Posts tagged ‘crafts’

Hurtling towards winter with no curtains…

Scientist Boyfriend and I have just got back from a lovely week’s holiday in Derbyshire. For reasons best known to himself, my dad has an irrational dislike of Derbyshire and so despite many childhood holidays in various holiday cottages or caravans in various damp counties around the UK, there is a huge Peak District-shaped hole in my experience. I have not yet been able to fathom my father’s reasoning, but he has evidently not visited the farmer’s market in Bakewell. Which is superb. We made a detour to visit the farmer’s market in Belper en route to Hope in order to find the mushroom people and the beer-and-cheese people again. We then spent a wonderful week in a very nicely decorated cottage playing with the woodburner, watching food programmes (Valentine Warner, Jamie’s Ministry of Food and River Cottage: Autumn in one week) and cooking exciting new things like pigeon and beef shin in sub-standard cookware* and occasionally dragging ourselves over a hill to feel a bit more virtuous about it.

I also read Sharon Astyk‘s book Depletion and Abundance and have been happily quoting examples to anyone who will listen to me to prove that the Industrial Revolution was a big con and agrarian societies actually had much more leisure time than we do, and were probably fitter, happier and better fed to boot.

Yesterday I went to a talk by Fiona Reynolds (director of the National Trust) on the future of the countryside and farming, which was very interesting and very sound – I’d been slightly worried (I used to work for the NT, in their first farm shop at Wallington, actually, and am familiar with the… typical demographic profile of their members) that it would be about pretty cows and posh beef and cheese for rich people, but she took a very broad approach, looking at land with regard to food, energy and water in light of climate change and (though she only referenced it briefly in passing, and not by name) peak oil. I was v impressed.

As far as future-proofing my own house goes, I have decided that this year (when I have a job and little time but more money to spend on heating) I will actually make curtains to keep the cold out instead of improvising with blankets (which I never got round to doing last year, when I had intermittent, low-paid employment and thus both an incentive to save money on heating and copious time in which to make curtains). We’ll see how this goes. I’ve decided that we will not turn the heating on till it’s done, which is fine by me as I grew up in Northumberland with a father who went round the house turning the thermostat down and growling at us all to put a jumper on if we didn’t like it and I could probably quite happily go many more weeks with a woolly jumper, my new woolly socks, running up and down stairs a couple of times when I get cold and retiring to bed with a hot water bottle if all else failed (anything not to have to make curtains!!), but Scientist Boyfriend is a (half-Swedish) soft Southerner who grew up in a warm house and has been nagging me since before we went away to put the heating on and close the bedroom window at night.** (I have now relented on the second point.) I have made one curtain (out of four) and feel I might come to regret my rash pledge… You will probably find me in mid-December, ice on the inside of the windows, hands frozen to the sewing machine, repeated muttering of profanities not having encouraged it to stop creating big snarls of top-thread on the underside of the fabric when I try to secure a seem. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I suspect the Victorians would not have put up with it and can only conclude the shortcoming is my own, but repeated unpicking and fiddling with the tension has not helped.

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* Actually, most of it was very good, particularly the small wok-ish pan, but the stew kept drying out because there wasn’t a dish with a suitably heavy lid. Due to various bad experiences in previous holiday cottages, we now take salt and pepper, a cafetiere and a knife sharpener with us when we go away, but both feel taking one’s own Le Creuset casserole dish on holiday is a bit excessive.

** My father used to say, ‘It’s good for the soul,’ about pretty much any inconvenience actually, but specifically living in a cold house (often with all the lights turned off if he had his way). I have adapted this to, ‘It’s good for the immune system,’ which probably has more scientific justification but will doubtless be just as irritating to my children.

October 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm 2 comments

What are we going to wear to the apocalypse?

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for months.

I’ve been reading loads about peak oil lately, with the Transition Handbook and various other avenues it’s prompted me to explore, and it’s great that people are writing about the stuff we need to actually do: much great stuff out there about relocalising food, growing our own veg, building houses from local, sustainable materials, walking instead of driving and bringing our lives back within walking distance so it doesn’t seem like such a wrench….

But, with the notable exception of Sharon Astyk, who says we should all be knitting socks, all peak oil writers seem to be neatly sidestepping the problem that once we all start farming and building houses and doing a lot more physical, outdoor work, we’re going to need suitable clothes. Blimmin’ men. 😉 Most people in the West today work indoors, usually in air-conditioned offices or shops, and we can get away with wearing flimsy acrylic jumpers or (in some mind-boggling cases) T-shirts in January. We aren’t really equipped, as a society, to get out there and dig. We don’t have warm enough trousers, jumpers and coats, we don’t have proper boots, and some day we won’t just be able to buy a new pair of socks every time ours get holes in, like we do now. We won’t be able to grow or import so much cheap, fossil-fuel-intensive cotton, and we’re probably going to be wearing out our clothes a lot faster.

Speaking purely from personal anecdotal experience, during the coldest parts of this year, I was wearing my two woollen jumpers and my one (beautiful, utterly decadent) cashmere jumper on a constant rotation. My dad had always sworn by natural fibres, but my parents’ central heating was so efficient I never really realised it until we moved here. Hmm. Rising fuel costs, anyone???

This should be on the agenda too! The tone of what most of what I’ve read implies that clothes are a symbol of our cheap, disposable culture, and should go the way of these pesky electronics and allow us to get back to the real stuff we need to worry about; but relocalising textiles and fabrics and creating durable, repairable items of clothing is, I grant you, not as important as growing vegetables, but easily of equal importance as building durable, repairable houses and furniture.

Objectively speaking, our unsustainable obsession with fashion extends beyond simply clothes to the Changing Rooms-esque regularity with which we are all supposed to replace our kitchens and bathrooms or the furnishings and decor of our rooms, and from both of these we can extract a sustainable alternative (I say ‘alternative’ as if that’s the weird option… you know what I mean…) based on the knowledge that having something to live in and something to wear are of more or less equal usefulness. And yet the gruff, rugged masculine option is the one that gets all the attention…

September 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm 2 comments

More sheep-related things

There’s a spinning wheel on ebay, for £49.99, about 20-30 mins drive away from me, good working order – what’s the catch?

No, no, must be sensible. I went along to a Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers meeting on Saturday and had great fun. A friend from FOE let me experiment with her drop spindle, which I slowly got the hang of, though I’d practically bitten my tongue off by then – the lady next to me said ‘BLAST!’ very irately and looked extremely shocked and bashful afterwards, and I was tempted to say much worse things when I kept dropping the thing on the floor and couldn’t get the two bits of yarn to fix together, and had to restrain myself from shouting profanities in a village hall full of 80-something-year-old women. I also got to play with carders, things a bit like hairbrushes that you use to get all the fibres going in the right direction before starting to spin, and I now have the drop spindle on loan, along with some rolags (round bits of wool ready to spin) to practice on, and on the way home I mentioned to the lady who very kindly gave me a lift that I was primarily interested in spinning, but having seen some of the lovely peg loom cushions and rugs on the Woolly Shepherd’s website and WW’s mat on Creative Living I also wanted to have a go at weaving, she said, ‘Oh, would you like to borrow a peg loom?’

I also, somehow, unintentionally came away with some raw fleece. Quite a lot of raw fleece, in fact. Fortunately, Scientist Boyfriend was out running when I came home, so I hid it in the spare room, and yesterday I washed some of it outside while working. I have some pictures, which I’ll post when I have more time.

Hmmmm. My next project was meant to be a hooky mat (see here for lots of fab rugs and instructions) and I had some hessian all ready.

So many beautiful textiles, so little time…..

June 24, 2008 at 9:11 am 1 comment


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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."