Gung hay fat choi!

During the time that The Mascot and I were living in Vancouver, BC, we always got caught up in the excitement of Chinese New Year. To be honest, it was hard not to; with over 30% of Canada‘s Chinese population living in Vancouver and its surrounding cities, the cultural influence was everywhere. The time of year that this was most apparent was at Chinese, or Lunar, New Year. Every year around this time, the stores in our predominantly Asian neighborhood would be full of the traditional foods, decorations and gifts that make this annual celebration so vibrant and special.

One such offering that has always intrigued me are the “lucky” money packets, which are traditionally bestowed upon unmarried recipients to ensure wealth for the coming year. The envelopes, called “Ang Pow”, are always red in colour to symbolize prosperity and ward-off evil. A lovely and very unique example of Ang Pow are these by Qipao (above). Unlike most rectangular packets, these are in the shape of Cheongsam, the traditional fitted Chinese garments. And, it’s not just their eye-catching shape that makes these Ang Pow different; each one-of-a-kind envelope is upcycled from greeting cards that would otherwise be tossed away!

A slightly more traditional (but no less clever) version of Ang Pow are these DIY ones from Katwrite’s shop (above), featuring the image of this year’s Chinese Zodiac Symbol – the Tiger. Kat of Vancouver was inspired by traditional Chinese paper-cut art when she created these intricate cards to enclose your monetary gifts. A gift for the environment, too, they are available as a printable PDF to eliminate extra packaging. (Tip: go green and remember to print your cards on recycled or eco-friendly paper!)

Another DIY project perfect for Chinese New Year decorations is this stunning set of luminaries by Prudence Octavia. Each luminary is created by layering two unique, hand-cut designs over a heavy vellum sleeve. Don’t be scared-off by the apparent complexity of the project, though; all of the intricate work is done for you. The completed luminary sleeves are flat-packed and carefully wrapped for easy shipping from Hong Kong. Once you receive them, all that is left is to wrap them around a votive candle and fasten with the enclosed adhesive. It’s easier than learning to use chopsticks!

Like I was, Heidi of Burnaby is another British Columbian caught up in the excitement of Chinese New Year. After a recent wander through Vancouver’s colourful Chinatown, she returned home inspired by all of the unusual and exotic items that she saw. What came from that inspiration was this skein of hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn (above), created in honour of the upcoming celebrations. The beautifully varigated vegan yarn, which is available in the Quo Vadis Handspun shop, comes complete with a little Chinese coin for luck.

Finally, I would be remiss if I let you go without a little something sweet at the end of this week’s article. Fortunately, for all of us who ate more than our fair share of dim sum this morning (ahem), this treat won’t go straight to your waistline. Cleverly upcycled from lambswool sweaters and packaged in a hand-stamped “take-out” box, Anne Potter’s felted fortune cookies make a cute gift or decoration all year round. The “cookies” are available for purchase in Anne’s shop and can contain either an assortment of fortunes, or your own custom messages. Stuck for something to say? “Gung hay fat choi!” is the traditional Chinese New Year’s greeting, meaning “may you become prosperous”.

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  • Handknit Hugs
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
  • Aisles and aisles of tiny boxes
  • Crescent Maille
  • A pincushion for every day
  • Hiné Camera Camera Cases

Bringing Up Baby (Green.)

It was by the sixth month of my baby boy’s life that I picked up the leaflet on “Real Nappies (Diapers)” I’d been handed when I was pregnant and went through it with a fine tooth comb.

It made promises that I would save fortunes using cloth nappies versus disposables – approximately £500/$812 by the time my son was out of his nappies. This seemed like a no-brainer once I had weighed up all the pros and cons of reusable or “real” nappies. (Image: Zany Zebra Designs.)

So to a newbie user what are the pros and cons to consider?

Cons

Washing the nappies/diapers.

(Image: Three Yellow Star Fish.)

All modern cloth nappies will need to be pre-washed to increase absorbency. As a Cloth Mama I would suggest pre-washing all nappies three times (this can vary depending on which nappy brand you choose as I have found with different materials and brands they didn’t need to be washed as much as three times.)

As well as pre-washing nappies you will need to have a strong stomach to deal with poop in nappies – once a baby has soiled a nappy you will need to shake the contents of the nappy into the toilet and flush. On top of this you will need to wipe down the booster pad inside the nappy and if you’re using them – the washable liner as well. If you’re using a disposable liner then it would be smart to invest in liners that are biodegradable and therefore can be flushed down with the usual waste.

You’ll have to factor in drying times when washing with different cloth materials. With bamboo nappies they generally take about 2-3 days to dry when on a drying rack (and can’t be put straight onto the radiator as they scorch, which creates little holes in the nappy.) Microfibre or fleece dries up very well and if placed on a radiator can dry within 1-2 hours. I haven’t owned a drier in the whole time I have been married or had my baby and haven’t found we need one. They are a waste of resources and money!

Having a plentiful supply.

It can be difficult to judge how many nappies you will need in your cloth supply and of course lots of different companies will recommend having inordinate amounts. In reality if you do a wash every two to three days you can get away with a decent supply of around 25 nappies and 6 “wraps” (the outer shell that covers the inside) for a newborn and around 20 nappies for a baby of four months plus.

Again, this depends on the individual baby as all newborns and babies are different! I was told more often than I’d like to hear that my baby would be like a ticking poop bomb – ready to explode at every hour of the day. In reality this wasn’t the case at all, although he did require lots of changes as he hated being wet – and this is more so the case for clothed new born’s as it’s reported that babies in cloth feel the moisture quicker than being in a disposable.

Pros

It Won’t Cost the Earth.

(Image: Three Yellow Star Fish.)

When I used disposables I found that my domestic waste was phenomenally different compared to using cloth. We just didn’t have as much waste! We’d have fewer trips outside with the rubbish/trash on a daily basis and our home smelled sweeter without the added waste hanging around somewhere in the house. On top of the domestic waste decrease I considered the impact on landfill – all of the nappies I wasn’t using wouldn’t be clogging up a landfill site somewhere.

They can be used for other children.

Depending on the brand you opt for, cloth nappies can be used for a second – or even third and fourth – child. The outer shell or “wrap” may not be as hard-wearing as it generally goes through more usage than the inside (the nappy section) but can easily be replaced. Buy the non-biological detergent – even if you are using it solely for washing nappies. This will be less hard wearing on the materials and will increase their life span. If at all possible (and if you have the stamina required) you can hand wash the wraps and nappies to prolong their lifespan. Wraps are easily hand washed as they are waterproof and don’t absorb any urine, but can get hit by poop.

Chemical Free

Disposables contain many chemicals, in particular they contain Sodium Polyacrylate. This is the chemical put into nappies to make them absorbent. I have now spotted a few times that my son has little “crystals” on his body after being in a disposable and it’s the leaked Sodium Polyacrylate crystals on his skin. TriButylTin – otherwise known as TBT has also been found in disposable nappies and is “considered as toxic chemicals which have negative effects on human and environment.” (source: TBT). A little bit of research into the brand you decide to buy from will be essential. Opt for non-bleached and friendly cottons and chemicals where possible as these materials will sit right next to your baby’s skin.

Bearing all these snippets in mind, what will you need once you decide to use reusable nappies?

A Wetbag

These are especially brilliant as modern nappies/diapers don’t need to be soaked in buckets before they are washed. If you are using cloth full time then you will want to have a wetbag (like this one by Snuggy Baby) you can take out with you. This looks like a diaper/nappy bag on the outside but inside will have a waterproof lining. They can also be multi-purpose for wet clothes/swim and gym gear. For my own personal use I have two wet bags for inside the house. These are just small sized laundry bags that hang on the back of a door handle and will dry speedily – so I’ve only ever ended up using one!

Somewhere to wash your nappies/diapers.

An automatic washing machine is the ideal grounds for washing nappies/diapers. (Image by Slight Clutter.) I know of people who hand wash all their cloth nappies/diapers but this is a drain on energy and time and might put many people off using cloth. Once you have emptied out a nappy that is soiled you simply stick it into a wet bag where it will be stored before it goes into the washing machine – picture yourself scrubbing and soaking over night these same nappies/diapers and ask yourself if that would be a possible task.

Somewhere to keep nappies (out of reach from grabby little hands.)

Once your baby becomes mobile they also want to reach for everything – and “play” with nappies/diapers, especially so if these nappies/diapers feature velcro tabs. Or perhaps you have a “helpful” older sibling. I put my nappies on top of any high surface – but more specifically I have allocated a space on top of our dresser drawer for them. This way I always know where they are and if we’re running low on our clean supply.

A Good Supply.

Depending on when you start with cloth (e.g newborn) this will reflect on how much you will need in your supply. Starting with 25 nappies/diapers and 6 wraps for a newborn should be adequate enough supply wise, depending on when you wash your nappies and allowing for drying time. An older baby will probably only need 16 nappies/diapers and 5 or 6 wraps – again, consider the washing and drying times.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree has antibacterial properties and a dash of tea tree into the wetbag will keep your nappies/diapers smelling fresh as well as sanitising it to some extent.

Once you have these things in order you’re good to go!

  • Handknit Hugs
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
  • Aisles and aisles of tiny boxes
  • Crescent Maille
  • A pincushion for every day
  • Hiné Camera Camera Cases