Category Archives: make do and mend

Mending – a Radical Act of Value

Another Vlog post is up.

Josh (having listened to my rants on long journey’s far too often!) suggested that I talk about some of our values and philosophy behind our choices.

So I did…

 

Tales from Westwick Episode 1

I’m experimenting with the form and trying out a few you tube videos – little diaries of what we are up to.

 

 

I’d love to know what you think so please check it out and if you feel like it then like and subscribe.

This is episode 1 and episode 2 is going up shortly!

Show Notes:

Book I mention…The Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes
Dinosaur jumper pattern – by Linda’s Knitwear Designs
Yarn – Cascade 220
Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn (I got the company name wrong in the video, sorry!): Awesome Aran in the Suffragette colour way

Mending, Mending, Mending

I’m having one of those months where the pile of mending is definitely growing faster than I can manage it.  Which has got me to thinking about mending a lot…

So far I’ve finished:

1. Sewing a busted seam on R’s swimming costume

2. Sewing a busted seam on R’s PJs

3. Sewing two busted seams on Josh’s green cabled  jumper

4. Sewing a busted seam on my PJ bottoms

(Sensing a Theme right!)

5. Darned 4 socks with about 8 to go more holely socks.

6. Invisible mending on my best jeans 3 times (and they have just blown a forth hole – totally my fault, I thought that my last patch was too close to the hole, turns out… it was!)

Which leaves darning my lightweight Spring jumper, sewing a seam on R’s duffle coat, patching my other PJ trousers, patching Josh’s black jeans, patching my combat trousers and patching another PJ top of mine.  Oh and probably a whole load of horrors lurking that I haven’t found yet.

Most of these items I’ve had for years (that PJ top, did about 20 years hard service in my normal wardrobe first! before it got downgraded to PJs). Sometimes I bought them second hand expecting a fair amount of wear and tear in them. But others, like R’s duffle coat were brand new – worn once or twice at most before the seams split. These were not cheap throwaway clothes from Primark or Tesco but brands you would think better of like Marks and Spencer. There is only so many times I can mend those items before it gets me down.

If you are reading this blog then I probably don’t have to tell you why I’m mending.  But just in case… the short story is that I don’t believe in throwing away useful things, I don’t really care if people see me wearing patched jeans (because I’m lucky enough that any judgement they make doesn’t really affect me) and I don’t want to waste money buying clothes I don’t need.  But it is exhausting sometimes.  I don’t really mind mending all the socks – I knitted them in the first place and the mending maintenance is expected (socks often last several years round here before a darn is needed) – but I am angry that brand new clothes seem to fall apart with a harsh look. Believe me it isn’t because I’m washing them at 60 degrees!

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post – I think it is a shame people don’t mend clothes much anymore but part of me empathises with them, mending is endless with the poorly constructed garments available today.

I’m just going to drop a few useful links on mending down here – to make this post slightly more useful and slightly less like I’m just having a rant for no reason 😉

– There is a huge amount of amazing resources in Jen’s Make Do and Mend website here.

Repair Cafe, a fantastic movement which is connecting people who can mend with people who need mending to happen!

This is the you tube video which taught me to darn socks about 7 years ago (it is still a great video and the only technique I use).

Knitting with Leftovers

I knit a lot and virtually every day.

Some of my knitting uses thrifty, frugal options, but some of it includes luxury handspun alpaca. It is my hobby and whilst I do try to source eco-friendly alternatives (I never buy standard cotton for dishcloths because it’s eco-footprint is so bad) I have bought some wonderful expensive and luxury yarns for my hobby over the years. I’ve even bought a few and had them posted from the US because Socks that Rock is really the best sock yarn I’ve ever used and you can’t buy it in the UK (I’m weaning myself off this habit though and haven’t bought any yarn for over 6 months – I’m pleased you agree that is a REALLY LONG TIME!)

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post... far too many colours to make that a reality :(

I wanted a nice little text overlay here with the title of the post… far too many colours to make that a reality 😦

But I never throw any yarn away.  I am a master at stretching out yarn and finding ways to use up the leftovers once a project is done.  Like with food and garden prunings there is no such thing as yarn waste.

This post is a list of my 3 tips for using up yarn and 3 patterns which are really good at making the most of every scrap.

1. The Beekeeper Quilt –  by Tiny Owl Knits. This is a paid for pattern, but it is worth every penny. Not only because I love this design, it is modular and therefore easy to knit whilst out and about, but of all the patterns I’ve ever knitted, this is the best pattern for using up leftovers.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

A hexapuff waiting to be stuffed.

Firstly it is made of tiny hexapuffs knitted in sock yarn.  In my knitting career I’ve knitted about 90 pairs of socks (I know!) that is a lot of leftover sock yarn.  Some of my leftover sock yarn went into darning but darning doesn’t use it all up.  This project is perfect because I can knit hexapuffs out of all my fabulous colours put them all in a basket and only start to make up the blanket afterwards at which point I can pick the colours and place there where I want to.  I’m not limited in placing colours next to each other in the order in which I complete my original projects that generated the leftovers!

Not only do I knit with the leftover yarn but the teeny tiny scraps of yarn which get snipped off after sewing in the ends… they get used to stuff the hexapuffs.

AND… I fill some of the hexapuffs with dried lavender from my garden to give the blanket a lovely smell and keep the moths out.

This is the ideal pattern for using up things and just look at how gorgeous it is!

A sea of little hexes.

A sea of little hexes.

2. The Oddball Spiral blanket – by Sarah Bradbury (free pattern). This is my current big project.  Up until recently I had a huge bag of leftover Aran weight wool and no idea what to do with it.  I tried to knit a stripey vest but I couldn’t get enough colour repeats out of the yarn I had left so I ripped it out for this blanket.  There are only 9 live stitches at any time and the pattern is easy to memorise.  You will end up with a giant blanket if you keep going (like me) and I’ll probably finish this in the Winter now as it is too hot to work on.  But if you don’t mind the blanket looking a bit mismatched then use long and short colour repeats where you have bigger and smaller partial balls of yarn.  I think because of the geometric design you can pull off irregular colour patches which only makes this pattern more brilliant.

The blanket is growing.

The blanket is growing.

3. Baby Trousers – by Mini Magpie (free tutorial).  This is not a knitting project.  This is what to do when knitting goes wrong… so horribly wrong.

Many moons ago, before I was as wise as I am today, I knitted a wonderful Hoodie in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.  The pattern was incredible and I will knit it again one day. The yarn was super soft… but that was the only good thing about it.  It pilled (went bobbly) and looked terrible after I’d worn it precisely once.  I kept wearing it because it was warm and I’d worked so hard on the amazing patterned cables.  And one day in a fit of helpfulness Josh washed it for me.  Pure wool, 20% cashmere in the washing machine.  I think you can imagine what happened (I won’t describe it for the delicate amongst you but let’s say it involved, felting, shrinking and a lot of swearing).

It is a testament to my stubborness that I’m still wearing it about 7 years later despite the fact it is clearly a couple of inches too short, everywhere.  The yarn cost a fortune, the jumper took ages to knit I wasn’t going to give up on it that easily.  But I think the time has come to say goodbye.

As I said above no wool is wasted.

I’m going to cut the (now felted) jumper up to create the trousers in the above tutorial (possibly even dungarees if I can work it out) and then cut up the rest to use as stuffing in the beekeeper quilt!

 

Time for a Video Interlude…

I’ve caught a few great video’s on the internet recently which I wanted to share with you all.

1. Glorious Colour – this is an ancient interview with the knitting and colour guru Kaffe Fasset. I might not love all his designs but I can certainly see the man’s genius and incredible artistic eye. He talks about colour and some of his creative processes in this video and I found it gently inspiring.

2. The Story of Stuff – I should have seen this video years ago. They’ve even done a number of follow up videos since which I am working my way through. But I think it is a really interesting clear explanation of our problems with stuff (and some of my own problems with stuff). There are follow up videos on the site as well which are well worth a look!

3. This Old Thing – This is a new TV show with Dawn O’Porter (I love her in so many ways!) which is about how to shop vintage. I’m not hugely into fashion but I’m really enjoying the section of the show where her experts upcycling and remake older vintage pieces. Some useful tips and inspirational ideas there.

 

Denim Jeans – Invisible Mending (Almost)

Following on from my experiments in patching here and EcoThrifty’s slow fashion challenge, I decided to tackle the 3 pairs of jeans with holes in the knees.  I knew I’d saved them for something 😉

I’m really pleased with the results and this is how I did it.

Tiny tiny stitches. As if made by mice.

I’d looked at a couple of different online tutorials and even bought the embroidery foot attachment to do it by sewing machine.  Then in a fit of enthusiasm (I can’t remember why) I decided to do it by hand.  This was a much slower process but gave much better results.

You will need:

Patching needs a patch.

Patching needs a patch.

Spare denim for patch

Thread in a similar coloured thread to the denim

Sharp needle

Small embroidery hoop

Pins

Choose your weapons!

Choose your weapons!

1. Pin the denim patch on the inside of the trousers with the right side of the patch facing the wrong side of the hole. You should be able to see the right side of the patching material through the hole.

2. Then stretch the denim over an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taught and even throughout the mend.

You can just about see just under a half of the patch has been stitched on the left of the photo.

3. Sew vertical lines of small running stitches up and down the patch, securing it to the original denim with lots of small little stitches.  For material this thick running stitch works fine.  Just don’t pull the stitches so tight the material buckles. If you look very closely in the above photo you’ll just about be able to see my rows of stitching on the left hand side of the patch.

4. Once you have covered the whole of the patch with lines of closely spaced running stitch turn the jeans right side out.  Use more hand stitching to blend the edges of the hole and any bits of frayed fabric until it is hard to discern where the edges of the patch are.

If you don’t have any spare denim to make a patch then you could consider sewing up one of the back pockets of your jeans and cutting a patch out of the fabric in the back layer of the pocket which won’t be seen.

When I showed the jeans to Josh he couldn’t see the patch at all at first.  Success!

This mend took a lot of time and effort.  But it was worth it, partly because I got a real buzz out of doing such a great job (no false modesty here!)  Secondly because it is one of the small steps I’m taking against throw-away fashion.  If we mend our clothes they will last longer, then means we can afford to buy fair trade, organic cotton and more expensive clothes which will in turn last longer.  Not everyone can afford to buy more expensive clothes and every choice you make for yourself and your family is personal so this isn’t about judging anyone’s choices but my own.

But I can’t buy clothes which I know are made by people who don’t get paid a fair wage and have to work in dangerous conditions, use cotton grown using farming practices which are unsustainable.

 

Full Steam Ahead

Yesterday I wrote about a number of minor setbacks catching me on the raw.  Thankfully they were all silly and minor but obviously minor things don’t always feel that way.

I was determined to make sure I had a great day today… no matter what! I made sure of it 🙂

Golden Sweet Mangetout - so close to being ready!

Golden Sweet Mangetout – so close to being ready!

Firstly our roof was fixed.  It has been leaking for ages, we have been through many temporary fixes and this time I think we have cracked it.  Fingers crossed.  Getting the work done was simple, quick, painless and not too expensive.

Secondly it was Transition Chesterfield’s repair cafe today.  I didn’t sit on the repairing crew this time (next time I’ll volunteer for clothes mending).  I won’t say too much about it as I want to do a separate post on the whole Repair Cafe (which was awesome!) but I got most of my bike fixed (and I know what is wrong with the rest), I got told what was wrong with an old bottle steriliser (should be simple to fix once we get a small part) and I came away with 2 replacement courgettes, and a bag full of denim scraps for patchworking and mending some of our own jeans.

Big basket of denim scraps and a nearly mended steriliser.

Big basket of denim scraps and a nearly mended steriliser.

Then we walked back in the sunshine and I took a quick break before hitting the garden… and hitting it hard!

I potted out the 2 courgettes from C, 4 tomatoes, 1 mountain mint, 1 french tarragon.

Lots of tomatoes - really tiny still but I'm hoping they'll make it.

Lots of tomatoes – really tiny still but I’m hoping they’ll make it.

I sowed 4 pots chives, 2 pots summer savory, 2 pots of basil, 1 pot of bergamot.

Lots of mint - all safely tucked up in pots.

Lots of mint – all safely tucked up in pots.

I’m starting everything in pots because it is easier to protect them my Nemesis – the slug!

Then I had a quick visit to the pig pen and admired my mangetout and redcurrants – they are both so very nearly ready and looking grand!.

Dark skies, red currents.

Dark skies, red currents.

AND I got another sock mended. Back down to 10 socks to mend.