All posts by jpeggytaylor

About jpeggytaylor

I love to design and handcraft original textiles including clothing, accessories and household items. I use some new materials but also incorporate up-cycled and found natural materials into my designs where appropriate.

Earth Day 2020: a healthy environment, a human right?

Early morning view of field and woods with dew on the sunlit grass
Early morning dew on Earth Day 2020

I hope you are feeling inspired by Earth Day. If we can all do just one thing today to show some love to our beleaguered planet, that will be a whole lot of love Earth will receive today 🙂

One simple thing I just did was to support the petition by the CEO of BirdLife International, Patricia Zurita, to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. She has written to the Secretary General of the UN António Guterres, urging the UN to include the right to a healthy natural environment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the fundamental human rights that must be protected globally. It is time to recognise that the right to a healthy natural environment is essential for the survival of humanity.”

CEO of BirdLife International, Patricia Zurita
A new human right: The right to a healthy natural environment

I know during this Covid-19 lockdown, I am far from being the only one who is feeling fortunate that I have a beautiful natural environment right on my doorstep. As the human species, we rely on the natural world so much, including for our own well-being and I think it is so important to recognise this. If we can make it a human right to have a healthy natural environment, this is another clear demonstration of its importance and it can be a line in the sand as we seek to protect and restore our natural environments, in our own localities but on a global scale.

If you too would like to support BirdLife International’s petition, you can find it here.

For a fun activity for Earth Day, do try your hand at today’s Google doodle, celebrating the importance of bees 🙂

Enjoy your Earth Day!

Peggy

Earth Day 2020 and good news about plastic

Daisies and Dandelions flowering on a grassy field on a sunny spring day
Daisies and Dandelions on a sunny day

Yes, this is a photo of daisies and dandelions, not plastic … but they looked so sunny and cheerful and beautiful on this bit of Earth right outside my front door and I just felt they captured the positive ‘living zing’ spirit I wanted to share with you today.

On Wednesday 22 April 2020 we celebrate 50 years of Earth Day. In my 2020 Vision post in early January, I anticipated this year’s Earth Day and all of the marvelous get-togethers there’d be for this auspicious occasion. Coronavirus may have prevented in-person gatherings, but that hasn’t stopped massive plans for a digital Earth Day. As the Earth Day website proudly says

“On April 22, we’re flooding the world with hope, optimism and action. Will you join us?”

WordPress too is joining in with Earth Day Live , which is a 3-day livestream of global climate action in support of this very special place we all call home. You can register to tune in to this massive live event from 22 – 24 April with activists, celebrities, musicians, and all kinds of marvelous stuff. On WordPress you can add the Earth Day Live banner to your site to show your support too.

Talking of our precious planet and marvelous stuff, I have some good news about plastic! Nearly every story we read about plastic is telling us how our over-use and thoughtlessness with this clever material have harmed wildlife and polluted our oceans. So, I was intrigued to read how a company called Carbios has developed a new and fast way of recycling plastic bottles.

An enzyme has been discovered that can break down plastic bottles into their chemical components, enabling them to be recycled into new high quality plastic. Amazingly, a tonne of waste plastic bottles was able to be degraded by 90% in just 10 hours. Carbios are now working with a biotechnology company called Novozymes and they are hoping to have their new plastic recycling enzyme commercially available by 2024.

If you are a gardener, like me, you will also be fascinated to know that this amazing enzyme was first discovered in a compost heap. Making garden compost is a magical transformation in itself, but this latest scientific advance promises to be a significant breakthrough in recycling plastic. It won’t mean our battle against plastic is won, but it could be a very useful step in the right direction.

Looking inside a compost bin half filled with decaying plants and vegetable waste with several snails and slugs looking in on the contents
Looking inside a Compost Bin

Staying with my theme of plastic, our local council newsletter this week was sharing how council library staff are doing their bit in the battle against Covid-19 by using their 3-D printers to produce plastic safety visors for our hospital and care workers as they toil heroically to save lives. In the midst of this crisis, we are seeing all kinds of people pulling together and doing their bit to help others. Anyone who has the equipment and skills to print these safety visors can contact the library service and volunteer to help produce this vital equipment for our front-line workers to protect them in the fight against coronavirus.

Nowadays, we have become used to so often seeing plastic in a negative light, I think its current essential use in Personal Protective Equipment for those on the front-line in the Covid-19 crisis shows just how important this material can be. To me, our over-use of plastic is, in a way, similar to our over-use of antibiotics. They are both substances with life-saving abilities, yet their over-use is a huge threat not only to our human lives but to the natural world too. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it doesn’t seem too dramatic to claim that reducing our ubiquitous use of these life-saving substances is so important for the future of life on Earth.

Looking after our Earth is no small responsibility, but I have a good feeling that there are plenty of us who are conditional optimists and prepared to do our bit to make sure the Earth’s future is positive.

Happy Earth Day to you all!

Now I’m off to plant up some shrub cuttings …

Peggy

A Peaceful Easter

Sunrise over wooded valley with pink tinges to the lavender grey sky as it meets the hills on the horizon
Easter sunrise 2020

The morning was cool and peaceful as I was looking out over our valley on today’s Easter sunrise. The strangeness of life in recent weeks has pervaded every part of human life, yet in some curious ways, it seems to have passed by the natural world: Nature has continued on her merry little way.

Our cultivated Spring flowers and flowering shrubs brighten our yards and gardens. The field outside my door is dotted with wild flowers – dandelions and daisies, with cow parsley and lady’s smock popping up along the margin. This year, these wild flowers won’t meet an untimely demise under the the local council’s mowing machines, as that service is one of many that has been suspended for the time being. Grass-cutting will for now only take place for safety reasons, near road junctions.

Easter flowers for 2020. Jug of daffodils and spring leaves
Easter flowers – Daffodils and Spring leaves

In the UK, we are now at that point in the year where the early Spring dawn is host to that incredible natural phenomenon, the dawn chorus. This morning, I was enjoying the glorious birdsong music of our neighbourhood bird choristers at 5.30am. If you are not naturally an early riser, it can still be a treat to the ears to listen in on your local feathered choir at some point between mid-April and late May. Whilst dedicated enthusiasts will not be able to join in public woodland events to experience the dawn chorus this year, even in urban areas you can tune in to your local dawn chorus simply by opening your bedroom window or standing at your back door. It is such an amazing sound. I am working on finding a way to share this with you.

For many of us, being able to connect with the natural world on our doorsteps is a huge relief, particularly this year with the very necessary coronavirus lockdowns. Nature really is a natural tonic for our mental health.

I hope you too are able to spend some peaceful moments with Nature. Stay safe in these strange times.

Peggy

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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