The Dancing Skeleton

Many moons ago we made a blanket… it was called “The Masterpiece” and it represented lots of aspects of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. I made squares and you made squares and each of you who did so also sent me a letter or note telling me what the square represented in terms of helping make the world be a better place. Then I used The Masterpiece as the focus for my diploma presentation*:

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I’m a very enthusiastic speaker! © Alan Carlton

The central nine squares each represented one of the projects in my diploma portfolio. If you look closely, you can see that there’s a little dancing skeleton in one of them… here it is a bit closer:

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let’s dance!

It represented a design that I did about end-of-life planning, which I called A Dance with Death. The square turned out to be rather popular in its own right and I got several requests for the pattern. So, I found some charting software and made a chart and then I stalled. Other things needed doing and I lost momentum. Every year as we approached halloween I intended to get a pattern sorted and every year I failed. I thought that having ‘publish two knitting/crochet patterns’ amongst my goals in 17 for 2017 might provide the motivation, but even that failed**. However, producing a (completely different) pattern for Mandy at Faithmead got me back on track and so, the dancing  skeleton pattern is finally written up and available to buy as a digital download from etsy. I’m delighted to have Hattie to model it – although I really must sort out some hair for her (anyone have a wig they don’t want?)

Of course the charted pattern could be used as a motif on anything, I just thought that the hat would be a good starting point. Next I plan to make a crochet version… and sort out a few more skeleton poses to chart up.

-oOo-

* The blanket is still in use, in fact I am sitting on it now

** I did manage to get my bird roosts pattern sorted out, though

Yarn out, books in

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Lots to get my hooks into

I love our local library, but it doesn’t serve all my needs when it comes to books – first, they don’t have all the books I want, especially specialist books and, second, I have to take the books back! Now the latter is fine most of the time – I read a book and then I’m done with it – but it’s not always the case. So, recently, I have been building up a collection of reference and source books for my knitting and crochet. I want to develop my skills, I want to expand my horizons. I know that there’s the internet, with a host of web sites and videos, but it’s not the same as browsing through a book. And when I’ve found something I want to focus on, in general I’d rather not have to have a screen in front of me (after all, that’s how I spend my working life, so I don’t want it to fill my leisure time too).

I’m hoping that all these books will aid me in working my way through my yarn stash – providing new ideas and inspiration – as well as with my pattern design aspirations. For the moment, though, I’m focusing on getting some WIPs and UFOs out of the way. In this respect this week has been very positive: two projects completed. The first I showed you nearly finished the other day in my ScrapHappy post – a woolly hug for a friend – but now all the ends are stitched in and it just needs to be packed up and sent on its way:

The second is also a scrappy project, this one for charity. A few months ago, a friend gave me some very old crochet squares. These had been made by her aunt (I think – correct me if I’m wrong, Ann) in Belgium. She asked if I could make use of them for a charity blanket. Time had not treated them well, and there were three of four squares that had been nibbled by mice. However, I was able to repair the holes and replace the edges where necessary. I crocheted them together using wool left over from a previous project and then edged the blanket with some scraps that my mum passed on to me a couple of years ago. So, this too is ready to be packed up and sent off to Knit for Peace:

At this rate, all my projects that are languishing in bags will be done and my stash will be greatly reduced by the time I go to Yarndale in September.

ScrapHappy February 2018

I had a sort out the other day and decided that the time had come to get rid of some clothes that were really beyond repair. Initially, I was going to send all of them for recycling, but then I realised that there was some good fabric left in some of them, so I set-to with my pinking shears and chopped up some old pairs of pyjamas to make cleaning cloths/dusters. They are 100% cotton and so there are no plastic microfibres to shed. I put the off-cuts (the bulky seams mainly) in the recycling and ended up with a nice big pile of eco-friendly cloths and a little pile of waste.

Actually, this wasn’t my main scrappy activity this month, but I wanted to share it anyway. My scrappy focus has, in fact, been on crocheting a blanket. A couple of years ago I bought a kit from Colinette (the company is, alas, no more) and made a knitted blanket. The blanket turned out beautifully and I use it regularly:

but there was rather a lot of scrap yarn left over. I originally planned to use this yarn in a blanket for charity, but the more I considered it, the less suitable it seemed – lots of different textures and rather too fluffy for easy washing. Nevertheless, I made a start on it sometime last year, beginning with a central square made from some purple yarn that had been given to me – some one else’s scraps! And then I got distracted… other charity blankets were made, other projects embarked upon and completed and this one languished as a UFO*.

In the past month, however, I have been revisiting abandoned on-going projects and I decided the time had come to get this one finished. A secondary incentive is that I know who I want to give it to: a friend who is having a hard time, but who is too far away to go and see in person. The idea is that I’m sending a hug in the form of a blanket. So, my hook has been flying and the scraps have been gobbled up – including additional oddments from my collection of left-over yarns. There’s quite a lot of mohair in the mix, so the blanket will be especially snuggly, plus they are cheerful colours and I’m hoping they will brighten my friend’s day. What do you think?

It isn’t finished yet, but I am nearly there. I’m hoping to be able to send it on it’s way within the next week.

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

-oOo-

* UnFinished Object

 

 

 

 

 

Another pond

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I would be writing less here because I would be doing other writing intended for publication elsewhere. This included fulfilling a promise to make some contributions to the Plastic is Rubbish web site/blog, which provides resources for those looking to cut down their use of various plastics (below are pictures of some of my alternatives).

I often say that my blogging is like throwing a stone into a pond and letting the ripples spread out. I am hoping that having my writing appear elsewhere is like throwing stones into another pond. If you fancy a dip in that pond, you can read my first contribution here, and I do encourage you to have a look round the site as it does contain all sorts of useful ideas, resources and products. Don’t worry, though, it’s not a preachy site, for example, they say…

We shop at supermarkets when we have to, eat meat and drink alcohol. Giving up is not in nature. We want to do everything just without creating a huge pile of non-biodegradable, possibly carcinogenic, animal-killing rubbish that future generations will have to clean up.

We dont  cut plastic completely, you will only get the Dyson when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, but we aim to stop abusing plastic and encourage the discussion on how and when it should be used.

It is a British-based site, but a lot of the content is relevant wherever you are in the world.

Knitting up a storm

My recent focus as regards working with yarn has been on knitting – both producing designs using the wool produced by Mandy at Faithmead and enjoying working my way through the yarn in my stash. I’m pleased to say that I have had success in both respects.

I’ve created a hat, specifically designed with beginner knitters in mind for Mandy to include in a kit. The next task is to get the pattern typed up. In the past, producing patterns has been a bit ad hoc, but since I’d like to do this more regularly, I though I ought to start being more strategic and organised about it and, with this in mind, I’ve bought myself a guide book:IMGP5011Although the book is entitled The beginner’s guide…’ and I’m not entirely a beginner, it’s really useful and helping me to ensure that, from now on, my patterns will include all the elements that a user is looking for. Much more often than writing patterns, I work from a pattern written by someone else. This has proved useful in illustrating to me what a user doesn’t want in a pattern and the latest one I have been working from is a case in point, which a number of sections that have had me scratching my head, reaching for a pencil and writing down what I think needs to be done.

Issues with the pattern aside, I have completed the knitting and sewing up:

The finishing is simply supposed to involve crocheting a single row of crab stitch around the neck. I knew that I was not going to do just this right from the outset – the neck opening is too low for my taste and I have always planned to crochet a triangular panel to fill the lower part. I just have to decide exactly how I want this to look. I could knit a lace panel to match the sides, but I really want this garment to show off both knitting and crochet, so crochet it is going to be.

I have been doing some crochet on one of my UFOs, but that’s all from scrap yarn, so you’ll have to wait until this month’s ScrapHappy post to see that.

 

Chilly and Chilli

The first germinating seeds of the year are always special, in particular when their toasty conditions in the propagator are in such stark contrast to the outside (poor garlic under that net tunnel):

Apparently spring is coming!

Woolly connections

In recent years I have met many people via social media – some only online, but quite a number I’ve eventually encountered in person. The networks that I have built up have enriched my life, providing me with new friends, sources of produce and teaching me a great deal. And this week, they yielded a creative collaboration. I won’t go into the rather convoluted details of how this link came about, but Thursday found me visiting Glynelwyn, home of Faithmead Felt, Fleece ‘n’ Fibre, to talk wool.IMGP4975Mandy and Derek have goats, pigs, horses and poultry, but it was the sheep that I was there for. Below are some of them – indoors to keep them out of the current poor weather (some breeds are not as hardy as you might think, plus this will help to avoid pre-felted fleeces). As you can see, some of them are particularly partial to dry pasta as a treat!

 

Glynelwyn is home to small numbers of a variety of breeds – Blue-faced Leicester (standard and coloured), Wensleydale, Corriedale, Gotland, Leicester Longwool, Teeswater and Grey-faced Dartmoor – and produces single-breed wool. It is also the home to tiny Fennel – a ‘micro-Corriedale’. She’s not a big wool-producer, but she does write well (a truly amazing sheep) and has just started her own blog!

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Fennel and her pal Dennis

The wool from the big sheep is sold at occasional shows and on-line (they will send wool anywhere in the world!) and Mandy’s studio is heaven for a wool lover:

 

But, as well as the fibre, fleeces and yarn, Mandy wants to sell kits, and that’s where I come in. After a couple of unsuccessful previous attempts to have some patterns written, a mutual friend got us talking to each other and I’m going to help out. We are going to start small – a knitting kit for a hat using one of the yarns that Mandy has in (relative) abundance. On returning home, my first job was to knit some swatches, decide on an appropriate needle size and stitch pattern, and then get working on the hat…

 

It’s really lovely to be doing this with a local producer and I’ll be reporting on progress over the coming weeks.

Privilege

Some months ago, a comment from Jill (Nice Piece of Work) on my post about decluttering got me thinking a great deal about privilege. About the fact that I am only in a position to make choices because of my circumstances… the fact that I am educated, that my parents both had jobs and money, that I live in a democracy, that I am a member of the major ethnic group in my country, that I have a job, that I have home and partner, that I have a supportive family, that my country is stable politically, that I am healthy. So many people have so many immediate things to worry about… where their next meal is coming from, where they will sleep tonight, whether their children are safe, how they will pay for medical treatment…. When I thought about all the problems I could be facing, it seemed somewhat crass to be fretting about clutter.

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This simply isn’t available to everybody

Then last week we were having lunch with Sue (Going Batty in Wales) and discussing her recent experience during the time she had her arm in a cast, having broken her wrist. She mentioned the necessity of using prepared, frozen vegetables when she was unable to chop up her ingredients for cooking, and how disappointing many of them were in terms of both flavour and texture. This sort of inability to do things is the long-term reality for many people and so they, unlike me, are deprived of a full range of choices when it comes to, amongst many things, their food. So, there’s my privilege again.

It’s funny how these sorts of conversations come around several times… the following day I was having a video chat with Kt (Kt Shepherd Permaculture) in Spain and she mentioned the value of ready-meals for people with limited abilities to cook. She pointed out how marvellous they are for those who rely on other people preparing their food: to at least be able to choose a dish that you fancy and heat it up yourself. Ready-made food may not be everyone’s idea of freedom, but for some that is exactly what it represents. And so, again, my level of privilege is reinforced. I can choose what I eat, what I buy, where I buy it from, how I cook it. The fact that many ready meals are, in the words of Joanna Blythman, “food-like substances” rather than real food is unacceptable – we should not condemn those with limited choices only to poor choices.

So where have all these thoughts led me? I don’t think feeling guilty is the answer – that just directs energy to a useless end, but certainly being aware of such privilege is important. This issue certainly relates to the permaculture ethic of ‘fair shares’ but perhaps I haven’t really thought about it in this way before. I feel that I would like to take action, but other than doing the usual things I can to support my friends and local community, I’m not sure how. I’m only just beginning to think this through and deciding on possible actions, but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this and what, if anything, you or anyone you know is doing from/about their position of privilege.

 

 

Gone, gone, gone

For the first time in the history of this blog I have removed a post – well two actually.

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Organic cotton bath puff

Many moons ago I was interested in environmentally friendly alternatives to nylon bath puffs (scrubbies). I wrote a number of posts on the subject and explored a range of fibres to use. At the time, I was delighted to discover how well reclaimed acrylic yarn worked and I wrote a post about it. At the time, and with the information I had to hand, it seemed like a great way to use something that would otherwise simply be thrown out (yarn unravelled from old knitwear). Now, it turns out it was not such a good idea. Just like making fleece fabrics from recycled plastic bottles, which we all thought at the time was a great way to use waste, new information has made me think again. Using manmade fibres in bath puffs will add to microfibre contamination of water unless there is a fine filter on the bath/shower outlet, which seems unlikely. So, the two posts that mentioned using acrylic yarn for this purpose have been removed to prevent encouraging anyone else to try it.

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Soap and a flannel (the latter made by a friend)

It’s still easy enough to make bath puffs or cloths with natural fibres – cotton, hemp, nettle, or even wool, depending on the texture you desire. However, I like Kate‘s recent suggestion (see the comments in this post) about using loofahs if you want something with a rougher texture for washing yourself or your pots. If I spot some seeds, I may well have a go at growing my own – now that really would be a green solution. However, since starting to use bar soap, I’ve had no need for a bath puff. My favourite soap to use after swimming (ginger and lime) has little bits of ground ginger root in it and these provide all the exfoliation I need – naturally and biodegradably. I have also made myself (or been gifted) several cotton wash cloths/flannels and these are especially useful when travelling or when water is limited.

The moral of the story is that we do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at any given time, but that it’s important not to get stuck in a rut (or get defensive) and to make changes when new information comes to light. Have you had to revise your thinking on anything recently?

Start as you mend to go on

Last week we had the disappointment of having to replace something rather than mend it. Our ancient dvd player, which has been making strange noises for some time now, finally gave up the ghost. Mr Snail attempted to render first, and then second, aid, but the problem appeared to combine a mechanical issue and a software problem and it proved impossible to solve. As we have a large collection of dvds and no cable/satellite subscription, our dvd player gets a lot of use. So, we bit the bullet and bought a new one.

We were feeling a bit glum about this defeat, but then I reminded myself that in the past week I have done lots of successful mending and re-mending. The heel of one of my shoes came adrift and this was quickly reattached with Gorilla glue.

I darned a pile of holey socks over the weekend. Some of these have been repaired multiple times and in places there are darns over darns. I also took the opportunity to strengthen some patches that looked like they were wearing, but which did not have holes (yet).

And, finally I patched a hole in the pocket of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans. I hate the fact that jeans of made of hard-wearing denim, but the pockets are often constructed some flimsy cotton, easily pierced by a key.

A sly repair – no one will know it’s there

And all this mending has made me realise that, despite making a new pair of slippers the other day, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw my old ones into the compost… so I’m going to do a big repair on those too. It is, however, going to take some work:

My very sorry old slippers

Have you mended anything recently? Or failed to mend something you would have liked to?

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