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.

Three Things Thursday: 9 February 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…

Before I get started, though, I have to say that I could probably have listed thirty things this week, but here is just a tiny selection.

First, a mend by Alfred. One of the things we don’t have skills for Chez Snail is metalwork. However, we know a man who does. So, on Saturday, whilst I was crocheting, Alfred, who I was staying with, mended our Kelly Kettle. This much-mended item had finally got to a point where we could do no more – the rivets had failed so that water poured out and the anchor for the chain that allows you to tilt the kettle without getting burnt was detached completely. Cue, Alfred, who braised it for me and now it’s back in use.

In days gone-by this is the sort of thing tinkers did – travelling round the country mending pots and pans – now that’s a profession that could do with resurrecting.

Second, germination. Only tomatoes so far, but what a delight it is to see the first shoots emerging from the soil. Plus the potatoes are starting to sprout.

Third, the kindness of people. I know that I wrote a whole post on the get-together in Manchester over the weekend, but I’m still smiling about the fact that 31 people came together to craft for charity – between them, they covered all the costs and raised some money too. They laughed, they chatted and they created. And then they went home and shared the love on social media.

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crafting a better world

 

So, those are 3 things making me smile this week – what about you?

Three Things Thursday: 12 January 2017

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain (note her new self-hosted web site) here are my Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*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*

First, our local library. I haven’t been a member of a library since I resigned from the university, but last Saturday I finally got round to calling in to our local town library and joining. Since I spend all day editing, I don’t read many fiction books (I listen to audio versions, which the library also stocks – yay), but I do make lots of use of non-fiction books. So, here is the first one I have borrowed:

Some inspiration when baking for my gluten-intolerant friends

Some inspiration when baking for my gluten-intolerant friends

Second, boro. I’ve been meaning to have a go at Japanese visible mending for a while. I’m quite pleased with my first attempt, which I wanted to be subtle in case it turned out badly! There is substantial reinforcement on the reverse. This is one knee of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans.

Boro: visible mending

Boro: visible mending

Third, my first pattern sale. It’s taken me ages and a lot of hard work to finalise my bird roost pattern, but it was very gratifying to make my first sale of it from my etsy store. This little boost is encouraging me to get on and finish a second pattern that I’ve been working on – knitting this time.

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A roost made to test the pattern

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

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?

Out of my life

As the year draws to a close I have been reviewing some of the changes that I’ve made in my life over the past 12 months. Every year I try to do things to make my life that bit more sustainable, and this past year has been no exception:

  • I’ve given up liquid shampoo and shower gel in order to reduce transport of water and to cut out a bit of plastic packaging. I did come across some previously unnoticed shampoo in the bathroom the other day which I am using up, but once that’s done with there will be no more. I’m now only buying bars of soap/shampoo packed in cardboard/paper.
  • In goes the second one

    Our own container at the take-away

    I’ve started saying ‘no’ to lots of packaging – taking our own containers to the butchers and the take-away, for example, means a few less plastic bags and a bit less aluminium foil in the world.We also take our own fabric bags and repeatedly reused plastic bags to the greengrocer’s to put our veggies in. Plastic carrier bags have not been part of our life for many years.

  • We are now buying all our milk direct from a local farm. This means much lower energy inputs (transportation, processing) and no plastic cartons, as we take our own churn. In addition, we are keeping money in the local economy and the milk is delicious and great for making cheese, yoghurt and extracting the cream.
  • I’ve invested in a steam juicer, so we have another way of processing all the apples we tend to get given in the autumn. Making our own juice means repeated re-use of the bottles (cutting down on packaging), reducing transportation of processed juice and thus fewer food miles and knowing exactly what’s in the juice we are drinking.
  • I’ve given up fly paper – it may seem like a small thing, but it’s nice to feel that the fly control in the limery is being achieved by plants rather than a manufactured product.
  • during

    home-made brass cleaner

    I’m now making my own deodorant – it’s more effective than the ‘green’ stuff I was buying before, plus there’s relatively little packaging and it’s made from very simple ingredients.

  • I’ve started making more of my own cleaning products: re-usable cleaning wipes, window cleaner, brass cleaner. All of these rely on limited ingredients and I now have supplies of alcohol, white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils to make what I need when I need it.
  • I’ve increased the amount of mending that I’m doing. Darning, patching and sticking things together with Sugru are amongst my most common types of mending.

I’m not sure that’s everything for 2016, but it seems like some good steps forward. My next challenge is a bit more daunting: excluding palm oil from my life. I think that all our toiletries and household cleaning products are palm oil free, and I cook most of our food from scratch, so there’s none in that, but I do have a problem: my weakness for biscuits. I do like a chocolate digestive biscuit with a cuppa and sadly I have found that McVities, who make my favourite type, use palm oil. So, I have to find a brand I like that’s ethical, make my own, or give them up entirely. I’m now checking all the other products we use that may contain palm oil, just in case…

 

Three Things Thursday: 17 November 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Ms Emily’s Home for Full-Grown Nerds (note her new blog) and others for Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*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*

First, African flowers. I’m very fond of this granny square pattern and I’m greatly enjoying making these for my latest Sixty Million Trebles blanket; they are also using up lots of oddments.

Second, the magic of putting green tomatoes in a box with apples and them coming out ripe a couple of weeks later. I hate green tomato chutney, so turning green tomatoes red at this time of the year means they will actually get used; indeed the ones from the box are those pictured in the roasting dish, which is currently in the oven.

Third, Sugru. This magic creation has saved many items in our household from the dustbin. This week I’ve made a fourth mend (the one in pink) to my favourite headphones. Obviously, it would be better if such things were built to last, but since that is not the case, Sugru will always have a place in our house.

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Can you spot all four mends?

 

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

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

Not everything has to go

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The lace is getting a good blow-dry

The reason that our house is so full of STUFF is that I am loath to throw anything out that might come in useful in the future. This does make having a clear out particularly difficult because I can still see potential value (to me) in so many items. Having said this, I have been very successful this week with my decluttering: I have sold three boxes of books, recycled a big pile of magazines, donated a bag of clothes to charity and made a start on clearing out of one of the kitchen cupboards. So, despite purchasing a pack of British wool, there has definitely been more STUFF out than in during the past seven days and, in fact, I think I’m in profit! In addition, I’ve listed a few things on ebay and progressed with laundering the collection of lace… although I haven’t found time yet to list it on etsy. So that feels like a very successful week.

However, in addition, I am keen to make use of some of the things I have been accumulating… or actually get round to doing with them what I had intended. And so, I have taken two pictures to be framed – sitting around in tubes they are clutter, but hanging on the wall they are art! And I have revitalised a couple of seat cushions that have been awaiting rescue for ages. Years ago Sam decided one of our cushions would make an ideal toy and gave it a jolly good playing with. The resulting rips could not be simply stitched together, so I put it in a drawer until I had time to sort it out… where it sat for about 7 years! The (formerly) matching cushion was used and has been in the limery on one of the wooden chairs, where it had faded from bright red to a dull pink. But today I took action – I mended the ripped cushion with mending tape, I dug out some old fabric (that I knew would come in useful eventually), and a made a cover for each cushion. So, no net gain or reduction in STUFF, but a very clear conversion from clutter to usefulness… yay!

 

 

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