Tag Archives: carrier bags

Hooky mat chair seat cover - craft project header

Chair cover craft project: Update 1

My hooky mat chair cover project has made some progress over the past two weeks, though not quite as much as I’d hoped. I found there were some aspects of the project that needed a bit more pondering to determine the best approach and I decided to make a temporary crochet chair cover to disguise our raggy old chair until I complete the new hooky mat chair cover. We have also enjoyed some sunny days just lately which tempted me to get on with a gardening project outdoors, so that was another diversion. But let me tell you about the progress have I made with my chair cover project.

I introduced you to my new craft project in my earlier post and you may recall I had decided that the chair cover would have a Rennie Mackintosh/early 20th century theme but I was still working on the design. I continued making a number of sketches until I was happy with my sketch version of the design. Next, I squared up some recycled brown wrapping paper and drew up a full size version.

At this point I began to consider how best to transfer the design to my stretched linen. I had spent some time tinkering with the balance of the design so, to make sure I retained the placing of the flower elements, I decided to make a charcoal transfer rather than draw it freehand.

To use the hooky mat technique to create the design on the linen, I wanted to keep the design fairly simple as this is my first hooky mat project. I have seen some marvelous examples of rugs and soft furnishings made using the hooky mat technique on Pinterest, but I didn’t want to be too ambitious just yet.

Transfering design to linen
Transfering the design to the linen using charcoal transfer

Using a soft 4B pencil I made sure my design was clearly defined on the ‘shiny’ side of the brown wrapping paper. I used a dark charcoal pencil to trace over the lines on the reverse of the wrapping paper. When I was happy that I’d put enough charcoal on the back of the design to make the transfer work effectively, I carefully pinned the design – right side up – onto the stretched linen. Then using the 4B pencil again, I re-drew over the design. I put a block of wood underneath the linen to make this part of the transfer process easier.

The transfer worked very well – all of the design could be clearly seen on the linen. My next step was to draw up the outer shape of the chair seat and to check there was enough material left to tack the chair cover to the seat base. Although I had measured the linen piece beforehand, at this stage I felt it would be better with another inch of tacking space on two of the sides. I decided to tack another slightly larger piece of linen onto the stretcher frame and re-do the design transfer process. This time I was happy with the design on the linen and with the spacing for fixing the new cover to the seat base.

Charcoal outline of design on linen
Redefining the design in charcoal on the linen with the edge of the chair cover now marked

Now that I had the design on my base material it was time to think about the process of hooking the upcycled textile strips into it. I felt I needed to try out the hooking technique and my handmade hook tool itself. A test square seemed a good plan.

Using the charcoal transfer process again, I drew out a flower from my design onto a linen scrap. Then, taking my wooden hook tool, I began hooking in a textile strip. As I had anticipated, this was more difficult in the more closely woven linen than it would be in the open weave of jute hessian that is more frequently used as a base material for hooky and proggy mats. However, the hook tool proved robust enough for the task, though I did file the hook just a little extra to make it more effective.

Practising my hooky mat design
Practising the hooky mat technique for my design

As I hooked the first textile strip into the flower shape, I realised that this 1.5 cm wide textile strip was going to be too wide to describe the smaller detail in the centre of my flower design as well as being difficult to work into the closely woven linen. I also noted that organising the hooked loops on the right side of the workpiece so that they lie in a given direction was an important skill I must acquire if the design was to look good when it was completed. A little more practice was definitely in order.

Temporary cover crocheted in carrier bags
Temporary cover crocheted in carrier bags

It will take me a little while to become a natural with the hooky mat tool, so I decided in the short term our raggy old chair cover needed a rather more instant makeover. When I need to make something quickly I generally turn to my favourite hook tool, my crochet hooks. Some of my readers may remember last Spring that I made a crochet rug from supermarket carrier bags – I wrote about it here. I have used a similar process, upcycling some carrier bags to make the crochet chair cover. It is basically a crochet circle that I finished it off with some simple crochet chain ties to hold it in place. I think it certainly tidies up the chair while it is waiting for its new hooky mat chair seat cover.

As well as continuing my hooky mat practice, I am now also making a simple trestle from hazel rods to act as a support for my mat frame when I begin working on my chair cover properly. I’ll post again on my hooky mat chair cover craft project when I make some more progress.

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

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