Week thirty eight: resignation sets in

After last week’s grinching, dear readers, the tree is up and the festive fireplace is decorated. If you look closely at the cover image you can probably spot that bloody elf lurking among the tomtes (Nordic gnomes – the pair on the left are from this pattern and the new addition on the right is here).

I love my fireplace at Christmas: pretty lights and candles, and this year I have chosen to use my late mother-in-law’s angel chimes as a centrepiece. The Google clock is there to play Christmas music, of course. This year I have built a Spotify playlist, which means I am in no danger of being forced to listen to Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney or John Lennon’s Christmas offerings but I can include Kate Rusby, The Black Crowes, Bruce Springsteen, The Killers and The Dropkick Murphys alongside Slade, Wizzard and co.

We have an artificial tree rather than a real one as its a few years old now. We’ll keep using it until it’s too tatty rather than send it to landfill – it’s so covered in decorations as Thing 2 doesn’t like leaving anything out that you can’t see much tree anyway. It sheds a bit, but so do the cats and the three long-haired people in the house!

Remake, refashion, reuse

I love charity shops, I really do. There’s nothing I like more on a Saturday morning than a mooch round the local town, preferably solo, exploring book shelves, bric a brac and the clothes rails. There are such treasures to be found: a new craft book, picture frames, a pair of curtains that can be turned into skirts and quilt backs, a vintage dress or sewing pattern, or a pretty bowl for the frivolous shelves in my shed. Yesterday I spotted dresses from Coast and Cos (sadly not in my size) and gorgeous ’60s glassware (sadly no room in my cupboard).

We are very lucky in Epping, as we have an excellent selection ranging from the well-known Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation to more local ones like Haven House, St Clare’s Hospice and Eco. The last two have giant versions in Harlow as well, which yielded two giant beanbags and an Ikea cupboard for the conservatory. We also have a branch of Oxfam Books and Music, which I can spend ages in, usually emerging clutching a new art book in the hope that one day I will be able to draw, a craft book, or a classic from my childhood.

Yesterday’s charity shop treasures – a jigsaw for the Christmas break from Haven House, a snowman bowl and some pine cones that smell nice from Cancer Research.

Back when I was at university in Preston there was a wonderful shop called Jet Trading, packed with vintage dresses and accessories, and some of my favourite student dresses came from there – 1970s florals, worn with para boots and a biker jacket. My first LBD came from a charity shop in Monmouth – a 1960s grosgrain cocktail dress.

One of the wonderful things about learning to sew is the ability to hack and alter these charity shop treasures: like the fabric but not the length? Chop it and redo the hem. Looking for something with a bit of weight for a structured skirt? Polished cotton, double wide, full length lined curtains – done! The world is your mollusc, to paraphrase the legendary Terry Pratchett.

And then last week I got my hands on a book called Crochet Hacking by Emma Friedlander-Collins. I have been following her on Instagram for a while now, and thoroughly enjoying her hacking of clothes with a crochet hook and whatever yarn comes to hand. Anyone who has seen my shed knows just how desperately I need stashbusting ideas to get rid of all the ends of yarn from various projects, so this is a much needed addition to my craft library.

It’s a book designed to inspire confidence. It’s colourful and friendly and does not require you to buy anything new – not clothes, or specialist yarn, and for those of you going ‘ah, but what if I haven’t got a crochet hook!’, go and ask in your local charity shop as they are an excellent source of crafting materials as well as everything else. And yes, that usually includes odds and ends of yarn too. It starts by explaining why it’s better to remake than to buy new, and gives a few startling facts about how many clothes end up in landfill every year. It’s a LOT.

The book is divided into sections, showing you how to crochet into denim, jersey, wool and other fabrics – basic instructions and a few projects for each. I really love the custom sleeve stripes and the Fairisle-style cuffs, which both make the sleeves of a top longer in different ways, and the gorgeous kimono style wrap. Some projects require a bit more skill than others, but all of them are achievable.

Thing 2 has been a fan of refashioning for a while, as it happens: earlier in the summer she persuaded me to chop a skater dress that she’s been wearing for years into a crop top and skirt, as it was just too short for her. When she loves an item of clothing she tries to make it last as long as possible: this particular dress had been her older sister’s and I think was aged 5-6. It’s lasted really well, and now has a new lease of life. Last week she chopped a pair of pale grey leggings (really, what was I thinking?) into a pair of shorts, and rather grandly handed me the legs with a ‘here you go mum, I saved you the fabric’.

So I have had these legs sitting on my sewing table (oh, OK, the dining room table) and during a meeting I tried them on my arms. I have mentioned how easily distracted I am, haven’t I? They were the perfect length for arm warmers – working in what’s essentially a Victorian cast iron and brick greenhouse, as I do, means you develop a fondness for a handy layer. Armed with the Crochet Hacking book, some variegated sock yarn, a wool needle and a crochet hook I spent a few hours while in ‘receiving mode’ at some meetings jazzing up my new accessories with a few rows of crochet, some truly awful blanket stitching and some simple embroidery. The instructions in the book were really easy to follow, and now I’ll have warm hands in work!

The rest of the crafty week has been spent weaving in the ends of the nine-patches for the Zoom baby blanket, ready to put them together, and I started a pixie hat to go with the blanket as the baby in question is due in January.

A tidy pile of nine-patches and 2/3 of a pixie hat.

The cross stitch is coming on – I am working on fabric with 18 squares per inch, and my eyes are not what they used to be so yesterday I gave in and bought some of those magnifying specs from the chemist. I really must organise my eye test….

So that’s been my week. We are counting down to the end of term now – I failed as a parent on Friday and forgot it was Christmas Jumper Day, only realising as I was leaving school after drop-off that no one else was in uniform. Thing 3 seems to have forgiven me – I had it in my head that it was next week, when they have their Christmas dinner! Things 1 and 2 will be remaining at home after their isolation period ends on Tuesday: Welsh secondary schools are all moving to online teaching this week in a bid to stop the spread, but once again the English government is failing to act and is forcing them to remain open despite advice from the scientists to close.

Today Things 2 and 3 have asked if we can make stained glass biscuits – I have said yes, on the understanding that they don’t take a bite out of each one on the tree as they did a few years ago.

Let’s see what week 39 has in store!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Gobbelino London and a Contagion of Zombies – Kim M Watt

Hogfather – Terry Pratchett

Christmas films ticked off this week:

  • Arthur Christmas
  • Alien Xmas
  • Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Over Christmas (short series on Netflix)
  • Scrooged

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s