Tagged: Thrift

Jun 22

June mending

 

It was delightful that so many people turned up to May’s meeting of the Big Mend, especially considering that the weather was so sultry. This month’s session is Wednesday June 27th at the Museum of Bath at Work and (rain or shine) we’ll be making the most of the long midsummer evening light, kicking off at the slightly later time of 7.30 and wrapping up at 9.30pm. All welcome! Just drop in any time with your mending bag.

There will definitely be jeans patching this time (there’s a wonderful example of this over on Tom of Holland’s blog which I’d highly recommend perusing), and I’ve been experimenting with woven yarn patches (see below) as an applied alternative to darning knitted garments. I’ll bring those along for a bit of show-and-tell. But feel free to bring anything at all textile-related that you want to repair (popped seams, burst buttons, droopy hems) and we’ll help you to fix it. Some basic tools and materials are on hand but try to bring what you know you’ll need  (patch fabric or toning thread, for example).

Woven patch test

woven patch looking for an elbow

 

More details about the Big Mend over here. There’s now a Flickr group you can join and post images of your mending triumphs or disasters and find images to inspire. Do take a look.

Serious menders will probably already be aware that the UK’s first mending research symposium convenes towards the end of the month in the Lake District; Mend*rs kicks off with a call to arms, a first National Mending Day on Friday 29th June. Count me in! Alas, it looks like I won’t be able to make it to the physical conference but will certainly be mending with the assembled gathering in spirit next Friday. A big thank you to Tom for telling me about the event.

 

 

 

 

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Apr 11

The big mend

You’ll have noticed that I’m a bit of a fan of mending – in theory, if not always in practice. Like everyone else, I seem to have an ever-growing pile of things with holes or without buttons, waiting to be rescued from the clothing version of limbo.

Well, I’m thrilled to announce a new project happening very close to home which will help to redress that problem. It’s called the Big Mend and it aims to get Bath (or the small corner of it in which I live) mending its ways. Imagine a great big sociable gaggle of people sewing on buttons, darning, nibbling snacks and gossiping. That should be it. There will be sewing tools on hand to use, free of charge, and other helpful items to purchase, should you wish. Or you are welcome to bring along your own bits and pieces. If your problem is carving out the time and space, hopefully we can give you that. If your problem is trepidation or insufficient skills, we aim to be able to help you with that too; if there isn’t someone there who will know how to fix your beloved vintage dress, we will know where to look to find out.

Our first meeting of the Big Mend will be on Wednesday 24th April at Crockadoodledo, Larkhall from 7-9pm. You’re very welcome to drop in any time you like (though it would be advisable not to arrive at quarter to 9 if you have a long hem to repair). Entry is free.

Huge thanks are due to Caroline Harris, local author on matters thrifty (amongst many other talents) who encouraged me to pursue this idea. Curiously enough, she provided the  inspirational spark for the project when she wrote an article for Bath Life back in May 2009.

Caroline 's Bath Life article

 

In her article, Caroline rued the parlous state of her three pairs of jeans, and wished for what she called a ‘mending amnesty… an occasion where you can bring along all that forlorn forgotten sewing and do it in company, with a chat and a drink’. I read that and thought: That’s me! I can do that! And here it is, three years later, after a few false starts;  I  actually conjured up the artwork way back then (see it propped against this antique sewing machine?) but have managed to sit on it ever since. I just hope that Caroline’s favourite jeans are still salvageable.

The Big Mend takes place on the last Wednesday of the month from 7-9pm. May’s event (30th May) takes place at the Museum of Bath at Work in Julian Road. Entry is free, so just turn up!

 

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Mar 22

Mend It Better review and giveaway!

My! We are Giveaway Central at the moment! And this isn’t even the last one, so do stay tuned.

It’s an exciting day when the book you’ve contributed to arrives. You open it at your page to feel a surge of recognition followed by mingled joy and disbelief. Small wonder that authors often refer to books as their children; the parallels with gazing at your own baby for the first time are obvious. Though I’m not really the parent here. More of a distant cousin. Anyway, that happy day came a few weeks ago when my contributor’s copy of Mend it Better (subtitled Creative Patching, Darning, and Stitching) by Kristin M. Roach plopped onto the doormat.

I was delighted to be picked for inclusion in Mend it Better back in the spring of 2011 because mending is a subject very close to my heart. There are issues on which the world divides cleanly into two mutually exclusive halves. We have the lovers and the haters of marmite, the watchers and the non-watchers of The Apprentice, and then we have the menders and the non-menders. It seems that you either get the concept of mending, thrift, recycling, conservation etc or you don’t.  Long ago I had a very interesting discussion with a friend who didn’t get it at all; in fact, she found people who upturn their washing-detergent bottles (in order to extract that last little drop) positively repugnant: “cheese-paringly mean” was, I think, the term she used.  As a fairly compulsive bottle-drainer myself, I felt a little jarred by the strength of her feelings on this point. I can’t quite remember how the conversation progressed from there, but there was probably a tumble-weed moment.

The rift between the two camps can be explained (at least partially) by the moral high-ground implicitly adopted by the thrifty, possibly imagined by the non-thrifty and felt by them as an unspoken rebuke. Most of us really don’t like shoulds and musts and uncomfortable being-told- what- to- dos, even if they are not actually uttered. Sometimes the mere presence of people doing-the-right-thing is enough to set off the won’t-do-it-and-you-cant-make-mes. Back in the old days, we used to call this ‘conscience’. Me, I quite like conscience. I think it can be telling us something useful. But I digress.

Into the gaping chasm between the thrifty and resolutely non-thrifty ( I see it rather like the Grand Canyon!) Kristin M. Roach rides, cheerfully a-whistlin’ a tune. Her panniers are full of  jaunty calico iron-on patches, prettily painted darning eggs, shiny skeins of embroidery silk and boundless enthusiasm. With these she can charm the birds from the trees (or do I mean cacti?) and persuade even the most militant non-mender that mending might be OK. Fun even.

The first thing that strikes you about Kristin’s book is how neat and tidy it is. The small scale — just 18.5cms x 21cms — is genuinely handy, perfect to slip into the mending bag. It’s purse-friendly too at just $18.95/£12.99. The book is laid out very appealingly; check out the perky appliqué fabric-letter graphics and the vintage sewing effects peppered throughout. This pretty book functions beautifully as a call-to-mend, with joy and creativity the main flavour and just the subtlest hint of virtue as an after-taste. As Kristin’s site says, ‘With Mend It Better, every garment and fabric repair is a chance for self-expression and fabulous creations.’  Yeah, the creativity card might just win it!

Title page

And now for the nitty gritty:

Who is the author? Kristin M. Roach lives in Ames Iowa, is a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Northern Illinois University) and she started writing her blog Craft Leftovers in 2006 as a way of keeping on top of her craft supplies — using up what she had rather than buying new. It’s a great source of inspiration for making the best of what’s already to hand.

What’s in the book? After a sweet introduction (in which Kristin pays homage to the significant sewing females in her family) there’s a brief foray through the evolution of sewing (which is possibly extra to requirements but enjoyable all the same) before Kristin tackles the basics. How do you assess if a piece is worth saving? What do you need in your essential mending tool kit? This includes instructions for a mending bag and upcycled tool clutch (see below). What basic stitches will you need? – both hand and machine. These can then be practised to make a cute needle book.

Mend it Better contents page

Next come all sorts of inspirational projects, each setting out a particular method or type of repair. As well as showing her own makeovers, Kristin has curated often bold and inspirational mends from other crafters, including Susan Beal, Rachel Beyer, Deb Cory, Carina Envoldsen-Harris, Crispina ffrench, Jennifer Forest, Diane Gilleland, Pam Harris, Marisa Lynch, Francesca Mueller, Cal Patch, Stacie Wick and Sherri Lynn Wood. Additional contributors are Caitlin Stevens Andrews, Maja Blomqvist, Cathie Jo, Ágnes Palkó, Megan PedersonLeah Peterson, Jamie Smith, and Yours Truly. Areas covered include: patchwork (including Leah Peterson’s  gorgeous reverse applique shown below),  seam fixes,  secret pockets, clever ways to adjust hems, waistband repairs, darning (by hand and machine, and an ingenious way to make your own darning egg using a wooden egg and a Shaker-style peg), fasteners, zip replacements, handling fancy fabrics, and decorative embellishments (including applying beads round a moth hole to create a flower motif).

Who will the book work best for? Kristin has clearly worked hard to make this an inclusive book, and I think it will work both for the absolute sewing newbie (who needs guidance through even basic stitches) and the more seasoned sewist (who can flip past that). Because it’s aiming to appeal to a wide audience, it crosses into the territory of some broader sewing manuals (such as this excellent one from Ruth Singer), but mostly includes what is relevant. I fear that it would frustrate someone expecting to find a lot of fancy hand-stitches as the ones included are fairly basic. I love the first few sewing projects which include a bag to hold your mending (upcycled from a damaged tablecloth) and a mending kit to hold your scissors, needles, marking gauges etc (upcycled from a felted sweater). Kristin conceived it as a book you can dip in and out of as necessary, whether you want to sew on a button or fit a hidden pocket.

Most inspiring mends? For me, it’s the reverse appliqué patching. I also liked the machine-darned jeans on the opposite page. Both are beautiful. There are a few other mends featured which go well beyond the purely practical and are aptly described as devotional. I also loved the crocheted sock darning done with oddments of yarn. It looks stunning, appears to be very robust, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Mends by Leah Peterson and Jamie Smith

I must mention in passing that though I really loved Kristin’s make-your-own darning egg project (using a wooden egg and that Shaker peg) which she includes because she says they’re hard to find in the US, darning mushrooms etc are fairly commonplace  over here in the UK. You can also buy vintage ones at a certain Etsy store.

My contribution to the book was a mended apron (which you can see over on my In Print page). It wasn’t done for the book  – can’t you tell? – but was a favourite of mine I’d fixed. It’s not what I’d call exciting but its mother loves it.  And that’s one of the points Kristin makes; unless very ragged, something is worthy of fixing if you happen to cherish it, for whatever reason.

We may be stuck with a pretty dodgy economy for some time, and I doubt that spending our way out of it will be the answer — wasn’t that what got us all into this mess in the first place? Most of us will have to tighten our belts and take our dose of thrift as palatably as possible. Happily,  Mend it Better helps the medicine slide down.

OK, I’m convinced. Where can I buy it? Look for it at your local bookshop, and please ask, if you can’t find it. If you’re within spitting distance of me, I have a few copies available so email me. If you’re a bookstore or making establishment in the UK and would like to stock copies, get in touch with Melia Publishing Servcies. You can also get a signed copy direct from Kristin.

And finally to the giveaway! I’m really thrilled that the nice people at Storey Publishing (here’s their Facebook page, by the way) have offered to send a FREE copy of Mend it Better to one of my fortunate readers. The offer applies to readers in the US and UK only so if you’re hoping to learn to mend elsewhere, I’m sorry to disappoint. To enter, please leave a comment below. You can tell me what you have that needs mending, if you wish. A detached button? A tear to a precious dress? The knees of your favourite jeans? I’d also love to hear about any encounters you’ve had with the non-mending, thrift-intolerant portion of the population. But there’s no right answer, and a winner will be picked entirely at random. Entries close at midnight on Sunday 1st April, and the winner announced here on the blog on Monday 2nd April. Good luck!

 

 

 

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Mar 08

Mother’s Day chrysanthemums

Here’s a quick-and-easy make for Mother’s Day: a chrysanthemum-style floral embellishment crafted from a couple of felted lambswool scarves.

Fringed felt flower

Upcycled felt chrysanthemum

Credit where it’s due, the original idea for this came from the mistress of wool remakery herself, Betz White. I’ve added a twist with my choice of fringed centre and the particular suggestion that you use a felted lambswool scarf for the job.

Here I must wave the flag vigorously for the felted lambswool scarf. In its raw and unfelted state this is the classic woven gent’s scarf with fringed edge, as sold in almost every trad menswear outlet in the Western world. When stuck in a hot wash (accidentally or by design) their weave forms a dense and really stable felt which is a joy for the upcycler to work. Even better, it’s still possible to pick these up in the bargain bin at the charity shop or thrift store (I snapped one up this week for just £1), but if grandpa or dad should accidentally wreck the one he got for Christmas, all is not lost! Catch it before he chucks it because this stuff is well worth rescuing.

I’ve used two scarves for this project because I wanted contrast colour (like Betz’s original design), but you’d be able to make this (and several more chrysanths besides) from just the one scarf, if that’s all you can get hold of. The other great thing about scarves is that they’re the perfect width for this project. Of course, you can use a felted sweater instead, or regular store-bought felt. All that matters is that it won’t fray.

Two scarves

Lambswool scarves

Once you’ve found your raw materials (and they’ve been boil-washed, dried and pressed – if they need it) this comes together very fast, so you still have plenty of time to whip up one (or more) for UK Mother’s Day next weekend. They make beautiful bold brooches or hat embellishments.

Ok, here we go.

This project uses the existing fringing on the original scarf. The purple scarf had a short little fringe which didn’t look especially interesting, but bear with it.

Short fringe, felted

Short fringe

If your scarf has a longer fringe, cut it back to about half an inch (just over a centimetre) using a rotary cutter, if you have one.

Then cut 1  1/2  inches (4 cms) from the fringed edge. Set this to one side.

Cutting off the scarf fringe

Now cut another piece, 3″ (8cms) wide this time.

Cut here

And cut a 3″ piece from your contrast scarf. See how scrummy and dense that felt is?

Felt edge

Felt edge

Now fold your strips and pin the two long sides together.

Pinning

Pinning

Sew those long sides together about a quarter of an inch (just under a centimetre) from the edge.

Sewing

Sewing

Yes, that’s Josephine doing the sewing! You may recognise her from an earlier post.

Sewn

Now take a pair of large dressmaking scissors (they need to be strong and sharp) and snip every quarter inch or so all the way along your folded edge, being really careful not to accidentally cut through the line of stitching.

Snipping petals

You end up with something interestingly flexible. Try twirling it up a moment, just for the heck of it; it got me day-dreaming about spiral staircases and DNA, but I digress…

Making a felt chrysanthemum

Now roll up that first piece you cut, the piece with the felted fringed edge. It suddenly looks more interesting, doesn’t it? Roll the contrast piece around that, and now the other piece (which matches the the centre) around that. You may need to insert a few carefully-angled retaining pins as you go. Now you have something that looks a little like a chrysanthemum. Hold it together with a pin while you eyeball it; your final section may look too long and unbalance your flower, so trim some away if necessary.

Felt chrysanthemum

The back will look something like this.

Felt flower - underside

You can apply a generous quantity of fabric glue to that back and wait for it to dry. Or just sew back and forth through the base of the flower (in one side and out the other, back and forth) with sturdy thread (buttonhole is good) and a long darning-style needle. The next job is to apply a circle of felt backing and a brooch back (not shown, but if you’re stuck, ask and I’ll do a follow-up post Saturday on that). Betz added leaves to hers too.

I attached this flower to a ribbon in order to dress up a slightly down-in-the-mouth cloche hat.

Two old scarves and an old hat

Hat makeover

Much better! Hello spring!

Millinery makeover

And Happy Mother’s Day!

Felt flower

 

 

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Feb 21

Scrap of the week #18

I haven’t been sharing any vintage scraps with you for a while, so here’s a floral curtain (late 1960s or early 1970s, I’m guessing) to kick off my 2012 offerings. This is one of my latest lucky finds at the charity shop.

Orange petals, green stamens

Orange petals, green stamens

Flower Power curtain

Flower Power

Leaf motif

Leaf motif

Orange flowers

Scalloped vertical

All my pictures are crooked (it’s been one of those days), but you can still see the charm of the textile, I hope: the bright orange flowers ( which are about 4.5cms across), the insistent vertical stripes. The fabric is substantial yet quite supple – definitely a furnishing weight – in either cotton or linen or a mixture of the two. There’s no marking at all on the selvedges so that could indicate an artisanal piece. The slightly wonky pattern placement here and there points the same way. If you know what this is, where it’s from, or have anything similar in your stash, I’d love to hear from you.

Now, what would you make with this? It screams “GYPSY CARAVAN CURTAINS!!!” to me (in the very best possible way), maybe with giant apple-green ric-rac or bobble edging and a lovely contrast lining. But then, I’m badly in need of a holiday. This fabric’s a little too much for most uses without a little judicious dilution, I reckon. Paired with the right solid or two (and restrained use of aforementioned jumbo ric-rac) it could make a really vibrant cushion, apron, tea-cosy or hand bag. It’s a little bigger than most of my scraps. In fact, there’s quite a lot of it (two curtains, each 88cms wide from selvedge to selvedge and 2 metres long) so plenty of scope for ingenuity.

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Oct 27

Apple windfall chutney

Late October is when I start to crave the warmth of the kitchen: spices, applesauce, cinnamon, hotwater bottles, endless cups of Lapsang Souchong…

Happily, I’ve been given a couple of bags of windfall cooking apples. And, when life hands you windfalls, what better to make than chutney? Even more happily, yesterday I realised (when autumn-cleaning my kitchen cupboard: a task long overdue) that I had all the necessary ingredients.

I followed a slightly haphazard recipe from Feast Days by Jennifer Paterson, one half of the 1990s Two Fat Ladies TV cook combo (remember them from the pre-Jamie Oliver era?) and food writer for the Spectator. The recipe, actually called ‘Patricius’s Pickle’ (on page 69, if you’re inspired to investigate) was a little light on particulars, not really giving an idea of how long to cook or quite how to know when it was done, but I occasionally find an absence of detail in cookbooks strangely liberating.

And chutney does seem to be a fairly forgiving concoction, embracing all sorts of fruit, vegetable and spice combinations, depending on your particular glut, the contents of your store cupboard, and the limits of your personal taste. The key seems to be not to stint on sugar and vinegar, the essential preserving elements; that said, you could freeze a low-vinegar, low-sugar chutney, so long as you remember to remove it from the cold a day or so before it’s to be consumed in order to mature the flavours.

I rejigged Jennifer’s ingredients a little, and here’s what went into mine:

Chutney before cooking

Ingredients compiled and chopped in the preserving pan

 

  • 3lbs cooking apples, peeled cored and chopped. The original recipe didn’t specify if this was the weight before or after peeling etc. I went heavy on the apples and opted for 3lbs finished weight.
  • 1lb 6 ozs onions which was less than the original recipe (which called for 2lbs) but this was all I had, and mine were mostly red, which has no advantage but looking pretty in the “before” pictures, so use whatever you like.
  • 1 quart cider vinegar instead of the white malt variety called for by the original recipe. Again, it’s just what I happened to have in the cupboard.
  • 1 lb raisins
  • 7 ozs haphazard mix of forgotten, back-of-cupboard dried fruit, including sultanas and bing cherries, but the recipe called for 1 lb of dates.
  • 1 lb soft brown sugar
  • 1 tspn cayenne pepper
  • 1 dessertspoon of rock salt
  • remaining spices tied in a muslin bag… 1/4 oz each peppercorns, cinnamon (I took this to be sticks of cinnamon, broken up), whole cloves.

In it all went.

Chopped chutney ingredients

Chopped apple, onion, plus dried fruit

 

And quite a lot of  frequent stirring (so it didn’t burn), and an hour or so later, out it came thus…

Apple chutney & cheddar cheese

A marriage made in heaven

 

I’ve tasted it (someone had to!) and am happy to declare that it is stonkingly good on cheddar.

A note on when to stop cooking it: Jennifer’s advice is not to let it become too dry as it will dry out further in the jar. She also advises letting it cool completely before potting up. I gather that you can also bottle it when piping hot, but avoid doing so when somewhere in the middle (warm is bad). Mine went hot into rather utilitarian jars (scrupulously clean, of course) which Little Scraplet helpfully slapped my hastily scribbled labels onto.

Apple chutney

Roughly labeled

 

But, nicely presented, these would make lovely Christmas gifts. Who could resist?

Apple chutney & cheddar cheese

Perfect partners

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Jul 26

Vintage Strawberries to Vintage Southbank

I’m super-excited (and not a little awed) to be taking vintage-strawberry-making to Vintage Festival 2011 on the Southbank this weekend, helping to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain. I cordially invite you to join me and the Mollie Makes team for a FREE crafternoon in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall! You’ll need to pay to get into the main festival, but there’s no extra charge for the workshop (Yay!). Choose to make strawberries with me on Friday 29th or Saturday 30th July, or join Sara Sinaguglia, apple-cosy crocheter extraordinaire, on Sunday 31st. Just sign up for a workshop when you arrive. Spaces are limited, so don’t delay!

More details are here on the Mollie Makes blog. In the spirit of post-war Make Do & Mend, I’ll be taking along lots of vintage fabric scraps and upcycled elements (vintage beads, buttons, bows and threads) as well as some new. I’m currently packing frantically, including bubble-wrapping my prop sewing machine Winifred, a 1933 hand-cranking Singer (which we sadly won’t be using as she has a tendency to misbehave when it comes to stitch tension, but she looks fabulous). Yes, the workshop will be hand-sew only, but I’ll part-prep the strawberries for you so that you can spend a lot of time embellishing them and making them your own (the fun part).

Winifred, a 1933 hand-crank Singer

Coming to the Southbank this weekend...

I’ve been recalling the last time I had a work engagement on the Southbank. It was more than 20 years ago (an era which would now be considered vintage, at least on Etsy). In those days I was a publisher’s publicist, opening the Twiglets and pouring the cheapest possible plonk (in the great publishing tradition) for a Terry Pratchett book launch at the BFI. We used to have the invitations produced (glorified photocopies, really) at a printer’s around the corner from work, and not many more than a hundred would have been ordered. To my eternal shame, I subsequently used some of the priceless leftovers as patchwork backing papers. Aherm. Will posterity judge me harshly for such upcycling of irreplaceable vintage Pratchett ephemera? Perhaps you’d better not answer that. Are you carrying any ‘really-shouldn’t-have-destroyed-that’ upcycling regrets? Please share them cathartically in the comments below and make me feel better about my act of literary memorabilicide.

Upcycled Pratchett invitations

A memento of my last SE1 work engagement

And I didn’t even finish the patchwork! the layers of guilt are piling up…

Anyway, check out the film above and let the festival’s originator, Wayne Hemingway, walk you through the various attractions. Things crafty and upcycled are mentioned 4 minutes 10 seconds in. Hope to see you there, if you can sandwich me in some time between Tracey Emin and the Avenger-thon! Now, where did I put those cat’s-eye spectacles…?

 

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May 17

Sock it to me

The humble sock is a wonderful thing. I’ve appreciated wearing socks for about as long as I’ve stood on my own two feet, but I’ve only just fallen in love with them as a creative medium. This is all thanks to Imogen Harvey-Lewis who was leading a sock creature workshop last weekend at the Stroud International Textiles festival. I still have trouble keeping a straight face when mentioning SIT, because ‘Stroud’ and ‘International’ are strange words to put together, at least for the average English ear. However, Stroud has every reason to be proud of its awesome textile heritage (Cotswold wool), and the festival, now in its 6th year, is garnering a formidable reputation amongst those who know about cloth, fabric and thread-based things.

Sock owls

Imogen Harvey-Lewis's Soon owls

Imogen is an illustrator and one-time stained glass restorer (she worked on some of the windows in Gloucester Cathedral) and her strong sense of line informs the way she approaches sewing. She started making sock creatures a couple of years ago inspired by this enchanting book. Daunted by the ‘correct’ sewist approach to creating 3-D forms, Imogen simply began to draw her creatures, first with a soft pencil, then with a needle (either by hand or using an old treadle  Singer sewing machine) straight onto the sock. She has figured out her own technique by trial and error and the resulting method is inventive, quirky and really refreshing.

Sock cat

Soon sock cat by Imogen Harvey-Lewis

Sewing just as she draws, Imogen’s dogs, elephants and cats, for example, have four legs all in a line rather than two one side, two the other in a more anatomically correct style. What is helpful about working with a knitted sock in this way is that, once stuffed, it yields and stretches – sometimes a little unpredictably but always adding  curves and interest to the simply drawn flat figure.

Soon-making workshop

Soons in progress

Imogen has given her quirky sock creatures the generic name ‘Soon’.  She can’t really explain why: it was just a name that appealed. I suggested to her that they were fairly quick to make, so ‘soon’ was fitting for that reason. It also has a slightly wistful quality which suits (I almost wrote ‘soots’) these characterful creations so well. Many of them do look as if they need to be loved. And soon.

Our workshop group began by making a simple owl from part of a toddler-sized sock. With this we mastered the basics of managing the sewing tension on a stretchy sock, remembering to leave a little hole to turn and stuff our owls (guess which one of the class forgot this [blushes]), filling our creature with beaded pellets (making sure not to over-fill our endlessly stretching socks), selecting and sewing on eyes (4-holed buttons give a wide-awake look, 2-holed ones a sleepy one), and embroidering a beak. This last element was possibly the hardest of all as not pulling the beak too tight was unexpectedly tricky.

A handful of sock owls

Imogen's owls (grey), workshoppers' owls (blue)

Then we moved on to more complex creatures, such as rabbits, cats, dogs and elephants.

Sock dogs

Imogen's mongrel Soon Woofs

We’d been advised to bring along old socks, which I had plenty of. However, once at the workshop I soon (Soon!) realised that it would be a waste of effort to upcycle a really tatty old sock into one of these delightful creatures. Also, the designs often make full feature use of the heel and toe gusseting, so an old sock thinning in the usual areas wouldn’t work well at all. Imogen looks out for interesting new socks everywhere (supermarkets etc), and only uses new for the Soons she sells to the public as she thinks (rightly, I’d guess) that people will not want to buy used ones. Soons made for family members are another thing.

Never one to pass up an upcycling opportunity, I managed to make a Soon dog from one of  my old socks, though frankly I feel he’s a bit of a rough mutt next to Imogen’s fresh-from-the-packet versions (he’s proving camera-shy, by the way – I haven’t managed to take a decent picture of him yet). This leaves me with a bit of an upcycler’s dilemma as I’d really rather not go buying new socks to turn into Soons. Principles can be so inconvenient. Still, it’s nice to add another method to the growing battery of Scrapiana upcycling skills: I could upcycle an old sock into a sock creature even if I choose not to.

Imogen sells her enchanting Soons at Stroud Farmers’ Market plus via a few select outlets in Bristol etc and is currently exploring options to sell online. You can contact Imogen here for further information. Meanwhile, the Stroud International Textiles festival continues until Sunday 22nd May.

Sock elephant

Elephant Soon

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Nov 26

Lucky tomato

It’s Frantic Friday and I’m wishing I had several pairs of hands. I’ve been taking pictures and putting some buttons on cards today, but longing to get back to some sewing.

Just time to show you some of my lucky tomato pincushions which I’m taking to my Christmas fairs. They’re a complete exercise in thrift, from scrap material my late mother-in-law had (and she’s been gone two decades!) and old embroidery thread. Even the stuffing is reclaimed. I’ve called them lucky because legend has it that a tomato on a mantelpiece brings the house’s inhabitants prosperity and good fortune. Well, it’s worth a shot.

The sun shone so beautifully while I took these pictures that I got quite mesmerised by the shadows of the pins. Hope you like.

PS These are now available to purchase from the comfort of your own home on Etsy.

Lucky tomato pincushions

Lucky tomato pincushions

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Nov 04

Temporary spool

I’m throwing myself into World War II re-enactment mode. My son will be dressing up as an evacuee tomorrow with the rest of Year 6 at his primary school. I’ve booked him in at the barber’s for a short-back-and-sides this afternoon. There’ll be a brown label round his neck – held on with green garden twine – and he’ll be wearing some old wire spectacles, a hand-knit sweater (shame it’s not a fair-isle tank-top), short trousers (which he hates) and he’ll be grasping an old leather suitcase and his teddy for dear life.  I’m supposed to dress up appropriately in order to wave him off, chipper and bright, with not a tear shed. Keep the home fires burning…

I have quite a few war items of haberdashery which I hope to show the kids, but I thought I’d give you a sneak preview.

Make do And Mend

Make Do And Mend, reproductions of official WWII instruction leaflets, Michael O'Mara Books, 2007

Nothing flashy or majorly propagandist. No images of Hitler or reminders to keep your trap shut while you’re darning. But some good, honest examples of the austerity environment, and how ingenious manufacturers managed to reduce packaging while not skimping on the quality or quantity of the product itself.

Temporary war spool

Coats' temporary war spool with its regular demob cousin

For example, the two Coats thread spools above carry the same amount of thread. I don’t know about you, but I am really tickled by the idea of a “temporary spool”; it holds the same surreal place in my affections as “vanishing day cream” or “universal primer”.

Wartime Sylko thread

Regular Sylko thread and austerity version

While Coats’ spools got taller and thinner – much like the average land girl, I would guess – Sylko’s spools got squatter. The boxes shrank, but still held 12 spools of 100 yards of thread, thanks to the clever folk at Dewhurst’s. Here I must add the disclaimer that I’m not entirely sure which war the smaller Sylko box was made during, so it might be even older. If anyone knows, do get in touch. There’s a picture of the wartime lettering on the side of the box here.

British Snap

Snap to fit, austerity style

The British Snap people had a geometrical field day, arranging their haberdashery into lines instead of triangles. If only today’s packagers would take note.

Little Scraplet will be carrying this authentic World War II blanket in his case.

War Emergency Temporary Spool

Grace's utility blanket

It belonged to my mother-in-law and has been in constant use since she had it as a girl. It still sports its wartime utility label, her girlhood name tag (in lovely red deco lettering) and evidence of mending. But I’ll come back to wartime mending another time. There are some more pictures of this blanket, not to mention more of my haberdashery, on Flickr. I’ll also come back to the great little Make Do And Mend book at a later date.

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