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