Welsh Quilts

What a lovely day I had yesterday…

Some weeks ago Sue (Going Batty in Wales) mentioned to me that she wanted to go and see the summer exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter, and suggested that we go together. So, we met for coffee and then visited Red Apple Yarn before having an unexpectedly large lunch (the café we went to had run out of the soup I wanted) and then going to the exhibition.

The quilts on display represented the past ten years of summer exhibitions at the Quilt Centre and so we had the opportunity to see a wide variety – from Kaffe Fassett creations to Victorian quilts made from tiny scraps of reclaimed fabrics. There were examples made with flannel, beautiful cream coloured quilts made for Claridge’s in the 1940s and marketed through the Rural Industries Bureau, a single printed tree of life panel made in 1810 and paisley scarf quilts.

Whilst it’s hard to single out any one quilt, I did love the creations where the quilting itself was the star, and the cream Rural Industries Bureau quilts were perhaps the epitome of this, but I particularly liked the yellow quilt that I have featured some corner detail of above. The pattern in this demonstrates the traditional Welsh characteristic of a central design surrounded by borders comprising smaller motifs… or at least, so Sue tells me. The other quilt that really caught my attention was the Victorian patchwork one displayed on the bed… mainly because it featured a large mend (that I completely failed to photograph) where it had either been torn or worn along a fold. Several of the quilts had been repaired or had small unfinished sections and I was particularly drawn to these features that reminded me of the women who worked so hard to make and maintain these works of art.

Altogether it is an inspirational exhibition and we had a lovely day out. If you are visiting mid-Wales I highly recommend a trip to the Quilt Centre where the exhibition runs until November.

All washed up

For some time we have been struggling to find suitable, biodegradable washing-up equipment. Mr Snail (who does most of the washing-up) likes to use a brush. Most brushes for this job are plastic and the bristles get flattened very quickly, making them useless. First, I found a recycled plastic version with a replaceable head, but the quality was so poor that the head needed replacing after only a few uses. Then, I was delighted to find a wooden brush with natural plant-fibre bristles and replaceable heads. I bought one, along with spare heads, and we gave it a try. Sadly, the heads seemed to last only a short time too, were a less than ideal shape (round) for getting into all the nooks and crannies and repeatedly fell off the handle. Eventually Mr Snail refused to use them any more and returned to a standard plastic brush. The quest continues to find a washing-up brush that actually delivers all we need: a good shape, durable and made from natural materials.

Mostly, I prefer to wash up using a cloth. Crochet cotton cloths are fine unless you want some abrasion and my old abrasive cloth, which I have had for years but is very worn, is plastic (nylon possibly). I was happy, therefore, that Red Apple Yarn sells textured cotton dishcloth yarn and I just had to give it a go. I decided that a loose mesh was likely to prove most useful, and whipped up a crocheted dish cloth in double quick time. I tested it out this morning* and it does a good job, although is only a bit abrasive (it felt more so when I was working it up). For me this is likely to be a good option; for Mr Snail the quest for the perfect brush continues.

-oOo-

* I washed up because Mr Snail was still in bed recovering from yesterday’s 21-mile sponsored walk.

Too late for me

Long-time readers will recall my struggle to give up teabags because of the plastic they contained. Before I made the switch to loose leaf tea, I tried in vain to persuade Clipper, the company whose teabags I used to buy, to change their product. I wrote to them in 2014…

Dear Clipper
On your ‘our story’ web page you publish the following statement:
“Always a pure, natural product – there isn’t a single artificial ingredient in any of our products.”
However, in your FAQs, I discover that
‘Square “pillow” bags do have a very thin layer of polypropylene plastic’.
Oh, I’m so disappointed! As someone who is trying to live more sustainably, I want to eliminate as much single-use plastic from my life as possible. I love your organic tea bags, but feel that I’m going to have to revert to loose tea because of the presence of this plastic. Yes, I know it’s a small amount, but it’s still there and it all adds up.
Please, please could you consider ways of making tea bags without the plastic? I know it would make you very popular with customers like me who care deeply about the environment and the products we buy.
Many thanks
Dr Jan Martin

… and they wrote back…

Dear Dr. Martin,
Thank you for contacting us here at Clipper – it is lovely to hear from you!
With regards to your concerns about their being plastic within tea bags we can confirm that certain types of tea bags do contain polymer fibres. Standard square or round tea bags which are the most common in the UK market will all contain a type of polymer fibre as they are made using heat-sealable filter paper. The tea bag filter paper requires a means of sealing the two layers of paper together as paper will not stick to paper and glue is not used. The filter paper Clipper uses for this type of tea bag contains polypropylene to provide the heat-seal function. The filter paper is food grade for its intended purpose and meets all relevant UK and EU Regulations.
The filter paper used to produce tea bags with the string and tag attached does not need to be heat-sealable, as it is closed differently, and therefore does not contain any polymer fibres/plastic content.
In terms of Clipper packaging in general we can confirm that we do not use PLA material (the biodegradable material used for some pyramid bags and other plastic packaging) as it is derived from corn which may be from GM sources.
Best regards

Hayley Butler
Consumer Care

Now, fast forward to 2017 and David Attenborough’s second Blue Planet series on the BBC highlights the devastating effect of plastic pollution in the oceans. More customers start calling for plastic no longer to be used in (amongst other things) tea bags. More customers demand change…

So I contacted them again… more publicly and more bluntly this time, using Twitter:2018-04-27 (1)and their response was rather different:

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What a difference a few years makes!

See? The Snail of Happiness – ahead of the game!

Sadly for Clipper, they are too late – my transfer to loose tea is complete and I won’t go back.

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byebye bags

Back to Bavaria

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Eccup, Filey and Bramley Baths, still not used…

Many moons ago I fell in love with Bavarian crochet and I hankered after making a blanket using my new skill. I bought some glorious yarn – Titus from Baa Ram Ewe in the wonderfully named colours Eccup, Bramley Baths and Filey* –  and I set about it. It looks beautiful, and once the pattern is set it’s quite easy… and therein lies the problem. After a while I started to get bored. That combined with the fact that it doesn’t grow very quickly, so progress is slow, led to me setting it aside in favour of more exciting projects. As a result, it has been in a bag, untouched, for nearly three years (hangs head in shame).

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new pattern and old pattern

However, towards the end of last year Wild Daffodil posted about a blanket that she had just completed for her grandson and I noticed that it included some squares with a Bavarian crochet centre and a plainer border using a pattern called Bavarian Beauty. I didn’t rush into anything, but the seeds had been sown and I knew I could finish my blanket without it driving me to distraction. Anyway, tomorrow I’ve got another day at Red Apple Yarn, and since the weather has returned to being cold, I thought it might be nice to work on (and under) a blanket in the shop. So, yesterday I printed off the pattern for the square and this afternoon I have familiarised myself with Bavarian crochet once more and done a bit of work on the old project. I left it part way through a round, so that needs to be finished off before I can progress with the change of pattern.

By the end of the year I am hoping that all projects that were in progress in January, however old, will be completed or frogged. So far it’s going well… think of it as a very slow declutter!

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my creation so far

 

-oOo-

* Well, wonderfully named for me since I grew up very near Eccup Reservoir, had day trips out to Filey and went to, well, Meanwood Baths rather than Bramley Baths, but still the names and places were all part of my childhood.

Bamboo – the not-so-natural fibre

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different breeds provide wool  with different characteristics

As you will have noticed, I am a fan of working with natural fibres – my preference being sheep’s wool (because we produce lots of it in the UK), but I’m not averse to other types too, including the fleece/hair from other animals such as goats and alpaca. There are some circumstances where something like cotton is much more appropriate… when making Knitted Knockers, for example, but most of my knitting, crochet and felt-making is done using wool.

You may have noticed, however, that when talking about working with non-wool natural fibres I don’t tend to mention bamboo or soya “silk” or a number of other fibres that are derived from natural materials. This is because bamboo etc are members of a class of fibres that, whilst not made from petrochemicals, like acrylic, are “manmade” – the rayons.

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a bamboo yarn sample

Rayon is a manmade fibre, but created with polymers from natural sources (often cellulose from plants, but sometimes another source of polymer, such as protein in milk – yes, milk) rather than petrochemicals. For example, viscose is a sort of rayon made from wood pulp; Tencel is a sort of viscose made from eucalyptus wood (usually found as fabric rather than yarn); bamboo yarn or bamboo silk is a sort of rayon (unless it is referred to as bamboo linen, in which case it’s retted and spun from the natural fibres like flax).

There are all sorts of environmental and health issues associated with the chemical processes required to create these products (with the exception of Tencel® and other Lyocells, which are produced in closed loop systems that avoid chemical pollution). Rayon fibres are biodegradable; indeed, they break down at approximately the same rate as cotton, if not a bit quicker. However, it’s important to understand that the processes used to make bamboo and other similar yarns are chemical and similar in some ways to the production of plastic yarns, but with a very different polymer source. It is often difficult to find details of the processes used to create these purportedly “natural” fibres, although it’s easy to find misleading claims about their environmental and health credentials.

Generally the rayon yarns are soft and silky, with little give in them.

Different fibres have different characteristics, and it’s a case of choosing the right one for the job. I would always recommend handling yarn before you buy, which generally means supporting a local yarn shop… adding an extra dimension to your ethical choices as regards your knitting and crochet.

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buy your yarn somewhere like this – support the local economy, get expert advice and feel and see the yarn before you buy

 

Why I’m Walking for Wildlife

Mr Snail is undertaking a sponsored walk next week to support Denmark Farm – an amazing local conservation charity where he is now a trustee. Here’s his post about it, with a link to the page where you can sponsor him… even a small amount will help as the charity will get some extra money if they get enough individual sponsors.

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RIMG9243.JPGIt’s a waste bin, it’s the Earth – go on, guess the symbolic meaning…

I promise this will be my almost probably last post about my sponsored walk! On 28th April 2018, I will walking from Aberaeron (in West Wales, UK) to Lampeter (er, still in West Wales, UK). I thought you should know why (apart from the obvious “because he’s totally bonkers” reason).

Wildlife worldwide is in crisis and it isn’t just cute furry animals, pretty flowers, or the other living things lucky enough to have come under Sir David Attenborough’s scrutiny. There is pretty much no order of life that hasn’t been negatively affected by human activities. One of the problems that humans appear to have is why the loss of an ape, a snail, a frog, a tiny water-borne flea or a mammoth elephant might matter.

When I say every living thing is connected to every other…

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Upside down

Human beings are creatures of habit. We can get set in our ways, always following the same pattern and not considering other possibilities. And this, I realised, was how I had been with my knitting. For the past 40 years I’ve started at the bottom and worked up… because that’s how you knit… isn’t it? And then Jude at Red Apple Yarn introduced me to the idea of starting at the top and working down. She was knitting a pattern called Breathing Space and it looked lovely; I’ve bought a copy of it to make myself with some Eden Cottage Yarns ‘Milburn’:

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my next new project

But first I decided to have a go at Poison Oak (not the most promising name, I have to say) with a combination of Cambrian Wool (in Slate) and Little Grey Sheep Stein Fine wool (in Moonlighting). I love the fact that you start at the top and that it’s knitted in the round, so there will be very little finishing required. I’ve just started work on the first sleeve. The wool is gorgeous and the fit is great… what’s not to love?

In addition, both these patterns are for asymmetric sweaters, which I think are great for those of us who have real body shapes. Again, this is an approach I’ve never considered before. It’s good to climb out of my knitting rut.

So have you tried any new ways of doing anything recently?

Within or without?

Where does happiness come from?

Do you make your own or does it arrive as a gift from others?

These days I’m a relatively happy person. But then I’m lucky – a roof over my head, a partner to share life’s ups and downs, enough food on the table and no financial worries. It’s a good start and it means I don’t wake up every day fretting about the practicalities of life. But after that, I think it’s probably more about attitude than anything else. We all know that waking up feeling cross or sad or scared (for whatever reason) sets the tone for the whole day, whilst starting out feeling positive generally results in a much better day.

So, with my positive hat on (ooh – perhaps I should make one), here are some (simple)things that have made me happy recently…

Gosh, I realize now that my ‘happy’ certainly originates close to home: eggs from our hens and things made from them (ice cream and French toast), a spot of mending, some (British wool) knitting and a jar of honey from some friends’ bees. The preserved fruit that went with the French toast came from further afield, but I did bottle it myself… only the maple syrup was not a product (at least in part) of my own work.

Clearly what makes me happy is domesticity. How about you?

 

 

 

ScrapHappy April 2018 #2

Yesterday’s ScrapHappy was very practical, but I’ve also been more frivolous with the scrappy activity.

You may recall my participation in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook last year, for which my contribution was (unsurprisingly) crochet. Before I settled on what to include I did one or two trials and these have been sitting around ever since. One of was an African Flowers motif, just the right size to sit on a greetings card. So, a card base, a scrap of handmade paper and a bit of stitching and I had created this:IMGP5257It’s made me think that I should make lots more pieces of crochet specifically for greetings cards.

My second scrap yarn creation was rather unplanned. On Thursday evening I arrived at Knit Night to discover that, whilst I had taken my knitting, I had completely forgotten the pattern. Since I was at a critical point with respect to shaping, I couldn’t make any progress. However, I had promised to take along a couple of roll-up armadillo patterns for two of our new members to see (I think they thought I was joking that such patterns were available). Anyway, there was general enthusiasm about either knitting or crocheting an armadillo and everybody seemed to want one. So, I rooted about in the scrap pile in the stock room and found some lovely soft alpaca yarn, borrowed a crochet hook from the shop and started work on a little crochet armadillo. I had made the body and head by the time I went home. At home I finished off the tail, ears and limbs and dug out a small ball of wool from an old unravelled cardigan (you don’t get more scrappy than that) and made the shell. Yesterday I delivered him to Jude in Red Apple Yarn… his new home (at least until Jude’s grandson spots him):

I’m rather pleased with how this little alpacadillo turned out, with his lovely floppy ears – scraps can be used to produce some delightful things.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

ScrapHappy April 2018 #1

Whilst I haven’t been blogging recently, I have been busy with other projects… several of which have involved scraps, so this is only the first of a couple of ScrapHappy posts this month.

Mr Snail spends most of his life wearing jeans, and he has a sort of hierarchy, from relatively new to ancient and only suitable for gardening/practical conservation work. I used to refuse to mend them, but my discovery of boro mending and my determination to keep as much stuff out of landfill as possible has encouraged me, in recent years, to regard the continued life of these jeans as a personal challenge.

Boro makes use of scraps of fabric behind the tear or hole to reinforce the garment and then lots of running stitches which form a visible mend and which rely on the additional fabric to act as a foundation. If the hole is big, or of you what to make a feature of it, it’s fine for the reinforcing fabric to show through. And it is this fabric that has been the destination of a variety of scraps. I’ve used several sorts of fabric, including some cotton jersey and we’ll see what works best.

First I repaired the seat of a pair of work jeans. The knees of these jeans had been patched with waterproof fabric (salvaged from a raincoat that the dog ate) a while ago and that has lasted well, but both sides of the seat area had split, so I used some scraps of checked cotton drill, edged using my overlocker, to repair these.

Next I moved on to some ‘everyday’ jeans. One knee of these had been mended twice previously, but the other knee was close to tearing and, again, the seat was worn through on one side… perhaps Mr Snail has been doing too much sitting down recently! This very odd pair of jeans is significantly darker on the inside than the outside – you’d never guess those were the same mends, would you?

All the fabric was small off-cuts from previous projects that otherwise could have been considered to be waste (too small even for dusters, which I made a few more of from some of Mr Snail’s old pyjamas last week).

Watch out for more scrappy activity soon!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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