Category Archives: Sustainable living

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

Cee's Flower of the day banner

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

Cee's Flower Of The Day banner

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

Cee's Flower Of The Day banner
Cee’s Flower Of The Day

2020 vision

The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead
The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead

I’m riding in a bus on the way to my opticians appointment as I write this post on my phone. New Year resolutions whir in my head. Avoid single use plastic. Focus forwards and stay positive. Use time wisely. But how?

The planet is in crisis. We have only one childhood left to make a difference. Australia is already burning … Jakarta is flooded …

I’m so glad I am not the only one pondering on how we begin to look ahead into 2020 and beyond without being overwhelmed by the craziness of it all.

As the bus drove along, I spotted an email in my inbox from the RSPB’s Conservation Director, a new blog post entitled “2020: why we must remain conditional optimists”. Intrigued, I opened it. Martin Harper explains that he first encountered the idea a couple of years back when the phrase was originally used by Professor Paul Romer on Earth Day 2017 to help explain his ideas on how we might face the challenge of decarbonisation on a global scale.

Professor Romer contrasted the ideas of complacent optimism against conditional optimism. With complacent optimism, we just wait and hope – will we receive what we want? However, conditional optimism is much more dynamic and makes us actors in achieving the result we want – especially when we work together.

Earth Day 2020 on 22nd April will be the 50th anniversary of this worldwide collaboration and mobilisation of people who care about the future of our planet and all its inhabitants. The theme this year will surprise no-one: climate action. Literally billions of people across the world will be doing stuff for Earth Day 2020. I’m sure they will be taking climate action on many other days too.

Earth Optimism“will be happening in Cambridge, in the UK, hosted by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, a public event with Sir David Attenborough. Earth Optimism is all about celebrating, sharing and replicating the successes in nature conservation across the world. Everyone knows there is still plenty of work to do, but taking action to achieve what we would hope for is certainly a very positive step in the right direction and I will look forward to hearing more Earth Optimism stories in due course.

As expected, my optician confirmed that my vision had changed slightly so it’s new glasses time for me. I might not any longer have 2020 vision but I at least I do now feel that my vision for 2020 is becoming somewhat clearer. I will continue caring for the Earth in whatever ways I can.

As I was leaving the opticians and heading back through town to the bus station, I passed by a Newcastle upon Tyne Christmas institution – Fenwick’s window. Fenwick’s is a large department store in Newcastle and every December its large shop windows host an animated tale, a world from storytime, to delight children and Christmas shoppers. This year we have a glimpse into Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Quentin Blake’s illustrations beautifully rendered in animated models and tableaux.

So I will leave you with my image from Fenwick’s window – the scene where Charlie has entered the sweet shop to buy his famous chocolate bar. The Evening Gazette’s headline says it all …

Fenwick’s window – Christmas 2019: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The “Last Golden Ticket still to be found”!

I think that sums up nicely how I felt as I started this post – can we find the Golden Ticket that will save the planet? And whilst I can’t claim that I have quite found it, I do believe it will be found …

… because literally billions of us are looking for it.

Best wishes for 2020. I hope you too have also found your reasons to be hopeful this year.

Peggy

P.S. The bridge photo I chose as the header to this post is called The Butterfly Bridge in Gateshead’s Derwent Valley. The bridge you see is the replacement for an older bridge that was washed away by floods on 6th September 2008.

Eleven-peas-in-a-pod

Pea wars and tech woes

I’ve been missing from the virtual world this week. I’ve been fighting a battle – well, two, actually. Though, the second one required me to call up the cavalry.

Did you see my beautiful fresh garden peas on my Wordless Wednesday post last week? This is the image here if you missed it.

First Champion of England Pea Pod 2016

I’ve been carefully watching the pea pods gradually plumping up and this was my ‘test pod’, to check if my tall garden peas had fully grown and were ready to pick. A pod-full of bright green, sweet, juicy peas – just right and just ripe for picking. There were quite a few pods at this stage now, so I was looking forward to my first Champion of England tall pea harvest.

The next morning, I went off to pick my peas. But OH NO! Horror! My beautifully ripe pods of peas had already been picked! Well, not as much ‘picked’ as pecked!

Damaged pea pod - pecked by birds
One of the damaged pea pods – pecked open by birds

This was the sorry sight that met my eyes on my tall pea frame. Lots of ripe peas ripped away. Some of the pea plants were mangled too – evidently visited by a stampede of starving birds.

My battle with the pea-eating birds has been ongoing this week, attack and counter-attack … them against me – me against them. Though I must say they have been very sneaky … or, from their point of view, very careful and clever! I’ve still never actually caught them in the act of pea-munching … but I do now have a reliable witness who has seen them both picking the peas and then picnicking happily on the shed roof ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was initially inclined to blame the local population of jackdaws, as I’ve previously encountered them pea pinching. But then I began to think the amount of damage there’d been to the pea plants, this must be the work of heavier birds. I then believed the wood pigeons must be responsible. However, the witness for the prosecution was quite certain – definitely the jackdaws, and very persistent they have been too!

Tall peas covered in netting and fleece
The first line of defence – garden netting and fleece on the pea plants

The first of my counter-offensives saw me covering the whole of the tall pea frame and the growing pea plants with a combination of garden netting and fleece (in the pouring rain, of course!). Did this work? No, not good enough!

Next, I added willow hoops to hold the netting away from the pea plants. Still not good enough! I then added unstable hazel twigs on the outside of the willow hoops and the netting. Promising at first, but still not completely effective.

Now, hopefully, I have added the final layer of defence – chicken wire! With each additional layer of defence, it’s certainly becoming more difficult to pick the peas … not only for the jackdaws, but also for me!

Protecting pea plants
Three layers of defence – protecting peas from the birds

My other battle this week has been against a machine … my desktop computer to be precise. At the end of last week, I’d carefully prepared to upgrade my computer’s operating system. Early in the morning that Saturday, I hit the upgrade button.

For the first two hours everything went smoothly. I was completely in control. Then, boxes began to appear. The boxes said things like, “failed” and “cannot complete the upgrade”. Before I’d managed to digest the first message, succeeding ones appeared much too quickly. UGH!

There was nothing else for it, I’d have to call in my tech team. “Are you busy, dears? I’m afraid something’s gone wrong,” I called up the stairs.

My children came to the rescue. My carefully planned upgrade was now in tatters. I don’t consider myself entirely useless with computer software but my two teenage sons are invaluable when things do go wrong. Rather like my ‘pea wars’ against the jackdaws, we devised a battle plan against the computer.

Gradually, over the course of the week, I am glad to report that not only have I managed to repel the maurauding jackdaws, but we have also managed to win out against the computer’s persistent attempts to thwart us ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hopefully, peace and tranquility have now been restored so I can get back to my blogging … ๐Ÿ˜€

J Peggy Taylor

Bit and braces - black and white

Old Shed Treasures for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

“Older than 50 years” is the topic for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week. Rather than root about in my photo archives, I decided to have a root about in the old shed in my new allotment garden. I found all kinds of old treasures and photographed them on the old cupboard that doubles as a bench and storage space in the garden shed.

The old shed - black-white
The Old Shed

The old shed itself definitely falls within this week’s topic. Originally, this building was constructed as a garage, probably shortly after World War II. I remember there were some old garages of this type near where I lived as a young child, back in the 1960s. The garage was probably saved from demolition and then transported to its current location and repurposed as a garden shed.

I love the smell of old garden sheds – the mingling aromas of musty dampness, machine oil and old creosote wood preserver, all mixed up together. Rust, dust and cobwebs cover the array of relics left behind from a by-gone age.

Old fashioned hand braces
Old hand braces and one complete with a bit

Before hand drills were made in moulded plastic and powered by electricity, these are one of the tools people would have used – a brace and bit. I know some woodworkers still use these tools today as we bought a brand new one for our woodworking son a couple of years ago. These old and rusty hand braces hang from one of the old shed beams. One of them still has its ‘bit’ in place – I wonder what it was last used for, and when?

Shoe maker's last - black-white
Shoe maker’s last for mending shoes

In years long gone, shoes were made of leather and people mended their own at home … or in the garden shed, apparently! This rusty old shoe last would have been used to support the shoe whilst it was re-soled, or re-heeled with new material. Here in our village, it’s very likely that the last was used to mend the pitmens’ heavy boots that they wore when working in the coal mines. Can you hear the ghostly echo of the shoe mender’s hammer as he taps in the new nails?

Hacksaw and Screwdriver with turned wood handles - black-white
Saw and screwdriver with turned wood handles

Wood turning is a heritage skill that we’ve learned a bit about in our family. Our youngest son went through a keenly interested phase and he and I ended up building a treadle-powered pole lathe from raw timber, which was a wonderful learning experience.

In the old shed, I came across these very old hand tools with turned wood handles and they reminded me of our wood turning project. You don’t often see tools with turned wood handles nowadays as moulded plastic has become the norm.

I had fun exploring in the old shed for this photo challenge … and it provided a welcome cool space on a particularly hot and sunny Summer’s day too!

Do take a look at what old treasures others have found for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor