Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Today Pearl and I had (yet another) brush with what I like to call 'The War on DIY'. You may have noticed that the current political and economic system of hyper-consumption (yep, I'm talking about the 'C' word) doesn't want you to feel like you can do/make/fix things yourself. They like to make you think you need to pay someone to do/make/fix things. It's disempowering, and it gives me the shits. Because what it results in is a massive level of disconnection between people and the things they consume. I first came to this realisation about 4 years ago when Morag and I made a dining table for Pearl.
Pearlie, being the consummate entertainer and hostess with the mostess, was yearning big-time for a big, lovely old dining table. These, we soon discovered, are, without exception, expensive. Like, out of our league expensive. Being a gung-ho German who aims to please my lady friend, I figured I could give a bit of furniture-making a go. How hard can it be, right? Enter Morag (lovely, also gung-ho, hands-on type lady) some old tongue and groove floor boards from Coastie's big shed and a few bits of treated pine we found lying around somewhere. We devised a pretty rough strategy for building the table, based on nothing in particular, then set to work. A few hours later, we had a pretty big, wooden dining table that can happily seat 10 people, and squashily seat 12. Sure, it's a bit rickety on account of neither of us really considering, oh, you know, bracing or anything like that, but boy were we proud. And empowered.
Since then I have been suspicious when people tell me I can't do something. Not to detract from professionalism - hell no! Some people are just good at doing stuff! But you'd probably be surprised by the amount of things you can do a decent job of yourself. Read some books! Have a go! If you use recycled materials, which are usually cheap and/or free, it kind of doesn't matter if your project falls over (unless it's house, I guess) - just try something smaller next time. And remember to brace it.
Obviously, my current, kinda big DIY project is the building of our home, owner-builder style. This is what the authorities (namely the bank) are trying to thwart. But we shall overcome! And I just know that our place is going to be more awesome, and more true to the life we're trying to lead, if we have to do it our own way, with our own resources, even if it takes a little longer.
In celebration of our disregard for The War on DIY, I'm passing on the instructions for a cute, quick, recycle-y craft project: The beach poncho.
Made from a muslin baby wrap (I had a ton I was hanging on to but didn't know why) it is perfect for when your little friends get out of the water, all shivery and wrinkled, needing a little warmth and sun-protection on their adventures on the shore.
First, fold your wrap in quarters. Next, on the folded corner, cut out an approximately head-sized hole (can be good to use a hat for guidance - you don't want to make it too big).
Now, on your sewing machine, use some bias binding to finish the edge.
I decided to make some bias tape (that would be a strip of fabric cut on the bias) for this one, but the thick bias binding you get at a craft/sewing shop will be perfect (that's what I used on the green one Olive is wearing in the pictures). Always be careful when you're sewing on bias binding that you don't stretch either the fabric, or the tape as you're sewing it on. In this case especially you want to make sure you don't stretch the neck-hole too big.
Then you're done! Feel good! Feel empowered! And remember that if you want something, you'll feel a lot happier with it if you make it yourself.


  1. I wish I could lug around all of my fabric here in my backpack when we go to Australia. We could do a few projects between helping out with your property!

    1. That would be awesome! I'd love a bit of international collaboration, though I may not have my sewing machine when you're here, depending on what we're living in, and how much electricity we have. x