Sewing and not

I don’t love sewing in the same way that I love knitting and crochet, but I do find satisfaction in making useful things. And so, over the past few days I have slowly been working on a gardening apron. I am using the same pattern ( the Beatrice pinafore) that I did for my two kitchen aprons, but this version is lined, so the edges didn’t need binding, and I made the pockets deeper because gardening requires much more transportation of random stuff than cooking does! The benefit of making garments from scratch like this is that I know it wasn’t made by workers who are being exploited and I am able to source fabric that is organic/fairtraded. It’s akin to cooking from scratch, it’s just that it requires more concentration! The downside is that I usually always have to unpick something and I am never 100% satisfied with the result. However, it is finished now, and I’m hoping that the dark purple chambray (which is a rather nicer colour than the photos suggest) that I chose for it will hold up to the rigours of the garden and that I won’t be too sad that the lovely bee fabric is mainly hidden away as the lining (although it is reversible if I don’t mind having the pockets inside).

I do, however, wish that I liked sewing enough to make gorgeous quilts and other complex constructions. That said, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the yarny things that I want to, so I mainly just look on in awe at the creations of my fabric-oriented fellow crafters. However, I do occasionally get my hands on a beautiful piece of sewing to treasure, and this has just happened.

Over the weekend there was an online auction to support the Sixty Million Trebles project and I was lucky enough to submit the highest bid for the most fabulous handmade work bag.  Barbara, the lady who made it, sent it straight away and so I already have it… and I’m just blown away by her skill. Look:

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the skill!

Not only did it arrive beautifully gift-wrapped, but there was a rustle from inside and I opened it to find a matching ‘mug rug’ and a little pouch of sewing goodies. Internally, and somewhat difficult to photograph, there are all sorts of pockets, including some very narrow ones that will be perfect for hooks and knitting needles.

Oh the joy of owning a wonderful creation like this… I am in awe.

 

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.

A green bath puff

A couple of months ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was seeking ‘green’ alternatives to two common items: cotton buds and a bath puff. I decided to take up the challenge.

Cotton buds (Q-tips) are relatively straightforward to find in a more environmentally friendly form than the traditional plastic stem and bleached cotton tip, but bath puffs (also known as bath lilies) are not quite so easy. The standard ones that you buy in the supermarket or pharmacy are made of nylon; this means they are not at all absorbent and they are slightly rough but not too abrasive. Trying to find an exact green equivalent has, so far, proved impossible. However, I embarked on a bit of research to see if it was possible to create something that would at least do the job…

First, I wanted to discover if there were any patterns out there to knit such things. A quick search on the Ravelry website revealed lots of crochet patterns and a few ones to knit. So, I selected a knitting pattern that looked like it had potential and considered appropriate yarns. Various patterns suggested using ‘dish cloth cotton’ – a yarn type that seems to be widely available in the US but not in the UK.  The pattern that I had bought suggested a yarn made of 100% nettle fibre yarn that, again, I could not buy in the UK. Some searching of the interweb helped me to identify various potential alternative yarns and several sources for these. Of course, however a seller describes a yarn, until you are using it, you can’t really appreciate its properties, so this is where the experimentation (and associated expense began).

First, I found some organic cotton yarn in an e-bay auction. Although the colour was not what I would have preferred, I managed to put in a winning bid and so received a few balls of yarn to try out. I knitted it up to a slightly adapted version of the pattern I had bought and tried it out in the shower. And discovered that… cotton is remarkably absorbent. That’s why they make towels out of it. What I had created was, basically, a flannel (washcloth) on a string. In fact, it’s quite nice to wash with, but it’s not a replacement for the nylon version. In addition, the pattern that I used made something that even looked rather like a scrunched up flannel on a string!

Organic cotton (L) and Cotton/hemp (R) knitted bath puffs

I decided to try an alternative yarn. This time I tracked down some hemp and cotton blend yarn. I really wanted to test out the characteristics of the yarn, so I decided to stick to the same pattern as before. Once more unto the shower… a little more abrasion this time, but still really quite absorbent… and still looking rather like a scrunched up flannel on a string… and it takes an age to dry, so has the propensity to become smelly if you forget to hang it up in an airy place after use (also, as a result, no good for travelling).

So, next I thought that I would try to address the aesthetics. All the patterns that I could find that looked rather like the original nylon version were crocheted rather than knitted. The problem, then, was my inability to crochet! Not daunted, I decided that the time had come to learn! So, using some more of the organic cotton yarn I created… a brain:

Intelligent bathing?

Well, ok, the colour doesn’t help, but that aside it does look like both a brain and something you might use to wash with. And in fact it turns out to be lovely and soft, and fine to wash with, but not textured enough to provide an invigorating showering experience! And it stays soggy for a long time.

Nettle twine bath puff

I concluded that I had found a suitable pattern, but not a suitable yarn. Cotton and cotton blends seem to me to be too absorbent; anything with wool in is likely to turn into felt with all the soap and rubbing, and so I turned from yarn to what could best be described as twine. This tends to be made out of plant fibres, has a narrower gauge than knitting yarn and is often quite rough. The fact that it is thin means that any pattern designed for thicker yarn would have to be modified, but that is not an insurmountable problem. So, the latest incarnations are one in bamboo and one in nettle twine. Both are still more absorbent than nylon, but I think that this is a fact that I will simply have to accept with any natural fibre. The bamboo is quite silky, so not very abrasive (and the one I made was a bit on the small side). The nettle twine is better, with some texture, so this is the version that I have sent off to my friend… I await his verdict. The pattern needs some modification for use with the twine to make it a little more bulky (the one pictured is a bit loose) but I feel that I am homing in on a solution. I’ve also got some hemp twine to experiment with, although I think that might have a bit too much texture!

This does mean that our house is filling up with a wide variety of things to wash with – some more efficient than others – so if nothing else we should have no problems keeping clean for years to come!

February 2013: After further research, there is a new post here with more information on the crochet pattern and a yarn that seems to work!

October 2013: I now have bath puffs for sale… details to the right and more info and pictures here.

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