ScrapHappy May 2022

I can’t believe that a whole month has gone by without me posting. I’ve been really busy in the shop, of course, but I still don’t understand how I haven’t managed to post even once.

This month’s ScrapHappy is once again about the shop. To maintain the ethos, we decided that, as well as selling scraps and pre-loved crafting supplies, we would fit the shop out, as far as possible, using pre-loved (sometimes un-loved) items. Mr Snail and I have already written about our scrappy counter, but almost everything is not new. We’ve tried to find items that simply aren’t valued anymore and make use of them them.

One example is the lovely bureau that we bought from a local auction. A wonderful, robust piece of furniture that we managed to get for a song. Brown furniture like this simply isn’t valued, despite the craftsmanship and beauty. Anyway, it’s now a card-making station, filled with pre-loved papercrafting supplies and tools, and ready for use by anyone who wants a handmade card, but doesn’t want to end up with lots of left over bits. Basically this is a way to avoid the creation of scraps at home – the scraps stay in the bureau ready to inspire and be used by someone else.

Elsewhere in the shop, the shelves were given to us by friends, who took them out of their basement, the tables came from Craft, a local an independent, not-for profit business whose sole purpose is to reuse domestic items and find them a new home, chairs and the china cabinet came from a little local auction and the library book cart had been left in the shop when we took it over. There are also several chairs (again left in the shop) that Sue is busily recovering for me from scraps (and her monthly ScrapHappy post). All-in-hall it’s a positive scrap-fest, so here’s a little peek into it:


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 folk often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, 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 , Bear, Noreen, Preeti, Edith and Jule

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.

One becomes two

You never know what you might find in a property that you buy… our shop being a case in point. As well as loads of old suitcases in the loft (each one containing at least one smaller suitcase), some very dated pillowcases, a pair of “jeggings” (Mr Snail is still shuddering at the word), six dining chairs, a microwave oven, a desk, an engraved knife and some picture frames with broken glass, there was a big, free-standing broom cupboard with orange doors. Originally this was attached to the wall with a bracket, but it was freed from its shackles during the work day our friends helped with and has been looming over the upstairs room ever since.

On Tuesday this week, Sue (Going Batty in Wales) arrived with her friend Lindy to help out. Over coffee I mentioned how much I dislike this cupboard and asked for suggestions about how to dispose of it. Lindy, however, had much more vision than me and came up with the idea of splitting it into two… which she duly did. Of course, the horrid orange doors are still there, but those can be covered over (paint, decoupage, fabric) and actually, I may now have the beginnings of storage for the sewing machines… at least if we add stronger shelf supports. We could put a work surface between the two, using them as pedestals, so that we have a counter separating the two areas upstairs, which would be useful. I have to confess, that they are currently still unappealing to me, but I can see potential now and all this does fit with the make do and mend ethos of the shop.

Sue very generously offered to do some work at home for me, so she went off with one of the old dining chairs to have a go at making some sort of cover to hide the rather dirty and worn seat pads. Again, we are trying to minimise buying new and hoping that, by demonstrating what is possible, we will inspire others to have a go at improving what they already have. It would, of course, be much quicker just to go out and purchase all the things we need for the shop from Ikea, but this is so much more satisfying and environmentally friendly.

Keeping it in the family

A couple of weeks ago I took my mum to meet up with her brother. He emigrated to Cincinnati 40 years ago, so they don’t see each other often. Anyway, he was in the UK and so a trip was arranged.

A full store cupboard

My uncle’s dresser is now the home to my bottled produce

Amidst all the reminiscing and funny stories, my aunt wondered what had happened to their dinning room furniture, which had been passed to my nan before they went to the US. I can confidently say that they never expected me to say ‘oh, your dresser is in my kitchen and my sister has the gate-legged table’. Discussion revealed that they had bought these items (along with some dining chairs, which I used to have but which did not stand the test of time quite so well) when they were first married – 58 years ago. I’m sure that when it was bought they never envisaged it would have such longevity, nor that it would end up being used in such a practical way – apparently, it original served to display a set of willow-pattern plates (now in the possession of one of my cousins).

Books and jars - it's a working piece of furniture now

Books and jars – it’s a working piece of furniture now

I hadn’t really considered it anything but a nice story, but on reflection it says a lot that we should be surprised that a modern piece of furniture would be passed through the family. We tend to think that antique furniture is the only sort worth preserving, but why not well-made, useful modern pieces? I think that this is the sort of attitude that we need to foster – to see the value in what we have. Certainly, if I was going out to buy a dresser, I wouldn’t choose such dark wood, but equally, I am very fond of what I have. And my fondness is not just because it’s a useful item, it’s because of the family history, the stories, my memories of it in my grandmother’s living room. When I lived in an ancient cottage, this dresser and a pantry represented the only storage space in my kitchen, but now I have a fitted kitchen it’s still useful and used every day.

So, let’s celebrate such ‘heirlooms’ and not consign them to the rubbish. After all, they are tomorrow’s antiques!

Great crate

Fifteen years ago, when we moved to Chez Snail we had almost no furniture, having managed with very old items that I inherited from my nan. They had served us well in our little cottage, but the new house was bigger and some of the old stuff was completely beyond repair. We had some things that were good – our bed, a dresser, a coat cupboard and gate-legged table, plus lots of bookshelves. But furnishing a whole house is expensive and so we hired a van and made a trip to Ikea, where we bought pretty much everything we needed.

A well-used table

A well-used table

And I’m pleased to report that almost all of it is still going strong. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently re-covering the sofa in crochet, but the actual piece of furniture certainly doesn’t need replacing. The only things that have finally started to break apart are the triangular side tables that we bought for £5 each. Over the years the surfaces have got damaged, but now structural cracks are starting to appear and the end is in sight. And so, with my recycle and re-use hat on, I sought replacements, although the old ones will still get some use in the limery I think. I thought about buying a second-hand nest of tables, but I really wanted something a bit more modern… and so to Etsy I went….

Where I discovered JB Wood Designs, a company making furniture out of, amongst other things, reclaimed apple crates… and I couldn’t resist. So, we are now the proud owners of not only two new side tables, each with a built-in shelf, but also a coffee table/storage unit on castors that will be so useful.

So, no more mass-produced furniture for us – I’m loving being able to support a small manufacturer, plus I now have more space to store yarn!!

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