Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Monday 31 March 2014

A crafty challenge - with fabric from Hillarys Blinds

If you remember, I was recently sent some lovely fabric by Hillarys Blinds as part of a competition to design and make a craft item from a 100 x 100 cm piece of fabric chosen from one of their fabulous Country Retreat fabrics.

Fabricswatches -hub -FINAL
I chose the Wild Poppies Vermillion design and have had such fun over the last week or so making things with it.

I love a challenge so I decided to see how many items I could make from the square metre of fabric. I also decided to have a go at making or crafting things I had never made before and to use recycled materials wherever possible in addition to the sample of Country Retreat fabric I was sent (ambitious, or what!)

I have written here  and  here  about my efforts so far; this post tells you more and reveals what I managed to make. So read on...

As I looked at the very lovely fabric, the design of the flowers simply begged me do something involving a frame and paint.  So I decided to mount some of it in a frame and hang it as a picture. I selected and cut out some of the fabric and mounted it onto canvas using pva glue. When that had dried I began by adding some gold fabric paint as a colourwash over the cream background.

Mounted and waiting for inspiration

Once that had dried I then used a selection of fabric paints and metallic acrylic paints, which I got from the Scrapstore some time ago, to change the colours and alter and (hopefully) enhance the fabrics. I wanted to end up with some original artwork which reflected and echoed the pattern on the soft furnishing item I also planned to make from the fabric (but more of that later on).

The fabric before I got to work
 and after

(colours are not this orange really, I am afraid it is the artificial lighting)

I also did two smaller pictures and experimented with altering the background colour using fabric paints as well as adding paint to the surface of the fabric.

I reused some old frames from prints I found in a charity shop to add the final touches to the "paintings" I had made.

Having satisfied my painting urge I went back to playing with the fabric. I used a kit I had previously found in a charity shop from a craft magazine (Mollie Makes) which contained the materials to make a small metal clasped purse. I used "my" fabric rather than the one in the kit, and after choosing a striking flower from the design and cutting it out of the fabric, a bit of hand sewing and gluing of the clasp produced this.
Small change purse

Next I decided to make a slightly larger, zipped purse. I have put in a few zips on skirts (many years ago!) but have never made a lined purse like this. No pressure then!


The size of purse I wanted to make was dictated by the recycled small zip I had to use - so I cut out the fabric and recycled liner freehand to fit it and then put in the zip by hand, as it was a bit small and fiddly to do on the machine. I also like hand sewing! After a bit of thought and head scratching and looking around online, I worked out what to do next to sew up the liner and fabric so they would end up how I wanted it. I did actually get this bit wrong a couple of times, but that is what a seam ripper is for.

I put the right sides of the liner and patterned fabrics together (as above) and stitched around the hem.

 ...leaving a small gap in the liner to turn it all " right way round" by pulling the whole lot through the liner hole. Which is harder than it sounds!  I then hand sewed up the inner hole in the liner and stuffed the liner inside the purse having turned it the right way round.

I knew I also wanted to make a cushion and a tote bag from the material and looking at my fabric, I could see I would have around an A4 sized piece left over.

After a bit of thought I decided to make an A5 notebook cover.

I cut out the fabric so it was slightly larger than an opened out A5 hardback book and hemmed all around the edge - I used a 1 cm seam allowance.  I then folded the top and bottom over the book cover to mark where to stitch and then made a small pocket to slip the edge of the cover in each end.

Here are the notebook, metal clasp and zipped top purse waiting to be finished off. Lots of loose threads to tidy up and lots on the floor, the rug, the cats, me...

 I felt flushed with success at my efforts so far :) So I decided  to have a go at a simple envelope type cushion cover. I looked at a pillowcase and worked out how to make it and got cutting. I used a cushion pad I already had, free hand cut a rectangle of material slightly larger and then hemmed all around it.

I then turned over one end to make a pocket and pinned it , then with the rest of the fabric right side to right side I hemmed around three sides ( not the opening side, of course!) 

 Cushion waiting to have the ends sewn in, with the fabric pocket for the pad now hidden inside at the top.

I had planned to have just enough material left over to make a small tote bag which would hold a magazine and purse, phone etc. I cut two strips for the handles and hemmed them all around, folded them wrong side to wrong side and stitched along one side as close to the edge as possible.

Bag handles

I made a simple bag shape by hemming the rectangle of fabric all round, folding it in half lengthwise and then right side to right side stitching the two long sides. I attached the handles and squared off the bottom of the bag inside by stitching across the corners. I then attached the handles to the inside at the top.

 After all this flurry of activity I had some very small scraps of fabric left over - about 20 cm x 20 cm. I had to think very hard what to make with them.

 But I did use them up :)


  So - the big reveal! How many items did I manage to make from a metre square of fabric?

A cushion

Tote bag, notebook and zipped purse

Large framed painting on fabric,  next to cushion to show size


A very small fabric chicken :)

Small framed paintings on fabric

Collection of things I made

Large painted fabric

From a square metre of Country Retreat Wild Poppies Vermillion fabric I ended up making 

A cushion (35 x 30 cm)

A tote bag (30 x 40 cm)

An A5 notebook cover

A small clasp purse

A small zippered purse

1 large (35 x25 cm) painting

2  small (15 x 11 cm) paintings

and a very small chicken !


and I have two fabric scraps left over measuring about 10 cm x 3 cm which I might turn into bookmarks...

I really enjoyed making items for this competition - I must thank Hillarys for sending me the georgeous fabric to work with - I have no idea if I have satisifed the competition rules as I don't really think I have done anything "original" - all the techniques I have employed are all "out there" somewhere, but regardless of that I have really enjoyed myself. Everything I have made (apart from the chicken) was the first time I had tried to make that particular craft item.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Just another Tuesday ...chickens and crafting; sowing and sewing

Today has been a mixed sort of day, sunshine and showers, good bits and bad bits.

I got up and went outside to let out the hens, as usual despite me shutting the gate to try to persuade them to stay in the wood, they all ignored me and straight away flew over it into the garden. The attraction is the bird feeders, the chickens go and hang around there and eat the dropped seed.

Ho hum.   I collected the eggs (thank you girls!) and had a look in the polytunnel to see what we might have to eat for later. I wanted to know what fresh veg I might need to buy from the shops, also.

 We are getting towards the end of the Kales - the outdoor plants got smashed to bits by the heavy rain during the winter but I always have a few inside and they have been giving us a good crop - but are going to seed now.


Kale tips can be eaten like purple sprouting broccoli - I also had a few spears of that to cut so we will be eating fresh greens tonight. There are enough pickings left on the plants for a few more days so no need to buy any brassicas from the shops, although we have just finished the last of our stored potatos so now will have to buy some. We usually only have to do this from March to June, so not too bad. We still have fresh onions, squash and apples in store as well as loads of stored fruit and veg (in the freezer or dehydrated)

There are still salads left but again with the warmer weather they are begining to bolt, so I sowed more salad seeds to take their place. I also sowed a load more brassicas in modules. We still have lots of fresh herbs.

 Lots of herbaceous perennials waiting to be planted outside, as soon as the soil warms a little.

As well as some of the scented geraniums which live in pots on the patio ( The new patio! Which we will be able to sit on come the summer!)

After a quick cup of coffee mid morning, I hung out a load of wet washing and put some more on to wash, then we went to Hereford and did some shopping. We had lunch out and also went to a DIY store to look at stuff so we were gone for several hours.

This trip out took it out of me a bit as I have not been well lately and still find I get very tired, very quickly. So the rest of the afternoon involved sitting down with some computer work in the (still tidy) Study :) 

After our evening meal we sat and watched some "Big Bang Theory" which we all love and Compostman and Compostgirl then watched an episode of  "Blandings" I love the books but somehow can't get into the tv series so I went off to the study and did some more work on  my Hillarys Blinds competition entry. This involved experimenting with fabric paints and pens and gold paint on a scrap of the fabric, to see how it would look and how the fabric would behave.

I like the way the test piece is coming along.

I got some inspiration for what I want to do; I also worked out which techniques needed to be done in what order, so as not to ruin the previous work.

All of these paints came originally from the Scrapstore and live in the Cupboard of Doom - it is a good job I hoard stuff! It always comes in useful eventually. I love the idea that this project uses lots of salvaged/recycled materials to embellish and enhance the new fabric.

Later on still Compostman and I watched The Great British Sewing Bee -  I love this programme and think it is really good - better even (dare I say it) than Bake Off ? I had to stay off the computer while in the study,  as we watched it a little later than it aired on tv and I did NOT want to read any spoilers about it in Twitter or Facebook!

I also mused on what I could make with the Hillarys fabic which involved sewing. I have plans ( but not a blouse, coat or anything involving a suit!)

So all in all, a more productive day than I have had in the last few weeks,

Anyone else enjoying watching  The Great British Sewing Bee?

Monday 24 March 2014

Various jobs done today

 Best job done? The one Compostman did to fix my heated propagator cover so it can be used again :)

Other jobs included me putting on one of my volunteer hats to sort out the Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstration items and box them up so we can store them safely. I purchased a lot of the items,  after discussion with the other volunteers and our Council manager, to make sure we had the most useful set of kitchen equipment for what we needed to do. It was quite difficult to whittle down what we needed to a minimum of useful kit which would serve our needs and be storable as well. I got a number of plastic storage boxes, which are easy to keep clean and sanitised ( important with food handling and preparation). Also they stack! 

One box for clean pots and pans, one for dirty stuff  ( waiting to be washed) after events, one box for clean plates, cutlery, aprons etc and one box for cleaning supplies and other non food items. I have also sorted out the HACCP file and the risk assessment template for the events so we have a folder with all the essential paperwork inside. This can live in one of the boxes.

I am not going to store all these boxes at my house as I do not have the room to do so and so I will be handing them over to Ste the County Council officer for him to find a safe storage place at County Hall. I already store a lot of the Master Composter spare stuff here so have no more room. I have enough "stuff" of my own to find a home for :)

I am still working on the Hillarys Blinds competition fabric - have another idea to try out in "rough" to see if it will work. I knew all those old sheets would come in handy, one day! And what a good job I tidied up the Study of Doom, so I could find the box they were in ;)

In other news,  both Compostgirl and I have been poorly so we watched "Catching Fire" on dvd yesterday - excellent film, nearly as good as the book. Well worth reading and watching, if you have not already.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Blast it.

 I dropped one of the heated propagator lids today.

Onto a tiled floor.

 Blast it.

Compostman is going to try to fix it for me.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Aldi gardening products

Yesterday I was sent some items to review from the Aldi UK  gardening products line which are in their shops now.  I was amused as, despite knowing my real name, Aldi sent the parcel to "The Compost Woman"  lol .

There are a range of products available which should appeal to anyone looking to give their garden a kick start this spring.

I was sent a selection of items; some plant pots - which are, well, plant pots. Not much really I can add to that except to say they are sturdy and not flimsy pots.

Also some bypass pruners - these look robust and cut well and I was impressed with their action. I will probably keep them for cutting flowers and shrubs to bring indoors as decorations as I prefer to keep flowers and edible plant pruners seperate.

I was also sent a Greenhouse - and several spare covers. When I opened the box the contents were sturdy and easy to put together, but it has been so windy here I did not dare to put the errected greenhouse outside. When I do, I will post a photo and let you all know what I think. For now, I can see it will be a handy place to harden off plants before planting them out in the veg patch or garden and also as a useful sheltered space to house the surplus of plants I always end up with! I have already thought of a place I can site it, along the back of the barn near to the polytunnel for ease of access.

The Greenhouse is £19.99 and the spare covers are £4.99 so not overly expensive;  also the covers say they fit most 4 tier greenhouses so not just those from Aldi I guess.

As far as I know the gardening offers are in store until the end of March so get along to Aldi and have a look - there are lots of other items available and they look to be a good price.

I was sent these items to review by Aldi UK.

Friday 21 March 2014

Spring is Sprung

 Spring is Sprung! Today is the Spring Equinox, when the days and nights are of equal length. For now the days will get longer and the nights, shorter.

My first batch of tomato plants are growing very well and I have potted them on once already. They are nearly ready to go into larger, individual pots.

 Some already potted into 3 inch pots.

More tomato and pepper seedlings in the heated propagator - see Creosote the Cockerel in the background? He appears as soon as I go into the porch and stands, watching me - I think he is waiting for food.

Lots of seedlings on the grow in the polytunnel as well - various brassicas, broad beans, onion and leek seeds as well as lots of herbs and salads.

Such a shame that today was horrible weather though - we had rain, hail and sleet this afternoon. Still the nice days are beginning to outnumber the less nice days at last.

Oh and I noticed the grass needs mowing :)

Thursday 20 March 2014

Hillarys Blinds Country Craft competition

I was browsing the Internet recently (as you do) and spotted a competition being run by Hillarys Blinds

The competition involves designing and making a craft item from a 100 x 100 cm piece of fabric chosen from one of four fabulous Country Retreat fabrics.

I chose the Wild Poppies Vermillion design which arrived at the weekend so I have been very busy since it arrived thinking about what to make. It has been such fun !

It is very pretty fabric which I would like to see as blinds in the guest bedroom I think - pity there was not enough fabric to make a blind as my competition entry!

I will blog about my finished item(s) before the end of March, but for now here is a taste of what I have been up to.

Lots of ideas and experimenting happening at the sitting room table!

A small purse is all I have finished so far

Oh and while I was thinking about my competition entry I also made a needle felted broach. It needs a bit more work to finish it off yet but I am pleased with it so far.

I also had to go to the Optician today and have had to order new glasses - but hopefully I will be able to see better to do close up work ( like sewing and crochet) as I have been struggling a lot lately with my current prescription.

  • 100cm x 100cm (39” x 39”) piece of the chosen material will be sent to your chosen address.
  • Using the fabric and any other required materials, put your creative talents to the test by making an original craft design.
  • - See more at: http://www.hillarys.co.uk/inspiration/the-hub/2014/country-craft-competition/#sthash.JFzfyQ10.dpuf

  • 100cm x 100cm (39” x 39”) piece of the chosen material will be sent to your chosen address.
  • Using the fabric and any other required materials, put your creative talents to the test by making an original craft design.
  • - See more at: http://www.hillarys.co.uk/inspiration/the-hub/2014/country-craft-competition/#sthash.JFzfyQ10.dpuf

  • 100cm x 100cm (39” x 39”) piece of the chosen material will be sent to your chosen address.
  • Using the fabric and any other required materials, put your creative talents to the test by making an original craft design.
  • - See more at: http://www.hillarys.co.uk/inspiration/the-hub/2014/country-craft-competition/#sthash.JFzfyQ10.dpuf

    Monday 17 March 2014

    More from the Study of Doom...

     Don't forget to enter my Blog 7th birthday giveaway! Draw will take place this week!

    After what seems like forever tidying and de cluttering and sorting and filing -

    I found the diary! Which means I now know when I have to visit the Dentist and the Opticians this week, and hand over lots of money to them  - hmm not so great.

    But, I found last years diary as well, so I managed to complete an expenses claim (the diary had the invoices I needed to finish the claim, inside) So money in as well as out.

     Much improved :)

    I also had a clear out of the Cupboard of Doom ( craft workshop storage cupboard) and made room for a number of the storage boxes containing things I don't use very often to go in there. This has freed up the shelf space for things I use frequently, and I was also able to move some of my quilting and sewing stuff from off the floor of the sitting room (where it has been annoying Compostman for weeks )

    I took a lot of stuff to the Red Cross charity shop in Ledbury and the recycling bin got a few bits of paper and card.

    Big crafting table looks a lot tidier now

    And there is now room for the ribbon store and another box of yarn under the big crafting table.

    What is it people say? Tidy desk, tidy mind? Hmm we shall see.