ScrapHappy April 2021

It’s a year since I made my first face masks (featured in the April 2020 ScrapHappy post), and over the months we’ve learned lots about wearing them and how they could be improved. So, we have progressed from shaped ones, to pleated ones with nose wires and finally to a combined version – pleated with a curved top and wire to assist with wearing them with glasses. They are a great ScrapHappy make since they don’t require a lot of fabric. Our latest ones co-ordinate with various garments I’ve made over recent months and the inner is some lovely soft cotton from a pillowcase that had started to disintegrate, but which still had lots of salvageable material. As always, I use iron-on interfacing to provide a third layer giving extra filtering capacity. This latest lot were supervised by Daisy and Mr Snail agree to model his co-ordinated ensemble as long as he could shamelessly show off one of the books he’s written and which just happens to match the outfit!.

-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:

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 , Nancy, 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.

Cutting my cloth

Some time last year – I forget when – I bought some wool fabric. It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill stuff, it was deadstock; this means it was left over from a textile or garment making factory. Deadstock has become big business and there are clothing brands that base their eco-credentials on using deadstock. I’m not convinced about this because if they have access to loads of this cheap fabric, the textile manufacturer must surely have factored selling it into their production run calculations so it’s not really waste. However, small quantities that are simply left over after garment runs must exist and seem like an interesting way to access new fabric. In fact, some deadstock is old and must have been hanging around in a warehouse for years. Whatever its origin, deadstock is usually marketed on the basis that you are saving it from going to landfill, but I’m not entirely convinced how “green” it really is. Anyway, that debate aside, I did buy a couple of pieces – one of which was a two metres or so and was all the company had available so it clearly was, if nothing else, a remnant.

Of course, buying a remnant means that you have to chose to make something that you have enough fabric for. I had something in mind for this particular piece of fabric, but according to the pattern, not enough. Well, not quite anyway. Not deterred, we laid it out and Mr Snail and I played around until we got it to fit, photographing it along the way so that we didn’t forget where everything went.

And that was the most difficult bit. After that, the construction and sewing was easy. It is an unlined jacket, but all the seams are bound, so that it’s very tidy inside.

In fact, this was a bit of a test piece because I’d like to make a waterproof version. I find it very difficult to get jackets to fit me. They tend to be straight up and down rather than shaped, so it they they fit my hips, they tend to be enormous across the shoulders. The joy of this particular jacket (The Hove Jacket by In The Folds) is that it has pleats at the top of the back, thus creating an ideal shape for someone like me. I plan to make version #2 (probably) in a Flax/Cotton dry oilskin, with cotton facings… I just need to work out how much fabric I need to buy, so we’ll be back to laying out pieces on the floor again because the pattern layout only takes account of using a single type of fabric, not combining two.

A different virus

A few weeks ago I felt the need for a new and challenging project and so I decided to embark on knitting a Fair Isle beret. The wool is from the wonderful Jamieson’s of Shetland, who produce the most astonishing range of colours. All was going well, until I noticed some discomfort in my elbow, which got more severe over a couple of days, and certainly felt worse when I was knitting. I think that I was probably holding the work quite firmly and the small needles were increasing the tension in my muscles. Feeling glum, I put my work to one side to return to once my arm started feeling better.

Clearly knitting was not an option, so I thought I’d do some crochet. The one ongoing crochet project requires additional wool supplies and I didn’t want to have to buy anything, so I had a think and realised that there was a pattern I’ve wanted to try for ages, for which I had the ideal yarn in my stash. A few years ago I bought a yarn cake with a colour gradation from purple through grey to black. When I got it home I realised that what I had thought was cotton was actually a cotton acrylic mix, which saddened me because I really do try to avoid buying plastic yarn. Because of my disappointment, I put it way in a drawer and have not, until now, felt inspired to get it out. However, in the spirit of using up what I have, out it has come and, despite the plastic content, it is actually a great yarn for the current project, which is called The Virus Shawl. Now, this pattern predates covid, but it does seem strangely apt.

The colour change is currently quite subtle, but will be much bolder as it moves from the pale grey to black, I think the finished shawl will be really striking.

Anyway, my elbow is now recovered and I feel able to return, at least for a short time each day, to knitting. There may be a beret to share some time in the future, but I’m not going to overdo it and now I’ve started, I’d rather like to get this particular virus finished.

Making (the most of) what you’ve got

One of the sad things about being restricted and having to stay at home has been the not being able to go into a real live shop and make a purchase (other than for food). This applies especially to materials for crafting and, in my case, especially to yarn. However, what it has done is made me look at the yarn I already have and consider how I would like to use it. Over the past year I have made various things out of yarn in my stash and using scraps left over from other projects:

As time has gone on, the amount of yarn I have has reduced and I have been looking at some that sits firmly in the “?” category. One such yarn was some 5-ply gansey wool that I won a few years ago in a raffle. There was plenty to make an actual gansey, but the more it sat there, the more I realised that I didn’t actually want one. So, after the success of the Southern Pines sweater (made from wool that I did get new this year), I thought I’d have another go at the pattern and tweak it a bit. Being the wrong gauge of yarn compared to the pattern I had to slightly adjust the sizing, plus I decided to make it longer and slightly A-line in shape. It turned out to be a relatively quick make and I managed to remember to wear it for an outdoor photo-op with the hounds:

It’s not a colour that I would normally have chosen, but actually I think it’s going to be quite versatile and the wool will certainly be hard wearing. Now I’m rummaging though my remaining yarn and trying to think of even more creative makes with what I have available.

Fancy Pants

Mr Snail has always been a fan of jeans – in the past that’s what he wore pretty much all the time. However, spending lots of time in the house, his life is mostly spent in comfy “sweatpants” (although he never wears these to go out, even to walk the dogs). But as the warmer days arrive, fleecy fabric is not the thing, and he’s reluctant to return to wearing jeans 24/7. Not long ago, he spotted some fabric in my stash that he really liked and asked if it could be made into some lightweight comfy trousers. After some discussion, we settled on the Eastwood Pajamas pattern from Thread Theory – well, they call them “pajamas”, but actually there are enough options to make them into very acceptable elasticated trousers. I love the pattern – it was simple and well-drafted. The only men’s clothes I have made before are waistcoats, so I was quite pleased with the results.

We were back to the limery for this photoshoot and, as you can see, it all got a bit much towards the end…

Anyway, after a few wears, they have been deemed successful and a couple more pairs are in the pipeline for all those glorious summer days. He even says that he thinks they are good enough to wear in public. Oh, and he says he expects the offers for male modelling to come flooding in now…

Out!

We have been in our latest lockdown for over 10 weeks now. It’s less stressful than it used to be and people have got used to wearing masks when they go shopping. We certainly have a “new normal”, but it can be terribly depressing and it’s easy to feel glum and lack motivation. So, when there is an opportunity to have a change of scenery, it needs to be grabbed with both hands. And that’s why I ended up in Aberystwyth yesterday… Mr Snail had an appointment with the optician and the sun was shining, so I had a trip out. I did do a little bit of food shopping, but we also had a walk on the prom which was quite busy. It feels like quite an adventure these days.

However, one of the best bits was that I was able to get Mr Snail to take a few photos of me in my new outfit, without the backdrop being the curtain over the front door or the contents of the limery. The Southern Pines crochet sweater you have seen before on Mimi, but here it is on me, complete with my adapted version of The Brumby Skirt by Megan Nielsen. I didn’t have quite enough fabric as specified in the pattern, but with a little jiggery-pokery I managed to cut it out at the length that I wanted. There wasn’t enough to pattern-match, but I cut the front as a single panel rather than two, so this didn’t matter and I can live with it not matching at the back. One of the best things about the design is that it has lovely big pockets. Hard as I tried I couldn’t pattern-match even the small exposed part of the scooped out section of these. They are not visible on the picture to the left, but as you can see below I managed to get them looking ok. The other thing that I changed about the pattern was the back zip. The original uses an exposed chunky metal zip as a feature, but I didn’t fancy this, so I inserted an invisible zip (not quite as invisible as intended, but that’s ok), which is much more in keeping with the cotton fabric I used… the fabric design, by the way, is called “Crop Circles” – I love it. I found a rather modern-looking vintage mother of pearl button in my button box which seemed to match the general theme. I really like the result and I will certainly be using the pattern again.

I suspect that without the excursion I probably wouldn’t have got round to photographs for a while. Now I think about it, I’m sure that a lack of inspiring photographs is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging so much recently.

ScrapHatty February 2021

As I have mentioned before, over the periods of lockdown (we’re currently in #3, which started before Christmas) we’ve come to know people in our immediate community much better than we did before… after all, they are almost the only people we get to talk to in the flesh. This means that a 45 minute dog walk can take anything up to an hour and a half if it’s a dry day and people are in their gardens or out for a walk themselves.

So, what has this got to do with scraps? Well, all this chatting means we get to know each other better – to find out about each other’s interests and hobbies – and to let each other know if we need something. Which is why, as we were passing the other day, Beryl (who lives on the corner of our road) asked me whether I might have a knitting pattern (knitting, mind you, as she doesn’t crochet) for a hat with both ear flaps and a visor. I told her I’d try to find one on-line (she does not use the internet at all) and came home full of confidence. I settled down and searched and searched, but to no avail. I did find a nice crocheted version, but not one knitting pattern. Mr Snail suggested that I could write one for her, but I just couldn’t face that, so I bought the crochet version, rummaged about in my scraps, located a hook of the correct size and “voila!”

The plain red yarn was left over from making Mr Snail’s first pair of long socks to wear in his wellies, and the scrap of slightly variegated yarn for the edging has been hanging round, unloved, for ages.

So, a quick make, that has been an immediate hit with its recipient… I do love creating something useful from my 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 folks 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 and Noreen

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.

Making: no waste

One of the things that irks me about making my own clothes is the fact that I often end up with lots of scraps that I can’t bear to throw away. There are sewing patterns for clothes specifically designed to use every bit of fabric, but I have not yet come across one that I’m burning to make. Knitting and crochet also leave waste yarn, although I tend to be better at using this up than I am with fabric. However, some approaches lend themselves to waste minimisation, for example working top down when you are crocheting or knitting. Starting at the bottom of a garment means that you have to be sure you have enough yarn to finish it – you can’t decide that you can stop 10 rows from the end or that it doesn’t matter if you only have one and a half sleeves. On the other hand, if you work from the top down, you can do all the fiddly bits with the neckline and armholes, plus the sleeves (to your desired length) before you get on with the body. Then, you can make the body as long as your yarn lasts. And if there isn’t enough for it to be long enough for your requirements, you can always add a band in a contrasting colour at the bottom and look like it was intended.

I’m pleased to say that the top-down approach worked perfectly with the Southern Pines jumper that I have just finished. I completed to well below the armholes first, added the sleeves and worked the neck border before finally moving on the the lower body. With some careful tension adjustment in the last round, I was able to get to the end with just a few centimetres of yarn to spare. The pattern is worked so that there are no seams, so the only finishing that is required is working in the ends… all that was left as waste was these few ends.

But my waste-free crafting didn’t end there. I have been waking up recently with a stiff neck and I think at least part of the problem is my pillows, which have got rather flattened over the years. I have read that wool-stuffed pillows are very good – lots of support and with natural anti-dust mite properties) and I have a large bag of wool stuffing. I rummaged around for some suitable fabric and came across a remnant that originated from the same place as the patterned stuff I used to make the dog bed inner a couple of months ago (which means I’ve had it since the mid-1980s). A bit of measuring and I discovered that there was exactly the right about to make two pillows, and not a centimetre of fabric left over. Actually, I’ve only made one so far, because I want to sleep on it and decide how comfortable it is, and whether it’s got the right amount of stuffing in it. I’ll make the second once I know… and there will not have been any waste.

I quite enjoy using scraps, but it really is nice to complete some projects that are scrap-free.

Undercover research

For those of you of a delicate disposition look away now….

A long, long time ago, some of you may recall, I decided that it would be a good idea to make my own underwear. Looking back I discover my first attempt was in 2016 and I was (with hindsight) excessively optimistic about the whole project. I started by experimenting with fabric from old t-shirts, but it soon became clear that, because we generally wear our clothes to destruction, I wasn’t going to have much joy taking this route… and in addition ordinary cotton t-shirts just don’t have the stretch required after they have been worn a lot. I quickly moved on to new fabric and that helped, but I hit two snags – my old sewing machine struggled with the zigzag stiches required and the original pattern I selected was not, in fact, as comfortable as I had hoped. The sewing machine problem was rectified by buying my lovely old Bernina, which has absolutely no problems with stretchy jersey fabric, elastic or zigzagging. The second problem turned out to be much more of a challenge.

The thing with underwear is that it’s very personal – both in terms of it being private, but also with respect to what each individual likes. Just because a design suits one person, does not mean that it will be right for another. Thus, personal recommendations are useless, apart from giving an indication of whether the pattern is well drafted. So, having decided that the original pattern I bought wasn’t right for me, I tried a kit – that was better and taught me quite a lot, but still wasn’t right. Then I tried a self-drafted pattern, using an old pair that I liked. Again, it was better, but still not exactly what I wanted. Finally, I bought another pattern and it turned out that this was “the one”.

It wasn’t just the pattern, though. The whole process of finding it meant I spent time experimenting with different sizing (don’t believe the patterns) fabrics and elastics. The latter was quite a learning experience, but I now have the skills and understanding to use stretch lace, fold-over elastic and various sorts of lingerie elastic. Width is an important characteristic of lingerie elastic – too narrow and it digs in, plus it’s really fiddly to work with, too wide and it’s uncomfortable around the legs. But, again, it’s very personal and really trial and error is the only way to find out what suits you. At one point I was making one pair of knickers one day, then wearing them the next day, so I could improve on the design the following day. As a result, even when I was very focused on getting it right, it wasn’t a process that could be rushed.

However, I have finally settled on a design that I like, fabric that I like and trimmings that I like. As a result I have been able to make a pile of new underwear that’s comfortable and functional. I can still wear some of the prototypes – they aren’t perfect, but they are acceptable. I’m sure that I could have learned some of the techniques more quickly and with less experimentation, but the process of working through different designs, materials and techniques has been very satisfying.

And now, at last, I can get on and make some clothes that other people will actually see!

-oOo-

Resources:

I got some great cotton lycra from TFG Fabrics; they also sell picot-edged elastic (although it’s not my favourite).

The Bra Shop stock a range of good lingerie elastic. I would avoid anything less than 10mm wide.

Flamingo Fabrics sell some colourful scalloped-edge elastic that’s nice to work with (the blue and red in the last picture came from them).

Minerva crafts are good for fold-over elastic and elasticated lace.

The first pattern I tried was from Scrundlewear – it didn’t suit me, but others rave about it

I had a go with a Flo-Jo Boutique stretch knicker-making kit bought from Cloth Kits which was ok but not perfect for me. There’s also a non-stretch version, which I didn’t try, plus Flo-Jo sell various sorts of elastic.

The pattern that I finally settled one was Kwik Sew K3881, available from various suppliers, but I bought mine from Minerva. It works with various sorts of elastic and there’s instructions for these included.

Supporting small

Over recent months many small businesses have found themselves in a precarious situation – unable to open shops, sell at markets – making it all the more important that we support them now to ensure their future existence. We Snails have done our very best to buy from small traders over the past 10 months and have managed to source the majority of our food that way – luckily in our part of the world there are many, many small food producers and an abundance of independent retailers. In addition, we’ve been able to access direct from some producers via the internet. I know that people who cannot go to the shops have found the big supermarkets to be a lifeline, but those of us who are able to shop locally can play our part in making sure that people in our community who have small businesses continue not only to survive, but to thrive. Plus, many of our local small businesses have gone the extra mile to support the vulnerable in our community – delivering emergency supplies at short notice, for example – something that you simply wouldn’t get from big companies. In addition, many small businesses, despite suffering themselves, have donated to local food banks and other charities supporting the needy.

Aside from shops that sell food, other retailers have found the last year even more of a challenge. Even well-established companies are being affected. I noticed that Baa Ram Ewe, producers of fabulous British wool (including the stuff I made my latest fingerless mittens out of), have had to resort to crowd funding to give their business a chance of surviving (here is the link). Whilst I have been at home, I have tried to make the majority of my on-line purchases of materials for making things from small, independent companies, but I also keep an eye open for very small enterprises who are crowdfunding. And this is how I came across Midwinter Yarns, who were trying to collect enough money to produce a Welsh wool to add to their range. They are based in Scotland, but have Welsh connections and their wool sounded lovely (you can read about it here, although their crowdfunder was successful and closed last summer).

My contribution was sufficient to receive six skeins of their hand-dyed yarn. The wool arrived a few weeks ago and so I needed to find a pattern that would be suitable for the amount of yarn available. Having gone out of my usual comfort zone and chosen a sludgy green colour (the photo on the left below is closest to the actual colour), I wanted to make something appropriate, which I think I found with Southern Pines by Dora Does.

It’s worked top down, all in one piece, so there’s no sewing up at the end. I had a bit of an issue early on in the pattern, but Michelle, the designer. was amazingly helpful, even though it turned out that the problem was me being dim rather than an issue with the pattern itself. It will have long (or at least 3/4) sleeves, and I’ll make the body as long as uses up all the yarn – this is one of the joys of top-down garments. I plan to make a skirt to wear with it out of some grey and white fabric I have with a design called “crop circles” (the fabric was from an independent on-line store, but more on that in a future post). So, a new outfit in hand all from small, businesses – long may they survive.

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