Whilst I’m busy trying to boost my stock levels for my stall at the IPC, I also know that it’s important have a break and do something different sometimes.

So, this is what my work table has looked like over the past few days:

Isn’t that exciting? I don’t often use a protractor and compasses. And, look, I’ve got a new hole punch for paper and fabric (although it has struggled a little with the scrim backing on the felt I’m using). A couple of months ago I started making a felt bag, but I was really unhappy with the result, so I put my work to one side with the intention of coming back to it later. This weekend I finally admitted that the felt was not what I wanted for the bag and that it was time to do something creative with it.

So, I’ve been experimenting with making little pouches… or perhaps purses. As you can see from the number of templates, I couldn’t quite decide how many holes to make for the drawstrings. In fact, the felt that I’ve been working with is a bit thicker than would be ideal. Nevertheless, I have learned quite a lot and I will add some of the little pouches to my stall in September. I may even get round to making some felt especially for this purpose. What do you think?

It’s not just me

Scrappy balls

Scrappy balls

Mr Snail and I spent a productive hour last night tying yarn scraps together and winding them into balls because, it turns out, I did have some more. I simply needed to look in a few more drawers to turn up several bags of yarn ends, collected to use for stuffing. The result is enough reconstituted yarn to make two or three more hats. This is good, because I’d sold the last one in less than 24 hours and I would like one to take to the International Permaculture Convergence (especially since several other people also expressed an interest in buying the last one). Anyway, I now have two gauges of yarn to work with and more surprising hats to come!

Recycled saris

Recycled saris

I’m not alone, however, in using scraps to create new and interesting yarn. As I wound my ball, I remembered the recycled sari silk yarn that I had tucked away. I’ve had this lovely yarn for ages. Mine is from a company called Mango Moon, and they describe it as follows: Gorgeous, glowing jewel-toned recycled silk, handspun in Nepal. Your purchase helps the Nepalese women who spin this beautiful yarn provide safe shelter, education, and health care for themselves and their children. No two skeins are alike. 

It is made from remnants of silk from weaving mills and from old silk saris. These are shredded and re-spun by hand. I really don’t think that the photos do its jewel-bright colours justice. Anyway, I’ve decided to share the loveliness and make some hats from this yarn too, thus helping to support the ladies who produce this gorgeousness.


The hats for my stall at the International Permaculture Convergence are coming along nicely… they are made of all sorts of ethical yarn: some organic, some frogged from old garments, some from Freecycle, some recycled, some new British wool… you get the picture:

A whole heap of hats in a whole heap of yarns

A whole heap of hats in a whole heap of yarns

However, it struck me that I should make a hat representing the permaculture principles. And so I did:

It’s made entirely from scraps of yarn left over from other projects, apart from the brim which is yarn from a frogged cardigan; and it’s reversible.

In case you are wondering, the twelve principles, as outlined by David Holmgren, are used to help design resilient human systems or objects that are sustainable and kind to the earth. They are as follows, with my hat as an example;

  • Observe and interact: I observed that I had been collecting yarn scraps for the past few years and decided to make creative use of those long enough to tie together. In addition, observation of the hat as I made it allowed me to create the shape without following a pattern.
  • Catch and store energy: Wearing a hat is a good way to stop heat (energy) loss and with its tufts, this hat provides good insulation by trapping a nice layer of insulating air. In addition, the energy embodied in this scrap yarn is being captured because it’s being used rather than discarded.
  • Obtain a yield: A hat where none existed before, plus the satisfaction of creating something from (almost) nothing.
  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: As with anything made without a pattern, this hat ‘evolved’ as I made it – I increased the number of stitches until it seemed to be the right size and decreased to get a nice snug brim. Whatever yarn you are working with, you have to respond to its characteristics.
  • Use and value renewable resources and services: As long as there are people using yarn, there will be left-over scraps; this provides a way to convert them into a useful and unique object.
  • Produce no waste: It’s all too easy to throw away left-over yarn, but this demonstrates that it can be put to good use. There were lots of scraps that were too small to tie together for this project, but those will be used in the future for stuffing. No Yarn was wasted in this hat, because the ends that in other projects get trimmed off have been retained as a feature of the hat.
  • Design from patterns to details: The overall plan (pattern) was to create a hat with yarn scraps. The details came as I tied the pieces together – varying the colours and lengths to create a unique pattern. The plan also involved making the hat reversible, so different details appear according to the side that is exposed to the world.
  • Integrate rather than segregate: It’s a whole mish-mash… integrating colours, textures, fibres.
  • Use small and slow solutions: I’ve been collecting the scraps for several years, so I won’t be able to make another with this gauge of yarn for some time yet, although I’m planning a chunky version because I probably have enough thick scraps to do that. Despite using ‘waste’ yarn, it took a longer time to make than a ‘normal’ hat because so many pieces of yarn had to be tied together.
  • Use and value diversity: I have rarely seen a more diverse hat!
  • Use edges and value the marginal: The end of each piece of yarn is an important feature of the hat – providing decoration and insulation. I think it may also be pretty ‘edgy’ as far as fashion goes!!
  • Creatively use and respond to change: The changes in colour and texture were used to create the ‘look’ of this hat… there will never be another one like it.

So, there you have it, a quick lesson in permaculture and a rather mad hat… It will be for sale at the IPC in September unless I get a better offer before then!


Peppers and chillies and limes – oh my!

Apart from putting the mosaics up, the inside of the limery is complete. All the plants that have been struggling along outside during our less-than-reliable summer weather are potted up and basking in the balmy conditions inside. Somehow I’ve ended up with many more chilli plants than I need and rather fewer pepper plants than I had hoped for, but everything got rather random earlier in the year and so it’s a bit of a miracle that there’s anything at all in there that I grew from seed!

So, for your delight and delectation, here is the limery with it’s current plant population – not very diverse, but exciting nonetheless:

Wash and brush-up

I had intended to write a little more in ‘Plastic-free July’ about reducing the amount of ‘short-term’ plastic in our house, but somehow the month got away with me and here we are on the 27th already!

As I’ve said before, I think it’s impossible to cut out single-use plastics without a complete life-style change. However, it is possible to re-use and repurpose plastic items and to look for alternatives to many plastic objects so that we minimise the amount in the waste stream. In recent weeks I have found (or re-found) several plastic-free options related to cleaning and grooming which I thought might be good to share.

More like a hedgehog than a tortoise

More like a hedgehog than a tortoise

I already introduced you to my plastic-free washing-up brush, but it now has a companion at the sink – a tortoise! Years ago I found a vegetable scrubber in a local wholefood shop (alas no more) made with plant fibres and a metal core to hold them together. I used it for years and years until, eventually it started to shed its bristles and I had to give up on it. At the time I assumed that I would easily find a replacement but, despite a thorough search, I had no luck and ended up buying a plastic brush. Admittedly the plastic version did last a long time (certainly not single-use) but recently its bristles flattened and it ceased to function. Luckily, I came across a really great website selling a variety of green household items and they had a version of my old original brush… called a tortoise (although it looks more like a hedgehog to me)! They come in packs of two, so I already have my replacement lined up… or perhaps I’ll pass it on to someone else. On the web site they are shown as coming in plastic packaging, but mine arrived au naturel.

I haven't got a panda to test it on, but I quite like it

I haven’t got a panda to test it on, but I quite like it

It was from the same website that I bought myself a new toothbrush to try out – bamboo handle and bamboo bristles. We still have an electric toothbrush that I use once-a-day and this is mainly plastic, but the rest of the time I’m using the bamboo one and it’s holding up rather well (I am usually rather hard on my toothbrushes). There are a number of bamboo toothbrushes on the market, but this one seemed to get the best reviews. It’s quite small and has a small head, but it does seem to work and none of the bristles have fallen out, so I am reasonably impressed so far.

And finally, my little plastic-free shopping spree yielded a coconut shell soap dish. I have been using soap rather than shower gel for some months now. First because I can buy it locally-made; second because it reduces that amount of water that is being transported round the country; and third because it’s packaging-free. However, soap goes soggy if left in a wet place. Above the bathroom sink we have a magnetic soap holder:



but for the bath I wanted a soap dish with drainage holes. I had hoped to find a locally-made wooden one because I wanted one that wouldn’t break if dropped. I was unsuccessful in this, but this coconut shell one is simple and does a grand job:

Carved coconut shell

Carved coconut shell

And you can even see that I’m using every scrap of soap by sticking the remnants of the old bar on top of the new one in a decorative swirl!

All-in-all I’m pleased with these small steps to reducing plastic in our home… now if I could just find plastic packaging-free pumpkin seeds, I’d be a happy snail.

Paint it blue

The final bit of work – wiring in the lights – was completed on Friday morning and our official opening was held that evening:



So my blogging absence can be explained by a weekend wielding a paint brush and turning the bare grey concrete interior walls into vibrant blue:

The colour is called ‘pitch blue’, which doesn’t really make sense to me, but I like it anyway. Over the past couple of days I’ve applied an undercoat and two topcoats. I don’t find emulsion painting particularly inspiring, but I am pleased with the result.

This task revealed yet another ‘green’ conundrum namely the choice of paint. I really didn’t feel up to the task of a detailed investigation into the environmental credentials of every available paint, so in the end we went to a local shop* that specialises in eco-friendly decorating and took their advice. We bought Farrow and Ball paint, which is made in England, so has relatively few ‘paint miles’ and has no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). It’s not cheap. but it was lovely to use and I certainly didn’t end up with a headache even after two days of painting.


*The guy who owns the shop recognised me and after a short discussion we worked out that he was a postgrad at university when I was an undergrad! I would not have recognised him, although once I knew his name, I did remember him. Anyway, it’s good to know that old Aberystwyth Environmental Scientists are still doing their bit for the planet!


Finally, we have glass… just lighting required now and then it’s over to us to do the painting.

Stash busting

It’s contagious – not only have I made some in-roads into my stash, we’ve also made a start on mum’s. We both agree that we have too much unwanted/unused craft stuff, so I have decided to dedicate some time to finding new people to love it… and hopefully make use of it, rather than have it cluttering up our houses.

Some of our unwanted stash

Some of our unwanted stash

So far, I have dispatched more than 12 metres of cotton jersey fabric and 21 zips to new owners and I think I’ve got someone who wants three old quilling tools. Currently I’m looking for people wanting single-sided fleece, lace fabric, a bit more cotton jersey and a lot of sequins. If you are interested, please look at my shop window page, which I will try to keep updated with the things we want to sell. In addition, I have a box of antique lace and a collection of 60-year-old embroidered handkerchiefs, but I need to get some advice about those before proceeding (watch out for an e-mail Kerry!). There’s likely to be lots of fabric and card-making supplies in the future too.

As for the yarn destash, I’m currently averaging a hat per day. This means that I’ve now made three beanies, three berets, two turbans and two slouch hats in the past week and a half:



I have to stop temporarily as I have a commission, but when I resume I’ll try to diversify the palette a bit more!

Still not there

Those of you who have been following the saga of the limery will be wondering what has happened. Well, I’m sorry to say, nothing. We still await the final sealed unit with which to glaze the door. Apparently the ‘conservatory’ bit (glass, ridge, sealant, mount for lights) will be finished on Monday and then all that will remain is the lighting.

I got fed up with the ingress of insects, so have rigged up a temporary fly screen using a thin curtain:

Make-shift fly screen

Make-shift fly screen

And I could no longer bear to keep all my plants outside, so now it is being used for growing.

They’ll all have to come out if work happens on Monday, but the tomato plants at least seem to be thriving – I may even get a crop later in the summer.

We now have the paint for the inside – a lovely blue shade. But that too is waiting for the rest to be completed. Perhaps next week…

Goings and Comings


Gradually filling the raised bed... a layer of greenery next

Gradually filling the raised bed… a layer of greenery is required next

I think that I have finally worked my way through most of the old paperwork in my work room and banished it to form the lovely absorbent base layer in our new raised bed. In a fit of enthusiasm I also went through a couple of large plastic crates that were lurking in the bottom of the wardrobe and that also contained long-neglected teaching materials. Go Me! Now, I’m moving on to craft materials…

Over the years I’ve tried my hand at lots of crafts… some have become firm favourites, whilst my interest in others has waned. Years ago, for example, I used to enjoy Brazilian three-dimensional flower embroidery, but these days it does not pique my interest. Similarly, I have done no encaustic wax painting for years, nor have I made paper. And, I have finally admitted to myself that I really don’t enjoy dressmaking. And so, the next task is to find good homes for my unwanted craft items. To this end I have joined a swap/sell pre-loved craft stuff group on Facebook. I’ve tried selling via ebay with mixed success, so I thought a targeted group like this one might be a good alternative. And so it is proving… I have takers for a pile of t-shirt fabric, another piece of fabric and a bundle of zips – and this is only after one day. I know that I won’t be able to get rid of everything this way (the shoulder pads remain unclaimed, despite offering them free, just for the cost of the postage), but at least some of my unwanted crafting supplies will be welcomed into new homes, where they may actually be used thus freeing up space for me.

What I do have to be cautious of is too much flowing in the opposite direction… I must not be tempted. Having said that, though, there have been a couple of arrivals this week, which leads us to the


Last week I had a lovely email from a participant on a course I taught a few years ago, with the offer of a set of purple glass snails. How could I refuse? And so yesterday morning I received these:

Glass snails

Glass snails

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet… I could use them as buttons or embellishments and I think I need to have a good think about them for a while before I make a decision. Anyway, if you want to see more of Charli’s work, do take a look at Ugly Teapot.

The second arrival was, coincidentally, also in the form of buttons, these from the very talented Joanna Bond:

Ceramic buttons... with a tiny leaf motif in the middle of each

Ceramic buttons… with a tiny leaf motif in the middle of each

I commissioned these buttons for my sofa cushions, but I don’t think that I really want them to be tucked away out of sight (the shell ones that are currently on the cushions are good enough for that), so I think that I will use these to hold the main pieces of the cover together – making the joins a decorative feature and effectively creating a set of loose covers. I went to collect these buttons from Joanna’s studio where we discussed the possibility of an artistic collaboration – yarn and ceramics. If it works out, you’ll be the first to know!

So, the goings have far exceeded the comings, plus I’ve made a bit of money selling things that, to me, have become clutter. I think that counts as a successful few days!


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