Thursday, 18 May 2017

Scrap Craft - The Art Of Making Do & Being You


Ever heard of scrap craft? According to gardening guru & Guardian columnist, Alys Fowler, in her superbly sensible book, The Thrifty Gardener, it's when you reuse unwanted items or recycle them into something useful. It starts with ....I wonder if.......and the result is often surprisingly cool. In my case, a bug hotel we made from a 1950s tea chest rescued from a neighbour's skip filled with some broken Edwardian edging tiles, a trio of chipped terracotta plant pots and wood salvaged from a trellis found rotting on the wood pile. Alys describes it as a way to personalise your own environment without it costing the earth, an independent cultural ethos far removed from our commercially driven world.


When antisocial scumbags decide to dump a load of crap over our fence, rather than send a whingeing tweet to the council's overstretched refuse department we recycled the trash into something useful, wooden pallets became raised veg beds and a rusting drum from a washing machine filled with forget-me-nots to make a groovy space-age planter. The Victorian chimney pots I dug from the undergrowth and a 1950s enamel sanitary towel display rack also proved perfect for our plants.


The tacky 1950s glazed Formica cabinet (below) bought for a few quid from a charity shop makes an ideal cold frame, somewhere to start off our seedlings and protect them from the frost and any predators.


 Alys says that by being practical and using our own set of skills we can make our world around us, rather than buying into someone else's bland version. You start to make stuff that suits your home and the way you actually live and, instead of impersonal elegance or, worse still, the mass ugliness of manufactured things, you get something that has a little bit of the spirit and personality of the owner. When you grow your own vegetables or recycle your kitchen waste in a bin you made, you are taking control, rewarding yourself rather than waiting for somebody else to do so. You are transforming your world by your own rules and, by expressing your life creatively, the unexpected thrives.


But you don't need a garden to practice scrap craft. If you're a second-hand shopper you're already doing it, recycling other people's cast-offs and combining them with clothes you already own to create an outfit unique to you. Don't you just love finding something pretty in a charity shop, standing in front of your wardrobe and wondering to yourself... what this will look like if I try it with that? Like this TopShop cropped blouse I found last week, bought for no other reason than it was cheap and cheerful. Little did I know that when I threw open the wardrobe doors it would be the perfect match with the Swagger maxi I made myself from a 1960s curtain back in March.




Alys says that the best stuff comes from limited resources and she's not wrong there. Here's a few of the finds we've made in Black Country charity shops in the last seven days:
Clockwise from top left: 1970s Freya of Australia handkerchief hem dress; 1970s turquoise leather coat; American baseball shirt with tags attached; Dannimac raincoat; Gents' 1960s silk scarf; 1970s navy leather blazer; Rockabilly style bomber jacket; 1960s bangle (Mine!); Repro cloche hat; Celia Birtwell for Topshop blouse (now in my wardrobe!); 1970s midi dress; Jupiter 1980s leisure shirt; Shetland wool waistcoat; 1960s Hardy Amies blazer; St Michael 1980s novelty print shirt; 3 x vintage ties; 1960s suede waistcoat
Clockwise from top left: 1980s C&A fedora; 1970s Hamilton, English-made leather bag; 1980s American-made Chinese-style silk waistcoat (Keeping!); 1980s Alexon midi skirt; Adini velvet dress; Windsmoor edge to edge wool jacket; Handmade linen maxi; 1970s corded cotton maxi (in my wardrobe); Indian block printed silk scarves; Velvet and feather trim pillbox hat; 1960s polka dot scarf; 1980s does the 1950s straw hat; 1970s vinyl bag; Jacques Vert picture hat; 1960s psychedelic sun hat; 1980s tie-front top; Topshop crop top. 

More of her advice for a great garden is something than can equally be applied to your wardrobe and the key is love. The most beautiful, joyous spaces are those created by people who made & tended them and truly loved them. She says that doing your own thing, passionately, wins out. If what makes your heart sing isn't anyone else's cup of tea then don't let it put you off, embrace what you love and go for it unabashedly. 


Being fashionable, she says, is risky. Fashion is all about selling magazines, so what's "in" one year is virtually guaranteed to be "out" the next.  Alys says you should do your own thing, be a little daring, and be inspired. Confidence and originality will win out in the long run.


...but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that, you know that already, don't you? As my fabulous friend Goody says Wear it if you like it and fuck anyone that doesn't.

WEARING: 1970s corded cotton maxi dress & 1980s Chinese style long-line waistcoat with one of a pair of curtain tie-backs worn as a necklace (all charity shopped this week)
No fairs this weekend! What on earth shall we do with ourselves?

See you on the other side.

44 comments:

  1. Well, you're better than me. I saw my neighbor chuck a bottle in my yard and returned it to them personally...
    Do you think you have enough time to complete the proper resocialization of about 3/4 of the human race with your blog in this one lifetime? lolol Showing people how TO BE!

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  2. Pinned your maxi dress and waistcoat to my Two Snaps Up board.
    Saw this cool idea to recycle plastic coffee containers - fits right in with your post. http://sawsonskates.com/2015/06/01/coffee-container-tiki-statues/

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  3. How very apt! I raided a neighbours skip today for two 1950's wrought iron garden table frames with no tops! I hid them in amongst other garden crapola so the husband doesn't think they're new acquisitions.

    Whatever you do this weekend, enjoy! The weather's looking good! xxx

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  4. I've got that book somewhere , I watched her program a few years ago too xxx

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  5. I love the bug hotel! As someone who wears 95% thrifted clothing (most shoes, all regular clothing except underwear, bras and panties) I do feel good when I recycle. And since I shrank and did a closet cull I keep seeing bits I have redonated at the thrift shops teehee

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  6. My dearest Vix, back bone to many and green fingers too? awwwwwwwwwwwwwww There is no end to your habilities?
    I love having nice garden, well patios in our case, but I am not interested in plants, thankgoodness thar Rebecca and Victor are a good team. We have just planted a lemon tree that will give us lemons all the year round. Wait and see.
    Much, much love, dear Vix

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  7. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms Fowler although she's a bit late to the party as I've been repurposing stuff in my garden for years. I've made planters from an old galvanized bucket and enamel bread bin, broken tea pots, an old pair of wellies, a wooden clog and I fashioned a garden bench from a salvaged slate hearth and some logs. Wouldn't mind a butchers at her book mind. You've been wonderfully resourceful with the scumbags' shite and I love the 'coldframe'.
    Ace finds this week! The chinese silk looks magnificent with the black and orange maxi and I LOVE the Celia Birtwell tunic that's now in your wardrobe.
    I imagine your weekend will involve knocking back the odd rum and coke? Lucky buggers. xxx

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  9. OMG! My garden is full of other peoples cast offs! Only this afternoon Arthur came home with 2 rather marvellous horse heads that will look fab in amongst the greenery. Popped up a picture on Instagram of 'Birdcage Walk', which I am sure you can guess what it looks like! My follow up will be the Palm House at Kew Gardens...a particularly fancy-shaped white birdcage, that was left out on the pavement at the other end of our road!!
    Zxx

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  10. timely post today: we made a "free" costume for the one of the show this morning. Using a yellow skirt that had a huge rip we added ruffles made from left over scape fabric. One ruffled "Spanish" skirt at your service.

    In my neck of the woods, it's called yard art. People turn old toilets into planters, use broken wooded chairs as planters (plant the seat), old metal beds turn into fences. But how rude of those lowlifes to dump stuff into your yard.

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  11. I want to know how a Chicago White Sox jersey made it to the Black Country! If clothes could speak, eh?

    I like your cold frame-I might try something similar. I wouldn't have been so accepting if they'd turned my yard into dump.

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  12. What a fabulous post. That bug hotel is gorgeous and a very cool thing to make and so good that you turned some thoughtless git's rubbish into something so beneficial. I wouldn't want them in the house but the scary spiders, et al are great for the garden. The makeshift greenhouse is complete garden glam. You look fabulous in your makes and finds. That maxi is amazing. Recycling *ahem* is a bloody great excuse to indulge my hoarder tendencies. Those hats are bloody lovely especially the pink one. I try to find vintage hats but my head is normally too big for them. Xx

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  13. Beautiful blog Vix. So much lovely colour. It seems whatever you wear you make it look stunning. Can't believe that people use you as a dump. Do other neighbors get it too? What we have problems in nz with are overseas freedom campers. They think there is so much space and beauty they can do what they like. Park a few days at a beach and dump all their rubbish behind and use bushes for toilets. Councils are trying to combat with fines and areas getting chemical toilets put in but they look so ugly. We have perfectly lovely camping grounds. It makes me grind my teeth. Anyway not to spoil your lovely blog. Your garden is a joy. I have some old French roofing tiles piled by an old iron ornate gate. They have French writing on them and came out of a demolition skip. I expect 100 years ago we weren't making them. You want to know what to do next? What about another house tour or is that too soon for you. Love and xxx

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  14. It IS shocking that people dumped things over your fence but good for you for making it into something fab!
    I love what you say here. I was sitting on my train today going through TOWIE towns on my way to work- I really do live in the Essex stereotype and these girls got on the train and I looked at their skinny jeans perfection and the magazine look and wondered what they thought of me in my book-print dress, flat Mary Jane shoes and bookworm necklace and how different and I didn't care. It's nice to be different!!
    Your garden ideas are super! x

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  15. I love re-purposing things and making them more 'me', I love what you say here. It's a shame people think it's OK to lob stuff over your fence, but I really love how the washing machine drum looks as a planter! I love your outfit too, so much you've inspired me for what I should do with my latest fabric find.

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  16. Right Vix, we all know this in the vibtage/opshopping community but it's great to be reminded of it sometimes and to be creative in various areas of your life, including in the garden! I'm feeling a bit inspired to go out in my backyard and plant some more veggies. Can't wait to see you rocking the Celia Birtwell shirt! Enjoy the weekend. Xxx

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  17. I love repurposing things too, it is so satisfying! Your outfits are fabulous as always! :)

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  18. I've no choice but to 'make do', recycle, or repurpose here in Nepal. I can't just run to the store every time I think I need something! There's hardly anything worth buying in the shops even if I do go! It's been a real eye opener as to all the crap I really don't need!

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  19. amen!!
    growing up behind the iron curtain we never had this flood of consumption goods until we were in our twenties....... make do and mend your own way with 2.hand pieces was the normal for us in our youth. we learned to know the special and so much better quality of the old and the homemade - so the turbocapitalist trash never touched our hearts.
    you look so turandot in this red ensemble - totally fab! and of cause i´d love your wild and romantic garden!! xxxxx

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  20. I enjoyed alyssum fowler book too, found in oxfam Brighton and returned so bit of recycling involved. :) her book is inspiring. Old paving slab found in woods now makes a lovely toad shelter and old bricks hold flower pots up higher for drainage, underneath live spiders. Old beer barrel now rotting has mouse living in Base and plentiful,supply of woodlice. I love your bug house, must try something like this too. Betty x

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  21. Absolutely love Alys Fowler's book, and thankfully there're some great videos of hers on YouTube. 'The Thrifty Gardener' is a book I've returned to time and time again. Your bee & insect hotel is great. I wish I could dig up some handsome chimney pots from my garden. All I've found so far are concrete paving slabs, glass shards and plastic bags. Valerie x

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  22. It's the sign of a 'real' gardener that every container becomes a pot! Everything from B&Q is sort of like a cricketer with bright whites or a barrister with a pristine wig ... they've not been in the game long enough to make it their own.
    I once read a great book called "rooms from remnants" with similar ideas for inside the home (really obvious stuff like using attractive boxes and packages as storage and more unusual ideas like how to paper mache "mouldings" rather than using heavy plaster).
    We have lots of 'junk' that we use for imaginative play with my daughter - empty cereal packets and old pots and pans are better 'toy kitchen' equipment than toy pans! Mum's old cast offs are better for dressing up than child size costumes... and the best thing is you already have them.

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  23. People are awful aren't they. Not all, obviously, but to purposely dump things in others gardens, that's disgusting. But, well done on repurposing it.

    I must say, that fifties display cabinet makes me quite weak at the knees. I have always wanted one. I saw one in town once, but someone had papered the back in flocked wallpaper and it was covered in black mould. Add to that the fact that Andy really wasn't keen. I still think about it though! Much like the black lacquered Victorian cabinet which was £10 on the lawn outside of a local antique shop, he hated that too, but again, I still think about it xxx

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  24. I keep reading hoping ideas I have will manifest into action. I'm still keeping my out for what could be the perfect back yard furniture. I did by a couple lounge chairs at 75% discount so we would have something to use to enjoy the nice weather, but not really what I want-not unique at all.

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  25. A hearty Amen! from the States about repurposing grubby but still sturdy metal stands and furniture for outdoor use! It's silly to buy new when commercial cast-offs can be refurbished with a wire-brush and a can of black Rustoleum.

    The vivid red of that Chinese overcoat suits you, Vix. You're the most exotic blossom in the garden yet this season, which is what I believe the Chinese intended -- wearing gowns that served as the flowers blooming brightly in their mostly green landscapes. And your pendant neatly answers the question of what is one to do with a single drapery tassel...?

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  26. OMG this could be my garden! Pallet planters, bug hotel that's home made, plastic containers re used. I loved Alys Fowler's tv series a few years back and always read her gardening column in the Guardian.
    I agree so strongly with everything you said.
    I love what you do with clothes, they take on your personality. I can't bear mass produced tat and love to make something out of what would be destined for the tip and I think you remake things with panache.
    You often find gems too though and I never seem to come across them very often!
    A great post, I've been nodding in agreement all the way through it. xxx

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  27. So very true. I think challenging ourselves to be creative by reusing and recycling is good for the brain. I agree wholeheartedly with Alys Fowler and you.

    I love how you threw the Chinese jacket over the maxi dress. Isn't it fun to play?

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  28. I would love to read that book, and will look out for it, although here at Dove Cottage we have been practising scrap craft for years! I simply cannot bear anything mass produced and it's only getting worse the older I get. My first thought is: do I already have something I can transform into what I have in mind, and secondly: let's see if I can find it in the charity shops. I'd rather look around and wait than just go out and buy it. It's much more fun like that anyway, isn't it? xxx

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  29. Well you've seen the state of our garden, rusty hammers, spanners, bike, typewriter, mangle, scales galore and pressure gauges. I'm sure Alys would approve once I've weeded.
    What a super blog post again with you looking as beautiful as ever.
    It was such fun last Sunday at Stockport wish we could do it again this week. The wandering welder is working in Cleveleys so I'll have to entertain myself xxx

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  30. You always look beautiful.

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  31. That bug hotel is so freakin' cool. Thanks for sharing. May have to see if that book is available at the library. xx

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  32. love the red on you and the recycling of stuff from a fellow Walsall girlie

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  33. She is brill is Alys Fowler! I love how you've reused stuff for your garden it all looks fab. OH will plant plants in anything that holds compost. Our bbq is a beer keg cut in half sat on the legs of my best friend's kitchen table from the 1970s. I've used a white metal corner unit designed for bathrooms, I think, to put plants on...

    Your charity shop haul is amazing! I love, love, love, the 1960s sunhat. I also loved your cropped top and the fabulous outfit with waistcoat. As for the curtain tie back necklace - that is a magnificent idea and I might have to nick it...

    Have a fab weekend

    xxxx

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  34. Some really inventive recycling there! My husband wanted to make a fire pit out of our old washing machine drum but couldn't get the thing out intact. I love that long waistcoat over the dress, looks great. Hope you're having a lovely weekend! x

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  35. I very much put myself in the non creative bracket most of the time except there I was yesterday in my Morris dancing jacket made from 100% scraps taken from stuff I already had, freecycle fabric, the pound rail at the local charity shop and a local jumble sale. Some of the clothes were complete horrors in their original form but brilliant when cut up into tatters. Hated the making bit [thought it would be quick but took forever] so for my coloured one I had all the fun of collating the fabrics in the same way but swapping my cleaning skills with my dancing friend's sewing ones because she loves making them. Win, win. I really enjoyed this post Vix as it's exactly how my brain in wired. Arilx

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  36. My parents garden is just like yours, my dad recycles anything and everything into plant pots etc and has saved many an item from being chucked in the tip. Right now he's repairing a wrought iron table and chairs that someone he knows was getting rid of!

    I love the Chinese style waistcoat - very glam! xx

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  37. Bravo for turning someone else's crap into pretty and useful things for your garden. I can't believe the nerve of people that dump stuff into other's yards. I enjoy seeing gardens and flower beds with "folk art" pieces made from cast-offs. If I had a garden, I would probably be one of those people given my love of thrift-shopping.

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  38. I like the 50's display cabinet! I've always loved old chimney post being used as planters, no chance of finding any in my garden sadly. xx

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  39. You look so awesome in red!! And WTF, people dumping in your yard? I live in a gross trailer park and occasionally a dog will drag a dirty diaper or fast food cup over to our yard... I don't think those are good scrap crafting materials though.

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  40. Sounds like a book I need to read. I recently put together a bee bath using the top of an old bird bath and I fully believe that I love it all the more for it. I often us redundant bits and pieces in my greenhouse. I have some breeze blocks that I use for shelves, and the (I don't even know what to call it) the inner packaging of some heavy duty wire that I use as a small table. I've hung some old crystal (plastic!) lampshades in there that were here when we moved in and they catch the light nicely - which is why we call it the disco greenhouse.
    I love your washing machine drum with the forget-me-nots. I've been meaning to make a bug hotel out of a few old mugs...

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