Cutting my cloth

Some time last year – I forget when – I bought some wool fabric. It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill stuff, it was deadstock; this means it was left over from a textile or garment making factory. Deadstock has become big business and there are clothing brands that base their eco-credentials on using deadstock. I’m not convinced about this because if they have access to loads of this cheap fabric, the textile manufacturer must surely have factored selling it into their production run calculations so it’s not really waste. However, small quantities that are simply left over after garment runs must exist and seem like an interesting way to access new fabric. In fact, some deadstock is old and must have been hanging around in a warehouse for years. Whatever its origin, deadstock is usually marketed on the basis that you are saving it from going to landfill, but I’m not entirely convinced how “green” it really is. Anyway, that debate aside, I did buy a couple of pieces – one of which was a two metres or so and was all the company had available so it clearly was, if nothing else, a remnant.

Of course, buying a remnant means that you have to chose to make something that you have enough fabric for. I had something in mind for this particular piece of fabric, but according to the pattern, not enough. Well, not quite anyway. Not deterred, we laid it out and Mr Snail and I played around until we got it to fit, photographing it along the way so that we didn’t forget where everything went.

And that was the most difficult bit. After that, the construction and sewing was easy. It is an unlined jacket, but all the seams are bound, so that it’s very tidy inside.

In fact, this was a bit of a test piece because I’d like to make a waterproof version. I find it very difficult to get jackets to fit me. They tend to be straight up and down rather than shaped, so it they they fit my hips, they tend to be enormous across the shoulders. The joy of this particular jacket (The Hove Jacket by In The Folds) is that it has pleats at the top of the back, thus creating an ideal shape for someone like me. I plan to make version #2 (probably) in a Flax/Cotton dry oilskin, with cotton facings… I just need to work out how much fabric I need to buy, so we’ll be back to laying out pieces on the floor again because the pattern layout only takes account of using a single type of fabric, not combining two.

Making (the most of) what you’ve got

One of the sad things about being restricted and having to stay at home has been the not being able to go into a real live shop and make a purchase (other than for food). This applies especially to materials for crafting and, in my case, especially to yarn. However, what it has done is made me look at the yarn I already have and consider how I would like to use it. Over the past year I have made various things out of yarn in my stash and using scraps left over from other projects:

As time has gone on, the amount of yarn I have has reduced and I have been looking at some that sits firmly in the “?” category. One such yarn was some 5-ply gansey wool that I won a few years ago in a raffle. There was plenty to make an actual gansey, but the more it sat there, the more I realised that I didn’t actually want one. So, after the success of the Southern Pines sweater (made from wool that I did get new this year), I thought I’d have another go at the pattern and tweak it a bit. Being the wrong gauge of yarn compared to the pattern I had to slightly adjust the sizing, plus I decided to make it longer and slightly A-line in shape. It turned out to be a relatively quick make and I managed to remember to wear it for an outdoor photo-op with the hounds:

It’s not a colour that I would normally have chosen, but actually I think it’s going to be quite versatile and the wool will certainly be hard wearing. Now I’m rummaging though my remaining yarn and trying to think of even more creative makes with what I have available.

Mend It Monday, 1 March 2021

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus*

Today, I’m reviving my Mend It Monday posts. I dropped them last time because I was sure everyone was getting fed up with seeing another sock that I had darned. There is a sock today, but I also mended something else this week, that Mr Snail thought was beyond repair, so I wanted to share it.

We enjoy feeding the birds in the garden. We don’t see anything especially stunning, but it is nice to watch the sparrows and other small birds enjoying the seeds we put out. We’ve got several feeders designed for birds that hang on, but were short of something that those who like to perch could use, so in the autumn last year, Mr Snail ordered what looked like a suitable feeder – it’s plastic, but since you are supposed to wash them regularly, that seemed like an ok option. Online ordering is fraught with risk and when said feeder arrived, he was rather disappointed – it’s fairly flimsy and difficult to fill. In fact, the design could have been much, much better. However, once it had arrived, we decided we’d use it rather than send it back, and, to be fair, all the birds did seem to like it. We take the feeders in at night to avoid unwanted nocturnal visitors and, unfortunately, one morning when putting them back out Mr Snail dropped this new one and it shattered. There were rather a lot of pieces – mainly the tray that the seeds sit in – and some were very small. As I mentioned, Mr Snail thought it was too far gone to be mended, but I decided to get the Sugru out and give it a shot.

The tray required some reinforcing, so I found a sheet of clear plastic that I used to use for paper-making (something I haven’t done for ages) and cut out an appropriately sized circle. Then I pieced the fragments together on top of this plastic, joining and anchoring them with Sugru. It turned out that one piece had completely disappeared, so I filled the hole with Sugru. We left it to dry for 24 hours and then hung it out once more. It’s been fine for the past week, so fingers crossed it will hold together for another season or two.

My other recent mend was a pair of long-forgotten socks… ones that I didn’t actually knit myself, but someone else did. These got very holey some years ago and had been languishing with the walking boots ever since. I came across them a week or two ago and decided that they were repairable. I didn’t try to colour-match my mending yarn because they are bright and stripy, so I wasn’t going to be successful no matter what. There were actually quite a lot of holes, but I worked on them all and now I can wear them again. There has probably been other darning since I last wrote a Mend It Monday post, but I’m sure you believe me without seeing the evidence (I have got very lax with my photography of late).

-oOo-

  • Happy Saint David’s Day

ScrapHatty February 2021

As I have mentioned before, over the periods of lockdown (we’re currently in #3, which started before Christmas) we’ve come to know people in our immediate community much better than we did before… after all, they are almost the only people we get to talk to in the flesh. This means that a 45 minute dog walk can take anything up to an hour and a half if it’s a dry day and people are in their gardens or out for a walk themselves.

So, what has this got to do with scraps? Well, all this chatting means we get to know each other better – to find out about each other’s interests and hobbies – and to let each other know if we need something. Which is why, as we were passing the other day, Beryl (who lives on the corner of our road) asked me whether I might have a knitting pattern (knitting, mind you, as she doesn’t crochet) for a hat with both ear flaps and a visor. I told her I’d try to find one on-line (she does not use the internet at all) and came home full of confidence. I settled down and searched and searched, but to no avail. I did find a nice crocheted version, but not one knitting pattern. Mr Snail suggested that I could write one for her, but I just couldn’t face that, so I bought the crochet version, rummaged about in my scraps, located a hook of the correct size and “voila!”

The plain red yarn was left over from making Mr Snail’s first pair of long socks to wear in his wellies, and the scrap of slightly variegated yarn for the edging has been hanging round, unloved, for ages.

So, a quick make, that has been an immediate hit with its recipient… I do love creating something useful from my scraps.

-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:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, 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 and Noreen

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.

Making: no waste

One of the things that irks me about making my own clothes is the fact that I often end up with lots of scraps that I can’t bear to throw away. There are sewing patterns for clothes specifically designed to use every bit of fabric, but I have not yet come across one that I’m burning to make. Knitting and crochet also leave waste yarn, although I tend to be better at using this up than I am with fabric. However, some approaches lend themselves to waste minimisation, for example working top down when you are crocheting or knitting. Starting at the bottom of a garment means that you have to be sure you have enough yarn to finish it – you can’t decide that you can stop 10 rows from the end or that it doesn’t matter if you only have one and a half sleeves. On the other hand, if you work from the top down, you can do all the fiddly bits with the neckline and armholes, plus the sleeves (to your desired length) before you get on with the body. Then, you can make the body as long as your yarn lasts. And if there isn’t enough for it to be long enough for your requirements, you can always add a band in a contrasting colour at the bottom and look like it was intended.

I’m pleased to say that the top-down approach worked perfectly with the Southern Pines jumper that I have just finished. I completed to well below the armholes first, added the sleeves and worked the neck border before finally moving on the the lower body. With some careful tension adjustment in the last round, I was able to get to the end with just a few centimetres of yarn to spare. The pattern is worked so that there are no seams, so the only finishing that is required is working in the ends… all that was left as waste was these few ends.

But my waste-free crafting didn’t end there. I have been waking up recently with a stiff neck and I think at least part of the problem is my pillows, which have got rather flattened over the years. I have read that wool-stuffed pillows are very good – lots of support and with natural anti-dust mite properties) and I have a large bag of wool stuffing. I rummaged around for some suitable fabric and came across a remnant that originated from the same place as the patterned stuff I used to make the dog bed inner a couple of months ago (which means I’ve had it since the mid-1980s). A bit of measuring and I discovered that there was exactly the right about to make two pillows, and not a centimetre of fabric left over. Actually, I’ve only made one so far, because I want to sleep on it and decide how comfortable it is, and whether it’s got the right amount of stuffing in it. I’ll make the second once I know… and there will not have been any waste.

I quite enjoy using scraps, but it really is nice to complete some projects that are scrap-free.

Supporting small

Over recent months many small businesses have found themselves in a precarious situation – unable to open shops, sell at markets – making it all the more important that we support them now to ensure their future existence. We Snails have done our very best to buy from small traders over the past 10 months and have managed to source the majority of our food that way – luckily in our part of the world there are many, many small food producers and an abundance of independent retailers. In addition, we’ve been able to access direct from some producers via the internet. I know that people who cannot go to the shops have found the big supermarkets to be a lifeline, but those of us who are able to shop locally can play our part in making sure that people in our community who have small businesses continue not only to survive, but to thrive. Plus, many of our local small businesses have gone the extra mile to support the vulnerable in our community – delivering emergency supplies at short notice, for example – something that you simply wouldn’t get from big companies. In addition, many small businesses, despite suffering themselves, have donated to local food banks and other charities supporting the needy.

Aside from shops that sell food, other retailers have found the last year even more of a challenge. Even well-established companies are being affected. I noticed that Baa Ram Ewe, producers of fabulous British wool (including the stuff I made my latest fingerless mittens out of), have had to resort to crowd funding to give their business a chance of surviving (here is the link). Whilst I have been at home, I have tried to make the majority of my on-line purchases of materials for making things from small, independent companies, but I also keep an eye open for very small enterprises who are crowdfunding. And this is how I came across Midwinter Yarns, who were trying to collect enough money to produce a Welsh wool to add to their range. They are based in Scotland, but have Welsh connections and their wool sounded lovely (you can read about it here, although their crowdfunder was successful and closed last summer).

My contribution was sufficient to receive six skeins of their hand-dyed yarn. The wool arrived a few weeks ago and so I needed to find a pattern that would be suitable for the amount of yarn available. Having gone out of my usual comfort zone and chosen a sludgy green colour (the photo on the left below is closest to the actual colour), I wanted to make something appropriate, which I think I found with Southern Pines by Dora Does.

It’s worked top down, all in one piece, so there’s no sewing up at the end. I had a bit of an issue early on in the pattern, but Michelle, the designer. was amazingly helpful, even though it turned out that the problem was me being dim rather than an issue with the pattern itself. It will have long (or at least 3/4) sleeves, and I’ll make the body as long as uses up all the yarn – this is one of the joys of top-down garments. I plan to make a skirt to wear with it out of some grey and white fabric I have with a design called “crop circles” (the fabric was from an independent on-line store, but more on that in a future post). So, a new outfit in hand all from small, businesses – long may they survive.

ScrapHappy January 2021

In mid-December I came across a lovely pattern that I just had to buy a copy of because it looked like a prefect way to use up some scraps. I optimistically thought that I would have it completed for Christmas, but it took much longer than that and so, I give you my New Year ScrapHappy Wreath. All the yarn was left over from other projects and there are some antique mother of pearl buttons nestled in there too. The ring it is constructed around was given to me by my mum years ago and has been sitting unused on a shelf ever since, awaiting inspiration. In fact, I didn’t follow the pattern exactly, and just used the elements that I wanted. Indeed, because I had a shaped ring already, my version is much more three-dimensional than the original, which is mounted on a cardboard ring.

In fact, it didn’t use up a lot of yarn, as each component is small, but it has certainly inspired me… I envisage making some collages and plan to start a box of small crocheted things made from scraps, to put together, perhaps in an old frame, when I have a large enough collection. In fact a rummage around has yielded a few crochet flowers left over from old projects, so I already have the beginnings.

-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.

ScrapHappy December 2020

Thank goodness for ScrapHappy – without it I might never post!

As we continue with our enforced time at home, I realise how many items with potential to use in ScrapHappy projects there are about the place. Currently, in our living room, there is a big heap of yarn left over from past projects and I am trying to make use of at least some of it. The easiest and quickest thing to make is granny squares, so this past month I dug out all the double knitting (ish) wool that really is wool, or at least mostly wool. I seemed to have quite a lot of earthy tones and they came together quite quickly in a rather nice lap blanket. As a bonus, I was able to incorporate a few squares left over from the woolly dog bed I made a while ago. It didn’t reduce the heap as much as I had hoped, but every little helps.

And mention of the dog bed reminds me that I decided it finally needed a new cushion as the old one was not very nice and the stuffing was squashed almost flat. I dug through my fabric scraps and found an old roll end of some furnishing fabric. I knew I’d had it a long time, but I was a bit shocked to discover that it was actually marked with a date… 1985! About time I got round to using this particular scrap:

A cosy cushion for dogs

-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.

Months of yarny makes

Being trapped at home over the past few months has not inspired me to write much, but I have been busy making, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve been up to…

There’s been plenty of crochet and a bit of knitting. I finally got round to completing a coatigan in Jacob wool for my friend Kt. This latter project got held up whilst I awaited the arrival of some beautiful handmade toggles, plus I added some pockets , which the original pattern did not include. It has gone to it’s new home now and seems to be greatly appreciated.

I made a duffle bag – a kit from the lovely Little Box of Crochet, who I’ve taken out a subscription with to provide me with a parcel of cheerfulness and inspiration every two months. Although the pattern didn’t suggest it, I lined the bag, which I think will make it much more useable. It’s rather subtle bleached driftwood colors, so I chose a nice bright green lining to provide a startling contrast. I also made a poinsettia mandala, which uses a surface crochet technique that was new to me and can be used to produce lovely effects., Then there was a tiny Daisy-alike using a pattern from Toft. Finally, there has also been a bit of knitting in the form of a pair of socks which had been hanging around unfinished for months prior to all this staying at home business and which I finally got round to working on because I needed a portable project to take with me when I went on a mission of mercy that required a lot of waiting around.

I’ve also made some more Dorset buttons after my initial trials. First, a peacock brooch and then a variety of sizes to form a necklace. They are fun to make and I think many future projects are likely to incorporate them.

As the winter draws in and we’ll be spending even more time at home, I’m planning a big scrap yarn project plus I have plenty of lovely wool just waiting for inspiration to strike, so I don’t think I shall be short of more yarny creativity for a while yet.

A Dorset adventure

Actually, despite travel restrictions being eased, I am staying firmly at home, with any visits restricted to friends in the area. So, what have I been doing in Dorset? Well, nothing, actually, but I have made some of their buttons…

Dorset buttons are something that I’ve wanted to have a go at making for ages, so when I saw kits for sale I thought that would provide me with an ideal introduction. Making these buttons dates back to the early 1600s, and at its height their production constituted a cottage industry in Dorset, employing over 4000 people. When the technology was developed to make buttons by machine, the Dorset button industry was destroyed and the skill all but disappeared. However, it was not entirely lost.

Dorset buttons are made by weaving/stitching yarn onto ring. You begin by blanket-stitching around a metal ring, then make “spokes” across it before weaving your yarn in a spiral around these spokes. By back-stitching and stretching the yarn across more than one spoke, it’s possible to create all sorts of different patterns, like these :

These are my first attempts, and I’m rather pleased with how they came out. Never again will I be disappointed because I can’t find buttons to match an item I’ve knitted or crocheted.

The company I got my kit from is called Beaker Button. They make lovely kits including hand-dyed yarn, all packaged in reusable bags and with no plastic. IMGP8317

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