Archive for July, 2013

garden crops

I had a loveSTA45241ly little potter around the garden for quarter of an hour yesterday. Ben gave me a sprouting garlic bulb so I planted some cloves in a ‘nursery’ bed/pot. I will be sorting out a proper place for them when my next batch of money comes on the 15th, probably a big tub, but maybe some upcycling possibility will come my way, if I keep my eyes open.


Garlic is one of the easiest of all the crops to grow and leave, as long as you respect it comes from the open plains of Asia, so it wants loose soil, that’s less nutritious, open to the air and the light, with plenty of drainage. (Yeah, kind of the opposite of the forest garden ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) It’s happy to be

STA45231transplanted while quite young. I normally grow Solstice garlic – sow in winter, harvest in summer- so this will be a very early sowing indeed, though Italians sow from August I believe.

I will move the young plants on when they are 3″/9cm high, watering very well half an hour before, so that the roots are loose. Then scoop gently and place in a prepared drill (round hole large enough to not squash the roots) and fill with peat-free compost, just like for moving leeks on.

They’ll probably join the container garden as the new herb area is so new, I’m worried about people trampling it as a short cut to the bbq ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then I had a little wander checking the potatoes weren’t drying out in all the heat we’re having. My tomatoes have recovered from little blight, nowhere near as luxuriant as Ben’s, but productive, so fine by me ๐Ÿ™‚ STA45230

And what really surprised me is that the peas have run away with themselves and the first ‘umbrellas’ of pods are showing. All that sun, and now plenty of rain has done all the work for me, though I do need to add some more support, even short pods get heavy when they’re ripe and ready!


The sweetpeas are over (I didn’t come down and cut them often enough, you need to cut daily to keep them flowering) but I am letting the plant dry out so I can gather seeds, these had a lovely scent, and try again next year. The violas will stay in the pot with the daffodils, but I might add some hellebores this winter.




Just pottering and having a sitdown as needed, but managing tiny tasklets and seeing them bear fruit, and finding free gifts from the compost and the ‘weeds’ (see my blackberries? if I can just keep the boys away with their power tools, these will be lovely with yoghurt or in a smoothie)ย  all these moments add up to a lot of pleasure, to a guaranteed upswing for my moods – pain and fatigue are really depressing, and garden therapy is one of my best re-set activities. It used to be really hard to stop in time – I was used to having an allotment garden the size of 2 tennis courts and bringing home barrows of produce. But pain is a hard teacher – I have gradually got used to doing a tiny bit at a time, and asking for help for all the heavy work. I’m not sure I could live anywhere I had no piece of garden to work in now, it’s so clear to me how much good it does me keeping in touch with the seasons and viriditas – the power of greening/quickeningย , and helps to balance the fibromyalgia. The days I’m too tired to get downstairs are twice as bad for that reason, but the days I can play and get my hands dirty with soil are twice as good for that reason!


waste not, want not 3: Tshirts to bags 1

Amazing the difference it makes when I have almost no pain from my elbow! Suddenly I feel lively and interested in things, and life is sending lots of interesting artists to research – excellent timing ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  So, as promised, another installment of upcycling goodness, inspired by turning out my drawers! I have a brand new washing machine (first time ever!!) and while it was very useful to discover I still had Tshirts on their last legs when I had to manage after the last washer broke, now, now I would rather have some space to see what I look halfway respectable in (ok, clean and tidy ๐Ÿ˜‰ artists are rarely respectable!!)

STA45222ย  Nonie gracing a pile of tired and pilled and washed out trousers and shirts…all will be upcycled in ways I will share with you ๐Ÿ™‚

Bottom Tshirt is a long sleeve crew neck from Cotton Traders that has served its time…but I feel really guilty not wringing the last drops of use out of cotton, because it is such a horrible crop to pick and process. And with a little energy and ingenuity I can make new things:


1) Cut a snip next to the first respectable bit of the under arm, then tear across to the other side. Check for holes, stains etc., I have a gift for catching on barbed wire at the allotment/in the woods, just by the hip, so I cut that out. Turn it upside down and inside out – the colour will be fresher on the inside and the bottom seam (hem) is almost definitely sound.

2) Find some bright remnants, this is a leftover from Diversity, but a tired scarf or flowery top might come in handy here. Stitch the feature piece where it is most effective, using a zigzag or staggered zigzag if you have one.


3) Use a strong stitch for the edge seam – I used triple stitch, but you could just go over straight stitch twice, but do use good thread ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  Start the seam at the hem edge as this will be the most noticeable join on the finished bag! Trim any raggedness, but leave at least 5mm for turning, and now zigzag the edge down. This is a lazy French seam, and it protects the edge and looks neater ๐Ÿ™‚


4) See how much neater it looks? But it’s increased the weight-bearing strength of the bag too, as have the rows of stitching holding the decoration, cool, huh?!

5) Take a length of fabric, either the Tshirt sleeves or the decoration if you have enough, that is 2metres long by approx 10cm, that’s a sleeve cut in half on the length, twice, about a finger wide.


6) Fold it double and zigzag the edge so you have a tube, it’s fine to stitch right side out, but try to stay close to the edge but not over!

7) Now make a loop with one end of the tube and pull another loop through, using the long end of the fabric…and again, and again, until you have a crochet chain. It should be long enough for a handle, but just check! Now fold the ends in and stitch the handles down firmly, using a satin/heavy repeat pattern stitch ( I use lazy daisy) or, go backwards and forwards 3 times on straight stitch. Using the bottom hem of the Tshirt as the top edge of the bag just about guarantees a good straight edge, and stitching the handles to the double/ treble thickness means they shouldn’t tear when you fill the bag with shopping – it will stretch, so you can get a lot in!

8) Repeat for the second handle, trim any ends and admire your new tote! ๐Ÿ˜‰


9) Keep the rest of the Tshirt, I will be showing how to make a swimming/gym kit/shoe bag out of the next section ๐Ÿ˜‰ or make another tote to give to the first person to admire your work!


diversity at Pride

First: a big thank you to the friendly strangers who helped me when the taxi driver jammed the brake on my rollator again! They pushed the rollator lifted on to its front wheels and carried a big bag of diversity (!) down from Addison St to the community stage so all I had to do was walk slowly, and only once! I was panicking about how to manage two trips with nothing going missing or wrecking myself ๐Ÿ˜ฆ And they weren’t even going to Pride, so it was particularly nice of them to help me ๐Ÿ™‚

So, a lovely sunny day, with lots of entertainment, people dancing barefoot on the grass, lots of stalls to look at and good causes fundraising – including Pride itself, as it all costs money to sort out. I was at the community stage at the beginning and saw the march coming in as Single Bass sang, then went home for a rest and came back to take down the installation about an hour before the rain was forecast, which meant I got to see an excellent singer, Emily Franklin, wow, what a voice! And it was lovely to hear Single Bass sing again, she is such a thoughtful writer, ‘Aseity’ (empowered groundedness) is one of my favourite songs, and as ever I got tears in my eyes when she sang ‘Weather the Storm’. I missed her second set, which matters less now this is available online ๐Ÿ˜‰

– Keith helped me hang ‘Diversity is our Strength’ and then took some photos, so here is your eyecandy ๐Ÿ˜‰

And now I am resting and very slowly pottering round tidying up the yarn explosion…where did all the feathers come from???


diversity is our strength

STA45207 So, this is a detail of the Diversity is our Strength installation I am hanging near the Community Stage at Nottingham LGBT Pride. It’s not finished yet, but while Cherise and I set the world to rights this afternoon, she wound some more pompoms and I sewed more feathers and opalescent pink buttons and generally wrangled until two dozen components have become a piece. It is very long as it will be hanging from a tree branch about 8 – 10’/2.6m – 3.3 metres high, so these are detail shots and I’m hoping Keith may take some in situ shots with his good camera, depending on heat and health of course ๐Ÿ˜‰


It’s freeform crochet, with lots of organza, some batik print which is really like the Black Pride image background, a ton of eyelash yarn and lots of other rainbow-y elements. I used the knitting mill to make some long i-tubes, twice my height ๐Ÿ˜‰ and then chained them, ooh very satisfying!

STA45205A couple of people helped with cutting fabric as my elbow is not happy using scissors, the lime, orange and black is an industrial remnant I bought at the place near Fixers, the nylon velvet ribbon was upcycled from a friend’s skip find, the 60s neon rainbow/lace fabric (Cherise called it “the most of more”) has been waiting patiently for the right project as has a lot of the yarn! Some of the long chains have been made with skip yarn and some are nets and nylons that have been given to me by stashbombers (they call themselves friends…!!) So I have cleared a lot of stuff from yarn drawers and fabric stash (hurrah!) and hired Cherise to help me consolidate my stash when I’ve gathered spoons after Pride. I’m guessing at least 3 x 20litre storage boxes will be freed up!! I’m also going to put my millinery supplies on E-bay as with this new complication with my arm, my 3D work is going to be yetย  more limited, so time to downsize some less possible materials and tools (let me know via comments if you’re interested) and gather more space ๐Ÿ˜‰


fixing our communities

july 800

There is a joy in making something work again, or giving it a new life, that people have been consumerised out of in the last 20 years. I have a weakness for ยฃ/$ shops, as I often find bankrupt stock there, but increasingly, the goods on sale have been produced in China/sweatshops to sell there. I remember seeing a documentary on how they are changing the thinking of mainstream factories tooย  – if a chocolate bar is made smaller, they can sell 4 for ยฃ1 etc., And as austerity drags on, there are crowds of people looking for something new and shiny (to get the consumer hit) but affordable.

And some of the craft and children’s play goods are quite inspiring, more basic materials with room for imagination, less shiny uselessness. 2 dozen skeins of embroidery silk for ยฃ1 will keep a child happier for longer than one kit of friendship bracelets for ยฃ6.99 (or more!) and the workers will have been paid the same, you are paying for a box, a TV ad and profit to some company. If that money was ensuring fairtrade, it would be worth every penny, but paying for advertising and boss bonus, hmmm…

Those boxed kits became very popular in the 70s, as sewing and knitting began to drop from the curriculum, and by the 90s as art and workshop skills became CDT (craft, design and technology) some very traditional skills began to fall out of public awareness. The internet with the huge resource library of youtube videos means everyone has an aunt or uncle to share skills (I’m biased, my favourite aunt taught me everything from butterfly cakes to picture knitting!)

So first people learned 1-to-1 or 1-to-small group of family or guild (where you went to live as an apprentice in a craftsman’s family for several years till you could work as well as your teacher) for millions of years; then 1 teacher-to- 1 class, with the extended family backing up those skills; then 1 teacher- to- 1 crowded class, then no one, so the box kits had instruction cards to replace family knowledge/community skills. A new product was created from people no longer having a skill bank at home or knowing each member of their interlinked community well enough to trade for those skills. And now that product is losing its market, as youtube tutorials provide the information for free, so you only need the materials again. Meanwhile lots of those materials are harder to find as the market shifted to kits and people found it hard to learn from them (learning from a printed sheet is the hardest of all approaches – the most successful for the greatest number is to watch someone, see the process broken into units, then try each unit, then be supervised as you string each unit together, after which, practice makes perfect ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) so for instance, haberdashery stores are few and far between and many people have no clue what one would sell anyway! (Findings for sewing, small domestic tools like tailor’s chalk, needles and crochet hooks, ribbon and other finishing materials)

And people now work in very dull call centres, supermarkets and factories, shelving and picking and packing, who have a very particular set of skills, including the mental stamina not to go wappy with boredom, but who get out of work desperate for some release. A lot of people get hooked into working to buy what’s next on the list, rather than enjoying free things already within their reach. A century ago, lots of these people in Britain would have been “in service” meaning working in a household, fulfilling a very particular role eg boot cleaning boy, nursemaid, dairymaid, footman. The servants hall was full of people with a huge skill bank though – ladies maids and valets had to understand tailoring, dry cleaning, fashion and hairdressing. Butlers and housekeepers knew thousands of recipes, food hygiene rules, ways to remove stains, how to manage staff… A good household staffย  kept a ‘great’ house (think of the National Trust properties that belonged to private families) in constant good repair, and were often very critical of bad husbandry/estate management by the most senior male and female members of the family. Somewhere the baby got thrown out with the bath water as my granny would say! Being in service was to be appallingly vulnerable to abusive employers, but to live very well, esteemed for one’s particular skillset, among other skilled people in a ‘good’ family.

Luckily we can have skills without feudalism nowadays! And by consciously choosing to expand our skillset, self esteem based on what we can do and be, not on what we can buy or own is within most people’s reach…small projects make bigger ripples; the frugality/ upcycling and environmental movements are all having an effect. Today I will be at a local marketplace, offering sewing advice, garment repair and upcycling of textiles and yarns and letting people use my scissor sharpener, all as part of Nottingham Fixers (luckily there’s some cloud cover today, but I’m still taking sunscreen and ice water!) The fixers movement and Hackspaces, where people can share space, tools and other resources to be able to make things/fix things beyond what you can do in your own small space promotes the best of community sharing – individuals can make their own things, but often become very useful community figures, gathering likeminded people around them. Being visible in a popular Saturday market (and being on the radio to promote it) will hopefully encourage people still trapped in the rat race to brush up their own skills, develop what they feel is missing, and again find contentment in doing and being…and that has to be good…


fibromyalgia mystery solved?

reposted :

oh, if this means a treatment that works, wow!!

holding my breath!!

Thinking outside the button box…

So even though it is hooooot! hothothot! hoooooooot! my hands still hurt, grrrr, and now my elbows have joined in, grrr.

Rassen frassen… The chiropractor has advised me to do less and avoid chopping in particular, rest with icepacks, and get the doctor to check it out, so now I have blood tests to come on Thursday to help with narrowing the diagnosis, though I suspect the real answer is fibromyalgia trigger points, sigh…

This is deeply frustrating, as I explained to the doctor, as I rely on making stuff to keep my moods buoyant…

So let’s try and apply creative thinking to handsfree living:


– meditation/ skywatching/ 5senses/ visualization

– foot spa/soak; moisturize and eye spa (slices of cucumber or cooled teabags, any green herbal is normally very refreshing)

hanging on in

– audiobooks, I use these regularly to help me sleep, but perhaps something more challenging? Non fiction or poetry rather than humorous fiction? My favourites are Barbara Rosenblat’s readings of the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series, her expressive narration adds a whole layer of enjoyment, and similarly with Ray Sawyer’s reading of the Tom Holt novels, but perhaps some more eco-politics/sustainability/climate change titles?

– youtube documentaries and dvds? I keep buying dvds but I find it very hard to sit still long enough to watch a whole film…but then that is the problem ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

– design sessions. Permaculture thinking is based on thorough observation of the cycles of use and consequences ofย  respectful intervention in natural cycles, so ifย  I deliberately schedule times to have thinks/design times and used a voice memo rather than writing/drawing diagrams, that would keep my brain and moods engaged.

don't walk on the grass!

Meanwhile, Nonie and I wear similar expressions round the toys I cannot play with this week ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I save my spoons for writing my appeal form to the DWP, no I am NOT well enough to return to work, d’oh!