Friday, 28 April 2023

...repurposing

When my daughter moved out in January, she left behind her old bed - the remaining bottom half of a Ikea bunk-bed, circa 2000. As it was an odd size (a bit narrower and longer than 'standard' single mattresses nowadays) we didn't think anyone else would want it, but I couldn't bear the thought of taking perfectly good wood to the dump either. Fortunately, my husband and I both arrived at the same bright idea for how to repurpose it - I'd claim that we did this independently of one another, were it not for the suspicion that, after many years living with me and my 'keep it, it might come in handy' ways, the poor man has been thoroughly brainwashed. Either way, the decision to incorporate the old bed into the Back Hallway Shelving Project ended up being totally unanimous! 

The Back Hallway Shelving Project Back Story

At some point in our house's history, one of the former owners built an extension onto the back of the house. This was originally just a big room with big windows, known as 'The Sun Room' (according to the label on the main fuseboard). The Sun Room was accessed via the old back door, and a new back door exit was added on the right hand side. Subsequently someone decided to carve out a downstairs toilet/shower room, in the corner of the Sun Room next to the back door, thereby creating a little Back Hallway with three doors off it (the back door, the toilet/shower room door, and the 'What Was Left of The Sun Room' room door. 

Ever since we moved in (circa 2000), the little nook by the back door has been occupied by a very tall, narrow chest of  drawers, originally designed to hold CDs. It belonged to my husband long before we met, and he is (for some unknown reason) very fond of it. I've always hated it (shiny, royal blue, with fiddly brass knobs, what on earth were the designers thinking), but its one saving grace was that it fitted the nook perfectly, and did a sterling job of keeping quite a lot of Stuff and Clutter at bay. Namely, gardening gloves, string, bird food, seed packets, clothes pegs, secateurs (top two drawers); old CDS belonging to no-one, that no-one ever played but no-one wanted to part with (middle two drawers); and old mobile phones, similarly un-part-able-with (bottom two drawers). It was also the main storage point for spare shower curtain rings (just outside the shower room, you know it makes sense). 

In addition to the Hideous Blue Drawers, the Back Hallway has always been home to the Back Hallway Shoe Collection, in recent years consisting of (but not limited to), my husband's cycling shoes (he comes and goes to work on his bike via the back door), his old trainers for bad weather trips to the bin and messy outdoor jobs, his old Crocs for good weather trips to the bin and non-messy outdoor jobs, and my gardening clogs. No matter how many times I put these shoes neatly to one side, they would revert back to a footwear obstacle course format within minutes - becoming one of those chronic domestic issues that irritate you every time you encounter them, but that don't quite meet the threshold for actually doing something about them. At some point last year something finally snapped in my husband, and he started saying, "I think we need a better storage solution for the Back Hallway Shoes. I think we should build some shelves to fit the nook where the blue drawers are". I was happy to (a) solve the shoe problem, and (b) get rid of the Hideous Blue Drawers, but did not want to take on the role of Project Leader. Pointing out that we would first need to sort through the contents of the HBDs brought the project to a screeching halt for many months, until the bunk-bed wood presented itself, like a gift from the Gods.

A Storage Solution is Born

We quickly realised that the four long pieces of wood from the bed base and and side rails could be used to form the uprights for the shelving unit, and that the slats could be used to make the tops of the shelves. After a lot of head scratching and measuring and doodling we decided we had enough room for eight evenly spaced shelves, with a slightly bigger space mid-way to allow easy access to the light switch. A further stint of head-scratching, measuring and doodling led us to the happy conclusion that we had enough shorter pieces from the ends of the bed to make all sixteen shelf supports if we cut them in half lengthwise. A prolonged period of sawing, sanding, drilling and nailing-together ensued...
...until we had eight made-to measure shelves stacked up by the back door. All that remained was to screw the shelves to the uprights, nail some hardboard panels to the back, to give the whole structure more stability, and move it into position in the Back Hallway...
...where it fits perfectly! Here is the side view, seen from the old Sun Room... 
...this is the view from the toilet/shower room...
...and this is the view from the other direction. Did I mention it fits perfectly?!
And just to prove that no husbands were harmed in the making of this project, here are the Hideous Blue Drawers, tucked neatly into the space between the door and the wardrobe in the newly appointed Man Cave (in the little 'spare' bedroom upstairs). He even got to keep quite a few of the CDS that no-one ever plays, and the mobile phones that no-one ever uses. His Man Cave, his Rules!

Sunday, 23 April 2023

Seahouses X

A (belated) eye-candy post from our trip to Seahouses at the end of March.
Rockpools at the end of St Aiden's beach.
'Found Art' timber block boat stands at Seahouses harbour.
Beach monsters fossil/shell collection.
'Painted' rock formations at Cocklawburn beach, near Berwick on Tweed.

Infinite reflective blue space, Bamburgh beach.

Saturday, 15 April 2023

...Making time

It's been a while since I've been able to make time for Making, mostly because Life, the Universe and Everything has been getting in my way! Prior to my daughter moving out in January we reached Off-the-Scale-Stuff-and-Clutter territory - a state of existence where it seems perfectly reasonable to consider "somehow" propping a three-seater settee on its end "somewhere" in a house already piled high with moving-out-boxes (because my daughter set her heart on it over a year ago, before her first house sale fell through, and it was being discontinued in December). Even if I had had the head-space for Making, I certainly didn't have the physical space for it - just a pop-up work-station in a corner of the kitchen for adding the glue and glitter to my crocheted snowflake decorations, because my actual work-station was buried under presents and wrapping paper and other Yuletide-related paraphernalia. 

No sooner had my daughter left, than work on Jackanory Corner commenced, bringing with it a different kind of Stuff-and-Clutter. Buckets and trowels and rolls of wall-paper and pasting tables and step ladders and paint-brushes and rollers and a whole lot of dusty Mess! Although I think that DIY counts as a creative activity, it's not the kind of creative activity that truly fills my heart with joy. Fortunately, my daughter's friend's new baby proved to be exceptionally knit-worthy, so in between all the plastering and wall-papering and painting and cleaning, I did find time to whip up a couple of pairs of woolly bootees (pattern from Zoe Mellor's "Head to Toe Knits"), which helped to scratch my creative itch. I love this pattern - it's perfect for new/knit-worthy babies. Not only are the bootees super-cute, but with the fold-over ribbing keeping them snugly in place, and the stretchy garter stitch providing plenty of growing room, they don't get lost, and they last for months!

In February my Dad had his long-awaited hernia operation, which (literally) removed some of the pressure he'd been under, health-wise, and my Mum had an initial dementia assessment at the beginning of March, to be followed by a CT scan later this week. We haven't had a formal diagnosis yet, but if you think it's Autumn when it's actually Spring, and you think that Jeremy Thorpe is the current Prime Minister, then it's safe to assume there's something going awry with the 'little grey cells'. It wasn't 'til half-way through March that I felt able to carve out some quality Making time, and finally put Jackanory Corner through its paces. It felt so good to be able to work on something, uninterrupted, in a calm, organised, tidy space. 
The 'something' was my twelfth Wiksten top* (if you include the one I made for my Mum). I now have enough of these versatile smocks to live in them all year round, and that's pretty much what I do! I ended up giving the very first one I made to my Mum, as the sleeves were a little too short for my liking. She wore it so much that I made her another one for her birthday. One got downgraded to a kind of cover-all for messy jobs after I accidentally got paint all over it, but the rest remain in constant use. There are two sleeveless ones that can be worn over anything, a couple of thick cold weather ones and several thinner warm weather ones (although they are roomy enough to layer in cold weather too). Most have pockets, a couple don't. I've made them from all sorts of different fabrics - chambray, flannel, double gauze, cotton, even curtain fabric - and the pattern works brilliantly with all of them. This latest one is made from a heavy-duty black denim throw that I found in a charity shop, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out. It has a really utilitarian feel, and just like a favourite pair of jeans, the longer you wear it, the comfier it gets. I know this because I've been wearing it almost constantly since I snipped the last thread on the final seam! 

The main item on my current to-do list is my 'Homage to the (Granny) Square' blanket. I was doing ok with it before Christmas, mostly keeping pace with others in the online course's Facebook group, but now it's April, and I'm still plodding through February's tutorials, while more and more of the group are reaching the finishing line. It hasn't helped that I'm currently working on a more fiddly set of squares, which I can't easily set aside and then pick up where I left off a few hours/days later. So I really needed the confidence boost that completing the Wiksten top gave me...
...and Jackanory Corner is helping too. One of the first things I did when it was properly clean and tidy, was to lay out all the squares I'd completed on the floor, in a rough approximation of how they might appear in the finished blanket. The interplay of colours is central to the design, and the choice of which ones to use in each square, and how to arrange them within the blank blanket template is left up to the maker - there is no 'set' sequence to follow, and no two projects are ever the same. Having the space to see how the squares are working together and being able to visualise the blanket more as a whole has made the task of choosing which colours to use more/less/next a lot easier. I just need to keep making time for Making it!
*I would have put a link to the pattern, but it seems that Wiksten have recently ceased trading 😞. A massive loss to dress-makers everywhere, in my humble opinion!