Scrap Happy April

A while ago I posted that I had decided to use the Take a Stitch Tuesday posts by Sharon at Pintangle to learn a wider range of embroidery stitches. Cathy commented that she was following Anne Brookes 52 tags series for a similar reason. So I investigated that and it seemed more about creatively using stitches rather than learning them so it seemed that doing both would be helpful

I duly went online and bought a pack of tags and once they arrived tried the first challenge even though I was now a few weeks behind! It was to be all white. I watched her video tutorial and set to work. By the end of the evening I had a tag but was simply frustrated!

As it is ages since I did much dressmaking I have very limited supplies of trimmings and my buttons are quite large. Everything felt out of proportion to the size of the tag. Meanwhile the small piece of fabric was very fiddly to handle. It probably didn’t help that I chose a scrap of an old loosely woven damask tablecloth as the base fabric. I liked the white on white design of the weave but it stretched and wobbled far too much. I was tempted to give up on the whole thing but remembered seeing on other blogs cards and postcards made with embroidery so decided to have a go with a larger ‘tag’.

I also found the video unhelpful – once I had seen what Anne had done I found it hard to get that out of my head and invent my own design. So I watched just the first few seconds of the next few and wrote down the theme as my starting point. That probably means I have gone totally off piste but the whole idea was that this is for me so I am modifying it to suit myself.

Week 2 was a heart. I cut an A4 sheet of card (I have nearly a ream of the stuff so can afford to muck about) into 4 ‘postcards’ and had a lovely evening playing. I found a ball of narrow ribbon which someone gave me and tried using that for embroidery. I used stitches I had learned on the Pintangle challenge so combining the 2 ‘courses’. It came out with a slightly ‘vintage’ feel which wasn’t intentional!

Week 3 was sewing ruffles – not inspiring for me! So I didn’t do it! On to week 4 which was to play with fly stitch.

Luckily at that point a friend who has been clearing out her Mother’s house (Mum has chosen to go into a home after a fall) brought me a bag of embroidery and tapestry threads she had found in a drawer so I had more choice.

The last few weeks have been particularly busy and these challenges are supposed to be fun so I am trying very hard to shut out the ‘ought’ voice and do them only when I have time and energy rather than allowing myself to be driven to do one of each every week. This probably means it will take me well over a year to complete them and I will almost certainly continue to ignore any that do not appeal. However I think the tags one will certainly help free me up to be more creative.

All I need to do now is find a use for the other 99 luggage tags!

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun on the 15th of each month. The links below are to the amazingly creative contributors who make interesting things out of scraps that most people would throw away.

Kate (me!)Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, NancyDawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, Preeti and Edith

Scrap Happy February

When I gave myself that ‘good talking to’ back in early January I decided I needed to try some new craft things. The limitation was that anything I did had to use materials I already had. Partly this was because my collection of ‘stuff’ has reached unmanageable proportions and partly because I can’t go out and buy new. I could order online but I want to support my local businesses who have had a terrible year and that means waiting until they open again and then restocking.

Two things snagged my attention over the following few days. One was an embroidery course run by Sharon B at Pintangle. I had been thinking of having another go at embroidery so decided to increase my range of stitches. That is using scrap fabric and thread from my stash but will be another post.

The second was inspired by a post from Jean at ‘One Small Stitch’ (http://www.onesmallstitch.wordpress.com) showing pictures of a teddy bear she was making using the Japanese technique of boro. She had mentioned boro before and I am sure I looked it up at the time but had forgotten so I googled it again. Near the top of the results page was a piece from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London ‘How to make your own boro bag’ with a pdf of instructions to download. Boro, it turns out, was how Japanese peasants kept clothed. Only posh people were allowed to wear cotton so peasants wore cloth that was less robust. And peasants (as I know only too well!) are hard on their clothes. When a kimono got torn or holed a patch was sewn on but since the patch was probably also thin and weak it was reinforced with stitching. Over time the whole garment became patched patches with none of the original fabric visible. The result was a beautiful piece of art!

As it happened I needed some new shopping bags. I had just made one from two layers of plain sheeting and decorated it with a hexie flower I had made ages ago for I can’t remember what project. Nice, quick but involved getting the sewing machine out.

A second bag to experiment with boro seemed a good way to use up small scraps and learn a new skill. If the result was not great it didn’t matter – it would still hold shopping! I followed the instructions given and did all the stitching horizontal and vertical to create a sort of loose darn overall.

I rather like it but I also learned a lot!

I did the stitching with some crochet cotton which was rather too thick and made it hard to pull the needle and thread through where there were 3 layers of fabric. It does stand out well though.

My stitching is not as even as I thought it would be. Partly because different fabrics offered different resistance as did varying numbers of layers and partly because I thought I was better at stitching neatly than I am!

And my lines wander! Should I mark them with a ruler or accept that peasants wouldn’t bother? Hope that I get better at keeping them straight? Is the irregularity charming or untidy?

Other articles I found online said that the lines could be diagonal or arranged to give a pattern of crosses. And that the patches didn’t have to be rectangular.

I decided to have another go and this time make a padded mat for the table, I included some circular patches which I stitched in concentric circles and varied the direction of the lines on the rest. (with uneven stitch length and wobbly lines crosses were not an option!) I also used finer crochet cotton. The mostly single lines and thinner thread would give less strength on a shopping bag but on a mat I rather liked the freedom it gave me. I layered it with some left over batting and made a back from an old pillowcase folding it over to the front to bind the edges and stitching it with more boro lines.

It is proving rather addictive! It uses small scraps which could be colour co-ordinated but needn’t be. The stitching is a rhythmic movement that takes very little brain space so is perfect for keeping my hands busy while I listen to a podcast or when I am too tired to manage a complex pattern. Now what shall I make next?

On the 15th of each month Kate and Gun (links below) curate posts where we write about things made entirely from scrap. For inspiration on what to do with all those bits that are ‘too good to throw away’ look here. Most are using textiles but not all – there are things to make from wood and clever repairs here too.

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

Scrap Happy #1 for 2020!

Actually these are things I made last year but were Christmas presents so had to stay secret until now!

John’s immune system had been very damaged by all the chemotherapy so we hardly ever saw our grandchildren and in consequence struggled to know what they might like for Christmas or Birthdays and what they already had We got into the habit of sending a small token gift and putting what we would have expected to spend into a bank account so that we could help fund things like school trips that their parents might struggle to afford. I still send them either just a card or a small handmade something. This year, for grandson number 2, who is 19 and currently has a small motorbike, I will top up what his Mum can afford for driving lessons for him to ensure he is able to pass his test.

Anyway, this years gift to all the grandchildren, including the fostered ones, was based on a free pdf download pattern from Ann Wood handmade. I chose to do more embroidery on mine than she specifies and used beads not small buttons for the eyes. It used very small scraps, part of a reel of ribbon I had been given, left over embroidery thread, stuffing from stock and a lot of love.

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun (see links below) on the 15th of the month. Not everyone posts every time but if you want inspiration for using up scrap this is the place to look!

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

Scrap Happy December

A few years ago I decided that what I needed in the sitting room was a low coffee table that would double as a footstool and was not too high so that it didn’t stop the eye-line across the room which is small. I found a small pallet that part of the heating system was delivered on which I painted and added a set of castors which I found in the workshop so that it can be moved around. I debated making a cushion for the top but in the end decided tht a slab of foam would be better for it’s coffee table function.

I embroidered a cover for it using a piece of calico left over from making curtains and embroidery threads I have had for ages – I think some inherited from aunts who died!

My cats think it is a lovely spot for a snooze! Unfortunately in this weather they are usually damp and muddy and you can perhaps see that the cover is grubby with pawprints. I realised that what I need is a second cover so that I can wash them more frequently – like every time a visitor is coming and I want the place to look nice!

I didn’t want a plain piece of fabric, haven’t time or inclination to embroider another one, hadn’t got a piece of patterned stuff that was the right size or colour so chose to do some simple patchwork. Those of you who do precision patchwork please stop reading NOW! If I want precision I do hand stitched hexies. This is high speed ‘it’ll do’ patchwork!

I have lots of sheeting and similar weight fabric in my collection, most of it from old duvet covers and sheets which my neighbour gave me. I tore 4 inch strips, cut them to random lengths and joined them, again randomly, into one long snake. Then cut that into the width of the top plus an inch for seams and joined them side by side. It turned out I had been a bit over enthusiastic and had enough to make a pair of fronts for cushions too. The piece for the stool top is applied to another piece of calico and the cushions are backed by more sheeting. Quick to make, cheerful. goes with anything and easy to remove and wash – What’s not to like?

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun on the 15th of each month – a collection of posts about things made from scrap. Not everyone posts every month but follow the links below for lots of inspiring ideas.

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

Half Scrappy, Quite Happy October

I am again joining in Scrap Happy curated by Kate on the 15th of each month – a celebration of things made from scraps of all kinds. Do visit the other posts – the links are at the end of this post.

You may remember that a short while ago I visited a neighbour who then discovered that she had to self-isolate after spending time with her Dad who had gone on to test positive for Covid-19. I chose to stay away from people too just in case I had picked it up from her. In the event neither of us became ill but as new doors were being fitted downstairs I spent 2 days in the bedroom keeping away from the workmen.

Amongst other things I made a pair of slippers using scraps and a pair of espadrille soles.

I found that the backs were not stiff enough and flopped down so they were always under my feet and uncomfortable. But I had thrown out my old slippers so I had to make a new pair before I could alter these!

I found a book of patterns for knitted and crocheted slippers but they were effectively just sloppy socks of various lengths and I need ones with soles as my hard floors are quite cold to walk on. I decided to make a pair and stitch them to a spare pair of espadrille soles! If they were unwearable I could always undo the stitching and use the soles for something else and wear the slippers as thick socks!

I chose a pattern which was obviously translated (not entirely accurately) from one of the Nordic languages and used a yarn I could not track down to find what weight it was. Google gave me images but suggested it was a brand rather than a specific weight yarn. I eventually worked out that using aran doubled could give me the correct tension.

A while back I knitted myself a jumper using a pattern in an old book of traditional designs. This one is a Whitby Guernsey made with Aran weight yarn. There is no shaping at all. For those of you not from the UK Whitby is a fishing port on the North East Coast and in the old days fishermen on the trawlers wore these heavy jumpers. Often the design worked on them indicated the port and / or family so that if they drowned and were washed up later they could be identified – slightly ghoulish but very pragmatic.

The guernsey used just over 1 ball of yarn so I had almost a full ball left. That had to be enough for the slippers and was the only colour in my stash that looked like being sufficient. I am not sure how long the slippers will last – it isn’t sock wool and may go into holes – but the slippers work! The soles are rather heavy for the tops which stretch making me scuff as I walk but for sitting in the evenings they are very cosy.

Once they were made I undid the stitching on the blue ones, removed the backs and turned them into mules which I wear around the house in the daytime – they are easy to slip on and off when I change to and from wellies or boots to go outside.

So two pairs of slippers with scrap tops and new soles!

Just follow the links to find lots of lovely ideas from these other very talented scrapsters

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

Scrap Happy September

I have been quiet for a while – more about which in another post – but I have not been idle. An Afternoon in the workshop with some poles purloined from the pile of wood felled but not cut up and a throne emerged. Shame I have no crown or courtiers let alone peasants to do all the work but maybe it’s a start!

Scrap Happy is a group effort curated by Kate and Gun on the 15th of each month. We post about things we have made entirely from scrap. Not everyone posts every time but all the blogs are well worth a visit – follow the links below for inspiration on how to do a lot with a little.

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

Scrap Happy July

Another spoilt for choice month! But last week when I had to go into Cardigan to get a slow puncture on one of the car tyres repaired I walked into the town and bought some more knitting yarn in the market. It felt like an adventure and I stocked up to keep me going for a while. The luxury of choice!

Meanwhile I have finished another jumper for the collection at Studio 3 for child refugees. Goodness knows when I will be able to deliver it! In Wales cafes, pubs, and such like can only do takeaways or serve at outside tables (if they can maintain 2m social distancing) and Studio 3 has no outside space.

I didn’t have enough Aran weight wool in any one colour so had to use different ones for different sections. Another challenge to work within limits! I am actually quite pleased with the result. It isn’t a classic guernsey but I rather like the effect.

The second project was to revamp an old chest of drawers which Roo chewed when she was a puppy. It stood in the kitchen next to her pen and she must have got bored and the munchies one night! Again my choices were restricted. I had 5 small part used cans of gloss paint – a white, the three stronger colours I used and a pale blue which was even more ancient and gunky. The top and sides are covered with pieces of old Ordnance Survey maps of places I used to live. It was only when I came to cut them up that I realised how much of my life has been lived on the joins between sections! I thought the paper would be better quality than it was and I got a lot of bubbles. I managed to slit some with a very sharp knife and press them down but it is still not as smooth as I would like. I do like the effect though. The next chapter of ‘Wheesht’ is about giving myself permission to mess up – maybe I’m half way there already! The handles are lengths of jute rope from a reel I bought for the garden. The chest stands now in a corner by a door so I wanted something that wouldn’t hurt if I scraped past it.

Scrap Happy is a group effort curated by Kate and Gun on the 15th of each month. We post about things we have made entirely from scrap. Not everyone posts every time but all the blogs are well worth a visit – follow the links below for inspiration on how to do a lot with a little.

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

Scrap Happy June – Courtesy of Matt

I have been spoilt for choice this month! Since lockdown began all the shops other than food ones have been shut. So I have been unable to buy new materials and have had to use scrap for almost everything. I have done quite a lot of knitting and sewing but the project that has brought me most joy has been my new utility room! The shell was built over a year ago when I had Dan here renovating the cabin. The concrete base is about 10 years old! One of those slow burn projects. I had thought of fitting it out myself but was rather daunted by the prospect of manouvering sheets of plasterboard especially on the ceiling!

When I saw the work Matt had done on the barn kitchen at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust I decided to ask him to come and fit it out. He is brilliant at using what is to hand rather than designing the space and going out to buy everything. I was on his list (which is long because lots of people rate his work highly!) but because the utility room is not in the house we agreed it was safe job for him to do during lockdown.

First he put insulation and plasterboard on the walls and boarded the floor. Most of that stuff had to be bought although he used some timber taken out of the cabin when a wall was taken down for some of the battening. Luckily he is on very good terms with his local builders merchant who allowed him to go and take what he needed from his yard. Once that part of the job was done he left for a few days whilst I oiled the floor and painted the walls.

Then the fun started.

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The butler’s sink is one my son gave me. All the houses in his street are ‘town houses’ built with a garage on the ground floor and a utility room behind plus an entrance hall to the side with stairs to living space on the first floor and bedrooms on the second. The utility rooms had these deep sinks because in those days washing machines were not automatic or plumbed in and had to be filled from a tap and emptied into a sink. And lots of people still did some of their washing by hand. Over the years almost every garage has been converted into living space and the utility rooms have become kitchens. My lovely son has collected the old sinks as they have been thrown out and brought me three to choose from! Matt built a stand for it, and the bases for the worktops, from scrap wood lurking in my workshop. The tap is one my husband made up for the garden – it has the screw thread to take a hose fitting. It was installed high enough to get a brewing bucket underneath but being able to attach a short length of hose makes it more versatile.

The worktops and the pieces up the walls are off-cuts from my handmade kitchen surfaces whilst the shelves and brackets were taken out of the old utility room. Eveb the doors were ones taken out from other places!

Fitting everything into this smaller space was quite a challenge but it does mean that I can’t continue to collect clutter!

It is not quite finished yet. I am waiting for the electrician to come and put the fronts on the sockets and then will buy an upright freezer to replace the old chest one which I haven’t moved. The washing machine broke down just as lockdown began so my kind neighbour is doing my washing until I can get the repairman out to fix it.

The old utility room was originally the garage and Matt will be back in July to transform it into 2 guest rooms and a space which will one day be a shower room – watch this space!

Here are the links for everyone who joins Scrap Happy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.

Blessings # 21 – U is for upcycling a.k.a. Scrap Happy April!

When I started this series I was wondering how to accomodate Scrap Happy and by a wonderful bit of serendipity todays letter is U!

When we revamped this house we installed a new bathroom in a diferent place from the old one before taking the old one out. We therefore had a lot of pieces of used plastic waste pipe lying around. Re-arranging the kitchen added more and then there were the offcuts from the new things going in. By the time we finished the pile of lengths was quite big. So John cut it all into short pieces, stood them in punnets which came from the supermarket with mushrooms in, into the bottoms of which he had pierced holes, and used them as modules for planting seeds.

Over time the chemotherapy took its toll on his digestive system. He also became immuno-compromised and had to take antibiotics for a whole sequence of infections. So he started to take those probiotic drinks to try to help his gut recover. The empties piled up until he had the idea of cutting the bottoms off and using those as modules in the same way.
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They have been going now for almost 15 years and still get washed and re-used every year. Once the seedlings get going they are either transplanted into the ground or potted on into old cream or yoghurt pots (again with holes made with a drill or a soldering iron). These days I also stand the tubes and pots in plastic boxes which are the containers mushrooms are delivered to C&M Organics in. They cannot be returned or recycled but hold 60 of my modules so enough for a whole row of peas or beans.

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Since so many people seem to be starting to see the wisdom of growing some of their own food now that shopping is less easy |I thought these might trigger some creatibve ways to grow on the cheap and with what is to hand.

Scrap happy is curated by Kate and Gun (links below) and celebrates creative ways in which people use scrap materials to make lovely new things.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.

Blessings # 14 – Needles

It was inevitable really that I would end up crafting.

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On my father’s side my grandfather (the beekeeper in B – if you missed it read it here) was a carpenter and my grandmother won prizes for her sewing. My father taught woodwork and after he died my husband had some of his and my Grandfather’s tools which I still have. My mother taught Domestic Science which was how they met. Her father was totally cack-handed as was her brother. I have no real idea about her mother who died when I was 2 months old but I suspect that with 5 children she did a lot of ‘utility’ sewing and mending but not much else. Mum’s eldest sister (the one who left me the grandfather clock in yesterday’s post) taught craft at a Teacher Training College. The second sister trained as a tailoress, then stopped work to nurse her parents but managed to teach dressmaking at evening classes in her spare time. The third was area manager for a chain of dry-cleaning shops but did loads of knitting and sewing for sales of work at the church.

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When I was very young (pre-school or in the infants class) I was given a toy, but working, sewing machine and can remember my Mum cutting up old flanelette into squares for me to hem as dusters before I progressed to making dolls clothes!

My Dad taught me the name of all his tools and where to find them in his shed but of course I was a girl so I handed them to him to use. It never occured to either of us that I might have a go! It did, however give me a great love of wood and wooden objects. Since John was very skilled at woodwork and enjoyed it I left him to it but after he died I needed to start doing some DIY and discovered that actually I can work with wood and I enjoy it too.

There is a Welsh idiom ‘Beth sy ar y gwaell?’ literally – ‘What is on the knitting needles?’ but more generally ‘What are you up to?’ or ‘What are you working on?’

At present I am knitting a jumper (in the photo at the top)to take to Stiwdio 3 in Cardigan when it re-opens where they are hoping to collect 2020 to send to a refugee charity. I have also made several more puppets (also in the photo above)for my friend to send to Sierra Leone (see the original post here). My friend Susan has taught me to spin and lent me a wheel which was given to her by a lady who had to give up spinning. The condition attached to the gift was that it was for her to lend to a learner. To my shame I have hardly used it yet. Another friend, Roni, showed me how to use the lathe in my workshop but again I haven’t made time to get the hang of it. There are several gates I need to make and this year’s felled timber is looking at me begging to be used. I keep reading blog posts that inspire me to try new things…

Yes, I miss meeting up with friends, but if this lockdown continues for months I still won’t finish all the things on my needles!