Handsewn Bento Bag

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

I don’t own a sewing machine (yet), so these hemmed Tenugui/Japanese hand towels from Daiso are great for my sewing craft work.  The drawstring produce bags handsewn with the same material are really light-weight and handy for my plastic-bag-free market trips, they are also great as lunch box carriers, something useful especially for packing hot food in my non-thermal stainless steel containers as they are too hot to hold without handles.

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

Just like the my previous projects, I am using the same Tenugui with dimension measuring 87 x 35cm.  My bento bag is modified from this design that originally requires the width to measure 1/3 to the length of the fabric.  After tucking the fabric in various ways to figure out a similar sewing pattern without cutting any part of it, I managed to sew this not-that-symmetrical origami bento bag.

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

The space is generous, I tried with a 26 x 13 x 6cm box an still manage to tie a pretty bow with the ends of the bag.

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

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Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

I recently started to make a switch to soap nuts for my handwash laundry.  While I am still getting accustomed to a really low sud way of washing my delicates, it’s indeed a great way to save water just like my almost-no-suds DIY tea seed kitchen detergent.  For more heavier soiled laundry, I am falling back on traditional bar soaps made with vegetable fats.  I tried an old-school “Labour” brand of laundry bar soap a few years back.  Can’t really remember what made me stop abruptly after using up all the 5 bars that came in the pack, but they did last quite a while.

I chanced upon a multi-purpose bar soap brand for household cleaning and laundry recently.  The seller recommended that it will lather even better when placed inside a drawstring bag, and hanging the bag with the soap inside to drip dry after using will prevent the soap from “dissolving” in a soap dish that is always wet.  I think this is a fantastic idea for bar soap users.  I can’t remember losing how many bars of bar soaps in the shower to such “flooding” soap dish incidents, so I diy a pouch my shower bar soap as well.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

For even better lathering effect, I made the drawstring pouches with a cotton washcloth from Daiso.  My shower bar soap instantly turns into an exfoliating bar when I use the soap placed inside the textured bag.  One washcloth is enough to make 3 handy pouches that fit the standard size bar soaps.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

While this current laundry bar soap doesn’t feel drying to my hands, I can’t remember how my hands actually felt when I was using the Labour brand bar soap, but I remember it being much cheaper.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

Palm oil, coconut oil, canola oil, soda ash, and sodium hydroxide are listed whereas only “made with vegetable fats” is printed on Labour bar soap’s packaging.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

The pack comes with 4 individually shrink-wrapped bars.  Since I still have an extra pouch left,  I will be getting the Labour brand this weekend again to see if I like it better when I use it inside the pouch.

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Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Food Wrap

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I go by a simple rule that if something can be diy-ed relatively easily, then resist buying, unless leaving the ‘making’ to someone else saves me plenty of money.  Beeswax cloth food wraps definitely fall under the “can-do” category.

For the uninitiated, beeswax food wraps are the environmentally friendly solution to plastic cling wraps since it can be reused, unlike the disposable nature of the latter.  I have long given up on plastic food wraps as they never seem to “cling” once out of the dispenser.  I find old newspapers a better wrap for my leafy vegetables and see through food savers are my preferred storage containers for halved lemons, avocados and carrots.  But if you are still buying, using, and discarding rolls and rolls of plastic cling wraps, perhaps you might want to consider investing one of these reusable food wraps.  I have since made these wraps on 2 separate occasions and share some tips and thoughts on this DIY project below.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 001.  Sizes: XS and XL

The best thing about making my own wrap is that I can decide how big or small I want the wrap to be.  As big as this one that I can easily use to wrap watermelon half, or

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

as tiny as this one for 2 cherry tomatoes,

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I even have one for wrapping a bamboo spoon for a packed meal.  Neat.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 002. Methods: Oven or Iron?

These are the initial few sheets that I have made. Things went smoothly right from the very first piece, simply because the bake in the oven method is really easy.

I first line a baking tray with parchment paper, then place the cotton fabric on the paper, sprinkle beeswax pellets evenly on it and place it in a preheated oven at 150C.  It takes just 3 minutes for the beeswax pellets to melt.

Take the tray out, add 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil (I learned that the addition of oil helps to make the wrap more pliable and cling better here) and use a clean large paintbrush with short bristles (so that the beeswax is not absorbed by the bristles) to spread the wax and oil evenly on every inch of the fabric.  Do this step swiftly before the wax starts to solidify at room temperature.  If the wax solidifies before you can even spread them, pop them back into the oven for another 30 sec to 1 minute this time to melt again, but watch closely and do not leave the oven unattended since beeswax and cotton are flammable.

Once the wax has been evenly spread, remove the fabric from the parchment paper and let it dry.  Once dry, wash it once with water and mild soap before its first use.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

The only teething issue I have is how to keep the melted beeswax remaining on the cotton fabric, not on my baking tray.  Even after lining the tray with baking paper, I still ended up with beeswax staining my tray, which I have yet to clear. (Oops)

There is another iron-on method with instructions here.  But I decided not to try just in case the beeswax stains my iron and ironing board.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 003.  Do they cling well?

Yes.  Much better than plastic cling wraps.  Make these with the lightest cotton fabric, not the heavy kind for making curtains with.  The thin fabric will allow the food wrap to cling better.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I have since been testing these wraps vigorously, at home as well as on-the-go, washing, and drying in between just to see how well they can replace the plastic version.  They definitely work, and they “cling” so much better than the plastic ones.  As beeswax softens at the warmth of my hands, I managed to shape and mold the wrap closely to the contour of the food items or containers.  And once they are placed in the chiller, the shape is further set as the beeswax solidifies.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I am so happy with the result that I customize one as a lid for my baking pan so that it becomes my “bread storage tin”.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

And made more with some fabric scraps from Ikea.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

But I still prefer plain ones, so I made more with my plain fabric and dye them with pomegranate tea and turmeric tea for a colour variety.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + CoGreen Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 004. How to care for them?

First thing first.  These wraps are not to be used for raw meat and dairy products since the wrap can only be washed with cold water and mild soap.  Keep the wrap away from heat sources as the beeswax will melt.  For the same reason, do not it use to wrap hot food.

To wash, simply run the wrap under cold water and wash with mild soap.  Wipe dry with a tea towel if reusing immediately.  Otherwise, hang to air dry, then fold the wraps and store in a drawer.  The wraps will retain the creases from the previous usage and will need a re-wax (same instructions a making a new one) when the wrap no longer clings as well as before.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 005. Other tips?

++ A pair of pinking shears will help to earn extra design points.

++ Be careful if you are allergic to beeswax or pollen, you might want to get wrap made with plant based wax such as soy instead.

++ When passing food to friends wrapped in these wraps, make sure to inform them that these are reusable and non-disposable.  I am adding this tip because one ended up being trashed by an unaware friend.

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Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

(Update 27 May 2020:  I have stopped making tea seed cleaning detergent this way.   Instead, I reuse a sugar dispenser , fill it up with tea seed powder and sprinkle it directly on the greasy dishes like this.)

Tea seed powder is what remains after the edible oil, more commonly known as Camellia oil (苦茶油), has been extracted from the tea seeds.  The defatted seeds are then crushed and milled into fine powder which contains natural saponins.  This makes the powder an effective yet natural cleaner and degreaser, perfect replacement for my commercial dish washing detergent, less harsh on my hands too.  You see, I love cleaning, but I don’t want my hands to look the part.

Although packaging instructions says to mix powder with water to form a paste for scrubbing dirty dishes, I kind of miss the “slippery feel” of a lathering detergent.  I also feel that I am using more powder than required for my usual load since I am not sure if the dishes are cleaned properly by just rubbing the powder paste on them.  Therefore, I attempt to boil the tea seed powder plus water mixture into a thickened solution that is easier to dispense and apply.  Although the tea seed detergent does not lather up like the commercial ones, the greasy dishes feel squeaky clean after a quick rinse.  There is no soap residue: the kind that takes forever to wash away.  With the water price hike effective this month, water bill saving is a selling point for me to switch to this homemade detergent.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have already used up two-1kg pack bought from a local organic shop, not only as detergent, but also in lots of other body care uses as shown here and here.  One important thing to note is that once the bag is opened, the powder will turn rancid fast and must be used up in three months.

Since the opened bag must be kept in a cool dry place, I choose to store the balance from an opened bag in an airtight container.  Prettier than a pouch clip on a slouching bag.  Lest you think that I diy the label on the plastic container, it is actually a label from another brand that I first bought from Taiwan.  So I have in fact used up a total of 3 kg todate.  Yes, it’s that versatile and effective.

As the tea seed powder solution will turn bad overnight, I have to make a fresh batch everyday for daily use, and discard whatever I can’t finish up.  I have since learned a great tip to make the detergent last longer without spoilage.  Revelation came somewhere between the second and third bag, and after poring over the ingredient labels of a few commercially available tea seed powder detergents : adding sea salt as a natural preservative!

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I  don’t have the exact formula or scientific recipe to the proportion of ingredients, but this is the ratio I use : 100 ml water to 1 tablespoon tea seed powder to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  I came up with this as it is easy to remember and it also happens to produce a pretty thick consistency after boiling.  If you find it too thick, add lesser tea seed powder for a more runny detergent.  Mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.

Here are the steps I use to make the detergent : first, mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.  I use a pot that I cook with, since I wash my pot with the very detergent that I am making, so there is no reason for me to use a separate pot to boil the mixture.  The powder is inedible though, so keep it away from children.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

As soon as the mixture starts to boil, the solution will slowly thicken.  Turn off heat and allow detergent to cool down completely.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

Tranfer detergent to a squeeze bottle or a pump dispenser, shake each time before use.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have been filling up a 600ml (600ml water + 6 tablespoons tea seed powder + 3 teaspoons sea salt) squeeze bottle bought from Daiso with my homemade dishwashing detergent.  A bottle can last me for about 4-5 days of daily dishwashing.

Another chemical household product eliminated, another eco multi-purpose cleaner in my house.  More on its other usage soon, especially as a shampoo for my greasy scalp!

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Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner

Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co

These origami papers are not what they seem.  The Minion themed tray liners from a popular fast food restaurant are too pretty to be recycled into paper pulp.

After trimming them to square sheets, I proceed to turn them into bookmarks.  Catching up with a novel or two is a great luxury during the school holiday, so these will definitely come in handy when left on the coffee or bedside table.

Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co

I folded these bookmarks with instructions here, here, and here.

Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co Origami Bookmark With Tray Liner // Mono + Co

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Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew)

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

Sometimes, synthetic materials are so ubiquitous in our lives that I often overlook simpler/ natural alternatives until I ask myself if a DIY avenue is possible.  For all the countless ironing board covers that I have been replacing over the years, I always blindly pick one from the shelf pondering over only the size and pattern design but never the material composition.  There wasn’t much choices available at the supermarket where I usually buy my covers from and technology all seems to be pointing towards a shinier and easier-to-glide surface for a perfect press anyway.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

When the latest cover accidently got burnt by a wrong temperature setting (note to self: focus!) and let off a plasticky whiff, I started wondering if I should seek a better cover made of a thicker material with a higher heat resistance level.  I started recalling how my mom used to make us do our ironing seated on the floor without an iron board.  What lies underneath the garment is just a huge piece of heavy cotton canvas that has been folded multiple times to create a thick pad.  And after we were done, the canvas was stowed away nicely in the wardrobe, unlike the modern bulky standing iron board that sticks out like a sore thumb propped against one side of my bedroom wall.  I don’t intend to discard my ironing board since I have grown accustomed to doing my ironing while standing, but this brief reminiscence reminded me of a piece of cotton cloth that could be perfect for this DIY.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

The cotton cloth fits the dimension of the ironing board nicely, but I wasn’t in the mood to sew this by hand, yet.  Instead, I retain the damaged cover (a temporary pad since I find the cotton not thick enough) and start manoeuvring the cloth around to wrap the cover and the ironing board.  If you can make your own bed or wrap a present neatly, this should not be difficult.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

When it comes to the narrowest end of the ironing board, I can’t tuck in all the excess fabric without obstructing the folding parts of the the board for storage.  Instead, I used a hair tie to gather the bulk end tightly to keep this part of the board tapered and neatly so that the cover doesn’t move around when ironing.

Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co  Green Monday : DIY Cotton Ironing Board Cover (No-Sew) // Mono + Co

I am working on part 2 of this DIY : finding a suitable padding material and putting everything together, sewn by hand. But if you are lucky enough to own a sewing machine, here are few links that will be useful:

Craftsy blog

The 36th Avenue

My Plastic Free Life

The Spruce

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Green Monday : DIY Bath/Foot Soak

Green Monday : DIY Bath/Foot Soak // Mono + Co

After a while, the habit of reading food ingredient label will automatically extend to the body care product section.  With more beauty trends focusing on naturally derived ingredients, I also started making some for my own use with very basic recipes starting with bath and body products.  It’s tempting to stock up on a variety of ingredients to keep up with the huge range of diy bath product recipes available online, but I am determined to stick to what I already have.  Apart from a few types of essential oils, sweet almond oil, and castile soap that I bought last year (Yes! All these lasted me that long!), I got the rest from my kitchen pantry: honey, baking soda, raw sugar, sea salt, coconut oil, oatmeal, apple cider vinegar, etc.  I am very tempted to buy some bentonite clay, but that will probably have to wait until I finish up my jar of store-bought clay mask.

I always tell my friends that they will get a lot more bang for their buck if they make home spa products at home.  Since I am making these products for my own use, chance are I will be super generous with the key ingredients such as honey or olive oil, food grade, no less and sometimes even organic.

I made this “Rosebuds + Himalayan Pink Salt + Epsom Salt” bath soak for a recent vacation and like it so much that I made more back home as a foot soak since I don’t have a bathtub. For this soak, I used a mix of Epsom salt and Himalayan salt, with more of the latter since it is the cheaper of the two.  The rose buds from floral tea section were honestly more for aesthetics purpose, to have an entire bathtub of water smell like rose tea, I will need way more than the 30+ buds that I have added here.  If you have a favorite essential oil that you like, add a few drops of that instead.  The addition of rosebuds is a nice touch if this is put together as a gift.

Green Monday : DIY Bath/Foot Soak // Mono + Co

This 300g bottle of bath/foot soak took me less than 5 minute to diy and cost less me than $2.  Make one for your regular home spa treat, or pack this in your luggage to soothe your aching muscles at the end of the day!

Here are some interesting links that I referred to when I decided on the Epsom and Himalayan salt mix, with some common precaution to note when taking bath soak:

// 2-salt combo mentioned here, here and here as a detox bath

// a pretty gift idea

// Epsom salt with baking soda, also for detox

// precautionary notes here state that Epsom salt are not recommended for patients with high blood pressure or severe varicose veins

// benefits of Epsom salt, and Epsom salt baths here

// or detox with just Himalayan salt

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June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent

June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent // Mono + Co

The mid-year school holiday will start this weekend and there is no lack of outdoor activities on our sunny island, a great opportunity for the little ones at home to get connected with nature or outdoor sports.  I always fully embrace the idea of playing a local tourist at home as a frugal mom, so I have listed some events that have caught my eyes at the end of this post.

Let me first jump the topic to my homemade insect repellent as this is a must-have in my outdoor bag with the entire family being walking mozzie magnets.  To start, let’s find a spray bottle.

June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent // Mono + Co

Remember these handy mosquito repellents that the schools and RCs distributed a few years back?  Check the expiry dates, they have probably passed their effective period.  But don’t throw them away yet, the spray bottles can be refilled with a homemade Deet-free natural version, recipes and instructions can be easily found online like this, this, this and this.

Most of these recipes require just 2 or 3 of the following ingredients.

++01. Essential Oil

An essential oil or mix that repels mosquitoes and bugs: choose from Citronella, Eucalyptus,  Tea Tree, Lavender, Peppermint, and Neem just to name a few.  My favorite combination is 70% citronella + 20% tea tree + 10% eucalyptus.  If you are new to essential oils, stick to Citronella and try it out before getting more.  Always, always dilute essential oils before use.

++ 02. Witch hazel, or distilled water.

Some recipes use only witch hazel, some mix equal part of witch hazel to water.  I choose the cheapest/convenient way, only boiled water that has cooled down.

++ 03. The optional ones:

// Vegetable glycerin as an emulsifier. I happen to have glycerin at home so I add it to my latest batch.  For some reason, this works much better than just essential oil diluted with water.
// A carrier oil like sweet almond to bind the repellent better to our skin.  I don’t usually a carrier oil, but an oil based repellent’s effectiveness will last longer without regular reapplication.  When I need something stronger and don’t have time to reapply the water base repellent every hour, I will make a rub-on repellent instead by adding essential oil directly to the carrier oil and store this a brown bottle, away from light.
// Vodka is sometimes suggested to be added as a preservative.  Since I don’t make the repellent spray in bulk, usually just enough for half a day outer activity, I don’t add it as well.

June Holiday Activities + DIY Natural Insect Repellent // Mono + Co

Now that the worry of getting bitten by bugs is out of the way, let’s run through to the outdoor activities for the coming school holiday:

+ Car Free Sunday on 28 May 2017.  Wake up early and kick off the school holiday the car-free way!

+ Pesta Ubin 2017: Happening since May 10, but there are still plenty of free activities being organized every weekend.

+ Nparks Concert Series in the Park at Fort Canning on 3 June.  It’s retro theme with music from the 60s to 90s this time.

+ DBS Marina Regatta from  1-4 June.  Interesting activities such as trying out dragon boating and participating in various fitness sessions are available with pre-registration required.

+ SPH Gift of Music at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 10 June featuring Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

+ Kranji Farmer’s Market on 11 June.  While you are there, take a self guided tour to explore the heritage trail that covers 14 historical and agricultural trail markers, such as Kranji War Memorial and Thow Kwang Industry that house the last dragon kiln in Singapore.

+ Gardener’s Day Out on 17 June at Hortpark.

+ Opera in the Park on 17 June at Singapore Botanic Gardens.

+ Weekends in the Park on 17 June at Pasir Ris Park.

+ Ecolife at Coney Island Park on 24 June , a guided tour with pre-registration required.

+ Istana Open House on Hari Raya Day 25 June.

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Green Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote

Green Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + Co Green Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + Co

Being attractively simple in design, like a blank canvas, there is no lack of cotton tote bags with creative designs for sale in the market.  In fact, cotton tote bags are also popular as corporate gifts and event goodie bags.  So is it better for the environment with more people buying and switching to cotton bags?  It depends.  According to a study by UKEA, a cotton tote bag is more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag only if you use it more than 327 times, given that the carbon footprint emitted by the manufacturing process of a cotton tote is significantly higher than that of a plastic bag.  This means that even if I use the cotton bags every weekend for shopping, that is still only 104 uses/days in a year.  More than 3 years of uninterrupted weekend usage is required before the carbon footprint of the tote bag production can be offset and made comparable to a HDPE plastic bag.  I am not sure if the cotton bags can last that long, but as this article readily pointed out, the ironical thing about cotton totes is that ‘people don’t actually use them.’

Besides having quite a few that I use regularly for grocery shoppings, I also try to use the well-made cotton tote bags stamped with corporate logos more often than they sit in the storeroom.  This can be done by jazzing them up a little to look slightly less like a freebie and more like something from Etsy, with a few embroidery stitches here and some embellishments there.

Cotton tote bags function really well as a weekend carryall tote if you are blessed with a perfect size one like these below.  Luckily, this makeover project is not too tedious given the subtlety of the corporate logo.  I’m sure you can tell where the company logo used to be.  And I managed to keep the rest of the original silkscreen motifs intact which I like very much.  And off they go towards 327 days of usage, hopefully, more.

Green Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + CoGreen Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + CoGreen Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + CoGreen Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + CoGreen Monday : 327 Days Cotton Tote // Mono + Co

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