Tag Archives: play

Broken it already?

How many children’s toys don’t survive to the New Year? How many go into landfill, adding to the enormous amount of waste the UK generates around midwinter?

If you have broken toys to deal with, rather than putting them in the bin, why not see if there’s a Repair Cafe near you? https://repaircafe.org/en/

Repair Cafes operate all year round, and fix all kinds of broken things to keep them out of landfill. My local one ran a toy hospital before Christmas, and is doing a broken toy session again in January.

Broken toys are also an opportunity to play, create and mess about. If the toy is broken, it’s not a risky activity. You might be able to Frankenstein it into something new. If your kids are old enough to be unleashed, why not let them remake the broken things into new, fabulous, hideous designs? So much of what’s available to children is pre-imagined for them and connects to existing TV shows, so objects all too often come with their stories in place, narrowing the space for imaginative play. By turning broken toys into new toys, you give them a chance to create their own worlds.

Playing with clothes

Somewhere in my teens I figured out that I could take a scissors and needle to the clothes available to me and make them more to my liking. At seventeen I bought a new – entirely new to me – dress for the first time in my life and it was a memorable moment. I’ve never wanted to be fashionable. I’ve spent most of my life not trying to dress in a way anyone would find sexy. But I do like clothes and I like dressing up.

The fashion industry is wasteful, polluting and planet damaging. I’ve also never really understood why anyone would want mass produced clothes that you leave you looking bland and identical. For me, one of the great joys in upcycling and making from scratch is that most of what I have is unique.

I do buy new things – sometimes because I need clothes that do a specific job and I can’t afford to wait for them to show up second hand. As I walk for transport, I need robust and weather-appropriate attire. When items of clothing die, I do my best to re-invent them, or take what bits are still in good condition and turn them into something else. I have a lot of fun doing this, and it is the principle source of unique clothing in my possession.

In the last week or so, I’ve taken usable fabric from four shirts that where worn out, stained or damaged and could not be worn as they were. I have five items of clothing from these – radically different to what went before. To achieve this, I bought two meters of broidery anglais and half a meter of stiffening fabric – it has a name and I can’t remember it! The principle damage to two shirts was below the armpit, leading to two sleeveless tops, the sleeves from one top being used to replace sleeves on another top, where the cuffs were worn out. The other set of removed sleeves went into making a hat. Salvageable bits of sleeve from the dead-sleeve shirt went into widening the bust on the last shirt (not originally mine). I was, I admit, rather pleased with myself.

I needed some additional wardrobe items for one of the jobs I’m doing. I’ve saved myself a lot of money by working over items that were free. I look a touch eccentric, and I like that, and I’ve put far less in the bin than I would otherwise have done. The clothes I have created aren’t exactly smart, but they will do.

One of the great things about taking a scissors to an unusable item of clothing, is that the pressure is off. As it stands, the item is only fit for the bin or recycling. If you get it wrong, you can still do that. If you get it right, and can get a few extra wears even, you’ve won. It’s safe enough to play and experiment. I do sometimes buy extras to lift an upcycled item, but I only do that when I’m sure it’s going to work. It’s not necessary, often, so aside from the cost of the thread and needles, there’s very little outlay. You can get a lot of upcycling out of a reel of thread. You can get a lot of fun out of the remaking – so it can double as a low cost hobby and way to amuse yourself.

If you can’t sew – it’s not that hard and youtube has tons of tutorials. Your otherwise ruined and unwearable clothes are great to practice on as you build skills.

The quest for happy accidents

I’ve been making a lot of changes to how I work and live, and also trying to shift how I think about things. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to do the work that is meaningful to me, and if I can’t make that pay the bills, I have to find some other stuff to fill in with. (Probably tutoring, but we’ll see what comes.) Alongside that, I’ve also come to the conclusion that time off for rest and play is essential. To which end we went to the pub last night. A man walked into the bar carrying a banjo. This is not the opening of a banjo joke, bear with me…

A bunch of other guys turned up with guitars, and as we were in their corner, asked if we minded and set up around us. We didn’t mind, and they didn’t seem to mind us, either. I haven’t had much live music in my life recently, so this felt like a treat. They kicked off with ‘Ride on’ and it boded well. Between the musicians, sat a box, of rather distinctive shape, which nobody opened. Now, I haven’t had the violin out all winter, and I haven’t played a viola in about two years. When they played REM’s ‘Losing my Religion’ – a song I used to do with my good friends Dave and Andy Simpson, I realised I had to ask. Fear of failure became outweighed by need to try. I asked what was in the box. Yes, it was a viola, and the guy who owned it had only been playing a year and was mostly sticking to his guitar. Yes, I could borrow it.

It took me a moment or two to figure out where my fingers needed to be, and then it all came back, and we jammed and it was good, and I now know where else they meet up to play and have an invitation to go along. Apparently they’d been hankering after getting a fiddler for some time.
Happy accidents. They seem to turn up more when I’m looking for them, and when I’m already doing the right things for the right reasons. Right place, right time, right people. If I’m in the wrong place doing the wrong things, there’s little chance of that happening. This morning we had a lie in, and as a result missed the rain, and moved the boat in sunshine. Win. The running hard, pushing hard, has not worked much, and mostly wears me out. The time spent on curiosity, exploration, play, experimentation, pays off. Almost always. I can feel a perceptible difference between pushing, and flowing with what is. The flowing only works when I invest care, creativity, and my very best work. It’s not a sloth option, but it calls for being more attuned to the whole right place, right time vibe. Turning up, doing, daring. The more I rethink how I go about my life, the more convinced I become that taking risks, doing what speaks to my soul, and trying to be the very best that I can, (not merely the most marketable that I can) is where the good stuff lies.

How I work has changed so much in the last few months. Including how I think about my work and what I actually produce, and how I feel about it. More on that tomorrow.