Brown paper packages tied up with string

… or secured with paper parcel tape… these are two of my favourite things.

OK, I know it was only the string that appeared in the song, but I was truly delighted when two parcels arrived through the post yesterday that were wrapped without plastic tape.

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Spot the plastic… oh, there isn’t any

The first was from the All Natural Soap Company – I’ve mentioned them before, because they work very diligently to avoid the use of plastic and to produce their soap ethically; for example, they don’t use any palm oil. They use cardboard boxes for posting things out and seal them using paper parcel tape. The individual bars of soap come wrapped in paper or in cardboard boxes and they use biodegradable packing peanuts (made of corn starch, I think) to stop everything rattling about – I always put these in the compost, where they disappear as soon as they get wet. I’m always happy to be able to support businesses who make so much effort. It’s also worth remembering that soap/shampoo bars are much better than liquid soap/shampoo or shower gel because soap does not require water to be transported unnecessarily with it.

The second parcel was sent by my friend Lizzie and she had created a beautiful string-wrapped package. Not only was there no plastic tape, but the brown paper and string can be entirely reused for sending something to someone else. And inside was some rather special fabric, some ribbon and a crochet dishcloth (for Mr Snail to use whilst he continues to seek out the perfect eco-washing up brush). I’ve already got an idea what I’m going to do with the fabric… I just need to find the time.

ScrapHappy April 2019

Last month I was really inspired by Alys’ ScrapHappy greetings cards, so this month I decided to have a go myself. I have loads of card blanks and piles of scrap paper and fabric. I’d also got a 2018 calendar that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out, some old greetings cards and some bits and pieces left over from the days when I used to make a hundred or so Christmas cards to send every year.

I started simple with some glue, paper scraps and the old calendar. The first one I made was a bit messy and I applied  my glue unevenly, so it came out a bit wrinkled. Never mind, it’s a learning process and I was very pleased with my final attempt on the yellow card.

I made several just with paper and then moved on to some including paper, fabric (some swatches from when I was choosing curtains some time ago) and some leaf skeletons that have been hanging around for ages:

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Fabric and leaves on paper

And then I decided to add some stitching, using my sewing machine. I made three cards from scraps of fabric, including some leaf motifs from an old net curtain, having become rather taken with leaves by this point. These are fabric on fabric, plus one leaf skeleton, mounted on card. The one on the left incorporates lots of the tiny trimmings from all the other cards, thus using scraps from scraps.

Finally, I had a little play around with sewing a leaf skeleton onto paper. This was an experiment and I haven’t actually made this into a card, but here it is anyway:

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leaf stitched onto paper

So, here’s the complete set of scrappy cards (except one, which has already been sent):

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scrappy cards

So, thank you Alys for the inspiration, I’m sure I’ll be making many more.

-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 and Bekki

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.

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.

Soap and flannel*

by Patricia Collinspat soapAn American friend sent me these lovely soaps for Christmas and I’m doing my best to work my way through them because of the packaging.  My mother would not be pleased. She had far more patience and self control and would keep soap, no matter how pretty or enticing, in our clothes drawers for months before thinking of using them. This not only scented the clothes, but apparently hardened the soap so that it would ‘go further’ when finally put into use. Has anyone else come across this trick? Usually I still save soap before use, but is there science to prove saved soap goes further?

The reason I’m racing through these soaps is the packaging! Each one is wrapped in a pretty piece of pure cotton. The wrapping is secured with two small stitches so that it comes undone easily, and I just can’t wait to make something of these pretty pieces of cloth. Each one is  7×5.5 inches – I still sew Imperial. For those who don’t that’s 17.5x14cm and I will have five pieces. Any thoughts on what to make? Having complained of poor packaging on numerous occasions, I just can’t wait to get my hands on this lot.

PS This isn’t an ad for the soaps, but anyone interested can see from the wrapper who makes  and sells them via the internet.

-oOo-

* Well, fabric, really

 

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.

I’m not sure Lady Bracknell would approve

For sometime I have wanted to have a go at bag making , but wasn’t quite sure what materials I would need. I was delighted, therefore, to discover U-Handbag, a company that sells kits with all the necessary bits and bobs except the fabric. In the autumn I bought two kits, one for a handbag and one for a larger “carpet bag” (not made with carpet I hasten to add) as well as a couple of books.

I decided to start with the smaller bag and spent an afternoon cutting out the outer fabric, lining, interfacing and padding. There were quite a lot of pieces because of all the layers, but the instructions were clear and there was a full size pattern with all the pieces properly labelled.

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So many bits

I haven’t done much sewing for a while and some of the fiddly bits took quite a lot of concentration, but gradually it came together and started to look like a bag:

 In fact the trickiest part was gluing the frame on – almost the last step. I got some glue on the metal and haven’t quite managed to clean it all off yet. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy with the finished item and it has given me confidence to have a go at other designs. I now also feel better equipped to assess the suitability of various (repurposed) fabrics for the different layers that give a bag structure. My friend Rachel also pointed out that it may be possible to find bags with suitable frames in charity shops that could be cannibalised for future projects. In the mean time, though, I have the bigger one to make from the second kit, with a different sort of closure.

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A handbag!

-oOo-

Oh, and for those of you who don’t understand the title:

From “The importance of being Earnest”

Three Things Thursday: 30 March 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, grass roots action. All sorts of things have happened in the world of politics over the past year, and one result seems to have been that ordinary people have been galvanised into action. In the US, for example, there’s The Town Hall Project, which “empowers constituents across the country to have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives”; there’s also Run for Something, an organisation that “will recruit and support talented, passionate youngsters who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years… We’ll help people run for offices like state legislatures, mayorships, city council seats, and more. We’ll do whatever it takes to get more under-35 year-olds on the ballot.”

Here in the UK, there’s More United, who “raise money to support political candidates who stand by our values, regardless of their party. Our support helps those candidates get elected and influences the makeup of Parliament, changing Britain for the better…. With a name inspired by the words of the late Jo Cox MP, More United stands for unity and inclusion, and rejects hatred and division.” I am an original member of this organisation, meaning I donated some money to help them get off the ground. I’m happy to be part of this organisation and to support its aims… and to show off my support these arrived this week:

getting political

Second, I passed! A couple of weeks ago I attended a Food Safety course at The Food Centre Wales in preparation for scaling up my cheese-making. There was an exam at the end and I’m happy to say that I found out that I passed when my certificate arrived in the post yesterday :

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officially certified!

 

Third, new fabric. Although my heart lies with yarn, I have recently been enjoying a bit of sewing and so I was very happy this morning when a parcel arrived containing various pieces of organic cotton for two of my 17 for 17 projects arrived.

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jersey, chambray and poplin

 

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

Beatrice is keeping me clean

In my younger days I did a lot of dressmaking, but I don’t do so much now, partly because I don’t live alone (as I did until I was nearly 30) and using a sewing machine is not very sociable. Knitting and crochet, on the other hand are quiet and portable and I’m better at them! However, the older I get the more sewing I find myself doing. This way I can choose eco-friendly fabrics and turn them into garments that I actually want to wear and that won’t fall to bits after a few months.

I’ve been wanting a new apron to wear whilst cooking for a while now. My old one was ok, but didn’t provide the coverage I wanted and didn’t have pockets. I hadn’t seriously looked for a new one, but happened to see mention on the Facebook ‘Make do and Mend’ group of a pattern for, what looked to me, like a perfect pinny. It’s called Beatrice and it’s a design from Sew Me Something. I bought the pattern (delivered the next day) and ordered some fabric (one length of organic cotton and one of an organic cotton/bamboo mix from The Organic Textile Company) and some bias binding. And then, helped by the vaarks as pattern weights, I made my pinnies…

I’m really pleased with the results… although they may be too nice to get dirty! I think I might make another in denim to wear for gardening…

Oh and just a reminder, in case you missed it, that yesterday’s post involved a give-away… you can check it out here.

Stash busting

It’s contagious – not only have I made some in-roads into my stash, we’ve also made a start on mum’s. We both agree that we have too much unwanted/unused craft stuff, so I have decided to dedicate some time to finding new people to love it… and hopefully make use of it, rather than have it cluttering up our houses.

Some of our unwanted stash

Some of our unwanted stash

So far, I have dispatched more than 12 metres of cotton jersey fabric and 21 zips to new owners and I think I’ve got someone who wants three old quilling tools. Currently I’m looking for people wanting single-sided fleece, lace fabric, a bit more cotton jersey and a lot of sequins. If you are interested, please look at my shop window page, which I will try to keep updated with the things we want to sell. In addition, I have a box of antique lace and a collection of 60-year-old embroidered handkerchiefs, but I need to get some advice about those before proceeding (watch out for an e-mail Kerry!). There’s likely to be lots of fabric and card-making supplies in the future too.

As for the yarn destash, I’m currently averaging a hat per day. This means that I’ve now made three beanies, three berets, two turbans and two slouch hats in the past week and a half:

Hat-tastic!

Hat-tastic!

I have to stop temporarily as I have a commission, but when I resume I’ll try to diversify the palette a bit more!

In the bag

A bag I made (left) and a bag I bought (right)

A bag I made (left) and a bag I bought (right)

One of the simplest things that anyone can do to be a little bit more sustainable is to stop using plastic carrier bags. Here in Wales they are no longer given free in shops and this encourages lots of people to have their own shopping bags. Perhaps the simplest option is the cotton bag – easy to carry around until needed, washable and ultimately compostable. We have lots of these – in the car, in the house and in handbag/pockets. Some of them have been given as gifts, some as freebies from shops/companies, but quite a number of them I have made myself.

All our bought or free bags are a simple envelope of cotton – two pieces stitched together flat. This means that they fold up small, but they do not hold a lot. This design is not ideal for bulkier items or carrying lots of books, for example. I have, therefore, made some cotton bags that have a much greater capacity because they have a gusset. After a bit of experimentation my mum came up with a relatively straightforward design for these that can be made from only two pieces of fabric (or one if it’s long and thin) plus the handles.

First of all, choose a nice sturdy cotton fabric, after all you don’t want it to tear or give way under the weight of your shopping. The size you need depends on how big you want your bag to be, but I started off with two oblongs measuring about 55cm by 40cm (22 inches by 16 inches):

An existing bag on the fabric for a new bag

An existing bag on the fabric for a new bag

These I stitched together (right sides facing), leaving one of the short sides open and then I hemmed the top of the bag.

Sewing the main pieces together

Sewing the main pieces together

Now comes the bit that’s easy to do, but slightly complicated to explain. At each of the bottom corners, you need to flatten the seam along what will be the bottom of the bag (the  short seam) against the side seam to form a point. Then you stitch at right angles 3-4 cm away from the point, to separate off the corners into little right-angled triangles.

Flatten the bottom against the sides

Flatten the bottom against the sides and form points at the corners

Open out the bottom seam to do this

Open out the bottom seam to do this

Pin it first to make sure you’ve got it right and if you want to check, turn the bag right-side-out and you should have formed a gusset for the base of the bag. When you are happy, sew these short seams on the inside and turn the bag right side out. You will be left with two little triangular flaps of fabric inside the bag.

Pin and stitch at right angles to the long seams

Pin and stitch at right angles to the long seams

The outside should look like this

The outside should look like this (ignore the pins for now, they are for the next step)

The inside will look like this

The inside will look like this

Now all you need to do is sew along the edges between the gusset and the main sides of the bag (in each case sew on the right side and don’t go quite as far as the corner) to give the bag structure.

Side gusset edges pinned and ready for stitching

Side gusset edges pinned and ready for stitching

Bottom gusset edges

Bottom gusset edges

All edges stitched

All edges stitched

You can then make handles out of tubes of fabric or webbing of the desired length and attach these firmly to the top of the bag.

The finished bag

The finished bag

Once you get the hang of it, this is a really easy pattern. You can even line the bag by making an inner in exactly the same way and attaching them wrong sides together. If you don’t sew, this probably all sounds like gobbledygook to you, but if you do sew and have a sewing machine, it’s a great way to use up fabric… the bag I made and photographed for this post was created using a piece of material I have had for about 30 years!! I am hoping that my homemade bags will last many years, whilst I see some of the bought ones falling to pieces already.

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