Catching the moment…

It’s halfway through Sunday afternoon & I’m about to drift off upstairs to my new “sewing station” & try my hand at free-motion quilting. On one of my trusty old Berninas, rather than on the beautiful new-to-me Pfaff computer-that-sews, because I don’t have a darning/free motion foot for that yet! So far today, my feet haven’t touched the ground, so I’m due some down-time, although Sunday is a day most people associate with rest. But sometimes you have to make the best of what comes your way, and catch the moment… make hay while the sun shines, sort of!

We’re just back from an invigorating walk in the sunshine down at the riverbank. As we turned for home, we could see the storm clouds piling up once again on the western horizon, but we were ready for anything it could throw at us, wearing wellies & waterproofs. First thing I did this morning on seeing the sun was to whack the washing into the machine & set it off; the clean stuff went out on the line before 10am and came back in at 2pm, dry as a bone in the stiff breeze and early Spring sunshine. Not that it’s at all warm down here! But the bulbs are up & the flower buds are forming, my chickens are laying fit to bust, the garden birds are pairing up and pottering off with twigs and straw, and although there’ll undoubtedly be some icy bits to get through yet, as well as yet more rain, it’s increasingly obvious that the year has turned once again. I’ve cooked a big roast dinner, which will reappear under various easy-cook leftover-dish guises throughout the week, and trotted round to the local market to hoover up £4.50-worth of last-minute-bargain fruit & vegetables to make soups & puddings with, or to dehydrate & use at another time if I don’t have an immediate use for them. There was even a bag of 18 limes for £1; I can feel some Lime Curd coming on, which will use up some of the egg glut, and maybe I’ll also chuck a few limes into the marmalade I’ll be making in the next couple of days with my pristine little vintage Spong marmalade cutter (£5 at the car boot yesterday, works beautifully) and the two boxes of on-their-sell-by organic Seville oranges I found at the supermarket for £1 the other day.

There is a point to all this rambling on, and it’s this: I could easily have justified having a bit of a lie-in this morning, and thought, well, I’ll do the washing tomorrow. I could equally well not have bothered with the market; we have enough F&V in to see us through the next few days. We could have stayed indoors in the warm, rather than hare off down a sodden pathway in the stiff cold breeze. BUT then I’d most likely have ended up drying the washing indoors, possibly even with electrical help, so it didn’t end up going smelly. I’d have had to pay full price for top-ups of fruit & veg later in the week, and I’d have felt very guilty on the exercise front, as well as stir-crazy. And I’d have missed a bargain sewing box full of intriguing vintage sewing, knitting & crochet patterns, not to mention the sparkle of the sunshine on the racing water and glimmering through the golden skeleton reeds. And that’s exactly what I would have done, without even thinking about it, just a few years ago; just stayed indoors, in the warm. My family will tell you I’ve always been a world-class procrastinator & day-dreamer. But somehow I seem to be learning, at this late juncture, to get up & get going

I know I’m very lucky to be able to seize the ideal moment to do some things now – like I’m carving out 5 minutes to write this – and believe me, it doesn’t always work out this way. But it certainly does feel good to think you’re on top of at least some of the tasks in your life, possibly even a little ahead of the game! And it frees me up, in my head, to go & do something now that I actually want to do…

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Isn’t it time we got over it?

Two posts going up today, I hope – that’s what happens when you leave it too long between posts – too many ideas mulling over at the back of my mind!

I followed a link last week & read about a family in the States who are managing to live on what looks like to us a very low income. More power to their elbows; none of it seemed exactly revolutionary to me, as somehow we’ve managed to raise 5 kids and pay off our mortgage on one fairly ordinary salary & the little part-time jobs I’ve managed to hold down between ferrying assorted offspring around. But what did stop me in my tracks were some of the comments underneath… you would think this unfortunate couple were condemning their kids to a living hell by buying them “thrift store” (i.e. charity shop) clothes, giving them home-made  food, and, crime of all crimes, making some of their clothes!

Several comments were along the lines that, by making them “different” from other kids, they were bound to be making them targets for bullying. Well, excuse me, but the basic fact is that everyone IS different! And it isn’t being different, in itself, that lays people open to bullying – which isn’t confined to kids, by the way – it’s feeling bad about those differences. Feeling somehow ashamed of them, which you might well if people make negative comments about them, and thus not reacting with vigour when the bullies start to pull you down… and anyone who stands by and mutters words to the effect that they brought it on themselves, or that they blame the parents, is legitimising bullying and making it far, far worse for the victim. Is a bully themself, in fact, by allowing it to happen & by making excuses for vile behaviour. Are we no better than the chickens in my chicken run, that we seek to bring down anyone who stands out in any way, in case they attract unwanted attention to our flock? Or should we finally realise that there is indeed strength in diversity, and make the bullies stop, rather than giving them tacit approval?

We are rapidly entering a time when it simply will not be possible for everyone to wear “new” clothes all of the time, as fuel becomes too expensive for t-shirts made by child slaves on the other side of the world to be sold for pennies any more, and thrown away after a couple of uses because they won’t wash well. Where home-made food may once again become “the norm” rather than an oddity, if only because people don’t want to find they’ve been eating something other than what it says on the packet. Where accruing debt just because everyone else is doing it, just to have what everyone else has got, may come to seem rather stupid. It’s more than possible that the family featured in that article are actually ahead of the curve, rather than the eccentric oddballs some of the commentators seem to think they are. Those kids may grow up with attitudes and a skill-set that will allow them to break free of the wage-slave-debt trap.

By the way, I am asserting that everyone is different as the wife of an identical twin. Yes, they look very alike, enough alike that our neighbours regularly talk to my brother-in-law without realising he’s not my husband. And no, they are not at all the same…! And I am making a point about home-made clothes because it is entirely possible to make clothing (and other things) that is good enough for other people to want so much that they’ll actually buy it, with nothing more than an old sewing machine, some cast-off old clothing or curtains or similar, the odd old book or magazine (Golden Hands, for example!) and a head full of ideas. If my pillowcase pinnies, scrap-yarn shawls and denim aprons haven’t convinced you, have a look at Raggedy’s site.

And please, help those who haven’t realised this yet get over the idea that everyone has to look the same, buy the same things, think the same things, and that anyone (and their kids) who doesn’t live according to their narrow worldview is fair game for negative comments and worse…

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Been MIA for a bit…

…and “missing in ACTION” it certainly has been. My feet haven’t touched the ground for the last couple of months, but it’s been great. You know you’re actually reaching people when someone walks into your shop and the first thing they say is, “Aha! That’s the very sofa itself! I read about that on your blog!” And indeed she (and her husband too) have spent some time cosily esconced on said sofa, over the last few days, weaving happily away on their new-to-them peg loom and cutting rags into strips.

I’m just beginning to find my feet now and find a little time for writing – which is just as well, as I have an article to write before going off on holiday. It may seem a little perverse, trotting off on holiday just when things were getting off the ground, but believe me, I need it…

I’ve been surprised and delighted by how I do seem to have found a real gap in the market; people are genuinely pleased to find affordable stuff and somewhere they can just try things out. They may already be expert-level at, say, P&Q, but wanting to have a go at crochet, without committing to weeks of lessons or a jumper’s-worth of yarn. Or professional cardmakers who’ve always wanted to try their hand at knitting. I’ve done a whole lot of wet-felting, too; seems to be the one thing everyone wants a go at, even people who’ve done it many times before!

Here’s a link to a nice tribute from one of my friends – great to see you last week, Carrie! – and here’s one to our local newspaper’s account. And below is something I made earlier… it’s great to have some time & space just to sit & make things, and a good excuse to do so!

What a difference…

…a day makes! Well, yesterday, anyway; it quite restored my faith in what I’m doing. I took my VintageCraftStuff stall to Boscombe Vintage Market yesterday. And despite the fact that it was the first time I’d done a stall there, and really didn’t know how to “pitch” it, I did very well. I’d been worried that on a cold & blowy early February day, in a tent in an inner-city area, it’d be touch & go whether I’d clear the pitch fee plus my fuel costs getting there. I needn’t have worried; I got a lot of positive feedback! So I was quite happy to hand over the pitch fee for next month & will be putting that up on the VCS Events page ASAP. But I can’t help contrasting it with the big, centuries-old market in my little home town. I can understand the logisitics of mixing us crafters in with other stall holders in the “dead” period between Christmas & Easter and closing down the end hall that we were in. But if I’m placed in between say, a cosmetics stall with everything in shiny packages and a stall full of cheap plastic “bankrupt stock” kitchenware, my lovely old sewing machines and intriguing vintage knitting patterns are in danger of looking like a heap of old junk, no matter how pretty the stall looks, dressed in red velvet, wicker & lace. Not to mention the probability of having to lug heavy kit through crowded halls some distance from where you’re parked; in the end hall the logisitics were easy and the company good.

But the main difference was in the customers. There are some lovely appreciative people here, and some loyal supporters, but there are also a significant number of people who aren’t afraid to make comments like, “Been going through the bins, then?” or “Thank heavens we don’t have to do that sort of thing any longer!” I know from public Morsbagging sessions that many of them will have had unfortunate experiences long ago, of having been humiliated & told they were “useless” in front of their friends in Domestic Science or DT classes, but being rude about someone else’s hard work really doesn’t make life better for anyone. The fact that a proportion of my stock does actually come from the Recycling Centre doesn’t mean that it’s worthless (or that I didn’t pay anything for it, either) but that as a society, we’ve lost the plot and are quite prepared to junk items of real value & lasting beauty in favour of new plastic stuff with an expected lifespan of 5 years, if you’re lucky! Not all new stuff is “”bad” and not all old stuff is “good” but the reverse isn’t automatically true either. I think that says what I wanted to…

And the attitude seems to be reflected in our town’s general way of going about things. It’s becoming a hard slog to continue to try to keep the Transition spark alive in a town that seems to think it really doesn’t have to worry about things like that. Retail rents & rates are such that it’s virtually impossible to start up a genuine local initiative; I know there has been & probably still is a drive to attract upmarket chain stores to the town by the well-meaning, vocal, middle class, upper-income bracket people who think that easy access to a branch of Marks & Spencers will solve any problems that Peak Oil & Climate Change might bring. So rents are kept high in order to attract “the right sort of business” and fledgling local businesses have to go elsewhere or seek huge bank loans. And surprise, surprise, attracting a well-known posh supermarket to our town has NOT increased takings for our genuine local shops, who were amongst the prime movers in the campaign to bring them here, but depressed them. Our youngsters think there isn’t any point even trying; they know they’ll never be able to afford to buy homes or run businesses here and that’s the saddest thing of all. Our future’s going elsewhere…

I had a lot of young, enthusiastic customers yesterday, many of them students at the Arts Institute, and lots of thoughtful, creative, appreciative older ones too, in an area that most people here think of as a bit run-down and grim. All I can say is that Wimborne really, really needs to wake up…

I promised…

…that the next one would be made entirely with recycled materials. And here it is! Old seersucker tablecoths, and a couple of shirts, to be precise. All gleaned from charity shops or the Tip; the batting is a fleece baby blanket that someone had no further use for, although it was as good as new & could easily have been donated to a charity shop. But it wasn’t…  The thread (two colours only) was rescued from old sewing machines or sewing boxes & was still strong, the backing & self-binding was a length of calico that used to line our kitchen curtains and the ribbon came from a whole roll that turned up in a Freecycled sewing box.  It’s a cot-size “strippy-raggy” quilt, for want of a precise description! Fun & very quick to make, but also very textural & soft from a baby’s point of view.

I had fun with the machine quilting, as you can see, and tried out lots of different “patterns”. Some were much easier than others. Bear in mind that my 1909 Jones Medium treadle is extremely easy to use, but only goes forwards and doesn’t automatically adjust stitch lengths or automatically do anything at all except look cheerful!

All in all I’m rather pleased with it & may have to make several more – if only because I now have a big bag of seersucker strips in a wide variety of colours!

Recycled resources?

Strippy quilt front

Here’s a conundrum – is this cheating, or not?

I’ve always felt that quilts should be made from scraps, offcuts or fabric that’s otherwise unwanted; going out & buying fabric to make a quilt seems to make a mockery of the spirit of the artform. My head knows that quilts made from fresh fabric will last longer, that there’s no shortage of it, and that by buying in your fabrics, you’ll get exactly what you want, or near enough. But still… as practical recycling goes, a patchwork quilt made from recycled & reclaimed fabrics is one of the ultimate achievements, as well as being a lovely warm thing to enhance your home or wrap around yourself on a cold winter’s day. So my heart thinks all patchwork quilts should be masterpieces of the recycler’s art. This conviction of mine is probably why I have several bags full of partially-made quilt tops that have somehow ground to a halt or hit a metaphorical buffer one way or another, whilst I wait for the right fabric to turn up. Sadly, at least one intended recipient has actually passed away whilst their quilt has remained unfinished… it’s a good job she never knew I meant to  make her one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, just before Christmas I was lucky enough to sell some items I had only just realised were surplus to requirements. I’d also spotted what looked like a very quick & easily-achieveable method of piecing a quilt top whilst idly following links from one crafting blog to another. Having some spare funds kicking around in my PayPal account, I took the plunge on New Year’s Eve & bought myself a “stripper” or “jelly roll” which arrived very quickly. I sat down with it at 9 pm on Tuesday evening; by the same time on Wednesday I had a completed “strippy” quilt top as well as having done all the normal household tasks for the day. And by Friday evening it was machine-quilted, bound & finished! It’s not a grand job but it’s functional & quite pretty & I’m pleased with it. I’m also ready to get out my cutter & start cutting strips from  my mountain of reclaimed fabric; this method is fast & very, very do-able. I love looking at art quilts & fantastically complex pieces of patchwork, but I know I haven’t really got the patience – or, in fact, the spare time – to tackle a project that’s going to take hours of calculations, months of work, & completely accurate piecing and stitching. But fast & furious is immensely managable…

So – my justification is that by buying this fabric, I’ve broken through a barrier & realised that making useful quilts doesn’t have to take months., if not years. And I do feel that in a sense, it was at least done with recycled cash, since the funds came from the sale of other craft items. If I can ever find the blog again, I’ll post a link to how it’s done so that anyone else who’s always meant to “have a go” can do so; if I can’t (and I’ve been looking for it all week) I’ll post a “how-to” as another page.  And the next quilt will be made with recycled fabric…

Strippy quilt - back view

Famous last words…

I didn’t really mean it. I really, really didn’t want to be ill more often (see last post) but I was daft enough to say it… so, naturally, here I am, suffering from a second heavy cold, and without the strength to sort anything at all out this time. And in between, my doc has broken the news that actually I have severe osteoarthritis of the right hip & will need a “resurfacing” operation ASAP…

After our romantic trip to London was somewhat limited by the fact that I was hobbling and biting my lip most of the time, I went to my GP and asked her to sort it out, not for the first time. When I think back, I’ve been hobbling on & off for at least 17 years now; about 10 years ago she did send me to the physios & request X-rays, but they countermanded that request, saying that as I had a full range of movement, the pain was really located in my back so ab exercises would sort it all out… and in the intervening time, I have only ever mentioned it in passing, as a constant niggle rather than something that was beginning to become life-limiting. So I’m not blaming my doc in any way, shape or form. But knowing that something really is up does explain a lot.

I had to cancel what should have been my last “show” of the season, as I was in too much pain & too tired to complete my preparations for it, having done another trip to London to take the girls to an exhibition at the BM. And I can see that I am going to have to dispose of a lot of the stuff I’ve accumulated for my shop & stall as I really cannot “just sort it all out” when it’s spread all over the floor etc. Luckily someone else is setting up doing what I was hoping to do, so I can pass a lot of it on to her, and I will concentrate on the things I do best; the books, the vintage linens & lace, the sewing machines, parts & other tools and the things that I make myself and have commissions for. The rest must go… so my next challenge is to see that none of it goes to waste.

I have my appointment to see the consultant next month; I don’t know what the waiting lists are like but I can see that it’s going to be an interesting year!

I’m shattered…

… and I’ve got a horrible cold. But I’ll live, I expect. In the last few days I’ve made two gallons of homegrown plum wine & poured it off its pulp and into demijohns, which are actually rocking, so wildly enthusiastic is the fermentation. I’ve made crab apple jelly with apples from the riverbank, and turned the fruit pulp from both projects into a spicy chutney. I’ve finished two shawls, sent another load of sewing machines off, and had a massive chuckout.

We did a car boot sale at the weekend, and did rather well; I donated the leftovers to another ‘booter through Freecycle as we have quite enough stuff cluttering up our lives, but it was too good to ditch. But one of the other emails I received touched my heart, so I sorted out some more halfway decent stuff to give to him too. Then, because I was going down with this cold and therefore stuck at home, I started to sort the porch out so that I can store my e-shop stuff out there. This produced another load of halfway decent stuff as well as a car load of absolute rubbish, so the second ‘booter came back for another helping. Today I got stuck into the airing cupboard, which is a) very small and b) located in the smallest bedroom, which means that whichever of the offspring is in there also has to have everyone else traipsing in & out for sheets, pillowcases etc. So I invested in a massive linen press from IKEA , having waited several years for something suitable to turn up secondhand. Nothing else was big enough, in the end, so I capitulated and bought new. I’ve transferred all the day-to-day bedlinen into that, which is out on the landing, and put the longterm bedding – mattress protectors, spare pillows, spare duvets & guest bedding – into the airing cupboard instead. Most of that had just been cluttering up our bedroom previously.

The back of the airing cupboard produced another carload of stuff that was quite simply well past it. A few items worth Freecycling, but most just ragging, to be honest, so that’s gone off now too. And when I did the crab apple jelly, I realised that I had way too many Kilner jars too. So I Freecycled a dozen; again, I had hordes of emails. The first came from someone I know, so I said they could have them. But then came a reply from a friend, too… I thought I still had more than enough, so I said she could have some too, but when I counted them, that would have left me with just two. However, when I took some of the rubbish produced from my clear-out down to the Tip, sitting there on top of an old filing cabinet was another box of Kilner jars… so there are enough for all of us after all. But not for everyone that asked – which just goes to show that one person’s landfill is another person’s treasure.

Now I just need to keep up the momentum. Perhaps I should be ill more often!

Busy busy busy!

Just in case you were wondering where I’d got to, I’ve been a little busy, preparing firsrtly for tonight’s Transition Wimborne meeting (7.00 pm at the CLaRC) secondly for Saturday’s Bournemouth Vintage Fayre and thirdly for the Dorset County Show on Sunday where I’ll be demonstrating something (not 100% sure what yet) with my Guild, the Dorset Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. So I’ve been polishing up some of my little old beauties in the hope that they’ll find themselves loving new homes, and using up some of my bountiful supplies of reclaimed fabric & yarns. I now have 3 “Extreme Crochet” shawls to offer, including one that I’m tempted to keep, but musn’t as I already have too many shawls!

Extreme Crochet strikes again!
Extreme Crochet strikes again!

And then there’s the quilt/bedspread/throw… I was given a 1970’s duvet cover by its original maker, who told me to “make something with it!” She’d got some way through making a Grandmother’s Flower Garden hexagonal quilt & got bored, so she appliquéd it to a candy-pink polycotton duvet cover, which had become bobbly & worn over the years. But the patchwork was still in pretty good condition, so I cut it off the polycotton and appliquéd it onto some red velvet which came from a pair of gigantic curtains that smelt somehow of hotel – well-washed, of course! – and “tied” it with snippets of old lace. It wouldn’t have looked right just plonked onto the velvet, so I framed it with some deep modern lace I was given on Freecycle.

Stitching the patchwork & lace onto the velvet...
Stitching the patchwork & lace onto the velvet...

That sounds straightforward, but until you’ve painstakingly stitched around the outside of several hundred little hexagons, you don’t realise quite how fiddly it is! But the end result is quite stunning, IMHO, as a bedspread or as a throw; I just wonder whether anyone will want to buy it…

Makes a good bedspread?
Makes a good bedspread?

Sometimes things just fall out right…

During the Country Fair on Sunday, I was asked, amongst others, whether I’d like to do another down in Winton in 3 weeks time – Bournemouth Vintage Fayre in fact – I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that, now, could I?

But they’d rather like stallholders to enter into the Vintage 1920s spirit. I had visions of dressing up like one of Bertie Wooster’s dreaded Aunts, so went for a quick rummage for tweeds down at the Tip today. However the first thing that came to hand was a rather glamorous pink moire floppy hat, then a beaded, frilled & layered blouse, in almost the right size. I have a soft pink curtain that could be turned into a shawl, with the addition of some fringing, and a pink & red layered skirt. Add all these together and I could look quite respectably vintage, I think!

But the icing on the cake was finding a rather lovely 1920s Filigree Singer 66, in a decent bentwood case, with just about every attachment I can think of. So my stall should be well-laden…

And that’s not to mention the phone call from one lady I met on Sunday, who knew her neighbour had 5 fleeces to save from a composty grave. I picked them up today and they are quite gorgeous – in need of a wash, but absolutely super wool, which I look forward to spinning some of. And the phone call from a Freecycler who had rather a lot of good, dry conifer wood to dispose of; we won’t go without a fire this winter!

Life is full of unexpected blessings sometimes.