Saturday, 2 June 2012
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Not long ago we found ourselves camping in a cool site miles from anything so profane as a Tesco or even a Costcutter. We had some provisions but no fresh veg, and I really can't deal with getting through a whole meal that uses food exclusively out of tins. So we had a little wander and found some little dandelion leaves. Being from the American South, I love greens - collards, kale, chard... super delicious and even better than that stuff Popeye gets out of his cans. Dandelion greens are bitter, but if you cook them in butter they become something of a delicacy. Problem solved!
Ideally, you need small, tender leaves. Once a plant has gone to seed, the leaves become both bitter and enormous. The very best dandelion greens are harvested before the plant produces a flower. By stealthily stalking the little plants in our London garden, I've restocked my supply. And then on chow.com I found a surprisingly simple recipe (Wilted Greens with Balsamic Fried Eggs) using these leafy interlopers, which I recommend if you are so inclined to explore the wonderful world of weed eating.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Here's another feature with upcycling overtones that I wrote and never shared. Deep apologies for the delay! Food from the Sky is an organisation in north London that upcycled a grocery store's roof into a garden. Here, recycling tubs from the council are planters and CDs on strings keep the predators away. The venture is a great example of using and reusing resources in clever new ways and on a grand scale.
I'm not going to go on and on about it, but how cool is the Goodlife Centre? This place is close to where I live and offers classes and workshops on fixing and making things. While some similar outfits focus on crafting and sewing, this place is more about hammering and drilling. Their latest newsletter arrived today, and tells me we can all get busy learning:
how to make a wood stool
how to make tassels
how to do carpentry
how to upholster a footstool
how to make a lampshade AND
how to cane a chair seat
In particular I like the idea of caning because, judging from the picture above, it offers an innovative use for golf tees. I am not really a fan of golf myself, and this to me looks like a very sensible application for equipment associated with one of the world's most frustrating sports!
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
As discussed, I have spent the last year living my life and not blogging. So naughty of me. But I've still been thinking about upcycling, I promise. Here's a feature I wrote for SurfGirl magazine's January issue on new year revolutions, little things you can commit to doing for the benefit of the planet.
Unless you have very good eyesight, chances are you can't read the text in the image above, so being a kind soul I have pasted it here...
Monday, 28 May 2012
Anyway, I digress. What does this have to do with creative reuse of resources, you may ask? The advertisement pictured here appeared in the last issue, and it sums up what upcycling is all about.
If you happen to live in London, there's a brilliant charity run by Islington Council called Bright Sparks that helps young and unemployed people gain skills in electronics. You can take your broken fan / DVD player / kettle / clock radio to them and for a fiver they'll diagnose the problem. If they can fix your item easily, you don't pay anything more. If more time and materials are required, you cover that cost. Or if you just want to be rid of old electrical stuff, you can donate it to them to refurbish and sell in their shop. They fixed a switch on a metal lamp I inherited from my grandmother, and I feel it was well worth it to give them £5 in exchange for a future free from electric currents running through my body each time I switch the thing on and off.
Friday, 25 May 2012
After not riding my bike for about a hundred years, I was suddenly reminded of how much I love cycling. This realisation coincided with what must have been the longest stretch of flat conditions the British coastlines have ever seen. With the surf still not cooperating, I feel I need to garb myself for the possibility of more pedalling adventures. But in the century or so since I last donned a bike helmet, it seems that times have changed. It's no longer possible, as far as I can tell, to get cycle-friendly gear that doesn't come with an excess of zips and compression panels and velcro and reflective bits. Most everything is either black or pink, and it is all completely overdesigned. It's seems sort of ridiculous that companies tack on all the bells, whistles and gratuitous logos that an Olympian might require, but I guess brands just can't help themselves.
I needed a backpack. Not a Camelpak, nor a bag suitable for mountain guides of the Himalayas. Just something to stick a waterbottle in and not be embarrassed about. Tatty Devine is an excellent jewellery designer, often imitated but never duplicated. I liked the simplicity of the carrier bag that contained their press pack at their recent seasonal preview, but it came with shoulder straps in a tote format. I unpicked these with a seam ripper, and also ripped about 2cm of the side seam at the very top on both sides. Down in the bottom corners, I ripped about 2cm of the seam on each side. Then I took two lengths of cord. I threaded one into the hole on the left at top and guided it all around the top hem of the bag. Each end of this cord was then poking out the left side of the bag. I repeated this for the right side, so now I had four ends of cord emerging - two per side. I tied the left two ends into a knot, and did the same for the right two ends. The knot on the left got poked into the hole I'd created at the bottom left corner of the bag. The knot on the right went into the hole on the bottom right. I turned the bag inside out and restitched all the seams that I'd ripped out. I then had a drawstring backpack.
(And by subsequently cycling into a mud puddle, I now have a muddy drawstring backpack. But at least it doesn't have compression panels.)
Here's a link to a tutorial on making a drawstring backback from scratch which was useful in my sewing hackery.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Here's what's so appealing about foraging: No air miles. No pesticides. No packaging. These are all good things. One other thing that foraging does though is more personal. I think it makes you more aware of your surroundings and more alive to the possibilities of resources that we largely seem to have forgotten.
Now, being alive to the possibilities is a skill, and you don't even need to be on a country lane riddled with wild strawberries to put it to use. Here's proof: a while back I was commissioned to do an interview with Jenny Dawson, the founder of Rubies in the Rubble, for the customer magazine published on behalf of the trustees of Borough Market. Jenny's epiphany came when she couldn't bear to see good produce being abandoned at New Covent Garden Market. Today she and the Rubies in the Rubble team collect fruit that's past its sell-by date and revitalise it in the form of chutney. Read the interview here.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
My first exposure to the Bude surf brand Oddsocks was while researching a feature for Huck magazine on the DIY aesthetic inherent to surf culture. Back then, the two-person band specialised in board bags made from reclaimed fabric. Nowadays they've expanded to a new product line called Planeodd, making handplanes for committed wave sliders of the bodysurfing persuasion. How does it work? "Get a broken board, strip off the old glass, re-shape the blank and rebuild it as a perfect pocket rocket," answers Mr Planeodd himself.
To see a handplane in action, watch this cool (and by that I might mean cold) video shot in British Columbia.
Although we milked an unexpected surf out of last Saturday, on the Sunday we weren't so lucky. Fortunately we had our bikes and jumped onto the Plym Valley cycle route which follows an old railway line and is flat flat flat, just how I like it. It's such a cushy ride that when you get a bit past halfway between the start and finish, there's a coffee van. As we strolled around with our cappuccinos I realised we were sitting on a goldmine. Or rather a garlic mine... There was wild garlic all over the place. So I took out a plastic bag and scored a few handfuls. This is the recipe for wild garlic pesto that I just made, found on the River Cottage website. For some reason I have begun stockpiling glass jars - clearly I am turning into my grandmother - and have sterilised one for my booming pesto production empire!
If you have managed to make some wild garlic pesto of your own, then you could do much worse than to use it in this recipe for penne with chicken and pesto that I found at Allrecipes.com. I modified it to serve two people using UK measurements (200g chicken, 1 tbsp butter, 150g pasta, 125g single cream, 1 tbsp milk and 2 or 3 tbsp wild garlic pesto).
Monday, 21 May 2012
Ok so it's been over a year since my last post, so clearly I need to make up for lost time. In the last 12 months a lot has happened. A highlight was visiting the Irish village of Strandhill to lend some editorial assistance to Shells, truly the best cafe in the world. It also happens to be in a very surfy stretch of Ireland, so the owners Myles and Jane are loving life. When it comes to fresh, local produce County Sligo is seriously spoiled for choice. Even the areas not under cultivation are abundant with victuals - you can eat the seaweed right out of the sea, harvest mussels from the shore and source all kinds of edible savage greenery from the woodlands and fields. Myles and Jane's influence must have rubbed off on me because this weekend I put my little guidebook Food for Free to use and did some food foraging of my own.
On Saturday there was a little wave working at Bantham in Devon, a really lovely spot. It's also blessed with a bumper crop of Alexanders, which grow in the dunes, in the hedgerows and next to the carpark at nearby Bigbury-on-Sea. Apparently this was a herb that the Romans grew for use in their kitchens and brought with them to England. I harvested some and cooked it in a shrimp and pasta dish. Nice and salty, it tastes somewhere in between celery and asparagus, and it compliments seafood very well.
Eat Weeds is a blog I discovered which has a ton of good info on these leafy Roman escapees.
Monday, 18 April 2011
So far, so on trend you might be thinking. But get this – From Somewhere was way ahead of the curve. Ever since 1997, they’ve been making their collections with pre-consumer waste: brand-new, often previously unseen, latest trend designer off-cuts, proofs and remnants such as damaged and surplus fabrics reclaimed from the fashion and textile industry.
In other words, solving problems is what they’re all about. That’s exactly how their ground-breaking collab with Speedo came about. Following the decision of FINA, swimming’s governing body, to change the rules regarding swimsuit design and prohibit the use of full-body suits from January 2010, Speedo was left with a surplus of the record-breaking LZR Racer suit.
The LZR Racer suit was worn in 91 world records, so just incinerating this wonder-stuff was out of the question. A limited edition capsule collection developed by From Somewhere includes a statement dress constructed purely of Speedo LZRs, as well as a directional mini collection of swimmdresses, an entirely new concept of swimmer as daywear.
Launched exclusively at Selfridges in London and online through yoox.com, From Somewhere with Speedo is upcycling in its highest form: a fashion-forward design concept exploring innovative environmental solutions.
Friday, 15 April 2011
Ok, I'm not going to go on about it but... how much fun is it to take some rubbishy old thing taking up space in your wardrobe and reinvent it so it actually does you proud? Call me old fashioned, but I find this nothing short of super fun.
Wednesday, 6 April 2011
What to do with your tattered trinkets to ensure they get the chance to swing again? The Papered Parlour is offering a class in Recycled Jewellery on Sunday 17 April from noon to 5pm where you can join expert silversmith Caren Hartley to discover how to repair, reshape and revive old baubles.
Transform pre-loved pendants, broken bracelets and neglected necklaces and get all the skills you need to upcycle jewellery at home. Using basic silversmithing techniques including sawing, soldering, texturing and annealing, you’ll learn how to reinvent your faded finery as polished showpieces.
Instructor Caren Hartley studied Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at The Royal College of Art. She’s won commissions and awards from the Crafts Council and V&A and has exhibited at the Designers Guild, Mint and RCA.
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
"These key pendants are from my degree show entitled The Secret Garden. They were all inspired by the famous children's novel of the same name by author Frances Hodgson Burnett. Constructed mainly of sterling silver, materials used include brass, tourmaline, aquamarines, peridot and antique watch glasses that I found on one of my many rummaging expeditions!"
Monday, 21 March 2011
Friday, 18 March 2011
So, checkit, here's a very good floor covering for addicts like me. Denim is super durable (just ask Mr Levi Strauss, who initially used it to make camping tents for cowboys). Even after it has served its purpose as clothing, it's still got plenty of life left to give.
Woven Ground offers two versions of upcycled denim rugs. "Shaggy" is made by artisans on a loom using 100% recycled denim; no dying or chemicals are used in production so it's a truly eco choice. "Flat" is also produced on a loom, and it's made out of 100% recycled denim and cotton. Thanks to the flat weave, it can be used on both sides.
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
For every three items of clothing I buy, approximately two things go either to the bottom of my wardrobe or to the charity shop without being worn more than twice. It's not that I am wasteful by nature; it's that I'm not very good at shopping and stuff that looks good in a fitting room can look terrible in real life. Furthermore, everything I buy has to be shortened because the mannequin used in the ateliers of Topshop, Zara and Esprit is about eight inches taller than me.
Designer Alterations has launched The DA Seamstress Squad, a handy new service that comes to your home and takes the hassle and time out of alterations and mending. The ‘Squad’ will come over armed with their sewing machines, tape measures and sewing kits to carry out on-the-spot alterations and repairs. They can even overhaul vintage, down to the last bead or sequin.
The Designer Alterations client base includes fashion editors, celebrities and designer retail boutiques like Gucci, Pucci and Burberry, so there's good reason to believe they really know what they're doing. The Squad’s service is £70 an hour; to avert wardrobe malfunctions ring 020 7498 4360 or visit www.designeralterations.com
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Louise Kamara's ReVision range of limited edition jewellery debuts at the Barbican Art Gallery shop soon. What's in store? Well, each piece is handmade in London from discarded sunglasses and prescription lenses intercepted en route to landfill. The collection was inspired by New York's downtown scene in the 1970s, reflecting the era's taste for bold design statements in the face of economic crisis.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
What kind of woman does not like shoes? A very rare and unusual one, that's who.
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Someone kindly pointed me in the direction of a site called Bachelor's Degree Online; specifically I was encouraged to check out a post titled 80 Awesome Upcycling Ideas for Your Dormroom Decor. If you live in halls of residence - or even if you don't - then roll up roll up, read up read up. (I positively challenge you to resist the lure of the snow globe made from a baby food jar.)
Monday, 7 February 2011
Our van propelled itself all the way to Devon and some of the way back chomping on delicious biodiesel from a company in our neighbourhood called Uptown Oil. Uptown Oil delivers cooking oil to restaurants, then returns to pick the stuff up once it's served its purpose in sizzling up saveloys and the like. From an railway arch in SE1 the stuff is cleaned up for motor use. Uptown Oil is the only manufacturer of biodiesel in London, and their product is 10p cheaper per litre from what you'll get charged at BP and all its dirty brethren. What I like about all this is that it's an opportunity to use a resource for a second time, doubling its usefulness before it's deemed "waste". Recycling cooking oil in this way is much more efficient than raising crops specifically for use as biodiesel (a short-sighted tactic which means less food can be cultivated).
Friday, 4 February 2011
Let's face it peeps; there's upcycling... and then there's upscale upcycling.
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
A very nice surf shop in Braunton just closed down this weekend. We went and made some purchases and got a bag for life. A little tag inside reports the bag was not made in a sweatshop. And yet even this will not convince me to use it, because I have a huge catalogue of similar bags I am struggling to find uses for.
Bags for life depress me. The cynic in me is convinced that a) they were all clearly made in sweatshops and b) anyone who dispenses such bags only does so to make me their branding packhorse.
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
I have a thingie called an Indo Board that you balance on to get better core stability for board sports. I love it, but it was expensive and has the biggest, most annoying branding all over it. Next time round I will invest instead in a DIY Board. Here's one that Anthony made when he employed the skills of hacking and upcycling, and you can learn more about making one on his blog Dead Insect.
Monday, 1 November 2010
I have been given an advent calendar, even though we're only just past Halloween. Never mind; I don't like to look a gift horse in the mouth... So I've started munching my way through what was supposed to be my December calendar.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Friday, 10 September 2010
Autumn Winter 2010 sees ethical brand Laundry Maid in a resourceful mood with the introduction of Laundry Maid Upcycled; a small collection of jeans, bags and a skirt all innovatively recycled from existing styles into newer directional garments. Developed to sit alongside the label’s core form flattering range of skinny, tailored and tapered leg fits, the concept minimises waste, cuts down on unnecessary consumption of raw denim and introduces exciting new product areas to the line.
Jeans styles have been further adapted to form a snap fastened fifties style handbag and a slouchy cross body bag, each featuring a base and strap handles made from the legs of the jean. In keeping with the label’s ethos, all items are designed, manufactured, laundered and customised in Britain. Due to rarity of supply Laundry Maid Upcycled will be available in numbered limited editions, exclusively at Potassium, 2 Seymour Street W1H 7NA and online at www.potassiumlondon.com and Ethics Girls www.ethicsgirls.co.uk, alongside Laundry Maid’s main line. Retail prices start from £80.00 for the bags to £150.00 for the jeans styles.
Friday, 3 September 2010
'With the sport still in its infancy, you won’t find a bike polo section in Foot Locker or Lillywhite's. As a result, borrowing and hacking are intrinsic features of the scene. Bikes are often cobbled together from spare parts, and Felix Cramer, a college student, illustrates how DIY skills have come in handy in fashioning his much-used mallet. 'It's a golf club and electrical tape,' he tells me. 'I played with it so much I broke the end off it so there was a massive hole. So what you do is put a penny on it or a cork and tape over it.'
Ski poles or bamboo are other common components used to serve as mallet shafts, while mallet heads are typically made from plastic piping requisitioned from building sites or roadworks. 'People find them, happily,' Felix divulges. 'The official rules say 12cm is the longest you can have. Drill holes take the weight out, or people will have one massive hole so they can scoop the ball with the side of the mallet.'
Wheel covers are another modification that calls upon a player’s upcycling savvy. These prevent damage to spokes, and also provide a tactical advantage. 'They’re quite handy,' Felix says. 'If you’ve got the ball on one side of you and the attacking or opposing player is on the other side of you, they can’t see the ball through the wheel.' In London, the ubiquitous signs of estate agents provide the perfect corrugated plastic medium for the job. One player’s wheels sport the unmistakable livery of one of the country’s most notoriously greedy agencies; 'I’m sponsored by Foxtons,' he grins."
Thursday, 26 August 2010
PSFK consultants are trained to keep their eyes on the future. In the course of their future gazing they quite often come upon upcycling ideas...