This weekend we’re off to Bury St Edmunds to spread some crafty love and check out the charity shops which Louise assures me are awesome. We’re taking part in an exhibition at the Art Gallery on the Saturday on the subject of Making Do and Mending, and all things craft-tastic. On the Friday night you can find us in the pub. Although that could just be a general statement in itself, we will actually be in the pub (the Masons Arms) for a crafty reason: we’re doing a talk on launching your own local Craft Guerrilla.

The notion of taking a “thing” and turning it into another “thing” is what draws me to craft. From recycling old bits of cardboard and plastic for use in kits, to the simple skill of using wooden sticks and wool to turn commuting time on the tube into a present of a scarf or hat for a friend. Here I talk a bit about the role recycling and upcycling plays in my craft kits.

How does recycling feature in the craft kits that you make?
In everything that I do I try to use as much of my existing stock of materials as possible before buying new items. As a result of my work as “Handmade by Lisa Margreet” either for my business or as part of Craft Guerrilla I am often donated items by members of the public such as a bumper load of vintage knitting patterns and other people’s unwanted wool stashes!

I also inherited a lot of my craft items (including my sewing machine and first knitting machine) from both of my grandmothers and it is this stock of resources that I turn to first when I design a new craft project or kit. If I do have a need for new items I will try to source them from charity shops, second-hand stalls at markets or from freecycle before buying new.

I try to ‘upcycle’ as much as possible as well. ‘Upcycling’ is taking something that was created for one purpose and using it for another. A simple example would be using the cardboard that was made for holding your Weetabix in and cutting it up and using it in kits to wind cotton around, or as a template for making pom poms!

Apart from fabric and wool, what else do you recycle?
Paper is the main thing that I recycle. Although people are now very up on recycling paper, I notice that they think nothing of putting the paper in the recycling bin when they have only used one side. I’m the nutty person in the office who collects up all the paper that has only been printed on one side and brings it home to use! I print on the back of it particularly if I am including a paper template or small envelope (for putting beads in, for example) as part of my kit.

I also use brown paper bags that I brought as a job lot from a cash and carry 10 years ago for my kits! Sometimes I print directly onto the bags, although that doesn’t always work out so well. I reuse the imperfectly printed ones wherever I can. I often take my sandwiches to work in a “Handmade by Lisa Margreet” brown paper bag which has a big ink blot on it from the printer!

If I’m not reusing paper that has already been printed on one side then I will try and use both sides of the paper to print on. Also when the text won’t come out as unreadable I will also shrink down the font size and print on double-sided A5 paper. This not only helps to conserve paper but also ink.

Although I very rarely get plastic bags from shops as I usually carry a spare canvas or knitted tote with me, I have got a big stash of plain white plastic bags that I also got from that same trip to the cash and carry all those years ago. I’ve not been sure what to do with them but I’m currently working on a few ideas like ‘fusing’ them with a hot iron and then using the resulting “fabric” to make waterproof linings for shower caps and laptop bags. I also like the idea of stitching them with the sewing machine to make a waterproof postage envelope for shipping out my orders.

You can cut plastic bags into strips to make ‘plarn’ (plastic yarn) which you can then knit and crochet with. Debbie (Craft Guerrilla’s founder) does a great plarn tutorial.

Does this philosophy stretch into other areas of your business?
I started “Handmade by Lisa Margreet” as a vehicle for selling my burlesque-style fascinators. The very first fascinator that I made was for myself. I wore it out one night and I got commissioned by a girl in the club toilet queue to make one for her. This happened several times; Different girl, different club, different toilet queue but the same commission. Following on from this I started to make a small collection of four of five fascinators every year.

Unfortunately although they attracted a lot of interest I noticed that the collections of fascinators that I made and took to craft markets never sold in the way that I could sell the one off of my head! Now that I have a portfolio of designs I have decided not to waste time and materials making a new collection every year and I am going to return to a “commission only” basis. I also teach fascinator making workshops as I love to share the craft skills I’ve learnt.

I try to reduce waste wherever I can in my life as well as in my business. At home I recycle everything that can be recycled and compost everything from potato peelings to fabric off-cuts. I use “grey water” and collect rainwater for watering my plants and I also try to conserve my time, energy and money whenever possible!

I love the cyclical nature of the fact that the leftover bits of food that I eat and fabric from kits and clothes that I make go onto the compost heap. The next year that compost grows the plants and some of the vegetables that I will eat, the peelings and cuttings of which will go into the composter again. The plants are watered by rainwater which I collect and from “grey water” from my bath or washing-up. Isn’t that just somehow so heart warming?!

Do you have any other words of wisdom to leave us with?
Think about what you need versus what you want before you buy something. Sometimes you really don’t need the thing that you’re obsessing about. Think about being satisfied with what you already have – that is the ultimate antidote to consumerism. This is why my blog is called “I Am Satisfied” to remind me. Also, next time you’re browsing around a craft market remember that even though it’s handmade and beautifully crafted, consuming is still consuming even when it’s craft! Finally, remember the old adage: “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure”. Be clever, be thrifty and keep crafty!