ScrapHappy January 2020

I have decided, this year, to make a concerted effort to use some of the interesting materials that I have been accumulating for the past few years. You know (or, perhaps you don’t), the sort of thing that you think “I won’t throw that away,  it’s bound to come in useful sometime”. Well, 2020 is going to be the “Year of Useful” and ScrapHappy posts should prompt me to do something with all this useful scrap at least once every month.

January started with a special make from new materials (more of that in a future post), but last Saturday afternoon the rain poured down and I decided to use the time to do some dismantling. As I have mentioned before, Sam is the destroyer of zips, metal rivets and other fastenings. Over the years she has severely chewed a variety of cushions, bags, hats and coats. Her most annoying bout of destruction involved two Gortex jackets. I was determined that these would not go to waste and I have salvaged a bit of fabric from them in the past to make waterproof patches for the knees of Mr Snail’s gardening jeans, as well as some Velcro and fastenings but mostly they have been squirreled away awaiting inspiration. Said inspiration arrived in the form of bag-making… all I needed to do was salvage all the bits.

I got out my scissors and stitch-ripper and set to. I discovered that there was also another old more traditional waterproof coat with the two Gortex ones, so I had three sources of “scrap”. I started by removing all the cords (some elasticated and some not) and associated toggles and sliders. Then I found a piece of coated wire in the brim of one of the hoods so I took that out. There were several pieces of Velcro which I unstitched, as well as a couple of zips that Sam had missed on one of the jackets.

IMGP7718

Extracted Hardware

Next I spotted that some pockets with zips that were still intact and wondered if they could be used on some of my bags, so those came off as whole as possible.

IMGP7719

Pockets

Finally I started removing sections of fabric, both mesh lining and Gortex, including cutting a sleeve to make a hood for Daisy (she gets very wet ears in the rain).

And then I started to feel unwell. One of the jackets was completely dismantled, one partially and the non-Gortex one had just had the cords removed. I drank a cup of tea, watched the TV for a bit and then started to cook dinner, at which point I announced to Mr Snail that I felt sick and needed to go and lie down. After more than 12 hours in bed and only having consumed water and red bush tea, I was feeling better and wondering what had happened.

In fact, I think that I was poisoned: having spent more than 2 hours handling the Gortex and breathing in fibres (it certainly made me sneeze), I wonder whether whatever it is coated with got into my system. It certainly felt like a reaction to something toxic. From now on I will limit my contact with it and I plan to do some research to find out whether I’m right. So, do be careful with your scraps, they might just give as good as they get!

Anyway, the bits and pieces are now being incorporated into bags that will have little contact with the skin and I hope to show you the results next month.

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

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Sue and Sunny

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.

Modifying Mimi

Over the summer, I bought Mimi, a tailor’s dummy, to aid me in my dressmaking activities. In my younger days when I made a lot of my own clothes, my dear friend Mrs Robinson (although she wasn’t Mrs Robinson then) lived just up the road and we’d help each other out with dress fittings and adjustments. On one memorable occasion, we adjusted a dress that she was making to wear for a wedding three times before the big day (it had a fitted bodice that really needed to fit) as she seemed to expand and contract somewhat unpredictably (or maybe it was my fitting skills). Anyway, we are still very good friends, but she lives a couple of hundred miles away now, so help with dress-making is something more of a challenge.

Mimi in a shawl

But the arrival of Mimi means that I can make clothes – even fitted ones – without help. So, my first project using her has been one that allowed me to test out how useful she is… and whether I got my dimensions right. I chose to make an apron dress using a pattern from The Assembly Line. I bought some wool/linen double gauze fabric from Merchant and Mills for this project… never again (the fabric not the vendor). It’s lovely soft drapy fabric, but the loose weave and double layer means that it moves unpredictably as it is being sewn, so requires very careful pinning and stitching otherwise pattern pieces don’t align and it doesn’t hang properly – something that was essential with the particular pattern I had chosen.

The pattern itself, however, was clear and easy to follow, with the pattern pieces printed on thick paper, making them very robust. I ground to a halt at the point when I had fitted the dress to Mimi, but needed to see whether it worked on me. For quite a while Mimi wore the garment and I kept forgetting to try it on when I was getting dressed in the morning. Eventually I set aside some time and made the effort to get undressed again during the day. I’m glad that I took the time to do this because it turned out that the straps were much too short (they were only pinned in place, so this was easily remedied). When I considered it, I realised that, whilst Mimi had been set up to be the right distance around, she actually has a chest rather than a bust and she doesn’t stick out at the front much. I actually knew about this issue but it had slipped my mind. The resolution is easy – put Mimi in a bra* and stuff it so that It’s the right size. This done, the fitting went very smoothly and I’m happy with my new pinafore dress.

The process has given me confidence to make garments that require more shaping and, therefore, more careful fitting and I have already ordered another Assembly Line pattern.

-oOo-

* Good grief, I can’t believe I’m showing you my underwear AGAIN!

Snail's pace

You may recall that back in April, my dear friend Lizzie sent me some fabric, all packaged up in a parcel tied with string. I dithered for a while about how to use the fabric, but in the end I decided to use a small amount of it to make a wallet (pocketbook). I chose a wallet because it’s an everyday object and so I would get to enjoy the fabric all the time.

I had all the bits I needed for the project, including the metal closure and I set to.. in July. All went well to begin with but then I started having problems with my sewing machine – I just couldn’t get the tension right. I sewed one seam about six times and unpicked it each time. I fiddled with the bobbin and the top tension, I rethreaded the machine, adjusted the feeder dog, applied oil in all the appropriate places, changed the needle and still I couldn’t get it right. In exasperation I put my sewing to one side and and decided that I would have to get the machine serviced.

And then I had some inspiration – I looked at the needles and discovered that the eyes were misaligned. In fact all of the needles in that particular packet were affected. So, I bought some new needles from a trustworthy manufacturer and, hey presto, the tension was fine. However, my enthusiasm was severely affected and I just couldn’t get back to this particular project. And so it remained like this for months:

Last week, however, I pulled myself together and got started again. Of course some of the pieces had become separated from the rest of the project, and it took me an hour or so to locate them. Then I got to a point in the instructions that I didn’t understand. Fortunately, the designer was on hand via the British Bag Makers group on Facebook to sort me out. So, all-in-all, it’s been a bit of a struggle. Nevertheless, I’ve soldiered on and finally completed this (far from perfect) Accordi-Anna Wallet by Lisa Lam (you can find Lisa’s designs on her web site here):

It’s the first of two sewing projects I was determined to finish before I start a scrappy thing I have in mind. Hopefully I will get the second one completed in the next week too. Do you have any stalled projects at the moment?

Swooning over a new bag

Some time ago Sam destroyed one of my bags… a particularly useful little backpack that I had taken on many excursions. Rather than dash out and buy a replacement, I bought a pattern for something similar (the Lucy Backpack by Swoon ) and then I procrastinated. First I couldn’t decide what sort of fabric to use and then I read the pattern through, thought it sounded rather complicated, and put it aside for when I had a clearer head. And so it sat unattempted waiting for inspiration, which finally arrived in the form of need.

My recent trip to London was due to coincide with some damp weather, so the handbag I have been using recently, which is not waterproof, was not really suitable. In addition, a small backpack is ideal for carrying a bottle of water and other essentials for a trip involving a train journey. Of course, I left it until the last minute, but some time spent cutting and then a couple of evenings sewing were enough.

I was in such a rush that I didn’t take any photographs of the process, but the bag came together well, the instructions were good and I only made one mistake – accidentally doing some top-stitching through an extra layer, so that the pocket was sewn shut. My mistake was easy to resolve. I slightly modified the pattern, using a piece of ribbon for the drawstring rather than making it from scratch, and making use of a salvaged slider (from an old waterproof jacket) to secure the drawstring closed.

Earlier in the year I had bought some African waxed cotton remnants, so I decided to use some of this fabric for the outer, The lining /straps were more problematic, but I rummaged through the pile of old fabric I have squirreled away (all bought at least 20 years ago) and found some lovely wool suiting that I thought would be robust enough for what I wanted. I already had the hardware that I needed and there was a suitable zip in my store of random zips (I have no idea where they all came from, but were probably given to me). The interfacing and foam to provide structure do have to be new for this sort of project, but I had already bought those in preparation, so I didn’t have to go shopping.

I would certainly recommend the pattern and will be making it again very soon… watch this space.

London – fabric and friendship

I don’t visit the capital very often, but with Mr Snail in Reading (25 minutes away from London on the train) at the moment, it seems like an ideal opportunity to make a few trips in and do some of the things on my ‘list’ (not a real list – it’s just in my head).

The week before last I travelled down to Reading on Thursday so that, whilst Mr Snail was at work on Friday, I could go into London. I had two purposes: meeting up with a friend who I haven’t seen for over 20 years and visiting Berwick Street. I’m not sure whether you know the significance of this location, but I felt that it was important to go there without Mr Snail so as not to bore him to tears. You see, Berwick Street is known for its fabric shops.

Lovely Japanese waves

In the end I only had just over an hour to spend in Berwick Street and I could have spent the whole time in just one or two shops… one specialising in silks was full of such delicious fabric that I felt as if I needed a lie down before I could proceed. If I’d had more time I would have looked round, had a coffee to gather my thoughts and then gone back to make my purchases. However, in the limited time available I decided to visit as many shops as possible to get a flavour and so that I’d be better able to plan future visits. Finally, I only bought a length of Japanese cotton (in an indigo shade that the picture doesn’t do justice to) with which to make a dress, but I left with lots to think about for future makes.

After Berwick Street, there was a quick underground ride to Great Portland Street, where it turned out that neither me nor my friend have changed too much since we were in our 30s and so recognising each other was no problem. We went to Honey and Co, a lovely middle eastern restaurant that I can highly recommend… although you’ll need to book if you want to eat there because it’s very popular. There are some friends who you just feel comfortable with no matter how long it is since you saw each other, and so it was… the conversation flowed as we shared mezze, sipped orange blossom iced tea and then tucked into the most amazing feta & honey cheesecake on a kadaif pastry base. There are no photographs – we were far too busy eating and catching up on each other’s lives.

After lunch she took me on a quick tour of BBC Broadcasting House, where she works and I was lucky enough to be taken down into the newsroom – an extraordinary place full of people and technology collecting information from around the world. We criticise our state broadcaster sometimes, but the sheer scale of their news operation is something to be marvelled at, plus it was interesting to see the place for real rather than just on the television screen. A stroll up to Regent’s Park and a stop for tea and then it was back on the underground to return to Paddington to catch my train back to Reading. We agreed not to leave it another 20 years before our next get-together.

ScrapHappy November 2019

This month’s scrappy creation is a continuation of last month’s. I am progressing through the balls of left-over 4-ply yarn, and have gone from these 25 squares:

IMGP7515

October’s squares

To these 120:

IMGP7612 (2)

Lots more over the past month

As you can see, there are now some brighter colours, so the final blanket should be quite vibrant. I will almost certainly have to buy the black yarn to edge all the squares with, but it will be a mostly scrappy project. For the time being, however, I still have some coloured yarn in my basket to keep me going:

IMGP7611

More scraps to use

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

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

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.

Wipe-able

When Daisy came to live with us we were told that she was aggressive towards small dogs, that she was incontinent and would require daily medication and that she didn’t like men… but that she travelled well. It turned out, after a bit of experience with her, that none of these things was true. We think that all her problems were associated with stress, and now she’s happy and settled, they have gone away. Except she gets sick in the car.

She’s fine for journeys of up to half an hour, but after that, showing absolutely no signs of stress – no hair loss, no drooling, no trembling – she vomits. Even if we don’t feed her for hours before the journey, she still vomits. We go prepared – spare bedding and towels, plus a big plastic bag to store the soiled stuff – but there’s quite a lot of washing to do at the end of it all.

So, this week I decided to make a waterproof bed for her travel crate – something that could be wiped easily. It will still need to be combined with a small absorbent towel, but it will significantly reduce the volume of washing. I knew that I had enough secondhand materials to achieve this – waterproof fabric for the outer and woolly pads for the inside. First, I removed the wool padding from some WoolCool insulation (more details about this in this post). It is made in relatively long narrow strips, so needed to be cut and stitched together to obtain the right size pad for inside the cushion. I stitched the pieces together with wool yarn so that if there is any felting, the yarn will bond securely to the pads. I could have deliberately felted the whole thing together, but since to bed will sit flat in the crate with relatively little disturbance, I decided that this was unnecessary. In total I stitched three layers on top of each other, with none of the joins aligned in the different layers

The outer was made from a waterproof tablecloth that I bought secondhand. I really like the design and plan to make a bag using some of it, but it’s huge, so there was plenty for a dog bed. I cut out a piece the right size, stitched it into an envelope and inserted the pad before sewing it up.

Then daisy checked it out in the crate to make sure I had done a good job:

On Wednesday, we trialled it on a journey lasting an hour and a quarter. It worked well up to a point, but there was some over-spill, if you’ll excuse the image that conjures. So, phase two has involved the construction of a barrier to enhance containment. I made a long strip of fabric, stitched the corners to give them some support and then mitred the bottom part at each corner, so that 10 cm of the fabric would lie flat under the cushion, whilst 15 cm would stand upright. A few metal pegs to hold everything in place, and we are ready for the next trial run.

If I was making it for someone else, I would use a double layer of the fabric for the upright part, so that the back wasn’t showing from the outside. However, for my own purposes, and because its not designed to be decorative, merely functional, I’m happy to leave it as it is. Hopefully, no further modifications will be required.

The only new material used in this project was sewing thread – not a bad creation from unwanted items.

ScrapHappy October 2019

I really had no excuse for not writing a ScrapHappy post last month other than not feeling like writing… I wasn’t as if I hadn’t done anything scrappy.  I just couldn’t rouse myself to blog.

However, my newly restored enthusiasm for writing ( actually, that’s a lie, I’m still finding it hard) means that this month you get to see something yarny made using scraps. I have lots of scrap sock yarn, partly because one 100g ball can make me three socks and since I only have two feet, I often have a third of a ball left over. I could use all this yarn to make multi-coloured socks,  but I have decided that it would be more fun to crochet with it. So, I’m making little squares (just five rounds each) and I’m planning to join them together with black yarn (I have some scrap black, but probably not enough) to give a sort of stained glass window effect. You’ll have to use your imagination, though, as currently all I have are these:

IMGP7515

This is only the start

In addition, I continue to tie short lengths of scrap yarn together to make an ever-growing ball. When it is big enough, I will crochet it into a hat and that will be donated to charity, as I’ve done for a while now.

IMGP7512

Not big enough to make anything yet, but getting there

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

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

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.

Write off

It’s a strange thing, writer’s block. I’m not sure why, but somehow I just haven’t been able to bring myself to write anything much for weeks – no letters, no work on the book and (as you may have noticed) no blog posts. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to share, it just felt incredibly reluctant to put fingers to keyboard. I’ve been quite busy – the root canal work is finally completed, I’ve finally finished a series of doctor’s appointments and I’ve spent two weekends away with two different sets of lovely ladies (hello to The Crochet Sanctuary Crowd and the Fabulous Fifties). I have stitched, hooked, knitted and sorted. Three boxes of books have gone to the Oxfam book shop, a box of craft materials has gone to be sold at an Emmaus shop that has a specialist craft section and a bag of bras has gone for recycling/reuse. I have had a great harvest of chillies and sweet peppers and a mediocre harvest of courgettes, peas and potatoes. There has been a new member of the household – Mimi the dressmakers dummy and I have learnt to do macrame. So, all-in-all, a busy time. It’s just that I wasn’t inspired to write, or even take many photographs. However, here is a little selection of what I’ve been making, doing and growing, with the hope that the next blog post will come more easily and sooner…

ScrapHappy August 2019

This month was another one when I finally got round to making something that I’ve had in mind for a while. Actually, the thing that was holding me back was the fact that my overlocker was not on my work table and I was too lazy to get it out for just one project. However, because there ended up being several items that I needed it for and all of them required white thread, so I had to re-thread it anyway, there was no excuse not to get on with this particular make.

Because my hair is long and I always let it dry naturally, I’m a big fan of wrapping it in a head towel after washing. I’ve only ever owned three of these – one I lost and the other two are showing signs of wear. My favourite is an organic cotton one that I’ve had for about 10 years and that I really, really wanted to clone. Being extremely reluctant to buy new, I unearthed a towel that belonged to my grandmother (she died about 25 years ago) that was a bit tatty, but still looked like it had some life in it. When it was bought is was baby pink… all these years later it’s white with a hint of pink, but that’s ok.

So, I started off by placing my head towel on the old towel and drawing around it. Them I folded the towel over and pinned the two layers together

IMGP7311

Marked up and ready to cut

Next,I cut around the shape away from the line (an overlocker trims the fabric as well as stitching it) before overlocking the two pieces together along the long curved side. Oh, and one of you might recognise that pincushion!

I overlocked the opening, all the way round, then turned a hem and stitched it using my sewing machine, inserting a loop of scrap tape that was left over from mending a baseball cap belonging to Mr Snail. Finally, I added a button from my button box (one with a shank, as I thought that would hold the loop more securely).

And there you have it…

A new head towel made entirely from bits and bobs I had hanging around the house (please excuse the poor selfies… I’m not very good at taking them and Mr Snail is away).

And the trimmings from the overlocker didn’t get thrown away… I used them to tie my chilli plants to their supports:

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

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

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.

%d bloggers like this: