The currency of memories

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa, over at Arlingwords wrote a post about making some felt sand dollars… replicas of the sea urchin shells that are found in various places round the world. I saw the pictures and they reminded me that about 40 years ago my grandmother gave me a sand dollar necklace. She had bought it on one of her trips to visit my uncle and his family in Cincinnati, although I can’t for the life of me imagine why a place such a long way from the sea would have been the source of this. On reflection, she also gave me a shark’s tooth and I think she told me she’d picked it up on a beach, so they must have visited somewhere coastal. I hadn’t worn, or even seen, the necklace for ages, but the memories came flooding back.


A fish from Nana Cathy

Back in the present, Lisa was feeling glum, so I offered to make her a cheerful pussy hat. She asked if I could make it any colour other than pink and I said I could. Having shared my sand dollar memory with her, she said she would send me some of her felt creations in return. “How lovely,” I thought, “I’ll make them into a sea mobile with Nana Cathy’s fish and maybe some crochet sea horses using Wild Daffodil’s pattern.” Now, I’m wondering about other things – starfish, seaweed, sea slugs (they can be very colourful)… we will see.


A diversity hat!

I decided to celebrate diversity in Lisa’s hat and used some fabulous multi-coloured wool that had been dyed in Wales. Parts of it almost look as if it’s on fire, so I hope it helps to brighten dark days and fan the flames of hope. It arrived safely and you can see a picture of Lisa modelling it on her blog here (showing off the ‘ears’ rather nicely); I’m always relieved to see that something I’ve made actually fits! Then, when I arrived home from London, a little squishy parcel was waiting for me, with these inside:


A few dollars more

Aren’t they lovely? Of course I wanted to photograph them with my necklace… which I then couldn’t find. I thought it was in my wooden jewellery box, but there was no sign of it there. I searched several draws and other likely spots, but had no luck. I was beginning to think that it may have been lost or that I might have given it to one of my nieces, when I finally found it in a little Chinese bowl, full of old ear rings! What a delight to hold it again. I had forgotten about the little ‘doves’ that are found inside a sand dollar and that are on the chain of my necklace. As I held it I also remembered that some people consider that the life of Jesus is represented in the sand dollar (there are some poems explaining the symbolism here), which I seem to recall my grandmother telling me. To me, though, it’s not about anything more than a precious memory of my nan.

So, my sincere thanks to Lisa for reminding me of this treasure and adding to its history with her felt companions.


My riches




Leave a comment


  1. Treasures! Thanks for the mention – looking forward to seeing your sea-themed creation.

  2. You’ve reminded me to go and take a walk on one of our northern beaches where I’ve picked up sand dollars before. I had a whole dish of them at one point, but they got lost in a house move. I think they’d make a nice mobile, strung from a piece of driftwood. Maybe I can find a pretty piece of white coral too…

  3. Gosh–I think I had that exact same necklace! I had forgotten about it until I saw yours! I’ll look forward to seeing your mobile, with all the sea creatures!

    • What a coincidence. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it for sale in the UK – in fact I’m not sure that most Brits have even heard of sand dollars! I suppose the name is a clue to their origin. Apparently they are called pansy shells in South Africa and sea cookies in New Zealand.

      • We went to the East Coast to vacation when I was a kid and there were sand dollars on those beaches–I’m sure that’s why I got the necklace. My grandfather also gave me some sand dollars he had preserved somehow (soaking in diluted white glue?), to use as Christmas ornaments. I still have them!

  4. Laurie Graves

     /  March 7, 2017

    Such lovely memories! Lisa’s felt sand dollars are so nice, and I like to think of them traveling across the ocean to your home..

  5. Isn’t it wonderful how something can pop up out of the blue and trigger the best memories! Amazing story, amazing hat, amazing felt sand dollars! 🙂

  6. I hadn’t heard of sand dollars before. I love your Nan’s necklace and the modern felt ones. I came across a lovely crochet blanket called sea and sand with added turtles!

  7. Your necklace is beautiful. It looks as though it was cast using the lost wax method. It is a perfect impression of a sand dollar. And I saw the little doves (internal bones) right away! Now that you’ve found it, you really must wear it again. I’ve got starfish and turtles, too, though the starfish are modelled on some of Johanna’s at (Mrs. Walker’s) lovely drawings, and are quite whimsical, with little smiles (realistically on utterly the wrong side).

  8. Those are lovely little sand dollars!

  9. What a lovely story. Yes, pansy shells they are to us. I have a couple somewhere that I found on the beach at Plettenberg Bay many years ago, with an ex-boyfriend who caused me a lot of grief later on, but with whom I was enjoying a wonderful holiday at the time. 🙂 xxx

  10. Lisa made a lovely whimsical mobile with her creations, including the sand dollars. We don’t call them by any of those names incidentally – they are just ‘flat sea urchins’ in my unimaginative part of NZ 🙂 They used to be so plenteous when I was young, along with all those round sea urchins and starfish and salamandery type things. You couldn’t walk a foot along a beach without finding a myriad of small pipi shells, conch shells and broken paua and loads others I can’t think of right now. These days the sand is bare except for aluminum cans and plastic bags tossed in by the tide!

    Have fun creating and lets see what comes 🙂

  11. They are beautiful… and love the memories of your grandmother… hope mine have sweet memories when I am gone !!!!

  12. Oh, how beautiful! Those little felt sand dollars really made me smile… It reminded me of seeing real ones in the Monterrey aquarium a few years ago. And just look at what they started – bringing back memories, prompting a gift exchange and giving you an idea for a new project!


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