Category: Textile upcycling

Don’t worry, it’s in the bag…

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This week it’s been all about bags on the making front. As always I have to admit that my making started from a ‘selfish’ place. I wanted some nice project bags for my ever growing WIPs collection – Slow fashion makes 2020. And also as 2020 is also the year that I wanted to be even more conscious in my consumption, if I wanted them I was going to have to make them – and from recycled fabric from the stash.

The creative process

Once again no creative process with Scatty Knits is ever a straightforward A to B journey. Generally I go all round the houses distracting myself but knowing that I will eventually get there, but possibly not with the outcome I intended. I’m happy with that state of affairs but I suspect it drives others nuts. 

Actually I’ve just realised that the project bags were not the start of the bag making escapade. Originally I started thinking about messenger bags and made a few prototypes but dithered about style and size as well as construction material and fastenings. (Scatty remember!) So that went on the back burner and I made dog walking bags instead. But this now meant that I had left over cut out fabric from the messenger bags so that brings us to the project bags. 

To explain what happened next it’s worthwhile to remember that one of the central purposes of Scatty Knits was to aim for zero waste production. I had no real idea how I would achieve that but as usual I presumed a way would present itself as I got stuck in. Faint heart and all that…

But then what began as I must ‘make some project bags’ became ‘but what will I do with the scraps’ so then the notions pouches were made to use up the squares cut when I was boxing the bottoms of the bags. That, of course, then sent me down the rabbit hole of raiding my scrap stash to see if could cut some more squares which led to the ‘patchwork tote’, cutesy small and functional medium. 

By this point I was now fully committed (or is it that I should be committed – never sure on that one). I’d made coin purses before so what about matching coin and card wallets? Bear with me now because that somehow made me realise that I wanted to make two styles of messenger bags – one of a classic minimalist style, the other a bit modern with a zip!  So that sorted that problem. 

So what’s been the creative journey takeaways this week. I don’t think any of these will be ground breaking but they might be of use if you would to delve into bag making. (I highly recommend it)

Bag making essential reading

Luckily I have a very generous brother and sister in law and for 50th birthday, they got me ‘The Bag making Bible’ by Lisa Lam. It’s a treasure trove of techniques to get the creative juices flowing. Of course the internet is also a great place to see video tutorials as well but generally I’ve found that often the technique is described in the context of a specific pattern. Whereas the book while it contains patterns setting the techniques apart so that they are more easily transferable to your own designs. Everything from the basics to edging and trimmings are covered. I’ve referred to it daily and it’s got me out of a lot of tough spots.

It’s also worth noting that Pinterest is great at providing a great array of style ideas and also free patterns. I’ve created a Pinterest board – Sewing projects which has specific sections for different bag styles that you can follow.

You can also check out my progress in makes in my Etsy shop.

Cutting table double as photo studio…

Bag making workspace set up

I have been sewing seriously for over two years now and I am almost (but not quite there) with my workspace. I am fortunate that I have a good size room to house my industrial machine – Jack the Juki, my trusty Toyota workhorse and Beast the overlocker. But here’s the thing sewing is not just about sewing, its the cutting and the dreaded pressing that need to be accommodated as well. At first I was up and down to my cutting table and table top ironing board like a fiddler’s elbow. But after this weeks making I think i might have cracked it. I using the kitchen triangle approach – so there’s Jack on one side, table top ironing board along side and small cutting station behind for the on the go cuts with my recycled wheelie chair to scoot about on. Main and large scale cutting still takes place on the fab Ikea hack that Ian produced.

I love my Juki…

Must dos – cutting and pressing 

To my great annoyance probably two of the most important things about having a professional finish are the accuracy of fabric cutting and amount of ‘overpressing’ that you complete.

Despite coming from a family where my mum and gran would iron everything except for tights, I am possibly iron phobic. I firmly place myself in the ‘you look like a crinkly chip’ category or best case scenario I’ll iron the front and wear a cardigan. I firmly place the blame for this state of affairs on my gran. A rather formidable lady to say the least she felt one of the best ways to keep me out of mischief was to teach me to iron or smooth as they say in Northern Ireland correctly.

I don’t know what I’d done, but I’d done something…

Bear in mind I was six at this point and couldn’t reach the ironing board, so she made me stand on a stool. For the first few weeks she went easy on me and I was allowed to do the straight things – towels, tea towels and handkerchiefs. However, she soon realised the possibilities of this health and safety child labour nightmare as my grandfather wore dress shirts for his work as a chauffeur. And so began my apprenticeship in the correct procedure in ironing a shirt (my gran pressed shirts for living before she retired and believe me she was a stickler for doing it precisely.) I could probably still iron a shirt with my eyes closed but as I am now an adult (I use that term loosely) I do it my way (quickly, sloppily and wrongly) and hope that my gran is too busy bossing God around to see what I’m doing.

Right I might have digressed there – back to the point – yes there was one. Over pressing is essential for a professional finish – I’m getting in the habit (in a really grumpy way) of ironing every time I sew a seam. It makes hemming a breeze. 

As for accurate cutting I’m going to write a separate post later on that one as it is the bane of my life and I still feel like I’ve got lots more learning to do.

Useful tools

The usual suspects…

Usually a bone folder is used to crease paper edges smoothly but I use it for firmer finger pressing and poking poking out corners without poking through the seam.

The seam allowance guide is constantly used to check and recheck my seam allowance. I discovered very early on that ‘ah, that looks about right’ is not a viable strategy 🤦🏻‍♀️.

Washi tape is fab when used as a seam guide on the machine sewing plate. I use a nice bright neon one particularly if I am using a different seam allowance to my usual.

So what about you? Are you a bag maker too? Any tips to share? 😊

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Dog Snood me STAT! Baby, it’s cold outside!

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One of my biggest joys of being a dog sitter has been the wide variety of breeds that I’ve been able to share my home with. From border collies to ex racer greyhounds and of course the magnificent otterhound.

It’s not going to be s surprise that they are all fabulous. Any dog owner knows that each dog has their own distinct peronsality and quirks. Cuddly, laid back, cheeky, mischievous, tenacious, and playful, they are all adorable. 

But two things they all have in common is that they deserve to well loved and well cared for. Luckily every dog owner I’ve met adores their pet and it’s probably no concidence that the people I count as friends adore dogs too. So I was delighted when expert dog walker Irene approached me to make a dog snood for one her regulars – Billy the greyhound. 

Obviously greyhounds have very low body fat and so feel the cold. Billy had been wearing a chunky hand knit dog snood but unfortunately it was unravelling and so Billy was due a new one. So out came the heavy knits so that I could get the structure and fit that would work for a greyhound.

On the cutting table – starting to custom make the gentle funnel shaping
Doesn’t he look dapper!

I loved making the snood and a quick search through my leftover fabric stash uncovered lots of merino and cashmere.

Next step the Tiny carbon pawprint range of dog snoods. Each snood has been made in either merino or cashmere wool for that cosy and luxury feel for your fur baby.

Check out my Etsy shop for sizes and colours. Remember all scatty knits’ makes are made from recycled wool and cannot be repeated.

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Textile upcycling – So, what’s it all about, Scatty?

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Scatty knits started out of the wonderful textile upcycling and recycling businesses that I was lucky enough to come in contact with during 2017. I said at the start that it usually starts with a dog. In this case the marvellous Vera led to Bev aka Veloculture ( fab upcycled products from bicycle inner tubes – genius) which led to Sue aka the Woolly pedlar.  The Woolly Pedlar upcycled fabulous kat wise style coats, ponchos and gorgeous waterfall scarves from felted knitwear.

Vera – Velocuture

Their businesses planted a seed, I starting making dog snoods and bandanas. But realised that I didn’t want to make just one or two types of products. This had the potential to create the very thing I wanted to avoid – textile waste. So the “use every scrap” adventure was started. It’s like the eco friendly version of the army – no scrap gets left behind. 🤦🏻‍♀️

The aim is to produce as little waste as possible and be creative in product design and production. Scatty knits is a one person business but that doesn’t mean that I don’t dream big!

I’m no expert on textile waste, sustainability and the impact of fast fashion on the economy and the climate. But in its own little way I want scatty knits to reflect the big concepts of a circular economy and circular fashion. 

This journey is a huge learning curve, in terms of making, marketing and running my own business. As well as understanding the concerns, issues and solutions of the fashion industry and textile waste. I’d always thought I was a pretty savvy recycler but it turns out I’ve not even scratched the surface of knowing what I should.

So I’ll be learning every day and posting my musings as I go. 

Fancy coming along on the textile upcycling adventure?

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Categories: Textile upcycling

Zero waste wooden buttons

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Well if you can find the exact buttons you want, make them…

As well as being a budding seamstress, I am an avid knitter. All credit for this going to my mum. I like to think that I’m reasonably proficient but I’ll never have her skill. She was fabulous at cabling and her aran sweaters and cardigans were works of art. Many of my early childhood memories are of  her sitting In her chair, watching tv with a cable needle stuck behind her ear as she produced a complex cable WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE PATTERN! That astounds me even today I need to stare at the knitting, copy the pattern and even then my inability to count to ten consistently and accurately can lead to interesting results.

I won’t embarrass myself by saying how many WIPs I have but it is definitely double figures. Currently Carbeth by Kate Davies is on the needles. It’s a lovely relaxing knit and Kate’s patterns are always so well written.

Carbeth by Kate Davies

I originally thought I’d go for a black one but swapped to Isome lovely bright orange wool in my stash. This has been repurposed from a blanket, which I then reknitted as a different cardigan. I decided this didn’t suit me so now it’s on the way to be a Carbeth. I’ve started calling it ‘Doctor’ as it keeps regenerating 🤣 . Sorry I couldn’t help myself!

I will admit that I am a bit fussy about buttons. I always think to myself that I’ve spend all this time knitting something so I don’t put just any button on. (This is why I still have a cardigan from last year with no buttons 😳). Carbeth needs some thing nice and chunky so when we were doing some gardening Mr SK had the bright idea to make some from the branches and also from some discarded hardwood furniture. So zero waste wooden buttons were born and I couldn’t be more chuffed. I can’t wait to finish Carbeth and get some handmade buttons on!

Soft wood large button 😍

I love the tactile nature of the large wooden buttons. We’ve finished them with beeswax to enhance the natural grain of the wood.

Check out my Etsy shop to see my extra large and large zero waste wooden buttons.

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