Re-thinking fashion for London Fashion Week

Rayon fabric

I’ve never been a “follower of fashion” in the usual sense of what I choose to wear, but I do like to take a peek at the catwalk fashion scene to filch ideas for my own eclectic taste. London Fashion Week has been in the news this week, including quite a few articles looking at some more sustainable facets of fashion whilst equally highlighting the huge environmental impact of fashion.

I’ve seen several designers who’ve created their collections from upcycled materials and also Hatton Garden jeweller, Rosh Mahtani, winning an award for jewellery incorporating recycled bronze.

Undoubtedly, the fashion industry does have a monumental carbon footprint but I do think this is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged, both within the industry and amongst consumers. With over a million metric tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill each year, this really is the time for action. It is good to see some positive steps on sustainability from the influencers in the world of haute couture.

Global Fashion Exchange is a consultancy that works globally on promoting sustainable consumption patterns and they were one of the organisers of a high end ‘clothes swap’ event at this week’s London Fashion Week. In a similar vein, Mulberry, the luxury fashion company, organised a secondhand handbag swap.

Clothes swaps have been around for a while, as some people have tried to move away from fast fashion and become more environmentally conscious consumers. People attend swap events with friends or other like-minded folk and literally take along items they no longer want to wear and swap them for something they would wear. I’ve not been to any swap events yet myself, though I am a keen thrift shopper in charity shops and have items I have ‘discovered’ in vintage clothes shops.

Purple rayon satin vintage shirt
Purple rayon satin vintage shirt (un-ironed! )

Recycling or re-purposing clothing is one way of reducing the amount that ends up in landfill. Several designers had created their London Fashion week collections from recycled or upcycled clothing or materials. Christopher Raeburn is a London designer who has been working in recycled and upcycled materials for a decade now. Another London designer, Phoebe English, has transformed the whole way her business operates in order to build in sustainability. Interestingly, she initially found that stockists were not keen to follow her lead into sustainable fashion until it became clear to them that this social shift was supported by customer demand.

Upcycling clothing items has been something of a life-long habit of mine. I’ve posted a few times here on my blog about some of my projects. This post is about a raggy old woollen sweater that had a second lease of life when I restored it back into a wearable state with some crochet flowers.

Crochet embroidery links the crochet patches
Stems and leaves in crochet embroidery link the crochet patches

The Hexagon Hat, made for my son from a pair of old trousers, is another upcycling project I’ve shared on my blog.

Hexagon hat - almost finished
Hexagon hat – almost finished

The upcycling project I currently have in progress, I have been working on for about three years now, so I think that rather takes slow fashion to a new level! This patchwork jacket is made entirely from woollen sweaters that my dearest had at various times accidentally shrunk in the washing machine!

Upcycled woollen jacket from felted woollen sweaters
Upcycled woollen jacket from felted woollen sweaters

However, the resulting felted wool could then be cut like fabric and the patches are sewn together by hand using binding made from old trousers. The jacket has sleeves too and a collar that I will attach in the next phase. My planned design has a full lining made from upcycled shirts too, but we will see what transpires on that part.

I’m really glad to see upcycling being acknowledged as an increasingly standard practice amongst the leaders of fashion design. I know that upcycling clothing has quite a healthy following globally – I’ve gathered some great ideas from others on my Pinterest boards. Now I hope we will soon see more sustainability spill over into the broader fashion scene.

Peggy

Pottering with Pansies

White jug of multi-coloured pansies

I find pansies are such cheerful flowers as they can give us a dash of garden colour in most months of the year. This pot of pensive beauties were part of a project a while back.

I also love the smaller, old fashioned ‘Johnny-jump-up’ violas that retain their wild pansy charm.

Johnny-jump-up violas flowering in rustic basket planter
The Johnny-jump-up Violas in their rustic basket planter on my yard wall

With this is mind, this year, pansies have been my first seed sowings of the year. The first ones to go in were the Swiss Giants Mixed – they’re the ones with smiling faces 😉

Sowing Wilko pansy seeds
Sowing my Swiss Giants Mixed Pansies in coir compost

I sowed these seeds two weeks ago and the seedlings are now pushing through in earnest.

Sowing Wilko pansy seeds
Swiss Giants Pansy seedlings and sowing seeds for Clear Crystal Mixed

Today, I’ve sown a second set of pansies. These ones are the single colour type with a yellow eye, Clear Crystal Mixed.

I’ve sown my seeds in coir compost again, as I did last year. I’ll do another post to show you this useful addition to my gardening kit, but if you’ve not seen this type of compost before, here is a quick preview of how it starts out –

Using Wilko lightweight multi-purpose compost - 100% coco coir
Using Wilko lightweight multi-purpose compost – 100% coco coir

These lightweight blocks of compressed coir from Wilko are really handy for me to carry home on the bus. In the above image, we are sawing off some smaller blocks to make up into the growing medium.

Now I’ll be watching for today’s pansy seeds to put in an appearance, but I’m sure there’ll be lots more seed sowing going on in the coming weeks. Spring is coming …

Peggy

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: All Sorts Of Signs

Stone marker at Waskerley, County Durham from the Stockton & Darlington Railway
Stockton & Darlington Railway stone marker – Waskerley

My inspiration for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week comes from two contrasting signs we spotted on a family summer ramble along the Waskerley Way in County Durham, which forms part of the C2C long distance cycle path.

My first ‘sign’ is an old lichen-encrusted and weathered stone marker, bearing the letters SDR – the initials standing for Stockton & Darlington Railway. Synonymous with the Victorian railway engineers, George and Robert Stephenson, the Stockton & Darlington Railway was the first railway in the world to operate steam locomotives for passenger transport. However, this branch of the line opened on 4th July 1859 and carried mainly iron ore for use in the nearby Consett Ironworks.

40km to Garrigill - way marker on the C2C cycle path at Consett
40km to Garrigill – way marker on the C2C cycle path near Consett

My second sign is cast in iron and was designed and produced as one of the Millenium Mileposts to celebrate the creation of the National Cycle Network here in the UK. The Millenium Mileposts were sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland.

So we have old and new, stone and iron, from steam railway to cycleway: my signs for this week’s challenge are full of contrasts.

Peggy

Nature's home: The Big Garden Bird Watch 2020

Screenshot of the results page for my Big Garden Bird Watch 2020
My 2020 RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch results

Last weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch weekend. About half a million of us spend one hour recording the highest number of each species we see in our gardens. This annual survey is now in its 41st year and provides a citizen science snapshot of the range of species and the levels of populations of the birds visiting our gardens across the UK.

Our Big Garden Bird Watch results were a little on the minimalist side this year. House Sparrow 4; Starling 2; Jackdaw 2.

I was pleased to see House Sparrow topping the BGBW charts as I was submitting my results online afterwards. It was good to see our starlings during our hour’s observation too.

As someone who has been a keen birdwatcher since I was a child, I have to keep reminding myself that both of these species, the house sparrow and the starling, are red-listed these days. That means they are Birds of Conservation Concern here in the UK, where the species population has reduced by 50% in the last 25 years.

‘Our’ house sparrows nest in the roof and we were delighted to see them raise two broods of youngsters during last spring and summer. The starlings nest in a nearby roof but always drop by on winter days to feed in our backyard.

So whilst I didn’t record many birds, of the ones I did see, two species are much rarer than we’d like. Our homes and gardens really do play a significant role in providing nesting sites and food sources for birds and many other creatures.

Peggy

Nature’s home: weather or not

Snowy January sunrise over woodland
Snowy January sunrise 2018

Today, I am sharing two versions of my daily world view – looking east at sunrise, out over our local woods to the valley beyond. Living high on quite an exposed valley side, facing towards the North Pennine moorlands, we have a very ongoing relationship with the weather: colouring our skies in the early morning, blasting us with wild winds or drenching us with driving rain.

Connecting types of weather to our UK seasons is something we have absorbed from childhood. But how often do we now find ourselves talking about ‘unseasonal’ or ‘extreme’ weather? It seems almost constant.

We don’t need to be meteorologists to be aware that our weather patterns are changing from those we have come to expect as part of the seasonal cycle.

My snowy January image above was taken 2 years ago. It would be most unusual for us to get through the month of January without seeing a good covering of snow for at least a day or two. We’ve not seen more than an odd flurry of snow yet this Winter. Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, we had some of that ‘unseasonal’ weather I mentioned earlier, mild and frost-free.

January sunrise, gold and pink horizon with deep indigo sky and silhouetted trees in the landscape below

It’s not only humans noticing these weather changes – the natural world has noticed too. Last year, late February saw temperatures we associate with Summer. And only once since 1910 had March seen more rain.

Over at Nature’s Calendar https://naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk/analysis/seasonal-reports/, their records show that everything we associate with Spring happened earlier last year. All of the flowering plants such as blackthorn, hazel and lilac bloomed between 3 and 5 weeks earlier than expected. Frogspawn, butterflies, ladybirds were all spotted 2 to 3 weeks early. Birds were early building their nests.

These natural events have been recorded over so many years, the changes are noticeable.

For many people around the world, including here in the UK, we know climate change has created much bigger problems than finding we need to mow the lawn before the end of March. The heartbreaking wildfire scenes from Australia, flooding in Indonesia and here in the UK are just the next painful examples of the climate crisis we are living in.

Many of us are trying to do our bit for the planet: planting trees, avoiding plastic, eating less meat, walking or cycling rather than car travel … and a whole host of other things too.

I think individuals taking collective action really is important and shouldn’t be underestimated, but the speed with which we as a global society must act on the climate crisis means we must convince decision makers to act too.

At this year’s World Economic Forum this week at Davos the climate crisis is very much on the agenda. Finally. This annual meet-up of the world’s top brass in business, finance and politics is where the decisions determining what is important this year are discussed.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020 acknowledges and highlights the climate crisis, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss as the most significant risks this year.

From the reports I have seen coming out of Davos, it could have gone better, but I do think there’s reason for hope.

Senior business executives are beginning to realise it can’t just be about shareholders profits any more. Business as usual is now being challenged not only by climate activists, but by hedge fund managers too.

Yes, of course we will need to keep banging the climate crisis drums – and ever louder. But I am beginning to feel that we are rolling the wave now and I believe the impetus is on the side of taking climate action.

I am hopeful that this is another win for Professor Romer’s “conditional optimists”, that I talked about in one of my New Year posts.

I think of it as active optimism – the more people we have taking positive climate action, the more likely we are to be successful in our endeavours to save our planet and its biodiversity for the future.

Peggy

Flowers for Friday

Dianthus - pinks in different shades

This week I’ve chosen Dianthus for my Flowers for Friday, or Pinks as I usually call them.

I grew these flowers in my yard a couple of years ago. I remember it was a hot, dry summer and everything was looking parched and bedraggled. Daily rounds with the watering can were to no avail. But then after a week of August rain, all of my yard flowers produced another flourish of blooms just before Autumn.

I do love nature’s way of gifting us in our gardening endeavours, especially when we are beginning to feel that the efforts we have put in have been in vain.

Peggy

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Flowers for Friday: Dahlias

Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers. I look forward to their colourful blooms in the garden throughout the summer, bursting out of their large button-like buds.

Dahlias, front and back

I love the way the sun lights up both the crimson dahlia behind and the sunburst dahlia in front. I also love the way the light creates a fascinating green speckled shadow from the old green bottle that I chose for these flowers.

Peggy

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Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge: Public Transportation

Newcastle upon Tyne Central Station

This elevated view of Newcastle upon Tyne’s Central Station is one of several panoramas that can be enjoyed if you are sprightly enough to climb the many stone steps and spiral staircases to the rooftop of Newcastle’s medieval Castle Keep.

Do take a look at what has inspired others for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week.

Peggy

Nature's home

A jar of bright and colourful dahlias
A jar of Summer – bright and colourful Dahlias

I’ve spent the morning browsing seed catalogues and seed merchants websites, dreaming again of sunny days and Summer flowers … To be fair, our weather hasn’t been too wintry so far this Winter, though the wind has been rather wild this weekend.

As I’m browsing, I am also thinking about my New Year’s Resolution … to do whatever I can for our beleaguered planet. In choosing the flowers I will grow for Summer 2020, I intend to consciously choose varieties that actively support garden wildlife. I’m looking at nectar-rich blooms to feed our VIPs (Very Important Pollinators) – bees and hoverflies, butterflies and moths. But I am also looking ahead to the end-of-season seedheads that will enrich the diet of birds visiting the garden for food as the Autumn and Winter draw on.

Comma butterfly in sunshine
Comma butterfly

Usually in the vegetable patch I am looking to keep most animals out – especially rabbits.But one animal I would love to encourage into the garden is one of my very favourite creatures, the hedgehog. And I know I am not the only one. Here in the UK there are now a whole lot of hedgehog supporters … over 620,000 of us on Hugh Warwick’s petition to Help save Britain’s hedgehogs with ‘hedgehog highways’!

hedgehog eating on a road near a car
Endangered species – hedgehog

Hedgehog highways are a very simple idea, but hugely important for hedgehogs. One of the main reasons that hedgehogs have become so scarce in the UK is because we keep fencing off more and more bits of the landscape into smaller and smaller pieces.

The ‘hedgehog highways’ petition has been seeking to bring housing developers onboard to make sure that new housing is hedgehog-friendly. Of course, it is not only new housing that needs to be hedgehog-connected. The more of our gardens that are connected, the better for hedgehogs. Our hedgehogs only need a 13 cm hole in the bottom of a fence or garden wall that allows hedgehogs to move freely between gardens so they can find food or find a mate. (That’s about the size of a CD … if you remember those 😉 )

If you’d like to join the growing band of hedgehog supporters, doing your little bit for hedgehogs, you might like to take a stroll down Hedgehog Street to find more about Britain’s favourite animal. There’s an interactive map too, where you can log sightings of hedgehogs (now also available as a phone app, which is very handy).

Whether it’s bees, butterflies, birds, hedgehogs, or any of the other creatures with which we share our gardens, I’ll be looking to incorporate ideas on gardening for wildlife and there are plenty of ways of “Giving Nature a Home” over on the RSPB’s website too.

Peggy

Flowers for Friday

I love flowers. For me, flowers give so much, from the anticipation when sowing their tiny seeds to enjoying the beauty and scents of their full grown blooms. Then, there are some flowers that become so much a part of life, they are practically part of the family.

Christmas Cactus in bloom
Christmas Cactus

My fondness for the plant I know as the Christmas cactus spans several decades. From early Autumn, I begin watching out for the beginnings of tiny buds forming on its shiny dark green leaves. Gradually the buds fill out and then, usually just before Christmas, the bright fuschia pink flowers burst open.

I remember my very first Christmas cactus. It comprised of just two green leaves. I’d bought it from the plant stall at the church Christmas fair. I was an eight year old Brownie and the plant cost me 10 pence.

There were no flowers for a few years, but slowly, year by year, my two leaves grew into the fuschia flowering plant I now know so well.

My cactus plant has met a few mishaps along the way. Bits of it snapped off when it fell off the fridge in the first apartment my husband and I lived in. Bits of it “snapped off somehow” at the hands of our children too – it usually involved footballs or light sabers 😉

Many of these broken off pieces of cactus plant were then divided up into smaller cuttings and planted into potting compost in a small pot. Quite a few cuttings later is the plant you see in my photo.

I have several of these cactus plants, all grown from cuttings … that would have been taken from plants that themselves had started out as cuttings …

Some of my cuttings have developed into the most splendid specimens, about 2 feet across (that’s about 60cm), just like the original plant that fell off the fridge years ago.

Some plants are really so generous and can be so easily raised from cuttings from mature plants. For me, the Christmas cactus has always been one of those.

Peggy

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