Four Weeks Later…

So for four weeks of August we put aside most of the unrecycleable plastic we would normally throw away. What didn’t get put aside was all the medication blister packs – Paul realise they counted as non-recyclable packaging to collect for the month.

I’ve divided everything into categories:

Packaging other people left here:
Ice-cream container – black plastic
Lids from soda bottles – black plastic, too small

Packaging my council says not to put in our bin despite the numbers being right (grrr!):
Clear biscuit trays

Junk mail:
Fridge magnet from real estate agent

Non-regular trash:
Cosmetics and bathroom items from cull

Everything else:
Toothpaste tube
Disposable razor
Wire ties x 2
Porridge sachet packaging – plastic lined
Butter packaging – plastic lined
Olive oil spray – no recycling info on can
Moisturiser bottle – bottle is recyclable but pump not
Pizza sauce container – lid is too small
Christmas pudding packaging – black plastic
Lite’n’easy packaging – black plastic
Yoghurt container lid – black plastic
Various lids and caps – too small
Packaging from electronic items x 2
Latex free glove
Light globe
Lightery thing

Changes we’re making:
I’ve read that anything smaller than your fist will fall through the sorting machine at the recyclers, so I’m putting these into larger containers of the same kind of plastic, and labelling the container to indicate this. Hopefully that’ll get them through the system.

The sorting machines can’t see black plastic, so we’re switching yoghurt and diet meal brands to ones that don’t use it. Christmas pudding is only a yearly indulgence and the container is a really good size scoop for potting mix, seed raising mix, etc., so those will be repurposed.

We’re changing the brand of butter to one that uses paper, and Paul is switching to Quick Oats which come in a cardboard box.

I’ve bought a metal razor. This is gonna be interesting. Paul is not keen on the idea. Fair enough. He does a lot more shaving than me!

The only biscuits we buy are crackers for cheese. I made oat cakes and they came out great. Don’t know why I didn’t try that sooner.

We were already buying carbonated drinks in cans and glass bottles, since large plastic bottles make you drink more than you really want because you feel like you need to ‘use it up’. To avoid ending up with lots of bottles here after parties we’re going to supply cans for gatherings and tell people we’ve got drinks covered.

We’ll just use olive oil and avoid the spray.

The pizza sauce was a one-off for a party. Normally I buy little cans and freeze the leftovers. I’m going to repurpose the sauce bottle for homemade okonomiyaki sauce, to avoid the non-recyclable bottles it comes in. (I’m also going to make the mayonnaise, which is even simpler.)

I’m going to do what Mum used to do with rubber gloves – cut them into rubber bands. They’ll be good for holding the beeswax wraps I made onto the tops of containers.

The ice cream container can collect batteries for recycling at Aldi, and the wire ties will be reused when we get bread from the bakery.

Medication blister packs can be dropped off to Terra Cycle collection points, so we’ll start collecting them now. I bought paracetamol and ibuprofen in recyclable bottles… but the bottles are smaller than my fist and the caps have no plastic number on them so I may as well stick with blister packs.

I believe there are Terra Cycle collection points for dental products, too. I’ve offered to collect friends’ cosmetic packaging to send to Terra Cycle at the end of the year, or when I have 7kg worth.

Overall we didn’t have an awful lot of non-recyclable packaging over the four weeks, but most of what we did get can be pretty easily avoided – or send to Terra Cycle. It’s been interesting and educational looking into alternatives.

I want to ring the real estate agent and tell them to stop sending us stuff, but I know Paul will be really sad when he doesn’t get his free hot cross buns at Easter. Do schools like to make stuff out of those flat plastic fridge magnets?

Wow.

The second series of The War on Waste has got many of my friends interested in reducing their waste, and it’s great to see their enthusiasm. Many hadn’t watched the first season so they’re catching up on iView, and we have a Facebook groups in which we post links, ideas and successes.

It’s opened my eyes to how much further down the waste reduction path I am to many people I know. Like… 25+ years ahead. When I consider why, I realise it’s partly due to some of the people at my first job, and partly due to Mum.

In the 90s, encouraged by work mates, I bought a pair of jute shopping bags and started refusing plastic bags (those jute bags lasted 15 or so years and got a lot of use). I’ve been trying to buy only products in recyclable containers and nurturing a hatred of polystyrene and glad wrap since those days, encouraged by my Mum, who went through a green phase a few years laster.

As soon as I owned a house I began composting, and I’ve been minimising my food waste for so long (for economic reasons) that we rarely throw anything out. We use household cleaning products that are gentle on the environment (also because of allergies). More recently I switched to homemade deodorant after finding I couldn’t get sensitive skin products in travel sizes. I bought produce bags and made some more, and made washable makeup wipes.

The biggest change the WoW show made to us was revealing that soft plastic recycling existed. I’ve been amazed at how much we end up putting in the RedCycle bins, and how empty our landfill bin is as a result.

The second season’s lesson has been to point out the devil in the detail – the contamination in the recycling bin and the amount of recyclable plastic that goes in landfill anyway. Discovering that black plastic can’t be seen by the sorting machines, and that small objects like bottle caps may fall through the system, and that my council doesn’t take biscuit or meat trays even though they have the right numbers on them, has had me thinking about avoiding those plastics altogether.

But I doubt I can. Not when medications come in non-recyclable packaging.

So I decided I’d put aside every piece of non-recyclable packaging we’d normally toss in the trash for August. I’ll try hardest to find an alternative. At first most of what we gathered was brought to our house by guests, but I know as the weeks pass it will be taken over by our own contributions.

My second priority is reducing unnecessary plastic packaging. If there’s a non-plastic alternative we get that instead (though I’ve conceded to Paul’s insistence that we won’t buy alternatives that are double the price). To aid that we’ll take our own containers to shops, use the green grocer, butcher and baker instead of the supermarket, and go to the farmer’s market and the bulk store a few suburbs away. All things I did more of in the past.

There will be some packaging that it’s too hard or impossible to avoid. That’s inevitable. But it seems each year there’s another bunch of alternatives or solutions.

And if there’s a third season of The War on Waste I’ll probably review what we’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t, and see if we can improve again.

Housebound

A couple of months ago Paul started getting severe back pain and sciatica from a bulging disc. Several visits to the doctor, pilates, physio, medication, a scan and a cortizone injection later he has improved, but in a ‘wait and see if this lasts’ way.

As the weeks passed, with Paul unable to sit let alone drive, it became pretty clear that some of our plans for the rest of the year had to be shelved. Then a few weekends ago I drove us to a family birthday celebration, with Paul lying on the passenger seat with the back fully down, and after two hours driving on roads that seemed to constantly require gear changes plantar fasciitis reared it’s ugly head again.

So suddenly neither of us could drive. At that point I either cancelled, or warned of likely cancellation, everything else on the calendar.

And that’s also when I decided to try online grocery shopping. Which has been… interesting. I didn’t want to shop with Coles since they deliver orders in plastic bags. Finding online stores that use minimal packaging took a bit of googling, but I soon located a bulk store a few suburbs away and a grocery store with a policy of avoiding as much plastic as possible.

Fortunately Paul can now drive for short trips, and I’m tentatively driving his car now and then, which is an automatic so at least my left foot gets a break. We’re both hoping life will get back to normal soon, but only very cautiously committing to outings.

You’d think I’d be getting lots of craft done, but I’ve done almost nothing. This is because I was doing the household tasks that Paul usually does and taking him to appointments. But it’s also because shopping at online stores and watching the War on Waste second season had me trying things like cooking up and freezing beans and lentils and making beeswax wraps. And it’s birthday season in my family. And there has been some house and garden work happening, too.

And I am chasing a work deadline as well as dealing with lots of little publicity tasks for the paperback release of my last book.

It’s amazing how tired you can be at the end of a day spent avoiding being on your feet.

Which I have to say, I’m not managing to do as much as I should be.

And That’s That… Mat

The yarn used in this project had been knitted, stained accidentally by being spun dry with another garment that lost colour, overdyed to hide the stain – which partially fulled and shrank it, then frogged. Honestly, I was close to tossing it in my stash cull, but then I remembered that I wanted to make a mat for the brick edge in front of the heater, which is in a nice position for warming oneself up but rather cold on the posterior.

It seemed like a good opportunity to try out flat panel knitting on Chew-bacca. I set up the machine and started. The balls of yarn are made up of short lengths knotted together. After four tries to get a panel cranking I gave up. The furthest I got before stitches started dropping was about ten rows. No idea why, but I suspect the yarn is to blame. Having to take the yarn out of the guide to let the knots through was probably creating inconsistent tension.

I nearly tossed the yarn out, then and there, but I still had the option of weaving it instead. I wanted a thick fabric, however. When I remembered that I had a batch of long rug warp left over from an earlier project the answer came to me: beating hard to make a weft-faced fabric.

So I dug out the cotton and warped up the knitter’s loom, wound the yarn onto shuttles and got weaving. It was good, brainless plain weaving and after a couple of days I had this:

Which I’m ambivalent about, to tell the truth. It does what it was meant to, but I don’t think it’s particularly attractive. The cat likes it, or at least he likes the fire and the mat makes the bricks less cold to sit on.

I only used up half the yarn and since I had no great wish to weave another mat from it, or anything to be honest, I tossed the rest. At least it’s a natural fibre, and will decompose. And it got the stash total down a little more.

Dyeing to Knit

The Squares Jacket got me thinking about how I’d like some new knits in my wardrobe. Of course, I can’t hand knit any but I could drag out the Bond Sweater Machine. But did I have any yarn that would work? And patterns that wouldn’t be too hard to do on the knitting machine?

The stash presented two possibilities: either I finally get around to dyeing and knitting the 1.5 kilos of cormo yarn, or I combine smaller batches of yarn to get enough for a garment.

The cormo yarn has intimidated me since I bought it, because it is beautifully soft and therefore easy to ruin when dyeing (and I know I’ll have to dye it because I don’t want a big fluffy white garment or blanket), and I know the maker had some trouble getting it to dye evenly.

The smaller batches were a mix of frogged projects and leftover yarn. Some I’d already matched up. But once I removed anything that wasn’t machine washable I had to reconsider those matches. Some were flat colours, others were variegated from previous dye jobs.

I bought and printed a few patterns and studied them, seeing how well they’d adapt to being knit on a machine. Hand knitters tend to prefer knitting in the round these days, but increases on knitting machines are easier done on the sides, so I have to divide patterns up into smaller pieces and sew then together. The first pattern I looked at turned out to be knit from the top down with raglan sleeves, and trying to convert it did my head in so I abandoned it. I found two more that would work. One was for 10ply, so I decided the cormo would be for that. The other was for 8ply, so it would be for the mixed batch of yarns.

Then a couple of hours dyeing turned into a day of frustrated plans.

The first mistake was mixing up a batch of orange dye by accident, because the label had faded to yellow. I wanted to overdye a blue yarn with yellow to make a variegated green. So I set the orange aside and started again. Only instead of a nice green I got khaki. So I overdyed that with a blue. Which worked but left me with a much darker result than I’d intended.

The dye bath was still very blue so I tipped it into the orange and got a nice forest green. I divided it in half, diluted it and dyed the cormo in two batches. The first batch came out looking great but most of the dye rinsed out and I was left with… various intensities of orange.

So I grabbed the remnants of another blue and some magenta and black sample packs and threw them into some fresh water, divided it into quarters, and dyed the cormo again in hanks of three. It came out… a very pale patchy mauve with dark purple areas and some lingering orange bits.

Which was better. I noticed, as I squeezed out the hanks, that the water beaded off the surface of the yarn. So maybe it still has lanolin in it. Well, I don’t mind the mauve-with-orange bits result, and I don’t seem to have ruined the yarn, and the blue-green is okay, so ultimately I got what I needed.

Now for the machine knitting bit…

Wear

While knitting garments, back when I used to knit by hand, I was probably not thinking too much about what state they’d be in after five or ten years. I was more worried about whether they’d fit properly! I realise now that I expected that, if everything else went well in the making, by creations would last a lifetime.

Not so much, it turns out.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how expensive the yarn was, or if it came from a high end brand. That’s no guarantee it won’t shrink or felt with wear and washing. Wear mostly. I wash my woollens very carefully. The Squares Jacket was knit from Jo Sharp yarn. Here it is now:

I can no longer blame putting on a few kilos for it not fitting well. The sleeves are about 5cm shorter. I doubt my arms got longer in the last 12 years.

Wear.

I suppose that’s the rub (no pun intended). Wear will felt wool as well as rough washing. I don’t feel like I got enough wear out of this jacket, though. I’m sad that we’re parting.

I’ve considered adding a panel at the sides and underarms, but the sleeves will still be too short. I’ve considered using the sleeves to widen the body at the sides and make it a vest but I have no yarn to finish the armhole edges and I have more than enough vests for someone who doesn’t wear them much. And the jacket really is a bit too felted. I wouldn’t give it to the op shop. I’ve considered throwing it in the machine to properly felt it then sewing something out of the felted fabric… but what?

At least it’s a natural fibre and will break down if I throw it out.

I am sad, but more than that… as my collection of handknit garments dwindles it reminds me that I can’t just get out the needles and add more. My hands, too, have suffered irreversible damage from wear.

Though I could set up the Bond and get creative will what I make just shrink and felt over the next few years anyway? If I look at the garments that are still in good shape at least I can note which yarns have stood up to wear and seek them out again. Or find the leftovers in my stash and combine them.

Which is where I headed next. Away went the sewing machine and out came the Bond Sweater Machine. And the dyepot. Stay tuned.

Black Denim Skirt

After finishing the Pinstripe Skirt I still had the sewing vibe and the idea of making a gored skirt out of old jeans was next on my list. The working week had started though, so I tackled the skirt in steps. Between breakfast and starting work I enlarging the pattern. I made it 20 years ago but had grown out of the skirt I’d sewn from it. At lunchtime I cut out the pieces.

I managed to get everything out of two pairs of jeans, though it meant the waistband was in three pieces. In the late afternoon I got sewing. This was made faster by having preserved the side seams of the jeans legs.

I didn’t finish it that day. It wasn’t until later in the week that I got the waistband, hem, buttonholes and buttons done.

Here’s the finished piece:

I’m very happy with it.

Do I still have the sewing vibe? Yes and no. The itch to weave is returning, and I’ve felt a twinge of interest in machine knitting. Both are due to winter approaching and wanting to add to my knitwear choices.

Feeling Sew Sew

To get myself into the zone for sewing the Pinstripe Skirt I did an overview of all the sewing projects awaiting my time and enthusiasm. These included both refashioning projects and ones I’d make from scratch. When I had everything together, I laid all the projects out on the kitchen table and considered if I really wanted to make them or I was simply determined to use the fabric or refashion the garment.

A man’s shirt went into the op shop pile, another two were put away in the rag rug box – I have more than enough clothing made from Paul’s old shirts now. One polyester top went in too, and another will join it if I decide I still don’t like the fit.

Then I wrote a list of what was left over, divided it into seasons and put winter ones at the top and summer ones at the bottom. No point rushing into making summer clothing when I won’t wear it for six months.

Next I reordered by priority. The Pinstripe Skirt stayed on top because I plan to wear it to a Guild meeting in which the weaving group is going to show some of what our members make. It was harder to decide what to do next, so I chose projects that were ready to go – no dyeing or shopping for fittings required. Rustling up the black jeans I wanted to make a skirt out of reminded me that the box of denim scraps and old jeans doesn’t close any more, so I decided that project would be next.

The rest were ordered by how keen I was to make them. I stacked the projects up in order in a basket and turned to the sewing machine.

To warm up the sewing brain cells I did some mending, like replacing elastic in a slip and redoing a waistband. Then I gathered my courage and tackled the Pinstripe Skirt, telling myself what the teacher of the Sewing with Handwovens course had said: “it’s only fabric”. I finished it on Day Two.

To my surprise, I was still keen to start the next project. Last time I did some sewing I got fed up with it after a couple of days. What I did next I’ll save for another post.

Raffia Revamp

Waaaaay back in my 20s I did a two day short course on raffia hatmaking. I remember the first class was all about the braiding, with the teacher constantly urging us to “weave tighter!”. She told us to keep braiding our stash of raffia at home, and the next week we used hat forms to sew the braids into hat shapes.

I particularly remember I wound up with double the amount of braid than I needed and very sore hands.

So after my hands had healed I decided to see if I could make another hat. Since I didn’t have a hat form I made a boater-style hat – straight sided so no need to get the dome shape right. It came out a bit tight, unfortunately, so I figured I’d give it away.

It never found a head that fit and wanted it. The hat from the class did fit and I wore it quite a bit. But recently I put it on and realised it had shrunk. So I decided to unpick and resew the braid a bit looser, and completely resew the boater hat.

Then followed a long, boring and fruitless search for suitable raffia. In the end I gave up and used some waxed linen thread I’d bought for coiled baskets. It worked fine.

First I tackled the braid from the boater hat. It took a lot of unsewing and resewing, but eventually I got a shape I liked that fit. Then I unpicked the braid of the class hat back to a row before the brim and resewed it a little looser, reusing the raffia it had been originally stitched with. I ran the raffia across some beeswax I used to use for bookbinding thread, and that made it much easier to stitch with.

They’re not as tightly sewn as they were the first time, but I figure the few gaps are air-conditioning. I should get plenty more wear out of the class hat, and I love the shape of the new one, so it’s finally going to get some use.

I have to say, though. I’d be happy if another 20 years passed before I made another raffia hat.

A Tidy Space Oddity

A few weeks ago I was feeling poorly, so for something to do I backed up this blog. Well, not in the usual way. Looking at the backups WordPress does, I couldn’t see how I would ever access the entries if I ever needed just the contents. So I cut and paste the contents of every month into a Word document – which is how I used to back up when this was a Blogger blog.

When I was done I skim read through the blog from the start. That was… interesting. It’s easy to feel like I am some kind of crazy person obsessed with making stuff when I read an entire year’s entries in one sitting! The blog has seen lots of changes, from RSI forcing me to give up knitting to passing phases of craft-related internet phenomenon (blogs, podcasts, ravelry, pinterest).

It put me in a strange, fed-up mood, so that once I had a little energy again I began tidying up and finishing things. The Taupe Jacket lining got sewn so I could put the machines away. Materials I’d gathered for a talk at the Guild that was cancelled got packed away as I was sick of them taking up space waiting to see if it would be rescheduled. I finished spinning the banana fibre after not touching the wheel for many months, to see if I should pack the wheel away.

I decided this mood might be good for culling so I started halfheartedly tidying the craft room. I started with jewellery supplies, moved on to refashioning projects and finally tackled the accumulation of carry bags around the house. In the middle of it I wound up in the garage, where I made the biggest impact – all the basketry materials I accumulated early last year went into the green waste bin.

Other than that I didn’t get rid of much. Mostly I put stuff away or stored it better. While the result was satisfying, I suspect if I had more energy and time I could have done a lot more.

I have the WIP list down to just three items now, but I’ll be starting a few weaving projects soon so that isn’t going to last long!