Thursday, 31 July 2014

Making things



Making things is pure joy!  For me making things is not about saving money, in fact sometimes I could buy them cheaper.  It’s about the pleasure of knowing that what I am eating, wearing, sending, looking at, is like nothing else in the world. 

Last night I started making a new tee shirt.  One of the problems of being a crafty type person is that I often buy stuff and then don’t get it made up into whatever – see what I mean about not necessarily saving money?  Last night I used a length of fabric which has been in my stash for at least ten years.  That makes me feel thrifty in that the fabric is now used, but I know that I shouldn’t have bought it in the first place and there are umpteen more fabric lengths waiting to be made up.

Neither is making jams and pickles particularly thrifty.  I’m disabled so can’t stand for ages at the stove stirring.  Instead I have to use an electric jam maker.  The fruits and vegetables I use are often given by friends with even more prolific gardens than I have.  They know that they will get a jar of the jam or chutney as a thank-you and we are both happy.  But when the original cost of the jam maker is factored in I have to admit that I am kidding myself if I claim to be thrifty. 

I make cards but know that the cost of the card making gear could never be recouped.  I have a glorious garden which I know I couldn’t manage without some paid help.  I could go on and on.

But that would be to forget that pure joy of the taste of new potatoes from by garden, the pleasure of the homemade gift or card sent to a friend, the pride in wearing a new skirt knowing that it is unique – again I could go on and on.

No, I can’t claim to be frugal – I am definitely Frugally Challenged!  Instead I know a rich kind of joy which comes from creativity.  And I am happy.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Going sewing

I’ve just had an e mail suggesting that I might like to go to a dressmaking class tonight so I’ve booked and am really looking forward to it.

When I was at school sewing classes were a sad trial to me and I’m proud to say I was a sad trial to my sewing teacher.  Back in the sixties every girl (and no boy!) was expected to learn to sew.  In my first year at Grammar School I made a ghastly embroidered pincushion stuffed with stockings cut into tiny pieces.  That went in the bin before it was even finished!  The quilted handkerchief case got finished and then went in the bin.  Has anyone used a handkerchief case since Queen Victoria died?  Then it was a nightdress which got finished because Mother intervened.  After the second form needlework lessons and I parted because I was in an academic stream and had MUCH more important things to learn!  I can still conjugate a neat Latin verb!

After I finished school I made most of my own clothes.  Mother was a good dressmaker and as I didn’t earn much it made sense to make my own but gradually other things took over and a few years ago there wasn’t a single home-made garment in my wardrobe.

Which was a pity because I made other things – papercraft, domestic sewing, embroidery all featured in my regular activities.  The whole rigmarole of making space for cutting out, maintaining a machine and fitting garments when one is very much non-standard size was not appealing.  And then I decided to give it one last shot.

What a revelation!  Modern sewing patterns are so much better.  My machine is easier to use.  And with my teachers help I can get some wonderful results.  Tonight I shall take some lovely jersey fabric with me and will come home well on the way to making a tee shirt which will fit. 

Well, that’s the theory.  If I haven’t posted here in a week you will know despondency has set in.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Mr Todd's Grocery Shop




Tina’s questions about the food we ate when we were children set me to a lot more remembering.  I started thinking how my Mother shopped when I was a child.

One morning each week she would button me into a warm coat and we would walk to Todd’s, our local grocer.  There she would sit down on the bent wood chair provided and tell Mr Todd what she wanted.  A lot of food was delivered to his shop in bulk packages and kept in barrels until wanted by a customer, although being a sensible chap Mr Todd had some things weighed and packaged ready.  Currants were wrapped in coarse blue paper (I think it was called sugar paper) and butter and lard cut off the big block in whatever quantity the customer wanted.  Biscuits were sold loose from big glass topped display boxes.  There were a few tins on the shelves but we ate far less convenience food – a tin of baked beans was definitely a treat.  If I had been a very good girl there would be a small bag of sweets for me so I had an incentive to be at my most charming and well behaved self.  

 When she had given her order Mother would be given an itemised bill which she would pay cash.  And then we would leave the shop, with me carrying my precious two ounces of sweets.
 Delivery boy on bicycle
The rest of the order would be delivered later the same day by a lad on a bike, something like the one in this picture.  It would be packed in a cardboard box – carrier bags were a rarity and not very popular because they had string handles which cut your hands.

Today I am waiting for my order from Tesco.  I don’t have to go to the shop to order because I choose on-line but it seems as though after many years of struggling with getting the shopping home in a rush so the frozen stuff doesn’t melt, we are returning to something like the way my mother shopped.  Everything is carried into the house for me, just as the grocer’s lad carried it in all those years ago for my mother.

And all too often I order a little treat because these days I don’t have to worry whether or not I have been a good girl.  I don’t think I would get many treats if I set myself that condition.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Wentworth Puzzles





Sorry to keep going on about it, but it’s just too hot!

Today I really can’t be bothered to do anything.  However, I have taken myself in hand and have decided to do a few jigsaws.  I’ve got quite a few which I haven’t done for years so I decided to do them one last time and then to put them on eBay.


I’d never been a fan of jigsaws until someone introduce me to the glories of Wentworth puzzles.  Wentworth have been making jigsaws for only twenty years but the style is apparently one which goes back to Victorian times.  The jigsaws are wooden an include” whimsies” – pieces cut in special shapes to go with the theme of the puzzles.  So, for example this Christmas puzzle has pieces shape like Father Christmas, a teddy bear, a snowflake, a toy rabbit and a tree.


And the wildlife ones sometimes have pieces like an elephant, a lion, a rhinoceros, a camel and an ape.



They are fun to do.  They are puzzles for adults rather than children (although some children might disagree).  I’ve got loads of them and tomorrow evening a few will be listed on eBay.  I need the space rather than the puzzles so at least the hot weather is making me declutter a bit! 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Remembering food





I called at my cousin’s house yesterday and she had been looking after her grandchildren.  Young Tina had wanted chips* for tea but there were no chips in the freezer so Grandma got a potato, peeled it, chipped it and made the chips the old fashioned way. 

Tina was fascinated.  She’s nine and she’d never seen how chips are made.  She’s in a family where pizza, cake, bread, pastry jam and most other things are made from scratch but not chips.  She didn’t know that the starting point is a potato.

So we had the inevitable conversation about what things were like when her grandmother and I were children (we are both in our early sixties).  We mentioned door step milk deliveries which happened before we got up.  We talked about daily shopping trips for fresh food in those days before our families had fridges.  We talked about making bacon and sausages.  We talked about eating only seasonal vegetables and the amazement we all felt when Surprise Peas came on the market (anyone else remember those?).

Tina was amazed and thought it all wonderful.  But she wasn’t too impressed when we talked about the frequency with which liver appeared on the menu, about having to clear your plate and being offered no alternatives. 

I think Tina actually has the best of both worlds: most of her food is prepared from scratch and yet her mum is able to give her the wonderful variety of foodstuffs which we enjoy today.

And she has a Mum and a Grandma who don’t have to spend all their time doing housework and cooking and instead have time to play with her.

*If you happen to live to the west of the Atlantic read fries for chips.  What you call chips we call crisps.