ScrapHappy September 2020

The past month has been very ScrapHappy – I resurrected a cushion cover, the zip of which Sam had decided would make an exciting chew toy. I removed the zip, then didn’t worry about an inner case, but simply stuffed the canvas cover with a combination of Woolcool insulation, tiny bits of left-over fabric and yarn ends that were too small to tie together to make scrappy hats. There’s no point in making any furnishings with zips because of Sam’s predilection for them, so I simply stitched it closed and now we have an extra sofa cushion.

Sam not eating the cushion this time

I came across some red yarn that might be pure cotton or might be cotton and bamboo. It was a bit of a ball and I have no recollection what I used it for originally. Anyway, I used it to add to my ever-growing wash cloth collection. I like making these because I can play with different stitches and it doesn’t really matter how successful the design actually is. As you can see, I only had enough for a small cloth with the last of the yarn, even combined with a final scrap of some of the organic cotton that I’d been using for the same thing earlier in the year.

Three new cloths

My final project was a mend, but using a scrap (as is so often the case). Daisy’s harness is attached to her lead via a metal ring that slides along the “handle”. After two years, the fabric had started to wear, so I rummaged around and found a length of (nylon?) ribbon off a chocolate box and used that as binding. I wrapped it around and stitched it, then wrapped it around and stitched it for a second time, so hopefully it’s strong and secure and won’t need mending for another couple of years. The harness is perfect for an enthusiastic spaniel and they are quite expense to replace, so I’m pleased to have been able to mend it… especially since it was a scrappy mend.

So, that’s three different ScrapHappies for this month. How about you?

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

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

Dressy

I may not have been writing much, but I have been sewing. The plan to update my wardrobe is going well, and I have chosen to work as far as possible in natural fibres. I’ve made two dresses using a pattern from Anna Allen (the Demeter Dress), the first in a cotton and linen mix and the second in a wonderful bright pink linen. Both dresses are lovely to wear, especially in hot weather, and were simple to make, with brilliant instructions to follow.

After these, I decided to use a fabric remnant that I acquired last year. I modified the pattern that I made up in MayThe Avid Seamstress’ Raglan Dress – making the neckline a little lower and the skirt part a little more flared. This also gave me the opportunity to test out my new “invisible zipper” foot for my sewing machine, which turned out to be a dream to use and did indeed make the zip nearly invisible. This time I made the dress with short rather than 3/4 sleeves, because that was all the fabric I had available.

Now I’m on a roll with my dress-making, I plan to make several more, including some for winter and I have a few new patterns to try out. I have two more pieces of linen, some wool/viscose jersey and a number of pure wool fabrics (more on these in a forthcoming post), as well as some silk, so I have plenty to keep me busy for a while yet.

ScrapHappy August 2020

Sam the dog likes to wear pyjamas. Well, actually, what I mean is that she sleeps better when she is wearing a dog coat. We thought that this was because she was getting cold overnight – she’s an old lady at around 15 years – but even on warm night she seems to like to wear something. Maybe it’s the slight pressure calming her down, like a Thundershirt, but whatever the reason, she doesn’t wake us up at 2am if she’s dressed. She has a couple of woolly coats, which are fine for the winter, but we were concerned that over the summer these would be too warm and so I have been looking at different options. Then, Mr Snail finally wore a pair of his sweatpants so thin that they were impossible to repair and I saw a scrappy opportunity. A bit of deft scissor work and Sam has two lovely soft cotton coats…

Since the pictures were taken, I’ve overlocked the edges to add a bit of strength. She seems happy with the outcome..

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

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

I want to tell you a story

Recently, there has been a fashion on social media to ask friends to post pictures without words… usually something along the lines of

“I have been challenged to post one picture of every day for seven days of my *** – no words, no explanations, just pictures. Now I challenge Friend X to do the same”.

Where *** is life/favourite books/pets/influential LPs/black and white photos/most awesome cheese or whatever.

Now, I know that they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I disagree. Pictures are great – I always include at least one in my blog posts because they catch the attention and can get across a quick message or illustrate something that’s difficult to describe. But they don’t necessarily get to the heart of the matter. If you post a picture of an influential LP, I always wonder why – was it a particular song? the fact that it represents the sound track to an important era in your life? that you love the artwork on the cover? that you know the musician? And, honestly, I find what you have to say about it much more meaningful than simply seeing a picture.

2020-07-31

A story-telling snail… but unless I explain, you won’t know why

Stories are important. Humans have been telling each other stories for thousands of years – long before we wrote things down. By listening to stories we learn, we develop empathy, we are moved… and we remember. It’s much easier to recall a story than a list of dry facts – and the story may contain all those facts, as well as presenting them in a context that enables understanding. When I was teaching, I often embedded the information I wanted to get across in stories… indeed the Snail of Happiness was born to assist with story-telling in a teaching context.

Our history – personal and on a wider scale – is a series of stories… the word is embedded right there. We can all tell the story of an event and every single person will tell it slightly differently. Your truth is not my truth, and that’s why it is important to listen to each other. And that’s why one person’s hero can be another person’s villain – and generally it’s the winners who get to write the story of what happened (and erect the statues). I think it’s very important to remember this and to understand that the truth depends very much on the story-teller. This link is really worth following for a sensible perspective on the truth of history.

So, next time someone suggests that you post a picture without an explanation – resist! Yes, post the picture, but tell your friends why. Share your history, because unless you do, someone else might write it for you.

-oOo-

I was inspired to write this post by my friend Chiqui – thank you Chiqui, I enjoyed your pictures with explanations so much more than all those without context.

 

A Dorset adventure

Actually, despite travel restrictions being eased, I am staying firmly at home, with any visits restricted to friends in the area. So, what have I been doing in Dorset? Well, nothing, actually, but I have made some of their buttons…

Dorset buttons are something that I’ve wanted to have a go at making for ages, so when I saw kits for sale I thought that would provide me with an ideal introduction. Making these buttons dates back to the early 1600s, and at its height their production constituted a cottage industry in Dorset, employing over 4000 people. When the technology was developed to make buttons by machine, the Dorset button industry was destroyed and the skill all but disappeared. However, it was not entirely lost.

Dorset buttons are made by weaving/stitching yarn onto ring. You begin by blanket-stitching around a metal ring, then make “spokes” across it before weaving your yarn in a spiral around these spokes. By back-stitching and stretching the yarn across more than one spoke, it’s possible to create all sorts of different patterns, like these :

These are my first attempts, and I’m rather pleased with how they came out. Never again will I be disappointed because I can’t find buttons to match an item I’ve knitted or crocheted.

The company I got my kit from is called Beaker Button. They make lovely kits including hand-dyed yarn, all packaged in reusable bags and with no plastic. IMGP8317

Mend It Monday #13

As my friend Sarah says “If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Yet again, this week’s mending started with some sock darning. Unusually for me this repair turned out to be very subtle…it was just the first yarn that came to hand, rather than a deliberate attempt at invisible mending.

 

Then I moved on to a garment that has needed mending for years. A long time ago, Sam chewed the press-stud off this cardigan. I intended to mend it straight away, but somehow it got put with my yarn stash and only came to light a few weeks ago when we were moving the piano (don’t ask). When I looked at it with fresh eyes, it was clear that Sam had simply made a new buttonhole and all I needed to do was make it a bit more robust, remove the remaining press-stud half from the other side and add a button: 

 

I reinforced the hole and then blanket-stitched to make an  acceptable buttonhole. Rather than using one of my button stash, I decided to employ a newly-acquired skill and make a Dorset button (more on these in a forthcoming post).

Including making the button, it only took my about an hour and a half… plus the 10 or so years it’s been squirreled away!

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

 

Mend It Monday #12

As my friend Sarah says “If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Over recent weeks my mending pile has started to grow again, so I’m back to sharing my mends on  Mondays. It’s an old favourite this week – darning socks.

The purple one has never needed darning before, but there was a hole in one side of the toe and the other side was getting weak and needed reinforcing. The other pair, has been darned many times and for the latest mend I chose to use grey wool. You can see an earlier mend in the mauve. I rather like doing each mend in a different colour as it highlights the process and demonstrates that it’s possible to mend a number of times before giving up on a sock.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

 

ScrapHappy July 2020

I’ve been waiting a while to be able post this month’s ScrapHappy creation. This particular scrappy chappy was made about two months ago, but he was a present and needed posting. When he was completed we were only going out once a week and trying to avoid unnecessary activities, so he didn’t get mailed straight away. Then, once dispatched, he took several weeks to arrive at his destination because Australia is a long way for someone with such short legs. However, I have received news that he has arrived, so I can share him with a wider audience. So, I echid-you-not, this month’s ScrapHappy is an echidna:

The pale wool was left over from a cardigan, the dark wool from some hedgehogs and the stuffing was some brown wool tops remaining from and ancient, abandoned piece of work.

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

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

Just a little bit

Garden produce

From the garden

This morning I wandered out into the garden and picked some raspberries, brought them in and ate them for my breakfast. Such a simple thing, so easy, but it made me feel remarkably happy. In fact, right now we are eating something from the garden pretty much every day. The current biggest producers are courgettes, sugar snap peas, lettuce and other salad leaves and some of the herbs. Every time I go out and pick something that I have grown I feel good – I get a genuine buzz from it. But it’s more than that – it means I know what artificial chemicals went onto my food (basically none) and I know how far it has been transported (a few metres) and I know that it’s genuinely fresh; I also know that lots of the nutrients came directly from compost that I made in the garden from “waste”. All these benefits add up to something big for me personally, but also make a contribution to the health of the planet.

Alone, I know I don’t make much difference globally – my small steps mainly benefit me. But what about everybody’s small steps when taken together? And what if my small steps on my path inspire other people into taking small steps on their own path? Making changes can be really daunting, but what if we only consider the first tiny step and take it from there? It makes me think of the quote from The Lord of the Rings:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

J.R.R Tolkien

But in this case, I don’t think it’s dangerous, I think it’s exiting, empowering, inspiring. Don’t be daunted by the road ahead. Plant a seed, make a change, take someone’s hand or pick up your staff and step out onto that road… somewhere down the line you might end up somewhere amazing.

Biased

One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

%d bloggers like this: