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Reflecting on a less wasteful year

This has been an odd year. For the first half of it, we were living in a thatched cottage in a Northamptonshire village. For the second half, we have lived in a thatched cottage in an Oxfordshire village. The two villages are so vastly different that I have a vague sense of disconnection – as if the two halves of the year have been lived by different people (the fact that the second half of the year has been six months of a persistent, but low-grade depression has been a contributing factor, of course).

But one thing has definitely been a constant: my exploration of ways to live a more ecofriendly life has spanned the year. And it is something I hope to continue improving. Here are some of the small changes I’ve made:

  • Ditching the clingfilm. I have made waxed fabric wraps – some with pine resin, and some without – to replace clingfilm in our kitchen.
  • Reducing waste – thanks to the excellent kerbside collection services provided by our local council, we have been able to make a dramatic reduction to our non-recyclable waste. Recently, we didn’t put our bin out on non-recyclable collection day, because it was empty. That was a first, and it gave me such a buzz.
  • Ditching the cotton pads. I made reusable fabric replacements for the cosmetic pads that formed part of my daily skin care routine. I also learned a valuable lesson about them: tie them into a sock for washing, and don’t put them in the tumbledrier – they are small enough to get caught in filters and stuff.
  • Making my own self-care products. I haven’t bought deodorant, body lotion or salve (the sort you use for minor abrasions/scalds) in ages. I’ve made my own. I am using up the stock of lotions and potions I have in my dressing table, and then I plan to replace those with ones I’ve made myself, too. I’m not yet brave enough to try making my own shampoos or body washes, because Mr Namasi has a tricky skin, and I don’t really want to subject him to failed experiments.
  • Growing food. I am a pretty useless gardener, but there is a community garden in our village, which I joined as soon as we moved here. This has given me access to company, new skills and freshly grown vegetables.

    Making more preserves
  • Making (more) preserves. This is not a new skill. I’ve made pickles, jams and so forth before, but somehow being in a country village has reawakened that side of me. And the sense of well-being I get when I open the larder cupboard to see a fully stacked top shelf is palpable.
  • Shopping differently. There is a buying group in our village that buys from a wholesaler of ethical products (foods and non-foods) with reduced packaging and so forth. I joined the group, and then found myself in the role of admin as the previous incumbent is moving away. We order every second month, and therefore tend to buy in larger quantities. The delivery is made as part of a set route, which has a positive impact on our collective carbon footprint.
  • Less stuff. This year, Mr Namasi and I opted not to exchange Christmas gifts. We also asked our sons not to give us anything. We had to downsize considerably when we moved here, and we still have more stuff than we need. We have decided to focus more on shared experiences. So we will explore the countryside and visit various places of interest.

Looking ahead to 2019, I’ve decided to really test myself. I’m going to see if I can get through the whole year without buying anything new. Of course, this doesn’t apply to food and other essential consumables. I am already a regular user Facebook marketplace, Freecycle, Vinted and online spaces of that ilk. I am also a regular visitor to charity shops. For 2019, I’m going to see if I can limit myself to those spaces. These are my options:

  • Make it myself. I have the skills to make a wide variety of things from furniture to clothing.
  • Repair what I have. I have the skills to repair many things myself. There is also a repair cafe in Wantage, where I can take any small appliances that break down, to see if they can be repaired.
  • Buy secondhand. Charity shops, Facebook marketplace, and any number of other spaces exist for this purpose.
  • Borrow from friends. So often, when we have an event to attend, it involves buying a posh frock that might only see one wearing before being relegated to the back of a wardrobe. Perhaps my friends and I can do the occasional swap shop thing to get more life out of a fairly expensive purchase. This applies to hats and evening bags/clutches/purses (choose your word) too.
  • Do without.
No more manis

One other thing I’ve decided to give up on – and hear me out on this one – is professional pedicures and manicures. The manicure thing isn’t going to be a biggie. My hands are too busy for prettying up, so I tend only to have a manicure once every couple or years or so, for a special occasion. The pedicure thing…. that’s a different matter altogether. I can’t abide unkempt feet, so I have always taken good care of mine. Every Sunday night, while Mr Namasi plays ice hockey, my ritual has been a soak in the tub, with a facemask, followed by a DIY pedi. Since I developed polymyalgia rheumatica earlier this year, I have been unable to twist my hips and knees enough to take proper care of my feet, and so I have treated myself to (more or less) monthly pedicures to supplement the limited work I can do on them. But my conscience has been bothering me terribly. You see, manicures and pedicures involve vast quantities of cotton pads and – for some inexplicable reason – clingfilm. I also have concerns about the various products used. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to achieve it, but I am going to have to step back up to the plate on my foot care routine.

I hope that this time next year, I will be able to reflect back on a 2019 that has been even less wasteful than 2018. Are you in? Shall we hold each other to account come year-end?

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Moving into new spaces

I’m very excited to say that Karyn’s [re]Kreations are to be found in some new spaces.

Currently on display at Woodley Wool

A few of my furniture pieces are currently to be found at Woodley Wool where, until they are sold, they serve as display space for the lovely yarns and haberdashery stock for sale. Jo, who owns the store, has also taken on a few of my knitted and crocheted items to include in her stock.

So, if you’re in the Berkshire area, please swing by the store, say hello to Jo and have a browse through the treasures on offer. Jo will also be offering crafting workshops in a rather wonderful space at the back of her shop. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get to run one or two of them! I have a friend who lives in that area, and spending time there is always a treat.

 

Soon to be seen at Click Antiques & Vintage

And then, a little closer to home for me, from the beginning of May, I will have a space at Click Antiques & Vintage, where some of my restorations will be found. I will aim to include a fair range of pieces, but the primary focus will be on vintage restorations, in keeping with the ethos Nick and Claire are looking to emphasise.

If you’re within reach of the Northampton area, and have never been to Click before, do consider popping in. It’s a total treasure trove – an eclectic mix of vinyl records, vintage glassware and crockery, tools from a bygone era, furniture, photographic equipment… a real something-for-everyone space, with a cup of tea or coffee on offer for those who finish browsing before the rest of their party.

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Reflections on the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show 2018

This year was the first time I attended this show. I booked a package that included a coach ride to and from the venue: £28 all in. These are my reflections on the whole day from start to finish. Let me say up front, that I had a wonderful day. Please don’t lose sight of that in the face of the negative points that I will be making.

The coach journey

Our coach was supplied by Poynters, and left from Victoria Street in Northampton pretty much on time. Our driver was a very pleasant chap called Andy. The coach was half full – perhaps not even that. So if you’re tempted to come along next year, you’re almost sure to get a seat. I highly recommend this approach – no fighting with London traffic, no parking nightmares, no changing trains and tubes and and. Many of us had brought projects to work on during the travel time, of course, and I made pretty good progress on my knitting. There was a toilet on the coach as you might expect, not luxurious, but adequate if you had a pressing need. There was also a box containing the makings for coffee and tea, but the driver made no mention of them, so I don’t even know if there was hot water.

Andy had estimated that the journey down would take a little over 2 hours, but it took less than that. We arrived at 9:45.

The coach picked us up again at the front entrance at 16:45. We left a few minutes after 17:00, once Andy had made sure he was leaving with the same people he’d brought down. The journey back was slower – taking us longer to get out of London, due to the time of day. I’m so glad I didn’t have to battle that traffic. We took a little over 2 hours to get back to Northampton, where the rain was bucketing down.

Arriving early – finding coffee

The venue security wouldn’t let us in before 10am. The show only opened at 10:30am, but in light of the icy weather, arrangements had been made for us to be allowed into the cafe area a half an hour early. I decided to decamp across the road to a coffee shop in search of breakfast. I found a coffee shop, but the nearest thing they had to breakfast was a pretzel or a croissant, both served as is, without jam or butter. Nice coffee, though. It was rammed, as you might expect, with people waiting for the various shows at the Olympia to open.

The venue

I have been to more shows at the Olympia than I can count, and my observations remain the same after every one. It is a wonderful venue for shows like this, but… and, as always, there are too many significant buts:

  • There are no drinking fountains, and nowhere to refill a reusable water bottle. Your only option is to buy plastic bottles of water from the various catering suppliers dotted around the place.
  • The food on offer in the various cafeterias was pretty good, but extremely expensive. Here again, plastic proliferated. Lots of packaging and plastic cutlery to eat it with. There were segregated bins in the cafeteria, but I can’t help feeling that wooden cutlery would be a better option.
  • Following on from this point, there are garbage bins dotted around the venue, but they’re not set up for recycling. Apart from in the cafeteria, all the bins are mixed waste. With the volume of people passing through the Olympia every day, I feel quite ill to think of the environmental impact of this lack of provision for responsible trash disposal.
  • I attended on the last day (day 4) of the show. Several of the toilet stalls were out of order, as were several hand dryers. In the case of the hand dryers, it seemed that the water reservoirs were full.

Reception/security

At the entrance to the show, tickets were checked and we were offered the opportunity to buy a show programme (£4.00), a carrier bag with a slogan about knitting taking balls (price unknown – I loved it, but I have enough carrier bags), and T-shirts (£10.00). I need to say a word about these T-shirts. What a pleasure to attend a show with T-shirts in ladies’ sizes! Of course, most of the attendees were women – this is the way of it with handcrafts, although we are seeing a growing number of men taking up needles and hooks. Nevertheless, event souvenir T-shirts (any souvenir T-shirts, come to that) are usually shapeless crew necks touted as ‘unisex’. These have a V neck and actual space for actual boobs, without hanging like a sack around the middle!

At one point during the day, I lost my phone. Another visitor kindly offered to call it for me, and it was answered by a member of the security team. I was told it was at the event organisers’ office and I could collect it from there. I made my way to the office. No-one looked up from their desks when I walked in. No-one acknowledged that I was there. I spotted my phone on the desk in front of one person and went and picked it up. “This is mine.” I said. “Oh, okay,” said the guy, and I walked out with it. I’m not sure that level of security would win any awards any time soon. But hey ho. I got my phone back.

The show itself

In spite of adverse weather conditions, I understand that only one exhibitor was unable to make it.  The stands were beautifully decorated and appointed, and most vendors were able to accept cards. The only time I had to pay cash was for a workshop I booked myself on (see below). There were hundreds of stalls – an absolute feast for the eye. And so many with a commitment to recycling, environmental impact, re-use, empowerment of developing communities… all the things that make my heart sing. Products on offer included:

  • art supplies

    A little gift from a vendor
  • beading supplies
  • papercraft and card making materials
  • crochet and knitting tools and equipment
  • sewing machines
  • yarns using a wide range of materials
  • cross stitch, tapestry and embroidery supplies
  • dressmaking supplies
  • fabrics
  • felt and felting materials
  • lace, ribbons, finishes
  • lights and magnifiers
  • publications
  • spinning, weaving, dyeing
  • textile art
  • threads
  • storage solutions
  • frames and stands
  • kits of every sort imaginable, and some you’ve never imagined

There were also some guilds and charities represented. Some finished goods on sale (such as jewellery, bags and so forth).

The downside for me was the presence of stands selling beauty treatments, nail treatments and offering skin analyses. There are going to be loads of women there, and everyone knows women are obsessed with looking beautiful, so let’s throw some beauty products into a show about crafting and making. Ugh. One stand was offering eyebrow products or treatments, and the vendors were quite aggressive: grabbing passersby by arm and telling them they could knock ten years off their age by letting them loose on their brows. Having dragged my sorry butt out of bed at stupid o’clock to make the coach on time, I was happy to have my clothes on the right way around. I hadn’t bothered to put a face on. I hadn’t even had time for breakfast. I wasn’t there to be decorative. I was there to explore what was on offer to me as a professional crafter/maker/artisan. I didn’t need someone telling me I could look younger. One of the women from my coach actually said as much to the pushy type who was clutching her arm. “Why do I need to look younger?” The vendor was floored. Stop telling us that we don’t look good enough or young enough or thin enough. We no longer care. Leave us and our wrinkles and grey hairs the hell alone. Okay?

Other non-knitting and stitching type stands included a few charities – fair enough, visitors clearly have disposable income, and charities must take their opportunities where they can. Although I did wryly wonder whether we weren’t being stereotyped as crazy cat ladies when I spotted Cats Protection among those present. And I fully acknowledge the appropriateness of the stands offering therapies for arthritis, RSI and other frustrating loss-of-dexterity afflictions.

The galleries

There were five galleries of quilting exhibits, and I wanted to make special mention of these. Quilting is one craft I haven’t been motivated to try, probably because it’s such a slow burner. But I am in awe of the works of art – because they are nothing short of that – that quilters produce. The Quilters’ Guild exhibition was titled Commemorating World War 1, and featured works of poignant beauty.

Workshops

For an additional fee, ranging from £15-£34 each, attendees could attend workshops for an hour, an hour and a half or two hours, depending on the complexity of the skill being covered. I booked myself onto a 1-hr workshop called Peg Loom with Recycled Materials for £15, and learned a very useful little craft for my tiny bits and bobs of yarn and fabric that are too small to use anywhere else. Since it was last of these workshops for the show, the looms were offered for sale at an excellent price. But I reckon I could knock one up myself.

My purchases

Of course, I blew the budget completely. But I am excited that my search for a runner across the high traffic area in the dining room is over: I will be knitting one, using extreme knitting yarn and needles. And it will be gorgeous and cheaper than any pure wool rug I might buy.

And, for the sake of scale, here are those (handmade) extreme knitting needles beside a selection of my other needles, including the pair that used to be the largest I owned.

I am also going to make the most beautiful wall hanging in the whole world ever, using a peg loom and recycled saris and silks. And if you’re very lucky, I might offer it for sale in my shop. Watch this space.

Suggested links

I came away with a few names that I am prepared to make a noise about. In no particular order:

Sheep on Mars, a family business selling a range of yarns, sheep locks, feltmaking fabrics, wool fibre, mohair shawls and felted goods.

Rachel John of Megaknitz.com, whose products and tools will go into the making of the carpet runner I mentioned. Not to be confused with the actress of the same name.

Elaine (aka Lala) of Lala with Love, producer of ethically sourced, sustainable yarns and fibres.

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Do you make resolutions?

When I was a child, new year’s resolutions were the norm. In recent years, they seem to have fallen out of vogue. Or perhaps I outgrew them. Either way.

I don’t make resolutions, but the beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to take stock, and set some goals for the future. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you doing that on your birthday, or your wedding anniversary, or the anniversary of your grandmother’s death, or the second Thursday of each month.

It does strike me as a little odd that the new year should begin when it does: exactly a week after Christmas. Why not the vernal equinox? Now that’s a time of new beginnings and new life and new promise. So maybe you prefer to do your goal-setting with your spring cleaning.

If you read my last post, it will come as no surprise to you that my goals in 2018 include the following:

  • Karyn’s [re]Kreations needs to become ‘proper’. So I need to start doing grown-up things like planning, and marketing and participating in markets. I’ve put this one first because it’s the scariest, the most necessary and the most challenging. This has several sub-goals. While I won’t bore you with the details, I will come back to this point shortly.
  • I want to have a positive impact on people’s lives: the people in my immediate circle, the people I encounter regularly, and random strangers. I have identified some ways to do this. I’ll come back to this one, too.
  • Our lease on this wonderful house is halfway through. I want to stay here for the foreseeable future. But long term goals need to start with short term goals. Step 1 of the long term goal is renewing our lease come summer time. I need to work on it – obviously not alone (there’s a Mr Namasi, too). I have a few ideas of how I can help towards that goal, too, but for now, I shall keep those private.

You might have seen a Facebook meme that is doing the rounds at the moment. I found the concept positive and uplifting, so I decided to join in. The first paragraph is my own addition, the second paragraph sums up the meme:

One of my longest-standing (I won’t say oldest, because she’s far from that) friends broke the ‘rules’ and gave me the word ‘deliberate’, even though her name doesn’t begin with D. She said that’s her word for 2018. And since it’s one of the things I need to work on, I’ve taken hold of that.

As I said in my last post, I need to become less scatter gun, more sniper rifle. Being a creative person with a studio full of craft supplies and a workshop full of tools and materials is wonderful. But it does mean that the process of tidying away clutter can result in something coming to light that you had forgotten you had. This leads to the instant, insatiable ‘need’ to do something with that whatever-it-is, in spite of the fact that you already have eleventy-three unfinished projects scattered throughout the house.

I’m not going to achieve any of my goals by flitting from bough to bough like that other dainty bird – one I resemble rather more than I would like these days: the elephant (and if you don’t get the reference, you need to go here immediately and forthwith – I’ll wait). I have been self employed most of my working life, and was a very disciplined and focused self-manager during my years as a learning solutions designer (usually) working from home. I need to find a way to carry that over into this new chapter. 2018 is the year I plan to figure out how to make that happen.

As to the matter of making a positive impact. I am looking into a few opportunities to do that on a structured basis, but there are the everyday encounters, too. I am determined to try to add something positive to the situations in which I find myself for as long as I am able. I recognise that the black dog might come calling, and I will cross that bridge if/when I come to it. But I plan to steer clear of toxic online conversations, and to add value to those spaces I do occupy. I recognise that something that I consider to be a positive contribution make offend someone, but you can’t please everyone (some people get seriously miffed when you point out that the link they’ve just shared is fake) and, as long as my conscience is clear, I shall consider myself to be on track. I shall continue to strike up conversations with fellow shoppers over the frozen veg in the supermarket, but I shall focus on looking for ways to inject something cheerful and positive into the conversation (preferably without resorting to platitudes – they make me come out in hives). I shall continue to tell random strangers in the craft store that their bright blue hair is glorious and their silver Doc Martens are droolworthy. Instead of just hitting the ‘like’ button on the posts I encounter in my various social media spaces, I plan to make more comments.

The list of words given in response to the FB meme include ‘brave’ (which I’m going to need to be), and ‘jubilant’ which would be wonderful!

What words are you taking into the year? In keeping with the meme, I’m going to wish you kindness – both as a giver and as a recipient.