Scrap Happy October

Last winter I knitted quite a few pairs of socks and for each I bought a ball of yarn. But each pair uses less than a ball so I had a basket full of 4 ply yarn in various colours. It sat there looking at me reproachfully! But what to do with them?

The first chilly morning of the autumn came a week or two ago and when I put on my coat to walk the dogs after breakfast I decided it was time to get my gloves out. One pair was in holes and when we got back home the other was soaking wet because it had started to rain. I really need two pairs each winter so that I always have a dry pair. Inspiration!

The pattern I used last time was for DK yarn but looking through my books I found this one I bought second hand at a craft fair a few years ago.

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And in it a pattern for gloves in 4 ply with a fair isle pattern. It is such an old book the pictures are all in black and white!

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Unfortunately for me the pattern said to buy one ball of the background colour and one each of the pattern shades. Clearly it did not takes several balls of yarn to make one pair of gloves! But there I was with an unknown quantity of yarn in each left over ball and an unknown quantity required for the gloves. Hmmm!

Putting different balls side by side I decided to use some plain purple for the unpatterned parts and some self striping blue for the area where the fair isle should go. I rather like the result.

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I still had yarn left over on each ball and would probably have had enough of just one but I think the contrast works rather well. Now I just have to decide whether to make more gloves or find another use for the rest of the yarn. Mrs Snail’s granny squares look nice so maybe….

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Where did it go?

Did you notice I had not blogged for a while? Did you fantasise that I was soaking up the sun somewhere exotic? On a retreat where all access to the outside world was banned? Nope! Nothing so exciting or unusual. Just busy. You know what I mean – one minute it was early July and then the next it is October!

So where did Summer go? I actually had to check my diary!

There have been visits. I went to stay with my daughter for a weekend so we could go to IKEA for inspiration. I want to turn the old utility room into spare bedrooms. It was originally the garage so is big enough to attract a lot of ‘might come in useful one day’ clutter. 18 months ago I had a new shed built on an existing concrete slab to make a replacement utility space and am waiting for a local builder to come and fit it out for me. Meanwhile I am going through the old one getting rid of things – there is space on the shelves no as you can see in the picture! – and will eventually turn it into 2 spare bedrooms. I wanted to see what ideas I could pick up and knew that IKEA has a reputation for clever small space solutions. The nearest to here is Cardiff which is a long haul so I decided to visit my daughter and go with her to the one in Reading. To make it more of an adventure we got the bus into Basingstoke, the train to Reading and then another bus right to the door of IKEA. No navigating, no parking, we were able to look out of the windows and enjoy the journey whilst chatting as much as we liked.

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My son brought his 3 young foster children so there was an excuse to go to the beach and picnic in his camper van. And we went to a friend’s smallholding to pick damsons and see the animals. No pictures because as looked after children I am not allowed to publish their pictures.

My daughter came to stay and we visited another smallholding where I had a go at milking a goat. A bad idea that – now I want one!

And of course there were meals with friends – at their homes, in cafes and here. The deck really came into its own this summer.

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The utility room is not the only space to be de-cluttered. I am on a roll here. The house has been purged and now needs decorating (if only to get rid of the marks where I have taken down shelves!)The workshop is next.

There have been visits with the Permaculture networks which will get posts of their own in the next few weeks. And a lot happening at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust which I will also write about separately.

I went on a course at Stiwdio 3 in Cardigan (find out more here) to learn how to make a pair of espadrilles with the lovely Nia Denman and had a fantastic day. C & M Organics held another market – just one this year – where I spent more than I should have but got some really good plants as well as food. The Golden Thread Theater Company, normally based in Cardiff put on a performance at the Small World Theater in Cardigan which was a fascinating evening. They invite members of the audience to share very short stories of moments in their lives which the players then turn into improvised performances. The theme of the evening was ‘belonging’ which resulted in a huge range of stories and emotions. (you can find them on facebook)

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In between all those things I have tended the garden, continued to write up my Permaculture Diploma and foraged for blackberries, elderberries and sloes which I have bottled and made into jam. Now the weather has turned wet and windy, the nights are drawing in and hopefully I can get back to blogging.

Scrap Happy August – a gate

It was too wet to work outside and I was struggling to think of something useful for Rob to do under cover when it occurred to me to offer to teach him how to make things out of green wood by us making a gate together. The one to the veg patch was an old one made out of slate lath and whilst it did the job it was not as beautiful or interesting as I wanted it to be.

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When we cut firewood last winter we had stacked some straight logs on the North side of the greenhouse where they would stay cool and slightly damp as material for just such a project.

We selected some pieces that would give us the right lengths and split them with the fro. Half rounds for the frame and eighths for the slats. (And yes the fro is the origin of ‘to and fro’)

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The side axe cleaned them all up a bit and roughly shaped the tenons on each end of the top and bottom rails. More detailed shaping was done with the drawknife on the shave horse.

The only powered tool we used was an electric drill to cut 2 holes for each mortice in the side uprights (which were then chiselled out to make oval holes) and pilot holes for the nails that hold the slats in place. I have since bought an augur bit for cutting the mortices by hand. The skill is in cutting the joints so they all go together smoothly even though the wood is curved and twisted!

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By the end of the day it was all put together. The only money spent was on a pair of new hinges. Not a bad result for a load of firewood!

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and we all share our projects on the 15th of the month. You can see all the posts by using these links.

Kate, Gun, Titti, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L (me!)

Scrap Happy July

Or how to be inspired by some-one else’s rubbish!

My neighbour has been doing a lot of work on his house and a large pile of rubble built up on his driveway. Some was taken by builders working on an extension to another house nearby which had to be built up over a slope so they dumped it under the floor. Someone else wanted some to put in a field gate that was very muddy but they never came for it. So most of it just sat there.

Meanwhile I was fed up with the area between the garden around the conservatory and the slope down to the lower garden. It is full of bindweed which makes walking from the deck to the workshop and woodshed hazardous. I found myself detouring through the garden and greenhouse to a better path. Plus the bindweed jumped the timber edge (or tunneled under it) and came up to strangle my plants. I scythed it down but what I needed was a hard path to give it some serious discouragement.

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Brainwave!

I got Rob (who lives in the cabin and works 2 days in place of rent) on the job. First we needed something to contain the rubble. Many years ago John and I bought some heavy lengths of treated timber to build raised beds and there were a few left over. One was still in the car-port. To hold it in place he used some fence pins put aside because they were bent which he cut up into shorter straight pieces. Then I found 2 rolls of mulch fabric in the garden shed which were more than enough to cover the space and be stapled to the sides.

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The next day we scoured the garden for abandoned concrete blocks left over from other projects. There were two stacks on the veg patch smothered in ivy, a few beside the path through the fruit garden, another stack in the old pig sty and several others dotted around the car port and drive area. Those we laid to make the main path. (There are still a few left in the pig sty in case another scrappy project comes along!) Then we filled in with rubble barrowed down from the neighbour’s heap.

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When (When..) we get some rain it will all settle but we did not use all the rubble so we can top it up. And when it finishes settling I will buy (yes, sorry, buy) some sand or gravel to finish the job neatly.

So not quite a totally scrappy job but almost!

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate who blogs as ‘Tall tales from Chiconia’. You can find her and links to all the other happy scrappers here

Tick Tock

Time has been much on my mind lately.

Yet again there is not enough of it for me to do everything I want to do. And not, it seems, only for me; almost every blog I have read lately has started with an apology for not having posted much lately. But when I think about what I have achieved over the last month or two it suggests I have not been that much of a slouch! The garden is very green (even if a lot of the growth is weeds) and I am eating something from it every day. I have visited and had visitors, been to events, written up more of my diploma… I just haven’t done as much as I hoped and intended.

When I am waiting for a bus / train / appointment time drags very slowly. When I am trying-to-get-everything-done-by.. it races past. Which is odd because according to science each second is exactly the same length as every other. According to the National Physical Laboratory ‘The second is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the caesium frequency ∆ν, the unperturbed ground-state hyperfine transition frequency of the caesium 133 atom, to be 9 192 631 770 when expressed in the unit Hz, which is equal to s−1. The wording of the definition was updated in 2019.’ I am not sure why that definition was chosen or how they know, but it sounds impressive and they seem pretty sure it ensures that seconds cannot wriggle around and change their length! But I am equally sure that they do in the real, lived world!

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I love clocks, preferably ones which tick and chime although with my deteriorating hearing I notice them less. My favourite is the grandfather clock I inherited from my mother’s oldest sister and which passes from woman to woman through the family. My aunt was childless hence it coming to me. In due course it will go to my daughter and then to her daughter. There is only one place in the living room where it can go because it is tall and the ceiling, though undulating, is low. For telling the time it is hopeless! It runs for eight days between re-windings, though I try to do it every Sunday so I remember, and is usually at least an hour wrong by then. When we first got it we decided that since it was not reliable for knowing the time we would set it to local time which here is 18 minutes behind GMT and we pay no attention to British Summer Time. However this summer, as last, it refuses to go at all. This old house moves as the temperature and rainfall cycle through the year and at the moment doors are sticking and the old clock has stopped. In the autumn I will find it will go again. It clearly lives in its own little world where seconds are constantly changing in length.

Then there is the face of the old Postman’s Alarm clock which stopped working and no-one could get to go again. The chains and weights needed such a long drop that it was very hard to find somewhere to hang it. I replaced the old mechanism with a battery one and it now lives in the porch.

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The one on the oven returns to noon whenever we have a power cut however momentary. It is often the only way I know there was one. If that happens the oven refuses to come on until the clock has been reset. Why? Why does it have to know the the time to be able to get hot?

The laptop, tablet and my mobile phone also have accurate clocks, updated by their internet connections and no doubt accurate to the fraction of a second – but only useful when they are switched on!

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I have other reliable clocks for knowing when I need to go out or expect visitors. They are battery operated and radio controlled. The packaging on one boasted it was accurate to ‘one second in a thousand years’ though I doubt if anyone will be able to hold them to that. Nor do I understand why any ordinary person would require that degree of accuracy.

Apart from when I need to be somewhere at a particular time most of my life is lived by approximate time. I get up when I wake and go to bed when I am tired. I eat when my internal clock tells me I should. In winter days are short and evenings long. In summer it is the reverse. The transition between the two is gradual – none of this disconcerting springing forward and falling back. So presumably the time will come when life is more leisurely and blog posts more frequent. You can decide for yourselves if that is a threat or a promise!

Now my highly accurate internal clock is saying it is time for a cup of tea so that is what I will do next.

Scrap Happy June: Introducing Ada Phitt

Some time ago I came across an idea for a home-made dressmakers dummy. Where I saw it I cannot remember and it was quite some time before I decided to have a go. There were two reasons it caught my eye. Firstly it would be exactly my size and shape – much more accurate than a shop bought one even if theoretically adjustable. Secondly I could make it all from things I had in stock and mostly from scrap. So please welcome (drum roll please) the lovely Ada Phitt

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OK so she is no beauty, but then neither am I, and she has not been improved by a spell in the attic whilst I used the studio as an extra bedroom. She does her job well though.

If you fancy making one of your very own it is easy as long as you have an assistant you are happy to allow to see you in old underwear. I asked my daughter to help. You will need 2 old T-shirts, some rolls of duct tape (I think we used 2 but err on the side of caution – you cannot ash out to the local DIY store in the middle of this!), a pair of scissors, some old cushions, pillows or other stuffing material, a broom handle and a base for a garden parasol (mine was one of the plastic ones you fill with water or sand).

Put on the tattiest of the old T-shirts and invite your assistant to wrap you in duct tape. Over the shoulders, round the tops of the arms, then round and round the torso to the largest part of the hips. The tape should be snug but not so tight you can’t breathe. And wrinkles or large overlaps are to be avoided. Needless to say, at this point we were both laughing so much we nearly wet ourselves!

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Once the shell is complete your assistant needs to release you by cutting right up the back. This is why I wore old underwear – it would be so easy to cut through a bra strap or nick your knickers!

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Rejoin the cut edges with more tape, then stuff the shell with the old cushions. I found it best to put the first cushion under the neck opening to stop the pole going right through, then put some more stuffing in without filling her completely. Then I pushed the broom handle up her spine before arranging more stuffing to wedge it in place. Finally put the pole into the stand and cover her with another old T-shirt so you have something to pin to. If the stuffing migrates a bit over time, as Ada’s seems to have done, it is easy tidy it up when you want to use her.

You can, of course take the pole out of the body and the stand and store them all separately if space is limited.

Then enjoy making clothes that fit YOU perfectly.

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate who blogs as ‘Tall tales from Chiconia’. You can find her and links to all the other happy scrappers here

The Rules of Knitting

You may remember that a while ago I wrote a post about things I had been making, including 2 cushions. (If you missed it you can read it here) One was a present for my daughter and made of fabric, the other was knitted using some wool left over from another project. I noticed that I made the fabric one during the day and the knitted one in the evening whilst sitting with my feet up. Which sort of made sense – to cut out fabric on a big table or to sew on the machine I go into my studio over the utility room. To go up there after dark when it is colder took more effort than sitting in front of the fire.

But now spring has come, the evenings are light and the weather is warm and still I only do sewing in the day! Then I realised that I had inherited this pattern from my mother. The more I thought about it the more curious it seemed. It was only when I began to remember my childhood home that it all began to make sense.

My mother kept her hand powered singer sewing machine (so no integral light!) in the tiny ‘boxroom’ which had a fold out camp bed for visitors but was essentially used for storage. To use the machine she carried it down to the living room and used the dining table so it had to be put away in order to serve the evening meal. After that she would sit with my father and watch TV – and knit at the same time.

I also realised that, like many houses of that era, there were no table lamps, and certainly nothing like the flexible task lamps we have now. In fact, I now remember, there wasn’t even a standard lamp which she could have had by her chair. Each room had a central pendant light so that to do sewing involved moving a table so that the light fell on it (but never as bright a light as I would expect to have now) or positioning it in front of a window. Another reason for sewing in daylight. Knitting, of course, can be done with weaker light – at least if it is fairly simple. Hers always was rather ‘functional’! Endless plain jumpers in sensible colours.

Now my studio is well lit with strip lights down each side of the ceiling and a choice of task lights. I have a fan heater in there so that I can be warm whatever the outside temperature.

So Why? Oh Why? can I not sew in the evening or knit in the afternoon? But I feel ‘all wrong’ if I try!

If you are still bound by old, irrelevant rules I would love to hear about them. I would feel less stupid!