Upcycling, stash busting, memory sharing project!

Naked granny square bag

Clearing out a cupboard the other day, I found a box of the boys’ old pin badge collection ranging from ‘1 today’ to Biker Mice, to ‘I visited Hadrian’s Wall’ to ‘reading is cool’. Lots of memories in one little box – for me at least! When I mentioned it to them their reaction was “we create enough junk of our own without you adding to it, mum”.

So what do you do with a load of pin badges, other than stick them back in a box in the cupboard? I could (and may do yet) frame them and stick them on a wall somewhere but that’s a little boring. I did think about (and may do yet) a crocheted wall hanging – if I get really ambitious (and probably a lot more badges) I could make a fly curtain for the back door. What I did do in the end was use some of them to adorn a granny square bag!

It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I love it so that’s all that matters really! As we all know, small granny square projects are great for reducing the stash, I used some recycled fabric for lining and the badges create a talking point….so it really is an upcycling, stash busting, memory sharing project!

granny square bag with badges 1 granny square bag with badges 2


I love it when a plan comes together!

Take a blog on knitting with old T-shirts and another on making ‘a little rug to warm our toes’, add throwing out most the contents of the kids’ dressing up box (well they are 22 and 23) and combine with my son needing a bedside mat…………et voila…..


It was one of those happy juxtapositions of inspiration, materials and need so thank you fellow bloggers for giving me the eureka moment! Okay, there are a lot more sophisticated offerings out there and now I see the photo I can see it’s a bit misshapen but I’m chuffed to bits (and so is the son).

It’s made from old headscarves and various items of clothing and has a lovely soft scrunch when you step on it – plus lots of memories.

From top to bottom….

Headscarf that matched my mum’s old brolly

Head scarf from my mother-in-law (who sadly died before I met my hubby)

Scarf that went with my interview jacket when I was a student

Dress that last saw duty as a Cleopatra outfit for an 11 year old

Ra Ra dress from my student days

Shorts that had badly shrunk (or maybe it was me that expanded)

Ditto camisole top

Doncha just love upcycling!

Once you start down the dark path…..

It seemed like such a good idea at the time…convert this ugly jacket lurking in my wardrobe into something more attractive that I might actually wear…. Now I don’t normally indulge in ‘make do and mend’ activities because…
a) I’m rubbish at sewing
b) I have no flair for design if it doesn’t involve yarn
c) It just seems like too much trouble when I could simply buy what I want

Anyway, there it was, this linen jacket that I bought at a friend’s ‘nearly new’ clothing sale. I wore it once and decided it was a really ugly shape so it sat in the wardrobe, forgotten, squashed between other items, undiscovered for….who knows how long…until I had a massive clear out.  Now what I should have done is donated back to a charity shop but recently, I’d seen someone wearing a sleeveless short denim waistcoat over a summer frock and I thought – a little unwisely as it turned out – maybe I could turn my old jacket into one of these!

So I hacked off the sleeves and most of the length planning on edging it with some shop bought trimming. But then I found some cotton yarn I bought years ago when I fancied having a go at tatting. So out came my trusty ‘Good Housekeeping’ Needlecraft book for some stitch ideas…..

The shoulder edging was simple enough – a double crochet (single crochet for my USA buddies) border, with chain loops. Looks quite pretty and feminine on what was quite a mannish jacket I think. The bottom edge was a different matter – I really fancied having some fringing and beads but even lovely old ‘Needlecraft’ failed me here with a method so I decided to wing it. Yeah, well, not one of my finest crafting hours (or several hours as it turned out).

Anyway, once I started, I was determined to see it to the end and I’m reasonably happy with the results. At least I won’t get bored wearing it – untangling the beaded fringing is a great, and never-ending, game which will keep me amused for hours!

I wish I’d seen Stitches and Scraps blog on lacy edging before I’d started but hey I know for next time (huh likes that gonna happen 😉

Making ‘plarn’

Recently, the fabulous UK Crochet Patterns posted a tutorial on making ‘plarn’ (that’s plastic yarn for the uninitiated). I commented that I made it in a slightly different way and they kindly encouraged me to post my method…..so here is my tutorial (my that sounds very school-marmish, quiet that girl in the back!) ;-).

The ‘plarn’ I make works out slightly thicker and won’t go as far, so really you need to decide on the best method for your project.

1) Start by smoothing the bag out – getting it nice and flat makes life so much easier.
Smooth the bag flat
2) Fold it in half, then half again, keeping the bottom edge in line. Cut off the handles, leaving yourself a straight edge.

3) Fold it in half again and cut the sealed end off. Make sure you completely cut the sealing or it will present problems when you try to open it out – this is why a bit of time spent lining up the edges saves time later.

4) Now cut into strips between 1.5cms (half an inch) and 2.5cms (1 inch) depending on how flimsy the bag is (if its very thin, cut strips a bit wider, if it’s really thick, cut them narrower). For the standard supermarket bag, the 1.5cms has plenty of strength.

5) Open up one strip to form a loop (A) and thread another loop (B) through it.

6) Now, holding on to loop B with your right hand, pass the left end of B back over A and through the loop in your right hand (if you are left handed hold on to loop B with your left hand, pass the right end of B back over A and through the loop in your left hand).

7) Pull the two loops gently to form a knot in the middle. Try and make it as small and tight as possible without tearing the loops (but don’t panic if you do, just knot them together and carry on regardless – that’s the beauty of plarn)

8) You can either make a big ball of plarn by joining many loops together and winding them into a ball, or simply join a new loop as in 6) as you near the end of a loop. I find joining them as you go particularly good if you are changing colours. To get started, simply make a knot near the end of a loop and stick your crochet hook through. Using the loop as a single thread, crochet as normal.

Will follow up with instructions for a simple ‘bag of bags’ soon, but anything you can make with yarn you can make with plarn!

PS: Thanks to No.2 son for the photography, even if the camera was playing up and some are a bit blurred!

Why didn’t I take the blue pill?

Have you seen The Matrix? The scene where Morphius offers Neo the choice of the red pill which will allow him see the matrix for what it is…or the blue pill where he will remain forever in blissful ignorance. I know how he must have felt – Why, oh why didn’t I just throw those old CDs in the recycling bin??

It all began when I was helping my son clear out four years of accumulated detritus from his room, having just returned home after graduating from uni. We found a pile of about 30 old CDs and CD-roms – we were on the point of throwing them out when I  had the eureka moment. “Hmm, I bet I could make something out of those”, says I. “There’s bound to be something on Youtube” says he.

Indeed there was – loads of ideas – many of them too naff to even contemplate. But one that caught my eye was a crochet bag so that very evening, armed with 14 CDs, crochet hook, a 100g ball of yarn from my stash and loads of enthusiasm for a new project, off I set. Almost a month and 250g yarn later (I had to go and purchase more to complete it – luckily they still had some left in the store), older and much wiser, I have finally finished it. I still can’t work out why it took so long – no individual part was lengthy – each CD took about 20mins to prep, I could join a couple together of an evening, even the roses don’t take that long to complete – so why do I feel like I’ve run a marathon??

Anyway, here it is – I have to admit I’m quite pleased with it. I shall probably use it like a briefcase and carry files to work in it (but not on wet days ;-). I find I keep thinking about what I’d improve if I do another……Nooooo………..Morphius, give me the blue pill now!!!!ImageImageImage

Paper roses……… (and azaleas, camellias, etc)

Had a lovely day on Saturday – over the weekend we’ve been having a Flower Festival at our church, celebrating the talent and commitment of our local community. As well as beautiful floral displays, we had children’s activities, a mini steam engine, a beer tent (local brewery of course) and a selection of displays and demonstrations by talented craftspeople….and me. We had sugarcraft, painting, lacemaking (one item had taken the lady four years to make – I get antsy if something takes me four weeks!). In amongst all this skill, we had a half hour slot to fill so I volunteered to do a ‘have-a-go’ session. I called it ‘papercraft’ thinking I might do some very simple origami animals for kids to try, but then I thought it might be better to do something aimed at adults – but still really simple.

At this point I remembered some beautiful tissue paper pom-poms I saw in a swanky cafe in the Lake District. Now I am a hoarder – I really hate throwing things away that might come in useful. I have a huge stash of white tissue paper that has wrapped purchases from a wonderful seconds china shop in Stoke – I can’t bear to throw it away but there are only so many presents in a year you can wrap in tissue. It’s a bit creased but not too bad and it flattens out pretty well – and besides, I cut each sheet into quarters so any ripped or badly creased areas could be discarded.

Rather than pom poms, I decided we’d do table decorations which were really easy to make and are pretty foolproof as they look good, even if you make mistakes. I started off with half a dozen people politely watching me make one, then they all eagerly pulled their chairs in when I suggested having a go. That was great but just a we were all finishing, another three came up, then another two, and another two….I’d prepared enough for 8 people to have a go but luckily had plenty of spare tissue. Trouble was, I had to prepare one extra every time new people came so I could show them what to do. It was only at the end I thought what a good idea if I had remembered all those episodes of Blue Peter I had watched as a child and prepared several at different stages – duh!

The lovely thing was that every one looked different – we had azaleas, camellias, peonies, water lilies – and all made from tissue paper that would have otherwise ended up in the bin! The picture shows one made by my youngest student, a 7 year old.Image