Friday, 20 March 2015

Washing-Line Tales

One of the small joys that come with the arrival of Spring is the demarcation zone of laundry drying outside on the line, instead of inside in various corners, that are intended to be inconspicuous, but end up bugging me, big time. Every year I resist buying a tumble-drier on the grounds that they take up space, cost significantly to run and I don't think the laundry smells as nice as when it's been dried in the sun and the wind outside, even if that sun is thin and elusive and the wind a pretty sharp one. Every winter I waver, after months of draping damp shirts and towels over the shower rail and on an ancient wooden clothes-horse that can't accommodate more than one small load of laundry at a time, but every year, in the nick of time, Spring arrives and the laundry is banished outside for the next six months and I breathe a sigh of relief. The tumble-drier temptation has been seen off once again and all is well.

So I've been enjoying getting outside to peg out the laundry every day that it's been remotely possible and as well as using my washing-line to peg out the laundry, it's inspired a little frugal, crafty make that I thought you might like to see.


I've seen various iterations of baskets, bowls and bags made from fabric covered washing-line and I suddenly got the urge to have a go myself. As you do!

In view of the fact that my washing-line serves as exactly that, I couldn't siphon off a few yards without causing problems for my laundry-drying, and in any case my washing-line is plastic-coated wire which is not suitable, so I had to hunt out an alternative. With some difficulty I might add. You need cotton covered washing-line without any plastic or metal anywhere near it, (or inside it), and this is not as easy to come by now as one might hope.

I drew a blank at Homebase and B&Q but at a small, old-fashioned, independent ironmongery, A L Vickery of Drayton, a few miles down the road, success was mine. It's rare to find an old fashioned ironmongery these days but when you do, it's always a delight - little drawers of loose screws and nails that you expect to buy by the ounce; beeswax furniture polish; brush-heads; drill-bits and saw-blades lurk, cheek by jowl, with pyrex kitchenware, pale blue muffin papers adorned with roses and stainless steel teapots. The kind of place where you can't see what you're after, you ask and they always have it, no matter how obscure or insignificant your quest is. In response to my inquiry about cotton washing-line, I was directed to a board displaying reels of sash cord, which is basically the same thing. Made encouragingly by a company called "Everlasto" which has been going since 1856.


You can buy this in reels that are attached to one another so that it's not cut unnecessarily short. I bought two.


Back home, I raided Google for some instructions - these sites here and here were great for inspiration and help - and set about my boxes of fabric scraps to rip up a nice pile of shreds to wrap the cord.


Happy work, I have to say! I've always had a "happy snipper" tendency! Before long, a large spoilheap of fabric strips was mine to play with.


I thought I'd just try wrapping a few to see how they worked and some time later I was still going - it is singularly addictive!


I pinned the wrapped cord as I went, so that I had some idea of where the colour changes were going to fall and kept going until both reels of cord were pretty much covered. All 20 metres! The fabric strips need to be wound on tightly but I found that, once wound, they stayed put and I only needed a few pins here and there actually to secure the fabric onto the cord. The pins you can see in the pic are mostly just to work out how the coil was going to assemble itself, colour-wise.


Next up was the sewing. All the tutorials I found said to use a long zig zag setting on your sewing machine so that's what I did, coiling the wrapped rope around and zig zagging all the way. I changed the thread colour as the colour of the fabric changed but you don't have to.


I found the flat base quite easy and everything was going swimmingly. Less easy was negotiating beginning the basket walls where you have to turn the basket, as you stitch. I broke a sewing machine needle and lost the sharp tip in the bowels of the machine, at this point. A bad word was said.

Funnily enough, the sewing machine didn't like operating with a foreign object lodged in its mechanism so I had to undo the bobbin housing and hunt about. More bad words were said. My delight at retrieving the needle-tip, which I had begun to fear might be gone forever and live permanently, like a malevolent gremlin, in the machine, was short-lived when I realised that all the many bits of the sewing machine mechanism, that had come out of the bobbin housing, would have to Go Back. In The Right Order. Oh dear! After a good deal of cursing and jostling and trying not to jam anything irrevocably, I am pleased to say that I won this battle, albeit slightly scarred by an argument with the bobbin cover from which I came off worst and with a few tell tale marks of sewing machine oil on my fingers. Undaunted, however, I pressed on.

Another needle broke before I decided to stitch the beginning of the turn-up by hand and then continue with the machine once we were on the flat plane of the sides without trying to operate in three dimensions.


 I'd recommend this if you want to have a go yourself. I think carrying on with the machine would be fine if you are happy with gently sloping sides that only gradually pull away from the base - the angle of turn would be much easier to accommodate - but it's a bit more tricky if you want something that turns more sharply. Or it may be just me being incompetent. Once I had stitched the sides, I found it reasonably easy to go back though, and zig zag over my hand-stitching just to make sure it was secure.

Onto the main body of the sides, it was relatively plain sailing. I had to keep reminding myself to "put the foot down" because the fabric-covered rope is so thick it's easy to think the sewing machine foot is down when it isn't and, of course, again, the machine doesn't appreciate that.


All in all, I managed to break four, no, five sewing machine needles on this little project! Oops!


But in the end it has come out beautifully, I think.


It's quite big - 35 cm / 14 "wide at the top and 13 cm / 5" deep - about the size and shape of a washing-up bowl - perfect for balls of yarn, sewing and crochet projects in progress, all manner of things.




I love it! The finished article is nice and robust but not too heavy. Can't think why I haven't made one before. It would make a great container to store toys, computer cables, socks, hats and scarves or anything really.


And I have another three reels of cord for another go. Need to buy another packet of sewing machine needles first, though! And some more thread - the project eats quite a bit.

Obviously you can buy fabric to make these baskets but there is something very satisfying about making them from scraps. If you don't have a hoard of fabric scraps waiting to be raided, old shirts, cotton dresses or skirts, that you don't wear any more, would be good potential hunting grounds. Ideally you need the strips to have a bit of length to them or the wrapping gets a bit fiddly but you don't need huge pieces. Some of mine were really quite small. Nothing too thick in terms of fabric though or you won't get the fabric-covered rope under the sewing machine foot.

Now the sun is out, post-eclipse, so I must get out there and hang my laundry on my more functional washing line!


And perhaps pick a bunch of daffodils because they are out a-plenty now and my new basket will also be good for cradling a bunch of flowers, I think!


Wishing you all a happy weekend 
with may be a washing-line tale of your own?! 

Be warned though, once you start, you may find it difficult to stop!

E x









28 comments:

  1. I really do not want a tumble drier and border on buying one every winter, so like you Spring is back in the nick of time I too can hang out the washing and ring the outside in with the beautiful smell of washing dried outside. The basket was a real delight I have never come across anything like it before, loved all the spring like colours.

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    1. You're right - washing dried outside does bring the outside in very beautifully! Glad you like the basket! E x

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    1. I don't know who came up with the idea in the first place but whoever it was, they had a stroke of genius! E x

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  3. Your basket is the most wonderful thing that I have seen for ages!!!! I love it. You are so clever and creative!!! Fantastic job! xx

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    1. Thank you so much Amy - really glad you liked it! E x

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  4. Have read and come back to your post several times as the colors and your writing keeps bringing me back for more peeks.

    You are quite industrious in your endeavor, and can just see you there cursing, trying to find that broken needle bit, then scolding the machine for being unwieldy.

    The efforts are well worth it as you have a bowl that will bring you satisfaction each time you look at it. Yes, my friend, you have inspired mr.

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  5. Oops, did not have my specs on. Guess you understood the last word as me, not mister.

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  6. I love the feel and smell of sliding into sheets dried in the sun!! Love the basket, I have done a couple that were differently put together but I like the finished project. Yours is a little more 'deliberate' looking! I have been thinking that it would make a really beefy rag rug as well! As usual I love your colors. Hope you're enjoying your first weekend of spring!

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    1. You're absolutely right about bed linen dried outside - I don't know why it feels as well as smells so different but it does! Yes good thinking about using the same technique for a rag rug - would be very robust, I guess. E x

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  7. It is just the most beautiful basket, I love the whole process.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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    1. Thank you! The process is all too addictive, I fear! E x

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  8. I'm impressed !!!! Quelle superbe idée !!!! J'adore ! Bon dimanche, amitiés ...

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    1. Merci, Géraldine! Bonne semaine à toi! E x

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  9. Like you, I'm pleased to be hanging my washing outside again and bringing it in dry not damp. I've made similar little coiled pots but much smaller using piping cord but yours looks beautiful. How lucky that I have a length of sash cord left over from re-stringing my airer! I think I'll spare my sewing machine needles though as I break them on the simplest project. Better search out a thimble. Hope you had a good view of the eclipse; it was too cloudy here.

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    1. I didn't originally intend to make this quite so big but one coil led to another if you see what I mean! you certainly could stitch the whole thing by hand - just a bit more time-consuming if you're thinking big. I've found that even hand-stitching the turn, it's really difficult to get the walls to go perpendicularly up so hand-stitching might be the way to go, to achieve that. The eclipse was visible but not spectacularly so - really I just noticed that slightly strange shift in the light characteristic of eclipses. E x

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  10. It's a very nice basket, Mrs. T. I've never tried sewing a thick piece in my sewing machine, though --- did you use regular size needles? Quite a novice question, I know, but that is what I am. I'm still working on the gingerbread house, though. :D

    Have a beautiful day,
    Oyee

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    1. Thank you, Oyee! I used a 90 size needle not the 80 I use for ordinary day to day sewing. I think you do need something that's a bit more robust than what you'd just use for sewing a normal seam in thin fabric. I bought a packet of size 100 needles when I went for reinforcements the other day but I haven't tried these yet. Something recommended for sewing denim is probably what one is after. So long as you can get the fabric under the sewing machine foot, you should be OK! Hope it works out for you if you decide to have a go! E x

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  11. OK, I am now committed to making a basket. Got the line, got the scraps, got the time. Now just need the motivation to start cracking.

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    1. What fun! I'm so pleased! I've made another basket since my post - out of my second batch of three reels and lots of Liberty lawn scraps! it's a bit bigger than the first one and has handles! Still haven't had to buy any fabric - only rope and needles and thread! I seem to have got a basket bug at the moment - going back for more rope when the shop has fresh supplies in tomorrow! Everlasto's profits may be showing a spike this month! Enjoy! E x

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  12. WOWEE WOWWW!!!! That bowl is ABSOKUTLEY spectacular!!!

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  13. Thank you so much Jennifer! it was such fun to do - am finding the whole process very addictive as well as therapeutic and satisfying! E x

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  14. Oh my goodness Elizabeth, I am in blog heaven! I can't tell you how pleased I am to have found your blog - A fellow devotee of drying washing outside (no tumble dryer burning up money here), vintage embroidered linens and a Bernina sewing machine. I feel like we live parallel lives! Wishing you a joyful Easter, Josie xx

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  15. Wow, impressing! Very pretty and such a creative and individual piece of handwork. Great job! Greatings & have a nice evening, Nata

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  16. what lovely baskets! as to hanging clothes outside...I've had my clothes freeze stiff on the line in winter. made for a great photo though -grin-. not sure I'll try the baskets at this time of life; too much else stealing my time but enjoyed, thoroughly, visiting today.

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  17. looks great! I know you broke some needles but its a hell of a good advert for Bernina. I wouldn't dream of trying to do that on my sewing machine. It would refuse to ever work again. lol.

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  18. looks great! I know you broke some needles but its a hell of a good advert for Bernina. I wouldn't dream of trying to do that on my sewing machine. It would refuse to ever work again. lol.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.