My Eco Home

My new home is a project and a half:  An older, 17th century stone cottage in need of a lot of TLC.  It stood empty for about a year and had been seriously neglected prior to that. The cobwebs would have made Miss Haversham green with envy.  It does have great potential, though, and I am busy renovating with a view to creating  a quirky yet stylish living space and at the same time a healthy home.

One big attraction to the property in spite of it’s rundown state, is the fact that it predates the use of modern, building materials.  I am a great lover of green low impact living and this enables me to keep my carbon footprint low and the amount of chemicals in the home to an absolute minimum by using eco-friendly organic lime based natural paint and plaster to repair and update. Auro natural paints, decorating and finishing products are fantastic and easy to order online, with fast delivery.

By using natural materials I aim to keep embedded energy values as low as possible.  Stripped back style is one that really appeals to me, with elements of ‘industrial’ thrown in, and Country Living’s Special Edition Modern Rustic Magazine, Issue 2, has been one of my sources of inspiration.

Where to start? Using the Permaculture principles enabled me to come out of overwhelm and start to take some action. Principle 9, Small and Slow Solutions, was my starting point: moving in and making gradual changes would enable me to keep costs to a minimum as I had been living in rented accommodation while looking for a project. It didn’t take long to decide that the 80’s style gas fire needed to go, to be replaced by a traditional log burner.

log burner in gunmetal grey
Log Burner in Gunmetal Grey

Continue reading “My Eco Home”

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We love wool

Cushion in Purple Tartan Wool
Cushion in Purple Tartan Wool

What a fantastic renaissance wool is having this season in the soft furnishing sector.  Thanks to it’s unique natural properties it has stood the test of time and is one of the oldest textiles known.  We hope you will also be inspired by the wonderful virtues of this fibre,

Blue and Green Tartan Wool Bag
Blue and Green Tartan Wool Bag

The fact that wool will only smoulder and not burn means it is naturally flame retardant, making it the perfect chemical free eco-friendly choice for upholstery and for creating a healthy home environment,  unlike synthetics which can be highly flammable.  On top of this the natural fibres absorb dye very easily, deeply and uniformly, without the use of chemicals.

Wool is such a versatile fibre as it is soft and light and drapes brilliantly making it ideal for both clothing and soft furnishings, including curtains, cushions, throws and blankets, as well as upholstery and a whole range of accessories such as bags, scarves and much more.  The fibres are naturally elastic and will stretch under pressure and then spring back into shape so that anything made from wool will not sag or bag.  And on top of that it is also dirt resistant!  The fibres have an outer layer of scales that are resistant to  dirt and dust penetration, so any stains will sit on top and not embed, making the fabric easier to clean.  Soiling is easily removed by gentle washing in warm soapy water. And even though it absorbs moisture, the scales have water repellent properties, perfect for rainy days, and your sofa.  Wow!

Grey wool cushion with hemp
Grey Wool Cushion with hemp

And just when you were thinking it can’t get any better, it does, because wool is also hard wearing.  The fibres are strong and less likely to break, and resist piling and snagging, so wool fabrics will look good indefinitely and typically have a longer life span than synthetic fabrics.  No wonder fathers used to hand their overcoats down to their oldest sons!  What mileage.  Great for both your wardrobe and home soft furnishing budget then.

Oh and I almost forgot to say, that wool is also a natural insulator, so it keeps us warm!  The crimp in the wool fibres mean tiny air pockets heat up when any moisture in the centre of the fibre heats up, thus holding the warmth.  This works both in a wool jacket as well as for curtains.

And last but not least the acoustic and insulation properties deserve a mention.  Wool carpet helps minimise noise levels in the home, while the fibres are also making their mark as insulation for loft spaces and walls, as a natural alternative to petro-chemical derived products for those wishing to become more green.

Let us know what you love about wool.

Prefer natural fibres? Alpaca wool is great for cushion fillings

Do you have allergies to feathers or dust mites?  Do you prefer natural fibres to fibres derived from petro chemicals?  Do you look for quality products that last, rather than something that has to be replaced every 6-12 months?  Cushion inner pads in 100% natural Alpaca wool could be an alternative.

Looking for ways around dependence on the oil industry and also to reduce carbon footprint of the business I came across locally based Spring Farm Alpacas.  A visit to the farm introduced me to these delightful animals whose wool is naturally soft and cuddly, and it rapidly became obvious that the high standards of animal husbandry at Spring Farm ensure that their herd’s fleeces are exceptionally lustrous and full of bounce.

Alpaca Wool Filling
Alpaca Wool Filling

Wool is naturally flame retardant and does not need to be treated with any chemicals therefore making it an ideal material for people who experience allergic reactions to a wide range of substances in the home.  In addition, Alpaca wool is said to be particularly hypo-allergenic.

Alpaca Wool Cushion Inner
Alpaca Wool Cushion Inner

Test driving the cushion inners throughout the cold winter months revealed that not only are the fillers soft and comfy, but they also bring a warm glow to the back on cooler evenings.  Using organic cotton for the covers completes the chemical free experience.  I have started with cushion fillers in 16″ size as this is the most popular.  However, any size could be made to order.

Baby Organic Cushion
Baby Organic Cushion

Using textiles and fibres in the home that are free of chemical additives is particularly beneficial where there are young children or a small baby.  There are hidden pollutants in many furnishings.  Or if you  just want to become more green and move away from products dependent on the oil industry,  towards things that are renewable and biodegradable, then choosing wool fillers and cushion covers in natural fabrics such as organic hemp, linen and wool will help to put you on the road to a healthy home.

Cushion in Organic Hemp in Alabaster White with Pink, Feather Filling
Cushion in Organic Hemp in Alabaster White with Pink, Feather Filling
Sea Foam Blue Green Organic Hemp Cushion with Alpaca Wool Filling
Sea Foam Blue Green Organic Hemp Cushion with Alpaca Wool Filling

How to Make a Patchwork Throw

Use to cover a chair, as a picnic blanket or a child’s play mat

Close up of Patchwork in pink, yellow and green
Close up of Patchwork
Patchwork Throw on a Lloyd Loom Chair
Patchwork Throw on a wicker Lloyd Loom Chair

You will need:

  • 15 pieces of material 35 x 25cm each in complimentary colours in fabrics of equal weight and thickness.  Being eco-friendly, we used 100% curtain weight cotton fabric from an old pattern book
  • Two strips of plain fabric 135cm long and 17cm wide for the top and bottom borders
  • Two strips of plain fabric 115cm and 17 cm wide for side borders
  • 1.5m Lining fabric or plain cotton fabric (137cm or more wide) for backing
  • Sewing thread in appropriate colour/s

A 1.5cm seam was used throughout.  We recommend pressing seams open as you go for more accurate results

How to make the throw

  1. Lay out the fabric squares and decide best how to arrange them
  2. Sew together the top row of three and press seams open
  3. Continue by sewing the next three together, press, and follow with the third , fourth, and fifth rows
  4. When all the rows are sewn together, join the top row to the second row, being careful to match the seams of the squares by placing a pin into the seam at right angles to hold the two together ready for stitching.  Stich together and press seams open carefully
  5. Continue in this way until all five rows have been sewn together making a finished area of three squares by five
  6. Find the middle of a long border strip, and mark with a pin, fold or pencil dot on the wrong side of the fabric.  Do the same for the patchworked piece and match the centre points.  Pin carefully in place and sew together, leaving ends extending away from sides (approx 17cm).  Repeat for the bottom edge.
  7. Repeat the above for the side borders, trimming away any excess length once you have matched the lower part of the side strip to the sides of the top/bottom borders, which now lies between.
  8. At this point you can add a layer of wadding if you wish for a warmer, padded quilt.  Pin the wadding at regular intervals making sure that the fabric lies flat and that there are no folds catching in anywhere. Basting the wadding in place will help to reduce any movement.
  9. Lay out the completed top layer, right side up, either on a large table or on the floor, and taking exact measurements of the finished piece cut the lining fabric to size.  Place the lining fabric over the completed patchwork with right sides together matching side seams and corners.
  10. Sew around the outside edges of the throw leaving 40cm open along the bottom edge.  Turn the throw inside out and press around the edges, folding in and pressing the seam allowance at the bottom opening, and then handstitching this closed.
  11. Press the whole throw until you have a good finish to the edges and the seams are all well settled.  Top stitch around all four edges about 0.5cm in, and again on the inside of the border edge.  You can use the same colour or choose a contrasting colour as a feature.
  12. To anchor the throw in the middle section, we used a small decorative flower feature stitch in the corners of every other square.  This holds the layers together while  allowing them to be flexible at the same time.  For a more quilted effect you can sew down every seam from top to bottom, and across in a grid, but bear in mind that this requires greater accuracy in the preparation of your piece as any discrepancies in measurements will surface at this stage.  You can also use crochet cotton to “tie in” the layers at the corners of the patches.  Stitch through from the top with the thread leaving the end free, coming back up, down and up again, then double tie  and trim the ends leaving tufts, for a more rustic or shabby chic style finish.  Again you can make a feature by using a stronger colour.

From a recycling perspective, you could also use fabric from old curtains, or old shirts to make this throw, as long as the fabrics are of a comparable weight, clean and in good condition.  A variety of textures and colours can be fun.

Making eco soft-furnishings yourself with recycled materials contibutes to a more sustainable way of living and brings great pleasure both in the making and use of the finished item.  If you would like to let us know how you get on, or have ideas to share, or other examples of upcycling,  we’d love to read them in the comments box.

Happy making!

Pink Patchwork Throw folded view
Use as a picnic blanket or a baby play mat

 

Some later projects…

Pink Patchwork Throw
Pink Patchwork Throw
Blue Patchwork Throw
Blue Patchwork Throw
Red Patchwork Throw
Red Patchwork Throw