The tale of two chairs

As mentioned in my last post, fuelled by a heady combination of Pinterest and ‘Fill Your House For Free‘, I’ve taken to upcycling in rather a manic way. Why upcycling? Isn’t it just a fashionable pursuit for the privileged with too much time on their hands? Well, maybe. Though being a full time carer of a small child, I’d dispute having too much time on my hands…

But I also rather believe in conscious consumption (I blogged about it here). I worry about our disposable society and what kind of environment the Tiny Overlord will inherit. And well, I just like old things, I love things with quirk and charm and character. I love things that are unique and if I can achieve some of those things through a good old bit of re-loving, then that’s just fine with me.

school chairs Made in Britain

The chairs came from a playgroup, via a reclamation yard in sunny Margate for a whole Four British Pounds (tip: avoid the ridiculously overpriced ‘vintage’ shops in the Old Town and head up the hill past the Shell Grotto to the real thing).

Covered in rust and grime, but proudly Made in Britain, I bequeathed them a stay of execution from the scrap heap and after lugging them home on the train (that lovely parquet floor above is in Ramsgate station), set about transforming them for the Tiny Overlord.

Chair makeover in progress Chair makeover in progress

It took me HOURS to sand all the flaking plastic paint and rust off the metal legs. It took me ages to scrub the plastic clean with sugar soap, so they could be primed and painted. But, after a lot of hard work, a couple of emergency trips to Wilkos for more cans of paint and a lot of cursing, they were transformed in to my primary coloured dream.

Yellow upcycled school chairs Play area

Can I be honest with you? Was it worth it? In principle, yes. These perfectly useable chairs have been saved from landfill and given a new lease of life and I love the colour of them. But, to get this finish on them took two cans of Plasticote paint (not including a coat of primer and lacquer) and two cans of spray Hammerite on the legs. That’s not only a huge amount of money to spend on £4 chairs, that’s an awful lot of VOCs released in to the atmosphere! Someone with more knowledge on these matters than I will have tell me if they really have better environmental value than new chairs.

Even though I have upcycled furniture many times before with a brush, I found the spray paint very hard to handle. I wasted loads of it spraying the thin chair legs. It didn’t dry in the time stated on the the can, the paint is uneven from where they were knocked over on to the grass by rampaging cats (that never happens to Kirstie Allsop…) and one chair has an amazing imprint of my finger prints for prosperity from where I had to pick it up, wet. Which is useful as a crime deterrent as there is absolutely no mistaking they are mine, but it wasn’t exactly the Pinterest perfect polished finish I was hoping for.

However, despite the resulting costs and imperfections, we really do love them. And paired with a slightly less ethical table from IKEA (I had planned to upcycle a table but this one was just too perfect. And it cost a lot less than all that spray paint…), we think they make the perfect pieces for the Tiny Overlord’s play area. And that’s really all that matters. Quirky, colourful and uniquely ours.

101 Uses of a Vintage Sheet: The Playmat

At the moment I have incredibly worthy crafting intentions. Naively I thought was going to fill the Tiny Overlord’s world up with lovingly handcrafted playthings, crafted while he slept, but the reality of life with a six month old isn’t quite like that (sleep alone is often an enigma, let alone finding the energy to craft). So my crafty intentions remain just intentions for the time being.

Fortunately the Tiny Overlord does kindly allow me to scour the local charity shops for treats and trinkets. I originally bought this lovely geometric patterned vintage* duvet cover for pennies with the intention of turning it in to a patchwork playmat, inspired by Hannah’s in Mollie Makes Mama. But y’know, best intentions and all that. Instead I decided it would probably make a mighty fine playmat of its own accord. So stuffed with a thin summer duvet – tada! A large soft playmat, perfect for my little roller. Quite possibly the easiest make ever, no?

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He seems rather pleased with it, maybe pleased enough with it to let me make some of my crafty intentions more of a reality one day.

*I’m a bit of a hoarder of vintage linens, normally I go towards the lurid 1970s floral variety, they are used throughout our home and you can see some of my creations here. I have to confess that I spotted this amongst a bundle of vintage bedding and grabbed it as well. It is not actually vintage, it is originally from IKEA. None the less, it is spared the landfill and put to good use. And we think it is pretty groovy. And, really, that’s all that matters.

Adventures in Visible Mending

Despite not being able to do them up over my now rather epic bump, the sudden change in temperature has found me sorting out all things snug and woolen. I have an absolute weakness for a vintage cardigan. The closer to something my Granddad would have worn, the better, in my opinion. But a love for snuggly old man knitwear does have its problems in the maintenance department, all things vintage and well loved are prone to wear and tear.

In the spirit of the Making Do Project, I’ve been investigating beautiful ways to patch and repair my beloved cardigan collection, to increase their lifespan, and, thanks to Crafty Magazine, I discovered Tom of Holland and the Visible Mending Programme. Tom describes the programme on his blog;

“The Visible Mending Programme seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the Programme attempts to reinforce the relationship between the wearer and garment,  leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour…”

And darns can be really beautiful (please click on the pictures to view the original sources)…

TomofHollandsAmazingJumper

Tom of Holland’s ‘Amazing Jumper’

Prick Your Finger's Darned Shetland Jumper

Prick Your Finger’s Darned Shetland Jumper

This cardigan, also darned by Tom of Holland, ticks all my 'Granddad chic' boxes

This cardigan, also darned by Tom of Holland, ticks all my ‘Granddad chic’ boxes

Suitably inspired and armed with a darning mushroom, I thought I’d give visible mending a go on a 1980s collared cardigan I’d bought discounted from Etsy seller due to a hole in the front..

entures in Visible Mending

The mend is next between the buttons and the bottom of the pocket on the right hand side

entures in Visible Mending

And a closer look…

I wasn’t confident enough in my fledgling darning abilities to use the kind of high contrasting colour used by Tom of Holland or Prick Your Finger, the darn itself is still a little rough and ready and I think my technique will improve with practice. But I am really rather proud of it, I have felt a stronger connection with my clothes through darning and I am delighted to give this cardie a second lease of life.

Now, what can I mend next…?

101 Uses of a Vintage Sheet (Part 1 of a very occasional series)

Most people seem to have a Marmite relationship with 1970s decor. For some the bright colours and bold prints are an instant turn off. But for me, like a jar of the infamous spread, I love it – the bigger, the brighter, the bolder, the better. So when I spy 1970s vintage sheets in charity shops, I snap them up without a moment’s hesitation. They are probably the cheapest way to get some genuine vintage fabric in your life and are available to be picked up for almost pennies. I really love using bits of my stash to add colour to our home.
Homemade Patchwork Pillowcases

Last week I decided we needed something on our bed, that would compliment the rather joyous patchwork curtains that reside in our bedroom and managed to rustle up these pillowcases in a few hours on the sewing machine. The patches are the same size (postcard sized) that I used on the curtains and I think they look rather good together

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Next up was a bit of upcycling I did for the impending arrival of the Tiny Overlord.

Upcycled Fruit Crate

I found this fruit crate dumped outside our local greengrocers and after a bit of a sand, prime and paint (with the addition of a little bit of decoupage) I’ve lined the inside with a piece of vintage sheet. I’m not sure what is going to go in it yet, but I am reassured that babies come with plenty of paraphernalia that might keep me busy.

But sheets don’t just have to be homeware.

CardforOlivia

I also used an offcut to make this birthday card for a friend’s daughter. The ribbon and charm were repurposed from the packaging of an Etsy purchase. She’s pretty cute isn’t she?

So what do you do with your vintage sheets? From bedding to beyond! I’d love to know (and see, please leave a link!)

Making do: Thoughts on Conscious Consumption

A few things have been playing on my mind recently. The first came from reading Lucy Siegle’s incredible thought provoking book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?‘ and the realisation that I am very guilty of not knowing where many of my purchases come from. The second came after visiting a well-known High Street baby care shop and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ that is thrust in the way of parents and parents-to-be. Along with the polite but clearly primed to ‘push stuff to the bumps’ sale assistants (no one had even ever spoken to me, when I had visited the same store pre-bump…), I left feeling intimidated and with a strong desire to protect the creature in the bump from what felt like an unnecessary level of consumerism.

How can I avoid this consumerism for the bump creature, when I am not currently in a position to be able to justify a lot of my own purchases to myself? As a result, I have recently been reading a lot about conscious consumption, about making do with less, about reining in the impulse spending and having more disposable income to spend on experiences, rather than ‘stuff’. About knowing where the ‘stuff’ comes from (being able to explain where stuff comes from) and making informed shopping decisions based on that. We are very lucky to be able to afford everything we ‘need’, I just wonder if we need so much ‘stuff’?

While browsing many money saving sites and blogs, I stumbled across the fantastic ‘My Make Do and Mend Year‘, the blog by the rather fantastic Jen who is undertaking the challenge not to buy anything new for a year. Anything she buys that is non-perishable  must be secondhand, pre-owned, vintage, retro, upcycled, re-conditioned etc etc. But NOT new. Now this appealed to me on two levels – it would meet my desire to be a responsible and conscious consumer, but it also fires sparks of creativity in my direction. Not buying things, but making things, fixing things, upcycling things, getting crafty and inventive while trying to be more ethical… Now you are talking my language!

So, while I set myself some ‘rules’, I’d like to introduce to you my ‘Making Do’ project where, in the spirit of Little Stitch, I hope to share with you my crafty endeavours while I strive to ‘make do and mend’ more and buy less. I think it will be interesting and I think it will also be fun, let’s see how we go…

Patchwork it out

Little Stitch Blog: Patchwork Curtains

We’ve all embarked on craft projects and part way through questioned a: what on earth we are doing and b: whether we’ll ever get them finished? Nearly a year ago, inspired by my dear friend Vix (the gorgeous Vintage Vixen) and hugely uninspired by other fabric offerings out there, I decided to make some patchwork curtains for our bedroom window. Which also happens to be the largest window in the house.

I’ve not got much experience of patchworking, I believe most people start with smaller project like a cushion cover or a cot quilt. But after much procrastination, swearing, over 300 hundred postcard sized patches later and untold amounts of hours on the sewing machine, yesterday we finally hung our new curtains. And we couldn’t be more pleased.

Little Stitch Blog: Patchwork Curtains

The curtains are made a mixture of cotton-based patches: many of them are from vintage bedding, but there are also pieces of sarong, African tunic, fabric samples, odds and ends left over from other projects and a few pieces cut from modern fat quarters thrown in there. The beauty of the patchwork curtains is, by using reclaimed fabrics, they are practically free.

Little Stitch Blog: Patchwork Curtains

We are immensely happy with them, they make a huge colourful statement in our refurbished bedroom, really complimenting our turquoise paint. They are very joyful, but possibly my favourite thing about them is the ‘stained glass’ window effect they have when the sun shines through them.

So, despite it taking nearly a year and having been ever so close to abandonment so very many times, I am pretty happy with my first patchwork project. But maybe I’ll try something smaller next…