Making a Menagerie

Knitting with double-pointed needles is a bit like using a ninja weapon. Points are everywhere and in constant motion, albeit slow motion. Knitting with double-pointed needles is not one of my favorite things. I much prefer circulars.

Knitting toys, however, is highly satisfactory. Smallish projects, completed in an evening or two, interesting shaping and construction techniques, minimal weaving in…it’s the best of knitting in my book. Progress and finished objects before I get bored. What could be better?

Well, in addition to all these knitting benefits, I’ve also gained a lap cat in the deal. The current stash of cats came here under duress. They spent three years (!) in the local shelter and had sensitive stomachs and twitchy personalities from the stress. Didn’t matter. They were a bonded pair and tolerated me. That was the relationship. I provide food and clean litter, a few comfortable places to sleep, and they (in turn) allow the occasional scritch behind the ears and proximity. No cuddling, sleeping together, or carrying around. They came to me. I was a servant.

Until about a year ago.

Oliver developed thyroid problems. Once those were under control, a tumor (most likely benign but highly annoying) in his sinuses showed up and makes him quite snotty and wheezy. It’s like having a toddler with a never-ending cold. But, like most toddlers, he now enjoys my company despite the undignified nose wiping I insist on.

And now my knitting is perfect, if pointy. We both are learning to cope with the small needles, fiddly shaping, and British murder mysteries on the television. Somehow, with all those pointy sticks, it makes for a perfect image. Now that Oliver appreciates my lap, perhaps I should use him as a bookrest so I can learn to read while knitting.

Now I’ve Done It

Well, I’ve gone and done it now. I’ve met with the local barracks of the State Police, my local constabulary, and the principal of the elementary school in town. The response for the bags has been beyond encouraging.

That’s not the bad thing. That’s wonderful because it means there are other projects that go with filling the bags. That was the whole reason for doing this in the first place. My pastor asked me to think up projects for a daytime group. Now I have projects — blankets, toys, hats, scarves, washcloths/scrubbies. The knitters and crocheters at church can stay busy for a while. That’s the good news.

More good news came from the principal. She is looking for community outreach programs for her kids, both to help with the kids and for the kids to help us. It’s a win-win situation.

I am excited beyond words to make these connections. It also made me a little cocky.

For the tote bags I’m making, I have fabric for the foreseeable future. Mom made sure of that! But, the bags need zippers and I don’t have zippers. And, zippers are hard to find and expensive. Enter the interwebs!

A ‘contact us’ inquiry at Talon International put me smack in the middle of a request for enough zippers for Mom’s stash of fabrics. It’s my first time asking for corporate support and it’s been amazing. Even if I don’t get the supply of zippers, I am encouraged by the positive response I’ve had to my tiny local project. The least might be contact with a local supplier and the ability to buy at wholesale. The best, zippers at the ready to meet the needs here where I live right now. Thank you Talon, particularly Surbhi in Visuals and Merchandising.

Going through this, I had to ‘pitch’ my concept, which meant I needed a name. And so is born Unsewn Potential. More on that next time. Meanwhile, I need to see if my local grocery store chain wants to help.

Back to Basics

When I claimed Mom’s fabric stash from the bin, I had no idea what I had in the bags and boxes or what to do with it. I just knew I wasn’t giving it to some ‘charity’ that would basically shred it and sell it by the pound. There were too many memories of shopping sprees and too much unsewn potential.

I admit it languished in my basement for a couple years. I had stopped sewing after I gained a lot of weight, and making tents for myself was no longer appealing. Then, in denial, I didn’t take it up again after losing the weight because I was too busy. Yeah, well…

Now I’m not too busy and I don’t need a lot of clothes. I will occasionally make something comfy for myself, but I’m also offloading a lot of unnecessary work clothes. Meanwhile, I had boxes and bags of Mom’s fabrics and my own stash sitting downstairs, waiting for a purpose.

I love the variety of quilting cotton. The prints, colors, the subject matter. You can find a print for anything! This, from one bag of Mom’s stash.

When my parents travelled, the deal was often based on both fishing (for Pop) and fabric (for Mom). In a stroke of genius and peacemaking, Mom started making shirts for Pop. He could pick out the fabric and she could make them fit perfectly. This also made ‘waiting while fabric shopping’ less onerous on Pop since he could participate.

Anyway, it’s taken me a long time to make some decisions about the legacies I have in my house. With the fabric I make bags. The original intent was not to sell them, but I hope some of you buy them anyway. The original intent was to give them to people at food pantries. They could fill up the bags there but use them for other things later. And, now with stores in my area charging for plastic bags, a reusable bag could save already hard-pressed folks a little change.

A friend suggested other bags for other purposes: toiletry bags for shelters, book and toy bags for kids. The unsewn possibilities grow as more people face hard lives. People that in many cases have not just people but whole systems against them.

So, I’ve changed policy on my Etsy shop. For every $10 in purchases I will donate one of the Self-Storing Shopping Sacks to a food pantry near Warwick, NY, where I live.

I am working with my pastors to locate the right options for all of the bags to be offered. You’ll hear more about that soon.

 

 

Things to Put Things In

What’s the biggest challenge besides 2 for $5 bags of Oreos at the grocery store? It’s certainly not buying things. It’s bringing them home.

One of the reasons I’m so bad about bringing reusable shopping bags with me is the mess. They are big, don’t fold up or store well, don’t fit into my purse, and take up the whole child seat in the cart. We won’t even talk about dealing with them at checkout. We wrestle to get everything into them only to struggle with the weight. It’s not pretty.

We may feel virtuous, but it looks a fright, takes up too much room, and can’t be properly cleaned.

When my town instituted a Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB — cute) regulation that charges to use anything provided by the store, I went searching for a different solution. I found one in a book from the mid-80’s. 

Self-Storing Shopping Sacks! I made a couple for myself and got a great response. They fold into their own attached zipper pocket, weigh less than a quart pound (unless they’re made from denim), aren’t too big, and can be tossed into the washing machine should that package of chicken leak.

The handles on these bags make them easy to use at checkout and keep the bag ready to hold your purchases. They are about the same size one of the plastic bags, but can hold more without ripping. They don’t hold too much so you can still hoist them from the checkout into the cart and into your car.

I made a few available (right now…more to come) on my Etsy shop. Check them out. They make great gifts. If you are looking for something specific, let me know. I may be able to help.