Tag Archives: creativity

Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons - I decided to cut different-shaped vents in some of the pots

Upcycled plant pots with air-pruning in mind – Part 1

I was so inspired by the air-pruning video I shared with you a few days ago that I immediately decided to try out this seemingly magic method of improving plant growth. I already had imminent plans for sowing some Sweet Pea seeds as I am planning on training several Sweet Pea plants to grow up and through the crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have also been working on recently. The willow garden screen project is my experimental version of location-specific vertical gardening.

Two rows of jute crochet bind the willow rods in place
Two rows of jute crochet bind the willow rods in place

As my back yard is only very small I needed to develop some air-pruning pots that would be more size-appropriate than the 5 gallon buckets they used in the video. But I also wanted some containers that would reasonably accommodate the Sweet Pea plants. I have grown Sweet Peas in my yard in the past using moderately-sized containers and with a bit of care they successfully reached their full six-foot height.

A further consideration was that I need to be able to attach some of the plant pots to the back of my yard gate, so lightweight containers with ‘attach-ability’ were additional factors to bear in mind. And, as I frequently do, my preference was to use upcycled materials for this project too.

The solution to my air-pruning plant container conundrum is … four-pint milk cartons! These milk cartons satisfy all of my requirements – lightweight, with built-in handles for ‘attach-ability’, moderately-sized and easily re-designed for their new purpose … and upcycled.

Fortunately, I had a number of these milk cartons readily available as I had saved them ‘just-in-case-I-need-some’ – I’ve made milk cartons into standard-type plant pots on previous occasions. But this time my design plan was rather different.

Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons - cut carefully around the milk carton's original opening, making sure you leave the handle intact
Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons – cut carefully around the milk carton’s original opening, making sure you leave the handle intact

I began by making a large planting hole at the top of each carton by cutting around the original milk carton’s opening. You can see I have cut high above the carton handle to leave the whole handle intact. Around the sides and front of the carton I dipped down a little lower with the scissors to make a reasonably-sized opening to give accessibility.

Next I pondered on the best way to ventilate the sides of the cartons to provide the air-pruning effect. The air-pruning video showed circles cut out of the sides of the 5 gallon drums. I emulated this on the first carton, cutting out relatively large holes all around it.

Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons - I decided to cut different-shaped vents in some of the pots
Making air-pruning plant pots from milk cartons – I decided to cut different-shaped vents in some of the pots

However, I then wondered if different shaped holes would be more or less effective at air-pruning. To test out my curiosity, I have decided to make different shaped holes in some of the cartons. Two cartons have circles, two have wide vertically-oriented ovals and the remaining two have a series of narrower vertical vents. It will be interesting to see if the different-shaped vents in the containers make any difference to the plant growth.

Watch out soon for Part 2 of my upcycled air-pruning plant pots project in which I will show you how I made the fabric grow-bags to fit inside the pots.

J Peggy Taylor

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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

An Upcycling Tale of Creativity

I am working on a new upcycling project this week. There’s nothing especially notable about that in itself as upcycling is a concept I have been crazy about forever … so that’s a long time before the word ‘upcycling’ was even first coined! I love the positive notion of upcycling and its environmentally friendly connotations.

However, this particular upcycling project emerged from a curious mixture of inspirations that happened to me within a fairly short time-frame of just a few days. These ideas tumbled together in my head like a ripple effect – each individual source of inspiration built on and fed into the others.

The result felt like a huge wave that rolled on with the tide until eventually it crashed, sending a series of rivulets rushing up onto a calm sandy beach. As on a beach when each rivulet carries with it a new mixture of pebbles, shells and ocean detritus, so each of my rivulets of creativity carried with it its own collection of creative nuggets. Each rivulet is now a germ of a whole new idea.

What was in my wave of inspirations?


1. “Mat Making”

I’ve been reading a book recently about an historical form of upcycling in my local region. The book is called “Hook into the Past: The Story of Mat Making in North East England” edited by Ellen Phethean. The book describes the craft of making rugs, locally known as ‘mats’, from pieces of old clothing and textiles that had reached the end of their useful lives.

Hook into the Past: The Story of Mat Making in North East England
Hook into the Past: The Story of Mat Making in North East England

The ‘mats’ were made mostly by working-class people to put down on the floors of their homes as shop-bought carpets were largely unaffordable. Families and neighbours worked together to make the mats. These ‘hooky’ or ‘proggy’ mats were essential household items for North East working people right up to the middle of the twentieth century.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hook-into-Past-Making-England/dp/1857952073

2. “creativity” of WordPress bloggers
I follow certain tags on WordPress. One of them is “creativity”. I find it produces a serendipitous array of creative ideas that I can then filter through my personal ‘creativity fishing net’. Some ideas will become my ‘big fish’ whilst others might just prove to be useful ‘shrimps’. I find there’s always a good range of ideas on offer to satisfy my creative hunger.

On a recent trawl through the “creativity” of bloggers on WordPress a couple of posts particularly caught my eye. The first was entitled “Polyethylene macrame” and showed a colourful image of plastic shopping bags knotted together by their handles – which I learned is something of an art form in Beirut’s supermarkets.

Austin Kleon's new book, Show Your Work!
Austin Kleon’s new book, Show Your Work!

The second “creativity” blog post that grabbed me was a poster from Austin Kleon’s new book, “Show Your Work! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered”. The blogger who had shared the poster likes the way Austin Kleon captures his ideas in simple but effective words. I do too. His ideas work for me in several areas of my life. Hello Lillian and thank you for posting this poster 🙂

3. Spring … and cleaning!
Some of my regular readers will know I am excited about the imminent arrival of Spring and have been avidly seeking signs that we are progressing towards it. One of the less exciting aspects of the changing season for me is the lovely Spring sun shining on those forgotten dusty household corners revealing the need for prompt clearing out and cleaning when I would much rather be outside checking on Nature’s progress!

Such a moment occurred on Saturday. However, in the process of cleaning I unearthed a rather large number of supermarket carrier bags that had amassed over time. Initially I intended simply returning them to the supermarket for recycling. But then my creative wave took over and I had an idea for an upcycling project …

Crocheting red carrier bags with a hand carved hook
Crocheting red carrier bags with a hand carved hook

… but that will be another story.

J Peggy Taylor

This week’s Purple Patches of creativity

Sometimes we start a creative project and then, due to hiccups and interruptions of one kind and another, it begins to feel as if the piece will never be finished. So when we do eventually manage to complete the job then success does seem all the sweeter.

This week I saw a lovely hand-made patchwork quilt and learned that it had been one of those seemingly-never-going-to-be-finished pieces. The patchwork quilt has been created by Megan. Her quilt had been an ongoing project for more than seven years.

I love the colours Megan has chosen for her quilt. There are shimmering blues, cerise and purples – perhaps reminiscent of the calming end to an ocean sunset. The colours speak “happy” and “peaceful” to me – which seems an ideal combination for a quilt.

Megan is a fellow Zero To Hero blogger here on WordPress and I follow her blog “my chronic life journey”. Like others who suffer from a chronic illness, life for Megan sounds very much like a daily challenge. She says that finally completing the quilt was an “amazing achievement” and a really good feeling – that definitely sounds like a Purple Patch for Megan!

I have been working on a rather long and drawn out purple project myself over the past few months. Finally, this week, I am pleased to say this project has become the next hat in my Oak Trees Studio Etsy shop.

Woman's Damson Alpaca Crochet Slouch Beret
Damson Alpaca Crochet Slouch Beret

When I am designing I tend to choose colours that for me harmonise with the natural world. In this way, the damson alpaca yarn worked for me, although I have also seen the damson colour that I chose for this hat among the purple hues on the fashion cat-walks this winter.

My own Purple Patch in relation to this hat came not so much in the actual crafting – though that part had been rather drawn-out for various reasons – but via my struggle to shoot some satisfactory product photographs of it for my Etsy shop. With volumes of advice and some technical assistance from two of my more photographically-capable sons, I was really pleased when I eventually achieved some shots I was reasonably happy with. Although I must add that I do take total responsibility for any defects in the photographs!

While on the subject of Purple Patches and photography, I thought I’d share with you another purple ‘creative’ snapshot I grabbed this week. As I was choosing vegetables for a mid-week Winter Vegetable Casserole, I noticed these two red onions had randomly fallen into something resembling the yin and yang motif. Were they trying to tell me something about my work/life balance perhaps – my incessant multi-tasking? Or maybe they were congratulating me on completing that long-winded damson hat project … had I restored the yin-yang balance by finally finishing it? I really don’t know. I love the colour of red onions but I always think of them as more purple than red.

2 red onions as yin and yang
Red Onion Yin and Yang

What is a Purple Patch?
“a period of notable success or good luck.”
www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/purple-patch.html

J Peggy Taylor