The Great Shirt Project strikes again…

For several years now, I’ve been working on a one-woman challenge: to find as many uses for old shirts as I can! Every quilter knows there’s a whole lot of good, still-useful fabric in a decent gent’s shirt, often in lovely colours and nicely understated patterns, and so many of them just get chucked away when something frays, or a button falls off, or the owner gets larger or just goes off that colour. I’ve been paying 50p for superb quality cotton or linen shirts down at the recycler’s warehouse-shop, chopping them up and using the fabric in little quilts, and weaving the side-seams into bags and rugs, and making hanging “pockets”, needle books, mending kits and laptop covers, to name just a few of the ideas that have occurred to me. A few of the resulting items have even been sold.

Yesterday I experimented with some cuffs; I’ve been steadily selling lavender hearts made from the embroidered bits of old stained table linen, but they are delightfully feminine when all’s said & done. I wanted to make something that a guy would be happy to hang in his wardrobe to make his clothes smell fresh & deter moths, too. So now I’ve invented the Lavender Cuff! Time will tell whether anyone will ever actually buy one, but it’s got to be worth a try…

Lavender-stuffed cuffs!

But the thing that I really, really wanted to make was a hat. It struck me some time ago that the stiffened bits of a formal shirt, i.e. the collars and cuffs, would be ideal for making a hat, if I could just get them joined together somehow. But before I had my big Pfaff machine serviced, all my attempts came to nothing; I broke a number of needles and wrecked several collars trying. It could always have been done by hand, but that might have taken rather a long time, so it didn’t happen.

Anyway, I tried again yesterday, and to my delight & surprise, I succeeded. The machine ran perfectly, I squared the collars & cuffs off to make even joins, and found an elegantly simple pattern to try (pattern & instructions here) and – it worked! I am now the proud possessor of a shirt-collar-and-cuff hat… This one’s a bit big; I made the bigger size because lots of hats feel too tight for me, so there’s another, slightly smaller, version in the making, but I’m actually really rather proud of it and will certainly wear it!

Collar-and-cuff hat!

The last laugh…

My fellow traders were pretty good, all in all, not to laugh out loud at me last Friday. A really superb rose-covered 4-piece suite came into the dump, fabulous quality & beautifully made, but alas, huge! Too big for the ex-owners’ new home, or in fact most of the housing stock around here. I pleaded with the manager to give it a day on sale, because someone would have had an excellent bargain there – they can’t charge more than £10 for anything, and this lot would have cost thousands when it was new. Really, really comfortable, too; the back cushions & scatter cushions are all feather-stuffed and it still had all its fire labels and was in very good condition.

But no-one had claimed it by the time I went back, just before closing, so before it went into the skip I “skinned” it. Cue a number of raised eyebrows & knowing smiles from the other traders hanging around in hope of someone throwing out Rolex watches, Wedgwood china or a Hepplewhite chair – which does sometimes happen, around here – but they were very good and didn’t laugh out loud. It was quite easy to strip the covers off as they were all zipped to be removable for cleaning.

There’s a LOT of beautiful fabric in a good suite… Not yardage, but lots of useful sized pieces that people won’t hesitate to pay a pound or two for each; you’d get a good, big, sturdy, long-lasting scatter-cushion or tote bag out of a couple of pieces. I’ll make a reasonable sum selling the larger pieces when I’ve washed & ironed them, and will have the smaller bits to make small bags, needle books, whacky lace-trimmed cushions & lavender sachets for sale. Two of the big back cushions and the scatter cushions have been “claimed” by a fellow-trader,  and I myself have plans for the other three!

Now I need ten minutes alone with a “dead” leather sofa & some sharp scissors… I’ll need quantities of leather, to make bases for the cushions as they become “floor” cushions. But the thing is, I will have more than tripled my money in the space of a few days, in exchange for a little bit of work with scissors, washing machine & iron. I may not get hundreds from spotting, nabbing & selling on one piece, but it all adds up, and I’ll have the pleasure of seeing my Boscombe Vintage Market customers’ faces light up as they spot the roses, feel the quality and realise the pieces are eminently affordable. And I even have some pieces to play with, myself, so I get the last laugh!

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Fabulous fabric – with a rather sweet little “helping hand!”

Don’t mind if I do!

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£5 for that big needlework box, and a few other items of interest? Don’t mind if I do, thank you! It’s quite heavy, though – full of books, maybe? But I’m on the run, no time to check…

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Ohmigosh, that’s not a book…

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It’s a rather-lovely little Singer Featherweight Plus 324! Complete, with instructions, looks as if it hasn’t seen a lot of use. Which may well have been due to the lint & old thread stuck in the shuttle race… Now spruced up, brushed out, oiled & stitching well. I gather that’s the original “case” – considering the pretty-awful & not exactly durable black plastic bases with grey plastic covers that they put the late-model 15Ks & 99Ks in, they get full marks for this one!

 

And another one…

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…another resolution, that is.

Yesterday Dear Son no. 3 and I swapped him from one of the bigger upstair bedrooms back into the smallest one, the same one he had for a number of years before he went off to university. As he said, it made sense because he’s a minimalist and doesn’t have much “stuff” – oh, and it’s also a fair bit warmer, too!

Whereas I do have rather a lot of stuff… I’d been attempting to use that little room (9′ x 10′ but irregularly shaped) as a guest bedroom, a drying area, and a sewing studio, which had resulted in more or less complete chaos on the sewing side, although it was – just – functional. The drying rack & clean laundry could be swept up & re-deployed at a moment’s notice whenever DS1 came home for the weekend; not so the sewing bench and the vast accumulations of fabric, patterns & notions. To be fair, a large amount of these were things intended for re-sale, that had been deposited in there as a “safe” area to store them in. But they’d got hopelessly muddled up with the bits that I’m actually using or have realistically-achievable plans for…

So now the bigger, cooler room is piled high with bags of fabric, patterns, notions, lace, ribbons, paper etc. I was too tired to try to sort it out, after dismantling two beds, locating a third, and re-building two of them again as well as hauling all the stuff around so it’s still more or less as it was last night; tomorrow I will try to sort out a working area for the big Pfaff, the overlocker and the embellisher, and possibly even add a picture, if I’m brave enough. There are still several trunks full of DD2 & DS2’s belongings in there, too, as well as a “dead” wardrobe (unwanted and unduly rickety now) and the spare bedding! All of which apparently have to go somewhere

The point of mentioning all this is to say that I have resolved that this will be the year when I buy NO new craft materials or fabric; I already have more than enough, and enough to keep the stall stocked for several months, too. I’m excepting specialist materials like interfacing – although I have a whole roll of heavy sew-in interfacing, found at the Tip late last year – or 505 spray where they’re really needed to do a specific job that actually needs doing & I don’t already have something that I can make do. But no impulse buys, not even when they’re really, really good bargains…

I think this may be harder than it sounds…

Might be a bit quiet for a week or two…

… because 1) DS3 is coming home – hip-hip-hooray! – from his 9 months studying in Chile, and 2) I’m going to have some “premises” again, for a while at least. I’ve taken a small stall at Molly’s Den, a nearby vintage/retro warehouse, where I hope to have some of my less-portable wares on offer 7 days a week, without tying myself up in knots trying to run a shop, restock it and run workshops too! So I’ll be tied up with sorting, pricing & preparing the space for a bit. I’ll see how it goes, but it will cost me just £5 a month more than a storage container, with the benefit that my stuff will not just be dry & safe & out from under everybody’s feet here, but it’ll actually be on sale too, and potential customers will be able to try things out.

To celebrate, I think I might organise a bit of a giveaway, inspired by Frugal Queen’s Bank Holiday giveaway; it won’t be as big as hers, but I do have rather a lot of small, interesting bits & bobs in need of a good home that isn’t shared with 4-6 other people & 3 cats! So, watch this space…

 

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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Ideas, ideas…

I’ve spent several happy hours hacking up 99p charity shop shirts over the last few weeks, with another quilt in mind, and will be posting a tutorial soon on how to cut up & re-use a shirt with least possible waste, along with some ideas for the “what-on-Earth-can-I-do-with-this?” bits. But some of the last batch were made from such pretty fabrics that one or two other ideas started to creep into my mind. However I’ll need all the shirts I’ve currently got, and more, to complete the current quilt top, so I went looking for more, but sadly it seems that the gods of charity shopping are not currently viewing this project with favour – there were no 99p rails out anywhere and precious few shirts under £3.99. So I started looking at other potential sources of inexpensive fabric. Not that there are many left now, sadly…

Anyway, most shops still seem to let unmatched pillowcases go for 50p, provided they put them out at all – oddments like that don’t fit with the High Street ethos, really – and some of them, usually the older ones, are made from fairly decent & attractive fabric, even if many are terylene/cotton mixes. So I dismembered a couple to see what I’d got. They are usually cut from one wide strip of sheeting fabric, selvedge to selvedge, overlocked along both long sides. If you’ve ever tried to unpick a 4-thread overlock, you’ll know it takes hours and there isn’t much fabric under there anyway, unlike a stitched seam. So I just cut the seams off, very close to the stitching, and ironed them flat. Then I kind of got to wondering whether there might be enough fabric there to make little pinafores… and the answer is, that provided you don’t mind about matching the pattern, or need them to flare out much, then yes, there is. This is my first effort, yet to be tried out on a real child; I suspect I haven’t made the armhole deep enough but that’s easily rectified next time around. In theory it’ll fit a 3-4 year old, but whether one would be seen dead in it remains to be seen! I will report back once I’ve pressganged a passing child, and if it’s a moderate success, I’ll post a tutorial as I make up the next one! And if that’s of much interest to anyone, I might just make up a few in kit form, and see if anyone would actually buy them…

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Catching up…

Sometimes you just need a few quiet days to catch up with stuff… it’s amazing how much chaos can vanish, given a few hours to tackle your UFOs. A UFO, for those of you who are more organised than I can pretend to be, is an UnFinished Object. At any given time I will have several hanging around, waiting for an unbroken run of time & inspiration to get them done & off my back. One of these has now been done and another is well underway, and would have been finished last night if my treadle belt hadn’t broken just as darkness fell.

A minor UFO!

This quilt came to me in two pieces; I found it in a local charity shop (henceforth referred to as CSs) just after I’d promised a young friend a quilt for their birthday. It’s a commercially-made one, although it’s hand-pieced, probably in India, and had been cut in half & hemmed to make two small singles, probably for two small boys. The two halves were being sold for dog blankets at £2.50 each… just so happened that I was cutting up a pile of blue 99p CS shirts to make patchwork pieces, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to “cheat” and try to join it back up again; couldn’t help thinking it would be rather wasted on your average pooch. I doubt I could have done it invisibly and actually I didn’t even want to try; every quilt tells a story, as they say, and being divided & joined back up again is part of this quilt’s tale. It lies flatter than it looks on the washing line!

The other project that’s awaiting some concentration-time is the blind for DS2’s window, which is half-finished, but I hope to have done by the end of today. This time I did buy the main fabric new & complete, to fit in with his colour scheme, but everything else is reclaimed, and much of it from the same old blind that I made DS3’s one from. Leftover fabric will be made into cushions; I found two brand-new cushion pads at the Tip a couple of weeks ago, still with their price tags on.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to try to dispose of more stuff than I bring back; a large load went off with the jumble collectors yesterday, and a boot-load of genuine rubbish went off to the Tip. And I only brought one small item back; a little vintage wind-up travel alarm clock. If it doesn’t work properly, I’ll cannibalise it for steampunk-style jewellery, but so far, it does, and very well too, so I might just have to sell it on as is…

And editing to add: treadle belt changed, blind finished & hung, and one cushion completed. The other may take some time; the front will be the same, but the back will have to be painstakingly pieced out of about 8 tiny leftover scraps…

A major UFO – adding a touch of warmth to a very masculine icebox-bedroom!

Let it rain!

Because my chickens now have a roof over their heads again… I spent yesterday re-roofing their run. They’ve been paddling in the mud for long enough! And what’s more, thanks to Freecycle and a very kind lady down in Poole, I have two more of them, and I’m getting beautiful multi-coloured eggs again.

When we first started keeping backyard birds, one of my great joys was collecting the deep brown, pink, blue & white eggs from our much-loved Marans, Faverolles, Araucana & Hamburgh chickens. But over the years the laying flock had dwindled down to 3, two Warren-type hybrids laying perfectly pleasant but very ordinary light-brown eggs, and one gigantic Buff Orpington laying “tinted” (pinkish) eggs when she isn’t broody. There are just two Pekins left, also laying little pinkish eggs, but one of them is raising chicks just now. 2-3 (and possibly a half) eggs a day doesn’t go far between 7 of us! I’d meant to do something about it early this summer, but missed the boat; I wanted a couple of “Chalkhill Blue” day-olds, but didn’t have a broody when they were hatching, and when I did, they’d finished hatching for the year, so she had to make do with some Freecycled eggs and now has two Polish X Frizzle chicks, one of which may not be male.

Anyway, a dear friend had to move earlier this summer & gave me her solitary surviving Marans, Mollie, who lays splendid deep-brown eggs; she was the only survivor of a dog attack. Then a couple of days ago there was an advert on Freecycle from someone desperate to rehome her flock as she’s about to have a serious operation & won’t be able to care for them. I didn’t see the advert until 6 hours after it was posted, so didn’t hold out much hope, but to my delight she contacted me the next morning & said I’d be welcome to take on a couple of them, including – a Chalkhill Blue! So that evening I hurtled down to town & collected two baffled chooks – the other one is a White Star – who now rejoice in the names Faye & Bianca. As my separate accomodation is already occupied by the broody, I had to pop them onto the roost with the others; I was expecting trouble next morning, but I didn’t get it. The new girls were a bit shy to start with, and there was a little bit of posturing, but within an hour they were all dustbathing together and by the end of the day I had two light-brown, one pinkish, one blue and one pearly white egg! And they now have a run that should keep the worst of the weather off their feathers, and a shed that’s stopped letting in water now I’ve revamped the roof. Amusingly, the inside is lined with a red vinyl poster announcing “VIP Marquee” courtesy of the Dorset Scrapstore…

Glorious technicolour eggs!

But it can rain with impunity now for other reasons too. I’ve had a couple of influxes of goodies; one from the local charity shop that sells me the craft-related things they have’t been able to move on themselves, and some interesting items from the tip, as well as some lovely 1950s curtains from the 50p house-clearance stall on the market. I’m going to be busy for days next week, sorting things into saleable & usable, washing things & Freecycling the bits I can’t use. And then there was the very successful raid on the charity shops down in the conurbation, where they evidently do still believe in 99p or £1 rails for the stuff that hasn’t sold; I picked up 9 100% cotton striped gents shirts to slice up for quilting & other fabric projects. So I’d be glad to have an excuse to spend some time indoors; I could even possibly use some of the beautiful threads that were muddled up in the “unsaleable” batch from the local charity shop (pictured below) and the wonderful vintage needles (with decent sized eyes!) that came in a box from the Tip… I may be gone for some time!

Even more technicolour threads!

A little lament for The Ottoman Of Doom…

Last week younger daughter suddenly took it into her head to “tidy” her room. At 17, she still had virtually everything she’s ever owned stuffed into corners, under the bed, and heaped over her exercise bicycle, but something suddenly clicked inside her head & she, like me, realised that you can indeed have too much of good things, and that actually it’s rather nice not to have to scramble precariously around umpteen piles of junk in your own bedroom.

Which explains what I was doing down at the Tip on Tuesday; I took down a car full to the brim of childhood & teenage detritus, most of it completely un-re-usable in any way shape or form. Needless to say, the car didn’t come back empty… sitting in the re-use area was the most relentlessly cheery & twee piece of furniture I have ever seen;  a large ottoman covered in a white plastic quilted-effect fabric dotted with little red & yellow rosebuds, complete with shadow-rosebuds in some kind of silvery-shiny substance. The whole artfully trimmed with gold braid, with brass-effect handles & hinges to finish it off. I took one look at it & knew that this piece of heroic kitsch really, really needed a trip to Boscombe on Saturday… My middle son took one look at it in the boot of the car and panicked mightily, basically saying that if it, or indeed anything remotely resembling it, ever entered our household, he was leaving via the nearest exit! So it acquired the nickname The Ottoman Of Doom, and stayed safely in the boot of the car for the rest of the week.

There were other good things down there too; a nice little 50s-style vanity case, a grubby but promising quilt and an interesting modern original acrylic-on-board painting, which gently suggests sailboats in what looks very much like a bluey-purple Aegean sunset. The vanity case also went down to Boscombe with us and sold within minutes of the market opening, for the same price that I’d paid for all four items. The painting is now adorning younger daughter’s suddenly sophisticated & miraculously-coordinated  bedroom, and the quilt washed up a treat and has been “spoken for” by elder daughter. And the Ottoman Of Doom? It sold towards the end of the market; I didn’t price it very high, for the same reason that although a treadle sewing machine is the best of both worlds and the ultimate stitching experience, I can’t expect to get very much money for them; most people just don’t have the room for such large items, no matter how useful. A lot of people stopped  to coo with delight over the ottoman, but then worked out that they didn’t have any way of transporting it, never mind anywhere to put it; luckily it found its new owner at last.

Although ottomans are very useful on the stall, and indeed I have one in the shed that I’ve had for months, full of vintage curtains, that just needs to be unloaded from the car, wheeled down to our pitch & opened to display our wares perfectly effectively, I was glad I didn’t have to bring the big one home again as I haven’t a clue where I would have stashed it! But I do kind of regret not having taken a photo of it; I wonder if such a determinedly-cheerful & outrageously OTT piece of furniture will ever come my way again?

So you’ll have to make do with a pic of one of my latest efforts instead; last autumn a collection of random handmade needle-rolls (complete with vintage cottons) sold well on my stall, mostly snapped up for thoughtful Christmas presents for fellow-stitchers, so this year I’m making some myself from some iconic 1970s curtain fabric. I’m also planning to do some crochet-hook & knitting needle rolls from the same fabric (previously 5 pelmets) and other vintage leftovers. And there’ll be some new ear-rings from elder daughter, now trading herself under the name “Pippin Run Wild” and all the usual indispensable Vintage Craft Stuff – I’m looking forward to November’s Boscombe Vintage Market already! I wonder what other whacky & wonderful treasures will come my way before then?

Needle rolls from 70s pelmets