A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Less trash Tuesday: Autumn 2018 review of makes

I found it pretty helpful to review the things I made in Winter 2018/9 so I’m going to review my makes from September, October and November 2018.

Corduroy cigarette pants

These trousers are certainly one of my most successful makes. I wear them all the time and think they are great. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have seen me complain that it is impossible to get a good picture of these trousers. I’m convinced they look fabulous in real life.

The corduroy seems pretty hardwearing thus far. I probably wear the trousers once per week. The texture on the cord is a little worn at the inner leg (which is where my trousers always wear out) but showing no signs of developing holes yet. I wonder if I should attempt some pre-emptive patching.

Reusable cotton pads

These make-up removal pads were a complete disaster and have been composted. They absorbed loads of liquid, which seemed wasteful, and I didn’t like the way the stranded cotton felt on my face. I replaced them with some washable woven cotton pads that I bought from The Source and I like those a lot better. However, I try to wash my face with water and a flannel where possible rather than using make-up remover.

Knitted dishcloths

Fortunately the other ‘zero waste’ item I made was a lot more successful. I use these cloths for washing-up and wiping down surfaces and they do a great job, I don’t have any pictures because they’re not that pretty. You’ll just have to trust me.

The hemp yarn isn’t especially strong, which means that the cloths develop holes now and again. My system is to rotate the two dishcloths that I made. Once one develops holes, I put it in the washing machine and then put it in the repair pile. It only takes around 20 minutes to repair them every month or so.

The dishcloth I made using larger needles was even more prone to wear and kind of an annoying size so it has been composted.

Mending projects

I did some work to fix up my zebra shorts, which were looking a bit shabby. They’ve certainly stayed in commission, though I don’t know how much more life they have left.

Really I need to make a second version of these shorts using a more hardwearing fabric.

FO Friday: Goldwork song thrush

In order to try and stop the endless scrolling I was catching myself getting drawn into, I brought a few craft projects with me when I came down to my aunt’s house for self-isolation. One of them was the song thrush embroidery that I started over a year ago.

I’d spent a few hours working on it here and there so I just had a little bit more pearl purl outlining to do on the wings, and then filling in the blank sections using cut work. I found cut work the most difficult technique that we covered at the workshop. If you don’t cut the purl exactly the right length, it looks shit. I felt that I got into the groove of it a bit as I did more and more, but it’s not something I find at all intuitive yet.

Here is a pretty sweet GIF I made of the whole process.

And here is the finished bird.

I didn’t bring the mini hoop provided in the kit to frame it, but that’s something I can do later. I think I’m going to give this to my dad as a (very belated) housewarming present. Since I enjoyed this process and it’s a skill I’d like to develop (how cute would a goldwork dragon brooch be??), I bought a second kit.

Image from http://www.beckyhogg.com, where I got the kit

I think this snow bunting is so cute and I like the look of the sequins on the design too.

Mend Monday: My two pairs of jeans again

Writing my last blog post reviewing some of my makes from a year ago was the prompt I needed to finally make some active effort in repairing my two pairs of jeans. I don’t have a table in my house at the moment so I can’t use my sewing machine. I’ve tried jeans repairs without a machine before and it didn’t work for me.

I used to attend the sewing cafes at Sew Over It fairly regularly, but unfortunately they don’t run them on a regular basis any more. A quick Ecosia search led me to this round-up of sewing cafes in London. It happened to be that their regular Fast Fashion Therapy group was due to meet the following Monday, when I was free.

I was disappointed to get an email on the day telling me that they were booked up. Since I had my jeans with me, I decided to rock up anyway and hope for the best. Since it was raining heavily and the early days of people being concerned about Covid-19, the class was quiet so I wasn’t turned away.

This image is quite cool because you can see my previous repair work (lighter thread) and the newest patching (dark navy zigzags).

I’ve written about mending jeans before so I won’t repeat myself. Lessons I learnt:

  • zigzag stitch is a fair alternative to a straight stitch, as long as your machine can reverse while zigzagging
  • I think it’s helpful to use bondaweb between the jeans and the patch. It means you don’t have to worry about keeping the fabric flat when you’re stitching
  • once you’ve repaired jeans using this method, never ever try to remove one of the patches. I did this because one of my patches was looking crappy, and it made the whole situation a lot worse (in fact you can see that in the second image above)

Partly due to not using Bondaweb, the first repair I did took nearly 90 minutes. I had already cut the two patches, so I was at the machine stitching for pretty much the whole time. I’d forgotten that repairing is hardly a speedy process!

Since I didn’t have time to change threads between working on my two pairs of jeans, I accidentally did a bit of visible mending on the lighter pair.

The pattern is totally random and I just did it as quickly as I could because the workshop was coming to an end. So I feel pretty lucky that it looks as good as it does.

I’d already fused this patch to the jeans, which helped me to get it done quickly. Next time I have a repair to do, I’m going to consider using sashiko or another more decorative technique. Once again I have two wearable pairs of jeans.

Less trash Tuesday: One year since the making

This new feature has been inspired by ‘One year sewn’ on the Sewstainability blog. Her idea was to review the clothes she has made a year later to establish how they have held up, and whether they have found a consistent space in the wardrobe. I will be doing the same for all of the things I have made- hence not just stealing her hashtag wholesale.

Eventually I plan to review everything that I have posted about on the blog. I’m going to start with makes from Winter (i.e. December, January and February) 2018/9. I am going to go by when I published the blog posts about the garments despite the face that this does not necessarily reflect when I made them.

She Loves Wool

This is a very warm sweater so I can’t wear it as often as perhaps I would like. In fact, a learning point is that I probably have enough warm sweaters and should probably focus my energy on lighter-weight garments. Since I have broad shoulders, I tend to be apprehensive about garments that draw the eye to this ‘unfeminine’ part of my body. In reality I love the way my shoulders look in this sweater. I have used the inverted commas there because I think women (and possibly Black women in particular since we often do not conform to white beauty standards) are programmed to hate our bodies. Especially since cutting my hair I have started to notice that ‘femininity’ is a particular arena for self-attack about my appearance and I’m trying to notice and deconstruct that.

I was concerned about how well the buttery-soft Sugar Baby Alpaca yarn would wear. Actually it seems to be holding up well. The sweater is quite prone to pilling, but the pills don’t really show up against the black background and the zigzags still look great.

Lunar Macaron

Even though I am pretty happy with this dress, it doesn’t make it out of the wardrobe that often. It doesn’t help that the dress is on the tighter side so I don’t feel as comfortable wearing this as other dresses I own.

Two mended pairs of jeans

Mending these two pairs of jeans extended their life spans by several months. However, both pairs are back out of commission since they need further repairs and I don’t have anywhere to use my sewing machine. Writing this post actually prompted me to search for sewing cafes in London so hopefully my jeans will be back in rotation soon.

I think this is an interesting thing to note because mending has fallen so far out of favour that it doesn’t even occur to people as a possibility. Two friends have reached out to me offering old pairs of jeans. While in a way it’s sweet that they’re trying to think of a use for them rather than just chucking them- and also aware that this is the sort of thing I care about- I also think it’s a bit weird to offer someone else your trash. My view is why not continue to wear them as jeans?

It’s so clear how fast fashion has taught us to think Something has a hole in it, time to get a new one. By the same token, if anyone reading this is aware of any cool projects that have a need for old jeans, please let me know in the comments!

Modified League sweater

Unfortunately shortening my League did not have the desired effect. Part of the problem is that I made the front a bit too short and the placement of the ribbing is now really unflattering. It’s a real shame because it used to be a garment I turned to quite often, though now I’m wondering if that space in my wardrobe has been taken over by some of my newer sweaters (like She Loves Wool) that I simply like more design-wise.

I am now contemplating whether to attempt another mod to this sweater or just pass it on to someone else. I don’t think I want to unravel it because I’m never been in love with the colours (hazard of buying on line, which I now seldom do). My concern with donating it is that the weird length will make it unsaleable. This is an issue I think about a lot actually- whether I should repair my clothes before donating them. If any readers would like to have this jumper, please do let me know.

WiP Wednesday: Turquoise Wowligan

The other project I took to southern Africa with me was the cardigan I am making for a friend who is expecting. I decided to use Kate Davies’ Wowligan pattern, since I was pretty happy with the first one I made.

My finger was still pretty bad on this trip, so I tried to practice my continental knitting. I taught myself continental style a few years ago because I wanted to be able to knit fair isle without having to drop the yarn every few stitches. I first used two-fisted fair isle (as it’s called in Stitch’n’Bitch, the book that saw my through my early years as a knitter) on my Peerie Flooers hat, and then my beloved Paper Totoros sweater. When I normally knit (English style/throwing), I tension the yarn on my small finger. The sensation of the yarn rubbing on my scar was horrible. With continental style, I was able to wear my splint, which helped to keep the finger straight. I know that some people switch to continental since it is faster, but for me I don’t find it intuitive and purling is a nightmare. I know that I have thousands of hours of practice knitting English-style, but still. I don’t see myself making the switch any time soon.

I managed to get most of the boring stocking section finished while I was away. I love how quickly tiny sleeves go by, and then I have the cable section to look forward to. Yes, I am a nerd.

Since I knew that I would be using some fancy buttons that I picked up in Vilnius, I decided to try and modify the cable pattern to match the space theme.

I was a little surprised that no one else who has made a Wowligan has altered the cables, or at least no one who has recorded what they did on Ravelry. I also couldn’t find a pattern with cables designed to look like rockets. In the end, I looked through search engine image results for fancy cables, picked a design that looked kind of like a rocketship and then modified it as I went.  It’s funny how I think of baby knits as speedy. Knitting the cabled yoke section took me around 12 solid hours. I was resting after a super busy couple of weeks and just got in the groove. However, I was still shocked at how long it took. Since I normally knit in dribs and drabs, it’s harder to track the total time things take.

I think they look a bit more like fish than rockets, but I don’t mind that too much. I took some basic notes outlining what I did. Maybe one day I will convert this into chart form, since that might help consolidate my understanding of how charts relate to written instructions. As I said, I am a huge nerd.

While searching for cable patterns, I found that it’s pretty easy to make a really cute bunny rabbit design, so that will probably be what I make for my next baby knit.

Pattern: Wowligan by Kate Davies

Ravelry project page

Less trash Tuesday: Veganuary in Southern Africa

I recently returned from a wonderful two weeks in Southern Africa. I entered by and left from Johannesburg and saw snippets of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday, it was painful at times to see the levels of plastic waste produced, both on the part of the locals and the tourists. Obviously travel, especially flying, sucks for the environment so I am a complete hypocrite.

About to search for some fellow herbivores

I bought one five-litre bottle of water when we went on a one night trip to the Okavango delta, where there wasn’t any running water. Aside from that, I drank tap water from my filter bottle. Of course it would have been nice to have a cool refreshing drink from the fridge every now and then, but it helped me get used to drinking warm water. I bought a WaterWell bottle from Amazon the week before I departed. There were only a couple of times that I drank unfiltered water, but I think having the bottle there was good for my peace of mind. It’s also something I can use again on future trips.

Okvango delta, Botswana

Ready to go on a one-night excursion with no running water

I don’t really consume soft drinks so I wasn’t responsible for much waste in this area. For me, camping and drinking are not compatible so I consumed far less alcohol than I normally would on holiday. I eschewed straws unless I had remembered my metal one (which I almost always managed to leave in my big rucksack). I brought my own plastic tub with me, which was very handy on days when we prepared sandwiches for ourselves.

I couldn’t resist sampling a few local snacks

My favourite meal of the trip- traditional Zimbabwean

Before departing for the trip, I fully intended to be flexitarian. But somehow, the first minute I stepped foot in a South African supermarket, I strongly felt that I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t sure how much awareness there would be of veganism, so I bought myself a survival kit.

In hindsight, two jars of PB was excessive

Fortunately the guides were pretty understanding about different dietary requirements so I was generally provided with something I could eat each day.

Another of the better meals

However, the meals hit home that I don’t like eating in mixed company- especially when my meal is an impoverished version of what everyone else is having. This is what perpetuates the myth that vegan food is shit. Meat eaters see me looking miserable munching a salad while they’re cutting into a steak. I overheard one of the omnivores comment, “That’s just sad,” when looking at my vegan coleslaw (aka grated carrot and cabbage). Honestly, it was sad. But if I’d been provided with an alternative, it wouldn’t have been.

The opposite of zero waste, but the plane food wasn’t bad

I’d noticed feeling unhappy in omnivore company a few times last year, but the holiday really put it into focus. I don’t like being given different food to others. It’s hard, because I end up feeling ungrateful when someone has gone to the effort of catering for me. I’ve managed to organise my life so that I mostly eat at veggie and vegan places and I will continue to phase out visits to establishments that serve meat.

Fortunately avocados were in season, so I was able to supplement the often-meagre vegan options with those, and lots of peanut butter (not together obvs). Otherwise I would have struggled. I felt annoyed at times because I’d paid the same amount of money as the meat-eaters but ended up having to top up my food when they didn’t.

The only café I found with plant milk (almond so still not very environmentally friendly). Also the coffee was terrible.

I only broke my vegan vows a couple of times. I had three coffees with cow milk (all horrible- oat milk is vastly superior in my opinion), and one sandwich that I had already started spreading before realising I was using butter rather than margarine. I also had a slice of cake on the first night, and two eggs when there was a miscommunication with a restaurant about what I did/didn’t eat. Not bad considering that there was not a single meal of the trip where animal products were not served.

I saw loads of vegans in Africa, but none of them were human

Being away has been a reminder that I’m pretty lucky to live in a place where it’s easy to be vegan, and you don’t spend your whole life feeling that you’re missing out.

Mend Monday: Xmas dye

January passed by in the blink of an eye! I’m just getting a chance to think about my blog for the first time this decade. I did a little bit of dyeing on Christmas day this year. My favourite stripey top finally got stained beyond even my low standards for wearing a garment. All of a sudden, I remembered that I had some Dylon that I bought ages ago with the intention of overdyeing some yarn. That project has since fallen by the wayside- which is why I continue my efforts not to buy resources for projects until I know I have time to begin them.

I also dyed an old pair of Nike leggings. I bought them soon after starting to play quidditch and I must say I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking. I sometimes wear them as an underlayer or around the house, but they are actually good quality and a pair of black leggings is a very useful item, particularly for travelling.

The t-shirt came out really well. There are a couple of slightly lighter patches where I’d previously bleached it, but I don’t think that’s noticeable to anyone other than me.  I’ve had this t-shirt for at least four years and I’m pleased to be able to give it a new lease of life in such a simple way.

The leggings were less of a success. I knew that the fabric was poly-cotton, so the dye wouldn’t take as well as it would to a natural fabric. What I didn’t know was that the fabric seems to be woven from a mixture of threads, some of which are coloured polyester. The upshot of that is that the dye didn’t take especially well to the yellow-and-orange leg and there is a clear ghost of the original colouring. I mainly use leggings for sleep- and loungewear so I don’t think this matters too much.

The leggings were really handy on my recent trip to Southern Africa. I wore them most evenings to stave off mosquito bites and no one commented on the odd colour. Overall I’d say that the dyeing made an outlandish item of clothing more functional, and I’ll continue to use these around the house.