Sunday, 10 June 2018

Avoiding the three P's - Parabens, Phthalates and Plastic shampoo bottles

There are lots of reasons to stop using commercial shampoos. Buying one less item in a plastic bottle is just one of them.  I had read that commercial shampoos contain lots of chemicals and additives that quite honestly I don’t want on my body, absorbed through my skin into my body or washed down the plughole back to the rivers.  As I had just started to dip my toes in the craft bath of home soapmaking I decided to have a go at making my own shampoo bars.

I found a recipe from the Nerdy Farm Wife for Rosemary and Mint shampoo bars. Using the cold processed method I substituted the plain olive oil for extra virgin olive oil infused with rosemary picked fresh from my garden and used sweet almond oil in place of sunflower. I also added peppermint essential oil and a few drops of tea tree.

So far I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s less bubbly than hand soap, it feels more lotion-y which I guess is due to the castor oil content.  I know the source of and can pronounce every ingredient and it leaves my hair and scalp feeling clean.

I was already undergoing treatment for breast cancer so giving up commercial shampoo was a no brainer. I wanted to avoid parabens (linked to higher oestrogen levels) and phthalates (plastic softeners and fragrance enhancers linked to all sorts of health concerns including breast cancer). I was also hoping that the ingredients in my homemade shampoo bars might help the bald patches caused by the treatment grow back quicker. I’ll have to report back on its efficacy in a few months’ time.

If you are interested you can read more about the chemicals in your shampoo in this article from the Guardian. What's in your shampoo 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Plastic free re-purposed bunting.

Every year my friends Katie and Ian and their band of "Fetchies" (followers of the running website set up a cheerpoint, (Fetchpoint) at Mile 22 of the London Marathon.

Usually we inflate lots and lots of balloons in the Fetcheveryone colours of red and bright yellow and string them up in the trees lining the Highway so that "our" runners can see us easily. This year we have decided to try and make Fetchpoint plastic free and to that end I have been making brightly coloured bunting from discarded hi-viz vests.

Fetchpoint 2017 Photo Ian Williams

I was given a batch of vests with out of date branding to use. First I unpicked the binding around the edge and saved it for stringing the flags on later. Then I drew a template based on an isosceles triangle.

To make the template, measure out an isosceles triangle 10ins high by 8ins wide. cut down the centre to give you two right angled triangles. If you remember your school trigonometry- stick the two triangles back together along the hypotenuses (the long edges). This gives you half a flag. One of the edges will go on the fold of the fabric. To the other add a 1cm seam allowance (yes I know I'm mixing my imperial and metric.

I cut along the shoulder seams of my hi-viz vest and ironed it out flat. Now came the fun part of folding and arranging to get as many flags from one vest as possible whist avoiding branding logos. I managed 5 or 6 per vest depending on the vest size and position of the logos.

Next fold your piece right sides together and sew the seam, tidy the ends and press.

Trim the seam allowance at the point and turn your flag right side out. I use a chopstick to make sure the point is sharp.

Press flat with the seam down the middle of the back of the flag.

There we have it. A lovely pile of bunting flags ready to cheer those runners over The Wall and no nasty single use balloon waste. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Runners - Ditch the plastic!

We have all been moved by the Blue Planet pictures of rafts of plastics in our oceans. We’ve watched horrified by the stomach contents of a dead albatross chick,  shocked by pilot whales entangled in plastic bags and disturbed by the calf poisoned by his mother’s polluted milk.
Closer to home the RSPCA receive on average 14 calls a day reporting animals affected by litter. Wild birds and small mammals trapped in empty cans or choked on plastic bags and balloons. Your own pets sniffing out and eating rubbish add to these figures.
The Guardian tells us that Micheal Gove is haunted by the plastic pollution he watched on the TV but still Britain failed to send any senior figures to the UN summit on plastic back at the beginning of December.
So…. Its up to us then.
As Harriers we can allow ourselves a small pat on the back. We have posters aimed at discouraging litter at our races and legal litter zones around marshal points. This December Noel spent 3 and a half hours following the tail car at the Bedford Harriers Half picking up the litter left behind.

Noel's bit 
A couple of years ago some of you may remember that I ran the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon twice accompanying the great Ben Smith in his quest for 401 marathons. He joined in with me collecting Gel wrappers and it proved a good distraction for a few miles. Here is what we found in just 2 miles between Astwood and Cranfield.

This year I said I'd do a litter pick sweep run and Sylvia joined in for the first few miles. I have to say there were far few gel wrappers this year, so perhaps people are getting the message. What I did notice was the quantity of gel wrapper tops, you know, the little tear off what the heck do I do with this small bit of plastic. These greatly outnumbered the wrappers. So, I'm afraid we need to keep hammering out the message about litter. We also need the gel manufacturers to address the issue and come up with a better design for the tear off top. Personally I do not tear them all the way off which makes them only a little bit harder to suck from. 
There were also loads of Tenants Lager and Red Bull cans but I had to start leaving these behind after 3 miles and 2 full bags. I wanted to leave the course tidier than when we started but at 40 minutes per mile it would be dark before I finished.

 For some years now, there has been a contingent of Harriers working as recycling crew at Glastonbury Festival. “Love the Farm, Leave no Trace”. 

But we can and should do more.

Water is the obvious target. Cups not bottles and compostable paper not plastic or polystyrene. Could you consider carrying a collapsible cup or bottle? Easily available for a couple of  pounds from a camping store. Richmond park and Rome Marathons are already on board with this.

Gels next, At the very least put the empty packet back in your pocket. You carried it half way round the race, carry it to the end and dispose properly in a bin. I’ve been trying to find out if the plastic pouch is recyclable but unlike tea companies, gel manufacturers don't mention it on their websites. I can only find one gel in the house at the moment, Gu, there's no recycling information on the packet at all. Not even to say it isn't. Waitrose and Tesco's online shopping sites suggest that SIS packets are ok with your plastic recycling.
But what about the tops? What did you do with the tab on the top? Did you rip it off with your teeth and spit it out on the ground? Mmmmm did you? Are you a #suckytoptosser?

Green Champions.The Singapore marathon this year employed volunteer green ambassador runners wearing special printed t-shirts reminding competitors to “Bin It”. They are hoping to become the first city marathon to embrace the circular economy and become zero waste.

Race numbers. Running imp offers numbers made of Tyvek which is a plastic. Its recyclable with your plastic bottles but not compostable. Pretex is pulp combined with polyamide and polyester with no environmentally harmful breakdown in waste. Let’s encourage race organisers to use Pretex.

Cuppa? Arrived at the race or finished and fancy a cuppa? T-bags are coated with a plastic that doesn’t break down in the compost heap. This is so they can run them through a machine to seal them in the manufacturing process. Dig over the pile and you will find the plastic skeletons left behind. Loose leaf tea is the way forward and a small change we can all make at home.

Keep up with the Joneses. I challenge you all to go home and look at the amount of plastic waste in your own bins. Want to keep up with us? In our house we  now use loose leaf tea. I make my own yogurt in glass bowls and have a selection of very light weight organza bags I sewed myself for loose produce at the market or supermarket.

USP for our races. How about we too embrace the circular economy, aim for Bedford Harriers Half marathon – Bedford’s or even Great Britain’s only zero waste half. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Autumnal Sunshine

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
 Nathaniel HawthorneThe American Notebooks
Rushmere Country Park
It's most definitely autumn here now. More leaves on the ground than on the trees and the cross country season is well and truly under way. Last weekend found me running around the muddy fields of Buckinghamshire clutching a plastic dog toy in the "Squeaky Bone" relay race. This weekend we drove over to Rushmere country park to run their inaugural parkrun event. Pouring  with rain galloping through gloriously boggy sticky mud and puddles it was my slowest 5k in a long time but great fun.
What you need when you come back from your run is a hot bath and a  steaming bowl of warming carrot, honey and ginger soup. I will miss my Chef son when he goes back to France for the ski season but for now I'm enjoying his creations at home.

Another of the pleasures of autumn is to cosy up on the sofa (feeling virtuous after the exercise), listening to the rain pounding on the conservatory roof with yarn and crochet hook.  I had some WI soft and chunky wool from a trip to Hobby  Craft and used three balls to make this scarf/shawlette for my daughter in law to be.

With a 9mm hook it grew very quickly and was beautifully soft and warm. I finished it with a simple crochet flower button so it can be fastened if worn as a shawl and sewed on one of my new labels. I love how the light catches the silver thread and make my crafting look so much more professional. D. seemed very pleased with her gift and I hear that her mum didn't believe that I had made it myself because of the "designer label".
  Sylvia x

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Dreaming Spires

An old friend had a significant birthday. We have known each other since our children were very small but, as they grew, went to different schools and are now adults, we hadn't seen her for ages.
Out of the blue, a few weeks ago I had a call from her husband to invite us a surprise dinner for her at her Alma mater in Oxford.
Of course, as usual I couldn't decide what to get as a gift. Several times I made a firm decision about what I would definitely buy but changed my mind when I got to the shop. Originally I had to buy a tree for her new garden before I thought through the practicalities of transporting it to Oxford. Finally, yesterday morning, I decided on some National Garden Centre vouchers which I know she will enjoy spending. 
The plain white envelope looked a little drab and boring. Lightbulb moment! I would crochet an envelope. It was, now, far too late but I grabbed a hook and some white cotton 4ply and leapt into the car where my OH was waiting to get going. 
The journey was just long enough to make a 6in doily and to attempt to "block" it by sitting on it for the last 10 minutes. Tied with a red ribbon and Ta- Dah! Oh well, I tried.
The dinner was fabulous. It was wonderful to catch up with old friends. I ate far too much of the amazing four course meal and had, maybe just a little, more wine than I am used to. This morning after breakfast we took a stroll in the college gardens.

A really lovely weekend and a great catch up with old friends. We mustn't leave it so long next time.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Crochet Bikini top

Gracious, where did the spring go? August already! We've not had much bikini weather in this country but with Beyonce and Abbey Clancy both pictured in boho crochet swimwear, Nightshadow*, back from uni and heading out to Outlook festival in Croatia asked if I could try and make a crochet top with a student, rather than designer, price label.

Stitched in Silver crochet bikini top
Of course, I went straight to Ravely's pattern search. At the top of the list was this Patons Grace bikini pattern for a simple bra top. Greater minds think alike, and I found Sarah at Repeat Crafter Me had adapted the very same pattern for her own top. Take a look at her tutorial with lovely clear photos.

Using one ball of Patons 100% cotton DK from my stash and a 4mm hook it turned out much to big for my super slim 34 C teen so I frogged the first cup back until it was a better fit. Just like Sarah, I picked up across the two cups to form a band. I started with 2dc (sc) 2ch all the way across. Then one row tr(dc), 2 rows V-stich and a row of scallops 5tr(dc),1dc(sc) to match the cups. I made two stitch icords for the halter neck with a longer one to weave through under the cups and tie round the body.

I took it into the garden to photograph so I could pretend that the gravel of the path was the beach.
Cotton crochet bikini top

Stitched in silver cotton crochet bikini top
Final cost £4.95. I hope she likes it.

*for a nickname its better than the one her older brother still calls her, derived from when she was a toddler in nappies and he was 9.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Four go yarn shopping

"The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her."  ~Marcelene Cox

Yesterday was National Yarn Shop day. No I didn't know it was a thing either!  What better excuse than to get together with friends and go on a road trip to visit a couple of our local yarn shops, drink coffee and talk knitting and crochet all day.

Gemma and I arrived early at our favourite coffee shop and started the day with a slice of homemade cake.
We were joined for our breakfast, by my OH who was going off for one of his long runs and Katie who was recovering after last week's London marathon. Neither were coming on the yarn crawl but never turn down the opportunity for Fancy's cake. When they discovered that we were meeting up with other friends whom we had originally met on the internet, they joked that if we disappeared they would check the Shreddies factory in case we had been press ganged into becoming Knitting Nanas.

We were soon joined by Sam from  who had planned and organised the day and Penny, another crocheter from the Catchup and crochet group. We almost persuaded Katie to come with us, I could see that she was tempted but she had other commitments that couldn't be changed.

So four intrepid yarn shop explorers leapt into Sam's car and set off for Manfield Crafts  in Rushden. Emma, an experienced knitter, set up the shop in 2007 after struggling to find a quality yarn shop locally.  She was very welcoming and put the kettle on straight away. She is keen to share her knowledge of knitting and of her stock to beginners and accomplished crafters alike. She runs popular knitting groups and workshops weekly and even opens in the evening twice a month. I was very taken by the cute sheep and lamb knitting kits which, I think, will definitely be making an appearance on my shopping list when I next visit.

Inspired by the others, I bought these to attempt to knit a pair of socks. The Rowan for the cuff, heel and toe with the Mirasol Hachito  for the rest.
This wool and silk blend is to make a scarf inspired by the knitted one on display at Manfield Crafts. I'm not sure yet if I'll knit or crochet with it. I learned about about Fibre East where both our shops will be represented, just down the road from us I'd not heard of it before, but it is now firmly in the calendar.

After choosing our purchases, discussing patterns and trying out different types of knitting needle (carbon fibre ones please Santa if I can wait until Christmas) we piled back into the car for the second shop on our itinerary. We drove back down the A6, and out to All Stitches in Wilstead. Helen was equally welcoming and helpful. Offering a completely different range of yarn and patterns she has a large stock of King Cole brand but for me the more exciting was the range of cotton for crochet. Overwhelmed by choice I only purchased a couple of different types but will definitely go back when I have a particular project in mind.

This recycled King Cole Cotton Aran will probably make a crochet summer top.

By now it was gone lunchtime and we were getting hungry so it was back into the car to return to Fancy. Here we ordered warm flat bread with hummus, avocado and salad and shared our purchases. Of course, as soon as you get your yarn out of the bag it clamours to be crafted so inevitably samples were started along with the coffee and cake.
It was a lovely day. I have two new yarn shops to visit, come away with a wikipedias worth of new knitting and crochet tips and got to know my travelling companions much better.

Thank you Sam for organising the trip, can't wait for the next one.