Blooming marvellous

The past two days have been lovely… visiting The Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. It’s nearly a year since we were last here, but both gardens had different highlights. I’ll let them speak for themselves. First, Eden:

And then Heligan:

I hope you have had an equally glorious weekend.

 

Three Things Thursday: 20 April 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, fantastic flowers. The carnivores are growing great guns in the limery – some are busy producing new leaves or pitchers, but the Sarracenia leucophylla is concentrating on flowering, The deep red blooms are each atop a very long stem, towering above all the other carnivores.

Second, back to blankets. I need a bit of mindless crochet for a while to take my mind off politics, so I have got out the squares and yarn that Wild Daffodil sent me and have started creating a new charity blanket.

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The colourful ones were donated and the brown ones are mine

Third, getting arty. After being inspired by some of Pauline’s doodling, I bought myself some yupo paper and alcohol inks to play with. I haven’t had much time yet, but I had fun splashing some ink about to see what it did. Since I made these, I’ve bought a few new colours and some thinner, which should allow me to get some more interesting effects…. and I haven’t even started doodling over them yet, which is the plan

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week. What has made you happy this week?

Running Hot and Cold

We have just had to replace our 17-year-old washing machine. I won’t go into the details of its demise, but it has gone to be recycled – a service that we decided to pay for to ensure that it actually happened. So, we have had to buy a new one…

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hot and cold

After some research, we chose to buy an Ebac, the only company whose washing machines are made in the UK. The choice was relatively straightforward as they seemed to have the best ethical rating that we could find and we are trying very hard to buy British whenever we can. However, the big choice was between ‘single fill’ and ‘dual fill’. (“Oh,” I hear you saying “what an exciting life you do lead, dear Snail.”) For those of you not au fait with washing machines, the difference is whether all the water comes into the machine cold (single fill) or whether you connect to both your hot and cold supplies so that not all the water heating is done in the machine (dual fill). For us, it initially seemed like a no-brainer: our water is heated overnight using cheap electricity (known as Economy 7), so let’s use the cheap hot water to do our washing. Yes?

 

And then we started reading up on the subject and it appeared that it may not be worth it. Modern washing machines, you see, use relatively little water and tend to wash at relatively low temperatures. So, most of the limited amount of water that is required by the machine from the hot source is supplied by the water already sitting in the pipe (i.e. cool). So the argument goes that you mostly fill the machine with cooled water whilst replacing it with hot water in your pipes, which then cools down and wastes energy. Hmmm.

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the new machine

However, we needed to think about our own domestic situation. Because we live in a bungalow, and because of the way that our plumbing is arranged, our hot water tank is actually less than 1m away from our washing machine… ok, there’s a bit more pipe than that because it goes down and then up, but there’s no more than 2.5m of pipe, including the connector pipes. So, the water runs hot very quickly through to the washing machine. And, therefore, our final decision was to buy a dual fill machine. So far, it seems to have been the right choice- the machine is taking in a significant proportion of hot water, based on the temperature of the pipe, and this means that the machine itself should be using less energy than with single fill. Combining this, when possible, with only washing on days when it’s sunny and the solar panels are working, should be the best option both financially and environmentally.

 

It’s all too easy to read advice on the web and make what appears to be an informed decision. However, a bit of thinking is also good too… the internet cannot replace common sense!

Start a revolution…

Several people have asked over the past few days about what constitutes craftivism. Basically, it’s any crafted item that gets a message across – whether personal or political. Many people feel more comfortable with gentle ways to encourage change rather than being confrontational, and what better way to get your message across and gain attention than via a unique item rather than a letter? Send a felt bumblebee to your MP to make your point about conserving pollinators and they are certainly more likely to remember it than if you send them an e-mail.

Over the past few days I have been working on a message that is close to my heart. Here is my latest creation, made for our craftivism exhibition:

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Do you have a message you’d like to share with the world? Perhaps you can make your voice heard more effectively than simply shouting.

 

ScrapHappy April

This month’s ScrapHappy make is a “no-sew” shopping bag that involved a lot of sewing. I mentioned this creation in my post about craftivism the other day, but it’s finished now and I’m quite pleased with it.

The bag itself is simply an ancient t-shirt that has been cut and knotted, but because my intention was to use it for our craftivism display, I decided to do a little felt applique. I raided my box of felt scraps and cut out the letters I wanted by eye (some from really rather small felt bits), dug out some old embroidery thread and set to. I did the applique before tying the base of the bag so that holding the fabric was easier and allowing me to keep it flat, and here is the finished bag:

If you fancy making a t-shirt bag, they take about 10 minutes to create if you don’t get carried away with the decorations. All you need is an old t-shirt – remember it’s going to have to hold stuff, so if it’s full of holes or nearly worn through it’s probably better to turn it into cleaning cloths.

First lay it out on a flat surface and cut off the sleeves:

Next, cut the neck either into a V (as shown below), or into a U-shape (as I did with the appliqued) one:

Now, make sure it’s completely flat and lay a tape measure across the t-shirt about 10 cm from the bottom (adjust to make the tassels and bag the desired lengths, remembering that your bag will stretch if you use it to carry heavy things):

Cut through both layers of fabric up to the tape measure (taking care not to cut the tape!) to make tassels each about 2cm wide:

Finally, tie the pairs of tassels (one from the front and the corresponding one from the back) together with a firm double knot:

And that’s it – a t-shirt tote bag:

Ideal for yarn storage!

I must credit Joanne Harold for showing me how to make these bags – thanks Jo!

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

 

Three Things Thursday: 13 April 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, looking on the bright side. Having aging dogs means that most nights/early mornings I am roused out of bed to let one or other of them out in the garden. It’s not particularly enjoyable, but it does mean that I get to see the beauty of early morning skies… and sometimes I’m awake enough to photograph them.

Second, the first pea shoots. Lots of seeds have germinated in pots in the limery, but it’s always exciting to see the first shoots appearing from seeds planted outdoors. Hopefully, these peas will soon be climbing up Mr Snail’s pea obelisk (slugs permitting).

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hello there!

 

Third, yarn play. The sisterhood sketchbook has given me an excuse to play around with making some pretty things for no other reason than they look nice. The mandala below ended up being too big, but I’m sure I’ll find something else to do with it.

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a sisterhood sketchbook reject

 

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

Five today

WordPress informs me that today is my five-year blogiversary. Yay! Shall we celebrate? There’s home-made lemon drizzle cake (eggs from the garden, lemons from the limery) and a pot of tea made with real leaves (no plastic teabags here).

Frankly, I’m quite astonished that I’ve managed to write so regularly for five years: previously I’ve been rubbish about keeping any sort of diary. I think that it’s probably you, the readers that have kept me going… I’ve made so many friends and so enjoy reading your comments.

Over the years I have, apparently, written 870 posts (excluding this one), but I thought it would be fun to choose one post from each year to mark this special day.

On 1 September 2012 I wrote a post entitled 21st Century Womble. It may be one of my all-time favourite posts. In those days I didn’t always include a picture and so this particular post is just words, but I still like it. In it, I mention finding an old spatula whilst out for a walk and bringing it home to use as a scoop to clean out the chicken house. And, you know what? I’m still using that object… it’s still going strong and I’m still a Womble at heart.

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Yes – it is worth growing potatoes

In August 2013 I turned my attention to the humble potato, asking the question Is it worth growing potatoes? At that time I had been experimenting with various more exotic crops and not necessarily enjoying them – I don’t mind oca, for example, but I wouldn’t want to eat it every day. Potatoes, on the other hand guarantee me a crop I like, but since they are easy and relatively cheap to buy, I wondered whether it was really worth bothering. The resounding answer was ‘yes’ – apart from avoiding all the associated pesticides and transportation, there is the simple joy of eating delicious, freshly harvested potatoes and knowing exactly where they have been.

 

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Charlotte’s books

No celebration of this blog would be complete without mentioning the all-time most-visited post. It still gets dozens of views every month and it originally appeared in May 2014. Why is it so popular? Well, I didn’t write it! It is the post that contains the full text of a poem entitled Just in Case by the late Charlotte Mitchell. My blog is, as far as I know, the only place on the net that you can find this poem and the book that it was originally published in is out of print. Don’t think, though, that I ignored copyright. In fact I contacted the author’s daughter, Candy Guard, to get permission to quote it. Hopefully one day Charlotte’s work will be republished, but until then The Snail of Happiness and second-hand bookshops are the only places to find what is probably her most famous poem (do follow the link and read it – I’m sure you will enjoy it).

 

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Abundance in the limery – year 1

New readers may be a little confused about my frequent references to The Limery (it’s what we call our plant-filled conservatory). You can, however, read about its origins and the search for a suitable name here. Regular readers from the time will recall my distress at having an influx of builders, but, as you all told me, it was really worth it in the long run. Today the limery is bursting with plants and it’s hard to remember life without it!

 

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WWKIP 2016

And finally, I have to choose a post about yarn. Perhaps that one that sums up all that is good about knitting and crochet is about what we did last year for Worldwide Knit in Public day. On the Street Where You Knit describes how I spent the day sitting outside The Make It Shop teaching folks to knit and making twiddlemuffs. I met lovely people, shared skills and made something for charity… what more could I ask for?

 

So, there we are, a selection of old posts that gives a flavour of what The Snail of Happiness is all about… and I managed not to mention knickers! Here’s to another five years of writing, crafting, gardening and trying to be that bit more sustainable.

Be part of something crafty

As you know from my post the other day, I am involved in putting together a craftivism display in May and I’d love you to contribute. Our theme is Crafting a Kinder World. Now I know it’s short notice, and I know that many of you live a long way away, but you can still join in. If you’d like to write a message, share a thought, send us an anecdote or provide a picture to include in the display, we’d love you to do so. Danielle has designed the card below for you to put a message onto. Simply copy the picture (or send me a request and I’ll email you the file), insert your message and email us a picture back:

InkedHeart-Hands blank

You can insert words or a picture using a computer program then send us the file, or you can print out the card, write or draw by hand and then scan or photograph it to send back to us. We will then print out your file and include it in the display.

Because I give almost all of my craftivist creations away, I’m busily making some new contributions and digging out the few old ones that I have retained. Here’s one I’m working on at the moment… it started out as a no-sew t-shirt tote bag, but I wanted to include a message, so the absence of sewing quickly went out of the window:

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These bags are really easy to make (a quick internet search will provide plenty of tutorials to choose from) if you don’t decide to include a message!

Contact me using the form below if you’d like to be part of our project. I’d love as many of you to contribute as possible.

Sunny gardening

Us Brits are well known for being weather obsessed, so you will forgive me for telling you that the past few days have been glorious. The weather has been lovely and so this weekend has been all about planting. I had intended to complete my sketchbook contribution this weekend, but the timing of the good weather made it ideal for planting some of this year’s crops. The forecast for next weekend (when there are two bank holidays) is poor, so crafting is much more likely then.

In the past few days I have (whist wearing my new apron) potted up tomatoes and sowed lots of seeds: squashes, courgettes, a variety of purple sprouting broccoli that sprouts in the summer, chives, parsnips, asparagus peas, various lettuces, mizuna and rocket. I’ve cleaned out pots, weeded and removed brambles. From the shed I retrieved a plastic bin with a lid and filled it with nettles and water to turn into nitrogen-rich liquid feed – it gets stinky, but it’s good stuff and it’s free. And I planted a whole raised bed with potatoes and netted these to prevent Max (who I think is some sort of potato hound) from digging them up and eating them.

I’ve also been admiring the growth of other plants in the limery – lettuces, melons, lemongrass seedlings and carnivores:

The sun has gone in now, hence finding the time to write, but I am feeling very satisfied with my activities. What have you been up to this weekend?

Crafting a kinder world

All the way through May my friend Danielle is going to have a display on craftivism in her window at The Make It Shop as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. For the uninitiated, craftivism is:

a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite* (Betsy Greer)

The theme that Danielle has chosen is Crafting a Kinder World.

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Last year’s Chorlton Arts Festival window display: Unleash Your Creative Beast

As well as the display, there will be a craftivism event on 27 May and I will be there to help host it. The plan (so far) is to create a “Kindness Tree”. We’ll spend the day inviting people to craft all sorts of small items to hang on the tree, each with a message of kindness. Subsequently our gifts and messages will be given away to spread the love.

Our last Make It Shop event: 60 Million Trebles Hook-up

I’m currently putting together a few bits and pieces to contribute to the shop window display, but most of my craftivist creations are long gone – having been given away to those in need (either of the object made or the message it embodied). So, I need to make a few more… but you can help me out here if you like. If you would like to send me an item to put in the window – whatever the craft, as long as it represents an aspect of craftivism – then please do. It could be a charity blanket, a twiddlemuff, a motivational embroidery, some bunting with a message, a piece of artwork, or whatever other crafted object fits in with the ethos. The display runs throughout May, so we would need your contributions in the next two weeks. There are two provisos. First, that the nature of the object is kind – craftivism is a gentle form of protest, or political action through positive creation – so any contributions that are displayed need to fit with this. And second is that, when the display is finished, you will allow me or Danielle to donate your object, whatever you send, to an appropriate charity or deserving person rather than send it back to you.

You can keep up to date with what’s happening on the Make-it Shop website here. And you can contact me to arrange making a contribution using the contact form below. And if you are in Manchester on 27 May – call in and say hello, have a cuppa and make something with us.

-oOo-

* Putting aside the fact that something is either infinite or not… I don’t think it’s possible to be ‘more infinite’!

 

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