Tag Archives: recycling

Secret birthday project #1: The Test Card quilt

26 Feb

We spent a lovely day at my parents yesterday, and I got to give dad his birthday presents.

Last year I asked dad for his old work shirts, to make him a quilt. It was just before his birthday and I hadn’t finished my first quilt yet, so I knew I wouldn’t get it done in time. I stuck them in the bottom of the airing cupboard and almost forgot they were there.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago, when my quilting bug struck again, and I found them while digging through fabric for my Village Cricket quilt (for some reason, quilts have to have names in this house).

It seemed rather self indulgent to be making a quilt for me, when I still hadn’t started dad’s so I bit the bullet.

Once I’d cut up the shirts into usable fabric pieces I thought might work together I laid them out, thinking they could be a Log Cabin design (not all of these are his shirts btw).


But I wanted to make a ‘man’ quilt, and this arrangement seemed too fiddly and fussy for dad.

Instead, I settled on a plan of 7in wide squares and rectangles, in a random layout. To break it up a bit I made some 7in square(ish) blocks out of swatches from Deckchair Stripes.

This is what they looked like, nested in the gingham bag they came in. Love it!


I bought a whole pack for £15, which I thought was a bargain for 60 strips, and used about a fifth of them, settling on blues, with a few bright colours.


They’re all named after sports. Darts was my favourite.

A lot of the swatches were wonky, so I did some evening up, being very fussy about squaring off the shapes.


Which left me with this little pretty pile.


Then I sewed them into threes.


And cut them into squares.


The blocks took an afternoon, but were perfect for the bright zings of colour the quilt needed, among the grey, black and dark red check of dad’s shirts.


Then I laid it out, and pieced it in a couple of evenings. And here it is. (Well, the top anyway)

I’ve not finished the quilting yet (luckily, dad is the patient type). I’m using bright blue embroidery thread (DMC 995), again, to add a flash of colour.

It reminded me of the BBC Test Card (although when I looked it up, I thought, not so much actually).

The quilt is backed with a soft flannel sheet so it’s ultra snuggly, and once again, the wadding is good old Bamboo Blend.

He seemed to like it. Yay!


Love your buttons, change your buttons

14 Feb

Cheap clothes = nasty buttons. Sad but true.

My cheap clothes come from charity shops, so they’re cheap for a different reason, but often they still can’t escape the nasty button curse. Evidence, if you will…


Yes this top is a little bobbly, but I love it, and it’s got loads of wear left.

Quick fix.


Get an AMAZING button, like this one (I wish I could remember where it’s from. I still have one left – try The Button Queen for similar).

Carefully cut off the old button. You’ll probably find the buttonhole is slightly the wrong size for your new button, so cut the hole a millimetre at a time (on the inner edge of the garment) or sew it up a little (on the outer edge of the garment). Both these fixes will move the button away from the garment edge. Maybe sew around the edge of the buttonhole for good measure to neaten it.

(Handsewn button holes are way prettier than factory sewn ones)

Sew on your new button, and finish by winding the thread around the bottom of the button, and fasten off.


This will raise the button from the surface of the garment slightly, so it’ll sit nicer.

Stand back and admire your lovely new garment. A nice button will make you happier if you are wearing it, than if it’s in a button jar.

I am obsessed with buttonholes and buttons at the mo, as I’ve just written all about them for the next issue of The Knitter  – it hits the shops on February 21 if you need to know more…

Happy New Year! And a resolution…

1 Jan

2011 was a year full of lots of things. Lots of adventures, lots of work, lots of change. But, unlike in previous years, there was supposed to be less of something too – buying yarn.

But my stash doesn’t really seem to have diminished, partly because I now get new yarn to try out for work (yep, I know what you’re thinking, poor me), and also due to working with other yarn for my designs. OK, and yes, because I bought some, although not much, honest.

As of today, this is about a third of what I actually own. Doesn’t look too scary, does it?


Although it does rather explode when you unpack it…


Juliet Bernard, my lovely editor at The Knitter, spent the whole of 2011 on a yarn diet (including a trip to the knitting mecca that is Norway, which I think would have driven anyone to the brink), but as of today she is allowed to buy yarn again.

Well, if she can do it, I can too. can’t I? (No laughing please)

So, for 2012, I have a list of promises. Here goes…

1) I will NOT buy yarn.

OK, that’s long enough! I originally had a whole host of other good intentions, but as this one is going to be tough enough to follow on its own, I don’t think I should try any harder to set myself up for a fall.

As I’ve only been knitting seriously for about 7 years, I can get all my stash into three big boxes, including the one above –

However, THIS is what happens when these things get out of hand…(click on the pic for the full story)

(c) Mochimochiland

Yes, I think 2012 is going to require a LOT of willpower, but every time I feel myself wavering I will look at this picture and remind myself why I’m abstaining. Wish me luck!

PS. You can read more about my adventures in stashbusting on The Knitter website throughout 2012.

Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland

15 Sep

Since I posted about the TotterdownFront Room Art Trail last week, things have, err, gone a bit nutso round here! To say the idea to bring yarnbombing to the streets of Totterdown has gone down a (yarn) storm is something of an understatement.

Find out lots more on our new official blog for Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland, and get involved people!


By the way, our lovely new poster war designed by the uber-talented Joff Winterhart. What a clever chap!

Autumn’s here. Time for chutney

12 Sep


I don’t normally ‘cull’ green tomatoes for chutney this early, but the fruit on one of my plants got so heavy that the weight pulled it over (even though it was staked!) and damaged the main stalk so much that the toms started to rot on the vine, so I picked the rest. I could have waited for them to ripen inside, but it’s getter cooler now, and that means it’s time to make the Christmas chutney.


I washed the fruit, plus the last of our scrumped apples

…and chopped it all up with a couple of onions – I had about 2kg of tomatoes, and 3kg of apples (after coring and peeling).

Added 500g or demerara sugar and 500ml of vinegar – I used up the white wine and cider vinegars at the back of our spice cupboard.

Cooked it for 3 hours on a lowish heat (with lots of stirring in the last hour to stop it sticking and burning), and mashed it up a bit at the end to make it spreadable.


Then spooned it into sterilised jars – I boil them for a few minutes, but you can do them in the dishwasher too. Added cellophane and labels once it had cooled.

It’ll go in the preserves cupboard now (where it’s cool) and come out at Christmas to play with the ham. There will be pretty homemade fabric covers too for the few I’ll give as presents, but that can wait. For now, it needs to sit in the dark, and get tasty. Mmmmmmmm.

Yarnbombing, hazard tape, Southville Bridge, Bristol

1 Sep

Storm and I went on a little expedition yesterday to see the new M Shed museum in the city docks.

On the way we found this cheeky ‘hazard tape’ yarn bombing on Southville Bridge.

It struck me as both uber-fab and also strangely familiar.

Sure enough, I had seen it before, on Twee As Volk, a blog by a Bristol knitter I bumped into on the Totterdown Front Room art trail a few years ago.

(Oops – dodgy focus!)

Johanna is a frequent, and imaginative yarnbomber, bringing a little fun to many corners of Bristol city centre and docks.

Keep up the great work!

(I think you have a new fan by the way…)

Best chicken stock ever

23 Aug

Chicken stock is like a magic ingredient. I haven’t quite reached the stage as using it as a sauce for ice-cream. But I have thought about it.

Want to make the best chicken stock ever? Here’s how.

First, save up your bones.

It’s far nicer to cook up stock when you feel like it than when you’ve just made a roast, cleared up and frankly, could do with a little sit down and possibly a nap.

So freeze your chicken carcass for (literally) a rainy day, when you can stay home for a few hours and potter while it does its thing.

Leftover bits from drumsticks/ wings are fine too – just keep them all in the freezer.

Normally I make chicken stock because it’s got to the point that I can’t fit anything else in my freezer (it’s not very big). But hey, hopefully you’re more organised than me.

So, feeling like a virtuous cookathon? Then take your chickeny goodies and stick them in the biggest pot you can find. You don’t need to unfreeze them.



A few onions – halved. Don’t peel them, but do take off any muddy bits or stringy roots

Carrots, topped and tailed if they’re looking very tired.

Celery. That wilting bit in the back of the fridge is fine.

Bay leaves (if you have them)


Any other bits and pieces you think might work.

Add all this to your stock pot along with enough cold water to cover everything.


Now bring to the boil (with the lid on), turn it down and let it simmer on a medium heat for 3 hours.

Take the lid off and simmer gently for another 3 hours.

Strain the liquid through a colander or large sieve into a smaller pan  – you’ll still have loads at this point.

Simmer on lowest heat until you’ve got about 500ml to 1l. You want to have enough to fill 1 to 2 ice cube trays.

Allow to cool a bit and then pour into ice cube trays. Bung back in the freezer.

That’s it! Amazing chicken stock, with virtually no faff, no messing, and in a very convenient end format. Apologies for the lack of ‘after’ photos. It was dark by the time I finished this time!

Because the stock is so concentrated, 1 or 2 ice cubes will be enough for any meal you want to add it to. Even ice cream…