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?

A little bit of toast

I like toast; I eat it regularly… with eggs, with beans, with jam, with cheese and just with butter. It’s great for lunch and it’s something that I crave when I have been deprived of it for a while. I like it made out of 3-day-old homemade bread and I don’t like it burnt. Making it, however, has been rather energy inefficient recently. Our old toaster was rubbish – very small and unreliable in terms of the amount of toasting achieved – so I’ve been using the grill. This is ok when I’m making lots of toast, but is highly inefficient for a single piece when I’m home alone.

So, I decided we needed a new toaster and my heart sank when I thought about all the research and trying to make the most ethical decision. BUT I very quickly came across Dualit, who make toasters in the UK that are designed to last and for which you can easily buy spares, and that come in a variety of different sizes and which allow you to select how many pieces of toast you are making so that only the necessary elements are heated each time. And I thought to myself… why isn’t it always this  straightforward to find a company who do not subscribe to designed obsolescence?

And today, when it arrived, it was packed in cardboard and paper… the only tiny bits of plastic present enclosed the delivery note and took the form of the small seals to keep the box closed. So, hurrah for Dualit and here’s to many years of happy toasting.

Three Things Thursday: 20 October 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (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, I’m always pleased when a worn-out object can be repaired or have a damaged part replaced. Who would have thought, though, that it would be possible to get a replacement blade for our 15-year-old potato peeler? In fact we were so pleased that we bought a second peeler… those boxes of apples can now be peeled in half the time.

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The joy of peelers

 

Second, money. Now I know that happiness often comes from the little things in life, but let’s face it, being financially secure means we can enjoy the little things rather than constantly worrying about where our next meal is going to come from, how we are going to cover the rent/mortgage and whether we can afford to switch the heating on. Over the past year or so my much-repaired old computer has progressively been failing – broken mouse key, deteriorating keyboard, problem with overheating because of faulty power supply, software so old it is no longer supported, inability to open new format files for work… the list goes on. Anyway, when the power supply connecter came off in my hand yesterday I decided to finally admit defeat and, because we have money, we were able to just go out and buy me a brand new laptop. Hopefully it will last as many years as the old one and I won’t need to spend any more money on technology for a good long time. I still feel a bit guilty that I can’t keep the old one going, but it’s essential for my livelihood, so there really wasn’t an alternative

Third, I made this little chap and I think he’s rather fun. He’s made from yarn oddments and stuffed with organic kapok. He’s going off to Ludlow Library along with the Fair Isle mice from last week… and then possibly on a library tour (lucky bear)

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snug bear

 

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!

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!

 

 

A long-awaited repair

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In need of repair

I am slowly trying to persuade myself that sewing repairs can be fun. I’ve finally reconciled myself to darning – but only items that I made myself – and now I’m making progress with other repairs. And so it was with inspiration, but not a huge amount of enthusiasm, that I tackled this morning’s job… Mr Snail’s gardening jeans. He’s been stoically wearing these for gardening whilst simultaneously getting cold knees for ages. They are so well-used that, no matter how much they are washed, they still look grubby, but apart from that and the rips they are still functional.

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Preliminary patching with mending tape reinforcement behind

I finally decided that he deserves to have his knees both warm and dry in the garden. The latter turned out to be possible because I remembered the chewed waterproof jacket that I had put one one side after it proved just too tempting for Sam. So, out came my mending box and I set to work, using iron-on mending tape and some cotton fabric salvaged from some old pyjamas. Trouser legs are a pain to sew with a sewing machine, so everything had to be pinned then hand-stitched before I could make sure it was all extra-robust with some machine sewing. Once the mending tape was ironed into place and the cotton patches secured, I cut some large pieces of Gortex fabric and covered the whole knee area with these – sewing by hand and then by machine. The end product means Mr Snail will be able to kneel down on damp ground and still be snug and dry.

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Waterproof knees

Next job – darning a pair of bed socks – what a glamorous life I do lead!!

Axminster ate my slippers

It’s a couple of years now since I crocheted my first pair of chunky slippers… they were for Mr Snail and they looked like this:

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The originals

Then I made myself a pair, and then I made pairs for various people, all the time experimenting to find the best yarn for the job. I finally settled on Axminster carpet yarn, which seems to be the most robust (as you’d perhaps expect). This does mean, however, that some of the early versions (including my own) were made with yarn that wasn’t tough enough for the job.

Both my slippers and Mr Snail’s have had new soles made from the Axminster yarn:

But, alas, mine have continued to wear and another hole had developed (Mr Snail has a second pair, so his don’t get so much use). So, this week I have added an extra layer above the sole:

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Being gradually engulfed from the bottom up!

Gradually, my slippers are being engulfed by a layer of Axminster yarn. I wonder when they will become an entirely new pair of slippers that has simply ‘eaten’ the old ones. Have I got to the point where I am no longer mending, but creating anew?

Sadly, the company that I used to buy my Axminster yarn from have recently gone out of business. I’m currently awaiting a response from the makers of genuine Axminster carpets about whether they might be willing to supply small amounts of yarn. If not, the days of making and mending these slippers may be limited. However, Kate Chiconi did send me a wonderful pair of sheepskin slipper soles and I have set these aside to make myself a new pair of slippers with some Berber carpet wool (limited quantity as again from the sadly departed supplier) at some point… another thing on my ‘list’!

Do you have anything you have mended so much that it has now become unrecognisable?

 

Mend-day

Want to save the world today? I do, so I’m mending.

There is such a lot of waste in the UK and such profligate consumption, that one of the best things we can do to reduce our impact on the environment is to buy less. This means that we need to make the things that we already have last longer. So, buy good quality things that can be repaired… and learn how to repair them.

My first job today involved a pair of fingerless mittens… both of which have worn around the thumb. The mend is simple – just a few stitches – if undertaken now as soon as I have noticed it, but it would be a much bigger job if I left it. If I’d knitted these mitts in sock yarn, it wouldn’t have worn nearly as quickly (although I made them about 4 years ago). They were knitted in some left-over 100% wool yarn, which was going spare, so I don’t feel they’ve done badly and this repair should extend their life somewhat.

Then I moved on to a new material: Sugru. This is a mouldable glue that sets to the consistency of silicone in 24 hours. I had two repairs that I thought might be suitable – the first, involved providing some reinforcement to the point where the jack plug joins the cable of my earphones. This mend was quick and easy and I know it will work.

The second mend may not be successful. In this case I needed to re-attach the winding handle to the body of one of our wind-up torches. I think it was originally glued on, but the glue was not sufficient and so the handle has come adrift. The problem is that it’s not simply a case of fixing the handle in place – it must only be fixed to the point in the centre, so that it can continue to rotate. If the glue attaches itself to the surroundings, it won’t be possible to wind the torch to charge the battery and so it won’t work. There is an alternative, more complicated fix for this – Mr Snail could construct an external way to charge the battery (there is a socket to charge from the mains) for example by solar or a separate winder, but I’m hoping that the Sugru will work and it won’t be necessary.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Sugru works – it comes highly recommended.

So, remember, you don’t need to be a super-hero to save the world, you can do it with glue and a darning needle!

Mending box

Ready for repairs

Ready for repairs

This is my little tool box, stocked with all sorts of things that can be used for stitching, darning, patching and generally making things last longer. I’m sure that I will add to it (especially since I know I have some other darning wool, but can’t seem to put my hand on it).

I’m particularly pleased that everything in there, as well as the box itself, was already in the house. Now, I just need something to practice my boro skills on.

Where do we go from here?

National Recycle Week – Day 7

So, on this final day of National Recycle Week, I’ve been reviewing my posts and considering the future. It’s clear that recycling is simply not enough – everyone of us needs to think about using fewer resources. Just because our governments’ only measure of success is ‘economic growth’ does not mean that we have to (literally!!) buy into this. There is no such thing as sustainability that supports ever increasing consumption of physical resources. We can, however, look for growth in happiness, creativity, friendship, green spaces, homegrown vegetables… any number of factors that could be increased and could benefit us as individuals and the planet as whole.

I now know that I am not going to be able so save the planet single-highhandedly (goodbye dreams of my youth). And quite frankly, I don’t want to anymore – I want to be part of a team. Even so, I know there are still lots of things that I can do as an individual that will make a difference.

The first practical thing I am going to do is to take Sharon’s advice and put together a mending kit. Perhaps my dislike of mending will be reduced (I can’t see that I’m ever going to come to love the activity, only the results) if I have a handy tool box containing all the bits and bobs I might need for patching, darning and repairing.

So, I’ve found a box that used to house my portable sewing kit when I was a student:

A relic of my past

A relic of my past

Inside there are currently drawing pins, a bottle of ink, paper clips, treasury tags, a protractor and a few other bits and bobs that I haven’t seen for years because I haven’t opened it for years. These can join our main stash of such supplies and I’ll give it a good wash out.

Next, I’ve started putting together a collection of useful things to go in it: darning wool, thread, small scissors, a darning mushroom, mending tape a rouleau needle (for threading elastic). I’ve also used a little knitted strawberry that Sharon herself sent me as a small pin cushion, to which I’ve also added a darning needle. What else should I include? All suggestions welcome.

Things I've collected together so far

Things I’ve collected together so far

Do you have a mending box? If so, what do you keep in it?

Other than this, I’m going to be thinking about future purchases a bit more, particularly in relation to plastics and composite objects, as these are not always easy to recycle. We are fast approaching ‘plastic-free July‘ and whilst I’m not planning to participate ‘officially’ it seems like a good time to consider the whole issue and, perhaps, make some more changes.

 

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