Putting ideas into practice…

Summer has gone away now… always a bittersweet moment, as the landscape settles down to doze gently through the winter down here in the soft southern English hills. And the rains have come; not just the odd grey day of gentle drizzle, but hammering squalls and vicious gusts tearing the beautiful autumn leaves from the trees. Not quite the weather I was hoping for, to tidy my allotment up for the winter.

So it’s time to put some of those crafty ideas into practice! Something I’ve been gathering resources for for a couple of years: a twined-weave rug made from moth-eaten (literally) & felted old blankets, on a warp of discarded polycotton duvet cover. It’s taken forever to get round to actually starting it; once I started, it just took the odd hour here & there over 3 days. The pile of holey old blankets has shrunk considerably (sorry, Remi, my miniature dachshund “grand-puppy”, who loves to sleep in them) but there are plenty more where they came from!

Rug made from moth-eaten wool blankets and old bedding

The loops of warp visible at the ends will disappear in a day or two, as the tension “relaxes” & evens out. I could use them to anchor a fringe, but I decided this rug should be “crisp”, with the stripes just speaking for themselves, if that makes sense. Although there seem to be about 5 different colours going on, there were actually only 3 blankets; the effect of any given “thread” depends on how I cut the blanket up; all 3 were plaid/check patterned, with different colours criss-crossing. Luckily I have a hand-cranked American strip-cutting machine, which makes light work of demolishing them, as it would have been a nightmare to cut them up with scissors. The bedding for the warp can just be torn into 2″ strips.

I finished it in between making our Christmas cake & pudding (slightly experimental, as I added home-grown quinces into both of these) baking some hob-nobs and cheesy flapjacks, making some “pink” soup (i.e. with home-grown beetroot) from leftover vegetables & gravy, and concocting dinner from what was left of Sunday’s roast. Tomorrow, I may do nothing at all… or I may escape to the allotment, weather permitting!

Miniature version of Experimental Christmas Cake. It worked! Now demolished…

Rainy days…

It was quite tempting, this morning, to pull the wool over my my eyes and stay in bed… I have a lovely cosy wool duvet, which has proved to be a sound investment as it’s lasting really well and seems to keep me at the perfect temperature, winter or summer; no mean feat, with a lady of a Certain Age. Anyway, the wind was howling through the holly tree and the rain was hammering against the window panes; not exactly conducive to leaping out of bed with a happy smile and a willing heart.

But rainy days, like the clouds that spawn them, have silver linings. It’s a chance to catch up with some cooking – a batch of hob-nobs, some chicken stock & soup, and an aubergine bake all got done this morning – a little light housework (though it’s far too dark & grim for spring cleaning) and one or two projects that have been sitting on the back-burner for a while.

A number of vintage dressmaking patterns have been checked over before being offered for sale, and my neighbour’s handcranked sewing machine has been sorted out – I hope!

And this sturdy but curious little suitcase had been tripping people up in the conservatory for months. I’m not sure what it originally held – a musical instrument, maybe? – but it had a dark red plush lining, part of which had been ripped out. But I couldn’t help thinking that it would benefit from being introduced to some of the leftover sofa fabric… Result!

And here’s my “find” of the week: a set of 5 pristine vintage aluminium pans, most likely from the late 1940s. They came in with a vast collection of old knitting patterns, dating from the 1930s through to the 1970s; it seems from the few letters, etc. amongst them that the lady who collected them got married some time in the 1940s, and these look very much like a wedding present that had been stashed away and never used. They do have all their lids, and were separated by brown paper bags from Bourne & Hollingsworth of Oxford Street, W1.

Off now to sort out the best part of 1,000 vintage knitting patterns!

Rainy Day Project – Part II

Well, what can I say? It may have been halfway decent weather elsewhere, but here in East Dorset it has been grey & drizzly ever since I wrote the last post. So I’ve got further, faster, under the stairs, than I thought possible…

From this:

A starting point… you can see what I’m going to do, but it looks like quite a lot of work.

Through this:

Hmm… that wasn’t too bad, didn’t take as long as I thought…

To this:

Well, just about there now! Just the fiddly bits to do…

Not sure I can quite believe it! It’s not “finished” & I’m not sure it ever will be, any more than any room in any living home can be; there’s always something new to accomodate or something different to be done. But when I say “new” it’s a relative term; nothing in there has been bought new, except the network printer (under the embroidery) which we’ve had for nearly a year. Even my Ipad, which has also been with us for a while, was a refurb. And I have stuck to my guns and not spent one single penny; it’s all been done with stuff we already had!



The Rainy Day Project… Part 1

You know what I mean by “dead spaces” in the house? Every home has at least one; those little corners that aren’t quite big enough to take a proper piece of furniture, or do anything much in. We’ve had one since we moved in here; the understair cupboard was just exactly big enough for everything to get hopelessly lost & jumbled in, but not big enough for me to get into to find things again. So it got ripped out in the interests of sanity; it’s been curtained off ever since.

Our hallway is long & narrow; it runs the full length of the house from front to back door, straight through the middle, and is very much a passageway in continual use. The stairs run straight up from outside the living room door, near the front door, with no turns. So the area under there is quite a good size, but obviously long & thin, low at one and and high at the other. For many years we had a tall freezer at the high end, near the kitchen door, but some months ago I worked out that half the stuff we were expending electricity on keeping frozen was actually junk. So I replaced it with a worktop-height one; there’s also a big chest freezer out in the garage, so all we needed was a bit of cold storage for frozen veg & ice cream indoors. This opened up some intriguing possibilities; if we could just work out how, the space could probably be put to better use. The rest of it had some freestanding shelves & no obvious function, so had filled up with fairly random & long-forgotten clutter.

There were three possibilities; food storage, laundry sorting & storage, or an office area. All three functions can be carried out elsewhere, to be honest, but the one that really needed a dedicated area of its own was the home-office. We now have a much-improved utility room with a worktop for laundry-sorting, there’s plenty of storage in my kitchen cupboards which just isn’t being used effectively at the moment, and cool storage out in the garage, but at present the official “desk” is shared with the electric sewing machine, working fabric & the dyestuffs, so it doesn’t stand much of a chance!

I sat down & made a list; it turns out that we actually already own virtually everything we need to turn this rather-dispiriting “dead space” into a quirky vintage-style officette. We had a run of worktop left over from the utility room revamp, which is just about exactly the right length. It can sit across the top of the freezer and the top of a useful cupboard “stolen” from DS3’s room. I won two rolls of delightful vintage wallpaper on Ebay some time ago, to finish a project which only took a few inches in the end; there’s plenty for this space there, and I have several rolls of lining paper. When I gave up the shop, the new owner didn’t need the wall-hung shelves from the kitchen, so I have those in there already, and a nicely OTT vintage lamp. There’s still some laminate flooring to match the hallway, and some underlay that turned up with something else. I thought I might need to buy a gang-plug, but it turns out I already had an appropriate one, also left over from the shop. Primer & paint, if we don’t have anything appropriate, can usually be sourced for free at the Tip in smallish quantities, and that’s all I’ll need. And my beloved kneeling chair, which had been banished from the living room as it doesn’t fit in with the look of it at all, slides neatly under the worktop.

But there’s quite a lot of work to do. I need to sand down, prime & paint the underside of the stairs. Then clean, size & line the walls, hang the paper, and lay the flooring. It’s not a big area; each job will probably only take a few hours, but will get in everyone’s way mightily as I’ll have to haul everything out of the space in order to work in it! So in my mind it’s become The Rainy Day project; I will start each “phase” at a time when I’m likely to be able to finish it without being distracted or dragged out to do something more interesting. I’ll be taking photos along the way to document my progress, and my ambition for this project is for it to be 100% “re-purposed” i.e. using stuff that we already have, or other people don’t want, and to complete it without spending any money at all!

There are lots of little details to sort out too; I’ll need to find & install a sliding keyboard shelf as the worktop is a little too high for comfortable typing. A broken computer desk should provide one without too much trouble. I can get quite carried away with vintage fabric & lace, making up a suitable pinboard, not to mention a clipboard, and other useful accessories. I already have some quirky magazine files, but may need to lighten them up a bit. It would be good to run the phone over there too, but how to do that without having dangling cables, OR spending any money?

Anyway, one way or another, I’ll be busy for the next week or two, provided the weather continues in its current gloomy vein. It’s nice to be able to look forward to rainy days! Leave me a comment & tell me what projects you have lined up…