Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Chest of drawers, to paint or not to paint?

I expect most people reading this will have read Zoe's fascinating and impassioned post on consuming.

I was reminded of her post while putting this post together. When I realised I needed a new chest of drawers to store my baby clothes (second hand of course) I didn't even bother to think about buying new. For one thing it is out of our budget at the moment, and secondly I haven't bought any new RTW clothes or shoes for myself for 18 months now, and this attitutude has definitely filtered over into other aspects of buying. I talked about where I found the chest of drawers here.

I think for my money (£10) I got a sturdier, better made chest of drawers than if I had bought something flat pack.

Looking inside the chest of drawers has the label Lebus furniture. A quick google showed that Lebus was a British furniture brand whose arts and crafts furniture at the beginning of the twentieth century is apparently considered their best works. Mine is obviously later than that, but as the firm closed 1969 I am guessing mine is a 60s piece. I am not overtly patriotic but it feels nice to have something manufactured in Britain.

I have already filled it with baby clothes. Absolutely filled it. And still have some baby clothes planted on top of the chest of drawers. But I am considering painting it white, putting on coloured glass handles and giving it to Little I for her clothes. She has a white metal bed already so I think a white chest of drawers would go well with her bed. It is also easy to open these drawers so she can access her clothes more easily. The baby stuff can then go in the chest of drawers I currently share with Little I. Thoughts on this? Is it sacrilege to paint a piece of furniture like this or am I just extending its life. I am not really a great shabby chic fan but I do have a weakness for painted furniture. I always have. I was thinking about painting the chest of drawers before I even got it home, then I saw Tors' dresser and was swayed further towards the white. I have a great desire to paint furniture and walls white, to have lots of peaceful spaces. This is kind of risible given the way our family life goes. Peaceful? Ha! It may well be a side effect of looking at too many Scandinavian blogs.

There is also the matter of whether I can summon the energy to sand and paint. I have the intense feeling that I have to do this before the baby comes or I will never get it done. Then I look at the nice shiny wood and think it may be foolhardy to paint it white. It looks quite sweet as it is....decisions, decisions.

Oh, and I also have a yearning to paint the chest of drawers a bright glossy red, I have a great love of shiny and red together, but I know that will go down badly with everyone else in the house.

PS: One interesting aside to buying second hand furniture on a budget, is how you get it home. This chest of drawers cost only £10, the delivery charge would have been another ten pounds. So to save money I got a friend to come and collect it with me. Of course, it wouldn't fit in her car with Little I as well so eventually after much trying it this way and that, my lovely friend drove the chest of drawers home to my house while Little I waited with me by the road side. I had to wrap Little I up in my coat as it was cold, while I shivered for half an hour. The thought, "This wouldn't happen if we were buying flat pack from a well known chain store" did cross my mind. But it wasn't as bad as the time I bought two sets of fully assembled second hand shelves which I had to carry home while pushing a child in a pushchair at the same time.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Declutter update

Thank you for the lovely comments on the maternity top in the last post. I really appreciate reading every one of them and I am determined to try and reply to comments but at the moment it is a slow process.

After a cold-induced pause my declutter mission has been continuing. Oddly the house is still a total mess though. does that work?

4 x out of date lens solution - recycling
3 x out of date make up
old suncreams and aftersun creams x 3
1 cardigan
1 hoodie
2 dresses
1 top
3 pairs girl's trousers
4 pairs outgrown children's pyjamas
7 books
6 assorted babygros
Bin bag of scraps x 2 - recycling
2 x tee shirts
1 shoe horn (just one, not a pair)
1 pair Mr M's broken shoes - recycling
sewing kit - present to friend
1 broken unmendable cushion - recycling
2 old sweatshirts - cut up into cleaning cloths
2 curtains - sold on ebay

Total = 45/90, plus previous total of 35 = 80/90

I cannot believe how much crap we accumulate. There is something about having lots of stuff that scares me. I don't know why, I know some people are reassured by having lots of possessions butI find it oppressive. (The above declutter list was been done with me hardly venturing near the kids' toys. How easy it would be to chuck lots of those out but how much trouble would I be in?)

This scary photo is of my bags of childrens' clothes to go in the loft, plus Mr Minnado's spare cable collection. I am trying to get him to sort it out.

All this sorting and decluttering has led me to a few thoughts. Of course I am going to share them with you! I was further prompted to write these questions after reading Eleni's recent post over at Seamless.

I am lucky in that we get given nearly all the clothes we need for my two children. They happen to have cousins a little older so we get their cast offs. We also have some friends with girls who give us their cast offs. However, and I am not ungrateful here, we get clothes sometimes two or three years in advance, so I have a fairly laborious storage system...we also sometimes get so many girls' clothes that I have shared them between three other little girls as well. This can call for sessions of mass sorting and storage. I think we are lucky to get these clothes, so I cannot really grumble at having to sort. I was also given two binbags of baby clothes last month which I have weeded out and sorted, resulting in a bin bag of excess baby clothes for the charity shop.

A fortnight ago, I had a huge session, sorting bags and piles into seasons and age groups, ready to go into the loft. By the end I had a bin bag of girl's clothes to go to the charity shop. The excess was partly because we get so much. I found myself wondering how many pairs of trousers one age 4 girl really needs...also there are some things my daughter cannot wear, for instance trousers are often too big round the waist.
As I sorted through the stuff others had given me and also sorted through my own possessions to declutter, it made me think a bit about the etiquette of charity shop donations and passing on possessions. Do you pass on stuff and do you have rules? I mean would you put lots of unmatched, odd dirty socks and tights in a bag of clothes for a friend? I have received this before now at the bottom of a bag of other clothes. As someone is being generous enough to pass on their things I don't grumble. But I don't think I would pass on odd dirty socks to a friend.

I try and only pass on clothes in decent and clean condition. I try and think about what I would like to receive myself. I also tend to think about whether I would want to put my hand in a bag and sort through the items in it. I am not fussed about paint or pen stains on kids' clothes so I would pass those on to someone who also is not fussy. Anything that is too stained or holey I tend to put in a separate rag bag. My local charity shop gets paid for rags so I give them my rag bags. I assume they get recycled for cleaning cloths or go into fabric recycling, but I don't actually know! Sometimes my son's school do fundraising where they get paid by weight for old clothes and other textiles. I am again not sure what happens to these clothes after the school gets its percentage. Do the clothing collectors sell them on, are they the clothes that you hear end up in markets in Africa? Does it really bother you where your old clothes end up and who profits from them? And do you have an etiquette for what you give away?
I know several people who volunteer to sort donations in charity shops and hear stories of grubby underwear (eek) and other unsavoury items in donation bag...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Vintage Maternity: McCalls 5921

This has been a week mainly of cough, sneeze, splutter, splutter as I caught Little I's cold and cough. She was unwell for one night and croaky, but happy, for four days. I have been coughing, sneezing, and bunged up all week. The sad highlight of my week has been the opportunity to go to sleep for half an hour in the afternoons propped up on four pillows to prevent coughing while she is at preschool. So sewing has been put on one side. I even felt too crummy to read many blogs. (Yes, that bad!) I am a champion at self pity. But powered by hot lemon, paracetamol and granny naps I have a new maternity make to share, finished a week ago. It is McCalls Carefree 5921,. Roobeedoo kindly sent me this pattern from her stash a few weeks ago. (If you don't read Roobeedoo's blog, then I suggest you hop over there and have a look at some of her beautiful clothes and knitting. She dresses how I would like to dress if I only had a waist.And she can knit, as in really knit, all I can say is look at Betty Jean )

And, Roo, I really do have a belated little parcel waiting to be posted to you in thanks. It is sitting with the other overdue parcels on my table, I will post it it soon.

I like how this called McCalls Carefree. I am guessing the carefree bit relates to the ease of the pattern making-up, rather than that you will be carefree wearing these clothes. Carefree is the last thing I feel at the moment, careworn perhaps. Check out the great illustration at the top of the post, and notice how these women are very discreetly pregnant. I have been looking at a range of maternity patterns and this illustration is in contrast to the modern Burda 8376 pattern shown here where the model's bump is proudly on display. Though to be honest it is still fairly discreet. I am just curious about these illustrations and wonder if they serve to give a slightly inaccurate view of pregnant women. I have a future blog post brewing about this very subject so for now, I will get back to the sewing.

I was tempted by view E, the sleeveless red top but reminded myself winter is fast approaching and opted for view C, the long sleeved top, drinking tea. Maybe in some distant galaxy I can be that carefree pregnant tea drinker!

I used some white dotted cotton that I bought for £2 a metre from the Ragmarket. The shirt was much easier to put together than I expected. The finished item does make me think of something like a bucolic tv adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel, I think it's the yoke and gathers that make that association.

I like the extended (drop?) shoulder and arm seams both of which have gathers. I also liked the gathers beneath the yoke. I used interfacing on the yoke but I wanted the collar to stay quite floppy so I left out the interfacing for the collar.

The only thing I changed was to make the sleeves three quarter length rather than full length and to add deep pink rose buttons for the cuffs.

I had a little google of this pattern and found a fab dress made here polka dot overload from the pattern. It is very inspiring...I found myself mentally searching my stash for dress options after seeing it.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Declutter month

Over at Thrifty Mrs it is Declutter month. She has set herself the target of 90 items to be decluttered in 30 days. This chimed in with me and my compulsive nesting/decluttering behaviour, so here I am joining in. This is the total from last weekend:

  • toy fire engine that was under the stairs for three years, surely no one will miss it? - charity shop

  • model making kit - charity shop

  • bin bag of scrap fabric - recycling bins

  • 9 books - charity shop

  • two broken rucksacks - recycling bins

  • one summer shirt - charity shop

  • one pair jeans - ebay

  • one piece tweed fabric - ebay

  • one knitting book - ebay

  • 1 pair of outgrown, worn school shoes - recycled for charity at local shoe shop

  • outgrown sports shoes x 3 pairs - charity shop

  • one barbie type doll(shhh....) - charity shop

  • 1/2 duvet cover found under the stairs - remade into pyjamas

  • 2 pairs of wellies - charity shop

  • various pieces missing from board games

  • 1 bottle perfume, unused gift - charity shop

  • 6 cardboard boxes that have sat on T's shelves, empty, for 2 years - recycled

    35/90....not bad going, but this is out. And the house is still full of clutter, although certain areas are starting to look a bit clearer! If you came to my house you could not sit still for long or leave your coat and bag lying around as I would pick them up with a maniacal glint in my eye and stick them on ebay or stuff them in a bin bag for the charity shop.

    I am in an odd position where I am trying to get rid of clutter but then there is some stuff I need to store. I need to get rid of some stuff to make room for more stuff. Witness what is my car boot: a complete set of clothing for 0 -3 months, hats, sleepsuits, even a snowsuit. These were kindly given to me by a friend of my sister's. I don't have anywhere to put them as yet. I was determined not to have to go and buy brand new furniture, so this morning Little I and I went to a second hand furniture shop run as a local charity. Donated furniture is collected, renovated and given out to low income families or individuals free of charge. (They have to be referred by a key worker to access this scheme). Recently the charity opened a small shop selling excess furniture to the public. There was one chest of drawers, a really sweet three drawer little one, I would say 1960s, with gold filigree style handles for £10. It is slightly bashed up but has a granny-chic charm. (Some people would say "old lady crap" but I say Granny Chic). I have to go and collect it next week as the shop is only open part time. I am in two minds about whether to paint it and add new handles or leave it with its granny look. Photos to follow after collection next week, then maybe someone can tell me what to do with it in terms of painting.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

FO: Maternity clothes #4

Apologies for photo quality - the light here has been dim and gloomy for the past few days.

More finished items - I am just not sure about the colour of these trousers. They are bright acid yellowey green.

The fabric was only £1 per metre from the Ragmarket. The colour for me is reminiscent of something a 90's raver would wear. It is hard to find things to wear with this colour so I opted for the safety of black or white. I also am really stumped as to what shoes I wear with these without looking like too much of an old 90's raver who cannot quite give up on their youth. So these are trousers I have mainly been wearing around the house. My version of wearing jogging bottoms at home! I cannot help but loathe jogging bottoms. Seriously, those big baggy ones with cuffs at the ankles as everyday wear? No, no, no! (Sorry if you are a jogging bottom person, no offence, we all are different.)
I used Burda 8376 again and added side pockets using some stash fabric and some dark green velvet ribbon down the outside leg seam. This pattern has been well worth the money spent on it - so far I have made two pairs of trousers, one pair of shorts, one tee shirt, and two pairs of pyjama trousers from it (still got to blog the pyjamas). It provides me with basic useful maternity clothes, rather than anything radically exciting but basic maternity clothes are what I guess I needed to tackle first. The more exciting and interesting clothes are in the out for a future post. (60s and 70s retro, ScruffyB?....wait and see...) The plus side to these trousers is they are supremely comfortable to wear, they have pockets and are a good weight/warmth for this time of year. The inside of the fabric has a kind of silky feel to it which is lovely. T was so impressed with the feel of this fabric that I am making him a pair of trousers from the left over.
The downside is the weird is a marmite colour, sometimes I look at it and love it, sometimes I look at it and hate it. Rachel also bought some of this fabric on our shopping trip and I look forward to seeing what she makes of it. And how she deals with the colour.
The tee shirt was an XL man's tee from the charity shop which I resized using the tee shirt pattern from 8376. I was able to use the existing neckband and hems and just cut and resewed the shoulder, and side seams to make it into a maternity tee shirt, adding a bit of the green velvet ribbon. As an XL men's shirt it was miles too big across the shoulders and had too much fabric at the back. I am looking for more XL tees to resize as I would really like one or two long sleeved ones for the winter months, suddenly it is much colder here. Maybe in plain colours to wear with the aceeeeedddd trousers. Ha, I just couldn't resist the aceeeeeeeddddd word, sorry. Maybe I just need to accessorise these trousers with some glo-sticks and a luminous whistle? Hmmm... should go down well on the school run.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

FO: Purple and paisley

A finished top and trousers.

Purple and paisley are not usually my thing. But here I am finding myself in ...purple and paisley. This is due to the fact I am trying to sew without spending much money and using second hand fabric where ever possible, so fabric choice is limited by what came out of gifted bin bags. The top is my completed Mariposa tunic by Anna Maria Horner. The fabric came from my Devon bin bags. I started making this tunic back in September as a wearable muslin but got frustrated when it came to trying it on and found it was too big on the top half and the modesty panel was massive making the top very immodest. I took the modesty panel out and decided to wear it with a vest underneath instead (is that camisole if you are reading this in the States?) In September I wondered if the too big top would fit by now, well, the bust is still a little too large and hangs awkwardly. This is partly due to the fact that I lined the front bodice with fabric (again a found free fabric) that is maybe slightly too heavy and doesn't drape well. If I were sewing normal non maternity clothes I would probably take time to alter this but as it is maternity wear for only a few months and I may still get bigger up there (eek) I am going to leave it. The top ties under ther the bust - I have tied it behind my back today.

The trousers are purple H&M cords that I bought in a charity shop last week. I've been looking for some cords to alter for a while now as I wanted some warm winter trousers. Finally I found these for £2.00 in a favourite charity shop in Devon last week. I used the tummy panel from the Burda 8376 trouser pattern and cut a panel in jersey left over from making this dress. Then I cut out the panel from the cords and sewed in my new stretchy panel. I added buttonhole elastic in a casing.

View of the stripey panel...

Verdict: I cut the panel a bit too low so I can only wear long tops with these trousers. These cords are also really very flared. I am considering taking them in a fraction. Any opinions? Or advice on taking in flares? Apart from that they work well and are so much better than the Next maternity jeans I bought on ebay. The maternity jeans I bought are awful, they fall down way too much, they are supposed to be skinny but are too big on my legs so they wrinkle and bag out giving a Norah Batty effect and the feeling of falling down tights. I think I am going to resell the jeans on ebay and stick with my me-mades. Hah....lesson learnt here. I cannot resist finishing this post with a picture of Norah Batty just for those of you who may not know her.

Norah Batty: Style Icon (image source)