The Distracted Seamstress

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I’ve been dusting off a long lost and unused “skill” – knitting.  As touched on in the last post, I persuaded a friend to help me to knit again and she taught me how to make a “simple” cable knit fingerless mitten pattern.

I won’t go into massive detail, but I made three pairs of that pattern, and now I’m trying my hand at a cable knit beanie/hat.  That’s going slower, much slower.  Because I got distracted again!  I dug out my crochet stuff to make (wait for it)…. dishcloths!  WTF?? I hear you ask.  Have I lost my mind? Well – no…

This year I’ve been thinking more and more of the environmental impact we all have.  This world has limited resources and I want to try to do my bit to be more sustainable.  This means not buying single-use plastic, recycling more than I did in the past and being more careful with what I throw away.  We have become such a throwaway society, because it’s become cheap, easy and convenient for us to do so.  We are encouraged to do it by the retailers.

So far this year I have ditched supermarket milk in plastic bottles for glass bottles I bought myself and take to the local farmer/dairy twice a week for refilling, ditched cling film & bought beeswax wraps (going to make my own soon!) and swapped supermarket plastic wrapped veg for the local grocers and farm shops.  The veg is cheaper and I only need to buy what I need for that week, saving pennies and food waste.  My old shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles have been swapped for bars from Lush, and shower gel swapped for good old fashioned soap in cardboard  boxes.

I’d love to make my own soap and bath salts, that’ll be on the to-do list along with the beeswax wraps.  When my toothbrush needs to be replaced, it’ll be with a bamboo one, and I now carry a stainless steel straw in my handbag.  Other things I can do easily are to be found in my stash.  I made two granny square afgan sampler throws for the girls when they went off to university, and while I managed to sell some of the cotton left over from those projects, I still had a bag of about a dozen balls of Rowan Cotton Glace lying around.

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I saw somewhere that someone had made some facecloths with crochet using cotton yarn.  So I thought – why not?? I started with just making up a couple of patterns on some actual dishcloth cotton from Deramores.  I’m sure you can get it elsewhere too.  I was impressed with how these tests worked out, I found the ridges in the crochet worked really well to scrub off those bits that you’d usually need a scourer for.  Any stubborn bits get the baking soda treatment, and voila, clean pots and pans!  And when they get dirty they can go in the washing machine!

I bought this book on Amazon, and am slowly working my way through all the designs.  Some are really quick, others you need to remember to count.  I prefer a lighter, lacier design for washing dishes, to be honest, and not too big a cloth either.  It’s not easy to get a large, firmly crocheted cloth into a glass.  But for drying they’re good, and of course, they don’t have to be used for dishes!  Think of the pretty facecloths you can have in the bathroom!  I’ll be using up my stash of left over coloured cotton nice and quick now, and have something useful and pretty in exchange.

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Next in my sights was to update my shopping bags.  I haven’t used plastic bags from the shops in ages, and the “long-life” hessian bags from Tesco have definitely seen far better days!  Some have lost their plastic lining (not a bad thing), some are decidedly holey.  So I’ll be using scraps of left-over denim from my jeans making to patch the holes, visible mending style.  The bags with dodgy lining will have those replaced with linings from fabric in the scrap boxes.  I am happy to patch stuff together, so look out for my attempts at patchwork!

Speaking of which – I also wanted to make new totes for popping into our local town for bits and bobs.  It’s not far and I walk in regularly.  I have been collecting the shirts that Mr Not Compulsive has been earmarking for the fabric recycling bin at the recycling centre.  I actually can’t see why we need to send these things all the way to India for them to shred and turn into dog blankets.  I can see a very good use right here!

I’d seen a pretty, simple patchwork pattern on Wisecraft.  I thought this would be perfect for left over fabric scraps and these shirts!  I cut the shirts up along the seam lines, removing the collars, cuffs and yokes. Then I cut 25cm squares, including button stands, sleeve plackets and some seam details.  I figured it would be fun to actually show what the fabric had been before it was a bag!  I sewed 9 squares together, cut that in half horizontally and vertically, rearranged the resulting squares and sewed them back together.  I did this kinda randomly, kinda looking at the colours, but totally not following the rules of the patchwork!

But I thought it looked too small to cut up for one bag, so I sewed up the rest and put them all together to cut up.  Of course, once I’d done that, I didn’t want to cut it up!  Cue new project!  I thought I’d turn this patchwork square into a throw for using in the garden in the summer, it just needed a back!  The local charity shops supplied me with a single duvet in apricot which was the perfect width, just needed to be shortened.

By this time I’m thinking I like the kanthas I brought back from South Africa (see picture above), I can do something similar with the throw…  So now I’m using up the remains of my embroidery thread making rows of running stitch down this rather large throw!  Thankfully it’s keeping me warm in this cold weather while I work!

There was one 9 square square left over after all that, so it got quartered and I decided to make a couple of smaller grocery bags with them.  I’d bought a piece of pale blue denim in someone elses’ destash that was just perfect to bulk out the cotton shirting fabrics.  I cut 4 squares of the denim, 35×35 cm, the same size as the shirt squares and pinned them together.  Then I cut 6 pieces 15x35cm to make the bottom and sides of the two bags. After attaching them all together, I measured the circumference of the top edge and cut a strip 94cm long and 8cm wide.  This would be the top edge, folded in half lengthways.

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I love seeing the shirt evidence!

Then I cut the handles.  There were two pieces the perfect length for holding a bag in your hands (not so long that the bag would touch the floor) or for putting on your shoulder, so I cut them 8cm wide.  Then I cut two more pieces 8cm wide, but longer.  from the selvage strips that had been cut off the top edge, I zigzagged two 12cm lengths together and sewed one of the with one end under a handle.  I wanted a loop that I could attach my house keys to.  They usually end up in the bottom of the bag, under the shopping.  That’s not terribly helpful when you get back home and need to dig under the spuds before you can get in out of the cold!

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The handy loop for my house keys. I like the raw-ness of the inside of the bags.

I sewed a pair of snaps onto the strip so now it’s easy to keep track of my keys.  I didn’t line these bags, the denim looks good and to neaten the inside I just used a nice bright orange thread and zigzagged everything.  then I used it for the topstitching too, just to tie everything together.  I’m really chuffed with my new shopping bags, can’t wait to use them!

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And one last trick – I’d made some bags from coffee bean sacks a few years ago, and one had developed a nice big hole in the bottom seam.  No problem, using another strip of that pale blue denim, I simply sewed it onto the bottom of the coffee bag, using nice big zigzags.  Sorted!

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One fixed coffee sack tote.

Now to get back to hand stitching the rest of the running stitches on the throw – I’ve a feeling you’re going to want to see that too, before the summer.   Hopefully I’ve provided a little inspiration for using up your scrappy bits, and doing your bit for the planet we live on too.