Woolcool

IMGP7223In order to support small producers, we buy most of our meat direct, and it arrives by courier. In general, it’s packed in a cardboard box and insulated with a product called Woolcool – basically a thick layer of wool in a recyclable plastic cover. Some of this has been returned to the producers for reuse, but we have also been finding new uses for it, as encouraged by the manufacturers.

There are a couple of pieces of it in the cool bag that Mr Snail carries back and forth to Reading each week with his supplies – it provides additional insulation and stops everything rattling around and falling over. I’ve also used some as mulch in the garden. I had put one piece aside, however, for a specific project which I finally got round to this week

We have an old plastic dog bed that both dogs are rather fond of. For years it’s simply had an old blanket or duvet in it, but the current blanket is disintegrating and so it’s time for a revamp. To begin with, it needs some padding in the bottom, and this is where the wool packaging comes in. The Woolcool is a long thin strip and the bed is oval, so I had to cut the strip in two and then join the pieces side by side, but there was plenty to do this. I used a little fabric glue to hold the two bits together and then stitched them using some knitting wool. As the pad is used the wool is likely to felt, so the yarn and the fleece will probably become one. I made a cotton cover out of some more of that old sheet that featured in July’s ScrapHappy because the paw prints seemed appropriate.

The off cuts of the wool went into the compost heap because I’m very keen to see how well it breaks down, and the plastic cover went in the recycling… I wish they didn’t use this, I’d be perfectly happy with unenclosed fleece. Now all I need to do is make a new blanket… I might just have a few yarn scraps somewhere for that.

ScrapHappy July 2019

For some time now I have had it in mind to use some scrap fabric to make present bags. When Mr Snail and I give each other gifts we tend to wrap them in paper that has been reused many, many times – we never buy new wrapping paper. I have to confess that all the paper has all seen better days and it has become increasingly difficult to give a present that looks presentable. So, I had a rummage and found some nice scrap fabric left over from various sewing projects, as well as the remains of some old pyjama bottoms. I wanted to make draw-string bags, so needed lengths of ribbon and tape. Looking through my collection, I found some pieces from chocolate boxes, some quite long lengths that had been around clothes and household linen from ethical suppliers (to hold them neatly without the need for plastic), a piece that was once a curtain tab, two bits that were the hangers from the aforementioned old pyjamas and some other bits left over from long-forgotten projects. Not all the tape was long enough, but it was easily stitched together.

As I worked on the bags, I realised that I could also do with three in which to store plastic bags in the kitchen. Until the doors were replaced on the kitchen cupboards, plastic bags lived jammed into a cupboard and there was always the risk of a bagalanche when the door was opened. We reuse plastic bags, but storage has always been untidy, so three drawstring bags (one for small bags, one for medium bags and one for large bags) seemed like the answer. I made them in different colours so I would know which was which: the last of the spotty fabric from the dismantled night dress (the rest lined the scrappy satchel a while ago); a bit of an old sheet that had worn through in the centre, but has good edges left to be salvaged and has a cute paw print design; and a piece of stripy fabric that remains from a long-forgotten project. When Mr Snail saw what I was up to, he requested a bag for bags to use in his rented flat, so I made two of the stripy ones.

I’m very pleased with these scrappy creations – easy to make and all scrappy apart from the sewing thread. Even the little plastic tool I used to thread the tapes is a stirrer that came with a takeaway hot drink many years ago and has been living in my sewing box ever since, used lots of times and still going strong.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Growing and groaning

The saga of the tooth continues – the first part of the root canal work has been completed, but it has awoken the infection and so I’m back on antibiotics. Hopefully the stuff I’m taking now will have less of an adverse effect on me than the last lot. Anyway, I have a few weeks to wait before the procedure can continue. In the mean time I’m sitting here, moaning gently and watching my garden grow….

I’ve photographed the good bits and carefully avoided the jungle elsewhere!

Going crackers

I’m rather a fan of crackers and cheese and of cheesy crackers on their own, but recently I’ve been unable to find any that didn’t give me pause. First, there were some lovely locally made crackers… they were delicious, but came with a lot of packaging. Then there were some lovely crispy treats that I bought from a farm shop in north Wales when I was on my travels… and discovered had been imported all the way from Australia (WHAT?) plus they had a lot of packaging. Then I found some different local ones, that not only had loads of packaging, but also were made with palm oil (I didn’t even buy these as I noticed before I put them in my shopping basket).

It’s just like the saga of the biscuits… the only solution is to make them myself. A quick internet search and I found a simple basic recipe (flour, salt, oil and water) that could be adapted. I made some with freshly ground black pepper and some with added cheese, and voila… plastic-free, palm oil-free, yummy crackers…

Straw poll

When I’m trying to work out what to do with stuff I no longer want there are lots of options – donations to charity, repurposing, freecycle, sale and (as we’ve discussed recently) eventually recycling. Some things, however, leave me wondering…

With the kitchen cupboard doors sorted out, I have been left with a small heap of stuff that needs to be dealt with. There’s a box for charity donations, I need to organise a storage solution for the plastic bags, there are a couple of tins that I’m dithering whether to keep or not, and then there’s the pot of plastic straws.

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my dilemma

Yes, I have a pot of plastic bendy straws. They are very old and have resided in the back of a cupboard for a couple of decades. I forget exactly why I bought them in the first place, but it may have been for when my dad visited – he was severely physically disabled and using a straw for drinking made his life much easier sometimes and he certainly used a few. Maybe I bought them for a party, or for the nieces and nephew. Anyway, whatever the reason, I now have a bundle of plastic drinking straws that social media has screamed at me are not recyclable and, indeed, The Guardian clearly states here that straws can’t be recycled.

My eldest niece is 30, my father passed away several years ago and Mr Snail and I have metal straws through which to enjoy an occasional stormy harbour, so I can’t see a use for them. A quick internet search revealed a lot of lampshades made from plastic straws as well as a London Underground map and various ‘sculptures’, but none of these ‘uses’ appeals to me. However, a bit more of a search suggests that straws can be recycled, that they tend to be made of one of two types of plastic and that the problem arises, at least in part, from determining which one. Obviously, my unused straws are clean, so there is no contamination, and I am sorely tempted to pop them in the recycling and let our very efficient, local recycling company do the rest.

But before I do, I want to hear your ideas . Can you think of something creative to do with them that won’t mean they eventually end up floating around the oceans or in landfill? I’m not inspired, but perhaps you are…

 

Making memories

It’s all too easy to get into a rut.

Mr Snail has been working away from home for 11 months now (with the prospect of at least six more to come) and so we are used to the routine. The trouble is that “the routine” has got so routine that we’ve rather stopped doing anything novel. Last week I decided, therefore, that we ought to climb out of our rut.

Mr Snail gets home any time from about 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, but the traffic usually means that it’s later than this, sometimes much later. It does, however, mean that there is time to do something in the evening. Having checked the weather forecast, I discovered that it was supposed to be a beautiful evening, so at about 6:30 we got in the car and drove the 15 minutes to New Quay, where we had (plastic-free) fish and chips on the quay from a great place called The Lime Crab… actually it’s quite posh, so Mr Snail had mackerel goujons and chips with tartare sauce and I had tempura prawns and chips with sweet chilli sauce. And then, we went on a sunset boat ride to see dolphins. I don’t have any pictures of the dolphins (we saw several), but there were other gems that I did manage to photograph.

The company who run the trips have a lobsterpot on the reef, which you can see being lifted in one of the pictures, and this is where the lobster came from (it was released after we’d had a few minutes to look at it). Actually there were three lobsters and a spider crab in there… all released after their brief visit to the surface. The cliff ledges were teeming with razorbills and guillemots as well as various gulls. The (unpictured) dolphins were happily feeding over the reef and we saw three species of jellyfish. In total, we spent a delightful hour and a half on the boat, and it was a great way to round off a rather stressful week.

It’s easy to forget what a beautiful part of the world we live in… I think we need to make a little more effort to enjoy it.

Hats (and mittens) off

I decided to have a bit of a rummage up in the loft last weekend and came across a box of crochet items that were originally made for sale. I haven’t had a stall at any event for a while, so these had slightly fallen off my radar and I decided to sort some out to donate to charity, adding them to the small collection of hats that I have made recently.

In the end, there were 13 hats and 5 pairs of fingerless mittens. These will be on their way to Knit for Peace very soon. In addition, I added three pairs of knitting needles to the box. Apparently KfP are always in need of needles suitable for double knitting wool – 3.75, 4 and 4.5 mm – so if you too have any of these sizes going spare, they’d be delighted to receive them.

The battle of the bags

I have been seeing a lot recently about the relative merits of paper vs plastic. Having been alerted to the huge issues with plastic pollution, the general public seems to be convinced that wholesale conversion to paper or cardboard packaging is the answer. Purely from the perspective of end-of-life disposal, this is a perfectly logical switch because paper is biodegradable and plastic isn’t. But life isn’t really that simple, is it?

There are various studies which show that the carbon footprint of a plastic bag is way smaller than a paper bag, For example, a report published by the UK Environment Agency in 2011 examined a variety of types os shopping bags:

• a conventional, lightweight carrier made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE)

• a paper carrier;

• a “bag for life” made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE);

• a heavier more durable bag, often with stiffening inserts made from non woven polypropylene (PP); and

• a cotton bag

And here is a summary of some of their results:2019-06-23Source: Environment Agency (2011) Life cycle assessment of supermarket carrier bags: a review of the bags available in 2006

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Paper vs Cotton

As you can see, according to this data, you have to use a paper bag three times and a cotton bag 131 times for them to have the same ‘global warming potential’ as a ‘normal’ plastic carrier bag used just once. Of course, there are all sorts of complicating factors – if you make a cotton bag out of scraps rather than virgin fabric, then that’s an entirely different matter. Indeed, using waste fabric to make bags could probably be considered to have an overall positive impact on the environment rather than a negative one. But what this does show, is that paper bags may not be the a great solution, and it doesn’t begin to take into consideration what a polluting process paper production can be (you can read about the environmental impact of paper here).

However, the data in the Environment Agency Report are a few years out of date and SNS (Nordic Forest Research) recently published a report outlining the climate benefits of forests. It turns out that actively growing young trees assimilate much more carbon than mature trees, so managed forests from which timber is extracted do more to reduce atmospheric carbon than old forests. There are other issues related to conservation and biodiversity, but the fact remains that it’s good to use wood.

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Plastic or not?

Some of the manufacturers, processors and producers who need to use some form of packaging do seem to be exploring different options. After all, there are all sorts of materials available and new technology is delivering various solutions with, apparently, better environmental credentials. For example, for a while now I’ve been buying my coffee from a small company that supports small producers and uses no plastic in their packaging. Last month, however, the coffee arrived not in a paper pack, but in something that looked like plastic. Why? Well, The Roasting House explained their change as follows:

Those of you who have ground coffee will have been receiving the Natureflex packaging for a while now but if you have whole bean it may come as a shock when you get the package so first of all I want to reassure you that it’s no plastic!

We use Natureflex for our ground coffee as it preserves the oils in the coffee and keeps it fresher. The whole bean coffee doesn’t lose freshness as quickly so we’ve sent it in paper for a while for you to transfer to your own air tight container. However we’re starting to move more towards using the Natureflex and less paper in our sister business Plastic Free Pantry. It provides a good air and moisture barrier and is less prone to breakages. But crucially it has a lower carbon impact than paper. The carbon impact of production for the unlined type of Natureflex that we use is lower than plastic, and the manufacturers then use off-setting to make it carbon neutral.

It is compostable in home conditions and will break down in soil and marine environments (although obviously don’t chuck it in the sea or litter it!). If you have a compost bin, it will break down in 12-16 weeks. Alternatively you can shred it and bury it in your garden. If you can’t compost it yourself, you can return it to us for refilling or composting.

So, it turns out that doing the right thing is complicated and that avoiding one problem (e.g. plastic pollution) can lead to another (e.g. carbon dioxide emissions). What we really need is institutional change in terms of reducing the use of ALL resources and I encourage you to lobby manufacturers, retailers and politicians to this end, but it’s also good to take personal responsibility, so reuse what you already have (whatever it’s made of) and REFUSE grocery/produce bags wherever possible.

 

Waiting around

In recent weeks I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in waiting rooms and it’s an activity that looks likely to be part of my life for a while yet…. next up is another trip to see a dentist (my fourth in the past month and not my last). I started off taking my Leftie shawl, but there are various colours to contend with and I took the wrong balls the week before last and so was unable to knit whilst waiting for the car to have its MOT, plus it’s getting a bit big. I, therefore, decided to start work on some simple granny squares to make into a blanket for charity… these have the added benefit that, even when you have toothache, you have the mental capacity to make them.

I had a big cone of dark green yarn that was given to me a few years ago specifically to make items for charity and this seemed ideal for my purpose. In fact, I’m enjoying making simple squares so much, that I’ve done very little work on anything else for the past couple of weeks. Indeed, I have so many now, I’ve started to join them together, using some other donated yarn:

I’m planning to make this into a good big blanket to keep someone really warm – the wool is a bit rough at the moment, but its softening as I work it and I’ll give it a wash once its finished.

So, what projects do you take with you when you have a lot of waiting to do?

Refuse

In my recent post mentioning the three Rs, Textiledreamer reminded me about adding “refuse” to the beginning… a great idea as it’s best not to have that thing you don’t need in the first place. Then, as I was mulling over the concept, it dawned on me that there are two possible meanings in this context:

refuse (noun and adjective) Anything that is rejected, discarded, or thrown away; rubbish, waste, residue; household waste. The earliest citation in the OED is from around 1390.

refuse (verb) To decline to do something or to reject . The earliest citation in the OED is from around 1325.

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historically, we regarded waste (refuse) as a resource… and made beautiful things from it

So we’ve been generating refuse and refusing stuff for a long time! Of course, in terms of the Rs, we are thinking of the latter, but it’s important for us to think about refuse in terms of waste or garbage too. But, let’s not accept the idea that everything we’ve finished with or discarded has reached the end of its life. You only need to visit the monthly ScrapHappy posts to see what creative people are doing with what might be otherwise consigned to the “refuse” (the noun). In fact, perhaps we should refuse (verb) the idea of refuse (noun) and instead both avoid producing it by making long-lived, repairable items, and then consider any item that has reached the end of its life as a resource, available to be repurposed or, if all else fails, recycled.

I think that ScrapHappy Day (15th of the month for those of you who don’t already know) is my favourite blog-reading day. I love seeing the creativity, lateral thinking and sheer effort that all of you who participate put into your projects each month. I encourage any of you who don’t currently join in to consider doing so – whatever material you use, in fact the more diversity the better. If you do want to join in, get in touch with Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia and she will add you to the list of participants and send you a reminder a few days before the date that posts are due.

In the meantime, tell me how you are cutting down on refuse and what you are refusing.

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