Monday, 27 September 2010

The death of cheap clothing

There! Did you hear that sound?  

Apparently that's the death knell of cheap clothing ringing out loud and clear across Europe.  According to all the papers, the floods in Asia will mean that we are going to see a rapid rise in the price of cotton, which in turn will mean a rapid rise in the price of clothing in shops like Primark, Asda and Tesco.

Whilst financially this is going to be a blow for some, for many it will just mean that they think more carefully before they purchase new outfits: which in environmental terms has got to be a winner. 

For far too long society has been condoning, if not encouraging, people to purchase clothes that they don't need and to throw them away shortly afterwards.  Apparently in the last five years we have seen the proportion of textile waste rise from a meagre 7% to a whopping 30%, which we the taxpayers have to pay for.

As a society, we've become used to disposable fashion, without giving a thought to the effects that this might have on our environment, or on the poor people who have to produce these cheap items. So from my perspective, this price rise can’t come soon enough and this rise is all grist to our revolution.

However if you're worried about how you'll manage without all this cheap clothing, fear not, for in reality we really don’t need all these clothes especially as we supposedly only wear 20% of the clothes in our wardrobes, 80% of the time.   With a little bit of care and attention your can make your clothes last a lot longer.  And if you really do want something new to wear for that special night out why not try altering, adapting or refashioning your clothes.  If you are worried that your skills wont stand up to the task find a friend to help you….or if all else fails why not try ‘swishing’ at a clothes swap party.  With a little bit of thought and creativity we can all find a new wardrobe for a fraction of the price, but not at the expense of the environment.

Come on join our revolution and think before you buy, because life’s too good to throw away!


Related posts on the website 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Quilting is easy and fun

Following my earlier post I thought I'd update the blog on progress so far. Hilary has helped me get off the ground and we had an enjoyable day cutting out the pieces for my first three blocks.

I've posted the instructions on how to do the first one, Rail Fence, on the  main website and we'll soon be following this up with step by step instructions and templates for the others.

This is Rail Fence - which consists of simple strips and so is easy to cut out and to sew - a good one for a beginner like me to kick off with.

This one is called Card Trick and consists of lots of triangles - it requires a bit of fiddling and juggling but I really enjoyed doing it.

And here's number 3 which is called Wild Goose Chase.

I followed Hilary's advice and did all of these by hand - it's only running stitch so very quick and easy and as she pointed out the pieces are so small that using the machine is probably more trouble than it's worth. It also means you can do it anywhere anytime.

So I've lost my quilting virginity so to speak and am surprised at how relaxing and easy it is. If you haven't tried give it a go. You don't have to do a sampler of all different blocks as I'm doing - you can choose just one block pattern and stick to that. The possibilities are endless.

Here's how to do the Rail Fence and get started A First Lesson in Quilting

Clare F

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Recession-proof your Christmas

Wow…did you realise that there are only 99 days until Christmas? (Oops! as there have been a few days since writing this and before posting it - it's now only 93...). Does that send you into headless chicken mode?  Or are you already rolling your eyes and moaning about people who talk about Christmas too early? 

Frankly I'm in the latter camp, but if you want to beat the recession this Christmas, now is the time to start planning.  With a little bit of forethought and a little bit of creativity, you can have a real recession-busting Christmas. Here's how:

1. Budget – set a figure and stick to it

2. Start saving -  How about stopping that daily Starbucks habit, start taking a homemade lunch  to work...

3. Start planning – Now's the time to plan - making home made presents, decorations, your own mince meat... 

4. Start harvesting - There's still time to dry some lavender for homemade lavender bags and you have plenty of time to start making your own homemade pot pourri.

5. Start collecting - Paper and images that inspire can be saved for wrapping your gifts and making your own Christmas Cards. You also still have plenty of time to start collecting all your left-over bits of soaps and/or candles – enough to reuse and make your own gifts.

If our Top 5 Tips have inspired you there's a great 2011 money saving article on our mainwebsite Take a look!


Monday, 20 September 2010

Foraging for jelly and syrup-making

Even though we'd left it late in the season for South East England, there were still just enough elderberries and rosehips left to pick with my lovely God-daughter Florrie and her sister Martha this weekend.

They love finding things and helping out, well, when not glued to CBBC of course. Here are some of the pictures and Martha's home-grown explanation of how to separate the tiny elderberries from their stalks.

If you live further north, or at higher altitudes, I expect there are still plenty of elderberries, rosehips and even sloes to be picked.

Making the jelly and learning a bit of chemistry

I've been making preserves for years and learned a really good lesson yesterday. If you want your jelly or jam to set when adding pectin or lemons, make sure you add the sugar AFTERWARDS. If you don't, it won't set. So having followed the recipe for my red-currant recipe (see link below) with the elderberries, I added the sugar before boiling the juice with the lemon juice. Now I think I may have some delicious and very concentrated elderberry cordial on my hands!

Rosehip syrup
I'll be tackling this later today, but in the meantime if you're looking for how-to, see the link below for our rosehip syrup recipe (or at least, one of them).

See also Foraging map on the MIAMI Forums
Recipe for red-currant jelly
Wartime recipe for rosehip syrup

All the best from Clare O

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Ready for quilting

I've just  bought my first set of fat quarters!

If you'd asked me a few weeks ago I wouldn't have known a fat quarter from a thin cent! In fact it turns out it is a standard measure for a piece of material for quilting - based on cutting a yard of cloth into  quarters - which works out as approximately 18 by 22 inches.

I have bought ten of these pieces and here's my stash.

I'm planning to make a sampler quilt, which means incorporating a series of different square blocks of quilting each in a different pattern. Hilary is going to be my "quilting mummy" to get me started and mentor me through the process. As I progress, we'll share Hilary's templates for the blocks I'm making and will pass on Hilary's top tips on our main MIAMI website

If you want to join me please leave a message  on the forum -  to ask any queries and share advice as well as posting pictures of your own quilts.

See also: Quilts at the V&A
Making a journal quilt

Clare F

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Anyone tried Streetbank yet?

Still in the old Blitz spirit of sharing and being neighbourly, I've just come across an interesting website, Street Bank, which shows you what your neighbours are prepared to give away or lend. It claims to give you access to a whole load of stuff, is good for the environment, saves you money and builds community all in one go. 
It's free to join, but you have to show that a bit of community spirit by offering up anything you would be willing to lend or give away. It can be low value items like DVDs, a book or higher value like an old TV or a bed you want to get rid of. (A bit like Freecycle).
I’ve joined and offered to lend out my stepladders (well it's a start!). I have my new homemade Roman blinds to hang so will be calling on the lady who lives 250 yards away and is offering the loan of a power drill.
Check it out at www.streetbank.comor via the link on our Facebook Page under favourite pages

Monday, 6 September 2010

A first time for homemade chutney

Clare O kindly shared some of the bounty from her veg garden and pressed a load of tomatoes on me - some ripe and some green.  My first intent was to make Lina's recipe for green tomatoes under olive oil - but then realised that half the toms were very ripe and had I put them under salt I'd be left with nothing after the liquid drained off. Hence Plan B - chutney.

I mixed the chopped tomatoes with some chopped apple and shallots plus some raisins and sultanas, added mixed spice and ginger and cooked it in a syrup of brown sugar dissolved in white vinegar. I think - as I was guessing at quantities by eye - I rather overdid the vinegar and sugar solution, so had to simmer if for 3 hours before I got to the required viscosity - you test a chutney not with a cold saucer - but by running the wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan - it needs to leave a clear trail so you can see the base of the pan without the mixture quickly collapsing in on it. This took a very long time! Rather appropriately for chutney,  I happened to pass the time by watching an Indian film  (highly recommended : Lagaan - all about a momentous cricket match in the days of the Raj I can testify to being a complete non-cricket fan but I  loved it!)

Anyway I digress - the chutney is now bottled up and I'll have to leave it for a couple of months before seeing if it tastes as good as it looks.

Oh and by the way the kitchen smelled WONDERFUL!

Loads of advice from our main site on preserving and making jams and pickles

Clare F

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Lavender blue dilly dilly

I've decided to make some lavender bags for Christmas (I'll be sharing the how on the website shortly) so I've just been out to harvest the crop.

I've got a couple of different varieties and they have progressed at different levels so some flowers are already starting to dry out. Apparently they lose some of the esssential oils if you leave them outside too long - but I think across the lot I've got it will probably average out.

I pulled off the foliage at the bottom and gathered them into two bundles, securing them with elastic bands. I'm a first timer at this so if I've done this wrong please tell me people! I don't want to lead anyone else astray and so many of you are so expert at this stuff.

I've bunged my bundles inside the cupboard where the immersion heater and boiler live as that should help the drying process and it's also out of the light, although not completely dark. I'm planning to leave the bunches there for a couple of weeks and then we'll see how they go. I'd love to hang them from the rafters only I don't have any rafters (well apart from in the roof space - but as the builders are up there converting it into a loft room I don't think that would be a good idea!)

On the main website we have some lovely recipes for lavender biscuits and lavender ice cream.

and how to make quick and easy ten minute lavender bags

Clare F