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Category: Voetsy Blog – DIY

How to get creative during load shedding

So it seems load shedding is back, and with a stage 4 vengeance… served cold… like your dinner.

While we’re sure that you are by now no stranger to the dark, and probably have a myriad of contingency plans in place to lighten the load shedding… we thought we’d share some creative things we found about what you can do to beat the blackout blues.

Creative Ideas for Charging Cell Phones

Potatoes. Yup, we looked into this a bit and apparently it’s possible. If you have 110 pounds of potatoes and live under a rock where power banks and car chargers don’t exist, then this is the solution for you. If you’re interested in taking up potato farming, own a potato farm, or have credible evidence that the world is ending… you can check out Popular Mechanics for how to generate your very own potato power here. Creative yes, but if you’re more into the idea that potatoes are better next to your burger than charging your phone, you can read some more good and proper tips from Santam here.

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Creative Ideas for Food

Potatoes. Just kidding, we need to save those to charge our phones. It can be the bane of our existance to try and come up with some kind of edible solution during load shedding. What’s more fun is when Eskom and City Power play “Whose schedule is it anyway?” and surprise you at dinner time with load shedding you weren’t scheduled for and off to the golden arches you go, along with everyone in your neighbourhood. As much fun as standing in a long line with hungry kids and grumpy grownups is, maybe try reading this article from The Consumer Report and give your wallet and your waistline a break. The article is written for Americans bracing severe snow storms, but Winter is coming South Africa… and the night will be dark and your fridge full of rotting terrors.

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Creative Ideas for Boredom

If you have any potatoes left after charging your phone, you could try using them to make stamps and decorate things. If this doesn’t grab you, then you can check out this article from Wikihow on beating blackout boredom… Most fun activities in the absence of electricity will make you relive your own childhood but you’ll probably have to work hard to convince your kids that these are actually fun things to do in the absence of screens. Don’t be alarmed if they’re not sure how to work a book. They’ll warm up to it eventually when their tablets die, just have patience and most of all… make it fun. It’s your chance to play hide and seek and be a kid again. For stages four, five and six… when things are really desperate, here’s a list of 101 things you can do from HubPages.

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Creative Ideas for Getting off the Grid

Potatoes aside, if you’re the crafty DIY type, then perhaps you should consider making your own power generators or solar panels. Survivopedia and Instructables will be your go to sites for all the advice you need on living a load shedding free existance. No more will you have to join the mad McDonald’s scramble with your neighbours, your fridge will never be frightening and your families entertainment will still be securely in the safe hands of Netflix. If you’re not that handy with a drill, you could always just make your own candles… you never know, it could turn into a thriving side business for you. Candles, like toilet paper, can run out at very inconvenient times.

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So there you have it, some ideas on what to do in a dark situation… and for those magical times when the lights are on and the world is bright and beautiful again, check out the Lextan Crafts and Designs shop for stunning hand crafted light fixtures and LED lamps.

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The Art of Embellishing

Making Magic

There is no end to the upcycle magic you can create with embellishments. Also known as appliqués or furniture mouldings, these little pieces can have a big impact when you’re wanting to give something a fresh new look.

They’re made from wood or resin, and there are benefits to both. Resin embellishments will allow you to apply on curved or uneven surfaces, because of their pliability. Wooden embellishments are more expensive and are used on wooden pieces when wanting to get the same traditional look and feel on a wood project.

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Create & Save

Not only can you save yourself a ton of money by upcycling existing pieces of furniture you have rather than buying them new, you’ll also have the endless satisfaction of looking at a beautiful piece in your home that you created. You could take an old side table or wardrobe and turn it into a masterpiece, or give your kitchen a makeover fit for a magazine spread. You could also give your plants a gorgeously elegant home with just a coat of paint and an embellishment or two.

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It’s Easy!

Normally you’d think it would take a heap of effort to get such a fantastic result, but the best part of this is how easy it is to do. You really just need to select your paint colour, choose a beautiful embellishment, sand, stick, paint and admire.

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Get Inspired

If you have a look around your home, we’re willing to bet there are a number of things you can see that would be beautiful with embellishments, hopefully we’ve inspired you to make something magical!

 

Happy Upcycling!
The Voetsy DIY Blog Team

Along with giving you inspiration, we also have all the products you’ll need right here on Voetsy! Our vendors are super passionate about their products so you’ll get fantastic support and advice too! Click on below images to view a wide variety of handmade resin embellishments from Surita’s creations, and SA’s number one selling chalk paint from Granny B’s.

10 great plants to grow for Spring

There is something magical about Spring, isn’t there? The chill in the air starts easing off just enough to start enjoying sitting outside again in the evenings; with the sun rising earlier and setting later, it feels as though you have more hours in the day, and of course the green leaf shoots and blossoms that start to liven up trees that have looked sad and bare all winter.

It’s also a great time to get out into your garden and start planting. We’ve put together a list of plants that can be easily grown, or even regrown, and that will help cut down on your food costs!

Carrots

These awesome veggies are packed full of vitamins and can be planted to create an attractive border in your garden. You can even regrow carrot plants, not the actual root veggie, from kitchen scraps to make attractive houseplants! All you need to do is chop off the top and place some toothpicks into it, balance it over a glass of water and make sure the water is just touching the bottom. If you place the glass in a high light area, not direct sun, and top up the water regularly, you’ll soon start to see roots forming. You can them plant them into containers and watch your pretty fern like carrot plants grow and flower.

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Tomatoes

Tomatoes are great plants to grow from kitchen scraps! They’re a bit sensitive when they’re babies, but with enough light and lots of water, they will be a gift that keeps on giving. You can plant slices of tomato directly into good potting soil and within a few weeks, you’ll start to see little shoots forming, it’s that easy. Consider training your tomato plants up a trellis and keep pruning the bottom leaves to make your tomato plants happy. If you want to pretty up your beds, you can plant companion plants like marigolds or nasturtium with your tomatoes. Once you’ve harvested your tomatoes, you can replant the seeds to make more plants for your garden, or as a gift for someone who wants to start their own veggie garden!

Beans

If you’re growing pole beans, it’s best to start training them to climb early on. They like lots of sun and water, so you should choose a spot that will give them plenty of both. Straw, grass clippings and composted leaves will help you retain moisture. They are prone to insects so be on the lookout and get rid of pests with soapy water. Don’t wait too long to harvest, as the bean pod will dry out and become tough, and the bean will taste bitter. You can also freeze them for later! Good companion plants for beans are peas and carrots.

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Peas

Peas are fantastic to pick and eat raw from the garden, added to salads, or steamed slightly. The plants should be planted straight into your garden, and in slightly cooler temperatures, with good quality fertilizer. They’ll need some support early on until they start to form tendrils that will help them climb, a trellis would be a good idea to plant peas against. You’ll need to keep the soil moist. When you pea pods are swollen, the peas inside are nice and ripe and ready for harvesting. You should pick pods frequently to increase production, and keep fertilizing after harvesting.

Chillies

Chillies are a great addition to any garden, and make great indoor plants too, provided they get lots of light and water. There are so many varieties of chilli plants to choose from and your nearest nursery should be able to give you information on which one is best for you. Best of all, you can grow more chilli plants just by replanting the seeds from the chillies! These plants grow relatively fast so you’ll have chillies in next to no time to add amazing flavour to your favourite dishes! They are easy to care for and grow well with tomatoes and carrots.

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Basil

Basil is great herb to grow, and regrow! It adds amazing flavour to chicken dishes and is easy to care for. To regrow new basil plants, all you need to do is pick a stem about 6cm in length, trim off the leaves until you’re just left with a few at the top, and place the stem in a glass of water. Place the container in a well lit area, but not direct sunlight. Very soon you’ll start to see roots growing from the stem and you can replant your new basil when the roots are a few centimeters longer! If you’re planting your basil into the garden, they will grow well with your tomato plants.

Lemons

You can grow your very own lemon tree by replanting seeds from a store bought lemon! It will take a lot of time before your efforts are rewarded, but you’ll be able to enjoy this beautiful plant indoors or outdoors while you wait! When the trees start to blossom they have a beautiful citrus scent as well. To get started you’ll need to plant a lemon seed straight from the lemon into good potting soil that is not completely soaked but moist. Keep your growing lemon plant in a sunny area and keep watering, not too much though. The soil just needs to stay moist.

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Cilantro

Cilantro and flat leaf parsley can sometimes be confused as the same plant, however their flavour and smell are very different (cilantro is on the left, parley on the right). Cilantro and coriander are technically the same plant, so if a recipe calls for coriander leaves, you can just as well use cilantro in its place. Cilantro, just like basil, can be regrown by cutting a stem and placing in water until root growth is achieved. Then you simply replant and you have more cilantro to enjoy in your cooking! You can plant cilantro with basil and mint in your herb garden.

Lettuce

You can regrow lettuce, as well as cabbage and bok choy, easily from your kitchen scraps. After you’re done with your lettuce, cut above the stem until you have about 4cm of the leaves. You can place this stem in a dish of water in a sunny area and keep misting a few times a week. You’ll see the leaves and roots start to regrow fairly quickly and you can replant and carry on enjoying your own home grown lettuce!  In the garden, lettuce grows nicely with carrots.

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Mint

Mint is a great addition to drinks and desserts for hot summer days!  Not to mention the mint jelly for the lamb spit braai! Best of all, it’s easy to grow and regrow from cuttings. Take a sprig of mint and trim the leaves, leave in a container of water on a sunny windowsill and you’ll have a new mint plant ready to grow in a few weeks. They do well on patios in containers, and can be planted straight into your garden. Take care with mint though, their root system can be very invasive and they can soon take over a whole bed! If you’re planting mint into your garden, prevent mint from taking over by first planting it into a container and then into the garden. This will help contain the roots.

Happy gardening this Spring!

The Voetsy DIY Blog Team

HOW TO GET THE PERFECT PRODUCT PIC – AN AMATEUR’S GUIDE

So…. You’ve just spent the better part of your weekend crafting up a storm, putting in sweat, sometimes tears but definitely tons of elbow grease and your product has come out looking like it belongs wrapped around an A-listers arm or in the centre of a fine arts museum encased in glass. You call your better half over and gleaming with pride say, “babe, checkit!”

It’s beautiful. You both admire the flawlessness knowing full well it’s unique, in that you can never make the exact same item again. A stitch knot here and a raised grain there. It’s magnificent. Always imitated, never duplicated. Perfection.

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Now you need to share it with the world. You may picture a scene not unlike Cinderella with droves of people from all walks, lined up outside, down the road and all around the block, all coming to behold your craft with wonderment. Bask in its Awesomeness. Compliments and praise raining down like a Delhi monsoon. “Oh stop it you,” with the flap of a hand all blushful like.

Reality sets in and you realise it’s both improbable and definitely not practical to line the world up outside your door. You grab the old screamer off the desk, flip a finger up and take a snap of your ware. You send it to everyone interested in what you do and the responses are … less than impressive. “What is it? I can’t make out the lines. You take that pic under a duvet?”

GET YOUR SHOT TOGETHER – The equipment

Your brand and its quality are going to be judged visually before anyone touches your products. Having high quality product photos will go a long way toward securing a sale and getting yourself known out there. Voetsy will also be using these photo’s to drive traffic to your store.

It’s an intimidating prospect for a new store owner to now have to meet the world photographically. You may even think you need to outlay for new equipment and cameras and all that nonsense. If you have the budget for it, it will pay off but for starters it’s not necessary. A professional photographer would also be beneficial, but again, not necessary.

Let me break down some of the very basic things you’ll need to get a half decent shot:

  1. Camera (your phone will do, or something substantial like a DSLR)
  2. A flat surface
  3. White project board or Cardboard (basically anything white and reflective)
  4. Some masking tape or sellotape. (any tape really)
  5. A tripod (not necessary but it really does help)
  6. Space (room to swing a cat helps)
  7. The well-lit area (rooms with lots of natural light are the best)
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Photographing products is not hard to do, and believe me I’m no Ansel Adams behind a camera. I don’t even own anything that a professional photographer would consider “a camera.” I have a phone and like the rest of the Instagram world it seems to serve its purpose better than most of the digital camera’s I used to own circa 1995-2010.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m well aware that any DSLR camera these days with lenses to boot will make mincemeat of your iPhone or android device in the right hands. The options are almost limitless and it is a tool best used by those who actually know what the hell they’re doing (see also: DSLR ninjas). I played with one once and took a macro photo of a fly’s eyes. I could see rainbows and hexagons. Incredible. Also lucky. Do you think I could snap a photo without some red-eye or blur of a scene? No ways. I’m not skilled enough for the nuances of fine photography. I point and click. Snap 20 delete 18.

BACKGROUND BASICS – The infinitely amazing infinity curve

“So why am I reading this?” you may ask. You’re in the same boat I’m in, the SS Amateur Photographer. If you have mad shot skills then you’re THAT guy, probably on the floor laughing your backside off. For the rest of us, I’m here writing and you’re here reading so it’s not all bad. Just ignore the other guy. We need the least cost route to maximum output. You’re also here because you want to take amazing photos of your products. I want you to take amazing photos of your products. People who want to buy your products want to see amazing photos of your products. Amazing photos of your products for EVERYONE!!!!

Here are the basic steps to creating a good backdrop:

  1. Setup your work surface, near a window that has lots of light coming in. 90 degrees to the window and little offset so as not to get any shadows from the window handle for instance. Ideally this would be against another wall but if not you can always move a chair or something behind the table to help with the rest.
  2. Set a piece of white board up against the wall or chair so it creates a curve. Flat on the bottom, flat at the back and a curve where the desk and chair or wall would meet. This is known as an infinity curve. It creates the illusion of there being no background.
  3. Place your product and any props you may want to include, on the white board.
  4. Once done, pay attention to where the shadow is on the paper, cast by the product, and place another piece of white board on the left or right side of the one taped to the wall or chair. This will help bounce the natural light back in toward the shadowed area helping reveal the product. You can use tape to keep this in place by sticking it to a wall or table surface…or both.
  5. You’ll notice now that the product on the board is lit from the window, and the boards behind and to the side of the product cast light back in to the darker side of the product, lighting it up.

Having done all that you can now snap away at the product trying new angles, moving the board or adding more board to the other side.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

There are some PROS and CONS to creating a backdrop in a room this way.

THE GOOD:

  1. It’s cheap. Cardboard in A2 sheets is not that expensive or hard to get a hold of and most of us have some sort of tape around the house, even if its insulation tape.
  2. You don’t need to buy lights and diffusers and expensive equipment to do this.
  3. It’s quick to setup and get an angle that works for what you want to photograph.
  4. It scales. You could use a white linen sheet and do the same for a piece of furniture.

THE BAD:

  1. There’s a limited window of opportunity before the light fades from the window and the colours go all strange.
  2. Duplicating results for different products on different days needs to be timed.
  3. You’re dependent on only one light source (while this may be a pro as well, windows are only so big so there can only ever be so much light)

THE UGLY:

Always pay close attention to what’s going on in the background of your pics. We’ve seen people land up on the internet for all the wrong reasons because of the uglies lurking in the background. The idea is to get your products sold, not memed.

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LIGHTBOXES – The illuminating alternative

There are alternatives to the above that will give you repeatable results, with little effort, any time of the day or night. Lightboxes! Not to be confused with SAD boxes.

It’ll also help you sell. We’ve all trawled the web looking for a specific image of a product. Like the rear of a sound bar. Or side connections on a TV. Frustratingly these are rarely forthcoming, but when it comes to something you’ve made with your hands, spent hours on and put together with the singular purpose and goal  of putting it in someone else’s care, you’re not doing yourself or your buyers any favours with half lit phone snaps on your workbench or kitchen table.

We’ll have a follow up article on lightboxes, there’s a lot more information to cover so it warrants a dedicated article. If you’re interested to find out more now, there’s always a bunch of stuff on the internet. Also Pinterest 🙂

THE SECRET – You can’t positive vibe this one

Oh this one’s a doozy and the key to everything. Light. Natural life giving light. I’ve heard it said that overcast days are the best days for photos to be taken because there is an abundance of natural light bounced off the clouds above with very little in the way of shadows to be cast. Mother Nature is the perfect lightbox.

Mother nature also has hours in a day and a light source that keeps moving across the sky, making timing an issue, not to mention days where its dark and rainy making it near impossible to use her for your pictures. You’ll really want to time your photo shoots so you’re maximising the best natural light possible.

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GET SNAP HAPPY – A lot

So there you have it. A few tips and tricks from an ultimate amateur. There’s a bit of science and art involved, but as with all things, practice makes perfect… and we have filters, photoshop and delete for when it’s not so perfect. So relax, you’ve got this, and have fun taking awesome pics that will help sell your awesome stuffs.

Happy snapping

The Voetsy DIY Blog Team

Warm up your Winter – Why you should learn to knit!

Gone are the days when knitting was seen as something “for little old ladies” to do by the fireplace…

There has been an upward trend of wool production in recent years and one might surmise that it has something to do with “Grandma’s hobby” gaining more popularity. So why the increasing interest?

With just about everything in life, technology affords us easier ways of getting things done, and the internet has become a vast universe of resources for anyone wanting to learn something new. From Google to YouTube, there’s a tutorial for everything these days, and knitting ranks right up there on the list, if Google trends are anything to go by. (You may be interested to know that the Free State is the highest ranking province on the knitting search trend, followed by the Western Cape… not surprising given their average temperatures in winter!).

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Added to that, are the health benefits… yes that’s right, knitting is actually good for you! Much the same as adult colouring in books have taken off as the new yoga, knitting has also been linked to stress relieving benefits. Once you’ve figured out the difference between a purl and a knit stitch, you are on track to receiving the same benefits as meditation, reducing your stress and anxiety and alleviating depression through that sense of pride in your accomplishments, as outlined in an article published by New York bestselling author Dr MarcolaNot only that, physically you are doing all kinds of good things for your blood pressure, according to a study by Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School.

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Raising awareness about the craft are initiatives such as the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day campaign, bringing together people from all walks of life, from beginners to experts, to create for a cause. Knitted or crocheted blankets are made as a whole, or blankets are made up by sewing knitted or crocheted squares together. The handmade blankets are then distributed to those in need in South Africa. In 2015, the initiative achieved a Guinness world record when 3133 square metres of knitted and crocheted blankets covered the Union Buildings in Pretoria, making it the largest area covered by a blanket, and they show no signs of slowing down. Their current project aims to achieve another world record through creating a 27km scarf.

So, it’s really not so hard to see why the art of knitting is by no means a dying one, and quite a worthwhile hobby to take up. Whether it’s to help you relax, give back to your communities, or to just feel good about creating, knitting could be your new thing. All you need to do to get your knit on this winter is to browse your local haberdashery stores for wool and needles, find a good tutorial with pictures on google, this Wikihow one could be a start, or better yet watch a step by step video on YouTube. Once you’ve got the basics down, there are plenty of good websites that publish free knitting patterns such as AllFreeKnitting.com, so you can start expanding on your new skill and making a variety of items for you or your loved ones. It’s such a great feeling to wear, or see someone wearing something you created!

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Happy Knitting!

The Voetsy DIY Team