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?

 

Nicely packaged

by Patricia Collins

Back in the Brownies, I learned to tie a parcel.  One evening we trooped into the church hall with brown paper (brought from home and saved from the last parcel that arrived in the house) and string. After the toadstool gathering, the salute and the promise, we set to on empty cereal packets and shoe boxes with just that brown paper and string, a slip knot, round turns, half hitches and reef knots to finish off.  Oh and scissors – proper sharp scissors and 20 little girls bursting with excitement. At the end of the evening we handed in the scissors and took our parcels home with the reminder to untie them carefully and save the paper and string ‘for next time’. This was the Health and Safety and environmental thinking of the day!

A delivery this week – ALL the plastic you can see is tape

I can still tie a neat parcel, but today I’m back at my desk drawer and pondering the problem of sellotape.  For those outside of England – Scotch tape, sticky tape, plastic adhesive tape. And there you have it.  It’s taken me almost all my post-Brownie years to realise that Sellotape is plastic and in that time I have created a much loved and appreciated collection: double sided tape, parcel tape, masking tape, electrical tape and all in several different widths. All of it plastic, all of it non-biodegradable, all of it potentially harmful to our environment.

It’s New Year and I’m sure I’m not the only one full of good resolutions, but what to do? Return to Brownie skills? Get rid of the collection and how? Or use up this store? 

  • don’t use sellotape to re-seal used envelopes etc. Gummed paper labels and staples do this job well
  • don’t use it to mend books or other paper-based documents. It’s the archivist’s pet hate as it leaves stains and weaknesses that can never be made good . gummed brown paper works well inside book jackets or a very thin piece of bandage pasted on pages
  • don’t make sellotape the first choice- think before reaching for the roll of sticky tape – can the job be done another way?

Are there other ways of lessening my environmental impact? I’d welcome your suggestions. Meantime I’ll remember that Brownie promise ‘do your best’

-oOo-

The Snail’s solution

This thought-provoking post from Patricia arrived on the same day that I received the parcel in the photograph above, from a “green” grocery store. All that plastic tape made me wince. I carefully peeled it off and the cardboard went into the compost, but the tape has to go to landfill, I think. When I am packing a parcel myself, I use paper parcel tape and, increasingly, I see that parcels arrive sealed with this. And, of course, there are marvellous companies who ensure that all their packaging is plastic-fee: All Natural Soap Company and Roasting House are two who are helping me keep my consumption of single-use plastics down, although I know how privileged I am to be in a position to make these choices.

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?

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.

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?

The three Rs

I’m taking a little time off from paid work to get some things sorted out around the house. Originally I planned to do some decorating this week, but somehow I got diverted and the week ended up being all about the three Rs: Repair. Repair, Repair! Yes, I know it’s usually Repair, Reuse, Recycle, but there was so much of the first that it seems worth repeating.

I reattached the rufflette tape to the heavy curtain over the front door, darned two pairs of crochet slippers (one of which I had nearly convinced myself to throw away, but which turned out to be repairable), sewed a button onto some trousers, repaired a hole in a dress, made a new waist band for a pair of leggings and mended a cap that the dog had chewed.

Several of these jobs turned out to be quite time-consuming, but in all cases I’m happy with the results and the work extends the life of all the items involved. Plus, the curtain should be more efficient at keeping the heat in now it hangs properly.

I often collect repairs and then can’t summon up the energy to do them, but this week the motivation was there and I think that I have now worked my way through all of my mending pile. Maybe I will do some decorating next week… maybe…

Shame

It seems to me that large manufacturers and retailers are genuinely out of touch with the public. As environmental awareness increases and there are more and more demands for reductions in packaging, ditching unnecessary single-use containers and abandoning built-in obsolescence, it’s time that big corporations made some changes. Now I know that it takes dinosaurs a long time to respond, but I can’t help feeling that some of the reluctance to change is because it’s simply easier not to. However, it is not impossible – specifications can be amended, processes can be modified, expectations can be altered. Making the excuse that it’s because of economics just does not wash (economics are a fiction – plastic in the sea killing marine life is a reality).

So, I have decided that I will take action. I already vote with my money, but that’s a rather private action and, whilst it is important, is not going to make a huge difference in isolation. I am, therefore, taking to social media with direct, public messages to companies that I have issues with. Today, via Twitter, I targeted Seasalt, who make lovely organic clothes, claim to be environmentally responsible and pack all their goods in plastic.2018-08-21 (2)They did respond, which is at least something, but obviously it’s easier to blame someone else:2018-08-21 (3)

They haven’t responded further, but I hope that other people will join in and we might be able to persuade them to make the change.

I would like to think that shaming companies publicly might have some effect, because after all social media is a key part of their marketing strategy. Perhaps you’d like to join me? Do tell me about any companies that you have contacted and how they have responded. Perhaps we can support each other and make our ripples into waves.

All washed up

For some time we have been struggling to find suitable, biodegradable washing-up equipment. Mr Snail (who does most of the washing-up) likes to use a brush. Most brushes for this job are plastic and the bristles get flattened very quickly, making them useless. First, I found a recycled plastic version with a replaceable head, but the quality was so poor that the head needed replacing after only a few uses. Then, I was delighted to find a wooden brush with natural plant-fibre bristles and replaceable heads. I bought one, along with spare heads, and we gave it a try. Sadly, the heads seemed to last only a short time too, were a less than ideal shape (round) for getting into all the nooks and crannies and repeatedly fell off the handle. Eventually Mr Snail refused to use them any more and returned to a standard plastic brush. The quest continues to find a washing-up brush that actually delivers all we need: a good shape, durable and made from natural materials.

Mostly, I prefer to wash up using a cloth. Crochet cotton cloths are fine unless you want some abrasion and my old abrasive cloth, which I have had for years but is very worn, is plastic (nylon possibly). I was happy, therefore, that Red Apple Yarn sells textured cotton dishcloth yarn and I just had to give it a go. I decided that a loose mesh was likely to prove most useful, and whipped up a crocheted dish cloth in double quick time. I tested it out this morning* and it does a good job, although is only a bit abrasive (it felt more so when I was working it up). For me this is likely to be a good option; for Mr Snail the quest for the perfect brush continues.

-oOo-

* I washed up because Mr Snail was still in bed recovering from yesterday’s 21-mile sponsored walk.

Start as you mend to go on

Last week we had the disappointment of having to replace something rather than mend it. Our ancient dvd player, which has been making strange noises for some time now, finally gave up the ghost. Mr Snail attempted to render first, and then second, aid, but the problem appeared to combine a mechanical issue and a software problem and it proved impossible to solve. As we have a large collection of dvds and no cable/satellite subscription, our dvd player gets a lot of use. So, we bit the bullet and bought a new one.

We were feeling a bit glum about this defeat, but then I reminded myself that in the past week I have done lots of successful mending and re-mending. The heel of one of my shoes came adrift and this was quickly reattached with Gorilla glue.

I darned a pile of holey socks over the weekend. Some of these have been repaired multiple times and in places there are darns over darns. I also took the opportunity to strengthen some patches that looked like they were wearing, but which did not have holes (yet).

And, finally I patched a hole in the pocket of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans. I hate the fact that jeans of made of hard-wearing denim, but the pockets are often constructed some flimsy cotton, easily pierced by a key.

A sly repair – no one will know it’s there

And all this mending has made me realise that, despite making a new pair of slippers the other day, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw my old ones into the compost… so I’m going to do a big repair on those too. It is, however, going to take some work:

My very sorry old slippers

Have you mended anything recently? Or failed to mend something you would have liked to?

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