Thursday, 13 June 2013

Our Throw-Away Society

 Banshee keeping warm with part of my wool stash!

I am old enough to have grown up in a time when the old wartime adage of Make-Do-And-Mend was not only remembered, but actively practiced.    Naturally, it is a code of practice we have always lived by, and it seems, as I get older, it is even more important, especially in the Recession, and when finally, living frugally is deemed to be hip and trendy (hah - something I never was before!!!)

The obvious things of throwing vegetable trimmings etc on your compost heap (never a properly-kept one, I have to say, but it rewards us all the same), growing your own fruit and vegetables (when the slugs and the weather let us) and not wasting anything are like the breath of life itself here.  Rarely have we bought anything NEW for this house - all the furniture bar nothing has come from auctions or car boot sales - I think it's called "pre-owned" or "pre-loved" now (v. trendy!)  Now and again we "trade up" and sell one thing to help finance the purchase of something better. 

I got some brand new kitchen curtains from a charity shop recently.  They were - of course - a tad too short, so I took some dark green glazed cotton I had had in my stash for about 15 years now, and put a deep border on them and they look perfect (it was fortunate there was dark green in the pattern).   We bought some long curtains at a car boot sale, hoping they were long enough for our bedroom, but no . . .  The linings were marked, so I have recycled the lot - metres and metres of good curtain material, several feet of header tape to re-use, and the linings went for dust sheets and have already been used up the stairs (we have builders in).  My old kitchen curtains which I made using Laura Ashley material (couldn't afford it now!) over 20 years ago are now faded at the edges, but the linings and header tape is still good, so will be re-used, and the LA material will have the faded edges trimmed off and put on one side.

My husband restoring an old rocking chair which had been painted.

I bought some beautiful cotton fabrics (in the sale!) from a Patchwork shop recently, but was horrified at the price of the material which was between £10 and £11.50 a metre before reduction - mine was £7.50 a metre after reduction).  Anyway, that set me to thinking, and in recent weeks when we have been trotting round the car boot sales, I have been looking for dresses and skirts and blouses in pretty prints in 100% cotton and buying the ones I liked, and unpicking them to be re-used as quilt material.  It is now a regular habit for me to be sat in the car on the way home from the boot sale, with my stitch-ripper and a pair of scissors, unpicking the garment and leaving a small trail of thread bits in our wake . . .

I haven't quite got to the stage of buying woollen jumpers to unpick yet, but I always look out for bags of wool (remnants or whole balls) at car boot sales, to use for crochet projects.  I have 2 bags of beautiful Rowan wool leftovers waiting for winter . . .

Rag rugs are something I have always said I wanted to make.  This gorgeous cushion is so colourful and a way of using up some of the otherwise unusable bits of recycled quilt material (see below).

Yesterday we were at auction again and had the successful bid on a box of 2 Welsh blankets and 3 old Welsh quilts.  One is trashed - a shame as it is the oldest (late Victorian or possibly earlier), absolutely worn to bits around the edge and, ahem, filthy as I think it spent its final years in the barn, by the look of it.  That I fear, is for composting, once I have taken photos of the quilting design and remains of the front (a large square of dark red, with dark red squares in each corner, and the backing fabric pattern as rectangles in-between.  Very Amish, especially with the dull colours.  Another beautiful red Paisley design quilt has also Had It as it has been worn to bits, but I may be able to make some lovely cushion fronts from the good bits.  That's the plan, once I've photographed it.  The 3rd quilt is almost usable - well, it IS usable, but it does have wear holes in it (I think the washing machine era did for it, tbh).  It is bronzey  on the top side, and a honey coloured satin cotton on the reverse, with a puce (!) ruffle around the scalloped borders.  The quilting is out of this world.  Photos to follow (I know - but today is going to be change-over day with the computers).

I wish there was a way of re-cycling paint (!) as we have the builders in at the moment, and I have been very busy rubbing down the outside woodwork around the bay windows and porch, prior to repainting.  It's a long job but will look lovely when it's all done.  The building work is costing an arm and a leg and I foresee even more frugal times ahead, for when it comes to money, you can only spend it once!


  1. That cushion is gorgeous! I agree - we try and recycle what we can and give to charity what is acceptable. We only produce one small bag of rubbish a fortnight between the three of us whilst I see MOUNTAINS of bags outside others' houses. A lot of lip service is paid to recycling, but not many people actually do it. People should take as much care as you do!

  2. I have a chair similar to the one K. is restoring--I know that it belonged to my g-grandmother and is obviously older than that. I had layers of paint stripped from it 20-some years ago, but didn't refinish. It has been on our front porch now for three years and I'm concerned that some of the wood is cracking. I need a consultation from a master restorer of furniture!
    I ran across the term 'repurposing' several years ago--I like that concept!

  3. How very interesting. I use a lot of recycled clothes, only I don't unpick them, I cut the seams off and use them as nice soft ties in the garden.
    You might be interested in the book "Amish quilts and the welsh connection" by quilt historian Dorothy Osler.

  4. Do you think it is something to do with getting older BB? I am exactly the same - I get a real kick over somebody admiring something and being able to say I had recycled it.
    I have always collected old cotton material - washed and ironed it is lovely for making quilts = after all originally quilts were made of all the spare bits in the househole - that was their purpose.

  5. Weaver - you could well be right. I've always hated waste and as I get older, I get more frugal! As you say, quilts always used to be made out of (worn out!) clothing.

    Kath - I looked out my copy of Dorothy Osler's Traditional British Quilts just this week, so I shall look on line for her Amish quilts and the Welsh connection. Thank you for that. Brilliant idea about cutting the seams out too, and using them to tie plants. Far quicker and more useful than just unpicking.

    MM - I like the term "repurposing" and will use it I think. I HATE "upcycling"!!! Keith says to rub down your chair and rub it with raw Linseed Oil, and let it soak in for a week or two. Polish the chair with a wax polish after that.

    Em - I have a friend who is a Gold Medal winner for her recycling - she has big bags for everything and separates things out, but she is in a different part of the country and I know Councils vary as to what they will take etc. We put out our non-recyclable bag of stuff about once a month, about 1/4 full. Having a wood burning stove we tend to burn any paper or card, and I try to buy loose vegetables and fruit, have mainly cat tins and a few bean or soup cans etc to put out. What started with taking a feather out of my parents' caps, then became a frugal necessity with house stuff, and finally it seems to be a way of life! if only the Councils then didn't ship so much of the rubbish abroad to be recycled on foreign beaches.

  6. Lovely post my dear and I look forward to the pictures of the quilts, they sound intriguing! I hope you're feeling a little better these

  7. Goodness - your Banshee is the spit of my Lucy Cat isn`t she? A lovely photo of Banshee in her basket of bright colours.

    I`m sure you are right, in that those of us growing up in the decades after the war learned a lot about frugality from our parents. They had grown up during the Depression and lived through years of rationing.

    There is something very satisfying about giving a new lease of life to a piece of furniture or some fabric. Even cats seem to be "pre-loved" around here!

  8. I had to laugh at our pre-loved cats DW! Only the black sisters, Fluff and Lucy, are "home grown". Everyone else just arrived (although I did find Banshee by the side of the lane when she was only a few weeks old). I get a lot of satisfaction from restoring something, as does my OH.

    Yarrow - one quilt I may have to trap first, as it is a little, shall we say, cooty . . .