Sometimes, it just won’t do…

Well, spot the sometimes-blogger who completely lost her blogging mojo… I don’t know why , I just felt that I didn’t have anything interesting to say. Or, for that matter, do… But having just annoyed myself intensely, please forgive me if I give myself an online talking-to!

So I decided to make a rag rug for our eldest son and his lovely partner, who are about to move into their own first-bought home. I know that they will be choosing their furniture & decor carefully, and of course it’s hard to gauge what might “fit” until you can see how their plans are working out – and if they’re anything like us, things don’t so much go according to the masterplan as just fall into place. They’ll do… I thought I’d just go along with something completely practical, which can be used anywhere – a bathmat, a door mat, a sleeping mat for their adorable dachshund, a boot-liner for the car. There was already a warp on the loom; I’d intended to make a mat for the back seat of my van, but kind of lost my way over winter with that as well. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the warp was made from leftover bits of an old sheet that had been cut into strips for a completely different project, several years ago.

I should have known that a cut warp was never going to be as satisfactory as a torn warp for a twined-weave project; it hadn’t been cut completely straight on the “grain”, so the warp was constantly “shedding” threads, which stick up in the finished weaving. And enough came away as I went along that I became slightly anxious that it wouldn’t be as strong in the middle as it needs to be, to take the ferocious tension. Luckily – it sufficed.

A very tangly warp…

The weft strips were a few bits of my husband’s old, torn jeans, an old, frayed turquoise seersucker tablecloth and two-and-a-half reclaimed duvet covers from the recycling warehouse. Total expenditure, £2; 50p each for the 4 bought items, with half of one duvet cover and a few strips left over.

So they picked up the keys today. And I really wanted there to be a parcel for them on the doorstep, so I carried on “over, under, twist!”-ing ’til late at night on Tuesday. I was aware I’d made a bit of an error at one point, but thought, it’s never going to be completely symmetrical, it’s in the nature of the beast to be a little bit chaotic – it’s a rag-rug, it’ll do. So I carried on.

I came down on Wednesday morning, took one look, and oh my goodness – NO!!! It would NOT do. The error shrieked and glared at me; I knew I’d have to undo half of what I’d done the evening before and put it right. If it was anywhere in my sight, the wrongness would just leap out at me, even though I’m no perfectionist. So I spent a merry couple of hours twisting backwards.

No, no, no, no, no! 4+ rows of turquoise where 3 would be enough…7 rows+ to unpick, half-done when pictured.

The moral of this story being – STOP when you’re tired, and start making mistakes! I have known this for many years – go off & do something else, sleep on it, come back to your project when you’re refreshed and not before! But once again, I carried on long past the point where I should have stopped… Despite the setback, I still got it finished and posted in time, and it arrived today – the day they picked up the keys for their own first lovely home. Phew…

About to go off to make itself useful…

Just asking – has anyone else out there struggled to get going with projects lately? In the unforgettable words of a dear friend – are you feeling, like I was, somewhat oomph-lacking?

In the spirit of Thrift…

A long time ago, I discovered that the word “Thrift” doesn’t quite mean what people generally think. (Although there is an element of words eventually coming to mean what people think they mean, rather than what they originally meant. Just don’t tell Humpty Dumpty.) It didn’t, and shouldn’t, mean penny-pinching miserliness; it came from the same root as “thrive”, just as “frugal” originally meant much the same as “fruitful”. Once I’d wrapped my head around the idea of thrift as something positive, it put a different slant on my attempts to live within our means as we raised our biggish family on one-and-a-little-bit incomes whilst paying a fairly hefty mortgage to afford a home big enough for us not to actually fall over each other. It became a challenge to get the very best out of the resources actually available to us, rather than to become bitter & envious, and strive after ever more money and ever more stuff.

There are all sorts of interesting thoughts hovering around this; why are we continually encouraged to buy, buy, buy; to upgrade things that aren’t broken, to cook with fresh ingredients from the other side of the planet, to constantly change our clothes & decor at the whim of fashion editors & celebrities, to replace rather than repair? Is this a sane way to try to run the world? Why is our own time rarely recognised as an important resource, only time that someone else pays you for? However, the central fact is that, given that you actually do have enough (a key concept) of everything vital, it’s an interesting challenge to see what more you can do with the resources, of any sort, that do come your way.

Hence my determination not to just throw away (and where exactly is away?) the little strips of not-so-usable fabric that resulted from demolishing 20-something shirts, some old jeans, and a couple of skirts for free or very-inexpensive fabric. The hems, side-seams & plackets, mostly; I have another project or two in mind for the collars and cuffs. And thanks to lockdown 3 here in the UK, I have plenty of time to put my plans into action for a while. So, here’s the finished hem-and-seam rug:

Rug in twined-weave, made from seams, hems & plackets of old shirts, jeans & skirts, plus an old duvet cover.

I do know how very lucky I am, to have the time and the space to make things, but something inside me won’t let me not make things, and of course there are plenty of other things I should probably be doing, like housework. The things I make may be simple & easy, and I really don’t need another rug, but it’s given me great pleasure to turn some things that under other circumstances could be seen as “waste” into something genuinely useful and colourful.

For the next few days, I need to concentrate on getting a few seeds started, and a part-done cot quilt that needs finishing before the “user” arrives! But then – where next with my massive “to do” pile and my random assortment of “resources”…?

Sooo – Christmas has gone away…

… the family have eaten leftovers for a week, my allotment’s a weedy mess, the house is a tip, we’re back in lockdown again, I have 101 half-done or not-even-started projects lying around, and what am I doing?

Shirt, pyjama & skirt seams

Weaving shirt-seams, of course! I have 3 big bags of little strips of fabric cluttering up my sewing room, from dismantling lots of shirts/jeans/pyjamas/tablecloths & tea-towels for quilt fabric & other projects, and there’s only so many you can use as plant-ties. I’d been keeping them for a course on Weaving with Waste that I’d booked onto last September, which sadly couldn’t take place. There’ll be another one, of course, Once All This Has Blown Over (OATHBO in certain online quarters) but just imagine how much more I’ll have accumulated by then. Though my New Year’s resolutions, as usual, include putting myself on a Fabric Diet ; no more fabric will be acquired (new or otherwise) until at least half of what I currently have as been used up or sold on.

Slightly less of a tangle now

I have done some things: my Other Half has a second pair of cosy PJ bottoms made from an old flannelette sheet. They were cut out months ago when I made the first pair, and put aside in my enormous “to do” pile. DD2 has mended PJs and a new pair too, from some soft but sturdy brushed cotton found in a charity shop last spring at £3 for about 4m of 60″ wide fabric in a cheery red & white plaid. And I’ve finally managed to make a pair of what my great-aunt would have called, in a breathless whisper, “Underthings” (i.e. knickers) from an old t-shirt; not rocket science, I know, and of course I could just buy a pack of new ones, but it pleases me to re-use pretty & still-decent fabric & keep my money safe from those who peddle poor-quality “underthings” that fall apart in a few weeks. I’m pleased to report that they fit well and are very comfortable!

Poppy assisting with pyjama-making

I’ve also cut out & attempted to sew a warm top from blanket-type fabric acquired new, as a treat, a couple of years ago. Needless to say, I struggled with this. My overlocker didn’t seem to “like” the fabric & kept breaking one specific thread. At first I thought the thread must be weak, so changed it, but the next reel also broke every few stitches. Then I thought I must somehow have bent the needle, so changed that. But now I’ve realised that it was “pilot error”; the loopers & needles need to be threaded in a specific order, and once one thread had broken & been replaced, that order was undone and the machine was struggling to form stitches correctly. I’m hoping I still have enough fabric to sort it out, as I may need to re-make the sleeves entirely, I’d chewed so much off them before stopping to read the instructions… oh dear. You can’t cure stupid, as they say, by changing the needle!

So yes, plenty going on here, and there are still about 98 projects in the “to-do” pile, so I’m looking on lockdown 3 as a chance to clear as much from that pile as possible. Let’s see if I can end up with a chance to see the floor of the sewing room/spare bedroom once more…

Not the most “helpful” of assistants, really…

A silver lining?

I’ve been somewhat subdued this winter for health reasons (full story here should you wish to know more) and not actually able to do the things I’d planned, as my hands, not to mention my poor brain, just wouldn’t – couldn’t – work properly, thanks to peripheral neuropathy. So I was rather glad to have the time to get to grips with yet another simple form of weaving whilst demolishing a large pile of old bedding that had gone beyond reasonable use or otherwise become surplus to requirements.

For a long time I’ve been intrigued by twined weaves, and also by rag rugs; my great-aunt Bet had a wonderful collection of “slip-mats” of one sort or another, so-called because if you jumped on them at just the right angle, you could slip & slide all the way down her highly-polished hallway floor! I loved the textures, the patterns & the colours, and I’m sure some of them were twined, some hooked and some prodded, though no-one now can remember where she got them or indeed, whether she’d made them herself.

Anyway, this was my first effort, woven on a Libbylula twining loom, following instructions found on YouTube, entirely from old bedding torn into 2″ strips, including the warp:

Firsttwinedrug

It’s just done with very simple blocks of colour, working from alternate ends inwards. Joins are very random, occurring wherever the previous colour ran out or I just decided to change colours. I’m not sure about the “fringe” but it’s staying put for now.

And for my next trick, I decided to experiment with colour & pattern a bit. But I wasn’t the only one enjoying the simple, manageable rhythms of over, under, twist…

Poppyweaving

Poppy “helped” every inch of the way! And here she is, staking her claim to the finished article:

Poppysrug

It won’t stay in the living room; it’s not the right colours and to be honest, I went overboard with the patterning a bit! But it’s shown me how it works, and what’s pleasing to the eye, and what isn’t, or just doesn’t show up on that scale.

As the pile of our own deceased bedding diminished, I found that one of our local charity shops was very happy to dispose of donated bedding, which they don’t sell, for a better price than the ragman would give them. So I now have an even bigger pile of bedding to rip into strips, but it’s in “better” colours for my purposes. I’m also planning to experiment with 3-D weaving & weaving without a frame, which are also possible with this technique; most willow baskets are woven this way. Not to mention trying out alternative materials; English Bullrushes, packing tape & baler twine spring to mind.

So a period of less-than-perfect health and enforced “leisure” have opened new horizons for me. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?