ScrapHappy January 2019

The arrival of the new sewing machine and the easy access to it because of it having it’s own cabinet has encouraged me to do a bit more sewing. A project that I have been considering for a while it what I’m going to refer to as ‘Frankenfabric’ – not patchwork, but a different way of using random scraps. So, over Christmas I finally got round to having a play.

First, I laid out a piece of robust cotton furnishing fabric that has been in my stash since I was about 16. Onto this I laid out random piece of fabric left over from cutting out patterns in the past (I think all the bits were cotton or viscose). I made no attempt to match colours or be artistic, I wanted it to be truly random:

A random assemblage

Next, I covered the whole thing with a piece of old net curtain and pinned everything together with lots and lots of pins:

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All held in place

And then I did lots of random stitching with my new sewing machine, gradually removing the pins as everything became secure:

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Starting sewing

And I finally ended up with a robust piece of multi-layered fabric:

I was interested to see what it was like to work with, so I dug out an old zip and made a little pencil case, lined with a scrap of fabric left over from making one of my aprons:

But I didn’t stop there. Once finished, you can see that I put a few pens in it… some of those that have accumulated round the house. If you read the comments following Patricia’s post about accumulating pens, you may have noticed that Sue mentioned that she has the opposite problem and can never find a pen around the house. So, I parceled it up, pens and all, and sent it to Sue.

Scrap fabric, scrap zip and scrap pens… altogether a very ScrapHappy January. Next I plan to use yarn ends between the layers and see what that looks like.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

Spot the mend

Darning, a once detested job for me, has become quite enjoyable, especially when it comes to mending hand-knitted socks. Recently, however, I was presented with a rather different prospect.

We have a muslin curtain to provide some privacy in our living room and when I was washing this a few weeks ago I managed to tear it. It’s not really surprising, I made this particular curtain about 15 years ago, so it has been exposed to a lot of UV and the fibres were bound to start breaking down sooner or later. Nevertheless, I was reluctant to abandon it just yet and considered a couple of options. First, I thought about cutting the torn strip out and joining the two halves back together, The fabric is wide enough to do this, but it would have left a very obvious seam down the middle and I would have had to fiddle about with the top where there is a channel for the rod to go through. I dismissed this plan. My alternative was to try some sort of darn, using fine thread. It wasn’t going to be possible to make this invisible, but I didn’t want a big bold mend either. I, therefore, chose some pale cotton thread and set to with my needle:

It turns out that I achieved an almost invisible mend, unintentionally. What do you think?

I’m not sure Lady Bracknell would approve

For sometime I have wanted to have a go at bag making , but wasn’t quite sure what materials I would need. I was delighted, therefore, to discover U-Handbag, a company that sells kits with all the necessary bits and bobs except the fabric. In the autumn I bought two kits, one for a handbag and one for a larger “carpet bag” (not made with carpet I hasten to add) as well as a couple of books.

I decided to start with the smaller bag and spent an afternoon cutting out the outer fabric, lining, interfacing and padding. There were quite a lot of pieces because of all the layers, but the instructions were clear and there was a full size pattern with all the pieces properly labelled.

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So many bits

I haven’t done much sewing for a while and some of the fiddly bits took quite a lot of concentration, but gradually it came together and started to look like a bag:

 In fact the trickiest part was gluing the frame on – almost the last step. I got some glue on the metal and haven’t quite managed to clean it all off yet. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with the finished item and it has given me confidence to have a go at other designs. I now also feel better equipped to assess the suitability of various (repurposed) fabrics for the different layers that give a bag structure. My friend Rachel also pointed out that it may be possible to find bags with suitable frames in charity shops that could be cannibalised for future projects. In the mean time, though, I have the bigger one to make from the second kit, with a different sort of closure.

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A handbag!

-oOo-

Oh, and for those of you who don’t understand the title:

From “The importance of being Earnest”

The mighty pen

by Patricia Collins

At the risk of sounding like a fossil, I’ll tell you that I learned to write with a slate and slate key, progressed to a pencil and on to a dip pen i.e. a wooden holder with a changeable steel nib that was dipped in the inkwell that was set into the corner of my school desk and replenished every week by the ink monitor. With a few adventures on the side with chalks, powder paints and wax crayons, this took me happily to the 11+ and the ritual fountain pen.

The fountain pen had a rubber bladder that was re-filled with ink, but it was made of a hard plastic casing and was, as I see now, my first non biodegradable writing instrument. When work for O-Levels commenced, we all yearned for Rapidographs. Wonderful tools for drawing maps and graphs that were like writing with hypodermic needles. I still have mine and see that though it too was re-fillable, it has a clear plastic ink reservoir.

‘Biros’ were considered to be detrimental to our handwriting and were strictly forbidden until the Sixth Form. My first biro was precious; it had a metal casing and was refuelled by purchasing a metal cartridge of ink.

And now – biros arrive in the post as ‘free’ gifts from charities either urging me to support their work or to thank me for supporting their work, arrive as promotional Christmas gifts from local businesses. They also seem to have a life of their own, accumulating in my desk drawer and shopping bag from I know not where.

Many of the charities send pre-paid envelopes with their gifts, so it’s an easy matter to return the pen, and say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to any more.

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Plenty to fill this (c) Patricia Collins

For the accumulation, I’m taking a two pronged attack. Firstly, greater care in restoring pens to their rightful owners. No more thoughtless pocketing of other people’s biros. Secondly, a little sewing project – an oddment of material, a re-purposed zip and a pencil case is born. A sweep of the shopping bags. desk drawers and back of the sofa throws up a nice assortment of spare pens and pencils to fill it. A trip to the EFL centre where local asylum seekers have their English lessons to hand over the filled pencil case.

I can only lament my years of ‘green’ writing and the proliferation of plastic today and realise passing on the unwanted biros does nothing to solve the bigger problem, but at least people in need can practise the great art of writing.

-oOo-

Thanks to Patricia for another thought-provoking post.

Last year, before we passed our old dresser on to my niece, we cleared it out and discovered loads of old pens. I fished them out and Sister of Snail tested every one to see if it worked. Now I have an old cutlery tray full of pens… perhaps I should find new homes for them?

New but old

When I was 16 my mum and dad bought me a sewing machine – a relatively simple Singer, which did straight stitches, zig-zag, buttonholes and about six other fancier stitches. I used it to make skirts, coats, curtains, toys, ballgowns and even the most amazing fully boned purple satin dress to wear for a friend’s wedding. It has been serviced regularly over the years, but in 2018 it became clear that it was struggling and no longer up to the jobs I wanted it to perform – most notably zig-zag stitches in jersey fabric. I dithered about getting a new one because I really didn’t want anything too complicated or that relied on electronics, and so I made do.

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A mechanical marvel

However, back in the summer we were discussing sewing machines at Knit Night and one of the ladies mentioned her old Bernina 830 and what fabulous machines they are. She explained that secondhand models were greatly sought after and worth looking out for, but, even so, relatively easy to find because they were so well built and so long-lived. I searched ebay and finally found what I wanted in a location where I could go and collect it. And so, on my way back from the Crochet Sanctuary weekend, I picked up my new (old) machine. Indeed, it is actually older than my Singer. The lady selling it told me it had belonged to her late mother, who bought it new… and for which there was the original paperwork. Not only that, but she had the original cabinet for it that she also offered me, and for which I made a donation to a charity she selected. The cabinet is brilliant, with a platform that allows the machine to drop down inside at the flick of a lever.

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Complete with cabinet

Having had the same machine for 35 years, it has taken me a while to get used to a different set-up. Nevertheless, it has turned out to be a great purchase. The first thing I made with it was Sam’s t-shirt, but I’ve progressed on to more complex things and am finding it a joy to use. It has needed no more than a quick clean and the application of oil to get it working smoothly. I haven’t tried sewing jersey fabric yet, but my current project involves lots of layers of fabric/interfacing and it’s turning out to be a breeze, so fingers crossed for future projects.

I’m so pleased to have avoided buying a brand new machine, and the lady I bought it off seemed delighted that it was going to a home where it would once again be cherished. Hurrah for well made tools that can last more than one lifetime.

Bedding down

The woolly dog bed is complete. The pad was made entirely from an old dog bed and the yarn is 100% British wool out of my stash.

The edge includes a separate crocheted section that can be unravelled so the pad can be taken out to allow it to be washed separately from the cover. This was done to avoid the use of buttons, poppers or a zip, all of which might have been rather tempting to chew and then swallow.

I am rather pleased with it and Daisy and Sam seem to be happy too.

Glittery Christmas

by Patricia Collins

… and still they come in.  Despite all the awareness-raising campaigns of the past year about the effects of micro plastics on the environment, I’m still receiving glittery cards, even from people I thought were ‘greenish’.

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Mostly we’ve been glitter-free this year Chez Snail… one or two of you might recognise a card here!

My favourite, i.e. most disappointing, example is a pretty Christmas tree card sold to raise money for a very worthy medical charity that boasts its environmentally friendly credentials on the back – ‘made from FSC sustainable resources, recycled materials and using  vegetable printing inks’.  But it’s sprinkled with glitter of which there is no mention. From opening the pretty card, that glitter is now on my clothes and my carpet so it will go with the clothes to the washing machine and with the hoover dust to the compost and so to the sea and soil.  This card also reminds and requests me to recycle it. How am I to do this safely?

Well rather than simply carp, I’ve decided to take inspiration from our Snail and take action; so every time I receive a glitter card I email a request to the producer for further information. I ask whether they are using ‘safe’ glitter. If they are request them to flag this up on their environmental credentials. If they are not, I ask them to change. And then add the big question how do they suggest I recycle their product. I add a link to a good, basic article on micro plastics: here.

I’m still puzzling over whether to send copies of the correspondence to my ‘greenish’ friends – any thoughts?

So far no replies from the manufacturers but watch this space.

-oOo-

Many thanks to Patricia for writing this post on a subject that I hadn’t thought much about, but certainly is worth considering.

If you would like to write a guest post on a subject that fits with the sort of thing that appears on The Snail of Happiness blog, do get in touch… I’m not making any promises, but it would be interesting to feature some things that you have been thinking about as well as my random musings.

ScrapHappy December 2018

A couple of months ago, whilst we were out for a walk, Sam got bitten by another dog. Sam was on her lead and the other dog escaped from his; she became defensive because he was charging towards her and he managed to sink his teeth in as I scooped her up out of the way. Fortunately there was only a single puncture wound, although it was deep. The following day I took her to the vets, where the wound was cleaned and she was given antibiotics (it appeared to be infected). Being a terrier, a “cone of shame” is not a viable option but still she was determined to lick the wound until all the fur came off, so I needed a different solution. Of course, Chez Snail we always look for a scrappy solution, and so I give you the doggy vest:

Not impressed, but better than a cone

It is made from three t-shirt sleeves (left over after making yarn from the t-shirt bodies), with holes for her front legs and tail. After the first night I realised that the bagginess at the back was allowing her access to the wound, so I added a popper to hold it closed:

I’m pleased to report that the vest worked a treat – it was soft and comfortable and, once the popper was added, she couldn’t get it off or access her wound and she is now completely healed and re-furred – a much better solution than a plastic cone.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pampered pooches

I regularly support Knit for Peace (a wonderful charity) with donations or entering their regular raffles. I’m not generally lucky, but a couple of months ago I was the winner of their British Wool raffle and very quickly the recipient of this box of delights:

I really, really don’t NEED more wool, but it was such fun to receive, and I will probably give some of it away; however I did want to use some of it. As you can see, Sam and Daisy were very interested, so I decided that they could benefit from this unexpected bonus.

Years ago, when we first got a second dog, we bought a big soft bed for them to share, comprising an inner cushion and an outer squishy surround. Over the years it’s got more and more tatty and the filling had clumped together, so that is was extremely lumpy. Neither Sam nor Daisy was interested in using it, preferring the sofa, the carpet or whatever thing I’m knitting or crocheting. I was thinking about this, and realised that the pooches clearly like to snooze on woolly things, so would probably appreciate a woolly bed. Not wanting to entirely discard the original bed I decided to re-cover it, but first I pulled all the stuffing out of both pieces, fluffed it up and put it all back into the cushion part, supplemented with some extra stuffing and a whole load of tiny wool scraps that I have been saving for just such a project. The outer piece went into the fabric recycling bag because it really wasn’t salvageable.

Then I set to work making some squares, which Daisy kept safe for me:

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MY squares

Interestingly, when turned the re-stuffed cushion over, so that the cotton side was upwards rather than the artificial fleece, both dogs became more interested in sleeping on it (as demonstrated by Daisy below right). However, soon it will have a whole new woolly cover and may be even more tempting. I have completed the first side and it has been tested and approved:

The other half is well underway in slightly different colours, so that we can ring the changes simply by turning it over.

I realise that Sam hasn’t had much of a look-in in this post, despite it being about dog beds, so here she is having fun on the beach the other day:

I’m hoping I will have the completed doggy bed ready to show you later in the month.

Stirring things up

At the age of eighteen I went off to university with a trunk full of stuff – but not necessarily the stuff I needed. Indeed, I quickly discovered that I was going to have to do a bit of my own cooking (no food was provided in halls of residence on a Saturday night… goodness only knows why). And so, I made my way to Woolworths and purchased some essentials – a plate, a bowl, some cutlery, a small saucepan and a wooden spoon. Over the years the crockery got broken, the handle fell off the saucepan (although only about four years ago) and the cutlery disappeared into anonymity amongst all the knives, forks and spoons in the kitchen. But the wooden spoon survived.

For 33 years I have used that wooden spoon regularly – it has stirred sauces, beaten butter and sugar to make cakes, pressed fruit through sieves, agitated baked beans as they heat (often in that original little pan) and been played like a tiny fake guitar by Mr Snail. Its colour changed over the years and recently flaws had stated to show. I’ve certainly had my money’s worth out of it and its environmental footprint has been tiny. So, I was sad but unsurprised when It finally split into two as I was washing it the other day.

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oh dear

 

So farewell old faithful spoon… when I bought you I could never have envisaged you (or me) getting so old. Your final contribution to our household will be that your cremation will provide energy to heat the water for a cup of tea.

And hello brand new spoon – not wooden this time, but bamboo. I wonder how long you will last.

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do you think it will outlast me?

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