Local Heart, Global Soul

May 11, 2010

IKEA is a four letter word…

Filed under: Blogging & Writing,The Hague — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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Fellow blogging friends the ” Interrobangs Anonomous”  is made up of four creative ladies who write about style,  fashion, life  etc. One thing we have in common is that they love second hand shops and second hand finds (Thrifting)  and their recycling ideals and ideas appeal to me very much indeed.

In fact, this recent post http://interrobangsanon.wordpress.com/category/diy/ by Chelsie , and the cabinet that they recycled and painted green, got me thinking so much that it has inspired this post.

I try not to be judgmental but I seriously think that our secondhand/antique/found/donated furniture just has so much more character and soul than the IKEA clones that are the furniture equivalent to bad face-lifts,  stretched and tight and kind of plastic looking (even if it isn’t plastic at all).

Ever seen anyone idly and absentmindedly stroking the wood on an IKEA piece of furniture, clearly adoring the grain and smoothness and feel of the wood under their fingertips?

Hmmm, me neither.

The pieces of furniture that I love most (owned, or coveted)  have been handcrafted, or  at least been designed by craftsmen…  not entrepreneurs and robots that stamp and punch pieces of the jigsaw that will be eventually slotted together with staple-guns or have shelves that are balanced on little plastic pieces that slot into any one of the tiny holes drilled up the side of the cabinet and which are assembled with a series of clicking sounds rather than the rhythmic tap of hammers as wood is eased into a position where it is destined to stay for the next 100 years.

Now try and think “IKEA” and think of any piece lasting 100 years…  No, I can’t see it either.

The “essence of nature” contained in many modern pieces of furniture has been whittled and pared down the bare minimum, the “wood”  component now only consists of  one entire millimeter of veneer on the outside surfaces and the sad pulped remnants of trees shredded and pressed on the inside.

This furniture  must surely weep if they are ever placed in a room next to an antique piece made of Oak or Mahogany…   … polished and of solid glowing wood to the core.

If trees had the possibilities of  souls and could become ghosts, how many unhappy ones would haunt our homes?

The only redeeming feature of pulp wood is that at least it recycles something from the spindly side branches of the tree, But I suppose that in the “old days” that stuff went to fuel the fire of the artisan that crafted wood and the warmth that it passed on to him was in turn recycled into the warmth of sanding tongue-and-grove joints, and drilling slots for wooden dowel pegs to support load-bearing joints, upon which would eventually rest the weight of people or possessions.

Do I have a personal vendetta against IKEA? Well no, actually …(Himself does, but that’s an entirely different story) For me at least, IKEA is only a representation of any Make  or Brand of furniture that is constructed in a manner or style that incorporates compressed wood fibred into their “planks” and where the backs of cupboards have been reduced to ultra thin replicas of wood that look more like thick cardboard (or might actually be thick cardboard in some cases).

I know we live in a society and age where we want things cheap, But do we ever ask ourselves just how cheap we want to go? or don’t we care? What happens to the talents and skills of handcrafting that are slowly being eaten away by the competition of ridiculously cheap imitations?

We live so much in a throw-a-way society, we are busy and want “ease” and “speed”, our supermarkets are increasingly being filled with “ready meals” and stuff that is pumped full of “E” numbers, colourants, flavournoids and stabilizers… we have the possibilities of filling ourselves daily with these if wish, but with what long term impact, not only for us but for our kids?

I see any type of IKEA style furniture as “ the ready-meals of furniture” … speed and ease  Yes…but what long term impact does the “short-cut” ideal have on us, our kids and our society?

Will our kids want to learn professions where Time and Patience, and slow hard labour are key ingredients in making the final product?  or will they only want to settle for the “instant” type of jobs where everything is pressure cooked, automated and the  final product is churned out in ever increasing speed?

If they only expect to live in an “instant” society,  and accept “ready-meal  manufactured  furniture” what hope is there for the craftsman and for antiques of the future? .. and our kids view on life?

March 18, 2010

Don’t slam the door on this step-by-step Chicken Lickin’ Doorstop…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have a problem that specifically arises inside our house every summer when the warmer weather comes around.

It’s the problem of slamming doors…. or the door that doesn’t slam, but makes an irritating  tick, tick, tick, noise until finally I get cheesed off  and slam it myself in frustration or eventually a decently large gust of wind comes along and does it for me.

We have an older house,  it dates from 1930, and there are wooden “dremples” (thresholds) at each of the intersections of the doors into the rooms and the hallway. This means that the doors have quite a decent gap under them when they are open. This in turns means that many wooden doorstops are too low to fit neatly underneath. Believe me, I’ve tried wooden doorstops.

This leads me to my second problem: The kids…  more specifically my kids and a very large box of wooden blocks that they do actually build with. Some of the blocks are triangular…. three guesses where my doorstops end up living.

Worse, and my third problem… most of all the triangular blocks in the block-toy-box are all too low to be doorstops for our doors, so just raiding the toy box is not the solution. I’d have to find the  two specific triangular blocks hidden in the masses  of  like-looking blocks that actually fit the doors. Add to that that the blocks are sometimes not in the Block-box, but sometimes in the Train-Rails box, or in the general toy-box, or just littered around the house hiding in odd corners, left there according to reasons of  kid logic that I have not yet fathomed.  Forget it ! I have far better things to do with a Finite Lifetime than to spend time on such a pointless exercise.

So… a better solution to my slamming doors problem is in order. I was browsing the internet and can across this article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/apr/07/chicken-doorstop-easter-present-how-to-make

Hmmm, looks interesting. Please forgive my lack of technical knowledge, I can’t (yet) figure  out how to put the link for the pattern, but it is in the  Guardian article, so if you are interested in making these then please print it via that…  Meantime I will keep trying to place it here too. (or make my own modified pattern to place here, ‘cos I want to make some changes the the pattern now that I have made it)

Himself and I support a School for Disabled in the tiny developing Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, it gets very little funding. (read: not enough to cover basic costs) Money we raise for them supplies a basic lunch of rice and a vegetable to the disabled patrons, so that they are guaranteed at least one warm meal a day.  I’ve been racking my brains to think of craft ideas to make that are a little different, that will sell, that I could make to raise funds for these  lunches. This thought spurs me to test out this pattern…

First, cut out  the pattern pieces: I have an off-cut of red corduroy for the comb,  sourced  from the local Kringloopwinkel (the ones my kids call the “Krinklewinkle”) and can’t find and bright yellow fabric, but have a little yellow felt that’s big enough for the job. The main green fabric came from the Emmaus kringloopwinkel at  Prinsegracht 36,  a decent sized square for Euro 1.00 and the buttons came from Emmaus Beeklaan.  Recycle, Reuse… good for the planet and means that I’m not blowing the budget on materials so maximum profit for the school.

First I cut out the comb and the beak,  I’m not too sure if they are meant to be double thickness, I decide that mine will be. I sew the sides together ( right sides together) and then carefully turn them inside out.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Then I cut out the triangle pieces…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Take the two small triangles and place the beak inside , then sew down the long side.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Take two of the three larger triangles and sew the comb inside,  (photo above) the resulting fabric will look like this (below) when you see the right side. (Please NOTE: I forgot to do it here, but discovered to my peril later that NOW is the best moment to add the eyes to the chicken, it’s a LOT  harder to add later when you’ve sewn almost all of the sides together already)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Then place the last large triangle on top of the beak piece (right sides together) and sew them.. I’ve done a basting stitch to hold things in place in the first photo and then you see the finished result after the machine stitching…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now place the pieces as shown in the next photo,  and sew them together along the edge where the “gap” is in the photo between the two pieces. (right sides together)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Another basting stitch before sewing…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After sewing it will look like this:

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now… on the photo above, you have long edge on the right side, take the right bottom corner closest to the comb, and fold it up to meet the point above the beak. Sew long this line. The result will look like this:

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You will now have a triangular flap left over and it will be clear where to sew what to what.. DO sew the side that has the beak/comb on it FIRST, (two reasons: that way the final  join that you sew after you’ve stuffed it will be at the bottom at back and not along the side, and you can negotiate sewing around the sticky-out-bits of the comb and beak when you’ve got more room to maneuver them out of the way of the sewing machine). Sew the second-to-last side…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Just one side left to go,  of course since I was not quick enough to realise earlier that my Chook would of course need eyes, so I added them now through the last remaining hole, not the easiest moment to do it, but needs must.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

OK, now the final seam… sew from each end but don’t meet in the middle, you’ll need enough room to put in the weight and stuffing.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Turn it in the right way around and carefully poke out the corners, Fill the tip of the triangle (by the beak) with some soft fiber-fill batting, until it’s about 1/3 totally filled.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now I take two small scraps of fabric, and sew around three sides,…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

…stuff this pouch into the opening in the triangle with the open end poking out. Fill the pouch cavity with rice.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Then I did a basting stitch to roughly close the gap whilst I machine stitched the bag closed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Once the rice pouch is sewn closed, poke the rice pouch fully inside the bag, stuff additional fiber fill around the gaps, and then folding the raw edges inside, hand-stitch the  last opening closed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Voila, a Doorstop Chicken!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I will make more of these, but this one is quite large, too large I think, so the first thing I will do is to reduce the size by almost half.  This will have the added bonus that it will take less filling to stuff it with.

I will also not repeat the rice filling… I thought about it and am worried it might attract mice. From now on the kids will be on large pebble/small stone collection duty when we are out on our walks when the weather gets warmer and I will wash them and sew these into a little bag  inside instead.

I will also play with the Comb design, maybe  a bit spikier, larger in proportion, and the Beak, can I make it open sideways? make it a different shape… a little further project of design doodles awaits. I also intend to see if these could be a suitable Project for the kids to make at Scouts.

I also need to work on they way I stuff these, my prototype is rather lumpy and definitely needs some refinement.

Still, it’s a start and I will keep my eyes peeled for Kringloop fabric opportunities so that I can build up material for more.

March 16, 2010

Emmaus, a kringloopwinkel with a difference… Beeklaan 315.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A few posts ago, on March 10th , I wrote about the main and more well known Dutch “kringloopwinkels”.

Well, to fully inform you I need to take you a step further into this subject and tell you about “Emmaus” and what they do.

First, you need to learn this new Dutch word, it’s  pronounced “em-mouse”, and they too are a type of Kringloopwinkel (second-hand/recycling shop).

There are only 30 of them in the Netherlands (compared with 220 of the other “kringloopwinkels”) and two Emmaus’s in The Hague (compared with 19 of the other kringloopwinkels in The Hague/Den Haag).

So ? Competition? well, kind of, but also not. Emmaus is also fulfills a very important role in Dutch society and are a very special business indeed.

Firstly it might be helpful to know that you can’t just have a “garage sale/yard sale” in The Netherlands.  You need a permit or a license from the City Council.  There is an exception to this rule only for one day per year: Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day on the 30th April) when the whole country goes flee market mad, and whole streets are filled with kids sitting on blankets selling toys etc.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yes we do have a Dutch “Ebay” and our own local version of Ebay called “Marktplaats”  but all in all you will find that in most areas of town Kringloopwinkels of one sort of the other are very well patronized.

So what’s the big difference with Emmaus?  Well, they are an organisation that helps in particular two types of people:  the first we call in Dutch ” daklozen” which literally means ” without a roof” (read: people who sleep on the street) and the second are the ” thuislozen” which literally means ” without a house” (read: people who sleep under a roof, but in temporary, transient situations and who have no fixed abode of their own).

Emmaus opening hours also differ massively from the more regular open 5-6 days a week Kringloops.

This Emmaus is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 13.00 to 16.00.

The one  on the Beeklaan  is a bit of a puzzle.. its a shop of two halves,  the first half being on the corner of the Beeklaan and Daguerrestraat,  and consists of a lot of kitchen equipment, clothes,cloth, toys and books, and if you continue down the Beeklaan until you reach the other corner of the same block (corner Beeklaan and Galileistraat) then you find the other half of it, and there you will find more bric-a-brac, hardware and household items. Together the two are one.

I tried several times to take photographs inside these shops, but to be honest it was a waste of time, every time I tried the paces were so full of people looking for a bargain that you couldn’t get any decent shots of the merchandise.  To say it was a “squeeze” inside was an understatement !

There is so little space inside that lots of stuff is parked on the street for the few hours that they are open…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Here is part of the Emmaus  manifesto ( and the English translation I’ve made after it):

Emmaus, meer dan tweedehands alleen

U kent Emmaus misschien van de winkels en markten met tweedehands artikelen, maar onze organisatie is meer dan dat. In negen woonwerkgemeenschappen bieden we onderdak aan wie dat om welke reden dan ook nodig heeft, met name dak- en thuislozen. Daarnaast wonen er mensen die uit idealisme voor Emmaus hebben gekozen. De winkels voorzien in het onderhoud van deze groepen. Ook zijn er vrijwilligersgroepen, waar mensen een leuke en zinvolle dagbesteding kunnen vinden. Voor de meeste groepen geldt, dat ze van de omzetten projecten op het gebied van armoedebestrijding in en ver buiten Nederland kunnen steunen. We zetten ons graag in voor diegenen, die het minder hebben dan wij.

“Emmaus, more than just Second Hand

You may know Emmaus as the market for second-hand goods, but our organization is far more than that. In nine living and working communities we offer a roof to anyone who wishes or needs one, for whatever reason, especially to those without a home. Aside from this there are people who have also chosen to live here for idealistic reasons. The Emmaus shops provide a livelihood for these people as well as our groups of volunteers, and are places where people can spend their time in nice and useful manner. Most of these groups can support other projects in the field of fighting poverty with their turnover, not only in the Netherlands but also outside the Netherlands. We love to support those who less prosperous than we are.”

What an excellent idea… I can support that one too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Emmaus Den Haag, Kringloopwinkel. / Beeklaan 315,  / 2562 AJ  Den Haag. / Tel: 070-3457477

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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