Play time

Scrabble and chocolate mousse

Since we can’t go out to play at the moment, I have been finding some indoor things to play with. As well as regular evening games of Scrabble and Jenga in the limery, I’ve been playing in the sewing room. I have taken the opportunity to make something that I’ve wanted to try for a while and to sew with a new material.

Both my projects resulted from not being able to go to Wonderwool this year as it was cancelled. I had a trip planned with friends and had even bought the tickets. Instead, there was an online event and the organisers invited the exhibitors to contribute links to their shops . I don’t really need any more yarn (still working my way through my stash), but I wanted to support some of the small businesses who are currently unable to trade. I found a lovely little fabric shop – Black Mountain Fabrics – that does not normally trade online and, after several messages backwards and forwards, selected two kits that interested me.

First, a Japanese knot bag. I keep seeing pictures of these and thinking that the construction is interesting. So, what better way to have a go than with a kit? I told the lovely lady who owns the shop what sort of colours I’d like and she sent me photos of fabrics to choose from. I was smitten by some with peacock feathers and we combined it with a teal lining. It was a quick and simple make and I think I’m likely to make more of these – they would be ideal for little gifts and only require the fabric – no interfacing, clasps, zips or drawstrings.

Second, a little kit that included cork fabric. I have been fascinated by the idea of cork for bag-making for a while, but wanted something simple to experiment with. This bag has a simple construction and the most wonderful octopus lining. The handle was easy to fit and it was another quick make. I was interested to discover how flexible the cork is and how beautifully it sewed (at least on my sewing machine). I would certainly consider using it for other bag-making projects.

I know that several friends have found their creativity lacking during this period of enforced confinement, whilst some people are flourishing. Have you been playing with new materials or media recently? Or have you simply wanted to crawl under the duvet and not come out?

Mend It Monday #10

As my friend Sarah says “If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

The mending pile is greatly diminished and it may be that these posts become monthly rather than weekly in the not too distant future. However, there are still a few things to get through and this week I returned to an old favourite: a much-mended pair of Mr Snail’s jeans. I first wrote about them here: they were my first attempt at boro style mending in 2017. Since then, they’ve had multiple mends and are becoming quite a work of art; there are more pictures of them here.

One of the legs, above the knee has developed weak areas where the fabric creases naturally. Before they disintegrate entirely in that area, some reinforcement seemed appropriate. I rummaged through my scraps and found a swatch of really tough upholstery fabric that doesn’t fray if pinked and made use of this. It’s a big area, so I secured the patch inside by means of machine stitching, and then I got out my embroidery threads and did some freeform stitching. Today’s work is the darker purple stitches.

What do you think?

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

ScrapHappy April 2020

A month down the line and how things have changed… I thought that this month there would be more scrappy cards, but events have overtaken us.

Instead, it’s all about face masks… perfect for using up scrap fabric. There are lots of patterns out there, but two different friends recommended the same pattern, so that’s the one I went for. Kate Chiconi wrote about it here and then, when we were chatting via Zoom, my friend Katie (who only lives a few miles away, but might as well be in Australia at the moment) modelled the one she had made from this same pattern. I have, however, added an extra component: non-woven Vilene. Although it’s not medical grade, adding Vilene increases filtration because it isn’t woven. If you are thinking of making a mask, you might be interested in the information in this post from the lovely people at Empress Mills which discusses suitable fabrics.

Anyway, when I mentioned to Mr Snail that I was going to make face masks, he said that he wanted to make his own, so this is our first joint ScrapHappy project, and you can read about his take on it here.

I started off by trialling the pattern and working out which parts might be a challenge for Mr Snail (none, as it turned out). I collected together some likely-looking fabric and in the end I made one mask from a scrap of organic cotton left over from an apron I made (outer) and some Tana Lawn (lining) and one from some snail fabric (outer) and some lovely soft cotton that had once been a pyjama leg (lining). The Vilene (applied to the lining fabric) was a variety of small pieces left over from dress-making projects and there was just enough for two face masks each. Mr Snail’s masks were also made of scraps, and I managed to find enough elastic in my sewing box to complete our projects.

-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:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

Mend It Monday #9

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

This week I’ve finally got round to repairing something that has been in the mending pile for a couple of years. The reason I haven’t done it before was that I wasn’t sure a mend was really possible. It’s a loose cotton tunic made of very delicate fabric, and after a lot of wear, one of the sleeves just started to disintegrate:

It’s too delicate to embroider onto or to back it with fusible interfacing which only left patching it. I chose a scrap of Tana Lawn, which is fine but robust and edged that before stitching it over the problem area. I made sure that one edge was along the cuff, so that I could sew into multiple layers for strength. After it was attached (a difficult job because of working inside a sleeve) I managed a few rows of stitching across for reinforcement.

To be honest, I’m not sure this mend will last long, but we’ll see. If the fabric turns out to be too weak to hold the patch, I’ll just make it into a short-sleeved garment rather than a long-sleeved one.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

ScrapHappy March 2020

The other day Mr Snail asked whether we had any greetings cards in the stash and when I ferreted them out I discovered that, whilst we did have some made by other artists, there were very few left from my last scrappy card-making session. So, I dug out a random pile of scraps in the hope that inspiration would strike.

Perhaps there’s some left-over inspiration in amongst this lot

During my last card-making session I had started to experiment with sewing paper and fabric together, and I want to continue to explore this. One reason is that, by sewing, I can avoid using glue, much of which is not very environmentally friendly. If I only use natural fibres, my cards will be completely compostable.

I discovered three leaf skeletons and I know that these always look effective on cards. One problem with working with paper is that you can’t pin it in place, but the clips that I use for bag making did the trick , as you can see in the picture below. I stitched the leaves onto fabric scraps (two bits were furnishing fabric samples and one a scrap from a very old dressmaking project – so old, I no longer have the dress!). Next these were sewn onto handmade paper scraps and then finally onto some folded card. By working in layers, only the last round of stitching is visible inside the card, and it doesn’t look too untidy The fourth card was simply made by framing a scrap of snail fabric using some strips of handmade paper. I’m less happy with this card than the others as it’s a bit wonky, but it has all been a bit of a learning exercise and the card will get used anyway – after all, it’s unique.

I had hoped to make more than four cards, but time got away from me, so there may be more 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.

ScrapHappy February 2020

You may recall that at the end of my January ScrapHappy adventure I was left with a selection of zips, toggles, elastic, plastic sliders, velcro, cords, pockets and waterproof fabric…

… and a headache.

Well, the headache went quite quickly, but the materials remained and I had a plan for some of them… I wanted to make Mr Snail a small, waterproof backpack using a pattern that I first used last year.

For this scrappy project, I made use of the following scraps: a zip, two toggles, a slider, a piece of elastic and pieces of Gore-tex fabric from the old waterproof jackets, plus some old seconds wool suiting fabric that had some marks on it. I did have to use four new D-rings, two metal sliders, stiffening and interfacing to complete the project, but the bulk of it is scrappy.

You can see from some of the pictures that I didn’t worry about existing seams in the fabric – they were all flat and I thought that it showed off the re-purposed nature of the materials. In fact, now it is complete, I think it looks anything but scrappy!

-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.

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.

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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.

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 July 2019

For some time now I have had it in mind to use some scrap fabric to make present bags. When Mr Snail and I give each other gifts we tend to wrap them in paper that has been reused many, many times – we never buy new wrapping paper. I have to confess that all the paper has all seen better days and it has become increasingly difficult to give a present that looks presentable. So, I had a rummage and found some nice scrap fabric left over from various sewing projects, as well as the remains of some old pyjama bottoms. I wanted to make draw-string bags, so needed lengths of ribbon and tape. Looking through my collection, I found some pieces from chocolate boxes, some quite long lengths that had been around clothes and household linen from ethical suppliers (to hold them neatly without the need for plastic), a piece that was once a curtain tab, two bits that were the hangers from the aforementioned old pyjamas and some other bits left over from long-forgotten projects. Not all the tape was long enough, but it was easily stitched together.

As I worked on the bags, I realised that I could also do with three in which to store plastic bags in the kitchen. Until the doors were replaced on the kitchen cupboards, plastic bags lived jammed into a cupboard and there was always the risk of a bagalanche when the door was opened. We reuse plastic bags, but storage has always been untidy, so three drawstring bags (one for small bags, one for medium bags and one for large bags) seemed like the answer. I made them in different colours so I would know which was which: the last of the spotty fabric from the dismantled night dress (the rest lined the scrappy satchel a while ago); a bit of an old sheet that had worn through in the centre, but has good edges left to be salvaged and has a cute paw print design; and a piece of stripy fabric that remains from a long-forgotten project. When Mr Snail saw what I was up to, he requested a bag for bags to use in his rented flat, so I made two of the stripy ones.

I’m very pleased with these scrappy creations – easy to make and all scrappy apart from the sewing thread. Even the little plastic tool I used to thread the tapes is a stirrer that came with a takeaway hot drink many years ago and has been living in my sewing box ever since, used lots of times and still going strong.

-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.

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.

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