Honouring the Handiwork

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I am regularly given pieces of fabric, garments and bed linen to use for upcycling into Boomerang bags and other projects. In recent months I have acquired a large quantity of these items from a local thrift shop. These are pieces that are deemed to be unsuitable for sale for a variety of reasons. The process of diverting them to our group assists in saving these pieces from going to landfill.

We have discovered that simply washing some articles makes them usable again. Thrift shops are not laundry services so it is important that anything you choose to donate is clean.

Some stained and torn articles yield sections of good fabric which we are able to use.

However, there is one group of items we receive that can be a challenge. These are the partly completed craft projects. I have received pieces of embroidery, patchwork pieces and even fabric painting at times. I feel an emotional responsibility to utilise these pieces if at all possible. They represent effort and skill from an unknown maker and deserve to be honoured.

Here are a couple of examples I have recently completed.

A piece of calico with fabric painted flowers has become the front of this bag. It is complemented by plain blue handles and back of the bag.

A contrasting inside pocket completes the bag.

Several small strips of patchwork provided me with another challenge. I joined them in an acceptable pattern before making the rest of the bag in a matching navy fabric from a doona cover. The contrasting handles are a similar fabric to the patchwork and were lurking in my stash from another donation.

I am so glad that I have been able to give these pieces of handiwork an outcome which is so much better than landfill.

A Refresh

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I have not forgotten you even though it has been nearly 4 weeks since my last post.

After a very wet autumn our weather suddenly turned dry and cold as winter officially began here at the beginning of June. It somehow made our planned holiday very appealing. We had 9 days in north Queensland where the daytime temperatures ranged from about 26C up to 32C. It was a great opportunity to thaw out. I am still adding to the posts on my holiday blog but you can pop over here to read all about it.

We came back with renewed enthusiasm to tackle some jobs around the house. It is really a bit like spring-cleaning in winter. GMan has scrubbed all of the skirting boards, architraves and doors in the lounge/dining area and the office/library.

A bit of decluttering and rearranging of furniture ensued. One thing certainly leads to another.

Bookshelf from the lounge to the office.

Sideboard from the front lobby to the lounge.

A ‘new’ glass fronted cabinet for the lobby. I picked this bargain up on Marketplace.

Scrubbing was not enough for the front lobby so it received a fresh coat of paint.

There is more painting and rearranging in progress. More photos to come.

Safely Salvaged

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I seem to have been gripped by a level of inertia which has been difficult to shake. I suppose you could call it writer’s block. I have plenty of material for blog posts but have simply not had the will or focus to actually write and publish them. Part of the problem has been the heavy focus on our upcoming federal government elections on Saturday. The other has been the weather. The rain was relentless for several days and even when it was not raining the humidity was 100%. Today was a little better but a return of the heavy rain is forecast for the next 3 days with a high likelihood of greater than 100mm (4 inches) over the weekend.

Anyway, enough of excuses and back to the title.

Today I want to address textile waste – garments, household linens and unused fabric.

As with anything, the best actions we can take to minimise waste are:

  1. Buy only what we actually need.
  2. Buy secondhand where possible.
  3. Take care of what we have to increase its longevity.
  4. Repair or upcycle if applicable.
  5. Ensure it is disposed of or recycled responsibly at the end of its useful life.

Most of us at some time have donated to or shopped at op shops but do you have any idea of what happens with the donations before they make it into the shop for sale?

Donations are received, sorted, priced and made available for sale. Many op shops are overwhelmed by donations and sadly, a portion of what is donated ends up as landfill. Donated items may be unsuitable, dangerous, damaged, soiled or otherwise unacceptable.

I routinely receive donated textiles which are otherwise destined for landfill and our local Boomerang Bags group are often able to use some of the fabric for making reusable bags.

However, sometimes I am surprised by some of what I receive. Remember, op shops do not provide a laundry service so it is make sure that your donations are in a state which is saleable. It is even a good idea to fold garments so that the volunteers can easily identify them as clean and cared-for clothing.

Today I soaked and laundered these three dresses which were in the last bundle saved from landfill. I can only only surmise that at least 2 of them had been deemed unacceptable due to the fact that they had not been laundered prior to donation.

They are all natural fibres (cotton and linen) and in good condition.

I have now sold 2 of them and the funds received have been donated to our local Waste Action group.

We should all do everything we can to ensure that we minimise what ends up in landfill.

Storage Solutions

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In the eleven years that I have been writing this blog I have intermittently made attempts to organise my photos. Little by little I make some progress. I recently uploaded the entire collection to the cloud but this post is not strictly about the photos.

While I was sorting through them I found random photos I have taken of different storage solutions that work for me. Here is a selection.

Rolls of wrapping paper in a repurposed shoebox.

In the cupboard in the spare room. Various bags sorted into categories for reuse. A beautiful old tin which is full of buttons (also sorted and bagged). A plastic tub of all our CDs. They have all been ripped and saved on the computer but we can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of them.

Folded teatowels in a repurposed timber box which lives in the linen cupboard.

The plastics drawer with containers stacked in piles. This needs maintaining regularly.

The cupboard in the office is constantly evolving.

Storage is not an alternative to decluttering but it does help to be able to maintain a level of organisation. However, I do not advocate rushing out to buy specific matching containers. As these photos show it is possible to utilise various containers that you probably already have available.

Ongoing Maintenance

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Even though most areas of my home are decluttered, I find that regular maintenance is both useful and necessary.

These shelves in my laundry cupboard had got a bit out of hand recently so it was time to pull everything out.

I wiped the shelves down, sorted out the contents and removed a few things before replacing the remainder. It is also a good reminder to check what is actually stashed away at the back.

There were a couple of old calico carry bags that were stained irreparably so they will go in the compost and a bottle of bleach which GMan uses for cleaning/sterilising home brew bottles will be relocated to the cupboards downstairs with the rest of the home brew equipment.

Lying Low

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The past 5 days or so have been interesting to say the least. Despite doing our level best to stay away from people, GMan and I have both been quite unwell. I think it is likely that we have contracted Covid-19, however, we have yet to receive the results of our tests taken on Friday morning.

Today is the first day that I have felt well enough not to spend more than half of the day in bed. In fact, I even managed to do a few things. I did not push myself so sitting and cutting fabric seemed like a reasonable compromise.

I am slowly but surely working on sorting out the fabric stash in my workroom and little by little I am deciding whether a piece is really something I need to keep and how I might use it. Any pieces that I have earmarked for patchwork (5 inch squares) are cut and sorted according to colour for future projects. This is what I have been doing today.

A few more piles to put away.

This is some of what I need to sort out. There is some overall logic to the placement but it could be much better.

In the meantime, I like to focus on the successes. This cube is mostly patchwork. Blocks in progress on the left and squares sorted by colour in the basket.

Small steps do make a difference.

Maintenance Mode & Mundane

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If my first few posts of 2022 were anything to go by, you would think there was always some huge activity going on here every day. I am sorry to disappoint you but that is not the case.

Yesterday included a routine doctor’s appointment, changing the sheets on our bed and a couple of loads of washing as well as cutting up some pruning I had done a few days prior so that it will break down more quickly in the compost.

This morning I decluttered some emails as well as the cane basket which sits on the kitchen bench next to the phone. It is our ‘dumping spot’ and occasionally needs a review and overhaul. The contents include a notebook, pen, pending correspondence etc.

I also shredded a small quantity of paper. We choose to handle all of our paper and cardboard at home rather than putting it in the recycle bin. The shredded paper goes in the nesting boxes for the chickens. Some lightweight cardboard is shredded for addition to the compost while the heavier cardboard becomes a weed suppressant to go under mulched areas in the garden.

The administrative maintenance – emails, shredding, notes and correspondence – done regularly means that I never need to have a huge declutter of these things.

Finally, we went shopping to top up our grocery and fruit and vegetable supplies.

Hidden and Forgotten

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My recent clean-out of the linen cupboard resulted in a few things that did not make the cut to go back in. There were various reasons for this and one item was simply because it had been pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten.

It is a 100% handwoven cotton rug. I inherited this when it came with a free chair I picked up from Gumtree some years ago. The rug was quite grubby but it washed up well, albeit with what looks like a couple of small rust stains. Anyway, it has been lurking in the cupboard with no particular purpose.

I realised it would make a great picnic rug and we could keep it in the car with the picnic set. It just needed a bag.

I have several cotton drawstring bags which sets of sheets came in and I decided that sewing 2 of them together would make a perfect carry bag for my newly-purposed picnic rug.

Ready to go in the car.

A Fresh Approach

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Tidying up the linen cupboard has been on my mental ‘to do’ list for a few weeks so the first day of a new year seemed like a good time to tackle it.

While it may not look too bad in the scheme of things, I was not happy with how things were grouped. I have assimilated several pieces that belonged to my mother as well. The various boxes and baskets were my first step in the process which was done a couple of months ago and that had certainly made a difference.

I pulled everything out, critically assessed each piece and repositioned a couple of shelves to make better use of the space.

I am rehoming a couple of items but most of it did go back. I tried to keep bedroom, bathroom and kitchen items grouped together as much as possible.

Top shelf: gym towels and beach towels

2nd shelf: Bathroom – towels, handtowels, facewashers and bathmats

3rd shelf: Bedroom – sheets and pillowcases

4th shelf: Kitchen – teatowels, handtowels, aprons and serviettes

5th shelf: Doona covers and tablecloths

The tub at the bottom now contains extra towels and facewashers that are not currently in use as well as an assortment of doilies, tablemats and odds and ends that I am not quite ready to let go of yet.

I have used some of Marie Kondo’s methods re standing items up. I find it works for me in some instances.

Creating With Scraps

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One of my longer term projects is to use up the many and varied fabric pieces I have acquired from multiple sources.

When I was tidying up a few weeks ago I found various pieces of denim offcuts. Once I collected them all together I realised that there was a significant pile. Many were pieces that had been cut off when shortening new jeans. Others were salvaged from garments that were no longer wearable.

Using an existing apron for a template I made a pattern then a patchwork denim apron for myself. The neck strap, binding and ties were all salvaged or remnants.

After posting this photo on my Facebook page I was approached by a friend who asked if I was selling them. Well, not exactly, but I did agree to make her one. This time I even included pockets. These were salvaged from a pair of GMan’s old gardening jeans that had been patched so many times that he had recently declared that they were only fit for the rubbish. That was the case for most of them but the back pockets were still in good condition.

I used flat felled seams to replicate the seams normally seen on jeans. This also meant that there are no raw edges on the reverse of the apron.

My pile of denim offcuts is now much reduced, although I do still have enough for the occasional mending task.