These are the quickest and simplest skirts I've ever made for Rebecca. One evening I took two old dresses – one mine, the other Rebecca's – a pair of scissors, and some elastic. I cut a strip of material off the lower part of each dress, sewed an elasticized waistband into these strips, and voilà: two skirts for a six-year-old!
~ before (Massa Marittima, 2012) ~
~ after (our kitchen table, aka my sewing studio) ~
The first dress, was a size 4-5 years, in a very pretty print, but no matter how much sucking in her breath that Rebecca did, it just wouldn't button up at the back any longer. It's now an elasticized skirt that fits her perfectly.
~ before (Lisbon, 2010) ~
The second dress was a long summer dress of mine, with a little bodice, and a wide three-paneled ruffle skirt, that made me feel (and look?) like ... a meringue. I cut off the bottom ruffle, sized it down a little because it was very wide, sewed an elasticized waistband, and it became yet another skirt for a 6 year old.
~ after (the kids room) ~
The 6 year old in question is very happy with her new skirts. And I'm very happy to trade my full-length dress for a knee-high summer dress, which is much more practical and doesn't make me feel like a meringue, either.
I can see that from now on, many of our old dresses will become new skirts for Rebecca.
I dragged my salvaged dresser out into broad daylight, and discovered that "dresser" is actually a pretty fancy word for this little table with one small drawer. Still, if I saw off the legs to make it a touch shorter, if I clean it and sand it, if paint it (white?) or polish it, if I get two cute drawer pulls, and then if I move the wicker chair and Rebecca's toy basket out of the living room and the sofa backwards a bit ... if, if, if ... maybe it could become my sewing table!
As someone who contributed to a book by the title Mend it Better, I should really be ashamed of the state of my poor husband's favorite sweater (I am, I promise!). I did try to mend it awhile back, but since then, the fiber frayed all around my careful darning, and the precious ol' sweater had gotten to a stage where only serious patching had a chance of fixing it. This weekend, I took the sweater in hand, and sat down with my basket of odd bits and leftover yarns. The question was which tool to use: crochet hook or knitting needles?
I chose knitting needles, because they have an advantage: you can work multiple projects at once.
I improvised a roundish pattern, and to give the patches more structure I crochet slip-stitched a little border.
I like the way my simple knitted patches turned out. They remind me of something quaint, something my grandmother might have come up with, using just what she had on hand. They remind me of a time when nothing went to waste, and when many crafts were works of art, not perhaps for their sheer beauty but because of the skills and ingenuity expressed in reusing and repurposing materials. Like stitching together scraps of fabrics to make quilts and patchwork. And like using leftover yarns to make patches to salvage worn garments.
I think these patches gave Tom's sweater a new life. Certainly they've given it a new look. After all, how many men do you see walking around with pot holders on their elbows?
I know it may seem a little silly, but I'm totally in love with these crochet covered colored buttons. I'm in love with them because I made them, and they perfectly match the dress I made with the same colors as my garden on a mid-August day. Most of the time, I'm quite happy with the things I make (though there have been many failures and forever-in-progress projects). Sometimes they evoke a sense of wonder even: "Wow! Look! I made this!". But these little buttons make me especially happy. They're made out of nothing, really, just plain old buttons, bits of embroidery floss and a touch of creativity.
Once I came up with an inspiration for upcycling those drab old black buttons, it only took about twenty minutes to do the job: I dug out some embroidery floss, a small crochet hook, and improvised a circular pattern, which worked quite well - though as often happens, the second button turned out much better than the first!
What do you think?
PS I wrote some project notes in my Ravelry page here.
Now, would you look at those slippers? Who would ever want to keep them? Well, guess who! I kept them partly because they were not cheap felt slippers, and partly because I was curious to investigate further why I seem to be walking elf-like in the wintertime, with my toes upturned (otherwise, how can you explain why perfectly good slippers would wear through only at the big toes?)
I kept them, alright, but they naturally disappeared inside the ever-fuller box of outgrown shoes and slippers. Just the other day they resurfaced. And I thought, time to mend them now, or say goodby to them forever.
Naturally, I went the first way: I crocheted two wool snowflakes as patches.
(By the way, I don't yet have a link here to my Raverly page - will do soon - but I'm trying to be diligent about updating it with all the projects, and their patterns, that I mention on the blog).
And a pair of double-warm, mended and upcycled slippers was created!
On the subject of warm slippers, I have a post at the coop today on "Keeping warmer". Happy weekend!
Where do you store all your yarns and your works in progress? In our small home there's no better place for my crochet supplies than hanging, neatly out of the way, from the railings of the staircase that leads up to the house proper (we live on a steep hill, so the ancient front door that doesn't open properly (here) is one floor below the main living area of our home).
You see? It doesn't look half-bad even. In fact, the staircase is a blessing when you live in a small house, because each and every stair can be packed full to overflowing with stuff neatly organized to store shoes, school packs, beach towels in the hot season, and firewood and fruit & vegetables in the cold one (the staircase isn't heated).
And of course, the lovely wrought-iron bannister can also be used to store things, in baskets hung from the iron motifs, dangling out of the way, off in the void - when you live in a small house, you have to be a little creative and search out space, as with my under-shelf jars.
Maybe hanging baskets aren't quite as pretty or convenient as cabinets where yarns, fabrics and all crafts supplies can be stored and displayed, but it's a system that works very well for me: my crochet work and yarns are out of the way, but not so far away that they could go forgotten for months.
Now, if I could only find a way to hang a table and a chair out there, floating fairy-like in space, I'd have my own little studio. A hanging studio!
What do you think is the right length for summer dresses? (Ok, so that's a tough question on a Monday morning!) Personally, I'm not too fussy, and my decision depends mainly on the occasion and the temperature. When I garden in the summer, for example, I like to wear a short, above-the-knee dress, because I don't like a lot of fabric on me in the heat - I have a bunch of old dresses, short and loose, that I use almost exclusively for gardening. Besides, gardening in a short dress makes me feel I'm doing a good job of blending in with the rest of the female population in the fields in our village: women who wear practical dresses in summer and winter alike (I confess that I only wear a dress in the summer), and with sickle or hoe in hand (yes, yes I've got those!) and a handkerchief on their hair, tied with a knot at the nape (I'm not much of a head cover lover), all working by hand in the fields.
But I have two linen dresses, formerly pregnancy clothes, that are just a touch too long to be comfortable when I garden.
Way below the knee, and just below the knee! Not comfortable for gardening.
I still wear them, but usually I have to make a knot on one side, and with my dress gathered up this way, and sickle and hoe in hand off I go to my garden. Last week, though, I decided to fix the length of those gardening dresses, and do a spot of refashioning, too.
To do this, I got some lace at the street market. The choice was limited, but here's what I came up with:
Taking the dresses in a couple of inches and adding the trimmings took no time at all. Not a glamorous kind of sewing, just simple hemming on old dresses, but refashioning and turning those old dresses into something that I actually can comfortably wear again was very satisfying. Besides, they make me feel I'm doing a pretty good job of blending in with the rest of my fellow lady farmers in the village:
Well, sort of.
I'm not sure how it happened, but even though I had one less child to look after this week, and I didn't have to cook dinner twice because we got invited out, I've been so, so busy. And will be until Saturday. But then there's Sunday, when I can finally tackle the following:
- Take one of our new upcycled deck chairs - the frame of which we picked from a neighbor's woodpile (by now they know we're a little odd, and given to collecting garbage, like ancient wine demijohns and broken-down sewing machines, or decrepit rakes ...), and for which I sewed fabric pieces almost a month ago, but which we've never really had time to use.
- Open the chair.
- Sit in the garden doing nothing.
- Sweet nothing, except for chatting with my kids:
- The boy whom I haven't seen in a whole week, and who's flying back on Saturday from his tennis adventure in some Baltic country or other (here)
- And the boy whom I haven't really seen in several weeks now, as he's had his nose deep in his school books in preparation for his state exams, which finish on Saturday afternoon (who knew Saturday afternoons were working days in Italy?)
- And my girl too, whom I haven't seen in ... two, or perhaps three, seconds.
Yes indeed, this weekend I'm finally going to sit in our new upcycled deck chairs, and do nothing except for be with my family. And I'll ignore the three more deck chair frames sitting in the barn, waiting for their fabric pieces to be sewn.
But first, I'll have to choose which deck chair to sit on. Decisions, decisions ...
I'm very attached to this particular basket of mine, which I bought almost twenty years ago in a hip decor store in London, and brought it back to my minimalist black, white and gray that remained my favorite look for many years. This was a time in my life when gardening and digging in the soil couldn't have been farther from my mind. I filled it with store-bought dry flowers, my first step towards a new decor and lifestyle that has ended up far, far away from that minimalist London apartment (though I still do love black!).
It did take a long time for this basket (and its owner) to come anywhere near a garden, but when it finally did, it stayed. And although I have a couple more baskets that I use in the garden, this remains the one I use most: even if it came from an interior design store in a big city, it was clearly made for gardening, and is perfect for carrying hand tools and fresh-harvested vegetables. You've probably have seen it many times in my garden photos.
But years of hard use had taken their toll on the wicker. The handle, especially, was giving way.
One day, without any clear plan, I took some hemp rope and started wrapping and knotting it around the frayed-out handle.
And I was so surprised to see that in the end, I'd successfully and effortlessly repaired - and refashioned - my twenty-year-old wicker basket!
Off I went to do some gardening, the first time this year. After a difficult winter and a tough period of family illness, it felt so good to be out there, in the company of my London basket and my few faithful hand tools, digging out old roots, and planning new growth.
My farmer's calendar does warn that it's not gardening season yet, and not to be fooled by a few days of sunshine in February. But just as you can't judge the garden-worthiness of a wicker basket at first glance in a store, maybe this little primula I found while hoeing is a sign that you can't always judge the season simply by looking at a calendar.
Family life at the edge of an ancient rural community near the Mediterranean
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