Making, but not excessively

By Patricia Collins

Dorothy was 89 when I asked her how she spent the long dark evenings of winter. “Jigsaws’ was her answer. “Do you knit?” “I love knitting, but I’ve no one left to knit for”.  Her family of children and grandchildren were grown up and fending for themselves and her great-grandchildren had reached the age when they would not be seen in hand made clothes. Now there’s a topic for discussion!

Dot’s rather plaintive cry was something that I could relate to though in s slightly different way. I love making things, sewing in particular, but I’ve reached the stage where I have everything I need – sufficient clothes, accessories, curtains, aprons and the rest.  From now on my sewing life could easily be confined to repairs and the making of an occasional pot holder.  Any more would be surplus, excess.  But I still love sewing and have a box of material just waiting to be used.  How do we make stuff without making more stuff?

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Dot, at her knitting group, models a fleece hat!

There was a simple solution for Dot. A few of us started to meet regularly in our village tea shop and exchange news about local projects needing hand knitted items. Now well into her 90s, Dot is keeping the local premature baby unit in exquisite tiny clothes. Others in the knitting group have produced hedgehogs for the local rescue, blankets for homeless people, warm bed socks to welcome refugees to the county.

There was a solution for me too and a chance to get back to that stash of fabrics and enjoy my sewing again. Shoe bags for the women’s rescue, incubator quilts for the hospital, Little Dresses for Africa and my easy favourite Morsbags for the food bank. There are projects galore on the web wanting and needing our sewing skills.  We can make more without making excess. Any favourite sites anyone?

All an illusion

Somehow there has been much more doing than writing going on at Chez Snail in recent weeks Having completely failed to manage a scrappy project in time for the March ScrapHappy, I am determined now to do better in the coming month. I’ve been busy with some scrap-based things, but I’m saving posting about those so I don’t miss another SH on the 15th. I have completed the crochet for the sofa seat covers, but I’m dithering slightly about the finishing as I have a choice to make about the backing… I think I know what I’m going to do, but I don’t want to post about that until it’s complete.

Much of my time, however, has been taken up with a blanket that I’ve had the pattern for since last summer, but hadn’t quite got round to doing anything with. Originally I was going to make this for Mr Snail to take to Reading whilst he’s working away, but then I decided to make him a snuggly hexie blanket from scraps first. However, having discovered that he’s got two sofas in his rented flat, it seemed appropriate to make him a second blanket. The squares are now all finished, and probably don’t look very promising at first glance:

Dull squares

However, when laid out, look a bit more interesting:

some depth

I rather like how different this design is from most crochet patterns – the simplicity and the optical illusion were very appealing to me, and it will look even better once the squares are joined and edged. The Pattern is Cubine by Magdalene Lee and you can find it on Ravelry. The wool is aran weight and all British: the brown is natural Zwartbles produced by my friend Val; the blue is from Woolyknit; and the cream is from New Lanark.

ScrapHappy Update

I simply can’t wait until next month to share my completed February ScrapHappy project with you. I used a pattern from etsy called the Carina Satchel and, apart from a few places where I scratched my head a bit, it all went quite smoothly. I took Kate‘s advice and used a denim/jeans needle and didn’t break a single one – thank you for that tip. In addition, I worked almost entirely using the walking foot on my sewing machine, which coped well with multiple layers and ‘sticky’ vinyl.

In the end I used a few new things: the hardware (a magnetic clasp, two D-rings, a slider and two swivel clips), some waistband interfacing (to make sure the strap was nice and tidy) and a small amount of ready-made piping (which I could have made myself, but decided to buy). Working with vinyl meant that the bag mostly couldn’t be pinned, because pins leave holes in the plastic, so I used the sewing clips that I’d bought specifically to use for bag-making. Of course these are going to be used time and again. All the fabric and most of the interfacing as well as the fleece, which helps to give structure, were scraps.

And here it is completed:

Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t look at that and think ‘scrap’. I’m now on the look out for other old vinyl tablecloths, although I have lots more of that one to play with still.

The long haul

I first started making a cover for my sofa more than four years ago. My interest in the project has fluctuated over that time, but I have always been determined to get there  eventually. I don’t think I’ve updated you on progress for a while, so I here’s what I’ve achieved recently:

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seat cover

This was photographed draped over the sofa (and you can see bits of the back cushions) as it still needs the edging that will allow it to be fitted over the seat. Once it’s done, I will need to think about covering the arms and making a piece to go across the front of the base… perhaps it will be done in another three years!

What I am really delighted about is how hard-wearing the cushions that I made first have been – no pilling, no sagging and the colours have not faded. The wool comes from New Lanark and I can highly recommend it for this sort of project, as well as for warm sweaters.

ScrapHappy February 2019

This month’s ScrapHappy is very much a work in progress. Once I got used to the new/old sewing machine, I gave some thought to what I would like to make and the answer (as you have seen here and here) was bags. As a complete beginner with bags, I started off by buying a couple of kits, but now those are finished, I want to progress on to using up some of my old fabric, much of it left over from long-completed projects. However, I was also interested in working with charity shop finds. When I was trawling Aberystwyth, unsuccessfully as it turned out, for old handbags to cannibalise, I came across a very large vinyl-coated cotton tablecloth and thought that it might be a cheap and useful source of waterproof fabric. A bit of research later and I settled on using some of it to make a satchel (designed specifically with this sort of fabric in mind). However, I wanted this to be a scrappy project, so I found a nightdress that I made but hated and had only worn a couple of times, to use for the lining and some left-overs from my gardening apron for the strap and handle. Not only that, but I also found some very tatty, but salvageable interfacing to use, as well as part of a fleece blanket that my mum gave me after she had used some of it to make soft toys, but then decided that it wasn’t ideal.

So, all the main bits and bobs are scraps (or scrapped!):

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Old tablecloth (hearts), old nighty (spots), fleece blanket scraps (cream) and scraps left over from my gardening apron (dark)

I have had to buy some hardware, but I don’t mind a few new things in such a scrappy project:

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the new bits

So, now it’s all cut out, I’m ready to sew… wish me luck!

-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.

Making to remake

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Fitted, but made to be moved

In general when we are crafting, we think only about a single finished product, but maybe we should try to have a longer term perspective. For example, if you are making children’s clothes, they may only be the right size for a relatively short time, so perhaps you could design, from the outset, for them to be altered or even taken apart and made into a different garment. If you are particularly fashion-conscious, you may want to change your look every year or even every season, so it makes sense from an eco-perspective to be able to reuse the same raw materials time and again. Equally, you may want to build some free-standing shelves when you live in a rented home, but when you buy your own place you might want to convert them to being wall-mounted. When we had our new fitted cupboard built in the kitchen, Tim the carpenter made it on a frame that could be removed, so we can take it with us if we move house.

If we start off with the mindset that we are likely to want to reuse our raw materials, we can make to facilitate this. This seems like a reasonable suggestion, given the earth’s limited resources, and is something that may eventually be forced upon us. I’ve been thinking about examples and, so far I’ve come up with a few:

  • Use screws rather than nails or glue for woodwork.
  • When knitting or crocheting, weave in all the yarn ends before joining the pieces together, then seam with a new long length of thread.
  • Stitch on buttons or press-studs rather than riveting them.
  • Leave generous seam allowances and hems where these will not affect the fit of the garment.

Do you have any ideas? Do you ever think about this sort of thing when you are making?

 

Bag #2

Determined to get back to grips with some sewing, I have been working on my second bag kit from U-handbag. This one has taken a couple of attempts because first time round I used outer fabric that was too thick (the kits contain everything except the fabric). In the end I used some of the beautiful Liberty fabric that Mr Snail bought me on our trip to London in the autumn.

The closure is a sprung frame and one of the most difficult parts of the make was putting the frame back together once it had been inserted into the channels that hold it.

My next project is, I think, going to be either a backpack or maybe something with a zip. I am, however, hoping to break fewer sewing machine needles in future.

CD salvage

Do you keep things because it’s difficult to recycle them? We do… especially things that we look at and think they have potential. Which is why, high up on a shelf  in our little utility room, is a box of old CDs. Most of these came free with magazines or were the source of long-obsolete software. For a while we used them as slug barriers in the garden, but the advent of the chickens (which clear the garden of slugs and their eggs over the winter, but are kept away from the veg beds in the summer) made this function superfluous. And so, the box sat atop a shelf until a couple of months ago when the subject of crochet CD mandalas cropped up  during a chat with a friend.

I resisted the urge to look for ideas on the internet and just picked up my hook. My first try was rather tatty and my next attempts looked good, but were a little looser than was ideal, but finally I managed a design that I liked. By making two circles and crocheting them together around a pair of CDs (printed sides together, so you just get shininess showing through), I made something that, with an added loop, can be hung up where it can spin around and catch the light (turn the sound off if you don’t want to hear Sam and Daisy in the background):

Alternatively, they can be used as coasters. In fact, the set of eight that are pictured below (both sides) have gone off to two local holiday cottages owned by a friend for just that purpose.

A little bit of further experimentation with the aim of producing a snowflake seems to have turned into a spider’s web. Oh well, I rather like it anyway:

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I might make a spider to go in the middle

I have a pattern drafted, so I may actually get it published eventually.
It’s turned out to be a rather nice way to use up wool scraps and I have about 200 more CDs, so I’ve got plenty of raw materials.

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?

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