Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Sing a new song, chiquitita

OK, my idea. While I was in Edinburgh, there were riots in Bristol about a new Tesco that was being opened. Anyway, this got me thinking about the nature of activism, different versions of activism, etc, and I was thinking that, quite a major and almost revolutionary-type-thing which has come out of the internet is that we are all able to share knowledge and skills and learn to do things which it would otherwise have been difficult to learn.
Laughing about a different sausage incident (yes really) in John Lewis in Edinburgh
For example, I was just now looking at a tutorial on broomstick lace – without the internet I can guarantee I would never have heard about broomstick lace, let alone be eyeing up my Giant Ball Of Aran and thinking, do I want a bright red broomstick lace scarf. And I have learned so many things with advice from people and tutorials on the internet which I would never have felt brave enough to do on my own. For example, making soap – I used to be really put off potentially scary things such as this, because I was never sure if I could trust the book I was using or not (and I was right to be cautious, frankly. I read a book today which said you could make soap by using a certain weight of ‘any oils’ + a certain weight of lye. NO YOU CAN’T! Different oils need different amounts of lye! Use a proper recipe until you know what you’re doing. Soap isn’t pastry!). I just find it really encouraging when I see real people making things and sharing their thoughts about the process, what went right, what went wrong, and seeing the results. I think more knowledge of what goes into the process of making things is good because it reconnects us, and when we are disconnected all sorts of things go wrong. Sweatshops, overconsumption, not valuing things, stuff like that, you know the drill ;-). Also, handmade things are better. Aren’t they?
Soap from the lovely Vivianne of Kismet's Companion, handmade and highly recommended. There is a link to her shop on her blog
So this was my idea. I have a mental list of things that I would like to try to make that I either haven’t got round to or have felt a bit intimidated by. I suspect some people reading this have got the same. So I thought we could name a week and make them at some point over that week, and blog about it. I could set up a Mr Linky at the beginning of the week, and anyone who wanted to use it to expand their skills/ have a go at something they’d been meaning to do for a while could do it, blog about it at some point during the week, and link their blog and we could have a look and admire (or learn and commiserate). It could be anything, anything you want to make, I’m entirely equal opportunities: a thing, or a skill, just something that you could reasonably do (or at least get started) in a week.
What thrilling new skills might be around the corner? This cat jumped out and terrified me, I think it is accomplished enough
There are lots of silly things that put me off the things I want to do: getting organised, fear of cocking it up, fear of wasting materials etc, so, if you are the same, I officially give you absolution. It doesn’t matter how much you bugger it up! Do it, blog about it, we can all learn from the process, and if what you learn is ‘God, this was a lot of trouble and in future I’ll just buy them from Waitrose’ well, then that’s useful to know (and we might agree). I’ve not decided yet what I might do but, here are some of the things I’m thinking about so you can see the kind of thing I mean:

Making fudge with a sugar thermometer
Making sourdough bread
Learning stranded colourwork
Learning to spin
Making liquid soap (possibly a bit too scary)
Making jam
Dyeing yarn
Planting salad leaves
And I’m sure there are lots more that I’ll think of!

I was thinking possibly the first week in June, which would give us enough time to order bits of equipment from the internet if we needed to (I’m not thinking of you spending a fortune on equipment, but you might need bits if it’s something you’ve not done before).

I thought it might be fun. Certainly I need a boot up the backside to make me brave enough to use my sugar thermometer. What do you think? Is anyone else in?

{Waits anxiously ;-) }.


Rachel said...

Yay! I'm in!

I nearly subtitled my blog (until I discovered that Blogger doesn't really do subtitles), "It's amazing what you can learn on the internet," because it is! I've also learnt soap making, as well as knooking, how to make wine, and various recipes including some for plants that I didn't previously know were edible (today's discovery: Comfrey leaf fritters. I'm going to try them tomorrow). I've spent most of this week online, studying details of plumbing systems, with the intention of working out the spec. for our new central heating system. I have greater confidence in what I can learn from the internet than in the local plumber!

So, new skills...

There are two on your list that I'd like to learn - spinning (I've been promised a long-term loan of a spinning wheel, but not sure if I'll get it by early June) and liquid soap making, though I'd like to extract the postassium hydroxide myself, which makes it more complicated. Maybe that's the challenge!

I'd really like to try pressing oil, but I was reckoning on getting the oil press as a birthday present for myself (late June), but I guess I could get it a little early...

I ought to say something heating-related, because that's the most important job at the moment, but that really scary! It certainly fits the bill as a new skill, that I haven't got round to (been procrastinating for months) and I feel a bit (!) intimidated by.

Anonymous said...

Yes - I'd really like to do this - I recently attempted choux pastry which came out much better than I expected. We made about thirty eclairs for the price of a packet of four. I'd like to make jam that set rather than fruit sauce in a jar. Lemoncurd as well as bought stuff never matches up to my mums.
I'm also trying to sew something from a pattern. It's not going well... but could be a shining example of a do NOT do this tutorial.
I also have a pendant light that needs wiring in. I've been avoiding this for two years (electricity kills!) I've also really wanted to try some needle felting...

Susie said...

These all sound fantastic things! Although Rachel, if you manage to extract your own potassium hydroxide I may start to feel I should up my game ;-).

(Also, you could try a drop spindle first? Cheaper than a wheel - I think you can even make your own with a cd and a stick).

Choux pastry! Never even thought of that one. I think I tried it once but it was years ago - I will definitely have a go at eclairs. I would love to be able to wire in pendant lights, actually. (And, sometimes sewing patterns are just not very good. It might not be you. I once made a dress from Weekend Sewing and it made me look unspeakable).

Voie de Vie said...

Oh, I'm definitely all over this. There are so many things I want to do, where to begin?

First week in June would be great. Whip up a little banner/badge thingy and we're good to go!

JacBer said...

I'd love to do this.
Saying that - the most scary thing for me is committing to it! I think that I might be slightly commitment phobic.
I'd like to learn tatting and also I have a sewing pattern that has been sitting in my cupboard for about 18 months now... the sewing machine scares me.

Vivianne said...

Good idea. But if I move the chest of drawers that I want to strip, sand, stain & varnish - which I've never done before - the wardrobe will fall down .....

mooncalf said...

I'm in. I need to learn darning.

And probably many other things.

martine said...

Thanks, i needed the absolution, having spent nearly two days on a piece of felt only for it to turn out all wrong, mainly because I did it all wrong. good advice, we should all learn to take more risks, especially where being creative is concerned
thanks for sharing