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Building Mountains: an artwork for ‘Joey’s Cafe’

Rope is more than a tool. It travels with us, we lug it up to the mountain and we trust it (and belayer) with our lives. Part of the loved kit for climbing, part of the checklist. The climbing rope we get through the doors at Dirtbags HQ is retired and sent to us for lots of different reasons. Becoming frayed after lots of use, too long unused, renewed as part of an activity centre’s/climbing wall’s safety check. Rope needs to be new, and safe.

Joe Beaumont contacted us after retiring a rope that meant a lot to him. Understandably, handing over something for someone to chop up and sew was a hard choice. A 40m fall onto this rope had marked the beginning of a long road of recovery and rehabilitation for him, it had become a symbol and reminder of Joe’s journey and his incredible achievements since the accident. He wanted a commissioned piece to grace the walls of the new chapter in his professional life; a good old bricks and mortar cafe.

Learn a little about Joe’s climbing rehabilitation from his award winning film, Little Chamonix…

Joe utterly embodies his ethos ‘healing through happiness’ and we were delighted and touched he had come to Dirtbags to create something special.

The wood was taken from reclaimed scrap pallets. James sawed, sanded, measured and laid the pieces onto a plywood base. The same for the mountain tops, which were then covered with a lime wax for a white sheen.

The rope was washed (well!), cored, then stitched together to form a sheet of ‘fabric’ to use. We cut the fabric to match the shape of the sky and mountain tops, then affixed the pieces. With small triangles of hardwood for the trees and a handmade teeny tiny washer and wire bike, we placed them alongside the blue rope lake in the bottom left of the picture. James carefully made a frame to tie it all together.

Rather than becoming a rug to, in time, wear out, the mountains of rope will stand pride of place serving as a reminder of how fragile life can be, and how to live and enjoy every moment we have.

Photo: Chelsea Clarkson
Photo: Chelsea Clarkson

Want to visit the new Cafe? Check for updates and opening times here

Joey’s Café – Castle Mills – Aynam Rd – Kendal – LA9 7DE

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Ethical trader: gold award.

We had the pleasure of attending the Green Gathering festival in Chepstow at the beginning of August. The trusty Skoda was full to the brim with stall, products and camping gear and we journeyed down to the South of Wales.

‘Low impact living’

The Green Gathering festival has a fierce and loyal following of eco warriors, green activists and hedonistic hippies. It felt like a bubble indeed. Everything was solar and wind powered and we were so impressed by the lack of ‘bins’. Instead were various recycling points for most rubbish, compost, plastic, tins etc – everything that wasn’t able to be sorted you took home yourself.

Good vibes throughout, it was a chilled weekend and alongside some pretty rad music and talks – everyone was open, warm and welcoming.

‘The Green Gathering Sustainability Policy

All contractors, volunteers and directors undertake to respect people, animals and the environment in the production of the festival. Waste, destruction, pollution, fossil fuel use and feeding corporate profits are to be minimised in the production of the festival.

All activities undertaken by The Green Gathering – the festival, its production company and charity – aim to promote environmental sustainability, ecological awareness, biodiversity, human rights, and appropriate education, technology and communication.Green Gathering

Anyway we only bloody won the Gold Ethical Trader award.

Festival goers seemed chuffed that we had made everything ourselves and even all of the climbers hiding out at the festival came to say hello. Combining the climbing community with the green community worked well for us at this festival; we had a dead good time too.

We are honoured to receive such a wonderful recognition, especially as a new trader.

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Hand crafted from salvaged wood: The Project boulder brush.

Making boulder brushes from salvaged hardwood

After finding a spokeshave, a hand tool used to plain and smooth wood, in a salvage yard – I brought it home to tackle some planks of hardwood we had stacked in the garden. The wood had been planking from a 1950’s flat bed truck, and had been saved from being sent to the scrap yard, and until now had been waiting for its moment to shine. As you can imagine this required some intensive wood preparation.

Instead of more cheap plastic boulder brushes I wanted to create something handmade, the old fashioned way.

Planks are sawn into strips followed by heavy sanding to remove years of weathering. The strips are then cut into lengths to form brush handle blanks, ready for shaping .

A simple homemade clamp (again from waste wood!) is used to hold all pieces in place while they are worked on.

Each handle blank is shaped using the aforementioned spokeshave, primarily a chair maker’s tool designed to shape intricate bits of wood.

Once shaped, the brushes are branded. To do so, a branding die was made from aluminium using a burr and Dremel. This die, I attached to the end of a soldering iron. At the correct temperature, this branded our logo onto each brush. On the other side, a pocket was cut using a combination of a drill and chisel for the bristles to be inserted.

Now for some personality. Spray can remnants from other projects were used to create lots of awesome colour fade effects. The colouring was sealed with a top coat of clear nitrocellulose lacquer.

I then painstakingly glued rows of boar bristle, keeping it dense because no one likes brushes that wear out too fast. It took me a bloody long time to make, so I want them to last a long time.

Once the glue had been left to dry for several days, the bristles were trimmed. Done.

I am pretty chuffed with our completely handcrafted Project brush, and we hope you are too. Each one is totally unique, just like you!

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Make do and mend: fixing a rucksack

Why replace when you can repair? Outdoor gear is usually made to last and it seems such a shame to discard a whole product just because of a faulty zip or a hole.

It is wonderful to see so many brands offering a repair service for products, to extend the life of their gear even further.

  • Alpkit stores have a Hatch, Patch and Sew drop off station.
  • Patagonia have a worn wear program. They also have lots of repair guides for fixing clothing yourself.
  • DMM and Black Diamond cam trigger wire repair and sling replacements
  • Rab repair service, fill an online form and post item off!

This repair was born from frustration at not being able to find a replacement for a much-loved bag. The waterproofing had worn away and there was a pretty gnarly hole in the rucksack part.

From what I could see, buckles, zips and the main body of the bumbag were still looking good. It was all looking tired, and in true Dirtbags style, all replacement and repair would be done using materials themselves recycled.

It needed to be lightweight, and the bag part needed to be small enough to smoosh down and pack away. The main part of the rucksack was fixed using tent material and the rest some lovely blue waterproof ripstop material, which was an end of roll fabric. We replaced the hip straps with an orange tent material, and the rucksack straps, taken from a beyond repair bag.

We simply unpicked the panels and used the pattern to cut new pieces, remembered where they went – carefully stitching it back together. Recycled rope trim was used on the front panel and on the zip pulls.

Looking fresh, and once again usable. A repair using only repurposed materials!

Don’t just throw your things away, there could be more life in them. We can repair and revitalise your disheveled outdoor gear – just get in touch.

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St Bees Head: product test and photoshoot.

A group of local friends and climbers joined us for a quiet afternoon celebrating the beginning of Spring hugging some rocks and testing out some chalk bags. We drove out to the coast, to St Bees; a gorgeous bouldering location.

Loaded with pads, shoes, lunch and a bag of new stock we carefully made our way down the cliff side to boulder the afternoon away. Due to the bird ban, and high tide, our visit was restricted to the Apiary wall area – which had lots of problems with a good range of difficulty.


We were excited to show off some of the new lightweight panel bags made entirely from offcuts, and the classic horizontal panel recycled rope chalk bags. We also brought along some bracelets and belts for the guys to have a look and test.

James and I were joined by Anna, Karly, Tess, Jonathan, Reece, Nick and Lauren. With a good range of climbing abilities it was a chilled day, not about performance or showing off – just everyone confident enough to have a go and to enjoy the day.

The day was made possible really by the power of social media , reaching out to those who might be interested in spending the day messing about on some rocks with us proved to be popular, and brought this little group together.

With aching fingers and bellies lit with an enthusiasm for this year’s climbing – we all left with big plans for summer.

And us particularly, to make days like this, with new friends all with the love of climbing in common – more regular.

Huge thanks to those who came, particularly Jonathan and Reece who worked hard taking photos while we all played.