Monday, April 15, 2013

Apologies for the hiatus on the blog at the moment. Anne is currently in hospital but hoping to be better soon and posting again.

Monday, March 25, 2013


The cold weather spell is lasting a long time so today I want to explore how to keep warm with or without a fire.


If we put on clothes that warm us and keep us toasty we are less likely to feel a bonechilling cold permeate us. A 100% wool sweater, gloves and socks are going to keep us cosy but if you still feel the cold the warmth of the fibre such as alpaca can raise the temperature. Wrapping ytourslef in a dressing gown or duvet heat the space wound you. The warmest fiber is qiviut but it is hard to get sufficient to date to increase the insulation factor. Check your clothing: a 50% wool/cotton combination is unlikely to keep you warm in winter. Most of our body temperature escapes via our heads so a hat is recommended.


For just a few seconds. A cup of hot chocolate creates a fleeting feeling of warmth in your hands and stomach but not a change in your internal temperature—which is a good thing: Maintaining a stable body temperature is essential to having healthy organ function and a steady heartbeat. We associate it with a cosy inside feeling which is a placebo effect.


We do have a woodburner and without central heating it gives us the opportunity to warm one room in which we can all huddle together. It creates a warm feeling watching the logs burn and we can sit on the sofa, read a nice book and have a conversation.


Closing the curtains or shutters enables the heat to stay in as a lot of heat escapes via windows and doors

Seal your doors with doorstoppers ( a big long padded roll) so the heat stays in and draughtproofs the room.


Close off any unused rooms which will enable the warm air to stay where you are instead of circulating throughout the house.


Cover the floors in carpets or rugs which will insulate them against warm air escaping through the gaps and insulate the attic to keep warm air  escaping via the roof. You can see how well your house is insulated by seeing if there is snow ( when it snows) on your roof or whether the heat from the house is melting the sneow on your roof.


Make cookies, or a meal ( without too much steam)/ Not only will you be moving about but the kitchen will warm up as the oven works and dry the air in the kitchen.

The snow can cause power to be cut so keep candles at hand.

Hopefully these measures will make you feel a bit warmer. A brisk walk or exercise will raise the temperature a little in your boidy and if all else fails, hibernating under the duvet can keep you cosy.

I hope these measures will warm you up a little in the shortterm.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Banana cake with crunchie

The weather has frankly been a bit dark lately and many are asking when winter will end. To fill the house with some cheer there is nothing better than the fuggy smell of a banana cake. Besides using up the needless black bananas that hang around in this house, it warms my heart and brings back wonderful childhood memories of Grandmother's kitchen. I love having cake in the house to dish out with that relaxing cup of tea or coffee. We are 15 miles from an urban coffeeshop  so we create our own coffeeshop atmosphere.

Ingredients :

  • 200g Self raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 75g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 large amshed bananas
  • 2 crunchie bars

Grease and line a deep 1/2 kg loaf tin

Place flour,bicarbonate of soda,salt, eggs,butter and sugar in a bowl and mix together.

Add mashed bananas and put the mixture in the loaf tin. Then break the crunchie bars up, put on the top of the mixture and swirl inside the mixture.

Bake at 180 degree Celcius for about 45 mins to 60 mins until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Cool for 5 mins and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Hide away in a tin until you can no longer resist.

Friday, March 08, 2013

5 benefits to Living in a community

Living in a community demands that we reach out to people but in my experience that reaching out works both ways and provides an element of security.

When mentioning a life in a community it can be as intense as living as a member of the Amish Community in which the rules are set by each community such as no electricity, no cars, mobile phones etc to living in a particular place or joining an interest group online of like minded people.

In a time of economic downturn the equation between money and time shifts and my priorities in times of economic downturn shift too to spending more time investing in myself through reading, learning new skills and connecting with other people.

The 5 benefits of living in a community:

A sense of belonging

Many people feel isolated from the world by the fact they have no friends or relatives in their community. This can lead to loneliness and eventually depression. A community spirit can instil a sense of belonging in these individuals, they are no longer  alone, and they lead healthier, happier lives.


Living in a community protects the individual from the harshness of having to do everything.(The “every man for himself” mentality. ) It can help a person who falls on hard times if they are in  a community to feel supported, rather than living a corporate lifestyle where a person is only as good as their latest contribution. Community living also means that most of the people know each other. A small town environment like that often means less crime and also less need for surveillance. Surveillance is a consequence of living amongst strangers.

The sharing of resources

Sharing resources can greatly reduce the cost of living. Many of the luxuries that people enjoy are not used 24/7, or even if they are used frequently, they can often be shared. The quality of items that can be afforded goes up while the cost goes down. You can live cheaper and better, and the only cost is being more social.

Resources can be shared through the LETS system and FREECYCLE groups.
The transition towns initiative are creating communities that prepare themselves for sustainability after peak oil.

Cooperation and Competition

It is natural for individuals to cooperate with each other. We are a tribal species. In fact, cooperation on an individual level is very beneficial, because generally each person is interested in and skilled at different tasks than their peers. As a result close knit groups of individuals whose skills and personalities complement each other can be particularly healthy, happy, and successful.

Employment and fulfillment

One of the greatest benefits of living in a community setting  is that it gives us the freedom to care for our lives, our wealth, and often both at the same time. There is no reason for the community to resent individuals for participating in a way that does not directly benefit the bottom line. We can work together as business partners who share equally in the burden of maintaining the community economically. The needs of a community are numerous, and the avenues of occupations that could benefit a community are likewise numerous. Using local skills and expertise can benefit the individual member economically but also forges networks of professional relationships who have a sense of place and local solutions.There are  many diverse ways in which an individual can contribute. By working within a  community each individuals skills and abilities can be applied in a unique way, and no person need feel like a cog.

And community living is not just something for the countryside, there are areas in large cities that create hubs of community, where a local cafe becomes a meeting place, a place to relax and cultivate the relationships that bind us together as human beings.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Planning to live in a small home

I can honestly say that I have over the years not always seen eye to eye with my parents but when they decided to think about their retirement living space I was astounded and pleasantly surprised by their unusual course of action.

At the time they lived in the country in a 4 bedroomed family property with a bit of land near woodland. They had built their dreamhome when I was about 12 and before that had lived in a town. My mother liked her garden and my father liked the idea of playing his music when he wanted without disturbing neighbours. I grew up near the riverbank, planted a small garden and safely went for nature walks in the wood.

At some point something triggered a change of direction. The house was 2.5 miles from the nearest shopping facility and my father's health deteriorated. My mother did not drive and they posed themselves the question how they would manage later on in their lives.

They visited many retirement homes and eventually decided to settle in a university town with plenty going on. They settled for a 2 room apartment ( bedroom and living space) and decided to make the most of the space available by purchasing new furniture. Then they transferred all the things that were precious to them ( very little) and settled in.

But what about the family home?

  1. First they invited friends to choose what they wanted and needed a little bit like a freecycle open house.
  2. Secondly they invited acquaintances and other villagers to come and choose what they wanted and needed.
  3. Then they got a company to clear out the rest of stuff and set about selling the house.

A few months ago, we bought a small cottage where we live in 600 sq feet and the children live above in a similar space. Effectively its a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom downstairs, and we are following some of the same principles with the difference that we are far from retirement.

It is certainly not tidy and a work in progress but we only brought with us what we thought we needed. And even then I have established I have far too many serving dishes and crockery.

Instead of having many rooms each room offers an area set up for different activities, whether it be reading, cooking, recycling etc.

The children did the same and left behind a lot of stuff they had outgrown, games, videos etc We each have our own space and common areas such as the kitchen, shower room and living room. Yes it can get crowded but it is also cosy sitting by the fire, enjoying a hot drink and reading or conversing together.

The running costs are lower and we have managed without much central heating so far by lighting the woodburner and the range in the kitchen.

What about the garden?
There is a small front garden full of wildlife and a paved garden at the back of the house which hopefully will in time have enough produce growing in pots.

Life is simple. the owl lives in the big tree, the birds awaken us at dawn and there is a sense of personal peace and contentment as I go about our new home. So far I have not missed many items left behind.

Friday, February 22, 2013

How to reduce paper clutter

The last few weeks I have been looking at the amount of resources used made of paper and how these could best be dealt with. Despite best efforts to stop junk mail and catalogues it became apparent that it still streams in the house.

  • Mail gets opened near the paper recycling box and generally there is very little actual communication that needs a response.
  • Inbox- I have set up rules for incoming emails so the important ones get directed to their named inbox and junk box. It means being less overwhelmed by the amount of messages in the IN box. Turned off the 'ping' when an email comes in so I am not tempted to an immediate response.
  • Unsubscribe from emails you are not interested in.
  • Do not create accounts when purchasing items online and do not give out your email address when asked in shops or create an alias email for that purpose which redirects immediately to junk email.


  • Bank statements and utility bills can now be received digitally as opposed to a paper copy.
  • Try to find out which companies offer paperless billing and choose that option. It will reduce the mail being opened and also saves the company money.
  • Set up a reminder monthly to check the digital bills and keep a copy on your computer. Mine are divided into business and private bills and accessible anytime.


  • Letters from Government agencies, receipts and official letters are quite often kept in a folder and in any case should be accessible for 7 years.

  • To save them on a computer you will need a scanner. I save information in 3 places : computer, backup locally and a folder facility in the cloud.

  • I am a fan of Evernote as my back up because since having a stroke I have difficulty finding things and the notes saved on Evernote allow them to be searched by any word, as well as being available on mobile phones so in essence you carry the ability to carry vital information with you wherever you are.

  • Simple Life Together has a podcast episode six,dedicated to going paperless and Brooks Duncan  has a whole website dedicated to going paperless.
  • Vanessa Hayes has a big range of videos to help organize anything in your home but in particular an action file.


  • Books are available digitally as a direct download to an e reader or often as e-books which reduces the amount of book shelving space you need in your home.
  • I like that idea a lot but often there are books I will refer to often and those I still like to have in a hard copy on the shelf.
  • As far as magazines go, I am gradually changing any subscriptions to digital ones. Zinio have a great range of magazines and if you have an Ipad you carry with you a great amount of reading material.
  • Cookery books and Craft Magazines are being revisited and the articles and recipes that are of interest are scanned in, using Evernote I can search for the recipe anytime. Many cookery books tell a story and are good companions for cooking seasonally.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sustainable wardrobe- Part 3- HEMP


Hemp is a fibre much like flax coming from the Cannabis family

Cannabis nowadays is mostly known for its element tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a narcotic substance found in about 10% Cannabis species .

Hemp was first cultivated around the Caspian Sea and can grow as far north as the Baltic Sea and it was used as a plant fiber for textiles and later  paper in China as early as 2700 B.C. Because of its connection to the narcotic element although not present in fiber hemp it is prohibited from cultivation in the USA and under severe restrictions in the EU.  Most hemp comes from China Fiber hemp, however, contains virtually no THC and usually comes from THC low strains of Cannabis sativa and not Cannabis indica plants. In 1883 US law banned all hemp production ostensibly because of its drug use but in truth cotton farmers lobbied against hemp farmers. Thinking of all the chemical elements present in cotton currently I see hemp as a viable alternative sustainable fabric for clothes.

Hemp is grown, harvested and processed much like flax. Hemp fabric is strong and durable though usually not as fine as linen. The word canvas derives from the Latin word cannapaceus (meaning:derived from hemp), and even in Roman times sails were made from hemp canvas.

Hemp is very environmental friendly since it requires almost no pesticides and no herbicides. It grows fast with a high yield. Hemp seed is used in food preparations, cosmetics and animal feeding. The straw is used as biodegradable animal bedding. Nowadays, hemp is mostly used for paper making and grows much faster than a tree as a sustainable resource.

A few facts about Hemp

  • Used for ropes :The stalk grows over ten feet tall and has been used in the shipping industry for centuries.It provides a very strong, durable and rot resistant fiber..
  • The short fibers of the stalk can be used in textiles as a replacement or blended with other fibers such as  cotton.
  •  Hemp as similar fiber capacities as linen. It insulates the body against heat and keeps body
    warmth inside during colder spells. But it is more durable than linen or cotton.Hemp holds its shape and is very resistant to stretching.
  • The more hemp fabric is used, worn, washed and ironed the better it wears the more
    comfortable it gets. Hemp wears in not out
  •  It is resistant to mildew, mould and salt water.
  •  It blocks UV-radiation effectively which means less fading of the fabric and effective protection of body in clothes against UV-radiation
  •  Hemp-blends with silk, linen, wool and cotton prolong the life of the fabric while retaining its soft quality at the same time.
  • The original Levi Strauss jeans were made from hemp canvas.
Hemp can be bought online in the UK here and there are a variety of products to choose from including hemp wool  and fiber to spin.( I can see I am getting carried away with possibilities).
Another source is The House of Hemp with more yarns and colours.

Making the summer top as my January project took a bit longer but time is not the issue here and it is still very cold.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How to deal with Stash

Having downsized to a 600ft square living space, my collection of yarn and fibres needs facing. I have been putting it off for years amassing 2 big boxes of sockyarn and yarns leftover from projects. Each time decluttering has happened I have bypassed these conveniently. Mea culpa.It is not until it took to filling an understairs cupboard and creating the sustainable wardrobe that I admitted that there are only so many sweaters a woman needs, so many socks we need and yes the time for facing the issue was here, procrastination over.

Why do I have so much yarn ?

  • Partly because I miscalculated the amounts required for the projects
  • did not follow the instructions properly
  • impulse buy at yarn festivals
  • just because I like that colourway
  • Maybe a small fantasy of one day owning a yarn store.

Why is knitting important and valuable to me?

  • I knit for relaxation, learning a new technique and gifting.

Any specific project in mind?

  • About 20 which  would take me about 2 years to complete
  • Some of which I do no longer want to make
  • Enough for at least 10 socks

First step: What do I want to keep and why?

  • Do I have a project in mind?
  • Do I still need that finished object?

That leaves me with the 3 projects planned for and 6 sock yarns for a years supply.( GULP)
Plus an embargo on buying new fibers.

Second step - How do I recycle the rest?

I could put it on freecycle but I am finding it too valuable for that. (Still holding on)
Can I give it to a school where children are encouraged to learn to knit? ( sounds a better option)

Finally I have decided to :

  • gift my stash to be used for charity knitting
  • to seriously consider charity knitting as a way to create items that are needed for others
  • to not buy yarns until I know what project is needed in my wardrobe

Do I feel a sense of loss or bereft?

Small tinge of sadness but a great relief that I will not knit items that are unwanted and made  of leftover stash.

And the bonus is I will be knitting for relaxation with a purpose. Gifting woollens is after all one of the things I cherish so why not give that gift to someone else without the burden.

For charity knitting see UK Handknitting Association

Friday, February 08, 2013

How to establish your rhythm of life

What rhythm of life is appropriate to you and how to find out what is it?


There are a number of stages in our life and to accept and know which one we live in now can help us tweak the energy we have. Children have a need for routine, adolescents need sleep to function properly, young adults, active in the workplace, young parents, the 30 age group, 40, 50, 60, 70 etc.Each stage of life brings challenges with it, You might be following that linear path as it unfolds or like me navigate between them.

Questions relating to each stage :

SLEEP( night)

How many hours of sleep do you need for optimum energy?
Do you sleep the required number of hours and if not what is stopping you?
If you were to sleep the required number of hours what would be the impact on your energy?
If you cannot sleep the required number can you build in a nap in the day?

Our daily rhythms vary and although I know I am at my optimum energy when having had a good 8 hours uninterrupted nighttime sleep  my teenage sons require about 12 hours and are a lot more present if I accept their rhythm. That means that their breakfast time is my lunch time and our main meal in the evening is their lunch time and that at 9 pm they are likely to need a snack. Even if it means we have different daily rhythms they meet at certain points.


How  many hours does it take you to do your work?
when is the best time for you to use available optimum energy?
Does your commute add time to that?
Do you take time to be present when you eat a nourishing meal?
Are there seasonal changes to this pattern?( Winter and autumn)

How do I use the time at weekends? (Could be catching up on sleep)
Is there balance in my work and play?


There can be very little variation on how we currently use our energy during the seasons and every week seems like another but it was not always so.
Spring was a time of planting new seeds, new life, growth after a period of fasting and as the workload increased so did the length of the day. With the convenience of electric light we can modify that but do we use the time to its optimum?
Summer was a time for tending the growing plants, eat fruits in season, socialising and usually a time to work and play at maximum capacity. Summer is the time of plenty, warm, long days.
Autumn is a time of harvest and preparing for colder weather by processing the harvest and ensuring we will have our needs met in the colder days. Autumn offers us ambiguous days that remind us of summer but also of the winter ahead.
Winter offers us the shortest amount of daylight hours and an opportunity to see if the fruits of our labours do indeed carry us through to the next season. Harvests are limited but it can be a time to slow down a little, stay warm, coset ourselves a bit and plan and gain strength for the year ahead.


Each year and each period in our life has its own demands and thinking of what is important and what is authentic to us we can live with each 'now' in harmony or discord.

Somehow this century we have challenged these rhythms of life by working day and night, every day of the week, eating everything whenever we wanted, anytime in the name of progress. We rarely notice a change of season or pace getting out in all weathers, to accomplish our life's work paced over the seasons of the year instead of over 365 days.

A step towards change to ponder:

Start by finding out how many hours of sleep are most beneficial for you and make it a habit to get the sleep you need.( it fluctuates with age, health issues, effect of nutrition etc)
Can you give yourself a day of rest each week and plan activities that will nourish you?

Its an ongoing movement towards doing our life's work and staying present in the 'now' noticing the time of day, day of the week, seasons and how we function at our optimum level. It is a challenge but enables us to make our lives meaningful.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Instant gratification- I want it all

The New Year brought such an impetus of things I wanted to do to simplify my life even further so I thought I would write out those resolutions and got a bit overwhelmed with all the changes I intended to make.

January was used to look at those and I chose the sustainable wardrobe as my major project and then there was the garden, locally sourced produce in season, work goals, health, relationship, financial, energy efficient goals etc. Knowing full well the energy to achieve all of those would exhaust me and make life less simple to begin with. Some of these goals warranted investigating.

  • Why did I choose this goal
  • Is it aligned with what I believe is important
  • Am I willing to commit time to it and if so how much
  • What are the consequences of this decision.
  • Is it in line with my major life goals or a distraction?

Lets say your goal is to go and ski. Skiing happens at a certain moment when snow is available, so is time limited. This means travel and staying somewhere other than home. Requires a passport , special gear, toiletries and is going to make a dent in your budget. Now if its is in alignment with your authentic self( a need)  you will go and find a way and have the satisfaction you have achieved something important with meaning. If however you go because you need a break from the rat race or the impulse came from a glossy brochure or advert, you may feel very discontented at the outcome.

Despite wanting to live a simpler life a downshifting path to simplicity the inflow of information we get every day to flex those consumer muscles is so great that our brains get more hits for consumerism than to simplify life.

In my goal setting I found that although I thought I had mastered the skill of differentiating between what is an important task and what is a want in my buying habits, this had not followed through in my personal life. And the most important habit to break is that of instant gratification so deeply engrained sometimes we are not aware of it.

To reduce the impact of consumer messages we have a system to deal with the post, reducing the amount of junk mail, recycling the paper as the post comes in and ending up with  the important mail that requires a response.Those pieces of paper then get devided into home or business and get dealt with when I give the home or business folder allocated time and attention. It can wait.

If only it were as simple as the post. We are regularly receiving
  •  post
  • email messages
  • twitter messages
  • facebook messages 
  •  pinterest
  • adverts
and most of them incite us to buy something and influence our choices.

Every time you buy something in the high street or online, it triggers a marketing campaign sending you emails whenever your profile shows up as a potential customer. You get asked for your postcode and what number you live in and there you are added to a mailing list. Every time you buy something the messages enticing you to buy increase. Companies are fighting for your buying power especially in a challenged consumer environment as where most people are tightening their belts after the spending spree for Christmas or for fear of losing their job. I know its a controversial issue because at the heart of it, we are asked to consume to create and keep jobs.

To counteract that we simply physically stop shopping but then turn online for our shopping needs. The consequences of shopping online brings you boxes and materials to recycle as well as the item you ordered plus a daily amount of emails which thankfully are easier to unsubscribe from and delete virtually. Many a purchase asks you to set up an account which when you do means another password to remember and more email messages for account holders.( including special offers just for you)

A few years ago my son was waxing lyrical about the benefits of a certain washing powder, how it would fulfill my need etc. We are open to receiving these buying impulses and clever though they are they diminish our personal power to make decisions about what we need and want. Add to that the trigger of instant gratification, and we impulse buy because we want it, and we want it now.

This was brought home to me while testing a new organizational app called The Habit Factor which as it happens  accompanies a book , available tomorrow in hardback or instantly to a kindle and enabled me to list all my goals and then told me I could only concentrate on 3 of those goals. Three? The question I pondered this weekend was whose decision I follow when I want to achieve a goal, my own need or did the thought for that need originate as a marketing ploy?

Therein lies the differential and unhappiness between the goals our authentic self chooses and the ones we often pursue implanted by a clever marketing campaign.

Another app that brought me some insight was Astrid which enabled me to transfer those goals into steps I needed to take to achieve the goal and then allocated time in my schedule to do the tasks necessary.  Three goals are sufficient to fill a whole diary and both these tools have been instrumental in helping me choose my three most important goal allocated to the three most important roles. By the time I consider my health, family and work I have my three major areas of goal-setting.

I am not proud of the fact that I still want it and want it now as an impulse, knowing that consciously means I can set myself the task to wait, 24 hours, one week etc. A wishlist is a great tool as it gives me the instant gratification of acknowledging I want it now, but tomorrow I can delete the item knowing I really don't need it,

What drives your life?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

To do or not to do that is the question

Its February.

Sitting here cup of tea in hand, I wanted to take stock to see if all the things I had planned to do in January got taken care of and what was left undone. As usual I had far too many things on the list to accomplish ( even in hibernation mode) where I get caught up in the enthousiasm of New Years resolutions. I did spend January planning month by month what I intended to do but then nature has a way of stalling my to do list regularly and refocus on the present moment.

The snow arrived and clothed the roads with a blanket, well everything was white, cold and I listened to the frantic movements of the birds in the garden who were probably looking for food. I so enjoy the birdsong during the day and my contribution is to feed the birds in winter when I can. I notice the wildlife and nature now as where some years ago, I would be more focussed on getting to work and how this or that meeting would be chaired. Being mindful of 'NOW' means being open and present and I notice more of my surroundings and its opportunities. Being snowed in helps.

Nature provides its own version of a duvet day and while clothing the outside with a covering of magical snow I responded by lighting the woodburner, feeding the birds and making a celeriac soup.
Whatever I had planned that day got superceded by the weather conditions. Sometimes nature provides us with opportunities to help us recognize that we need nurturing.

I noticed the rush outside:

  • people commuting to their workplace
  • cars abandoned by the roadside
  • fear of not getting to work
  • phone calls regarding that urgent meeting
  • postmen delivering mail in all weathers
  • customers venturing to the shop for supplies of quick food
  • dogs being walked 
  • people covered in layers of clothing
  • trees draped with snow

The shop papers were not delivered and neither did lorries make it to the village but farmers came with their landrovers to help and everyone in the community did what they could to take part and check on housebound neighbours. Children had a rare snow day from school ( as the buses did not run) and the day seemed to bring out a carefree play to all concerned. I picked up my bag of leftover yarns and dedicated the day to making a little hat and reading about fair isle knitting, a technique still to be mastered. My to do list fell by the way and at the end of the snowy duvet days I felt I had accomplished a new skill which did not figure in my original plan of the day.

A snow day may be  inconvenient and here it stops the routine dead. Many are unprepared and struggle to continue in the forward movement created by a need to struggle against nature to fulfill a personal to do list. Rarely do we stop and question whether by going out and following our daily work routine, we are taking a risk of damaging our cars, other people or our health. The diary is so full that taking a moment to stop, breathe and be still is far more frightening than taking the slippery road outside.

Its good to focus our mind towards things and tasks that need to be done but a duvet day gives us a rare opportunity to reflect on what nurturing ourselves can accomplish.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Diversifying clothing materials Part 2

The word' sustainable' is the new buzz word. we had green and organic now we have sustainable.

What sustainable materials are there for clothing and fashion and how easy are they to come by.


Linen is available in several colours from beige to grey but white linen has invariably been bleached.

  • It can be washed at high temperatures of 95 degrees enabling it to be washed clean
  • It does not go in a tumble dryer but needs to be dried and then ironed while still damp.
  • Linen gets stronger when it is wet
  • Linen is a breathable material
  • Linen is virtually lint free, non allergenic and gives UV protection.
  • Linen is durable, strong and although a bit stiff at the beginning, washing improves it to get softer as it ages.
  • Ideal fabric for summer clothing as it is cool
  • According to some studies a person wearing linen perspires less than someone wearing cotton.

Sources of linen

Linen yarn is currently being produced as 100% linen yarn or 50% linen/50% cotton by a variety of companies such as Rowan or Patons  for knitting and crochet and many patterns are available to make tops. It is becoming a popular fibre choice for spring and summer.

Linen clothes can be bought direct from a few designers including Terry Macey and Anjelika Elsebach in Somerset but if you are looking to make your own clothes and learn the skills necessary to make your own clothes, then fabric is widely available.

Personally I now have the pattern for my linen trousers to make them in February 2013 and if succesful and they fit (?) I will add them to my sustainable wardrobe.

In part 3 we will explore Hemp.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Diversifying clothing materials Part 1

I don't know about you but when comparing the quality of an item I bought 5 years ago and a similar item from the same firm this year, I have noticed that clothes are getting thinner. From the manufacturers point of view this

  • reduces the amount of resources
  • increases profit per item
  • the cloth wears out quicker
  • the customer will purchase a new one quicker

The washing powders currently used and conditioners and our habit of washing, showering etc wear clothes out , creating holes, tears and generally wearing them out as quickly as possible.

If you look at the make up of the resources used for your clothing you will find that 100% cotton garments have a reduced amount of cotton now and jumpers for sale are in fact no longer made of 100% wool in general but contain either cotton or acrylic. That explains why when the temperature dips and we reach for a sweater we can still be cold.

Looking at the resources for clothes and material we can source their origins either from :

  • plants
  • animals
  • handmade materials
We have grown from a perspective of choosing our clothes for durability, warmth and quality to other criteria such as fashion, ease of washing, colour etc. To effect a change the first change we can make is one of attitude and being more choosy in the way we look at garments.

Most people had the skills to either make, mend or amend their clothes thus fewer clothes were necessary in their working wardrobe and every inch of painstakingly produced fabric was used, repaired and reused. What however are the real costs associated with these items.

As an example I will take socks. You can buy 5 pairs of socks for lets say £10. You will lose a few in the wash so they no longer match and as soon as a hole appears you throw them out. In comparison making woollen socks by knitting them yourself ;

  • requires you to have a skill
  • costs about £15 per pair
  • takes many many hours knitting time
  • requires special washing so as not to shrink them
  • can be darned and repaired
  • wool keeps your feet warm and absorbs liquid
  • wool is a breathable material
  • wool is a renewable material

The result is that you will only go through a certain  number of handknitted socks per year compared to cotton/acrylic ones, will have fewer going through the wash, resulting in a greater appreciation of material and skill.

For years we have avoided clothes with a 'dry cleaning only' label. Not only because of the costs associated with this item of clothing and the savings that could be made but the idea of having them washed in silicone and the impact of residual chemicals that would interact with our skins and own body chemistry was unknown. You buy a suit that you have drycleaned every month at a cost of £20 each time and the suit ends up costing an additional £240 per year to maintain.

The sustainable wardrobe therefore contains no items that require dry cleaning only.

Questions to ponder:

  • How many did you find.?
  • What attracted you to this item of clothing?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hibernation as reflection

Hibernation is used by many animals to last the winter. They curl up in as safe a place as possible to keep warm surrounded by their possessions and enough food to make it until Spring.

Here at the cottage the snow has been falling lightly sprinkling the garden with what looks like icing sugar and the birds have been strangely quiet. Birdfeeders get filled so we can enjoy the songs and calls of wildlife around us.

The snow makes going out quite difficult but allows us also to go inward and spend some time in quiet contemplation of our inner landscape. It always amazes me that when the weather gets colder we want warming, comforting food,  soups and hot drinks, a warming fire, a good book and great company.

A simple life does afford those comforts but I am also aware of the many people struggling to get to work, congestion on the road, accidents and foremost the stress of  battling the elements in an effort to go to work, to be that teacher or to get to whichever destination we feel compelled to get to.
Many schools close their doors resulting in grandparents being on duty, or else having to take a day off work and the world as we know it slows down. It could be seen as an inconvenience.

Let's turn that around and feel grateful for the opportunity :

to take it slower and breathe deeply while we drink that warm drink
to envelop ourselves and our family with the warmth of a blanket
that we can work from home or not as that case may be
that we do not have to get stuck in traffic
to have a reduced risk of a car accident or a fall
to take stock
to sit and chat a while
to catch ourselves slowing down and breathing deeply
to be grateful we have some time to relax
to bake cookies
to watch that movie
to pick up the book we were meaning to read and escape
to cook a warm spicy dish
to find out what is important to us
to spend time finding out what matters

It might give us an opportunity to tune into our inner intuition and help us realise the level of stress we endure on a daily basis and how we cope with that level of stress.

Snow gives us the opportunity to change our view from external to internal  and revisit the goals we have set this year and how we can best achieve them with the resources we have.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From, want to stuff and clutter.

De-cluttering is an ongoing activity in this household. Every time we have dowshifted to smaller accommodation there has been a sort of purging going on to deal with clutter. There are a few challenges with that in that 'getting rid' of stuff is not really just a case to put it in the bin for landfill but the questions asked are :

Can I donate it to someone who needs it or wants it? ( Clothes, books etc) Ask first.
Has it any value to sell it on?
Can I freecycle it or take to one of the local swap parties?
Can I repurpose it?
Can it be composted?
Can any parts of it be repurposed?
Is it mine to declutter?
Why did I buy this?
What am I going to do with it?

The questions can be endless and the right time to be asking them is when we acquire the item unfortunately, not when we no longer see a use for it. Believe me when I say at some stage it was a thing to behold.

Our tastes change, our circumstances change so it makes sense to change our clutter and stuff too. The reason we buy something new, want it is what keeps money flowing out and stuff flowing in.But how does its journey proceed from wanted/needed item to stuff to clutter.

Take for example my efforts with breadmaking. First I used to buy all bread at the supermarket with its wrapping, unhealthy ingredients etc. Then I decided to get a bread-maker and with a family of five found that one was not enough really I needed two.  I then became concerned about the sugar,salt ,wheat content of the bread machine bread and the resources used. Indeed the bread had no wrapper and had not travelled halfway through the country from depot to depot but it did use electricity and for the convenience of that wondeful feel good smell it mainly took up a lot of space. Not ot mention the bags of flour varieties.

I then progressed to making bread the slow way, taking all day over it just using a bowl, hands and a kneading board. But even making bread at home that way created a certain amount of clutter :
kneading board
dough scraper
bread tins
knives to cut the bread with
books on bread making making double quantity and freezing one loaf
and so on.

If decluttering was a once off activity then we would all have simpler homes but as we grow our knowledge and interests, things become stuff and then clutter.

Two things have helped enourmously as a habit:

to stay away from shops
committing items to a wishlist
wait 24 hrs before buying anything
to question what to do with the item when it is no longer needed
to look at its origin and resources used
to find an alternative source ( can I borrow it, is is available on ebay, library, does my neighbour have one?)
to build in a habit of revisiting each room on a regular basis and declutter items

The mystery about clutter is that once clutter was a longed for, searched for, loved item and sentimental reasons can stop us from separating from the belonging. One answer is to commit it to the digital invisible cloud. Take a picture of it and have a special folder on your computer. Particularly useful for that achievement certificate in grade 5 or family photographs. But mainly ask the question" Why do I feel the need to hang on to this item? Those answers might surprise you and then you might be able at a click of a mouse to make it disappear like magic.

Really advanced decluttering needs a discipline of bringing one item in and one item out but that could sound too scary right now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Sprouting seeds

Winter time gives us less vegetables to choose from and although outside my salad patch contains lambs lettuce and a few hardy varieties it is not as prolific as summertime.
The addition of sprouted seeds adds a lovely crunch and vitality to salads,sandwiches and stir-fried vegetables.

The process is simple but it requires daily attention and the equipment needed can be simple or complex but lets start simply.

For a visual representation this video provides a good introduction to sprouting.

My little jar was a present from a neighbour but it works well and delivers a small amount of sprouts to try the principle out. Little sprout jars and seeds can be obtained in the UK from

When your sprouts are ready to eat they will keep in the fridge for about 3 days thus a continuous small supply can be achieved with 2 jars on a windowsill.  Sprouts contain all the energy a seed would have needed to blossom and eating sprouts gives us the opportunity to harness all that goodness. Sprouted seeds can be bought at a wholefood store in bags ready made but growing your own is much more economical. Why not try it as an addition to your salad supply.

Sprouting makes indoor gardening a reality providing valuable nutrients when we most need it.

Evaluating your wardrobe

Came across a valuable tool on Colletterie's blog offering a free spreadsheet to enable you to make an inventory of your wardrobe and what it is you need and may need to replace  I visit Colletterie blog regularly as the patterns she offers for items of clothing are classic vintage but it also has some useful tutorials should you wish to make your own clothes.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Going local

When considering a purchase, a need that we cannot make ourselves,there are conscious buying decisions we can weigh up :
  • borrow the item
  • advertise for it on freecycling
  • check out Ebay
  • is it available locally
  • can I support a local enterprise?

In 2013 I am making an extra effort to buy British, meaning local within the British Isles not because I am patriotic but by doing so the miles the item has to travel to get to us are reduced and that is an important consideration in our buying criteria this year.

Here is a showcase of a small company making leather handbags. Hanson of London  Their philosophy is simple and they are reviving a skill that may have been lost to us forever.

What do you consider when purchasing an item apart from the pricetag? The price of this handbag is very high but reflects the craftsman's skills and the time it takes to make an individual item. Definitely the price is a barrier. Something to aspire to. Yes its expensive but durable and not guided by simply fashion. It would be hard to justify this item if you had it for just a season or on a whim, but if your aim is to have nothing but useful or beautiful items in your home then its worth the dream.

Friday, January 04, 2013

How to plan a sustainable wardrobe

Over the last years I have tried to plan my wardrobe requirements using different criteria than before in an effort to:
  • minimize expense and impulse buys
  • more sustainable fabrics( no dry cleaning only fabrics)
  • make them instead of buying mass produced( clothes miles)
  • better fit and less angst about body size
  • any colour scheme
  • locally sourced and produced( less travel miles)
  • I want to know where my clothes come from
  • deliberate decisions based on my needs not my wants
The starting point has to be the colours in fashion for spring/summer 2013 ( thanks to Pantone Colour reports)

The colour of the year is heralded to be emerald green. More information can be seen on Pantone's website :

Looking at my public wardrobe requirements I intend to have the following additions of new clothes :
1 pair of hemp trousers ( could be dyed in any of the above colours)
1 cotton summer cardigan
1 short sleeve/long sleeve colourful warmer top ( in case we have a chilly summer and for the transition to autumn)
The items in my wardrobe go along three phases in rotation :
  • new clothes for outings ( in that seasons colours)
  • last year's clothes for wearing casually and around the home
  • gardening and work clothes( after which they get recycled, upcycled into something else, or given away)

I could see what is available in secondhand shops instead of buying new and then dye it but in pursuit of the make and mend movement and to enhance my skill levels I am considering making them myself. Over the years I have found that making your own garments creates an attachment and appreciation for the resources used in producing the item and an appreciation of the quality of materials used. Apart from that I enjoy making things that are individual and am steering away from the mass produced look.

Colours are personal and I have a black base of mix and match items to which colourful items are added as and when.

When the items are completed they will take their place in my capsule wardrobe and I will then do the same for the autumn/winter wardrobe. I can always scour the charity shops and car boot sales for accessories in other colours or support individual makers on A search for emerald green items threw up quite and array of possibilities:

In time I have come to appreciate that there are four seasons and that each season has its own focused activity. Winter is to hibernate and prepare for spring, spring is all about starting the garden, summer about enjoying sunshine, the garden and the long available daylight hours and autumn is about harvesting, preserving and slowing down to winter.

I have 3 months of winter left after which the gardening season will kick in so there is no time to lose.
3 months and 3 projects.

January - cotton top
February- trousers
March- transition cardigan

Let's see if I can pull this off and how I get on.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Update 2013

You may have wondered what has happened to the downshifting path to simplicity blog and in 2012 it got hacked into and I thought I had lost the information forever.  Then a stroke reduced my ability to function and all my energy refocussed on regaining my health. I have learnt to dance in the rain and let every day offer its gift to be received with open arms.

This year my focus continues for better health and a more wholesome living by creating and incorporating different routines and habits into our daily life that will make a difference and provide inspiration to others. I believe the word I M POSSIBLE to simply mean that every thought and action is possible maybe not completely how you envisaged it. So where do we go from here? Forwards step by step. Are you with me?

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