I want to tell you a story

Recently, there has been a fashion on social media to ask friends to post pictures without words… usually something along the lines of

“I have been challenged to post one picture of every day for seven days of my *** – no words, no explanations, just pictures. Now I challenge Friend X to do the same”.

Where *** is life/favourite books/pets/influential LPs/black and white photos/most awesome cheese or whatever.

Now, I know that they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I disagree. Pictures are great – I always include at least one in my blog posts because they catch the attention and can get across a quick message or illustrate something that’s difficult to describe. But they don’t necessarily get to the heart of the matter. If you post a picture of an influential LP, I always wonder why – was it a particular song? the fact that it represents the sound track to an important era in your life? that you love the artwork on the cover? that you know the musician? And, honestly, I find what you have to say about it much more meaningful than simply seeing a picture.

2020-07-31

A story-telling snail… but unless I explain, you won’t know why

Stories are important. Humans have been telling each other stories for thousands of years – long before we wrote things down. By listening to stories we learn, we develop empathy, we are moved… and we remember. It’s much easier to recall a story than a list of dry facts – and the story may contain all those facts, as well as presenting them in a context that enables understanding. When I was teaching, I often embedded the information I wanted to get across in stories… indeed the Snail of Happiness was born to assist with story-telling in a teaching context.

Our history – personal and on a wider scale – is a series of stories… the word is embedded right there. We can all tell the story of an event and every single person will tell it slightly differently. Your truth is not my truth, and that’s why it is important to listen to each other. And that’s why one person’s hero can be another person’s villain – and generally it’s the winners who get to write the story of what happened (and erect the statues). I think it’s very important to remember this and to understand that the truth depends very much on the story-teller. This link is really worth following for a sensible perspective on the truth of history.

So, next time someone suggests that you post a picture without an explanation – resist! Yes, post the picture, but tell your friends why. Share your history, because unless you do, someone else might write it for you.

-oOo-

I was inspired to write this post by my friend Chiqui – thank you Chiqui, I enjoyed your pictures with explanations so much more than all those without context.

 

A Dorset adventure

Actually, despite travel restrictions being eased, I am staying firmly at home, with any visits restricted to friends in the area. So, what have I been doing in Dorset? Well, nothing, actually, but I have made some of their buttons…

Dorset buttons are something that I’ve wanted to have a go at making for ages, so when I saw kits for sale I thought that would provide me with an ideal introduction. Making these buttons dates back to the early 1600s, and at its height their production constituted a cottage industry in Dorset, employing over 4000 people. When the technology was developed to make buttons by machine, the Dorset button industry was destroyed and the skill all but disappeared. However, it was not entirely lost.

Dorset buttons are made by weaving/stitching yarn onto ring. You begin by blanket-stitching around a metal ring, then make “spokes” across it before weaving your yarn in a spiral around these spokes. By back-stitching and stretching the yarn across more than one spoke, it’s possible to create all sorts of different patterns, like these :

These are my first attempts, and I’m rather pleased with how they came out. Never again will I be disappointed because I can’t find buttons to match an item I’ve knitted or crocheted.

The company I got my kit from is called Beaker Button. They make lovely kits including hand-dyed yarn, all packaged in reusable bags and with no plastic. IMGP8317

Mend It Monday #13

As my friend Sarah says “If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Yet again, this week’s mending started with some sock darning. Unusually for me this repair turned out to be very subtle…it was just the first yarn that came to hand, rather than a deliberate attempt at invisible mending.

 

Then I moved on to a garment that has needed mending for years. A long time ago, Sam chewed the press-stud off this cardigan. I intended to mend it straight away, but somehow it got put with my yarn stash and only came to light a few weeks ago when we were moving the piano (don’t ask). When I looked at it with fresh eyes, it was clear that Sam had simply made a new buttonhole and all I needed to do was make it a bit more robust, remove the remaining press-stud half from the other side and add a button: 

 

I reinforced the hole and then blanket-stitched to make an  acceptable buttonhole. Rather than using one of my button stash, I decided to employ a newly-acquired skill and make a Dorset button (more on these in a forthcoming post).

Including making the button, it only took my about an hour and a half… plus the 10 or so years it’s been squirreled away!

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

 

Mend It Monday #12

As my friend Sarah says “If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Over recent weeks my mending pile has started to grow again, so I’m back to sharing my mends on  Mondays. It’s an old favourite this week – darning socks.

The purple one has never needed darning before, but there was a hole in one side of the toe and the other side was getting weak and needed reinforcing. The other pair, has been darned many times and for the latest mend I chose to use grey wool. You can see an earlier mend in the mauve. I rather like doing each mend in a different colour as it highlights the process and demonstrates that it’s possible to mend a number of times before giving up on a sock.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

 

ScrapHappy July 2020

I’ve been waiting a while to be able post this month’s ScrapHappy creation. This particular scrappy chappy was made about two months ago, but he was a present and needed posting. When he was completed we were only going out once a week and trying to avoid unnecessary activities, so he didn’t get mailed straight away. Then, once dispatched, he took several weeks to arrive at his destination because Australia is a long way for someone with such short legs. However, I have received news that he has arrived, so I can share him with a wider audience. So, I echid-you-not, this month’s ScrapHappy is an echidna:

The pale wool was left over from a cardigan, the dark wool from some hedgehogs and the stuffing was some brown wool tops remaining from and ancient, abandoned piece of work.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Just a little bit

Garden produce

From the garden

This morning I wandered out into the garden and picked some raspberries, brought them in and ate them for my breakfast. Such a simple thing, so easy, but it made me feel remarkably happy. In fact, right now we are eating something from the garden pretty much every day. The current biggest producers are courgettes, sugar snap peas, lettuce and other salad leaves and some of the herbs. Every time I go out and pick something that I have grown I feel good – I get a genuine buzz from it. But it’s more than that – it means I know what artificial chemicals went onto my food (basically none) and I know how far it has been transported (a few metres) and I know that it’s genuinely fresh; I also know that lots of the nutrients came directly from compost that I made in the garden from “waste”. All these benefits add up to something big for me personally, but also make a contribution to the health of the planet.

Alone, I know I don’t make much difference globally – my small steps mainly benefit me. But what about everybody’s small steps when taken together? And what if my small steps on my path inspire other people into taking small steps on their own path? Making changes can be really daunting, but what if we only consider the first tiny step and take it from there? It makes me think of the quote from The Lord of the Rings:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

J.R.R Tolkien

But in this case, I don’t think it’s dangerous, I think it’s exiting, empowering, inspiring. Don’t be daunted by the road ahead. Plant a seed, make a change, take someone’s hand or pick up your staff and step out onto that road… somewhere down the line you might end up somewhere amazing.

Biased

One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

What’s in the stash?

Over recent weeks I’ve been enjoying rummaging through my yarn stash and reminding myself of what I have squirreled away. There is some lovely wool, but there are also quite a lot of balls and oddments of stuff that I really have no desire to ever use… quite a bit of which has been passed on to me over the years, rather than stuff I actually bought. So, I’m putting together a box to go off to a charity craft shop (once they are in a position to accept it) and I’m working my way through some of the bits and pieces in a variety of projects like the dinosaurs. The last few days, however, have been all about cotton.

A while back I bought a couple of packs of discontinued organic cotton yarn. The colours were not ones that I would want for a garment, but since the point was to make wash cloths, that really didn’t matter. I also discovered a ball of actual dishcloth cotton, made from recycled fibres. So, in the spirit of play, I’ve been choosing various granny square patterns and crochet stitches and working up squares. On the basis that you can never have too many cleaning cloths in the bathroom and kitchen, I’m just keeping going. So far, no two are the same:

If you crochet and have a favourite pattern for making cloths, do let me know what it is… I’ve got lots of yarn and am always keen to try something different.

ScrapHappy June 2020

It has been rather warm for much of the past month, so I was glad that that I was no longer labouring under last month’s ScrapHappy creation. In fact, after the success of the crochet T-rex (who has, incidentally, been named “Cupcake”) I moved on to another ancient creature. Young Maisie, the recipient of the T-rex, is a big fan of Mary Anning (fossil hunter and palaeontologist born in 1799, who discovered the remains of huge aquatic creatures in the cliffs of the Dorset coast). I thought, therefore, that a pleisiosaur would be greatly appreciated… which it was.

Made using wool oddments, this pattern, like the last dinosaur, is by Kerry Lord:

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Oh, sheet!

Over the years you will have gathered that I find it almost impossible to throw things away that “might be useful”. This means that our house is full of stuff, and that can be challenge sometimes. However, there are occasions when a particular item turns out to be exactly what I need… which is just what happened recently.

A while back, when one of our large fitted cotton sheets wore through, I laundered it and put it in my fabric stash thinking that the more robust parts would be useful for lining bags, or something. This meant that when I bought a dress pattern that I was unsure about, I had plenty of old sheet to make a toile (an early attempt at a pattern in cheap fabric) and play about with length and pocket placement before cutting into the linen I had bought for the final version.

This gave me the confidence to cut my bought fabric, knowing that the final dress would actually fit. It’s not finished yet, but I’m making progress.

Because of the size of the sheet, even once the dress was cut out, there was still lots of fabric left, which turned out to be a good job. Recently Mr Snail’s hayfever has been extremely bad, and he has been using handkerchiefs very rapidly, so I shouldn’t have been surprised this morning when he announced that there were no more clean ones in the drawer. Remembering Kate’s recent post and comments on an earlier post of mine about making handkerchiefs out of old sheets/pillowcases, I set to work. I didn’t worry too much about exact sizes, although I aimed for about 35-38 cm square. If it hadn’t been an emergency, I would have hemmed them, but for speed, I overlocked the edges. This means they are a bit scratchy, but better than nothing. And the result, in less than an hour, was 11 large hankies.

Ignoring the fact that they could do with ironing, I’m rather pleased with myself.

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