Lawn Again — writinghouse

Mr Snail has been writing about what we’ve been up to in the garden, so, over to him…

All hail the soon-to-arrive lawn! As my Reader knows, Chez Snail now has a new raised bed and some bare earth (didn’t know? Read about that endeavour here). The bare earth is, of course, where the grass is going to go. The Snail decided that we should invest in some pre-turfed, er, turf, the kind […]

Lawn Again — writinghouse

ScrapHappy May 2021

For a while now I’ve been pondering what to do with my expanding heap of fabric scraps. I don’t feel particularly excited about quilting, you can only use so many small bits of fabric on greetings cards and there’s only a limited number of things that I want to stuff, so the pieces have been building up. However, I have been toying with the idea of a rag rug and so a few weeks ago I did a bit of research into my options and decided to take the plunge. My initial thought was a hooked rug made using a latch-hook, but then I came across an old-fashioned spring tool and immediately decided that this was something I’d like to try. I also came across a simple gauge for cutting the strips and this seemed like something that would make the job much easier, so I placed an order with Ragged Life.

There are lots of ideas on the internet for designs, but I wanted something truly scraphappy, which meant it would have to be random. This being the case, I cut out lots of strips and got started. It’s not going to be a quick make, so it will certainly be appearing in scraphappy posts for some time to come. I’m not quite sure how much fabric it will use up, but it’s already quite heavy and I’ve only done half a dozen rows. The hessian base started off about 1m x 75cm, but it will end up smaller than this as the rags draw the threads up and together. The best thing is that I can use any fabric in this project – I’m just cutting thinner strips of heavier fabric.

-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 , Bear, Carol, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

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.

Going potty

That first time at The Bistro Chez Snail

The past year has seen many changes in our approach to life. In particular, our relationship with ‘home’ has evolved as we have been forced to spend so much time here. I don’t think this has been a bad thing, and there are certainly new habits that are really positive. For example, early on in the first lockdown in 2020 we were feeling glum about not being able to eat out, so I created “The Bistro Chez Snail” in the limery, and immediately we realised how lovely it was to play at going out and to make use of our growing space as our eating space. There have followed, for more than a year now, many excursions to our fantasy eateries, and even when we are not pretending to go out, we continue to eat in the limery almost every night. It was never really the plan to do anything much but grow plants in the limery, but I’m very happy that we have found that it’s good for nurturing us as well.

All this time at home, however, has raised the issue that our garden was very full of growing things and there was hardly any space for people. This hasn’t been a problem whilst it was just me and Mr Snail – we had a lovely corner to occupy where our two deckchairs and a small table would fit. However, as it’s been increasingly clear that welcoming visitors to our home is safest outdoors, we came to the conclusion that we need to make more space for this. I outlined my ideas for some changes to Mr Snail and he launched himself enthusiastically into the project(which he’ll be blogging about very soon). However, making space for people means less space for crops, so I’ve decided to move over to growing more things in pots. On a recent visit to Sue (Going Batty in Wales) I was impressed by potatoes that she has growing in large plastic pots. Mr Snail measured them and worked out that they have a volume of 50 litres, so once we were back home I sought some out online. I could have got very cheap ones, but I was determined to buy some made of recycled plastic (if I am using plastic, which is essential for such large pots if the are to be moved about, I’m certainly going to make sure it’s made from existing stuff). So, the pots were found, an order placed and a few days later, I had more mobile growing space. Combined with some 30 litre pots that I bought a few years ago and lots of other containers collected over the decades, we’ve now got various options. Currently, many of the new large pots are planted with potatoes and these are out on the tarmac at the front/end of the house in a space that is otherwise pretty useless and where I’ve done some container growing before. We had to dig up the horseradish during our garden remodelling, so that’s in a 30 litre pot, as is the oregano, which also had to be moved.

The combination of the garden remodelling and the very cold weather this spring mean that lots of crops are still indoors, but hopefully the weather will be kinder from now on (an incredible hail storm two days ago notwithstanding) and I can plant some things out and sow some seeds outdoors without fear of them being killed. I’m toying with the idea of buying a large wooden trough on legs for growing herbs in, and I’m sure I’ll have other ideas about suitable containers, so watch this space.

Stepping up to the plate

I’m pleased to report that after allowing my elbow to rest for a while, I was able to resume the knitting that had caused so much pain. When I put it to one side, it looked like this:

Temporarily abandoned

After a couple of weeks, I decided that, being pain-free, I would pick up my needles again. To begin with I just worked a round or two each day, but as I didn’t have any recurrence of the pain, I built up the amount I did every day and soon I’d finished my hat. It’s a very long time since I’ve done any Fair Isle knitting, so I’m quite pleased with the result. Possibly the most fun thing about this project is that you have to block it using a dinner plate, to get it nice and round!

Possibly the least fun thing was that there were about a million ends to weave in!

ScrapHappy April 2021

It’s a year since I made my first face masks (featured in the April 2020 ScrapHappy post), and over the months we’ve learned lots about wearing them and how they could be improved. So, we have progressed from shaped ones, to pleated ones with nose wires and finally to a combined version – pleated with a curved top and wire to assist with wearing them with glasses. They are a great ScrapHappy make since they don’t require a lot of fabric. Our latest ones co-ordinate with various garments I’ve made over recent months and the inner is some lovely soft cotton from a pillowcase that had started to disintegrate, but which still had lots of salvageable material. As always, I use iron-on interfacing to provide a third layer giving extra filtering capacity. This latest lot were supervised by Daisy and Mr Snail agree to model his co-ordinated ensemble as long as he could shamelessly show off one of the books he’s written and which just happens to match the outfit!.

-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, Noreen, Preeti and Edith

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.

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.

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