Lockdown stashbuster 3…

Whilst sorting out the blue/green strips for Stashbuster 2, I realised I had a lot of smallish rectangles (or thereabouts) in the scrap drawer. So my plan for Stashbuster 3 was to use some of those up gainfully, trying out a different technique. So this time it was foundation-pieced onto some random lightweight cotton; I took the rectangles and placed them randomly on the foundation cotton, then swapped them round until I’d a) achieved coverage of the foundation piece, and b) something vaguely pleasing to the eye, provided that eye happens to like chaotic brightness.

Hmm… there are still a lot of holes!

Then I pinned the pieces into position, rolled it up & took it through to my big computerised (secondhand) Pfaff, and zig-zagged the pieces into position. Needless to say, a fair few had fallen off by the time I got to them, and I managed to stab myself with the pins umpteen times. I wonder if a dab of PVA in the centre of each scrap would have worked better?

Scraps zig-zagged on…

If I weren’t just stashbusting, I might have used some of the Pfaff’s enormous range of stitches and some interesting thread. However, in the cause of using stuff up whilst I actually have some time available, I just went for fast & furious. After cutting & sticking on some wadding & backing (which also did duty as the binding, folded over, ironed & stitched down) with that miraculous 505 spray, I transferred operations to my REAL sewing machine, the 1909 Jones treadle.

If I could only keep one machine, it’d be this one. Never skips a stitch or sulks.

It took a lot longer to quilt this one; it’s much more closely quilted. I chose to more-or-less echo the shapes of the rectangles and their overlaps. So if quilts got names, I’d call it “Corners” as I turned an awful lot of those! But the joy of working on an old-fashioned treadle is total control; it never runs away with you. Anyway, by this morning I was very nearly there…

Hours & hours of turning corners later…

All done by lunchtime! And has been washed, dried & stashed away with Stashbusters I & 2, waiting for small owners, should those days ever arrive! Mind you, I’m not saying they have to be human owners…

The finished article.

Stashbuster 4 will be somewhat of a change of direction… but there are a couple of large alteration projects to shift first, to make more room in the “Sewing studio” aka the spare bedroom. So I’ll allow myself at least a week to get this one done & dusted.

Stashbuster 2…

Raggy cot quilt from scraps…

Stashbusting cot quilt no. 2 completed… My self-imposed challenge this time was only to use fabric from my scrap drawer for the top. Whenever I have a scrap of suitable fabric either left over from another project or come in on a job lot but much too small to sell on, I stuff it into my scrap drawer for using up another day. Well, that day is this day.

There’s a slight cheat in that one of the fabrics hadn’t quite made it into the scrap drawer (from a damaged “New Look” cotton skirt, which I hadn’t quite got round to dismantling) but that’s where it was bound. Not all the scraps go into quilt tops; there are 1001 uses for a small bit of decent fabric, like – oh, lavender sachets, bunting, test-stitching a newly refurbished sewing machine, lining a woven bag – they’re always useful.

My elderly mother got quite excited when she heard I was making cot quilts, pointedly wondering whether there was any news from the assorted offspring. It was hard to break it to her that actually I’m just making them for practice, to use stuff up & experiment with simple techniques, and because that size is so eminently do-able in short bites of time!

But I had thought that actually using up a whole cot-quilt’s-worth would clear a fair bit of space in there. Sadly, not so! I think there’s still enough for a couple of king-size quilts in there. I do have an intriguing idea for the next one, but this may go on for longer than a month…

My not-very-empty scrap drawer…

Actual practice…

I’ve been tidying the “sewing room” (aka the spare bedroom) in preparation for some serious stashbusting. I have far too much fabric, nearly all reclaimed, and all of it utterly gorgeous, so I’m choosing to see the current 4-week lockdown as an opportunity to do something with it! My plan is to make a handful of little quilts; nothing fancy, just scrappy strips & squares, according to my resources. Then I’ll have a stock of things to give to any new humans that might appear on my horizons, our assorted Offspring being of an age when that kind of thing may begin to happen. I’m seeing it as a rainy day project, because there’s a lot of work to do up at the allotment and in the garden, but at this time of year I’m a bit of a fair-weather gardener.

Random strips of torn-up bedding, converted into a “fuzzy” cot quilt

Many a slip, of course; the proof of the pudding will be in the quilting, to muddle several metaphors. One finished already, though! And some mending done, too.

I was intrigued to discover, at a Zoom meeting of our Guild last weekend, that other people had also mislaid their creative mojo during the spring & summer lockdown. I wonder if it will be different this time? We’ve had a bit more of a run-up at it, this time, and have a better idea of what to expect. Also, there isn’t that feeling of “anything might be about to happen, any time” that kept so many of us feeling almost paralysed, in a creative sense, last time. But whether very much creativity will actually happen this time is anyone’s guess.

I wandered into a couple of charity shops earlier in the week & was intrigued to see people making a beeline for the bookshelves, then scooping up several books at a time, almost without actually looking at them. The sad thing that struck me was that in all the shops, the books on the shelves were more or less the same. Same authors, same best-selling thrillers & bonkbusters, same prices. I do know they have to concentrate on what they know will sell, but there’s precious little actual choice out there now.

Anyway, shan’t witter on for too long; there’s plenty more stash to bust, and an allotment to tidy up & mulch for the winter. But look what I found hiding under the Jerusalem artichokes; a very tiny Turks’ Turban squash! I thought someone had dropped a satsuma on our plot, but it’s smaller than that; it’s next to a quince & a pomegranate in the pic, and about equal in size to the clementine behind it. It’s quite heavy, but I suspect there won’t be too many seeds in that one!

A very dinky but fully-formed squash.

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…

I don’t know why…

I just haven’t been able to write anything for the last few months. I’m not sure why; it’s not as if I haven’t been doing things, and plenty of them, but it’s seemed somehow like time apart from the mainstream of life. Part of me desperately wanted to record the sheer strangeness going on all around, but a larger part of me felt that committing it to type might make it real, somehow. A sort of feeling that if I held my breath, didn’t do anything, didn’t acknowledge the situation, it might kind of just fade away…

Anyway, the spell has been broken by the necessity of getting a newsletter out; there wasn’t much to put in it, so I ended up writing an article-ette to bulk it out, then suddenly, Bingo! The brakes in my head came off. And I have to report, it is real. At the start of all this, back in spring, I think we all hoped that in a few weeks, it would all be behind us, just another something-and-nothing. But it isn’t; it’s becoming apparent that that was just the start and we have a long & sometimes rocky road ahead of us. There have been many moments when it seemed that someone somewhere was playing a gigantic joke on us (drive 30 miles to test your eyes? You cannot be serious, that could actually be lethal) but no, it’s for real, the lunatics are in charge of the asylum and they’re not about to fly away over the cuckoo’s nest.

Where I live, we’ve been relatively lucky in that the virus has yet to gain much of a foothold. By and large, people have done what our leaders asked them to, and it’s easy for us to get out into the fresh air and stay socially distanced. But the price has been not seeing our families; we had a wedding in the family, the bridegroom being one of our sons, and my Other Half and I had to stay elsewhere so that he could be with his siblings before the ceremony & not break the Rule of Six. (All kudos to the bride & groom for staying calm and switching their arrangements several times at the drop of a government diktat, at considerable expense.) My mother had a spell in hospital and decided that she couldn’t bear to live alone any longer; we’ve found her a wonderful care home, which she’s enjoying hugely, but we can’t visit her except to yell up to her balcony, and we certainly can’t give her a hug. These are small sadnesses, and we know we’re very lucky in the great scheme of things, but they are also little rips in the social fabric that binds us all together, and we all know what happens to little rips that don’t get mended swiftly.

There are – undercurrents – that worry me. More and more places are refusing to accept cash, ostensibly because coins and notes may harbour the virus. But as our banks & government have been flying the kite of a cashless society for a long time now, this seems to be playing into their hands. Then what happens to those who are refused bank accounts, often for reasons beyond their control, like debts run up by a previous partner or occupant of their home? How can markets, independent traders, workshops & studios flourish without cash where the mobile connections aren’t reliable, i.e. anywhere outside major population centres?

It’s getting harder to get hold of big things that you really need. I won’t bore you with my greenhouse saga, but it took 5 months to actually acquire one, having originally ordered (and paid) in early April, and it was a nightmare to put together. In the end, though, I’m very pleased with it. It took 2 months to get hold of a new & much-needed freezer, which isn’t the make or model I wanted, but at least it’s the right size and actually here; the one I wanted is still unavailable. Apparently it’s equally hard to get hold of a new TV now too; “supply chain” problems. Interesting…

The bantams & their chicks investigate the new greenhouse…

You can’t actually see a doctor or dentist unless you’re on the verge of expiring. Phone consultations are better than nothing, but they can’t see the lump on your eyebrow that you hadn’t noticed or the fact you’re rather yellow. And so much blame is being misdirected – “NHS” Track & Trace, anyone? – which has nothing to do with the NHS itself and everything to do with money-grubbing super-corporations trying to dig their fingers into our pie, with appalling incompetence that would have got any public servant sacked & disgraced. But how can we hold our “leaders” to account when they’ve made it absolutely clear that they simply don’t give a damn what we think?

How do we know who to listen to? We’re told that policy decisions are “following the science” but whose science? Who’s paying for that science? It does rather seem that those with the highest responsibility are cherrypicking the science that they want us to follow, but have no intention of following it themselves?

Anyway, enough! What have I been up to? (Apart from growing stuff, failing to earn anything much (there are no vintage markets going on down here, and all the summer festivals & events were cancelled, and look likely to be next year, too) and trying to find ways that our family can celebrate things like weddings more or less together?) Well, not as much as I would like to be able to say. I taught myself to knot netting at the beginning, so that my peas could have something tough but soft to scramble up. The wild rabbits that infest our allotment site ate my peas. The rabbits also ate my carrots, my runner beans (including most of the ones that re-sprouted from last year’s roots) and nearly everything except beetroot & chard. (Which did give me the chance to learn to appreciate fresh home-grown beetroot, which is actually quite yummy.)

Home-grown beetroot…

They also tunnelled under the sunflowers, which depressed those somewhat & led to some strange multi-headed blooms. Once I’d realised that I had to defend everything against rabbit incursions, and my second line of beans were halfway up the poles and beginning to flower, we had a late frost – 23rd May – which killed those too, and most of the French beans, gave the potatoes a nasty headache and generally wreaked havoc. Only 4 plots got badly “hit” out of 126; it was then that we realised we’re at the bottom of a very gradual slope and cold air sinks downwards.

But that said, the courgettes went bonkers. We grew just one more plant than last year, when we had – enough, just about – but this year we ended up coming home with anything up to 12 courgettes on every visit, and giving a fair number away. 3 of the 6 plants are still going strong, as are the 3rd planting of runner beans. We only planted 3 tomato plants; the other 14 came up of their own accord. I didn’t keep on top of supporting them & pinching them out, etc., but we had a magnificent harvest before the blight struck, and ended up with a freezer full of ratatouille & passata. There’s plenty of chard, kale & leeks in the ground to see us over the winter and there are a number of “unofficial” Turk’s Turban squashes (i.e. grown from seeds from last year; they’ve come up pretty much like their parent plant & do taste good) sitting in the conservatory as well as a couple of little pumpkins. And the raspberries have been superb. For all the frustrations & setbacks, we still well & truly got our money’s-worth out of our little plot. Now it just remains to clear the beds that will be “resting” over the winter, sow a couple of lines of runner & Iron Age horse beans, and tidy up.

Well, maybe the rabbits didn’t get ALL of the peas…

I discovered how to make & drink rhubarb champagne, which is delicious, but I haven’t done a lot of craft-work; I did manage to twine a new cover for a small stool with the remains of a damaged old blanket, but that’s about it. Like with writing, I didn’t have the heart to start anything, somehow. But now I’m looking forward to actually using up some of my fabric, yarn, fleece and other resources in the long dark evenings to come. There are plenty of ideas beginning to bubble away in my head; time to start putting some of them into practise!

Small foot-stool re-covered in woven blanket

What shall I do with…? part 1

Tomato overload…

Some of you already know that I live in a little medieval market town, not far from the market itself. For many years, I’ve done the bulk of my food shopping there, which has saved us a fortune & provided us with plentiful good, fresh & seasonal food, with more variety than is available in most supermarkets. In some cases I was handing our money over to my children’s classmates’ parents, thus keeping our own local economy thriving.

Sadly the market has dwindled down to a shadow of its former self, and is due to close shortly, to make way for an exclusive “retirement village” or Granny Ghetto, as some have dubbed it. The fact that many of our own local elderly residents won’t be able to afford the “retirement lifestyle” and won’t be able to get to the relocated market, a mile out of town, evidently hasn’t tugged any heartstrings at planning permission level. So I’ll use these last few weeks of The Market to document some of the amazing bargains I pick up, and how I use them.

Today’s bargain was 18 x 350g punnets of Spanish cherry tomatoes for £3, i.e. 6.3kg, just tipping slightly into over-ripe territory. That’s quite a few… so far I’ve used 6 punnets in a big pot of tomato & coriander soup, along with two of the 8 courgettes picked at the allotment yesterday and one of our home-grown onions that had got a little bruised on harvesting. One more punnet has gone into a chilli this evening, leaving me with 11 to go. I was musing about whether to dehydrate some – still a possibility – but my Other Half’s face lit up at the mention of Tomato & Chilli relish. So that will be tomorrow’s major project, after producing our traditional Sunday roast dinner.

In other news, as son no. 3 always says, I have finally made the new curtains for our kitchen revamp. I’ve only had the fabric, a William Morris misprint, a mere – 3 years? – since we chose it! And there was some left over, enough to do 4 seat-pads for our eclectic mix of vintage kitchen chairs, using some foam that came up on our local Freegle group. Sadly there are actually 8 chairs, so now I have a dilemma – do I buy some more, or let the project rest now I’ve used up what I had, & get on with the rest of the kitchen?

An unusual use of a seat pad…

From bunk beds to raised beds…

Missy, Norma & Daisy inspect the “new” raised bed

It’s been an interesting few weeks… I’d have liked to document the Covid-19 lockdown – not that it’s over yet – but somehow hadn’t the heart for it. And I’ve been pretty busy, despite not being able to do my usual markets, fairs & festivals, or visit my family; the allotment suffered a fair bit of neglect last year, thanks to my less-than-ideal health, so there was some very hard work to put in over there; I never, ever want to see a creeping buttercup again. Luckily the weather was excellent so I could just head on over there & get on with the job. And there was lots of fun to be had raising seedlings!

It was very difficult to get hold of seeds for the things I’d run out of, because after the Great Loo Roll & Pasta Panic of 2020, the next thing the general public around here did was strip the garden centres bare before they had to shut their doors. The big online seed companies didn’t seem to know what had hit them & many only “opened” their websites for an hour or so each morning, in order to try to keep up with demand. However, the gardening magazines came to the rescue with packet after packet of “free” useful seeds; not always the varieties I’d have chosen, but there when they were needed! And some of the less well-known seed sellers – smaller companies, or enterprising individuals, mostly on Ebay – helped me acquire the things I really couldn’t be doing without, like Red Russian kale & Orelia courgettes.

I don’t have a greenhouse (sore subject – I should have one, having paid for one that was allegedly in stock back in April, but there’s no sign of it yet & no word from the vendors despite many queries, although they still seem to be trading) so most of this year’s seedlings were raised in half a small dilapidated polytunnel, which was bought in a panic to house my bantams in during the Great Bird Flu Panic. The cover was in bad shape, having been cut to make roll-up “windows” to keep the birds well-ventilated & healthy during their confinement, but the frame is OK (as we’re only using half of it) & I managed to roll & tie the damaged cover so that it basically did the job.

The “half-baked” polytunnel

It’s all well & good raising seedlings to go into the allotment, but we may be unable to access our crops if we get a localised total lockdown, which I believe is a distinct possibility as the epidemic progresses. So I wanted to create some space somehow in our small urban garden, which is already pretty full of fruit & nut trees & bushes, roses, day-lilies, a wildlife pond, a 6m chicken run, bantams, a small lawn, 3 cats and all their friends, & what seems like several acres of drying washing. A small raised bed running alongside the chicken run seemed like a good idea, until I priced them up & realised that, complete with a kit to make a cover, a necessity with free-range bantams, we were looking at £150 & I still had to put it all together myself.

So – what had we got that might be press-ganged into doing the job? An inspection of the lengths of wood lurking in the garage rafters yielded 4 x 2m sturdy pine “planks” that were once the sides of our elder boys’ bunk beds, a number of rickety pine shelves & some sturdy bits of 2×2. There was half a pot of green stain to take the edge off the orangey colour of the varnished pine, and plenty of long screws & staples left over from reconstructing the Gumtree’d freebie shed at the allotment. I did need to buy some heavy-duty ground cover to line it, and some butterfly net to make the cover, plus some compost to top off the home-made & reclaimed-from-dead-pots stuff underneath, but altogether I’ve spent less than £25. It won’t last forever, but if it does us until next Spring, I’ll be happy and so will my plants. Then if we’re staying put for another year (we’d like to move to somewhere with a bigger garden) we might invest in something a little sturdier.

A pumpkin flower in a wombled cold frame, and borage for pollinators – and Pimms – at the allotment.

Supermarket mayhem…

She was standing by her empty trolley, impeccably suited, subtly made-up & sleekly-coiffed, clutching her shopping list, with tears trickling slowly down her face. Our local W8rose had run clean out of pasta this morning; the shelf was utterly empty. And rice, and noodles, and tinned tomatoes & passata, corned beef & tuna, bread flour, yeast & sugar, all except the exotic, expensive varieties. To be honest, there were plenty of alternatives like bulgur wheat available, but rationality had fled and sheer blind panic set in. Her blank, tear-stained face will stay with me for a long time.

I’m not completely unsympathetic; poor woman, evidently nothing in her comfortable life had prepared her for this. And she may only have had an hour to “get everything in” before giving a vital presentation or chairing a meeting. The reality of being “let down” by one’s ubiquitous upmarket grocer brings home the reality that there is something going on just now that many people are somewhat poorly-prepared for.

One of my daughters works at another local supermarket which has been mobbed for the last couple of weeks. Regular customers who normally do a £100 weekly shop are spending £300-£400, ransacking the shelves of what they perceive to be store-cupboard staples, like crisps and energy bars. Out of curiosity, I looked up bulk noodle & rice supplies on Amaz0n, and watched the available deals vanish before my very eyes; I’d see a deal considerably less favourable than I’d find in our local oriental supermarket, click on another for comparison, go back to the first & find it had sold out, literally seconds after I first saw it.

I’m not worried for ourselves; for many years, I’ve been a “prepper” in the sense that I’ve kept a good store-cupboard & always had some non-perishable food & flavourings on hand that we could survive on for a number of days if for some reason, like having ‘flu, being snowed in, or having broken a leg, I couldn’t get out for a bit. That just seems like common sense to me. When something runs out in the main larder cupboard, I open the one in the store cupboard and make a note to buy another ASAP to replace it, making sure stuff is rotated and used up well before it’s best-before date when possible. It isn’t always possible, as demand fluctuates, but in general we don’t end up throwing stuff out, and sometimes it even saves us money. But that hasn’t stopped people gently laughing at my “Armageddon Cupboard”…

And that’s one of things distressing my daughter; knowing that a lot of the stuff that people are rushing out to buy will probably be wasted in the end, as they won’t have, or will run out of, the things that make bland staple carbs like rice & pasta interesting, or they just won’t need or use it at all until it’s out-of-date. Also that many people are buying much more than they could possibly need to last for a couple of weeks, because they’re used to daily or, at most, weekly shopping and have no idea how much stuff they actually get through. Not much thought is going into their panic-driven lists; they’re racing to snap up things that a) they don’t usually buy or use and b) there’s no known shortage of in this country, but that someone’s mentioned on Faceb00k.

People are getting left out. I’m not so worried for the lady crying in the pasta aisle, though that’s a shame. But for the pensioners who can only get there once a week, with just an hour before the bus back home leaves, who find the shelves empty. For the food-banks, whose donation boxes are conspicuously empty. For those elderly or disabled stuck at home, dependent on carers & meals-on-wheels deliverers who may themselves have to self-isolate. For those who have no storage, living in bedsits, or worse still, no home at all to keep stores or self-isolate in. And what about those on zero-hours contracts, who will have no money to pay the rent or buy food with if they need to take time off sick?

This is a mess. Those nominally in charge don’t appear to have a coherent plan of action & seem to be more invested in minimising economic damage than in making sure all of their citizens are as safe and as well as can be. They’re leaving it up to us to prepare ourselves, and not everyone is in a position to do that, or has the time or the skills, or even the inclination. And it’s up to the supermarkets to ration supplies or not, as they choose. If things do get really silly, all we can do is try to look after any vulnerable people we’re aware of, making sure they do have food to eat at least, even if it’s just a bag of tins (provided they have & can use a tin-opener; not everyone does or can) or packets left on the doorstep & a thumbs-up through the window. Phone your elderly relatives, if you can’t go & see them, so that at least they have a tiny bit of social contact, and phone them back every day if you’re the only voice outside the gogglebox that they’re hearing. Skype or FaceTime them, if they can manage that.

Oh, and please don’t bet your health, and everyone else’s, on it “not being any worse than the ‘flu”…

Hands-on stuff…

The dark evenings and winter chill made me determined to finish the small rug/shower-room mat that had languished on my big twining loom since last spring was sprung.

Our new shower mat – still needs a little tidying up!

That, plus the fact I’d agreed to run a little workshop on the subject of “simple forms of weaving” for our Guild’s Skills Day at the end of January. I got stuck in and finished the shower mat within a couple of evenings – it’s now in use – and warped the loom with torn-up sheets ready for the workshop. My “students” seemed to enjoy themselves and between us we did several inches of  a new, full-size rug in warm shades of brown, orange & light green, still ongoing here at home. However, during the day, it did occur to me that it would be good to have some smaller looms available for people to learn the technique on and hopefully complete something small but useful within a day.

New rug under construction!

So I started looking around for some suitable wood, ordered a batch of beechwood pegs and raided a DIY superstore for eye-bolts, wing-nuts and stainless steel rods, as we also needed to buy a sander for our younger daughter’s latest project. (Which is possibly THE most expensive way of acquiring eye-bolts, all beautifully but individually packaged & priced to match!) We did have some old bed-slats in the garage roof, but eventually I decided that they were too wide to handle easily and too shallow to fix the pegs into securely. Then my eye fell on a batten that had once held a 6′ wide Roman blind… although it’s technically a soft wood, it proved to be very sturdy and quite hard to drill into, so I think it’ll stand the strain. So I chopped it into 18″ lengths, bolted those into a square, then drilled holes & inserted the pegs along the top & bottom. Once I’d sorted out a way to fix the rod down the side – random washers & wing nuts to the rescue – I had a slightly eccentric but entirely workable loom.

Home-made 18″ twining loom

However it took me a couple of days, on & off round Real Life, to weave an 18″ square, which made me think it’s a little too large for what I was aiming at. So the next construction project will be a 12″ version. In the meantime I’ll be weaving a new top for a little old footstool, not to mention working on a set of matching chair pads for our mis-matched kitchen chairs. And then – I might just go 3d with it and maybe try a small basket to keep yarn in?

A footstool in need of a twined makeover…

That’s one way to make a dent in my fabric stash! And there are plenty of others…

Putting a resolution into action…

Last night I woke with a start at 2am, as a random thought suddenly clicked into focus. I’d wondered a couple of times lately why the elderly chest freezer in the garage, which I’ve been meaning to defrost for months, had been switched to “super”, so I grumpily kept switching it back to normal. Maybe one of the girls needed to cool something rapidly & forgot about it? Maybe one of the cats trod on the switch?

No. In the dark of the night I realised that it was so iced-up it was running constantly, on “super” because normal just wasn’t maintaining the temperature any longer as warm air leaked in around the iced-up seals. So defrosting it suddenly leapt to the top of my “to-do” list & first thing this morning I was out there, hauling the contents out & stuffing them into a vast assortment of cool-boxes and insulating wraps – mostly old wool blankets. Luckily everything was still absolutely solid.

Then it struck me; oops, I had no idea how long some of the contents had been in there. It was high time for a good sort out… This freezer’s been great at keeping things very, very cold, but it is reaching the end of its expected life & showing the strain somewhat; I should be running the contents down & saving up ready to replace it within the year. So whilst it was defrosting enough to scrape the rest of the built-up ice off gently, I ran down to the market and invested in a notebook.

As stuff went back in, I logged it. I thought I only had a couple of packs of meat or fish in there; actually, there were 20-odd items. There’s cheese and butter. I thought I’d used the last of our home-grown beans up over Christmas, but there were 3 more bags in there. I’d completely forgotten the bags of grated golden courgettes, intended to bulk out soups & stews. There’s enough apple & pumpkin in the bottom to sink a battleship, and several bags of roasted butternut squash chunks. All of it carefully, lovingly & organically grown…

There’s no huge rush to use up the things I know only went in there a month or two ago, especially not as we still have trays of wrapped apples and several large squashes to eat up first. And the meat, not to mention the cheese, will see us through the next couple of months with very little need to visit a supermarket; the idea will be to use something from the freezer every other day at least. If I had a New Year’s resolution at all this year, it was to use up stuff that we already have; admittedly I was thinking of fabric & yarn, but it works across the board really. Here’s my chance!

Some of the other things had definitely been in there for longer than I cared to remember – raspberries, blueberries, & blackberries from 2018 or before, all of them market bargains or foraged from the hedgerows.  So I decided to make “Freezer Jam” with them, rather than let them go to waste.

I weighed the bags of fruit, then an appropriate amount of sugar – a little less than the total weight of the fruit; I don’t like my preserves too sweet – then chopped up the very last of this year’s quinces, hoping they’d provide at least a little pectin to set the jam. I chucked it all into my preserving pan & let it all melt down together. At this point I realised that some of the “blueberries” were in fact sloes, so had to stop & push the whole lot through a colander to remove the stones. But the taste was really gorgeous; deep, dark & tangy, well worth the extra work!

So now we have 5 full-size jars and 2 small ones of “Freezer Jam”. And yes, it seems to be setting just fine. When I made the Medlar jam, I said I hadn’t expected to be making jam in December. Well, I really hadn’t expected to be making it in January too!


That said, there’s a bag of Seville oranges in the conservatory awaiting my attention…