Monthly Archives: March 2014

Turning a shirt collar - before and after

Time to turn a collar

In days gone by turning shirt collars was a normal part of working-class thrift along with darning socks. This topic was the subject of an interesting conversation I happened to overhear on a bus journey a little while ago. The two ladies chatting were probably in their 70s. One lady was explaining she had recently turned the collar of the blouse she was wearing. Then the conversation turned to lamenting how most people don’t bother mending things nowadays but simply throw them away when they become a little worn.

Being the kind of person who will always mend something rather than throw it away, turning a collar is something I have found myself doing from time to time. I recalled that overheard conversation when I discovered a growing rift in the collar of a very much-loved shirt belonging to one of my sons. Hence I soon found myself explaining how I could mend this most-precious-of-garments.

Collar-turning tool-kit: stitch ripper, pins, needle and matching thread, scissors
Collar-turning tool-kit: stitch ripper, pins, needle and matching thread, scissors

Turning a shirt collar means literally unpicking the collar from the garment, turning it over and then restitching it in place … but with the worn part now neatly hidden underneath and the upper part looking as-good-as-new.

I’ve added a step-by-step Turn a Shirt Collar tutorial to my How to … pages. So the next time you find a worn patch on a favourite shirt collar, try turning it – you can have that shirt looking as-good-as-new again in no time.

J Peggy Taylor

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Rocket seedlings, sown early March

Spring seedlings – home-grown and wild

There’s always something magical I think about seeing tiny seedlings sprouting through the earth in Spring, whether they’re out ‘in the wild’ or if they’re just regular domesticated seedlings I’ve sown myself.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

My first sowing for this year was a tray of mixed salad leaves that I started off early in February. I grow most of my ‘eating’ leaves on a sunny east-facing window ledge so they can get plenty of daylight … without the having to compete with my slimy mollusc friends who frequent my back yard! This first sowing of leaves is now just about large enough to begin picking.

February-sown salad leaves almost ready to eat
February-sown salad leaves almost ready to eat

I find it very convenient to have fresh salad leaves to hand so I tend to choose the cut-and-come-again varieties. Another thing I do is to make regular sowings to provide an ongoing supply. My second sowings went in early in March and are showing good progress already. Our recent prolonged spell of Spring sunshine has certainly helped them on their way. These leaves are another variety of lettuce and my first sowing of rocket of this year. I like to add rocket and some wild leaves usually too to my salads to give a bit of extra flavour and bite.

As well as salad leaves I also like to grow a few fresh herbs. My mint cutting is still thriving as it sets down its new roots in its new ‘big’ pot – it looked a bit lost when I first planted it out, but it is beginning to spread out now, as mint likes to do. And this weekend I was delighted to see my first parsley seedling hook its tiny pale crook through the compost and open its seed leaves to the light. Now it has been joined by a number of others too.

First Parsley seedling2014
My first parsley seedling of 2014

I sowed the parsley in early March at the same time as the lettuce and rocket, though the parsley has been residing on a different window ledge that has the benefit of sunlight from above and a central heating radiator below. This is my special seed-sprouting and cutting-generating window ledge for those plants that need a greater level of warmth to work their magic.

Bitter cress rosettes
Rosettes of bitter cress – my first edible ‘weed’ of the year

In my back yard, my self-seeding wild salad leaves are making progress – garlic mustard and bitter cress. Both of these wild plants grow easily I find. The bitter cress arrived of its own accord and is happy to make a home in any of the pots where I allow it to. I originally harvested some local wild seed for my garlic mustard and it has continued to self-seed each year since. I also have two tiny plants of wood sorrel that emerged from some mud cleaned from walking boots! I am hoping they will grow on – perhaps a little rich leaf mould will help them on their way – I shall try.

My next sowing will be some more thyme as that’s another herb I find extremely useful. More time would be good too … I wonder if I can find some seeds in a catalogue for that …. 😉

J Peggy Taylor

Foggy Frog… Matching Funding

Megan’s Foggy Frog campaign to help make invisible illnesses visible has now received a generous pledge from an anonymous backer which could be a brilliant boost to this great campaign … but there’s only 49 hours left on the Kickstarter campaign so please help if you can.

Many thanks.

J Peggy Taylor

Liveken - my chronic life journey

Yesterday we announced in our update on the Foggy Frog Kickstarter campaign that an anonymous backer has offered to match all pledges to the campaign up to $1,500 in the next 49 hours (was 72 hours yesterday).

image

This is great as it means that if you pledge today (or increase the amount you’ve already pledged) you’ll really be adding twice as much to the campaign. At this stage (with the matched funding – not on Kickstarter yet) we’re 62% funded.

Please pledge your support now by clicking here and selecting the “pledge my support” button (big green button) on the right hand side if the page. From there follow the steps to select your reward and pledge amount.

Remember every dollar will help us and we only have 50 hours left to reach our goal or we get nothing!

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A Bittern in Bethnal Green

A talented London street artist, ATM, is showing his support for some of the UK’s vanishing wildlife in a direct but novel way. His wonderful paintings of birds are appearing in some seemingly unlikely locations in London. This video by About Wonnish Films shows him painting a bittern – now a very rare marshland bird – in an alleyway in Bethnal Green. The urban jungle may have taken over here, but close by on the Hackney Marshes bitterns would have been found in the past.

I really enjoyed the film showing the painting process and the painting itself is amazing. I first read about ATM’s urban bird paintings in a Guardian article today.

You can see some photographs of the rare and secretive bittern on the RSPB’s website and hear a recording of its very unusual booming call too. The RSPB has done some sterling work in seeking to revive the bittern’s fortunes in the UK by careful management of the bird’s reedbed habitat on some of their reserves but the bittern remains one of the UK’s most endangered birds.

I certainly applaud ATM’s creative way of bringing our UK endangered birds to the attention of a new urban audience.

J Peggy Taylor

Upcycled Message Mat of Hope

The arrival of Springtime sunshine started something of a creative cascade for me. I described this creative wave in an earlier post and this has combined with the additional seasonal inspiration of Nature waking from her winter slumber and showering us with new shoots and blooms from the warming earth.

One of the projects that has so far evolved from my kinetic Springtime spree of creativity has been my upcycled supermarket carrier bag rug. In my last rug update post I was interpreting my design as a mirror of how we make use of the world’s finite resources – a message in my mat.

The white section of my upcycled crochet mat
The white section of my upcycled crochet mat

As I crocheted further on my mat I began working on the white section. It is not pure white, as you can see, but is laced with red and blue. Sometimes these colours are clearly seen, sometimes masked. The mat’s message here is the influence our one small country, Britain, has had on industrialisation both here in the UK and throughout the world, particularly since the period of time we call The Industrial Revolution (during the 18th and 19th centuries). This influence has left its legacies everywhere. Like the red and blue colours, sometimes these legacies are very evident and sometimes they are masked by more recent developments.

Victorian railway bridge, North East England
This Victorian railway bridge spans a path where we often walk. The path was once a mineral line, busy with steam trains hauling coal to the River Tyne.

North East England, where I live, was renowned for the coal production that powered the Industrial Revolution. Our local environment is full of remnants of this industrial past. The very house and village in which I live was built for mine-workers. In creating my mat here I feel this represents a link between the past and the future. Just as mining families would have created their old rag mats that I talked about in my first post on this project, I too am now crafting my mat from upcycled materials.

Upcycled Crochet bag mat close-up
Upcycled crochet bag mat – a closer look

It is important to me to try harder to use less of the earth’s resources – though I do not claim to be perfect by any means! Most of us accept that fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are not good news for our planet’s future. I think we can all try and play our part by reducing our own consumption and carbon footprint and by encouraging each other in our environmentally-aware endeavours. There is so much we can do ourselves but also by spreading our ‘encouragement’ in the direction of our governments we can try and use our collective powers of persuasion to convince them that our one and only planet is certainly worth caring about.

To reflect in my mat these feelings of hopefulness and of actively encouraging environmental awareness, I chose to finish it with a strong green border. You may notice the border is deeper on two sides. These deeper sides will eventually lie east to west in my porch. This final part of my message mat is to say that from east to west, around the world, we can all play our part in protecting our planet.

My completed upcycled crochet mat
My completed upcycled crochet mat made entirely with supermarket carrier bags and a hand carved hazel hook

I’ve enjoyed creating my upcycled message mat – both the crochet part and thinking about the story that belongs to this mat. On a practical level, I’m happy with the way my mat has worked out. It is nice and thick and is quite soft too.

The construction method I chose involved simply knotting each strip of carrier bag to the next. I realised this was obviously going to leave a lot of loose ends but rather than try and hide them all, I thought they resembled carpet pile so I decided to leave them showing. I think they add to the texture of the finished mat too. I am also glad to say the mat fits just nicely in its intended destination, my front porch.

J Peggy Taylor

My Blooming Back Yard

I try to grow as much as possible in my very tiny back yard – from herbs to flowers to numerous small trees. My yard faces west and only benefits from a little afternoon sun in Springtime so this tends to mean my early flowers take their time to bloom. But our recent mild and sunny days have persuaded some of them to start the Spring Show.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Our purple crocuses have now opened their glorious eyes to reveal their white depths and vivid orange stamens. The seedlings underneath the crocuses are the beginnings of a favourite wild salad leaf of ours, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata. They’ll grow on after the Spring bulbs are finished.

Our mini daffodils are doing rather well too. I originally rescued a pot containing three rather sad-looking specimens from a plant stall two years ago. Now we have a pot with four healthy flowers and the promise of more, judging by the additional greenery striving to put in an appearance around this year’s flowers. I can see they will definitely need lifting and repotting after this flowering season.

Mini daffodils in bloom
Mini daffodils in bloom

The Washfield Double hellebores I have on my doorstep do appreciate the indirect light and have been quite successful in their large pots for several years now. I love the under-stated pink of this hellebore. My other plant has subtle yellow-green flowers with maroon markings. I usually feed these plants with home-made garden compost in early Spring when I finish trimming back the old leaves. So that’s another job to get done soon.

Pink Washfield Double Hellebore - flower
Pink Washfield Double Hellebore – flower

I planted some new willow cuttings a few weeks ago and they seem to be doing very well. I’ve a few more cuttings to find homes for too – more willows (but with a reddish tinge to the stem) and a few sprigs of Common Mallow Malva sylvestris I rescued from a plant that had been strimmed down on some council-owned land nearby.

Rather like my love of upcycling with other materials, I’m a bit of a regenerator of plants as well! I discovered the wonder of cuttings a number of years ago and have found this a great way of generating more plants. Some plants such as willow, mint and lavender I have generated entirely from cuttings.

I also like to seek out those sad-looking plants on plant stalls that look like the-dog-that-nobody-wants. Then I find with a little bit of tlc these plants can be brought back to their blooming best. My mini daffodils are one such success and now I also have some tulips that I ‘rescued’ on my last town trip …

J Peggy Taylor

Creative Upcycling Update – A Message Mat

In my last upcycling post I left you wondering what on earth I was making with a pile of old supermarket carrier bags. Perhaps my inclusion of a book on rug-making in that post too might have inclined you to wonder if that craft would feature in my creative plan. Indeed it does. And now I am pleased to say my upcycled rug project has made good progress despite this week’s multitude of irksome delaying digressions.

One of the things I love about upcycling is the way it makes you really look hard at your intended resource and stretches your brain in devising a creative design that will fit with the available material – both the type of material and quantity. I began by taking a good look at my mound of carrier bags. It was fairly obvious that they could be sorted by colour – red, yellow, blue, white, green. Then I had to consider quantities and the possible construction methods I might use. What pattern would be suitable? What other aspects might I incorporate into my rug project?

I liked the idea of creating a rug in the style of the the old rag mats I had been reading about. However, I didn’t have a suitable canvas backing available and also I decided the slippery nature of plastic would not lend itself well to that method of rug-making. So that experiment will keep for another time.

Eventually for the construction I decided to go with my favourite yarn craft, crochet. I settled on crochet for two main reasons. Firstly, the rug is destined for a practical purpose – my front porch – so will receive a moderate amount of wear and I generally find crochet is quite robust and holds together well.

My second reason relates to the nature of the material I was looking to upcycle. The plastic of the carrier bags I am using is biodegradable so only has a life of around 18 months to 2 years. (I know this from experience as sometimes I find I have stored something in a biodegradable bag and then discover it has … biodegraded!!) For this reason I didn’t want to choose a construction method that would take too long as I didn’t want the material biodegrading before I’d finished the rug! For me, crochet would be fast. So although I know the rug won’t last forever, it also won’t have taken me a long time to make.

The range of colours and the quantity of each helped suggest the design to me. Based on a simple plain crochet square motif, with a circle at its centre, I am using up each colour until it is all gone. My intention with this method of working is to mirror how we make use of the world’s finite resources – a message in my mat, as it were.

Each colour does not make an identifiable pattern or part of the rug. A red row runs on into a blue row, a blue into a yellow and so on. My mat’s message here is how we, the human species, stumble on using the earth’s finite resources, generation after generation. The centre circle represents time, ticking away. It is as if we still cannot come to terms with the inevitable result – our resource will run out … suddenly and soon, just like each of my colours!

Upcycled-rug-taking-shape

I imagine you will be pleased to hear I am aiming for my mat’s story to provide a hopeful end, so look forward to the next part of this upcycling tale.

J Peggy Taylor

Support Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang

Can You Help Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang?

Since I started my blog just two short months ago I have had the pleasure of meeting some creative and inspiring people here in the WordPress blogosphere. I am writing this post to help one particular inspirational blogging friend spread the word about an amazing campaign she is currently running.

Megan S - My Chronic Life Journey
Megan herself suffers from a combination of invisible chronic illnesses

Starting this Sunday (2nd March) something special is happening that can help those who suffer with invisible illnesses. I learned about Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang from their creator, Megan, of My Chronic Life Journey.

Approximately 1 in every 5 people around the world suffers from some form of chronic pain but most people haven’t even heard of the illnesses causing it. Megan herself suffers from a combination of these chronic illnesses. Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang was developed as Megan’s way of putting some distance between herself and her symptoms and for describing these symptoms to those that asked about them. When she couldn’t find any simple picture books about her illnesses, Megan decided it was time to share Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang’s story. Since their creation, Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang have been used by multiple people suffering from chronic illnesses like Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) to describe their symptoms to their loved ones.

Megan is now reaching out to the community to help bring her unique picture book, Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang, to the world. On Sunday, 2 March 2014 at 2 pm CST (Adelaide), a Kickstarter campaign will be launched to raise the $7,500 necessary to publish and distribute Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang worldwide to those who need help explaining or understanding the symptoms faced by those with invisible illnesses. Once launched the campaign has only 27 days to raise the $7,500 or they won’t receive any of the money. So if you can, please help by visiting http://bit.ly/FoggyFrog after the launch on Sunday 2nd March to pledge your support and share the project through your social networks.

Support Foggy Frog on Kickstarter

All people deserve to have their story heard, and those suffering invisible illnesses deserve to have theirs heard too. This picture book tells the first part of that story without leaving people out because their illness isn’t recognised or they don’t have a name for it.

Let’s help Megan get this book out there! I have known people who suffer from one of these chronic conditions, ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and I have seen first hand the devastating effect it has on their lives. I feel many communities would find Megan’s book very beneficial, and it would assist many people with gaining a better understanding of invisible illnesses. The more coverage and support we can generate for the Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang Campaign, the more likely it is this book will reach the world-wide audience who could really benefit from it.

To follow the campaign, be sure to find them on Twitter (@ChronicMeg) and Facebook and please do spread the word to your social media networks. Even donating as little as $1 can help to bring Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang to the world. Please do support the Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang Campaign if you can.

Many thanks.
J Peggy Taylor