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

The Reclaimed Christmas Project…

Buttons, buckles, beads...

Following on from my musings in the previous post, I’ve decided that this year I’m going to reclaim Christmas, in more ways than one. I’m probably not the only person who’s had enough of the commercial version; of the endless grimly-glittering tawdry tinfoil decorations which start to appear in mid-September along with incessant adverts for wildly expensive bits of plastic or noxious potions, of giant flock snowflakes obscuring the aisle lables in supermarkets and “this year’s colour” plastic tree. I’ve nothing against fake trees, as I love the real thing, especially where they belong (outdoors)  & don’t like to feel I’ve been directly responsible for the needless death of an entire tree. But I really cannot get my head around people feeling they have to buy a new plastic one every year just so they have the “right” colour… Our current tree was rescued from the Recycling centre a couple of years ago and does a grand job; however this year it may get left in its box as there’s a Lawson’s Cypress in the front garden that needs a good haircut and one of the upright branches of that would make a fine Christmas tree too – it even smells right. Handling spruce always brings me out in a rash, anyway.

I’ve also had enough of spending too much money at Christmas. The retailers have parents over a barrel;  every year there’s a blizzard of adverts for electronic must-haves that every other child in their class will surely be given – and some of them undoubtedly will be – how can you possibly be so mean/inhuman/unloving as to say no? You love your child and you really, really don’t want them to feel deprived/disadvantaged/unloved, especially not on Christmas Day… but it does start to wear a bit thin when said children have technically reached adulthood and could, probably even should, go out & earn said must-have trinket for themselves.

I have a clear idea in my head of what I want Christmas to be; a time of goodwill to all living beings, and that includes the trees. A time to reflect on why we’re here, and a time to celebrate the life that we have. A real feast with family & friends, but not at the expense of going short for the next couple of months. A time to remember those who are really going without, and a time to try in some way, however small, to help. An oasis of goodwill & good cheer, peace & tranquillity in a mad, mad world…

Not much chance of that, really! But there are ways I can undermine the dominant view of Christmas as an opportunity to spend, spend, spend, and indulge, indulge, indulge. Quite apart from what we as a family get up to on The Day itself, I’m going to run the Reclaimed Christmas Project at my shop on Wednesday afternoons from here to – well, mid-December. We’ll be making beautiful & unusual festive decorations, cards & gifts from reclaimed or natural materials. And buttons, LOTS of buttons, thanks to a wonderful find at the Recycling Centre this week. There’ll be plaids & checks & stripes, there’ll be ricrac and lace and possibly even sequins, but there will NOT be overblown tinsel so thick it looks like it could do with a good prune. There’ll be felted wool,  embroidery silks and a little bit of angelina; there will NOT be irritating flashing lights that make you grind your teeth whilst attempting to hypnotise you. Homer Simpson will NOT be featuring; in fact there will not be any blow-up or cartoon characters at all, not even a cartoon reindeer that looks like it’s the morning after a very heavy night before. The only festive icon perching on the roof will be the robin that lives in the bushes opposite. However, there may be gingerbread & icing, not to mention tissue & crepe paper. There may even (shock, horror!) be a little religious imagery, though I shall try not to upset the Thought Police too much. And if there are any icicles, they’ll probably be made of ice. “Keep it simple, keep it joyful, keep it real,” will be my motto!

I’m hoping that even if you’re not able to come & join me, you”ll be there in spirit & doing your own Reclaimed Christmas in your own special way.

And more buttons...

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

Well, that was a…

VCSstall2…thoroughly enjoyable day!

We arrived on site (my children’s old school, as it happens) at about 9.30, fought & won a brave battle with our very-recycled gazebo and were just about ready for the onslaught when the gates opened at 11 a.m. Not that it ever got exactly crowded, but there was a pleasant trickle of lovely people, all interested in what I was doing & why, throughout the lovely sunny day. I was pleased with the sales; not a magnifcent amount, but encouraging, and certainly more than I used to drag myself out of bed for on a Sunday when I was in paid employment. It was hard work preparing for it, but most of that is work that won’t have to be done again, like making a bunting banner and a display board, or at least not all at once.

I learnt some useful lessons; a treadle is too heavy, when you have to deal with everything else too. Extreme crochet is much more portable & attracts just as much interest. I need to stick to truly relevant books, and sort out what I’m doing about workshops etc, as people were asking & I didn’t have any answers prepared. The pincushions would have looked better, smarter perhaps, with ribbon ties rather than old seams. And I need to do some woven shawls for sale! We had some enquiries for long, slender woven scarves, too, so I shall investigate the possibilities of producing some of those.

In the meantime I’ve had some other ideas for things to try out; they need to be quick & easy to make, using entirely recycled materials like old jeans, so that I can keep them inexpensive. And I do need to think about & plan for Christmas, odd though that seems with a sunburnt shoulder from too much treadling in the sun!

So all in all I’m well-pleased with my first little venture into the “craft fair” scene; it confirmed that there is interest in what I’m doing & also in the things I make. But now I need to tidy up after myself & reconnect with my offspring after a week of intense concentration and absolute focus. Not to mention finishing the next shawl!

Ermm…

Oh my word, I've won something!
Oh my word, I've won something!

…I’m really rather proud of myself! Joint recipient of the Balqama trophy in Recycled Materials… I can’t quite believe it. But I’m very happy about it anyway! And also that all three of my other entries received “Highly Commended” status. Well chuffed, surprised & delighted, in fact. And the judges kindly said they hoped I’d make more of them. I do wish I’d finished the charkha in time to show it, because as far as I remember there was nothing else like it there, but oh well, maybe next year…? And I already have some other ideas for practical handmade recycled items…

More practical recycling - one of my denim aprons...
More practical recycling - one of my denim aprons...

Is it or isn’t it…

An old drop spindle? Or a giant darning mushroom?
An old drop spindle? Or a giant darning mushroom?

An old drop spindle?

I picked this up at our local market for 50p last weekend, under the impression that it was a giant darning mushroom. But I couldn’t help wondering what the hook was for, not to mention the groove below the hook. Something about it suggested spinning, probably the resemblance to a child’s spinning top, so I tried it out with a little mauve roving. Lo & behold, it worked, really rather well. But I haven’t a clue whether that’s what it’s intended use really was! Or how old it is, or, if it is a spindle, which tradition it came from. Ideas, please…

The entries for the Dorset Arts & Crafts Association show are now in, and I’m really looking forward to going down there with a friend tomorrow & seeing what the judges thought of my strictly non-traditional stuff. In the end I enetered my felted slippers, a denim apron, one of my crazy-patchwork bags and a broomstick crochet hat & “neckwarmer” (not long enough for a scarf – not enough yarn!) I did a little while ago. It’s my first year of entering so I’m not expecting any great plaudits but it’ll be interesting to see wht it is they’re looking for, and how (or in fact IF) I could ever achieve it.

I shall report back tomorrow evening, with pics…

And now I’m working really hard…

… to get my shop stocked up & the shopping cart “live” though I’m still awaiting one vital piece of info from my bank. So far I’ve photographed, weighed (for postage) priced & uploaded 30+ items; just another 170 or so to go! So I haven’t had a lot of time to spare for recreational recycling in the last week or two. Though I have picked up some classic books at the Minster Fair and at the charity market during the Folk Festival, most of which will be offered in the shop, but some are just too interesting to part with! I look forward to the opportunity to investigate further…

I’ve also picked up several pairs of jeans to make some more “Jeans Pockets” aprons. Every time I go out Morsbagging or car booting in the one I made for myself, I’m asked, “Where can I get one of those? I need one…!” so I shall make a few up to test-market. There’s a craft fair coming up in the middle of August that’s very generously offering FREE stalls to local crafters, so I’m putting my name down for that, and I’ll see how they go there. It will be a fine line whether I can charge enough to make the time spent on them worthwhile, but how will I know unless I try?

I’ve been enjoying my Spinolution Bee hugely, when I’m just too exhausted to do anything else. I know it’s cheating to buy a new wheel, but I’m still enjoying my secondhand Louet S20 too, especially when Jo steals the Bee to learn on! I’ve found some nice bright cotton items – jumpers, a bag – to unravel so that I can re-spin or weave the yarn into something else, which is rather fun.

And we’ve had guests, so the little pot-bellied BBQ stove has been working overtime on fine evenings. That thing is worth its weight in gold as far as I’m concerned; it goes all evening on a few lumps of dry palletwood, and quite apart from its role as a social focal point, you can actually cook on & in it, not just barbecue. Are they still being made, I wonder? Is it possible to buy one new? Or has it been superseded by the ultra-wasteful patio heater… 😦

There seems to be some movement towards getting a “Transition Town Wimborne” group off the ground – I will post more on this as soon as I know what’s happening & where. Watch this space!