known as the lazy way to making soap. The ‘real’ way would be the Hot or Cold Process, which combines a base with a fat in the process of saponification. Some faint bell rings in memories from chemistry classes in high school. Not that I made the connections between classroom science and the multinational FMCG companies making profits peddling smaller and ‘cheaper’ bars of soap. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to know fantastic groups in South India, local women’s groups, who make handmade soap with coconut oil. I still swear by them, but M&P is proving to be a fun supplement!

Today I chose oatmeal-honey and mint-aloe vera from the garden. Not having rubbing alocohol or silicone moulds wasn’t too much of an obstacle. I reused Amul buttermilk cartons, 200 ml tetrapacks, with a little tape over the hole for the straw. Here are the results!


Cyclones & Curtains

We have a cyclone brewing on the coast. Far away enough for us to just be feeling the winds gently. So far atleast. Perhaps it’ll get worse soon. I hope those in the eye of the storm will able to get to safety. So as the winds get stronger & blow my curtains up and out – here’s the story of how these beautiful curtains came to be…

Curtains have this wonderful ability to turn an empty room into a cozy home. For the last decade or so, I’ve been using ‘export reject’ curtains, which come by the dozen to safina plaza. Because the lengths are not exactly the same, or the tabs are different, or some small error has been made at the factories around Tirupur, they are considered unfit for export to foreign markets, and are sent to urban India instead. The fabrics, colours and styles are beautiful and the prices incomparable. But Bangalore is too far away to be able to curtain shop, so in BC, I turned instead to the internet for DIY and recycling ideas. That’s how I met some fascinating new words: upscycling & repurposing (we have really come a long way from the 3R’s).

Long story short, I decided to upcycle a whole bunch of my mothers and grandmothers bright cotton sarees into curtains. I modified ideas from blogs like these and with SK didi’s expertise, we had great fun turning these beautiful sarees into curtains. I must admit they are closer to voiles. But since our part of the country is relatively sparsely populated and privacy isn’t really an issue, they work perfectly.

You need: fabric, scissors, a roll of ribbon, pins, measuring tape or ruler, a sewing machine (you could do it by hand, but a sewing machine makes it painlessly fast!), windows or doors with a curtain rod to hang up the curtains when you’re done

Step 1: Get your material together, in my case, old cotton sarees. You could use sheets, dupattas, any fabric that catches your eye. Measure your window or door and decided how big each curtain should be.


Step 2: Cut up into desired curtain lengths. With the sarees it was easy – divide by three to get three curtains per sari. The saree breadth is just perfect.

Step 3: Get out the ribbon for making the tabs. I used white satin ribbon but any will do. Plan your tabs – 1 had 7 per curtain. The more tabs, the more pretty pleat folds you get. Then cut up the ribbon into strips that are an inch longer than the tab length. This extra inch is so that you can reinforce both the top and bottom of each tab as seen in the Steps 5 & 6. (You could also do this with fabric strips, but you’d have to hem so many many edges. Ribbon is much easier, neater and prettier option. Others have used self-adhesive strips & hot glue guns, but as far as I know, we don’t get those in rural India).

Step 4: Using what we call ‘bell’ pins here, fold the top and bottom of each tab and pin in place. Get all the tabs pinned and ready to place onto the curtain.

Step 5: Arrange the tabs on your curtain, leaving a top margin of a few inches  (this will stick out above your curtain rod) and pin them in place. The idea is to reinforce the tabs by double stitching on either side of each pin. Remember not to make them too tight, as the curtain rod has to fit through each tab. If possible, do a trial run and hang the curtain up to see how it looks. Re-adjust the pins and tabs if needed. (I had planned ten tabs per curtain, but after a dry run, realised that 7 would be more than enough.)

Step 6: Get out your sewing machine and stitch a line on top of the pins, and another under the pins (that’s 4 lines in total). Pull the pins out, and hem the sides of the curtain if needed. If using sarees, only the top or bottom needs to be hemmed.


And there you have it – beautiful curtains to turn your room into a home! Get cracking!!


TranscenDental meditation

Visiting the dentist has never been one of my favourite things. I wait until the last possible minute, until I just have to and can’t postpone it any longer. And then after all the psyching up to face the lion’s den, it usually turns out to be much more of a calm, peaceful affair. Dr R smiles gently, numbs the aching jaw and I close my eyes for some transcenDental meditation. My dad also had a tooth pulled out (don’t miss the origins of the procrastinating gene) this time. And R had us both done in under 45minutes! Quite amazing.

On the topic of teeth and brushing, I came across some interesting ‘tips’ to reduce waste, one of which was: ‘To get every last bit out of your tube of toothpaste, soak it in warm water for a minute and then squeeze all the residual paste out of the tube‘. I believe in waste not, want not. So I usually stretch my toothpastes out for as long as I can. I know some people cut the tube, which I do too for facewashes or conditioners, but with toothpaste I just squeeze really hard. So the soaking in warm water sounded like a good plan. I did that this morning, and yes, it worked great! So here I was feeling all happy and inventive about my efficient use of the toothpaste tube, of doing my bit to reduce waste, of reusing, recycling, of saving the planet. And just as I was beginning to float a gently into the clouds, with harps twanging in the background, a smart passing angel nudged my halo a little bit. D didi showed me her new broom.

New Coconut Leaf Broom

New Coconut Leaf Broom

She made one from coconut leaves (not the actual leaf, but the stiff mid-rib or vein). These are traditionally used in most parts of India (eirkilli chooll is what I grew up calling it) and didi used the coconut frond that fell down in the rain a few days ago. M gave her a brilliant idea, which totally eclipsed my effective emptying of the toothpaste tube.

Recycled Toothpaste Tube Broom Handle

Recycled Toothpaste Tube Broom Handle

They cut the ends of the tube, and stuck the broom through it!! So there you go – a sturdy, tight fitting handle for your broom. A wonderful way to recycle an old toothpaste tube. I’ve saved the one I just squeezed for the next broom, and am hoping the tree will drop another frond in the rain. The clouds were dark and threatening, but the winds blew them away into the hills. So in the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied with more transcendental meditation.

Ps. And remember not to be fooled by the great toothpaste advertising people – you just need a pea-sized dot on your brush, not a long, hearty, curly-wurly squeeze that covers the entire brush!

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