Monday, 20 December 2010

Catching up with Lizz again

It's been a while since I caught up with Lizz's year of eco-challenge. If you're new to this blog site and have no idea what this is, you can read the first posting (which explains the whole thing) and the second, third and fourth posts to catch up.

Her adventures for August and September are now up on her section of the Faith and Climate Change website. For August the challenge was "Wear or use something I have made everyday."

Lizz is a great maker-of-things, practises many handicrafts, and loves discovering new skills to try out and make use of. She writes:
"Although I’ve done metalwork and woodwork in the past, made soap from scratch, learnt about how to make shoes, woven baskets and made several rugs and cushions what I mostly do now is make clothes."
In order to check out what it might mean to use something she's made, every day, she looks round her flat and lits the things she can see that she's made herself:
Wooden picture frame, Copper pot with a fitted lid, Firepoker, Hammer, Candlestick, Soap, Soapdish, Bookcase, Several quilts, Wooden picture portfolio, Felt slippers, Large wooden spoon, A few bags, Curtains, Tablecloths, Scritchy pads for washing up (made from the little nylon string bags that fruit and veg come in), A few bits of jewellery (including a fabulous necklace made from mother of pearl buttons), Lots of clothes.
She enjoys walking round Birmingham's Rag Market, looking at the wealth of fabrics available there, and discovers that Clothkits has relaunched (if you remember Clothkits from its previous incarnation, you know how old you are!).

When she looks back at how well she achieved her challenge during the month, she lists:
Week 1: I use the curtain in the bathroom every day! This week I have worn the groovy new cardigan, a pinafore I made a few years ago from free fabric, 3 different skirts, some trousers, and a scarf. I also used my home-made hammer to break open a money bank to pay for an archaeology dig I’m going on.
Week 2: The cardigan again, plus another I made last year; a skirt I made a while ago (from a sari) and I made a shirt; another pair of trousers, a headscarf and a headband; the fabulous necklace and the bag I made from a pair of jeans.
Week 3: Clothkits skirt worn this week and am now making a shirt to go with it; the shirt made last week, and a long waistcoat I knitted a few years ago.
Week 4: This week I’m in Uzbekhistan! So I’ve taken all kinds of home made skirts and two shirts and two long scarves I’ve made. I’m using a shoulder bag I’ve made, and a purse-belt and a slightly weird hat with a huge brim that I made a few years ago.

Reflecting on what she learnt from the month, Lizz writes:
"It was a challenge but it was nice too. Each time I wore something or used something I made I felt this nice sense of achieving something. When I was camping at the start of the summer I had time to cut things out and pin them together – then when I was back at home I had time to sew them with the machine. When I was on holiday at the end of the month several people commented on my nice/interesting clothes and accessories! Sweet."
You can read the whole of her August post.

For September, Lizz's challenge was: "Make all your cards and presents for Christmas, birthdays, Eid or whatever as well as for the year ahead and give something away every day!"

So this is more in the handicrafts area - make all of them - so no buying of cards or presents! I know from experience that Lizz is a great giver of presents, so this is no small challenge. I also know from experience that making things to deadlines (like people's birthdays) is a real downer on the enjoyment of the creative process. Lizz writes: Looking back at how she met the challenges during the month, Lizz reflects:

For my Dad – rather than do a big present I usually do some kind of stocking of smaller things. For his 80th birthday a few years ago rather than get a present we did something together each month – to the theatre or the cinema or to the footie [for non-UK readers, that means football!] or to an exhibition or festival. It was great! A whole collection of memories and good times spent together.
For my friends – well counting up I usually give things to about 16 people for Christmas, Eid, Yule, or Hanukkah, and to about 20 people or so throughout the year for birthdays. Actually what often happens is that it goes in cycles – one year everyone got scarves, another year it was hats, some years its soaps and scritchy things, some years it’s food . . . What shall I make this year?

Week 1: For Dad I am making him first of all a new Christmas stocking as the one he currently uses has been on the go for about 25 years and though it is fine I think he might like one that is slightly easier to get things out of!
For my friends I’ve started a hot water bottle cover, a pair of socks, a cushion cover and some fun soap strings. Most of these took next to no time – except the socks – I’ve got as far as turning a heel on the first one. I’ve also decided to make some fingerless mittens for one or two people – someone gave me some very nice wool which will make a lovely pair!
And what have I given away? This week I have given away a DVD, three books, a skirt to a charity shop, a shirt to friend of mine who has coveted it for ages, and some knitting needles. That wasn’t so hard!

Week 2: For my Dad – I’ve decanted some sloe gin into a nice bottle and made a nice label. I’ve also got some marmalade I made earlier in the year and done a cool label for that too. Maybe one of the things I give him will be a sort of mini-food hamper? That sounds quite nice. He likes jam and chutney and I have made both of those this year. This week I’ve finished sock one and started sock two. I’ve made the hottie [means hot-water bottle!] cover and finished the cushion and started a knitted bag to be decorated with mother of pearl buttons. I’ve also started a button necklace, a knitted christmas pudding cover (for a chocolate orange) some mini knitted christmas puddings to go over Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and three tea-cosies! Hmm this sounds like a slightly crazy knit fest!
One of the things I know is don’t give yourself impossible knitting (or other ‘make it’ deadlines), Stephanie Pearl Mcpheethe yarn harlothas some hilarious stories about knitting against deadlines and the ways in which promised jumpers became pullovers and long socks got shorter as the day of delivery got closer. Because of a Christmas deadline and a yarn supply crisis I once knitted a pullover in about 32 hours and I will never do that again. I also once knitted a single sock for a christmas present and gave the other one for a birthday present and managed to make virtue of my terrible knitting management through linking the gifts . . . I suppose I’m thinking about it a bit now because if I start now I’ve a couple of months until Christmas and although traditionally Quakers don’t make a big thing about Christmas there are friends I like to honour by doing something for them. It’s also starting to be birthday season!
And given away? A cloak, three more books, some blue and white china, two pairs of wellies, two scarves, two bags, a hat – so I’ve managed more than one thing a day this week. I don’t think anyone has spotted I’m giving things away more specifically than usual.

Week 3: This week I went to Paris for a few days and with two books in hand I went in search of lots of fabulous craft, artisan and arty places. I met some other women in a cafe (they are regulars there and I had read about them on line) who are big guerilla knitters (also called yarn bombing) – they knit covers for lamp-posts, buses, velibs (Paris's public bicycles), everything! I’d taken some wool to donate to their latest project (a cover for one of the bridges over the Seine) it was like a passport to a whole afternoon of friendship and we exchanged knitting tips and ideas til late in the day. The other book I took was a Frommer’s Guide Paris Free and Dirt Cheap; it is the business for a thrifty like me. This week I have finished sock two, the knitted bag, the Christmas pudding covers, one of the tea cosies, and the button necklace. I’ve started a small quilt picture – not sure who for yet and I’ve also had a moment of illumination about what to give a friend of mine for a birthday – hurrah.
And given away? The wool to the wild knitters, a piece of jewellery, some little things from Paris, another pair of wellies, another pair of knitting needles, a DVD, a CD, a mirror and a small stuffed toy.

Week 4: Whoopee this week is my birthday - several people have given me things which were made through some kind of recycling and one of my friends gave me knitting wool and a new book of patterns! How nice! I went to stay with some friends (one of whom had just had a birthday – socks, little mat with a puffin on it, and a little smellie). This week I finished everything I’d been knitting or sewing, or making or ‘creating’. I had a few days of feeling very smug and then realised I had managed to miss one of my friends birthdays – oooops. This is especially silly as I’d had an idea for it ages ago and even started it but it’s been sitting on my desk at work for weeks waiting for me to finish it. Drat.
And what did I give away? Birthday presents to my friend, a couple of hardback books to a local library, another DVD, some beads, a small bookcase (via Freegle), a dress, a saucepan, and a tray.

Reflecting on what she learnt during the month, Lizz writes:
Overall, what I learnt is that there is much to be said for planning ahead for presents, gifts and cards – I mean, it’s outrageous cards often cost £3, and a home made one is not only much cheaper but often carries far more meaning – even if you’re rubbish at art there are stickers and printing stamps these days which make the process much easier. Collages can be good, as can photos stuck onto card. In terms of gifts it used to be considered cheapskate to make things but not any more – now it’s very on trend and you can even work the whole 'knit in public' thing if you’ve got the nerve. I also learnt that a tiny bit of ribbon and wrapping makes the whole thing even better – I often use maps, newspaper or bits of inflight magazines to wrap presents and I keep bits of ribbon and scraps of silk in a special tin. I keep the best postcards, christmas cards and birthday cards from year to year and turn them into tags etc. Yes you might say this all takes time – but the alternative is work hard, earn money, buy mass produced see everywhere things and wrapping for them and give them away or work less, have more time, make amazing individual and one off things and wrapping paper and give them away! Or give things from which people can make things!
All this is only an extract - you can read the whole of Lizz's own post.

As I'm writing this in December (and you're reading it goodness-knows-when!) it's probably to late to make
this year's Christmas presents - unless it's an orgy of mince pies. But it's never too early to plan for next year!

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I'm taking a break now, over Christmas and New Year - see you again in January!
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