My growing bag of tricks

A list of things I think it’s important to know how to make or do

Although I’m not quite living my deal of growing all our veggies, preserving a large enough harvest to last us through the winter, and using an entirely ‘me-made’ wardrobe and handmade furniture (I drool over well made barn tables), it’s fortunately a cumulative process. Learning is developed, skills are refined, resources are stretched just a bit further with a new year’s wisdom sparking more creativity. As I learn and grow, I try to cut down on consumption in any way I can: to save money, save resources, or just stretch my skills to prove I can make something!

The local library is great because if we want a book we can just request that they buy it and they usually do! I actually think of the library up the road as an extension of my bookshelf- most books only get read two times at most and if I really want it, I can just wait for it to be checked back in. I also take full advantage of the library’s access to e-books, even ‘checking out’ new books from the train or elsewhere on the go.

Here are the skills and projects that I have been working to achieve:

Sewing – I would like to be able to make everything I wear. I can find some great things at the charity shops but want the skills of creating from scratch as well.

Pants/Trousers -Especially for dress-casual or office wear. Navy and chocolate brown suiting and corduroy! I’d also like to figure out how to alter a pair of ill-fitting ones (like the sometimes gorgeous pairs I find at the charity shop).

Skirts and dresses, in the form of the infinity dress pattern. I even made the dress as my wedding dress!

Button shirt with collar. Long or short sleeves, preferably both.

Camera-, computer-, gadget protecting bags.

Things for around the house, usually improvised. Like cloth napkins (just hem the edges of a fabric rectangle!), remote control holders, patchwork blankets, coasters, and pot-holders/oven mitts.


My proudest make for the home is soap. I’d wanted you make soap for years but was intimidated. It’s no different than a chemistry experiment in the lab- keep safe, ventilate, follow the procedure and measure carefully! Find out more here.


Eventually, I would like to be able to make all the ‘basics’ and all the convenience foods that don’t taste exactly right (or exist) where I’m living.

Bread – A sourdough starter fed me weekly for years until Honey and I discovered fridge dough to be even easier. Now that I’m gluten free, I’m looking for the perfect quick mix bread that still has that yeasty flavour.

Yogurt & Kefir were made regularly until I went dairy free. I now make my own nut milks and am thinking of dabbling in nut milk yogurt.

Kimchi, sauerkraut, and lime pickle are my current ferment achievements.

To satisfy cravings over the years: spicy brown mustard, kosher dill pickles, cheez-its, wheat thins, and gluten-free soft pretzels.

I used to have a three week menu rotation which reminded me when to soak beans for the following day, etcetera, which saved money on impulse purchases of tinned beans. Honey and I updated this based on newer food shopping patterns and Sunshine’s tastes and follow a weekly rotation with loose themes for each day. The themes offer a simple answer (e.g. Mondays are tomato based sauces while Tuesdays begin with beans and rice)  when we’re tired or busy, but allow for creative cooking where there is time. With a pressure cooker, it’s far easier to use dried beans on the day rather than requiring three days of planning.

Snacks: A great recipe for using up leftover fruit, oats or other ingredients, is (gluten) muffins! Chex mix is another good use for leftovers such as nuts and cereals if you’re not gluten-free. Popcorn is always my favourite but I occasionally purchase junk food (in horrible packaging!).

Crochet, where I’m most versatile

Round-neck cardigans/sweaters. I’ve already got the hang of v-necks, but think the rounds make a good addition.

Socks– a pure luxury!

Things for the house, like wash-cloths, soap scrubbies, blankets, hand towels, and rugs. Rugs are great to use up old rags and add floor insulation (and colour!). Here are two (jean and other materials) rugs.

Accessories to keep warm. I’m pretty good at hats and scarves and mittens.

I am slowly working down my yarn stash as I make gifts.


Sweater vest- I worked on this (simple) pattern for several years but knit so slowly that I got bored. I’ve started and completed countless knitting projects since this one began and I realise that I don’t like working a flat piece in stockinette stitch. I frogged it.

Socks- (see above note under crochet) I wanted to knit socks in order to make pure wool ones like Eddie Bauer used to sell before they started adding cotton to their “rag wool” hiking socks. My first pair were for regular use and are here. After crocheting a warm and comfortable pair, I know I’ll stick to crochet in the future.


  1. If the crochet things are still on your list (as I know it’s been a few years since you posted), I’d be very happy to share my patterns with you.

  2. Hi, I am a staff from a Japanese TV programme. We are urgently looking for a picture of dried white clover flowers as shown on your website, and wondered whether we could have your permission to use your picture for broadcasting purpose. Also, would you wish to display any copyright notifications? If so how would you want it to be displayed as? If you could contact me at your earliest that would be much appreciated. Many Thanks, Mikako

    • Hi Mikako,

      Sure, you can use the photo. Please attribute it to Riotflower’s Realm blog and link back to me please, particularly to the clover post. Thank you. I would be interested in seeing the link to your online broadcast if you publish online.

  3. Yoghurt – we used to buy small packets of yoghurt starter from a whole-foods shop, when I had made some I would freeze some small amounts for fresh starters. Worked for us in Africa too…

    • Awesome! I’ve made yogurt (guess I should update this) but have always used a batch of yogurt to start off the strain and have never frozen it. Thanks!

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