ScrapHappy October 2021

Some months ago, you may recall, I started making a rag rug. The idea is to use up all sorts of fabric scraps without having to co-ordinate colours or worry about odd shapes. Back in May I had got this far:

Progress in May

I haven’t wanted to bore you every month with a picture of progress, as it isn’t very exciting and there have been some periods when I haven’t worked on it much. However, as autumn is now upon us, I have been a bit more focused on it. As well as scraps left over from making, I’ve also started incorporating fabric from old clothes. Once I have cut useable cloths from old t-shirts, for example, there are usually some bits left over, and these are going into the rug. I’ve dismantled several garments and been able to retrieve fabric from the waistbands that has been suitable too, even it it’s a bit worn. So, this is progress so far.

As you can see, my tester seems to approve.

It is very time-consuming, but I do like the fact that fabric I would otherwise struggle to find a use for can be incorporated. It’s going to be a while before it’s finished, but, the scrap bag will certainly be much emptier once it is.

-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 folk s often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti, Edith, Jule and Esther

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.

That time of year again

Every year some friends generously allow us to go and collect apples from the old trees behind their house. The trees are tall and there’s always fun and games with a long pole to knock the apples off – they are simply too high up to pick by hand. Every year I completely forget to take photographs, and 2021 is no exception. Anyway, the apples end up a little bumped, but since they are cookers and I process them quite quickly, this is not a problem. The upshot is that every year in late September or October, I end up with a big tub full of apples and several days of work to convert them into a product that will be useable through the coming year. This seasonI have decided that the majority will be stewed and bottled, plus some used for sweet hot chilli sauce. Some years I make lots of juice, but we haven’t been drinking it much lately, so that is not my current priority. Of course, the abundance means that there is lots of opportunity for apple cakes, crumbles and pies, and today we indulged and had them with waffles and cream for brunch.

This old-fashioned approach to storing the the glut and not having to rely on what’s in the shops at any given time of year feels very much like rebellion – a quiet protest against the food system that most of us find ourselves unavoidably bound to. I love the seasonality of harvesting food; I love making use of local produce and exploring inventive ways to preserve it and value it; I love a cupboard full of sealed jars, squirrelled away for use during less productive seasons; and I love the kindness of those who share their bounty freely.

Mend-It Monday #20

In a fit of exuberance yesterday, I managed to pull one of the freezer drawers out onto the floor. Fortunately I narrowly missed my toes, as its contents were rather heavy. Unfortunately, the weight resulted in the front cracking. Since it didn’t completely fall to pieces, I decided that a very simple mend was possible – duct tape to the rescue.

I was so efficient with my mend that I forgot to photograph it broken, but you can see the cracks from the inside even after the mend. If necessary, I will glue some rigid plastic inside to provide extra strength, but I am hopeful that what I have done so far will be sufficient.

It’s a quick way to mend something, but does highlight what’s possible with strong tape.

Lacking imagination

If you’ve come to read about craft projects, you might want to look away now as I’m going to have a bit of a rant…

In recent years the UK has been faced with a great deal of change. When, for example, the decision was taken for the country to leave the European Union, it was possible (not likely, given our politicians, but nevertheless, possible) to use the break to make some radical changes to our social and economic structure and improve our country. Similarly, the current threats to our environment, from pollution of all kinds and over-use of resources, call for a change to our way of thinking and could be considered to offer opportunities for change that would improve the lot of everybody whilst also protecting the earth.

I’m not surprised, however, that those in power have not seized the moment, but have chosen to hand grimly onto old paradigms that are, quite frankly, outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Just because the country has functioned on the basis of an economic model that values finance over social care, manufacturing over repair, construction over health provision, social class over skill and where you were educated over intelligence does not mean that we have to continue to do so. The book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner* highlights the fact that much of our economic thinking is based on financially valuing what, in the 18th century, were considered (privileged) male activities and simply expecting the activities of 18th century females to simply happen with no financial recompense. In our modern world, it’s quite clear that such economics lead to all sorts of problems with supply of the people (nurses, carers, repairers, growers, nurturers) and things (nutritious food, clean air and water, soil, biodiversity) we actually need, whilst we are taught to value bankers, billionaires and acquisitiveness.

What is worse, we are brainwashed into thinking that happiness comes from things, and that if we can just own the latest technology, clothes, car or whatever, we will feel fulfilled. Modern economics demands that we buy into this (literally) otherwise the whole system will collapse. Now, I am not advocating system collapse, because when that happens the most vulnerable suffer most. But I do think that , with creative thinking and an appreciation that values other than those embedded into our economics could be our focus, perhaps we can move forward in a more equitable and sustainable way.

There is ample research, for example, on the idea of a circular economy. Currently, we have a linear economy, with extraction of resources being followed by manufacturing, consumption and, all too soon, disposal. A circular economy, in contrast, decouples economic activities from resource extraction, focusing on maintenance, reuse, refurbishment whilst minimising any materials/energy leaving the system. There is a need for skilled individuals within this system, so workers have special value too and are nurtured.

You can find out more here and here or simply search for the term online and you’ll find all sorts of examples and ideas.

Another change that we need to make is to value social care. Our local newspaper today highlighted the pressures in the area on domiciliary care staff, and this seems to be an issue country-wide. Carers have been under especial pressure during the pandemic and it is time that their role was re-evaluated. The Women’s Equality Party has been vocal on this issue, with their leader, Manu Reid highlighting the fact that “care is seen as an expense rather than a valuable investment”, going on to note that “like all forms of care – our government still relies on the fact that women will do it for little or no pay”. Continuing to regard care as a burden and not a key part of the effective functioning of the country harks back to old Adam Smith. Remember, that economics is a fiction… money only has value because we all pretend that it does; intrinsically, it doesn’t, it’s just a way of keeping score. And if we accept this, we can allocate different “scores” to different things. It’s hard to get your head around the concept, but it really is possible to have a different economic model.

Of course the problem is that our current government and politicians are so invested (literally and metaphorically) in the way things are that they are unable to see beyond it. What we need are leaders with vision, with creativity, and with the ability to educate the populace to see that the current way is not the only way. I understand that a major paradigm shift like this is difficult, but on our finite earth is is essential if we are to care for the planet and the people on it. We can all make a little difference and work towards some of the ideas introduced here, but it is those in power who have the potential to drive big changes forward. So, next time you have a chance (or make a chance) to interact with any of our elected leaders, I encourage you to raise some of these issues and see if you can’t open their eyes and spark their imagination.

-oOo-

* His mother (what a surprise)

Upgrading

Up until last week, in the whole of my life, I had only ever owned two mobile phones. The first was bought new and the other was second hand (a Nokia 3410, which originally belonged to my dad). Life has mostly kept me at home and I haven’t needed much capacity to communicate when I’m out and about (other than knowing I can call for help in an emergency). However, changes are afoot (more on this in a later post when things have progressed further) and I’m going to need to be contactable when I am not at home. So, a phone that can actually cope with voice mail, pictures and apps and a service provider that offers an affordable contract that I’m not tied into for years were required. I knew the day would come when I had to give up on my old Nokia, but I’m rather sad to say goodbye to it, particularly because of its link to my late father.

When I started to think about a new phone, I kept remembering this:

… but since I really didn’t have any phone fit for purpose, it was going to have to be a phone that somebody else had already owned. Mobile phones are challenging things environmentally, but I can live with acquiring one already in existence. The trouble is that if a smart phone is too old, it’s likely that it won’t function well because of the obsolescence that the manufacturers build in (and can be forced on the phone via its software). So I couldn’t buy a phone that was too old. In the end I chose a Samsung Galaxy 9. It’s several models down the line from the latest series, but it’s still a functional phone that can do everything (and more) that I want to do. I bought it from a company that specialises in second hand electronics and offers a 2-year warranty. It would have been nice to rehome a phone from a friend (like Mr Snail was able to do when he needed to upgrade three years ago), but enquiries did not yield anything, so the only option I felt comfortable with was buying from a reputable company.

I’m pretty sure that this new phone isn’t going to last anywhere near as long as my old Nokia (which I must have had for 12 years or more), but I will nurture it and hope that in-built obsolescence is made illegal so that it can have a long and productive life.

I realise that, because I am so reluctant to throw anything out that might be useful, I still have all three of my phones in my possession. I’m sure that, eventually, Mr Snail will find some use for components of the old ones…

All my mobile phones, ever

ScrapHappy September 2021

Unloved

A couple of weeks ago whilst sorting through my winter woollies, I came across a long forgotten item of clothing – a sort of woven cotton fisherman’s smock, but with a scoop neck and without the useful pockets. I remembered that I had stopped wearing it because it had a small stain on the front that I had been unable to remove and so I had put it to one side whilst I decided what to do with it.

Time, I thought, to see whether I could revive it.

I started by running it through the washing machine with a small amount of laundry liquid, a couple of teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and some white vinegar. I dried it in strong sunshine on the washing line and was surprised to discover that I simply could not find the stain afterwards. However, I felt that the garment could be significantly improved by the addition of pockets. I wanted something with plenty of capacity… no point in tiny pockets! So I rummaged through my scraps, dismissed several fabrics because the top is an odd pinky-purple colour that seems to clash with lots of things, before settling on some pieces left over from a sewing project that Mr Snail is currently working on (well, the pieces are cut out – sewing is yet to begin).

I started by cutting a rectangle that would fit across the front of the top, but I decided that it would be too floppy on it’s own so I interfaced it and cut a second piece for lining. Then combined the layers and attached the resulting piece, stitching round the edge, folding the lower edge (left without interfacing or lining, so it wasn’t too bulky) around the bottom of the garment, and stitching up the middle of the pocket to hold it in place and ensure it didn’t gape and allow things to fall out. It looked a bit like an afterthought, so I added some binding round the cuffs. After washing it again, I decided it looked a bit unbalanced, so I also added binding round the neck too.

I think it’s now a much more useful item of clothing, plus if I get any more stains on it, I can simply do a bit of embroidery over them based on one of the motifs on the pocket. It feels like I have a brand new garment – all from the addition of some scraps.

-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 folk s often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti, Edith and Jule

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.

Mend-It Monday #19

I know those of you who read last week’s Mend-It Monday post will be desperate to see some actual mending with those lovely tools that I showed you, just as I was really keen to have a go with them. But first I needed something to mend… and what better than the most mended garment that I own? My favourite ancient cardigan. For this repair, I decided to give the Speedweve its first outing. I assembled my tools (including the obligatory cup of tea) and settled down to learn the technique.

I decided to use some cotton yarn from my scrap collection: cream for the warp and grey for the weft. Of course you can use the same colour for both directions, or make fancy tartan patterns if you wish, but as a beginner, I thought that two clearly different colours would make it easier for me to see what I was doing.

To begin with you place the wooden disk behind the area than needs mending. This is secured with an elastic band, then the metal part with the hooks is slipped into place on top of the fabric, against the disk and held firm with another elastic band. After that, the warp threads are created. You start by securing a thread at one corner of the area to be covered with the weaving and work your way up and down – stitching in place at the bottom and putting the thread round the hooks at the top.

Once that’s done, the weft thread is attached at the bottom corner and, using a long needle, threaded through the warp threads alongside the hooks. The needle is then pushed down to the bottom of the mend (away from the hooks) and the thread pulled through. Before inserting the needle back in the other direction, the orientation of the hooks is reversed by running your thumb along the metal loops. This moves the lower threads up and the upper threads down, just like a full-sized loom. Before each pass of the needle the hooks are moved using the metal loops, so that when the thread passes back the woven fabric is created.

You keep working back and forth, reversing the hooks after each pass and anchoring the thread on each side, until the warp threads are completely used. After that, you release the elastic band holding the metal piece in place, remove the warp threads from the hooks and stitch that edge in place. Once that’s done, the wooden disk is removed and you have a very tidy bit of darning.

I have to confess that it took me a couple of attempts to get it right. Because of the stretchy nature of my cardigan I realised after my first unsuccessful try that it would be best if I stabilised the area with a few running stitches around the edge of the hole before attaching the disk. Once I had done this, it all went fairly smoothly. I think that the stitches at the side to secure the weaving could have been neater and I could have done a better job with the warp threads to begin with, but otherwise I’m happy. The yarn I selected is right at the thickest end of what can be used with this particular Speedweve model (there is a version with the hooks further apart for thicker yarn), but it was just right for this particular mend. The wool that came in the kit is thinner and might have been easier to use for my first attempt, but it just wasn’t right for this job.

Now I’ve got the hang of it, I think some rather more interesting weaving patterns might be on the cards.

ScrapHappy August 2021

This month’s ScrapHappy happened because I was feeling lazy. I completed the waves blanket with the Colinette yarn one evening and simply couldn’t be bothered to go and seek out a new project. The blanket was supposed to have a fringe, but I didn’t want one and therefore had some yarn left over. So, using this yarn and the same hook I embarked on something I didn’t need a pattern for… a woolly hat (another perfect summer project!). And to maximise scrap use, I added a pompom, because there was still a bit of yarn left over when the hat was finished.

Simple and quick, but entirely scrappy; plus it prevented that particular yarn even getting to the scrap stash.

-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 folk s often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

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.

Mend-It Monday #18

OK, I know it’s not Monday, but I was really busy yesterday and didn’t have time to write, so today it’s Mend-It Monday on Tuesday. In recent months my mending has been ticking over, with objects repaired as necessary, but it’s a subject that I have been thinking about more and more. The culture of consumerism is so bad for the planet – the more we buy, the more we end up throwing away, or simply not using, and it can’t go on… our resources are not limitless. Every time any item is manufactured, it uses some sort of materials, and even if those are repurposed or recycled, there is still energy involved. And what about the hidden resources? How much water does it take to make an item? And what about the waste during manufacturing? And all this before we even start to think about the conditions of the workers, which can be abysmal, especially when it comes to the cheap goods we have come to expect to see in our shops.

Mending box

So, mending is a big step in the right direction – extend the useful life of an object and you buy new stuff less often, so there is an easing of demand for the world’s resources. But this does sound like a bit of a chore and I think that it is also important to see mending in a positive light rather than simply as something “worthy”. I particularly like mending items that I have made… this is how I have come round from my dislike of darning to loving it: because I can keep wearing all those socks that I put so many hours into making in the first place. Indeed, extending the life of something I really love wearing or using is a particular source of happiness for me. I know that eventually I will have to give up on certain much-loved garments, but it’s so good to be able to keep using them for long after “normal” people would have sent them to landfill.

A skillful invisible mend is an amazing thing and something that I do not excel at, but visible mends are great fun and also highlight to others the possibilities. Fortunately, visible mending is acceptable, and even trendy, these days. Over the years I’ve got good at darning socks and have had a bash at boro, but I’ve been looking to extend my range of skills and have, therefore recently invested in some new books and equipment. I’m particularly excited by the arrival just this morning of a “Speedweve”: a tiny loom to assist with mending all sorts of fabric, including (I hope) some of the things that I’ve struggled with in the past. I’ve also treated myself to a Japanese leather palm thimble, some sashiko needles, long darning needles and sashiko thread (which I want to compare to the embroidery thread I have been using for boro).

So, today I don’t have any completed mends to display, but hopefully I’ll soon be showing off the results of playing with my tiny loom and practising my Japanese stitching.

Currant Affairs

Whilst not quite as prolific as last year, the redcurrants have fruited well in 2021. I’m not a particular fan of blackcurrants, but the red ones I do like – both to accompany game and with yoghurt for breakfast. The vast number that appear all in one go makes it essential to preserve them and, unless I want a large part of my freezer entirely filled with the things, the answer is bottling. Actually, I like bottled fruit because it’s instant – at least when it comes to serving it. The preparation takes a little while, but redcurrants are an ideal candidate for bottling because they are nice and acidic, so preserve well.

Once picked (quite a time-consuming activity), they have to be stripped from their stalks (I use a fork) and any debris removed. This year, I still had some fruit left in the freezer from pervious harvests, so I bottled that with most of the current currant crop and put about a kilo of raw, fresh fruit in the freezer to use in baking in the coming year.

I simply cook the cleaned fruit with a bit of sugar – no need to add water, it’s juicy enough – then ladle into hot Kilner jars. Once the lids have been screwed down, the jars go into a water bath for about 25 minutes. Seals form once the jars are out and cooling, and the crop can then feed me for the coming year.

Redcurrants are one of my favourite things to grow and preserve – they aren’t particularly demanding in the garden and they bottle easily and successfully. I just wish all my crops were this easy!

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