Sunday, 31 January 2010

Board room

This weekend we went to Gulf Stream in Braunton to pick up a new longboard. The owners outfitted the shop to evoke a gentlemen’s club. Surfers tend to be creative both on waves and off, and those guys are no exception. When Braunton flooded a few years ago, the flooring of the shop had to be lifted up and replaced. But rather than getting thrown out, the old flooring became new wood panelling on the walls. Not only were useful materials salvaged but the members’ club vibe was enhanced. Once the floorboards went vertical, they were treated with about five coats of walnut stain. Onto this beading was added and stained too. I wish I had taken a picture but instead here’s a shot of the board – same ingenious craftsmanship, entirely different application!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Just craft it

Craft London is sending out an invitation - come and satisfy your crafty urges!

Craft London is a celebration of London’s creative excellence, and their fun programme of Craft It Yourself workshops offers the chance for anyone to take part in craft. For upcycling crafters there's a workshop of revamping an Ikea lampshade and another on turning vintage fabric into pincushions.

28 Jan 6pm Craft It Yourself – ‘Stitch n Bitch’ Appliqué with Emily Jo Gibbs – Your chance to show off! Pieces made in this workshop will be exhibited in the Craft London exhibition window display in March. Learn the skills with Emily and then collect your appliqué creation at the end of March. Cost £5 (including materials and complimentary wine).

4 Feb 6pm Craft It Yourself – ‘Looking Through Letters’, Make a Stencil with David Ottley* Get another view of letters through the craft of designing and cutting stencils in acetate, paper and brass.

23 Feb 6pm Craft It Yourself – ‘Pimp Your IKEA’ Re-vamp a Lamp with Michelle Mason* Put your own stamp on your home by re-inventing a plain Ikea lamp shade.

10 Mar 6pm Craft It Yourself – ‘Pins n Needles’ Make a Pin Cushion with Emily Jo Gibbs* Tidy up, and brighten up, your work table with a new pin cushion! Choose from vintage recycled fabrics or sumptuous felt.

15 Mar 6pm Craft It Yourself – ‘Hat Party’ Make a Fascinator with Katherine Elizabeth* Katherine will share her hat-making secrets - fashion your own fascinator!

* Cost £10 Booking required 020 7251 0276 (including materials and complimentary wine)

Craft Central, 33-35 St John’s Square EC1M 4DS, 020 7251 0276

Monday, 25 January 2010

So sew

Recently I wrote up a trend report for a client, and apparently digital prints are going to be super cool for spring. I have an excellent digital print top from Urban Outfitters that I bought at a charity shop. Everything about it is perfect except... for the way it fits.

Hope is not lost however, since I just came across this press release from the charity TRAID:

Sew bad? Come along to TRAID’s free sewing workshops, and learn to sew good!

Sew Good workshops are run by charity and eco fashion hero TRAID (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development) to help people take control of their wardrobe and extend the life of their clothes by teaching basic mending, adjusting and remaking skills.

Workshops are open to everyone, regardless of their skill level and take place every month in store at TRAID Shepherds Bush. For night owls, TRAID also runs an evening workshop called the Sew Good Lock In at its flagship store in Camden.

Bring a garment and the TRAID Sew Good team will help you to remake it into a gorgeous and unique piece you’ll love again. Participants learn their way around a sewing machine, and are initiated into some of the remaking secrets of TRAID’s recycled fashion label TRAIDremade which uses old clothes and textiles that would other be thrown away to create beautiful ethical fashion.

Booking is essential. To reserve a place contact Lyla Patel / 020 8733 2591

Monthly Saturday Workshops at TRAID Shepherds Bush, 154 Uxbridge Road, W12 8AA, 11am – 3pm on January 30 // February 27 // March 27 // April 24 // May 29 // June 26 // July 31 // August 21 // September 25 // October 30 // November 27

Quarterly Thursday Workshops at TRAID Camden, 154 Camden High Street, NW1 0NE, 6pm – 9pm on January 14 // April 8 // July 8 // October 7

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Wheeler dealers

I just watched the feature film The Lords of Dogtown and the documentary Dogtown and the Z-Boys. They both cover the 1970s skateboarding scene in Los Angeles, depicting how a bunch of school-age kids basically invented the modern sport. Like a lot of underground movements, upcycling what society had abandoned played a role in their early efforts.

In the documentary version, the Z-Boys remember making their first skateboards by cutting up old roller skates and salvaging the front panels off of dresser drawers to serve as decks.

Photojournalist Craig Stecyk documented the phenomenon, writing in 1976: “Skaters by their very nature are urban guerillas: they make everyday use of the useless artifacts of the technological burden, and employ the handiwork of the government/corporate structure in a thousand ways that the original architects could never dream of.”

The elementary schools in and around Dogtown were built to manage the challenges posed by the valleys found in the area. Concrete drainage ditches existed in all the playgrounds, and the early skaters uses these as concrete waves, applying surfing moves to riding them on four urethane wheels.

Then a record drought hit California in the 70s, so people were forced to drain their swimming pools. The Z-boys would sneak into people's backyards and skate empty pools, an activity that essentially invented bowl skating, and paved the way for vertical and aerial manoeuvres that are central to skating today.

Friday, 22 January 2010

See? Shells

Having spent the past week on a beach, I've been thinking a lot about packaging. The high tide line was strewn with orange, yellow, blue and green plastic debris, which although colourful is still ugly and heartbreaking.

A tiger clam shell however could never be described as ugly, and as all-natural packaging it biodegrades with relative ease. Still it holds opportunities for upcycling, as villages in the Philippines have discovered. Tiger clams are a part of their everyday diet, and previously the shells had been regarded as waste. But now they've been selling tiger clam shells to a spa company that's devised a way to use the shells in massage. Lava Shell massage is similar to hot stone massage, except the shells contain algae and dried sea kelp that, when blended with salt water, generate their own controlled heat for an hour-long massage. You can read more about it here.

In a seashell: some seaworthy trivia

Molluscs, the creatures that produce seashells, are among the oldest existing life forms on earth. The tiger clam survived the extinction event that wiped out nearly all other species on the planet and resulted in the Ice Age.

Seashells are composed of calcium carbonate, the same material found in our bones and teeth.

Tiger clams are a natural reducer of greenhouse gases; they process CO2 out of the ocean water, which in turn allows the ocean to absorb more CO2 from the air.

All clams, including the tiger clam, are capable of producing pearls.

Seashells are among the oldest forms of currency on the planet. Many of the first coins minted were emblazoned with seashells to show that they were currency. In fact, in some parts of the world they’re still legal tender.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Candy wrapper

In Taghazoute the nut seller walks up and down the beach with baskets of his wares, a portable set of scales and a sturdy holiday catalogue. Once you buy your 20 dirhams' worth of sugary nuts, he wraps them up in a page of the catalogue, a low-cost and fairly biodegradable packaging solution.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Precious mettle

It takes plenty of vision to take something old and make it new again, so I'm guessing jeweller Natalie Leon's eyesight is 20/20. Natalie's range brings together a love of all things vintage with a certain flair for design. Each of her handcrafted pieces of jewellery is made from beads and components sourced from all over the globe, many of which are over 50 years old. Browse her website - as treasures go most things are quite affordable.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Clearance sail

What happens to the sails of yachts when they get tired and want to retire from sport? Some of them go to the online shop florestine to launch new careers as duffle bags. Each one is handmade from sails that have adventured far and wide across the oceans before being cleaned and fashioned into bags suitable for sailors and land-lubbers alike. Choose from two sizes, priced £64.95 and £74.95, ahoy!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Laughing matters

My sister came across an Australian company called Rebound Books which turns pre-loved novels and works of non-fiction into diaries, notebooks and photo albums. The covers are from old hardbacks, and inside blank pages are 100% recycled paper. I've got my hands on one of their 2010 diaries, which was purchased from my old friends at Gleebooks in Sydney. Made from The Little Golden Book of Jokes & Riddles originally published in 1983, it contains such gems as this:

What's the best way to catch a fish?

Have someone throw it to you.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Knit wit

Toot toot happy new year! To celebrate we've got ourselves a guest blogger today.

Lisa Margreet is a craftastic upcycling expert from The East London Craft Guerilla who can tell you how to transform a t-shirt into an iPod cover or how to harvest yarn from a floppy old jumper. It's not a whole bunch harder than dropping your old clothes in a recycling bin, so read on to learn how it's done. (By the way, the pic above is not a portrait of Lisa herself, but a pattern available to buy in her Etsy shop.)

Raisin: Why upcycle?

Lisa: People are really familiar with the concept of recycling e.g. taking your finished wine bottle and junk mail and chucking them in the recycling bin, then waiting for it to be collected once a week and feeling pleased that you're doing your bit for the environment. That's great, but upcycling is a more creative way of solving the issue of our consumer detritus. When you upcycle an item you take something that would usually be disposed of either by putting it in the bin, by recycling it or sending by to the charity shop and you think about ways that you can reuse it for a different purpose. By giving it a new lease of life you are preventing it from ending up as someone else's unwanted item, as a problem in landfill, or from sitting lonely in the charity shop.

The East London Craft Guerrilla have been doing a lot of work with upcycled t-shirt yarn ever since we came across the technique and we keep on finding more things that you can make with it! T-shirts are interesting in themselves in that a lot of chemicals are required to grow the cotton for one t-shirt and there are often questionable practices in their manufacturing processes. They have become so prolific and cheap that they are now viewed as a disposable item by many people. You should think carefully about the provenance of your t-shirt when you buy a new one as so many of the cheap t-shirts end up in charity shops, worn once and then discarded. The charity shops then have problems selling them as there are just so many of them and I have heard of bags of t-shirts ending up in landfill as even the charity shops can't sell them. Of course, this is great for the crafty minded as we can save these t-shirts and give them a new purpose in life! Along with the many t-shirt adaptations you can do, you can also turn your t-shirt into yarn and then knit and crochet new items from them.

Raisin: What kind of project is t-shirt yarn best suited to?

Lisa: Knitted and crochet items that need a chunky yarn with a bit of stretch to it work best with t-shirt yarn. A lot of people are familiar with bath-mats made with rags from t-shirts, however we've made bookmarks, camera and iPod cases, clutch and tote bags, bracelets, necklaces and fascinators - I recently came up with a pattern for a really authentic looking 1960s pill box hat - move over Jackie O! I'm currently working on a waste-paper basket pattern made from crocheted upcycled t-shirt yarn with a fused plastic-bag lining.

Raisin: Can you give us a brief overview of the method?

Lisa: To make t-shirt yarn all you need is a pair of scissors and an old t-shirt! Place your t-shirt on a flat surface and cut off the bottom hem then start cutting all around the t-shirt at about 1cm width. It's easiest to cut it if you put it over an ironing board as it helps with turning it, but it's perfectly possible to do it on a flat surface as well. Keep cutting at 1cm width around until you have one long string of t-shirt yarn and you have reached the shoulders. Save the shoulders and the top of the t-shirt yarn for other crafty uses. To finish off the t-shirt yarn take small sections and give them a small tug lengthways so that the ends start to curl inwards, then wind the yarn into a ball and you're ready to start knitting or crocheting with it!

Raisin: How can we can learn more?

From February 2010 I will be running bi-monthly workshops at the East London Craft Guerrilla craft night on learning how to crochet using t-shirt yarn. There will be three initial three workshops starting with Learn to Crochet: How to Make T-shirt Yarn, learning basic chain stitch and then making a simple chain bookmark. The second workshop will cover single and double crochet stitches and then making a simple crocheted bangle. The final workshop will cover crocheting in the round and making a small fascinator or pill box hat. For more details on the workshops visit or or email me.

Raisin: What can you tell us about reclaiming yarn from old jumpers?

Lisa: For the knitter and crocheter on a budget a really good technique to learn is how to harvest yarn from old sweaters. As a rule of thumb, hand-knitted, chunky sweaters are easiest to unravel but unfortunately these are hard to come by. Try sourcing them from jumble sales rather than charity shops. Any jumper without a lot of seams can be unraveled and the yarn then wound into balls for knitting and crocheting with. If you come across any jumpers made from natural fibres e.g. pure wool, then you can felt them in your washing machine and then use the resulting material for cut and sew projects. A word of warning though, a lot of modern materials are treated with chemicals to prevent them from shrinking when you wash them. Great if you want to preserve your favourite cardi but not so good for the would-be felter! If you're interested in learning the techniques for yarn harvesting and felting from old jumpers and want a few patterns to get you started then I've written a small booklet that you can buy from my folksy shop or my etsy shop.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Bookmark this

My Zero Waste is a marvellous website that deserves your attention for the simple fact that it covers exciting how-to topics such as these:
  • Reuse greeting cards
  • 15 ways to use up pesto sauce
  • Recycle your bicycle for Africa
  • Reuse plastic bottles for slug collars
And those are just on the homepage. If your new years resolution involves reducing the footprint you leave on the planet, then how about celebrating day three of 2010 by bookmarking the site?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy new year!

Here's hoping that 2010 brings us lots of chances to view things differently. This pic comes from Felicity of Garden Beet - it's an unusual planter called the Wooly Vagabond. It hangs, it travels, it lives, it breathes... Truly the It Bag to have.