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!

Foraging in the garden

Whilst I’m not well-adapted to very hot weather, I do like this time of year for the opportunities it provides to pick my own food from the garden – fruit herbs and vegetables. I’m very fond of soft fruit, and it has been extremely satisfying in recent weeks to wander outside and pick berries for my breakfast. Eighteen months ago I planted new raspberry canes and this is the first time they have produced any quantity of fruit. This morning, in addition, I was able to harvest blueberries – such a delight. On the berry front, the red currants are also producing like mad and the harvest has begun. In fact, I still have frozen red currants from last year, but I have decided to bottle those and most of this year’s crop, only freezing a small proportion to use in baking. Fortunately the weather has cooled somewhat and so bottling fruit is no longer out of the question.

The other big foraging opportunity at the moment is the courgettes and summer squashes. This year, I planted these in the raised bed that was built at the same time as the limery. In the past six years, we have filled this bed with all manner of material: cardboard, paper, grass clippings, spent compost from pots, soil washed off the field behind the garden, chippings from the willow hedge, a variety of home-made compost, as well as the layer of old teaching notes and handouts that formed the base of it. The curcurbit family love compost to grow in and so this year they are going mad (it took a while with the cold spring). The result is huge abundant leaves. Somewhere under the jungle there are courgettes and squashes to be had (not many yet, but they are growing), but they are difficult to find. I have the distinct feeling that a bit later in the summer I’m going to come across some enormous fruits that I had simply missed under all the foliage, but for now we are just enjoying the hunt.

Inappropriate makes

We’ve been having a heatwave. Nothing compared to what you dwellers of the tropics have, but still hot for us temperate flowers here in Wales. It’s too hot to walk the dogs and too hot to do much gardening, so we must either sit still outdoors or occupy ourselves inside. Since my creativity seems to have returned, I have been doing the latter, but making a couple of things that really don’t suit the weather.

First, some sewing… I happened to have already cut out the pieces for a coatigan from a lovely boiled wool fabric. This garment is intended for chilly autumn days (or possibly chilly August days, considering the unpredictability of the weather). My favourite, long, 30+-year-old cardigan is now so disreputable that I can’t wear it in company, so this is intended as a replacement. It should do for outdoors and indoors. The pattern is the “Jessie Coatigan” from Sew Over It. I found the instructions rather difficult to follow in places, so I ignored them and did my own thing and it seems to have worked ok. Whilst the machine sewing has been fine in the heat, there’s still the hem and cuffs to hand-stitch, but it’s too warm to have it in my lap, so the finishing will have to wait until next week. If it turns out to be comfy I may make a second one with patch rather than in-seam pockets because I think these are better for hankies, crochet hooks, a Bluetooth speaker and all the other bits and bobs I find myself transporting around the house.

Then, I have to have some knitting or crochet on the go… and what better project to start on during a heatwave than a cosy blanket? I’ve had the yarn for this sitting around for years and finally decided to get started with it. It came as a kit and was supposed to be knitted, but I didn’t want to conform, so settled on a wavy crochet pattern. I’ve been at it for exactly a week and I’ve used more than half the yarn so it won’t be log before it’s finished… just in time for the weather to get cooler. As a point of interest, it’s Colinette yarn – they used to be based in Wales near Welshpool, but closed down a while back and have now re-opened in Wansford, near Peterborough.

Although not much work is happening in the garden in this gloroious weather, I have managed to harvest the shallots and they are ripening and drying in the sun, and we finally have courgettes after a very slow start to the season. There are couple of lemons that are nearly ready too, but sadly the lettuce hates this weather, so thank goodness for oriental leaves.

Love-lawn

When we moved into Chez Snail, the back garden simply consisted of a lawn, a patio and a paved path, There were literally no plants other than the grass in the lawn. A bit of investigation revealed that there was also almost no soil, and after the first heavy rain we discovered that the water from the field behind rapidly flowed, river-like, into our garden, formed a lake and then progressed into next door’s garden. Our solution was planting and soil-building – a willow hedge, raised beds, composting. We whittled away at the lawn until, eventually, there was none left, although we did keep part of the patio so that we could sit outdoors. Then, six years ago, we had the limery built and our outdoor seating space was greatly reduced. We managed and it didn’t seem like much of an issue until covid and the need for space outside in which to socialise.

So, earlier this year, and setting aside my reticence about lawns**, we made some changes to our garden. Mr Snail removed two of the long thin raised beds from just outside the back door, and created a single deeper bed on the far side of the garden. We levelled the former site of the beds (well, sort of) and I ordered some turf becuase that seemed like the quickest way to establish our new grassy patch. We didn’t return the area back to it’s original level, but retained about six inches of our homemade soil on top of the original ground level, surrounded by the bottom layer of old railway sleepers that had formed the raised beds. Ten days of excluding the dogs, and we had achieved our aim.

In fact, we don’t intend to have a pristine grassy patch – we’ll let the wild flowers grow and Mr Snail will be scything it when necessary. Around the edges I am planning to seed some native wild flowers. The soil will act as a reservoir for some of the excess water when there is heavy rain and the grass is cool for feet and paws (unlike flag stones) when the weather is hot. It’s been in place for a couple of months now and has been well-used… it’s even hot enough at the moment to have dinner out there in the evenings.

-oOo-

** “A lawn is nature under a totalitarian regime”

ScrapHappy July 2021

Plans to write during the past month did not materialise as a result of trips to my mum and to attend a family funeral. All this meant that most of my making for the past weeks has had to be portable, with little opportunity for rummaging through scraps looking for inspiration. However, in my absence, Mr Snail did come across an unspeakable object that was just crying out to be turned into something else. He found this in next-door’s rubbish* after they’d had a family with children visiting:

I hardly know where to begin with my assessment of what’s wrong with this thing… the waste of resources, it’s disposable nature, the “It’s girl surf stuff” slogan, the image of the “girl”, the pink for girls design… I won’t go on. Suffice to say that Mr Snail thought that, whatever its faults, it shouldn’t be going straight to landfill after a few uses. To begin with, he thought it was still functional, but upon inspection, it turned out that the polystyrene inside was broken, so it couldn’t be used for it’s original purpose. He put it to one side for me to look at upon my return home.

I have to say that initially I was not inspired… revolted might have been a better description of my reaction. However, I decided that it might make a good scrap project and so I took it apart. I kept all the fabric and plastic bits, but I did send the polystyrene for recycling.

I specifically wanted a project that would allow me to disguise that slogan. At first I thought that I might be able to use all the bits , but then I decided to focus on the fabric for this ScrapHappy. And so, in combination with a very old, ripped pair of jeans, I created this rather jolly shopping bag. I managed to combine fabric so that even some of the worn parts of the jeans could be used and I “lost” the slogan in the handles:

The webbing, plastic washers, extra bits of fabric and velcro have gone into the scrap stash and we now have a rather jolly bag that’s bright and cheery, but certainly not reinforcing the pink for girls stereotype. I am very pleased with this particular scrappy transformation.

-oOo-

* I should point out that he doesn’t normally rifle through other people’s rubbish, it’s just that he promised to put it out for them as there was no one home on collection day.

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.

ScrapHappy June 2021

Apologies for my absence, but for the first time in about 18 months I’ve been away from home. I wish I could tell you it was because I’ve been on a lovely holiday, but in fact I was in Shropshire, caring for my mum after a hip replacement. It was odd to be elsewhere and to begin with there were lots of caring responsibilities, but these declined gradually and I have been able to come home and hand over to Alex, one of my nieces, for a while. Hopefully, all will be well when Alex leaves and mum will be able to cope, but if not I will go back. My change of location and all it entailed seemed to completely drain my creativity, so for the past few weeks I’ve only managed some knitting and a tiny bit of crochet. My return home and the incentive of ScrapHappy has, however, encouraged me to think about making again.

Wanting a quick project to get me started, I had a rummage through my fabric scraps to see if there was any inspiration to be had. I pulled out a few woven cotton scraps, but they did not speak to me, and then I came across a bit of jersey with some funky squirrels, just asking to be used for something. Each squirrel is just the right size for a greeting card, so I thought that I would experiment. To make sure the fabric didn’t stretch too much, I attached it to a scrap from an old sheet, stitching along some of the lines in the design. Next I made a frame from an old square of handmade paper and machine stitched the squirrel panel onto this before trimming off the excess. I then stitched the whole thing onto card and glued a tiny leaf motif from the squirrel fabric over the knot inside to finish it off.

I could have done a better job with the stitching and next time I’ll use some thin wadding or felt to achieve a quilted effect, but overall I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out… plus it is good to make something original and feel that my creative juices are flowing again.

-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.

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