- An Extra-Large Extra Pocket Bag - for all the things I need to take with me to the 12 week 'Joint Pain Management Program' I started at the beginning of June. This is a free, twice-weekly exercise class provided by Nuffield Health, designed to un-stiffen and de-creak stiff, creaky joints, which I applied for thinking that it might encourage me to move more and grumble less! So on Monday and Thursday afternoons I catch a bus into the city centre and spend an hour at the gym with a small group of similarly stiff, creaky people pursuing the same Move More/Grumble Less goal. We're now 7 weeks in, and I do seem a little less stiff, creaky and grumbly - as for moving more, hurrying to catch a bus into the city centre and back twice a week has definitely done the trick!
To begin with I was using my Extra Pocket Bag for the smaller bits and pieces I needed (pen, padlock, membership card, face-mask, keys and phone) plus an additional bag for the Program workbook and a water bottle. This was challenging for my post-retirement, post-lockdown(s) Muddled Hermit Brain because I kept coming home on Thursdays, putting the additional bag down somewhere random, replacing the membership card and padlock with my wallet-with-the-bank-cards (because Thursday night is Shopping Night), and then ending up frantically searching for/swapping everything back again on Monday afternoon before dashing for the bus. After Session 5 (when I ended up at the gym in my comfy slip-on sandals because I'd forgotten to change into trainers amidst all the frantic searching and dashing) I decided to make myself a purpose-built, grab-and-go bag, big enough to store everything in just one place.
The fully-lined Extra-Large Extra Pocket Bag features an internal pocket for the gym membership card (so it doesn't get lost at the bottom of the bag), a fold over flap with elasticated button loop (for easy access), a cross-body strap (for hands-free maneuverability), and two external pockets (for stowage of face-mask and phone when hopping on and off the bus). It is roomy enough to hold all the bits and pieces, the workbook and the water bottle, as well as a small foldable umbrella in the unlikely event of rain. Apart from a bit of measuring to determine basic pocket dimensions I pretty much made it up as I went along. This was quite taxing for the Muddled Hermit Brain, because the fold-over flap was a new (to me) design feature, and assembling all the layers in the correct order so that there were no raw edges or wrong sides showing when I turned everything the right way round took a lot of pondering and deliberation. At the points where I couldn't quite visualise things in my head, I drew diagrams, and afterwards added these to a written 'recipe' for future reference. Like Scarlett ("I'll never be hungry again") O'Hara, I'll never be custom-built bagless again.
- A new (to us) fence. A couple of weeks ago my younger son, Sam, came over to help with its construction. The old fence has been slowly rotting away for years, and had finally reached the point where my Heath-Robinson "repairs" with garden wire couldn't hold it together any longer. Our new next door neighbour has been renovating and extending his house since the start of the year, and his back garden is full of piles of old building materials that have been stripped out/demolished to make way for the new. Every so often he has a big bonfire to get rid of the wooden bits, which always makes me cringe inside because it's so environmentally unfriendly and wasteful. So when I spotted a load of old floorboards amongst the debris I plucked up courage to ask if I could have them to repair the fence - and because he's actually quite a nice young man when he's not being a raging eco-vandal, he said "Take whatever you like Love!" and even helped us move them over the old fence!
We pulled out lots of old rusty nails and cut them to the right length, and then I gave them a bit of a clean with a wire brush, and painted them. They had to be painted black because what would have been the undersides were coated in some kind of tar-like substance - maybe for water-proofing purposes originally - but the paint blended/covered this really well. We kept the original fence posts, and re-used some of the old fence boards (cut down to remove the rotten ends) to eke out the rescued floorboards, so the only new timber we had to buy was some 3 metre lengths for the horizontal rails. Sam has been hammering nails into wood since he was two years old, and in recent years has honed his DIY skills to craftsman's level through hands-on involvement in the construction of his Very Own House. He came armed with an impressive array of power-tools, including a rather intimidating nail-gun, and made short work of our 6 metre fence. Even though it's 'just a fence', mostly hidden by the bins and out of sight at the side of the house, I'm ridiculously pleased with it. Thanks to Sam's handiwork it is perfectly level, all the boards are evenly spaced, and it is very sturdy. Best of all it has given a new lease of life to a pile of old floorboards that would otherwise have gone up in smoke!
- A patchwork Wiksten top. I was watching this lovely video on YouTube recently, and really liked the idea of a garment that could be appliquéd and stitched onto over time. Not long after, amidst another wardrobe de-clutter, I came across a couple of pairs of trousers (elasticated waists/ankles, denim-look drapy fabric) that I haven't worn for years, and a couple of pairs of my daughter's cast-off 'Mom' jeans that I'd thought I might wear but never have, despite being a bona fide Mom. I probably could have donated them to a charity shop (and part of me really felt I should, too) but in the end I persuaded myself that it was ok to repurpose them for something else. 'Something else' being a comfy, practical, sleeveless tunic/smock for all-purpose-knocking-about-in.
I started by cutting off all eight legs and opened them up along the seams, then joined them together to make two large patchwork pieces (four sections in each), big enough to cut the front and back of the tunic from. I used the drapy trouser fabric in the top halves, and the heavier jeans fabric in the bottoms, so that the tunic would 'hang' better over the shoulders, but even so, it was still very 'boxy' (as in, gave me fridge-freezer-like proportions). So I made casings from the cotton fabric I'd used for the neck facing/bottom edge binding and recycled some of the wide elastic from the trouser ankles to gather it in a bit at the sides. I added one of the patch pockets (from the back of the trousers) to give myself a double pocket on one side, but decided against using the other. Sometimes 'less is more', especially when you're in quadruple denim territory! The finished garment is not remotely stylish (or even very flattering, if I'm being completely honest), but it ticks every one of my comfy, practical, all-purpose-knocking-about-in boxes, and (when the fancy takes me) it will be fun to appliqué and stitch onto too.
- Another Extra Pocket Bag. 'When Life gives you denim, make a bag for a friend'...(but only if that friend admires the denim bag you made for yourself). Literally days after I'd finished the patchwork Wiksten my very dear friend Sue commented on the usefulness of my everyday Extra Pocket Bag while we were out dog-walking together. So naturally I offered to make her one, thinking, "I have just the materials for it too!" - namely the spare patch pocket from the back of the drapy trousers, plus some other leftover pieces I'd kept. Sue happened to be wearing a very pretty blue and fuschia pink top at the time, so I decided to incorporate some fuschia highlights into the design, via the lining and the zip. Then, gaily abandoning the 'less is more' principle, I added a needle-felted/embroidered 'flower' on one side (a little-known allium/dandelion hybrid). It made me very happy to use up these scraps on another project, and Sue loved her little bag too. Result!
...and once you've completed one block...
- A new crochet project. I've been literally obsessed with the nasturtiums and sweet peas growing outside my kitchen window this summer. I just can't get enough of the juxtaposition of pastel pinks/purples with hot orange on a background of green leaves and stems. this post on Instagram, which slightly blew my mind - granny squares AND patchwork?! What's not to like?! So when I met my eldest for a coffee just round the corner from a newly-opened yarn shop, and when that yarn shop had some very soft Scheepjes yarn in ALL the right colours, it would have been rude not to buy some and make my own granny square patchwork block...
...the magic of photo collage allows you to see what a whole lot more will look like. Can't wait!