Mendiferous

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All soles

I had a dilemma this week – my crochet slippers developed some holes and I had the choice of finally giving up on them or mending them. A while back, Kate sent me some sheepskin slipper soles that are no use to her in tropical Australia and I plan to use these to make myself some brand new spiffy slippers at some point, but looking at my old slippers, I decided that there was still a bit of life in them and mending would be worthwhile. I did briefly toy with the idea of using the new soles to mend the old slippers, but actually the new pieces do not coincide entirely where the old ones are worn and, anyway, I have some ideas for the new ones… when I eventually get round to them.

This is the third mend of my old faithfuls and each time I have used a different colour to make the repair obvious. First they had new crochet soles, then I added some crochet reinforcement to the sides, and now finally I’ve done some darning:

The original yarn was a mix of sock wool and some 100% wool chunky, but all the blue mends, including the latest three patches of darning, have been made using Axminster rug wool. The original company that I got the Axminster wool from went out of business, but I’m delighted to say that a new supplier, Airedale Yarns, has popped up. I haven’t ordered from them yet, but I can highly recommend Axminster wool for making slippers – it lasts so much longer than any other yarn I’ve tried for the job.

So, my slippers live to be worn another day. I’m pondering whether there will come a point when there is nothing left visible of the original slippers… or , indeed, whether they will eventually become unsalvageable.

Do you have items that are mended repeatedly? And when do you decide to give up on them?

Mending

I’ve just got back from a weekend away, meeting up with a whole bunch of people involved in permaculture. In the whole of the event, the only pictures I took were these:

Before and after shots of a mend I managed on a poncho belonging to one of the other attendees. Perhaps the metaphor is enough… let’s all try to mend the world one little hole at a time.

Finish as you mean to go on

So, here we are on the last day of the year…

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, I believe that when you want to make a change in your life you should do it when it’s right for you. Making resolutions because someone has told you that you ought to means you are much more likely to fail. However, it’s good to take stock sometimes and today is as good a time as any to do so. For me, 2016 has  involved lots more little steps to have a smaller negative impact on the planet and make life a little better for the people who live on it: from trying to be responsible for less plastic packaging (using soap and shampoo bars, taking our own bags and containers to the shops, seeking out products packaged in paper/cardboard/not at all), to growing lots of food; from undertaking lots of mending, to trying to cut out palm oil.

Today has been no exception: I started with a little pile of garments to mend:

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a variety of mends needed

I started by repairing a pocket of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans. It had been repaired once before, but a new split had appeared so I used mending tape and a little piece of scrap cotton. The previous mend was spotty and the new one is checks, but only you and I know because they are hidden inside the pocket.

Next I replaced the toggles on my hand-knitted hoodie. The previous ones were glass and two of the three had broken. Before that it had wooden toggles and Sam ate them. This time I’ve used plastic, which I hope will be more durable.

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fingers crossed these never need replacing

Then I darned two pairs of hand-knitted socks. Mr Snail is very hard on his socks, so this is something of an ongoing chore.

My next job was to salvage the usable parts of the underwear that I made with my old sewing machine. Most of the pieces will be reused and stitched together using my new overlocker.

And finally, in my ongoing biscuit quest I made Granny Boyd’s Biscuits… a Nigella recipe that came my way via my friend Sue. The verdict: delicious and really easy to make, plus no palm oil. Thank you Sue, these are going to be a regular bake from now on.

So I have finished the year in the spirit that I intend to live in 2017. How about you? Do you make resolutions? Do you have plans?

Mend-it May

I’m not sure how Jen Gale came up with the idea of “Mend-It May”, but during the past month, she has been encouraging folks to indulge in some repairs and share them via various forms of social media. I have, in recent years, been trying to get into the habit of mending more, and so this month was not particularly special for me. However, I like documenting my mends if, for no other reason, than to provide a record I can look back on and feel smug about.

One task that I did set myself this month was to look through all our hand-knitted socks and make any necessary repairs or reinforcements. It turns out that Mr Snail is much harder on his socks than I am on mine, and that there were quite a number of holes to deal with… some of which were quite extensive. In future I am hoping that we will notice damage when it is small and therefore much easier to mend. Anyway, here is a little gallery of some of this month’s work:

Some of the mends were made with sock wool and some with darning wool – it will be interesting to see which yarn holds up best. The pink/purple stripy socks were one of the first pairs that I knitted; they were originally intended to be for me, but I made them too big so Mr Snail got them. This is their third mend – they had their toes replaced once and they have been darned once before this time… eventually they may comprise more repair than original.

Because I have been trying to keep on top of repairs I only have a few more to mention. The first was more of a resurrection than a repair and involved some home-made mayonnaise. When we got the chickens, I stopped buying mayonnaise and started making my own. If you look at the ingredients in commercial mayo and compare them with home-made (egg yolk, oil, seasonings, a little vinegar) you will understand why. It’s relatively easy to make, but you have to be patient and it can be temperamental… as was my last batch. As I gradually added the oil to the egg yolk, it started to thicken up nicely. Addition of a little cider vinegar, however, destroyed the consistency and I ended up with what looked like scrambled egg in oil – yuk!

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Possibly the world’s most unappetising mayonnaise ever

Fortunately, as well as being temperamental, mayonnaise is also accommodating and can be encouraged to re-form. So, with a clean bowl and a clean whisk on my mixer, I started again beating a fresh egg yolk. If you then very gradually (and I mean very gradually – a few drops at a time) beat in the yukky separated original mixture, it will all come together and form beautiful new mayonnaise. It requires lots of patience, but it works and it means that none of your precious ingredients go to waste:

An odd, but very satisfying ‘mend’ that one. The other two mends I want to share are not mine, but both involve items that belong to me.

A few months ago, I discovered that the pouring handle on my jam pan had come adrift on one side. I contacted the manufacturer via Twitter and they told me to email their customer services. I did this and simply received no response. I was busy and didn’t pursue it, but I did ask my friend. Alfred “Maker of Things”, whether he thought it was possible to fix it. He said things about ‘brazing’ which were clearly beyond me. However, Alfred came over to west Wales on holiday last week… and brought the equipment necessary to mend my pan. In fact, he effected the mend during the course of a tea party that we were both at. I still need to give it a good polish with wire wool, but otherwise it’s mended. Thank you Alfred.

And the final mend is a major reconstruction and adaptation of our old wooden chicken house. We had dismantled this ages ago and the bits were sitting in the garden unused. After careful thought, I decided that it would be great to have a spare house – it’s really useful for introducing new hens or using as a “hospital wing” but it needed to have the unwieldy run removed and a new roof on both the house and the nest boxes. I explained what I wanted to Mr Snail and over a couple of days he effected the transformation using only waste wood that we already had, a piece of plastic from the old greenhouse and some bits from an old compost bin. I won’t steal his thunder too much because he’s blogging about it himself, but I can tell you that I am delighted with the result. Anyway, here it is in pieces awaiting the mend:

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a very big mend

Not a bad set of things that we’ve extended the lives of… and I’m even coming to terms with darning!

The right materials for the job

This evening I’ve been quietly cursing my way through a repair… in fact it’s still not finished and I’m just taking a break to write a blog post about it.

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They looked good when I made them

Regular readers may recall that last year I was very excited to have joined a yarn club. I paid a subscription and then each month for six months I would receive a ball of hand dyed sock yarn. It worked well in as much as each month I did receive a ball of beautifully dyed 4-ply yarn… the problem (it turns out) was that it wasn’t really sock yarn. To make socks that last you need a good robust yarn otherwise all the hours you put into knitting are pointless because you end up with holey socks very quickly. In fact, it soon became clear that some of the balls of yarn would be no good for socks – they were beautifully soft wool, with no strength. Sometimes the information that came with the ball did not include details of the composition of the yarn and I had to make a guess. In the end, out of the six balls I only used two for socks… and, it turns out what one of those was a mistake.

The most robust socks are not made of pure wool, but also contain about 25% nylon. This may not sound very green but, in fact, they last so long and are so easy to repair that the addition of a manmade fibre is really worthwhile. I have socks that have been worn for years and years and, because they were knitted from good quality ‘real’ sock yarn, they are still going strong.

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Not very impressive

Erring on the side of caution, both pairs of socks that I made with the yarn club yarn were constructed using genuine sock wool (from a different supplier) for the heels and toes, as these are the parts that get the most wear. In both cases these parts are still fine; however the feet of one pair are worn through only 7 months after the socks were made. I am extremely disappointed, but decided to repair them and keep them going a bit longer (I suspect many more repairs may be necessary in the future).

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Darning and reinforcing

So this evening I have been using a really great sock yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners (the one used for the heels and toes) for some quite extensive darning. Needless to say that I didn’t renew the subscription to the club when it ran out. In fact I did succumb to another yarn club from a different dyer… but this one guaranteed to supply yarn that was 75% British Wool and 25% Nylon every single time.

The lessons? Always use the correct yarn for the job… it saves time, money and stress. Oh and Caveat Emptor!

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This one still to do

A long-awaited repair

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In need of repair

I am slowly trying to persuade myself that sewing repairs can be fun. I’ve finally reconciled myself to darning – but only items that I made myself – and now I’m making progress with other repairs. And so it was with inspiration, but not a huge amount of enthusiasm, that I tackled this morning’s job… Mr Snail’s gardening jeans. He’s been stoically wearing these for gardening whilst simultaneously getting cold knees for ages. They are so well-used that, no matter how much they are washed, they still look grubby, but apart from that and the rips they are still functional.

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Preliminary patching with mending tape reinforcement behind

I finally decided that he deserves to have his knees both warm and dry in the garden. The latter turned out to be possible because I remembered the chewed waterproof jacket that I had put one one side after it proved just too tempting for Sam. So, out came my mending box and I set to work, using iron-on mending tape and some cotton fabric salvaged from some old pyjamas. Trouser legs are a pain to sew with a sewing machine, so everything had to be pinned then hand-stitched before I could make sure it was all extra-robust with some machine sewing. Once the mending tape was ironed into place and the cotton patches secured, I cut some large pieces of Gortex fabric and covered the whole knee area with these – sewing by hand and then by machine. The end product means Mr Snail will be able to kneel down on damp ground and still be snug and dry.

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Waterproof knees

Next job – darning a pair of bed socks – what a glamorous life I do lead!!

Mend-day

Want to save the world today? I do, so I’m mending.

There is such a lot of waste in the UK and such profligate consumption, that one of the best things we can do to reduce our impact on the environment is to buy less. This means that we need to make the things that we already have last longer. So, buy good quality things that can be repaired… and learn how to repair them.

My first job today involved a pair of fingerless mittens… both of which have worn around the thumb. The mend is simple – just a few stitches – if undertaken now as soon as I have noticed it, but it would be a much bigger job if I left it. If I’d knitted these mitts in sock yarn, it wouldn’t have worn nearly as quickly (although I made them about 4 years ago). They were knitted in some left-over 100% wool yarn, which was going spare, so I don’t feel they’ve done badly and this repair should extend their life somewhat.

Then I moved on to a new material: Sugru. This is a mouldable glue that sets to the consistency of silicone in 24 hours. I had two repairs that I thought might be suitable – the first, involved providing some reinforcement to the point where the jack plug joins the cable of my earphones. This mend was quick and easy and I know it will work.

The second mend may not be successful. In this case I needed to re-attach the winding handle to the body of one of our wind-up torches. I think it was originally glued on, but the glue was not sufficient and so the handle has come adrift. The problem is that it’s not simply a case of fixing the handle in place – it must only be fixed to the point in the centre, so that it can continue to rotate. If the glue attaches itself to the surroundings, it won’t be possible to wind the torch to charge the battery and so it won’t work. There is an alternative, more complicated fix for this – Mr Snail could construct an external way to charge the battery (there is a socket to charge from the mains) for example by solar or a separate winder, but I’m hoping that the Sugru will work and it won’t be necessary.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Sugru works – it comes highly recommended.

So, remember, you don’t need to be a super-hero to save the world, you can do it with glue and a darning needle!

A darn good suggestion

A while ago when I expressed my dislike of mending (darning in particular) Sharon suggested that I create a mending box, so that all supplies were to hand, just ready for the next job. Knowing that I had all necessary bits and bobs (including a suitable box) around the house, This is what it currently looks like:

A bulging mending box

A bulging mending box

I’ve added several things to is since I first wrote about it, including more darning wool and a pack of Sugru (mouldable silicon glue), as recommended by Jen of Make do and Mend-able.

But the big question is ‘has it helped?’

Well, I’m delighted to say that it has. Although I’m still accumulating a pile of things that require me to get the sewing machine out to mend them, it did mean that when I noticed holes in a pair of Mr Snail’s hand-kitted socks, I actually mended them straight away. Out came the darning mushroom, darning wool and needle and the job was done relatively quickly. These socks were the first ones that I knitted for Mr Snail, so they are about four years old. I certainly wouldn’t darn bought socks, but it feels worthwhile to mend ones that I have made myself.

Darning still isn’t my favourite activity, but I think I’ve made a pretty good job of it and it was certainly eased by not having to spend ages finding the necessary materials and equipment. So, have you mended anything this week?

Mending box

Ready for repairs

Ready for repairs

This is my little tool box, stocked with all sorts of things that can be used for stitching, darning, patching and generally making things last longer. I’m sure that I will add to it (especially since I know I have some other darning wool, but can’t seem to put my hand on it).

I’m particularly pleased that everything in there, as well as the box itself, was already in the house. Now, I just need something to practice my boro skills on.

Where do we go from here?

National Recycle Week – Day 7

So, on this final day of National Recycle Week, I’ve been reviewing my posts and considering the future. It’s clear that recycling is simply not enough – everyone of us needs to think about using fewer resources. Just because our governments’ only measure of success is ‘economic growth’ does not mean that we have to (literally!!) buy into this. There is no such thing as sustainability that supports ever increasing consumption of physical resources. We can, however, look for growth in happiness, creativity, friendship, green spaces, homegrown vegetables… any number of factors that could be increased and could benefit us as individuals and the planet as whole.

I now know that I am not going to be able so save the planet single-highhandedly (goodbye dreams of my youth). And quite frankly, I don’t want to anymore – I want to be part of a team. Even so, I know there are still lots of things that I can do as an individual that will make a difference.

The first practical thing I am going to do is to take Sharon’s advice and put together a mending kit. Perhaps my dislike of mending will be reduced (I can’t see that I’m ever going to come to love the activity, only the results) if I have a handy tool box containing all the bits and bobs I might need for patching, darning and repairing.

So, I’ve found a box that used to house my portable sewing kit when I was a student:

A relic of my past

A relic of my past

Inside there are currently drawing pins, a bottle of ink, paper clips, treasury tags, a protractor and a few other bits and bobs that I haven’t seen for years because I haven’t opened it for years. These can join our main stash of such supplies and I’ll give it a good wash out.

Next, I’ve started putting together a collection of useful things to go in it: darning wool, thread, small scissors, a darning mushroom, mending tape a rouleau needle (for threading elastic). I’ve also used a little knitted strawberry that Sharon herself sent me as a small pin cushion, to which I’ve also added a darning needle. What else should I include? All suggestions welcome.

Things I've collected together so far

Things I’ve collected together so far

Do you have a mending box? If so, what do you keep in it?

Other than this, I’m going to be thinking about future purchases a bit more, particularly in relation to plastics and composite objects, as these are not always easy to recycle. We are fast approaching ‘plastic-free July‘ and whilst I’m not planning to participate ‘officially’ it seems like a good time to consider the whole issue and, perhaps, make some more changes.

 

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