Scrap Happy August 2021

A bumper bundle of very varied scrappy happy projects this month.

First, and simplest, I needed a mat next to the hob to put hot pans on. This is half a slate left over from when our roof was replaced many years ago. There were several – some full size and some half – stacked in a shed. A run through the dishwasher to ensure it was clean and a rub over with Olive Oil and it works a treat.

Second is a new sawhorse made by Laura with my help. It was made entirely by hand from wood cut for the fire. Because her cabin is heated entirely by the woodstove and I have a fire in my sitting room we get through a lot of firewood. All of it is cut up on these simple horses which eventually start to fall apart. At that point a new one is made and the old one returned to the firewood pile!

The third is a complete contrast – much finer, more delicate and girly! Inspired by Sandra who blogs as Wild Daffodil (https://daffodilwild.wordpress.com/2021/08/12/marquee-mandalas/) I made some crochet mandalas / doilies out of part balls of crochet cotton. Sandra mounted hers on plastic coated wire rings in order to hang them up but I am following a suggestion on one of the patterns and have soaked them in wood glue which should both stiffen them and make them water resistant. I have some crocheted snowflakes which I stiffened with strong starch and which I have used for many Christmases so here’s hoping the glue works

And finally I wanted a padded board to pin knitted or crocheted pieces out to shape and to use as a small temporary ironing table when sewing. I wrapped my father’s old drawing board in a used-but-nearly-new towel given to me by a friend when her Mum went into a home and secured it on the back with duct tape. To avoid the glue sticking the circles to the towel I put a bin liner between them but that is a ‘one off’ extra!

Curated by Kate and Gun Scrap Happy is a collection of posts on the 15th of each month featuring things made entirely from scrap by the contributors listed below. Follow the links to get inspired to use up your left over fabric, yarn or other stuff! Not everyone posts every month but all the blogs are well worth looking at.

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

Two Big Beasts

A couple of weeks ago I had a message from my son – could he have the use of a space 3m x 3m in my workshop? He had put a shipping container on the garden of a house he owns and rents out in the same road as his home with the intention of using it as a workshop. But the a neighbour complained to the Council who told him it was ‘not in keeping’ and must be removed. That left him with all his tools stored in a small shed in his own smaller garden (which already houses his office) but nowhere to use them. Of course I said ‘Yes’ and by rearranging my stuff created the space he needed.

So a flurry of parcels and packages arrived and he sent me a list of materials he wanted me to order from the local Builders’ Merchant. Then they were followed, last Monday, by the man himself plus his cat. Not your average moggy, not even a pedigree cat. This is an F3 Savannah Cat, at least twice the size of my more humble ones. But a lovely softie who acts more like a dog in many ways and obviously thought that my garden was Heaven! He did give my dogs and cats a bit of a shock though – not quite sure what sort of big beast had entered their domain!

Odin explores this new territory

My son is a software developer but, like his father, my father and my paternal grandfather, loves making things in wood. It transpired that the workshop space was needed to build a computer controlled wood cutting machine thus combining his two passions. He has a small one at home which can cut things about the size of an A4 sheet of paper but having seen its potential he wanted one which could do handle anything up to a full sheet of plywood – 2.4m x 1.2m! Hence the large area of floor space required.

With intermittent help from me to ‘hold the other end of’ and a couple of trips out to get things he hadn’t realised he would need, he built the worktop the sheet of wood will sit on. It is 2 layers of heavy ply with framing and 2 sheets of insulation between them to stop it flexing.

The cutting head has to move in 3 dimensions – up and down the bed, from side to side and deeper or shallower, so he also needed a gantry which travels along the sides of the bed (the x axis)) with another piece which moves side to side (y axis) and can also raise or lower the cutter (z axis). The gantry and other wooden parts run on small wheels on tracks and are pulled into position by motors which have thin rubber tracks around a cog wheel – think caterpillar tracks. The motors are controlled by the computer.

This bit travels from side to side on the gantry and the top part raises or lowers the head

By Friday evening the thing was built and he had wired up 2 of the 4 motors but ran out of time (he had to drive home early on Saturday morning) to connect the other 2 let alone test it all and make something. He will come back as soon as he is able to finish it and then we can start playing with it! As you can see it is pretty massive – definitely a big beast!

Now all I have to do is tidy up the rest of the workshop!

My reward is that I will be seeing my son more frequently and can ask him to programme the machine to cut wood out for me and drill the holes where they should go – a sort of ‘made to measure’ IKEA in my garden 😉

Scrap Happy July

Two really simple makes this month, both in wood.

I have been teaching Laura to make things out of the wood we cut from the garden and woodland last winter. With my help she has made and hung this gate.

I made another table for the garden from half an old door, some offcuts of shelving and some sawn down studding – all scrap from the new utility room.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her contact page http://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/contact-me . You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

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

Lessons from Lockdown

When our children were babies my husband worked for a while as an Audit Assistant with the local Council. It was a small Council and Audit got various jobs that didn’t really belong to any department or took up slack when other departments were unusually busy. One day he was asked to review the insurance for all the Council vehicles before it was renewed. ‘Just think of the worst accident you can imagine and make sure we would be OK’ was the instruction from his boss. His scenario involved a bin lorry, failed brakes, a steep hill between busy shops and with the Council Offices at the bottom.

More importantly it made him think about our lives. What could go wrong? What would the consequences be? Did we have the ‘insurance’ to cope? From then on he was known for his ‘belt, braces and a bit of baler twine just in case’ approach. That seemingly trivial task at work became a foundation stone for our lives. We didn’t become fearful or paranoid, just determined to think about our resilience and try always to have plan ‘B’.

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Soft fruit gives a lot of yield for little effort

We agreed that we would try to accumulate useful practical skills going as far back down the process as possible and to do so using only the most basic equipment. I knew how to sew but learned how to mend, do patchwork using recycled fabric, sew by hand as well as machine, relearned how to knit and crochet, then to spin and to dye using natural ingredients (I am not very good at either but know enough that I could become competent). John added DIY and building to his ‘O’level woodwork then did a weekend course in blacksmithing. We learned to garden and to cook with what was available rather than starting with a recipe and buying the ingredients. Foraging increased the range of foodstuffs we could use. Preserving kept summer foods for winter use. We kept poultry and pigs for meat and eggs.

The spinning wheel I have been lent and the workshop

I hope I am not giving the impression that I live (or have lived) some buccolic idyll of self sufficiency. Complete self sufficiency is a myth. It is also part of the ‘I’m all right Jack’ bunker mentality of the survivalists. I happily accept gifts from neighbours, shop from local farms and buy staples like flour and sugar from the supermarket. I enjoy eating bananas and lemons that will not grow in the UK. I heat my home predominantly with electricity and since heat is needed mainly when the sun is not shining I need the National grid to take surplus power when I have it and sell me some when I need it. I use more than I generate so I am dependent on other suppliers particularly over winter. I prefer to use hand tools but am realistic about the efficiency of powered ones. And so on.


Allowing kales to self seed looks messy but gives me an early crop for no work. Small ones for salad and big ones to cook.

The last few weeks has been the first big test of that resilience for a long time. I have coped pretty well. Not pefectly so there are things I need to think about but on the whole well enough. I am of course lucky to be retired – my income is not dependent on me being able to work. I don’t have young children to care for and school or entertain. Having a mortgage free home in the country with a large garden has been a great blessing and is partly down to luck and partly to hard work and choices. Food in the garden, hedgerows to forage in, preserves and a well stocked freezer mean I have had plenty to eat and gardening, crafting, dogs and a home to look after have given me plenty to do.


Workdays and permaculture groups have made me lots of friends

Getting to know my neighbours, building a wider community by joining in things and volunteering means I have had plenty of offers of help with things like shopping and lots of electronic contact with others. My washing machine stopped working with a smell of hot rubber and some expensive noises just after lockdown started. I could have ordered a new one online for home delivery but I suspect it can be repaired and I know a very competent man who will come and look at it – but not at the moment. My neighbour has been doing my washing each week since and has been pleased to help me since she was becoming embarassed about asking me to drive her children to clubs when she had two of them needing to go in opposite directions at the same time. Of course I have missed being able to go out and meet friends for coffee, walks on the beach, visitors coming here, workdays… but I haven’t been lonely or felt vulnerable.

So where could I do better? I didn’t have enough pet food to see me through even the original 3 week lockdown. I buy dog and cat food in sacks from the farmers co-op but in future I need to have an unopened sack of each as well as the one I am using. That means I also need to make sure there is space for them in the new utility room. I can adjust my diet to suit what is growing but it is harder to do that for the animals! I also went to the vets and got some more of the pain relief medicine Orchid needs. I was a bit over cautious there as the bottle will finally run out tomorrow but even so I need to keep a better supply in future.


C&M have closed the trust shop but between 10am and 2pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday they are open to take orders called through the window. They put everything requested together in a box which is put outside the door for the customer to pick up.

I have been going to C&M for fresh fruit and veg, butter and cheese. I decided a few years ago that potatoes, onions and carrots were not worth growing. Potatoes because I always miss some when I dig them up and get ‘volunteers’ the next year which outcompete the things I am trying to grow, onions because they came out the same size as the sets that went in and carrots because the local carrot root flies get them all. This year I have been able to get some manure to improve my veg patch and am planting lots of leeks instead of onions. I had intended growing some potatoes in pots which I could empty completely when I harvested them but missed the seed potatoes. Butter and cheese I can start keeping in the freezer. So I just need to tweak my growing and storing. On the other hand by shopping there I have been supporting a local business – a balance to be struck.


preserves have been a boon

The other thing I have needed to buy is milk. I have been thinking about that gap for a while and had a go at milking a goat at a friend’s place a while back. Going back into livestock isn’t something to do on a whim or for an unusual event but I do need to have another think.

Of course if this goes on for much longer I will run out of other things, there will be other breakages and breakdowns. My hair needs cutting and since I had it cut short I no longer have slides and clips to keep it out of my eyes. A dental appointment has been postponed. A former neighbour died and I was unable to go to the funeral – it should have been a ‘standing room only’ affair but must have been very small instead – not a fitting send-off for a very popular and respected man.

Sometime fairly soon lockdown will be eased if not lifted and I will be very glad. I will enjoy a trip into Cardigan to have a coffee, meet friends, go to the library, buy some more knitting yarn and restock at the supermarket. I will get my hair cut, my tooth filled and my washing machine repaired. But I owe a huge debt of gratitude to that imaginary bin lorry!

Blessings # 15 – O is for Outbuildings

According to one of my friends happiness is a small house (so fairly quick to tidy and clean) plus outbuildings for playing in. Well I sometimes wish my house was a bit smaller or at least had a different layout but I am rich in outbuildings.

There is a shed on the veg patch to store all my gardening stuff. It has enough room in it to be able to sit but I want to make some double doors so that I can look out whilst taking a break.

My woodshed is big enough to not only store the wood that has been cut to size, but the longer lengths, dumpy bags of kindling and sawdust, AND still have room for the sawhorses so that wet days can be used to cut and chop for the fires.

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Opposite are two sheds we originally built to house poultry but which are now used to store garden furniture and things like fence posts.

Next there is the workshop with all the woodworking stuff. It is gloriously large with space to lay things out on the floor or the big bench.

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Adjoining the house and accessed from the car port is what used to be the garage – until the double doors literally fell off in my hands when I tried to open the wicket door in them and we had the opening blocked up. It is now a sort of utility room and general domestic junk store. Once the new utility room is fitted out I can finish going through it all. The builder should have been coming any day now but of course….

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Above it is a loft space which I use as my craft studio. Yesterday I emptied a chest of drawers up there to swap it with another one. I really should have taken the photo before doing that! I am using the lockdown to get on with spring cleaning , which always results in rearranging and until it is all finished chaos reigns!

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Add in the greenhouses and I am spoilt for choice for places to play whatever the weather.