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Fabric Book Covers

Sometimes (ok, often) I come across a piece of donated fabric that I can’t resist, despite having no idea what to do with it.

I don’t sew new clothes – ponchos are an exception, as are alterations and the occasional pair of pj pants – so I almost never buy new fabric anymore. But gorgeous vintage table linen from the Salvos Store? I couldn’t leave it behind. These placemats were made in Czechoslovakia which dates them pre-1993. They’re made of 100% linen and the colour appeals to me enormously…

I decided to turn them into fabric book covers!

I don’t like paper dust covers (which always get trashed pretty quickly), but I love the feel of cloth ones. The only tricky thing, as my friend Kim pointed out, is knowing which book is which…

The covers were easy and fun to make – I just cut the fabric to size (allowing a hem on both the top and bottom) and then sewed a couple of sleeves to hold the book in place…

I recently covered my new quilting book, The Fabric of Society, in the same green linen (I’d bought a set of six) and I’m honestly enjoying it even more as a result. I initially tried leaving the dust cover on underneath the fabric one, but decided in the end to take it off…

This cover started as a quirky hand embroidered table mat that I rescued from the Salvos for $1. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give a second life to someone’s hours of hard work…

And finally, this piece of fabric has been sitting in my sewing room for a while now. I picked it up from the bin area of Reverse Garbage for $2, but it’s not great material – it has a plasticky texture which makes it both difficult to sew and unsuitable for clothing. But the print was too fun to pass up – who can resist aliens brainwashing children through television sets?

A couple of days ago, I realised it would make the perfect book cover for my copy of Em’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. If you’re a sourdough baker, I can’t recommend this book highly enough! I own two copies – a paperback and a Kindle iPad version – and the hard copy is now well-used and getting a little tattered…

Here it is in its new fabric cover…

So..that’s my latest project! What have you been up to this week? ♥

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I have a thing about ponchos.

I love them.

I probably love them more than hats.

And I love hats.

Ponchos let you secretly wear a blanket when you go out and get away with it. They let you overeat at a dinner party and undo the top button of your jeans without anyone noticing. You can throw one over your pyjamas when people drop in unexpectedly. And they keep you warm and cosy, while leaving both hands free to crochet or stitch.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I own well over a dozen ponchos. I have several that Maude crocheted for me…

Over the past year or so, I’ve picked up a couple of vintage suede ones from the 1960s…

In addition, I’ve sewn a stack of them following these truly brilliant instructions from Threads Magazine.

I’ve made them out of vintage silk kimonos..

…old kantha quilts…

…repaired embroidered Indian shawls like the one below, and just about every pashmina I’ve ever owned…

My favourites though – the ones that take me from the supermarket to casual drinks with girlfriends – are made from hemp shawls that I bought from the markets years ago. They’re getting a little soft and shapeless these days, but they’re still incredibly comfortable – perfect for travel wear.

If you’ve never owned a poncho, grab an old pashmina out of the drawer and give it a go – it literally only takes one seam. Here’s a link again to the instructions.

As Noel Fielding said in The Mighty Boosh.. “It’s impossible to be unhappy in a poncho!” ♥

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Heat Sink Art

I made a thing from a thing that was going into e-waste and some leftover bits of cotton yarn.

Pete said it was the “heat sink” from his old computer. Made from heavyweight cast aluminium, it’s gorgeously sculptural. Much too gorgeous to be melted down for scrap. I find old computer components are incredibly appealing – I wish I could figure out how to turn the old circuit board into earrings, but it’s fibreglass and almost impossible to cut (or wear) without injury…

I originally tried to use the heat sink as a coaster which made Pete roll his eyes – apparently, it was designed to take heat out, so all it did was make my tea cold..

But bless him, he’s always so quietly (and occasionally loudly) supportive. I walked into the dining room last week and found him using my “artwork” as a phone stand…

What’s the quirkiest thing you’ve ever made from something that was going to be thrown away? ♥

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So…how’s your lockdown upskilling going? Learnt a new language yet? Studied all the classics?

My friend Dan told me recently that if she read one more annoying article about how isolation was the “perfect opportunity” to learn new skills, she might scream. I sent her this in return. I’m not sure who created it, but it’s been doing the sms rounds and is so on point at this time…

. . . . .

Now, having said that…if you did want to learn just one skill during this time, can I suggest darning? It’s a very small commitment in time, resources and emotion, but it might make you as happy as it does me. It also doesn’t require perfection – the messier it is, the more character the repaired item ends up with.

I realise the name alone makes it a hard sell – I suggested a Darning Day to my friends who attended our Sustainability Working Bee, and most of them baulked. “It all sounds a bit Victorian workhouse”, I was told. I’ll think I’ll try again after lockdown and call it a Mending Workshop instead.

But basic darning really is very rewarding, and a useful tool to have in your repertoire. So I wrote this very simple tutorial for you. The videos are a bit dodgy because I had to prop my phone up and use both hands, so the focus flickers in and out a bit, but hopefully they’ll be enough to give you an idea. After a lot of reading and watching YouTube videos, this is the method I use. I don’t believe it’s textbook, but it works for me!

Start with a hole that needs mending and some basic kit – scissors or snips, a darning mushroom, wool and a darning needle. I used rescued tapestry wool for this tutorial so that you can clearly see the steps. It’s thicker than the wool I use on Project Penny, and while it’s quick to work up and produces a nice sturdy patch, it’s not ideal – as Diane commented below, it can end up a bit hard and lumpy after a few washes.

If you get into darning in a big way, it’s worth hunting out dedicated darning yarns or thinner wools. I personally love using the 8ply Bendigo Mills cotton I buy for my crocheted dishcloths. But experiment with whatever you have lying around, especially when you’re still learning!

As I mentioned earlier, my favourite darning mushroom is the one I bought from Roy in West Australia. He has a few more in stock now if you’re still looking for one, but if you miss out (they’re all handmade so they take a bit of time), just put your name down on his waitlist…

If you don’t have a darning mushroom, improvise with any small, curved surface. I’ve read suggestions ranging from ceramic eggs to oranges, and have personally used jar lids, stress balls and small turned wood bowls with some success. I’ve even used a fossilised ammonite!

. . . . .

Ready? Here we go.

1. Put the sock over a darning mushroom, with the hole on the curved surface, and tie it around the handle with a scrap of yarn. Thread a length of wool (or thick cotton, if you prefer) onto a darning needle.

2. Start with a double backstitch to secure, leaving a long tail to weave in later. Don’t make any knots as they can be uncomfortable when you’re wearing the repaired sock.

3. Stitch a row of backstitcing around the hole to reinforce it. Work a few millimetres away from the edge of the hole.

 

4.  Now bring the needle up next to the bottom of the hole, outside the backstitching.

5. Sew a long strand across the hole, followed by a running stitch. Turn the piece 180°. Make another running stitch, then another long stitch across the hole. Repeat until you’ve covered the hole.

Here’s a dodgy video…

 

Here’s what it will look like after you’ve finished this step…

6. If you need to change wool at this point, end with a double backstitch and leave a long piece to weave in later. Start a new colour with another double backstitch.

7. Now holding your needle BACKWARDS, weave over and under the long strands. Then sew a running stitch and turn the mushroom 180°.

 

Weave back over the strands in the opposite way, going over and under in reverse to what you did in the previous row (I’m sure mending experts have more succinct ways of describing this, sorry).The purpose of weaving the yarn with the needle eye first is to reduce the likelihood of splitting the wool. Here’s another blurry video…

 

Repeat until you’ve covered the hole…

8. Finish with a double backstitch, leaving a bit to weave in later. Remove the mushroom, turn the sock wrong side out and weave in the loose ends. Trim neatly.


9. Here’s what the finished front and back will look like…

10. Wear your visibly mended sock with pride!

. . . . .

Ha! Not the slickest tutorial I’ve ever written, but I hope you find it useful nonetheless. There are oodles of different ways to darn a hole, but this technique is perhaps the oldest and most basic, and therefore a good place to start. It’s been around for a very long time, as this WWII leaflet shows. The only difference is that we now wear our mended patches with pride rather than trying to hide them!

Are you working on anything new at the moment? I’d love to know about your latest project! ♥

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Nasturtium Pesto

When we’re trying to limit trips to the shops, it’s hard to keep our intake of fresh greens up.

Meat and staples will store for a while in fridges and pantries but, even though we can extend their life substantially with our beeswax wraps, we still regularly run short on leafy veg. The timing hasn’t been great either – our usually productive garden was decimated over summer by the drought, so we’re only just getting it going again.

But the one thing which has always grown in abundance in our garden is nasturtiums! We planted them once, well over a decade ago, and they’ve self-sown into a carpet under the citrus trees ever since. We recently harvested a big bag of leaves…

…and turned them into nasturtium pesto following the recipe we posted in 2010. This batch used pine nuts and omitted the capers, but it was delicious nonetheless, and very, very green…

Combined with oven roasted chick peas and a few more pine nuts, it made the perfect mid-week dinner…

It’s so wonderful to be able to turn self-sown garden freebies into a healthy meal!

I’m always inspired by stories from the UK where folks can go out and forage for wild food from the hedgerows. What’s the best dish you’ve ever put together from found produce? ♥

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