Ultimate Worm Farm Update

I think it’s time for a worm update. Don’t you?

I know many, nay probably all, of you having been wondering: how is the hobo worm farm extravaganza doing? Well, friends, wonder no more. I am here to report that, sadly, my hobo worm farm is defunct. You will never have to wonder again.

Just to recap for those of you not familiar with my worm farm story: I made a worm farm from some polystyrene boxes acquired with manic grin from the local grocers. I have an urban concrete courtyard garden, so a worm farm was the best option for organic food waste disposal (and trust me when I say I researched and considered many options.) I like being frugal, so I made the worm farm for the cost of a smile and a few well chosen, but nervously delivered, words. I then bought the right kind of worms from Ceres, a local nursery (and lots more) Alas, summers in Melbourne are unbearably, whingingly hot. The heat is dry. The people and plants wilt. Each summer thus far, my worms have died in droves. A few usually survive, and the entire worm bin ecosystem eventually revives with judicious application of newspaper and lashings of patience.

But I do not like being a worm murderer. Each summer I have worried and tried to find a better location. I have watered the bin, and covered the bin with a tarp and watered that and felt sick at heart when I saw their hundreds of dessicated little bodies on the outside of the box, fried as they futilely attempted to escape the heat inside the box.

Also, dead worms smell.

Also also when we moved from the little flat to this not-so-little house, I could not find a satisfactory location for the worm farm, and the worms were surviving but not thriving the way they had back at the little flat. I moved the farm around quite a bit to try to find a good spot, but the worms just weren’t doing as well. They took ages to eat through a usual serving of food scraps. I cut our scraps even smaller than when we were at the flat, but even so, I sometimes had to extract mouldy banana peel (worms don’t eat mould!), which I just then tossed into the compost bin.

And therein lay the nub of the problem, but also the solution. As this not-so-little house has a narrow patch of dirt, we acquired a compost bin, which hulks in a corner of the courtyard, under some thriving jasmine (well, jasmine always thrives.) We alternated between the worm farm and the compost bin; if the worms weren’t eating fast enough, the scraps went in the bin. Compost in the bin has been doing really well, plus there are lots and lots of worms in there (some were relocated from the worm farm; the rest are either third/fourth generation worm farm descendants or emigrants from the dirt.)

At the end of this winter, I decided not to go through the summer ritual massacre of my worms and moved them from worm farm to compost bin, emptied the worm castings into our various pots, and spoke a eulogy for my hobo worm farm . The polystyrene box will be repurposed as a planter box and the worms will live more happily in the compost bin, where when it gets too hot they can head deeply down into the dirt, and the compost goes from vermicomposter to hot composer with me doing nothing (this is the best way to compost – doing very little).

Just as my bokashi era ended with the advent of a compost bin, so too has the era of the hobo worm farm ended. I know you share my sorrow, but there will be much to look forward to with the black monster compost bin.

Also, don’t ever let anyone tell you composting is hard. It is easy. Anyone who says differently is selling something (name that movie, wherein there was, strangely enough, no mention of compost.)

Hop to It!

Look! You’ve blog hopped to me! Lucky you!

Thank you, Rachel, for selecting me to be hopped to.

I met Rachel pretty much around the same time I started sewing garments seriously. (Well, okay, I was still pretty silly about it, but you know what I mean, don’t you?) I had started thinking that I would take my sewing beyond a miscellany of tote bags and alterations like shortening the length of store-bought trousers, and I’d started googling sewing on the internet. I found heaps of non-Australian bloggers, and then stumbled upon bloggers IN MELBOURNE. It was very exciting (obviously exciting enough to warrant some all caps action).

This was right at the time of the very first sewing bloggers Melbourne meetup, organised by a different Rachel. I had bought a sewing machine at that stage, but not actually made anything on it except for practise stitches, so I just did not feel I could attend the meet-up. I’d be a right fraud.

Then, Rachel organised Social Sewing and the draw of sewing in a large space spurred me to get at least a garment under my belt before attending the first one. Social Sewing is now a regular part of my calendar, even though I no longer need the large space as I have an entire sewing room of my very own, and if I miss a month, am desperate to ensure I’m at the next one because I miss seeing and chatting to everyone, even if I’ve been reading what they’ve been up to on their blogs. I look at the photo in Rachel’s post about the very first Social Sewing, and all those erstwhile new scary faces are now familiar, firm friends.

Enough yabber, let’s answer some set questions and hope to pass the exam:

Why do you write? I have always written. Before the advent of blogs, I kept diaries. Remember them?

I never wrote them just for me; I always expected someone would read them. Not because I thought I would one day become so famous/important that people would wish to know what 8 year old me thought, but because when you’re one of many, you just don’t expect privacy. Everything I owned as a child was someone else’s, and my things would also become someone else’s. I just never had a sense that anything was uniquely mine nor that I could demand that it be mine and mine alone.

I have always written with a putative audience in mind. It was not that hard to take the step of starting a blog – back in December 2004. And as my obsessions change, what I write about change. The only constant, is that I write.

I write because it is how I think things through. I think in words. I do not think in pictures or feelings or sounds or whatever other ways people might think. I think in words. It’s possible I dream in words too because my dream images are always nebulous but any words spoken or thought in dreams remain with me.

I write because I love to read, and writing is the natural progression, the productive progression from reading. Have you read An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett? It is wonderful, and its theme is the importance of reading, its joys and its pitfalls, and what it turns one into (spoiler: a writer.)

I write because I love telling stories.

I write because it is my prime creative outlet. I might have sewing, now, but creating via writing is what I consider my prime hobby. It is the thing from which all others derive. However, I don’t write creatively. I have never written fiction (although I’ve tried. Ha.) Fictionalised accounts of events and people, yes, but not fiction as such. It’s just not my way. I don’t kid myself that I will ever be a Writer (although I am a published author – did you know that? Rachel does!)

And I write because, simply, I love writing.

What are you working on? Honestly, what aren’t I working on? I am not a single project person. Not in sewing, not in life. I have multiple sewing projects on the go at all times. I realised, the other day when I was at the library, that I sew like I read. I find it really difficult to start a book if that book is my only reading choice, even if it is something I want to read. I like having lots of choices, and then I will actually start one of them.

But because you are, perhaps, not interested in the meta level, here are my current projects (and my process in brackets):-

  • Dreaming (I mean Planning) Phase
    • Deer and Doe Bruyere shirt and shirt dress (planning phase; pattern acquired, not yet traced. No idea what fabric. But I am planning very diligently.)
    • Thread Theory’s Strathcona tee shirts for my partner (pattern acquired; not yet traced. Fabric assigned, so that’s pretty good)
    • Kitschy Coo’s Trifecta Top (need to identify suitable fabric. I need more casual clothes!)
    • Cake’s Tiramisu-Belladone in black merino, gifted to me by Ms Cake herself (need to cut into the fabric; might need to trace a 30A bodice, and re-do the waistband as well because I have taken it in in each Tira I’ve made up)
    • Another Cake Tiramisu-Belladone in a knit suitable for work in summer (need to acquire grey-ish or navy-ish (or both-ish) fabric. I love these as work dresses for me. I love the Lady Skater knit dress but it’s a bit too casual. The surplice neck and waistband of Tiramisu just lifts this into the ever so slightly fancier camp)
    • A Sew Over It wrap dress (pattern gifted; must trace and allocate appropriate fabric!)
    • True Bias Hudsons for hiking (made three Hudsons so far; just need to buy suitable technical fabric in appropriate colour and then they’ll be done as soon as the fabric is washed and dried. Fancy trackie-daks sew up fast.)
    • An ever-changing cast of bags.
  • Practically Completed (otherwise known as Fabric Cut & Waiting to be Stitched Up)
    • Sew Loft Emma Pants (only the waistband to go! take that!)
    • Kwik Sew 3422 (button up shirt) for my partner (fabric cut out and collar interfaced)
    • A variety of knit tops
      • More Maria Denmark’s Day-to-Night with sleeves,
      • Maria Denmark Birgitte tee (cut this out ooh maybe summer this year, maybe last year. Still not sewn up. Because it got cold and I did not need the t-shirt. It’s warming up again now, so maybe it will end up with some seams stitched together. Who knows?)
      • more Tessuit Brigitte tees (I’ve taken to randomly cutting a knit tee whenever I cut another project. Then it’s there ready for me to sew when I need to feel productive. Knit tees are my sewing palate cleanser, while things like trousers are my prolonged degustation meals.)
    • A white and navy blue florally print Christine Haynes’ Emery dress hopefully wearable muslin (all cut out since May/June, not even got anywhere near the sewing machine yet. Kinda lost interest. Squirrel!)
  • Some People Might Call These Unfinished Objects But I don’t Because I Live in Fantasy Productivity Land
    • A red linen Deer and Doe Sureau (zipper put in and waiting on a decision from me about whether I rip it out and re-insert; so very close but in that state since June)
    • A floral blue Victory Patterns Chloe (needs zipper inserted or the decision to sew up that seam and wriggle my way into it, because I can)

There. Are you glad you asked or did you need three cups of tea to get through the list?

My winter sewing plans, and my most excellent progress (and deferrals)

How does it differ from others of its genre? Well, first, I’d have to define my genre. I guess I’m now firmly within the Sewing Blogging Community, but honestly, I don’t see myself as a sewing blogger. I’m a blogger who happens to sew. I’m also a blogger who loves to read, ride my bike, garden, talk about worms and all kinds of other random stuff called, Life.

No, I’ve worked it out. Worms. Worms is what makes my blog quite different from others. I love them. (But not to touch. Ew. Don’t be gross.)

This my work collection for my worms.  My workmates get very distressed and confused if I forget to bring this container into work.

This is my work collection for my worms. My workmates get very distressed and confused if I forget to bring this container into work.

How does your writing process work? I write much like I sew. In snatches of time. Sometimes, in the 5 – 10 minutes before I eat my lunch at work (okay, I never sew like that). Most often, in the evening at home. Blog posts get written over many days. Photographs get taken whenever I remember and consider there is sufficient light, but I’ve got really, really slack with photographs lately. I blame the iPhone. We are considering purchasing a micro 4/3rds camera and launching back into taking good photographs. We shall see, we shall see.

Once a blog post is ready, I don’t post it for a day or two. I usually go back and proof-read. Depending on the topic of the post, I spend that time thinking about whether I should post. This used to be more of an issue when I blogged about Life, instead of Sewing. Some of my sewing posts just get posted after an hour or so of stewing, rather than days. I rarely write the entire post in one hit, which is possibly why they end up so long.

But, hey, I’m having fun here, not trying to win any blogging awards or, heaven forfend, monetise my blog. So it’s how I like it and how I want to do it and you cannot make me stop. Just try. It will be misery for both of us.

Now, I am supposed to pass this on. I am really bad at passing these things on. My blog is the place where Internet memes go to die. I’m passing this onto two non-prolific but very lovely sewing sistas in far flung places:

  • Ms Macstabby of Crafternoon Naps
    • I love her post titles. My favourite title so far is: I believe that children are our future. Unless we stop them now.  Also, we are fabric twins.
  • Kokorimbaud
    • Whose no nonsense style I thoroughly admire. Cake? No, she sews cucumber sandwiches.

A Serendipitous Pouf for Scraptember

I am one of those people who hoard scraps. I blame my mother, who used to fetch things that might still have life in them from rubbish tossed by my siblings and me. She’d rescue tossed and torn clothing for rags, half-used notebooks, and unwanted other things, stored in one room of the house, with our supply of toilet paper for when the apocalypse happened and you really needed the loo. I blame my father, who used to take me to garage sales at ludicrous pre-dawn hours (my father was *that garage sale customer*; I was his interpreter) to buy a miscellaney of things for the house. He used to store his treasure under the roof of our car-port. We got new kitchen and laundry sinks regularly, but he would not toss out the replaced one (they often became garden pots). My favourite of his scrap(sorry,treasure)-made items was the chicken coop made from old wire bed springs, old doors, and old kitchen sinks.  It was the most wonderfully creative riot of rusty wire and crumbling wood, just demanding you go off to have tetanus shots.

I now have a lot of fabric scraps. I find them really difficult to throw out. (I blame my mother.) If a garment might still be made from leftover fabric (1 metre plus), it remains stored with the fabric stash on my shelves. The larger potentially useful, scraps I wrap up, tied with their selvedges, and store in a plastic box, which lives under my sewing tables. After I have cut up fabric, I slice off selvedges and keep them as ties (they make great, and wonderfully colourful, garden ties). The completely not useful scrap (i.e., you cannot make a garment or a tiny drawstring bag out of these …) go into two drawstring bags, one for knits and one for wovens.

Both drawstring bags were overflowing, and I was on the brink of just throwing them in the bin, except … I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. (I blame my father.)

Recently, I discovered the blog of someone who uses fabric scraps in a delightful way: Minki keeps every little itty bitty scrap and turns them into gorgeous fabric art and useful items, like decorated tote bags. I am not that artistic, but I am inspired! Inspired to NOT throw out my scraps, which is not helpful. Not helpful at all, Minki. But goodness, the gorgeousness. I love the idea of embroidery but I passionately despise hand-sewing. I might give free motion machine embroidery a try. I need more hobbies, just like I need those tetanus shots.

My other idea was to use the useless scraps as stuffing for Something. I had no idea what. We have a lot of cushions in the house already, including four awesome floor cushions made by my partner’s mother. These have been with us wherever we have lived, and I adore them. They are covered in patchwork from scraps made from my partner’s mother’s sewing projects! So they will never be replaced. Refilled, yes. Replaced, never.

Eventually, I came up with two ideas (pathetic, no?) and polled my partner for the one that was more useful in the near future. Out of (1) pouf and (2) armrests for the sofa-bed, he chose (1) pouf. My constituency had spoken, so I set about working out how to make one by googling and googling and googling some more.

Here are some useful tutorials I found:-

I decided I wanted a round, drum-like pouf, with a zipper somewhere and a handle somewhere else.

A zipper was necessary so as to have no hand sewing in the project (in addition to hating hand sewing, I’m nervous that a hand sewn closure will not hold in all the stuffing) and for adding stuffing (and continuing to add stuffing when the stuffing gets compacted, as it invariably will.) The placement of the zipper was what flummoxed me the most. Eventually I settled on having it at the base of the pouf. However, we have wooden floors and I did not want the zipper pull scratching the floor, so I resolved to work out how to install a lapped zipper.

I think a handle is necessary too, for moving it about the place, but my partner thought it superfluous. Whatevs, I’m the one making it, not him.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Make Pattern Pieces: Basically you are making a cyclinder, so the pattern bits you need are two circles and a rectangle.
    • I made a pattern piece – a really large circle – using the lid from a saute pan, and then adding an inch all around. I sat on the pattern piece to be sure it was big enough. It was.
    • Add seam allowance: I added a half-inch for my seam allowance because I like half inches and 3/8 seam allowances. I don’t like 5/8 seam allowances so much. Just a thing.
    • Cut two of these but not yet
  2. Work out the pattern piece for the sides of your drum (the rectangle)
    • Measure the circumference of your circle, not including the seam allowance, this is the length of your rectangle
    • Work out what height you would like it. I wanted mine so I could sit at the coffee table, so I trotted off and measured the distance from the floor to the underside of the coffee table.
    • Add seam allowance
    • As it’s just a rectangle, I didn’t bother making a pattern piece; I simply notLed down the measurements.
  3. Work out which scraps you have that are suitable for the pattern pieces. This might involve destroying your beautifully organised stash, requiring commencement of that favourite game of OCD seamstresses everywhere: Time to Tidy! I am very good at this game.
  4. Block fuse everything now. (That is, fuse interfacing to fabric before cutting it out.)
    • I find block fusing much easier and more palatable than fusing pieces individually.
    • The kind of interfacing you use will depend on the fabric you have. The end result you want is something pretty stiff. I was using upholstery weight fabric that was fairly thick already, so I fused medium weight interfacing to it. Not to all of it because I did not have enough medium weight interfacing so I fused two layers of lightweight interfacing to some bits. No one will ever know. Except the internet.
  5. Cut pieces
    • 1 x rectangle piece
    • 1 x smaller rectangle piece for the handle. I just eyeballed this. You want the piece as long as you like and four times as wide as you want the finished piece to end up. Mine was approximately 12″ x 10″ but I did not measure it.
    • 1 circle piece for the top
    • 1 rough square at least two inches wider than the diameter of the circle piece for the base
  6. Make the base
    • Cut your large square in half, making sure that more than half the circle piece will fit on it.
    • Sew pieces together with a zip in between.
      • I am not going to give you instructions on how to do a lapped zipper, because I don’t think I did it right, and you may want to insert a different type of zipper. Zippers are not hard to insert! They’re just fiddly.
      • Google how to insert a zipper. You’ll find lots of excellent tutorials. My personal favourite is Erin’s of Dog Under My Desk.  She designed the Two Zip Hipster, and she can really insert a zipper! I don’t like any tutorial that tells me to cut things and fold things back and blah blah blah. The easiest way I find to insert a zipper is when you have two separate pieces and it is inserted flat.
      • I also added a zipper guard to make it easier to close the zip when the pouf is filled.  To do this, I simply sewed the zip right side up onto a strip of lining fabric before sewing the zip onto the base pieces.
      • For the ‘lap’ (the bit that overlays and hides the zipper pull) I sort of followed instructions in Christine Haynes’ book and also kinda winged it. Tip: if winging it, use basting stitches. Just sayin’.
    • Once you have joined your two pieces together with a zipper in the middle, cut out the circle base. Unzip partway, and pin the lap down, to make sure you do not accidentally cut off your zipper pull!
  7. Sew handle & Attach to rectangle
    • Fold rectangle in half (right sides together) and sew short ends
    • Flip right side out and halve it again by tucking the raw edges inside
    • Edge stitch all around, and sew a few lines of stitching parallel to the long edge
    • Sew onto the rectangle piece approximately halfway along and halfway up. Sew boxes for security and strength and because boxes with crosses in them make you feel like maybe you could do freehand motion embroidery. What hubris.
  8. Attach circles to rectangle. This bit is fiddly. Pin and wrangle and ease and swear under your breath.  Swearing makes it work.
  9. Finish your seams: I had cut my pieces with pinking shears, but the fabric was still fraying like nothing else so I bias bound everything with scrap bias binding. The insides look a bit … harlequinesque.
  10. Stuff!
    • I did not actually have enough stuffing! It now sits open, waiting for more until I can get it nice and full and firm. Might need to go sew some more dresses. (Oh, the cruelty.)

Zipper plus lining.

Harlequin bound insides.

I think, once this is filled, I may as well make another one and fill it with scrappy fabric scraps as I go.  And another.  And another, and so on forever and ever.

I am not a hoarder. I have turned my hoard into something useful.  It is therefore necessary to keep things in case I can find a use for them. I am not my mother. I am not my father.  Well, I am always worrying about running out of toilet paper and I do loves me a garage sale.