Not very Springy

I don’t seem to have written about growing things for ages. We’ve had a rather sunny April so far and, normally, this would have helped the garden along. However, it has been really cold and we’ve had frosts during recent nights, so the few things that are outside – garlic, shallots and some hardy salad leaves – are making slow progress. The exceptions are the rhubarb, which is thriving as a result of the heap of compost that was piled atop it a couple of months ago and the red currant bush that we moved in March, which I was worried might not survive, but seems to be doing fine. Just this morning, however, I brought one of my small trays of salad greens indoors because the tiny seedlings were looking so forlorn outside.

My issue at the moment is space in the limery. Things that I had hoped to move outdoors by now (in particular the three citrus trees) are still inside. There are still potatoes chitting on the windowsill, and lettuce in pots. The planter I want to use for the tumbling tomatoes remains unplanted because there isn’t room for it inside, so the plants are in pots still because these take up less space. Last year’s chillies and peppers are slowly resprouting, but it’s too early to know which are likely to be worth keeping and which can be “recycled”, so that’s more space being occupied. I’m holding off planting more seeds because I need to prioritise what little spare space I have for potting up things that are already growing. I have a number of things that I would like to get sown, but they will have to wait until things warm up outside… I’m sure they will make up for lost time once they do get planted.

The weather forecast is showing cold nights for another week at least, so it looks like I’m going to have to be patient a while longer.

Ten kilos of cheese

Deep in the mists of time I supported a crowd-funding project to help Duncan, a local farmer, set up a mozzarella dairy… like you do. He didn’t manage to collect as much money as he had hoped, but there was enough to get him started. The buffalo herd was established and milk production commenced. Once that was going well, they started experimenting with producing the cheese on a commercial scale, but they had some problems getting it just right. Slowly things moved forward, including experimenting with other cheeses and producing a very acceptable cheddar for a while, and then illness struck and things ground to a halt for ages. All was quiet and then a few months ago an email arrived to say that finally, they were in production and “would I like some cheese?” Of course the answer was “yes”, but the logistics in this time of covid can be a bit challenging, so we’ve only just had our first lot… kindly delivered to the door, in fact, as Duncan was passing.

It turns out, however, that the money I “invested” in cheese futures now equates to 10kg of mozzarella! So far, I have had 750g, so there’s quite a way to go yet. I made a lovely pizza with some the other day, but now I invite you to share with me your mozzarella recipes… all suggestions welcome.

Cutting my cloth

Some time last year – I forget when – I bought some wool fabric. It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill stuff, it was deadstock; this means it was left over from a textile or garment making factory. Deadstock has become big business and there are clothing brands that base their eco-credentials on using deadstock. I’m not convinced about this because if they have access to loads of this cheap fabric, the textile manufacturer must surely have factored selling it into their production run calculations so it’s not really waste. However, small quantities that are simply left over after garment runs must exist and seem like an interesting way to access new fabric. In fact, some deadstock is old and must have been hanging around in a warehouse for years. Whatever its origin, deadstock is usually marketed on the basis that you are saving it from going to landfill, but I’m not entirely convinced how “green” it really is. Anyway, that debate aside, I did buy a couple of pieces – one of which was a two metres or so and was all the company had available so it clearly was, if nothing else, a remnant.

Of course, buying a remnant means that you have to chose to make something that you have enough fabric for. I had something in mind for this particular piece of fabric, but according to the pattern, not enough. Well, not quite anyway. Not deterred, we laid it out and Mr Snail and I played around until we got it to fit, photographing it along the way so that we didn’t forget where everything went.

And that was the most difficult bit. After that, the construction and sewing was easy. It is an unlined jacket, but all the seams are bound, so that it’s very tidy inside.

In fact, this was a bit of a test piece because I’d like to make a waterproof version. I find it very difficult to get jackets to fit me. They tend to be straight up and down rather than shaped, so it they they fit my hips, they tend to be enormous across the shoulders. The joy of this particular jacket (The Hove Jacket by In The Folds) is that it has pleats at the top of the back, thus creating an ideal shape for someone like me. I plan to make version #2 (probably) in a Flax/Cotton dry oilskin, with cotton facings… I just need to work out how much fabric I need to buy, so we’ll be back to laying out pieces on the floor again because the pattern layout only takes account of using a single type of fabric, not combining two.

Holey moley, it’s Mend-it Monday!

Now I have finally persuaded myself to like darning, I tend to keep on top of it quite well. However, the other day I noticed that Mr Snail was about to put on a pair of socks that had a hole in them and I decided I’d better take a look at the contents of his sock drawer. I almost wished that I hadn’t when I discovered just how many holes were lurking in there…

What a lot of holes

Anyway, I got out my needle, yarn and mushroom and darned and darned and darned. It took me several evenings to work my way through all of them, but finally I’ve finished:

In all cases, the latest darning is grey, so you can probably see that this is not the first mend for any of these socks. Still, I keep reminding myself that every time I do this, I am reducing our waste just a little bit, and if we all did a bit more of this sort of thing, we could make an enormous difference.

A different virus

A few weeks ago I felt the need for a new and challenging project and so I decided to embark on knitting a Fair Isle beret. The wool is from the wonderful Jamieson’s of Shetland, who produce the most astonishing range of colours. All was going well, until I noticed some discomfort in my elbow, which got more severe over a couple of days, and certainly felt worse when I was knitting. I think that I was probably holding the work quite firmly and the small needles were increasing the tension in my muscles. Feeling glum, I put my work to one side to return to once my arm started feeling better.

Clearly knitting was not an option, so I thought I’d do some crochet. The one ongoing crochet project requires additional wool supplies and I didn’t want to have to buy anything, so I had a think and realised that there was a pattern I’ve wanted to try for ages, for which I had the ideal yarn in my stash. A few years ago I bought a yarn cake with a colour gradation from purple through grey to black. When I got it home I realised that what I had thought was cotton was actually a cotton acrylic mix, which saddened me because I really do try to avoid buying plastic yarn. Because of my disappointment, I put it way in a drawer and have not, until now, felt inspired to get it out. However, in the spirit of using up what I have, out it has come and, despite the plastic content, it is actually a great yarn for the current project, which is called The Virus Shawl. Now, this pattern predates covid, but it does seem strangely apt.

The colour change is currently quite subtle, but will be much bolder as it moves from the pale grey to black, I think the finished shawl will be really striking.

Anyway, my elbow is now recovered and I feel able to return, at least for a short time each day, to knitting. There may be a beret to share some time in the future, but I’m not going to overdo it and now I’ve started, I’d rather like to get this particular virus finished.

Ear Ear, It’s ScrapHappy March 2021

Terriers have little perky ears that stay out of the way and remain, generally, clean and dry. Spaniels, on the other had, have huge ears that get into everything – wet grass, brambles, drinking water, their dinner… you get the picture. And one of the problems with having such big ears is the large surface area leads to a lot of heat loss when they get wet and cold. Not only that, they get dirty and, if not kept clean and dry inside, can be prone to fungal infections.

Daisy loves to snuffle about in the long grass when we are out for walks, so requires very careful ear drying (as well as everything else) when we get home from a wet excursion. I have previously experimented with a spaniel hood made from the sleeve of an old waterproof jacket, but sadly, she seems to be able to get her ears out of it with ease. The answer, of course, is something elasticated. So, I present the Spaniel Snood:

It is made from a scrap of fabric from a broken umbrella, given to me a while ago by my friend Sue A. (who is a great maker from scraps). It’s just a tube with elastic at both ends to hold it in place. Her ears stay clean and fairly dry (it turned out not to be quite as waterproof as expected) and there is a lot less drying required when we return from our walkies.

-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:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Nancy, Bear, Carol and Noreen

Making (the most of) what you’ve got

One of the sad things about being restricted and having to stay at home has been the not being able to go into a real live shop and make a purchase (other than for food). This applies especially to materials for crafting and, in my case, especially to yarn. However, what it has done is made me look at the yarn I already have and consider how I would like to use it. Over the past year I have made various things out of yarn in my stash and using scraps left over from other projects:

As time has gone on, the amount of yarn I have has reduced and I have been looking at some that sits firmly in the “?” category. One such yarn was some 5-ply gansey wool that I won a few years ago in a raffle. There was plenty to make an actual gansey, but the more it sat there, the more I realised that I didn’t actually want one. So, after the success of the Southern Pines sweater (made from wool that I did get new this year), I thought I’d have another go at the pattern and tweak it a bit. Being the wrong gauge of yarn compared to the pattern I had to slightly adjust the sizing, plus I decided to make it longer and slightly A-line in shape. It turned out to be a relatively quick make and I managed to remember to wear it for an outdoor photo-op with the hounds:

It’s not a colour that I would normally have chosen, but actually I think it’s going to be quite versatile and the wool will certainly be hard wearing. Now I’m rummaging though my remaining yarn and trying to think of even more creative makes with what I have available.

Fancy Pants

Mr Snail has always been a fan of jeans – in the past that’s what he wore pretty much all the time. However, spending lots of time in the house, his life is mostly spent in comfy “sweatpants” (although he never wears these to go out, even to walk the dogs). But as the warmer days arrive, fleecy fabric is not the thing, and he’s reluctant to return to wearing jeans 24/7. Not long ago, he spotted some fabric in my stash that he really liked and asked if it could be made into some lightweight comfy trousers. After some discussion, we settled on the Eastwood Pajamas pattern from Thread Theory – well, they call them “pajamas”, but actually there are enough options to make them into very acceptable elasticated trousers. I love the pattern – it was simple and well-drafted. The only men’s clothes I have made before are waistcoats, so I was quite pleased with the results.

We were back to the limery for this photoshoot and, as you can see, it all got a bit much towards the end…

Anyway, after a few wears, they have been deemed successful and a couple more pairs are in the pipeline for all those glorious summer days. He even says that he thinks they are good enough to wear in public. Oh, and he says he expects the offers for male modelling to come flooding in now…

Out!

We have been in our latest lockdown for over 10 weeks now. It’s less stressful than it used to be and people have got used to wearing masks when they go shopping. We certainly have a “new normal”, but it can be terribly depressing and it’s easy to feel glum and lack motivation. So, when there is an opportunity to have a change of scenery, it needs to be grabbed with both hands. And that’s why I ended up in Aberystwyth yesterday… Mr Snail had an appointment with the optician and the sun was shining, so I had a trip out. I did do a little bit of food shopping, but we also had a walk on the prom which was quite busy. It feels like quite an adventure these days.

However, one of the best bits was that I was able to get Mr Snail to take a few photos of me in my new outfit, without the backdrop being the curtain over the front door or the contents of the limery. The Southern Pines crochet sweater you have seen before on Mimi, but here it is on me, complete with my adapted version of The Brumby Skirt by Megan Nielsen. I didn’t have quite enough fabric as specified in the pattern, but with a little jiggery-pokery I managed to cut it out at the length that I wanted. There wasn’t enough to pattern-match, but I cut the front as a single panel rather than two, so this didn’t matter and I can live with it not matching at the back. One of the best things about the design is that it has lovely big pockets. Hard as I tried I couldn’t pattern-match even the small exposed part of the scooped out section of these. They are not visible on the picture to the left, but as you can see below I managed to get them looking ok. The other thing that I changed about the pattern was the back zip. The original uses an exposed chunky metal zip as a feature, but I didn’t fancy this, so I inserted an invisible zip (not quite as invisible as intended, but that’s ok), which is much more in keeping with the cotton fabric I used… the fabric design, by the way, is called “Crop Circles” – I love it. I found a rather modern-looking vintage mother of pearl button in my button box which seemed to match the general theme. I really like the result and I will certainly be using the pattern again.

I suspect that without the excursion I probably wouldn’t have got round to photographs for a while. Now I think about it, I’m sure that a lack of inspiring photographs is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging so much recently.

Mend It Monday, 1 March 2021

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus*

Today, I’m reviving my Mend It Monday posts. I dropped them last time because I was sure everyone was getting fed up with seeing another sock that I had darned. There is a sock today, but I also mended something else this week, that Mr Snail thought was beyond repair, so I wanted to share it.

We enjoy feeding the birds in the garden. We don’t see anything especially stunning, but it is nice to watch the sparrows and other small birds enjoying the seeds we put out. We’ve got several feeders designed for birds that hang on, but were short of something that those who like to perch could use, so in the autumn last year, Mr Snail ordered what looked like a suitable feeder – it’s plastic, but since you are supposed to wash them regularly, that seemed like an ok option. Online ordering is fraught with risk and when said feeder arrived, he was rather disappointed – it’s fairly flimsy and difficult to fill. In fact, the design could have been much, much better. However, once it had arrived, we decided we’d use it rather than send it back, and, to be fair, all the birds did seem to like it. We take the feeders in at night to avoid unwanted nocturnal visitors and, unfortunately, one morning when putting them back out Mr Snail dropped this new one and it shattered. There were rather a lot of pieces – mainly the tray that the seeds sit in – and some were very small. As I mentioned, Mr Snail thought it was too far gone to be mended, but I decided to get the Sugru out and give it a shot.

The tray required some reinforcing, so I found a sheet of clear plastic that I used to use for paper-making (something I haven’t done for ages) and cut out an appropriately sized circle. Then I pieced the fragments together on top of this plastic, joining and anchoring them with Sugru. It turned out that one piece had completely disappeared, so I filled the hole with Sugru. We left it to dry for 24 hours and then hung it out once more. It’s been fine for the past week, so fingers crossed it will hold together for another season or two.

My other recent mend was a pair of long-forgotten socks… ones that I didn’t actually knit myself, but someone else did. These got very holey some years ago and had been languishing with the walking boots ever since. I came across them a week or two ago and decided that they were repairable. I didn’t try to colour-match my mending yarn because they are bright and stripy, so I wasn’t going to be successful no matter what. There were actually quite a lot of holes, but I worked on them all and now I can wear them again. There has probably been other darning since I last wrote a Mend It Monday post, but I’m sure you believe me without seeing the evidence (I have got very lax with my photography of late).

-oOo-

  • Happy Saint David’s Day
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