Destashing to get to sustainable stashing

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

How many times have I told myself 'I will destash' or 'I will only use fabric from my stash'  and the next thing I know I am buying more (gorgeous, of course) fabric (ditto for yarn). It may ring true with some of you - I have seen many collaborative blogging efforts to stop buying more. Clearly I have my limits - I cannot just stop buying - and in fact I want to buy more, just differently, of a more sustainable kind. 

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed a total change in the way I use it. To be fair, I did not use that much in the past (usually to notify the publication of new blog post) and therefore the fact that I am using it is in itself a major change. The second change is that I am using twitter as a way of learning and sharing more about ethical fashion, sustainable craft supplies, organic fabric, natural dyes, and the occasional upcycling project. My main interest is of course the craft supplies side of things as I am hoping to make more items myself, but I am fairly partial to ethical fashion too. 

So what has happened so far and what does it mean? 

  • What is in my stash? 

It started one afternoon - I took everything out of cupboards, shed/sewing room and the attic and I laid it all out on my bed; and it was scary - there was a lot there, some I did not know I had, some I wondered why I had it, some I liked as long as it was not used on me - a mix of 'it was a bargain I had to buy it', or 'I will use this for a specific project', or 'I just like the fabric/yarn, will see what I make of it'. 

At the end of the day, I do like a lot of what I have - which makes destashing much easier - however I am not always sure I have enough of it for bigger projects. I seemed to have accumulated a lot of one skein of yarn here and 1m of fabric there. There could be strange combo being featured on this blog...

  • How am I going to use my stash?

There will be two ways: I will be using my stash in future projects, and I will sell some of it and generate money for the next stash

I assume that using my stash for projects will be both project-driven and stash-driven. I have 8 skeins of Chickadee for instance, and I have been spending a lot of time finding knitting patterns that I will require that exact amount of yarn (and still fit my growing bump - not easy). 

As for the selling, I have decided to do it through this blog - probably on Thursdays, so it may be worth checking out because you could grab yourself a bargain. I am going to start with my stash of Tanis Fibre Arts yarn, beautiful but not for me unfortunately. Hopefully someone will love it and knit it! 

  • How strict am I going to be with this sustainability malarkey? 

At this stage, I am SO into it - but I am always like this when I start a new project. I read about it, I research it intensely and that is all I think about. I think this is probably ok whilst my left over stash is still quite big and does not preclude any new project. It might be different if a new fabric line comes out or if I am dead set on a new project that requires specific supplies I don't have or cannot find a sustainable alternative for. 

I am not going to be too strict about it. I will try to get organic fabric and yarn whenever I can. I am going to be a bit more relaxed about natural dyes - although that might change as my techniques improve and/or my favourite suppliers list increase. I am totally learning as I am going. I may come back to this post in a couple of years and wonder why I was worried of having a stash of cream, or wonder which planet I was on. 

In addition, and most importantly, I will not judge anyone who is not interested in this, I am not an eco-warrior. I am just trying to spend my money better and find better alternatives if I can. And when I share this someone gets inspired as well, that one person will make me very happy indeed!

  • What will happen on the blog? 

Not a lot will change - this is a blog about handmade stuff, combined with the occasional life snapshots. I may share some of my favourite sellers of sustainable craft suppliers, as it is quite specific and it might be useful. I may try my hand at some techniques such as natural dyeing (I am fairly excited about this) - and share the result with you (good or bad, I promise). I will try to tell a bit more about where the fabric comes from - whether it is destashing or the new stash, and report on project destash - I have at the moment 6 boxes full of fabric and yarn. I am hoping to get it down to 2!

The yarn stash

However in the background I will do a lot more research about what it is I am buying and how it is sustainable, and how it is helping local communities. I am interested in those stories, and it will make that garment I will just have sewn that extra special.

Phew! Here we are.. I did want to write this post for a while. It is not a new direction, but it is certainly something very important to me. Maybe having a second baby had wider impact than I thought. I hope you will carry on joining me and share your own experience of handcraft in my more sustainable world!

Red and White Gooseberries Clafoutis | Recipe {Baking}

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Last Sunday we went out with Baby MiH to our nearest Pick Your Own farm (you can see some pictures in the post) - literally 5 minutes down the road (for those in Hertfordshire, the St Albans Hawkswick Lodge Farm). Mr MiH was not convinced but I nagged - and Baby MiH loved it. He had enough after an hour, but by then I had picked more fruits that the three of us could eat. 

Earlier that week, I had filed a gooseberry recipe found on Moral Fibres - and it reminded me of the clafoutis my Grandma used to bake, so I had to try it. My Grandma used cherries usually, as to be honest I had not seen a lot of gooseberries where I came from in France (I did not know, but they are called groseilles a maquereau). At the farm we found white ones as well as red ones (that are much sweeter) - a great discovery. And as nearly everyone seemed to avoid the gooseberries bushes, it was pretty easy to pick them. 

Baby MiH getting close to some gooseberry action
So I had to bake the recipe as soon as we were back home, and Mr MiH keeps raving about it - honestly I am sure he has eaten 3/4 of it on his own, because the great thing with clafoutis is that it gets better and better as it cools down. 

He is adamant he was to hold his own basket
As I mentioned this is not my recipe, but I copied and pasted it so it is easy for you to refer to it. 
  • 400g gooseberries (I mixed equally white and red ones)
  • 30g butter (plus extra to grease your baking dish)
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • 90g granulated sugar
  • 90g flour
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Our little beefeater
We were too slow for him
Preheat your oven to 180°C/gas mark four.
Cut the tops and stalks off of your gooseberries, and give them a good wash.
Butter a roughly 20cm pie dish or baking tin and then lightly sprinkle with a little bit of icing sugar.  Place your gooseberries in the dish.
Beat your eggs and sugar together until creamy.  Then add your flour (sifted), vanilla essence and milk and mix well until combined.
Melt your butter in a small pan and add to the mix, stirring well.
Pour the batter over the gooseberries, and place your pan in the oven for around 35 minutes, or until your clafoutis is puffed and golden brown and a skewer or knife comes out clean. 

An hour worth of pick your own
So you get a great activity and yummy food out of it! A total win-win as far as I am concerned. 

Baby MiH is very much into outdoors activities, any activity close to nature that you can recommend doing with a toddler? I sent the boys to the farm on Tuesday to feed the goats and the alpacas, and ride the tractor - another great hit... 

Project Destash #2, My favourite doily yet | Free Pattern {Crochet}

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

There will not be many pictures in this post - as this is my favourite picture of the doily. I took it as soon as I had finished blocking it and immediately shared it on social media (facebook, twitter, IG - all of them, I just had to share the love). 

The free pattern is based on a pattern I found on Pinterest - and unfortunately did not pin. There were a few mistakes in the pattern, but it is pretty much the same pattern, cleaner. 

So I used a 2 mm crochet hook, and a grey sock yarn. 

The abbreviations are as follows:

Single crochet decrease (sc-dec): Pull up loop in each of next 2 sts, yo and pull through all 3 loops on hook.
Double crochet Decrease (dc-dec): (yo, pull up loop in next st, yo, pull through 2 loops) 2 times, yo, pull through all 3 loops on hook
Treble Crochet Shell (tr-shell): (3 trc, ch 3, 3 trc) in sp indicated
Double Crochet Shell (dc-shell): (3 dc, ch 3, 3 dc) in sp indicated
Picot: Ch4, sl st in 4th ch from hook, ch 1

R1: Ch 8, join to form ring, ch 3, dc in ring, ch 2, (2 dc in ring, ch 2) 7 times, join
R2: Sl st in next dc and into next ch-2 sp, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp, ch 2, (4 dc in next ch-2 sp, ch 2) 7 times, join
R3: Ch 3, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in next sp, ch 1, *dc in each of next 2 dc, ch 2, dc in each of next 2 dc, ch 1; rep from * around, join
R4: Ch 3, dc in next dc, ch 2, 2 dc in next sp, ch 2, *dc in each of next 4 dc, ch 2, 2 dc in next sp, ch 2; rep from * around ending with dc in last 2 dc, join
R5: Ch 3, dc in next dc, ch 2 , 2 dc in each of next 2 dc, ch 2, *dc in each of next 4 dc, ch 2, 2 dc in each of 2 dc, ch 2; rep from * around ending with dc in last 2 dc, join. 
R6: Ch 6 (counts as dc, ch 3), skip next dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, ch 3, dc in each of next 2 dc, ch 3, skip next dc, *dc in next 2 dc, skip next dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, ch 3, dc in each of next of next 2 dc, ch 3, skip next dc; rep from * around ending with dc in last dc, join with sl st in 3rd ch of beg ch-6. 
R7: Ch 6, skip next ch-3 sp, 7 trc in next ch-3 sp, ch 5, skip next ch 3 sp, *sc-dec next 2 dc tog, ch 5, skip next ch-3 sp, 7 trc in next ch-3 sp, ch 5, skip next ch-3 sp; rep from * around ending with sc in last dc, join with sl st in first ch of beg ch-6. 
R8: Ch 1, sc in same st, ch 3, (2 dc, ch 1) each of next 6 trc, ch 1, 2 dc in next trc, ch 3, *sc in next sc-dec, ch 3, (2 dc, ch1) each of next 6 trc, ch 1, 2 dc in next trc, ch 3; rep from * around, join. 
R9: Sl st in next 3 chs and into next dc, ch 2 , dc in next dc, ch 3, (dc-dec next 2 dc tog, ch 3) 5 times, dc-dec next 2 dc tog, ch 1 * (dc-dec next 2 dc tog, ch 3) 6 times, dc-dec next 2 dc tog, ch 1; rep from * around, join sl st in first dc. 
R10: Sl st into next sp, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp, ch 2, (4 dc in next sp, ch 2) 4 times, 4 dc in next sp, *4 dc in next sp, ch 2, (4 dc in next sp, ch 2) 4 times, 4 dc in next sp; rep from * around, join. 
R11: Sl st in next 3 dc and in next sp, ch 4, (2 trc, ch 3, 3trc) in same sp, ch 3, sc in next sp, ch 3, tr-shell in next sp, ch 3, sc in next sp, ch 3, tr-shell in next sp, * (tr-shell in next sp, ch 3, sc in next sp, ch 3) 2 times, tr-shell in next sp; rep from * around, join. 
R12: Sl st to next sp, ch 3, (2 dc, ch 3, 3 dc) in same sp, ch 3, sc in next ch-3 loop, picot, sc in next ch-3 loop, ch 3, dc-shell in next tr-shell, *dc-shell in next tr-shell, ch 3, sc in bext ch-3 loop, puicot, sc in next ch-3 loop, ch 36, tr-shell in tr-shell, ch 3, sc in next ch-3 loop, picot, sc in next ch-3 loop, ch 3, dc-shell in next tr-shell; rep from * around, join. 
R13: Sl st to next sp, ch 1, (2 sc, ch 3 , 2 sc) in same sp, ch 3, sc in next ch-3 loop, picot, sc in next ch-3 loop, ch 3, (4 trc, ch 5, sl st in 4 th ch from hook, ch 2, 4 trc) in next tr-shell, ch 3, sc in next next 3-ch loop, picot, sc in next ch-3 loop, ch 3, (2 sc, ch 3, 2 sc) in next dc-shell, ch 5, sl st in 4th ch from hook, ch 2, *(2sc, ch 3, 2 sc) in next dc-shell, ch 3, sc in next ch-3 loop, puicot, sc in next ch-3 loop, picot, sc in next ch-3 loop, ch 63, (4 trc, ch 5, sl st in 4th ch from hook, ch 2, 4 trc) in next tr-shell, ch 3, sc in next ch-3 loop, picot, sc iun next ch-3 loop, ch 3, (2sc, ch 3, 2 sc) in next dc-shell, ch 5, sl st in 4th ch from hook, ch 2; rep from * around, join and fasten off. 

And now enjoy the blocking process - I love blocking lace projects, the lace just totally comes alive. I am on my second one now... I think I might be addicted... 

Linking up to Ginny's today - to show all the other yarn-related finishes and WIPs click here

And as always let me know if you have used the pattern, and show me your versions! 

Half way there | Le Challenge {Knitting}

Monday, 14 July 2014

This month's theme was SMALL... Honestly I am not a fan of themes that are this open - too many options blocks me. However, it happens that we have found it something rather special about a little someone who is making me fast becoming a whale. 

I know many of my pregnant friends were and are happy not to find out the sex of the baby - I just have to know. It means we can decide on names, and as these have to work in both English and French - and we have to like them - it is really hard. Also I thought it might be nice for Baby MiH to learn the name of his sibling - or making up the same version of it!  

So a small knitting project to celebrate the half way point of my pregnancy, in two colours - and yes I was very pleased with my idea of a egg-cosy. Aren't they the cutest - most superfluous items - I could have made? 

In case you are interested in this ultra-complicated pattern, here it is: 

CO 20, 2x2 ribbing on 18 rows, and then R19 decrease ( k2tog, p2tog) 5 times, R20: k10; R21: k2tog 5 times. 

I knitted both in 4 mm DPNs - the pink yarn is Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton Naturally Dyed DK (now discontinued - why oh why?), and the blue yarn is Twilleys Echo recycled pure cotton DK yarn

I made the mini pompoms using a fork - I find a good tutorial on Mollie Makes website, but they are not as good as they look on the tutorial. However they were really easy and quick to make - all you want for a small project... 

SO you made it to here... Are you ready for it? 

Makes it real right! A house of full of boys and I - and a solution to not being able to reach anything too high up in the house! Good thing I have a lot of blue yarn in my stash.   

You can visit le challenge to see the other small makes!

If you've made a 'small' project or one that relates to the theme then link up your finished project on the le challenge blog for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to the Fat Quarter Shop. Anyone can link up with any type of craft project as long as it was made in the past month!

Maternity Wear #1 - the TOVA | A finish {Dressmaking}

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Here is the full Tova post that explains it all. Unfortunately I am not going to impress you with wonderfully clever modifications to this pattern to work for maternity wear. It was really easy to make it work for my bump, which I suppose is a good thing as the last thing I can/want to do at the moment is making some weird mathematical schemes to change a pattern. 

And all the credit goes to the pattern - which is well-written and with an interesting construction - without being too complex (the front and the back are cut on the fold). To be honest the limited number of pieces worried me around the bust area - which is doing its own thing at the moment - I was wondering whether it would be too lost or too tight.

Although it does not appear in this post (I did post on IG), I actually made a proper muslin for this pattern. Not wearable at all - a proper muslin just for the sake of understanding the construction and whether it would work on me, what a concept! There are two things that became really clear: a dress would not work on me (it looked so wrong) and that the fabric needed to be light-weight because of the amount of gathering involved at the front. 

The amount of gathering seemed adequate from the start (I made a headstart by reading other bloggers' experience), and the top should see me through my pregnancy for at least another 2/3 months. 

As I am destashing, I had to use fabric from my stash. I am so happy I actually bought fabric that I liked, otherwise project destash would be a right nightmare. You will have already recognised the fabric - Nani Iro Spring 2014 collection, 100% cotton double gauze that I got from Miss Matatabi. 

I made a huge (well probably not huge, but huge for me) Nani Iro order, so expect more Nani Iro to appear in my project destash. 

I made a few modifications to the pattern, but only one to adapt it for maternity wear and that is to add 8 inches to the gathering piece (so 4 inches on the fold to the pattern - I basically added a rectangle to the pattern). In terms of size, I did the L (12/14 in the UK) - one size bigger than my normal size - but once I had done the French seams, it is probably a big M/small L (10/12), so my normal size. 

Other modifications made were:

  • to make a slimmer placket (from 1 inch recommended by the pattern to 3/4 inch)
  • to shorten the sleeves by 2 inches
  • to take in 2.5 inches from the bottom of the top ( I kept the length in case out of proportions like with my first pregnancy)
  • also I had issues with the collar when I made the muslin, so added an inch on each side to the collar pattern to ensure I have enough fabric to cover adequately the collar (this may be a problem because of the fabric I used for the muslin)
  • And I used French seams everywhere except on the side. I love French seams! 

The finishing is really what makes this top so special - and I received a lot of compliments (at work and from friends) - probably the combination of an interesting fabric and a well fitted garment. 

And in case you are wondering how long I could wear it, I asked the wind just to show you how far and wide I could go. I am looking very impressed! 

I am wearing; handmade top; my friend's pregnancy jeans from H&M; 
Pikolinos shoes seen here; sunglasses, Tiffany's from a long time ago; 
necklace, thrifted (one of my best purchases) 

You can find Michelle's modifications here if you are not pregnant (so nearly all my readers right!) and would like to know more about the dress version. 

Also I have to tell you a very random fact, nerdy sewer that I am, French seams are translated as English seams in French. Amazing! 

Camping essentials | A recipe

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

I am personally not that keen on camping - but Mr MiH is, and he thinks that Baby MiH will be too, he probably will. However I may be partial to glamping - especially if I can have access to my own toilet and shower. Whilst reviewing some places we could go to, all I could think about was food and more specifically marshmallows. Must be a pregnancy craving because I never eat marshmallows. 

Let me tell you all the recipe mentions that it is really easy to make marshmallows. I am not going to lie here, it was definitely not easy. This is is my second attempt - although they are good, the sweetness may need to be tweaked a bit, especially for Mr MiH's taste. Baby MiH on the other hand loves his 'mamamo', how cute!

To start with, I would recommend that you watch this video to have an idea of the process - I really wished I had done this first. I usually don't go on youtube for recipes, and this recipe has convinced me that I should!

For the recipe I did not follow the recipe of the video but followed James Martin's one (on the basis that I don't get the concept of cups). 

So you are going to need:
  • 455g of granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 9 sheets of gelatine
  • 2 egg whites, size 1
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract ( I am not sure I will add it next time)
  • icing sugar
  • cornflour

  1. Put the granulated sugar, glucose and 200ml of water in a heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil and continue cooking until it reaches 127C / 260F on a sugar thermometer. 
  2. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in 140ml cold water. Beat the egg whites until stiff. When the syrup is up to temperature, carefully place the softened gelatine sheets and their soaking water into the sugar. The syrup will bubble up so keep and eye on it. Pour the syrup into a metal jug.
  3. Continue to beat the egg whites  while pouring in the hot syrup from the jug. The mixture will become shiny and start to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and thick enough to hold its shape on the whisk (I took more than the 10 minutes mentioned, you will know when it is ready).
  4. Lightly oil a shallow baking tray, about 30 x 20cm (12 x 8in). Dust it with sieved icing sugar and cornflour, then spoon the mixture over and smooth it with a knife if necessary.
  5. Leave for at least an hour to set - it actually works better if you leave it overnight
  6. Dust the work surface with more icing sugar and cornflour. Loosen the marshmallow around the sides of the tray with a palette knife, then turn it out on to the dusted surface. Cut into squares and roll in the sugar and cornflour. Leave to dry a little before packing them into an airtight box.

So I will not say that it is hard and in fact once you know what to do, it is pretty much up to your KitchenAid to do the work - you put it on the highest speed setting and you let it all happen whilst you get on with other tasks, just make sure you whisk for long enough.

No glamping holiday is booked yet, but I am definitely ready! And so you know, they do taste different from the ones bought in a shop - quite lighter and definitely way too moreish.

Can normal sewing patterns work for maternity wear?

Monday, 7 July 2014

This question was never intended to be what these posts were about. The original idea was to sew 'together' (that is virtually as we are on different continents) - and learn from each other. We have similar height and shape - and therefore similar issues with patterns (bum, hips mainly). Fast forward three months from the original idea, a little adapting had to be done - to accommodate a (fast) growing bump. 

So the aim is still to sew the SAME normal pattern, but the choice is probably more limited as we have to be able to adapt for maternity wear. In between the posts, we email each other of course talking about the process, what we learn, how we get on, modifications we are considering but also potential new patterns we should try. We will probably post one post together with our final garment, and another one explaining the modifications made to adapt them to our current shapes. 

Our first pattern is the TOVA from Wiksten. The patterns has already been adapted by pregnant sewers a few times, so we knew it was possible - a safe bet. 

And as expected it works for both of us, with a minimum of modifications to be honest, and without changing the look/shape of it. It is an easy to wear top/dress, full of beautiful finishing touches. There are a couple of tricky sewing points (attaching the front and the collar mainly). 

You can find Michelle's blog here
It is of course a shape that works very well for our shape - a A-line top with good proportions, a nice neckline, and it is really super comfortable to wear.It is a simple tunic, a gathered yoke and gathered 3/4 length sleeve - that can be easily adapted to any style. 

This is both our first time sewing Jenny’s patterns. We already talked about finishing details but the attention to them is amazing: the way she finishes hems & cuffs for instance. Her design feels refined and it felt like we were making high quality garment as we worked through her instructions.

We would rate this an intermediate pattern - there are few tricky bits and a lot of finishing to do, especially if you go for French seams as we did. However it is quite a quick sewing project to get a top that will always be a classic shape in the end. We can definitely see more Tovas in our future! 

Have you made a Tova? What was your experience? For our own modifications, check out our blogs in the course of the week! We have chosen our next pattern, now comes the choice of fabrics - always an exciting part!