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

Something new

Those of you who read Mr Snail’s recent ScrapHappy post will know that we have a had a new oven. When we moved to Chez Snail at the end of the last century the house was about 10 years old and it already had a fitted kitchen complete with oven. This was very useful since we moved from a house with a gas cooker to one where the kitchen was only supplied with electricity. And, thus, we di not need to buy a new one. Sadly, having reach an age of about 30 years, the poor thing was struggling to do things like reach the required temperature – in fact the temperature dial was so worn, you had to guess what temperature you were selecting anyway. Mr Snail was reluctant to replace it as it still got hot, but was finally persuaded one evening when it took an hour and a half to produce some roasted vegetables for dinner… hunger is a great motivator.

Mr Snail had liked the oven in the flat that he rented down in Reading, so we decided to go with something similar and thus it was ordered, arrived and installed in less than a week. After some discussion, we were amazed to realise that this is the first brand new oven either of us has ever owned – when we were younger, we both rented flats that had ovens in them and when I moved to an unfurnished rental, I inherited an electric cooker (along with a house full of furniture) from my nan. That cooker was then passed on to another friend who used it for a few more years. The first house I bought came with a gas cooker already installed and then we moved here… and 20 years later we have a new oven!

It’s a bit of a revelation, to be honest – the thermostat seems to be very precise, so when a recipe says to cook something at 170C for 18 minutes, that’s exactly what is required. Pies and cakes are coming out beautifully – done to a turn – plus is can be used as a proving cabinet, so when the house isn’t warm, the bread dough can still rise. Whilst I’m glad to have avoided buying new up until now , I really am loving our new purchase… I bet it doesn’t last 30 years like the last one, though.

ScrapHatty February 2021

As I have mentioned before, over the periods of lockdown (we’re currently in #3, which started before Christmas) we’ve come to know people in our immediate community much better than we did before… after all, they are almost the only people we get to talk to in the flesh. This means that a 45 minute dog walk can take anything up to an hour and a half if it’s a dry day and people are in their gardens or out for a walk themselves.

So, what has this got to do with scraps? Well, all this chatting means we get to know each other better – to find out about each other’s interests and hobbies – and to let each other know if we need something. Which is why, as we were passing the other day, Beryl (who lives on the corner of our road) asked me whether I might have a knitting pattern (knitting, mind you, as she doesn’t crochet) for a hat with both ear flaps and a visor. I told her I’d try to find one on-line (she does not use the internet at all) and came home full of confidence. I settled down and searched and searched, but to no avail. I did find a nice crocheted version, but not one knitting pattern. Mr Snail suggested that I could write one for her, but I just couldn’t face that, so I bought the crochet version, rummaged about in my scraps, located a hook of the correct size and “voila!”

The plain red yarn was left over from making Mr Snail’s first pair of long socks to wear in his wellies, and the scrap of slightly variegated yarn for the edging has been hanging round, unloved, for ages.

So, a quick make, that has been an immediate hit with its recipient… I do love creating something useful from my scraps.

-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 and Noreen

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.

Prospects

This is one of my favourite times of the year – no, not the biting winds, incessant rain and sodden garden, but the fact that this is when we invest in the future. From little paper packets, we extract tiny packages of potential. That unassuming, dry disk is filled with magic: given a little moisture and heat, life will spring forth. Life, in the form of tiny green shoots that will immediately start using light to grow. Life that will provide food, beauty and oxygen.

On Saturday, after a trip to pick up some compost from a friend who had arranged a bulk order (much saving of money), I planted the first seeds of the year – tomatoes and peppers. Into the propagator they went and now we wait. They are the first of many this year – lettuce, rocket, beans, peas – as well as some plants not from seed – potatoes, shallots and garlic. Not all of them will thrive, but I know that in months to come I will be able to pick fresh food, all of which started from those tiny seeds that I put my faith right at the beginning of the year.

So, if you are feeling glum about the prospects for the coming year, plant a few seeds and just see how much joy and hope emerges with every little shoot.

Making: no waste

One of the things that irks me about making my own clothes is the fact that I often end up with lots of scraps that I can’t bear to throw away. There are sewing patterns for clothes specifically designed to use every bit of fabric, but I have not yet come across one that I’m burning to make. Knitting and crochet also leave waste yarn, although I tend to be better at using this up than I am with fabric. However, some approaches lend themselves to waste minimisation, for example working top down when you are crocheting or knitting. Starting at the bottom of a garment means that you have to be sure you have enough yarn to finish it – you can’t decide that you can stop 10 rows from the end or that it doesn’t matter if you only have one and a half sleeves. On the other hand, if you work from the top down, you can do all the fiddly bits with the neckline and armholes, plus the sleeves (to your desired length) before you get on with the body. Then, you can make the body as long as your yarn lasts. And if there isn’t enough for it to be long enough for your requirements, you can always add a band in a contrasting colour at the bottom and look like it was intended.

I’m pleased to say that the top-down approach worked perfectly with the Southern Pines jumper that I have just finished. I completed to well below the armholes first, added the sleeves and worked the neck border before finally moving on the the lower body. With some careful tension adjustment in the last round, I was able to get to the end with just a few centimetres of yarn to spare. The pattern is worked so that there are no seams, so the only finishing that is required is working in the ends… all that was left as waste was these few ends.

But my waste-free crafting didn’t end there. I have been waking up recently with a stiff neck and I think at least part of the problem is my pillows, which have got rather flattened over the years. I have read that wool-stuffed pillows are very good – lots of support and with natural anti-dust mite properties) and I have a large bag of wool stuffing. I rummaged around for some suitable fabric and came across a remnant that originated from the same place as the patterned stuff I used to make the dog bed inner a couple of months ago (which means I’ve had it since the mid-1980s). A bit of measuring and I discovered that there was exactly the right about to make two pillows, and not a centimetre of fabric left over. Actually, I’ve only made one so far, because I want to sleep on it and decide how comfortable it is, and whether it’s got the right amount of stuffing in it. I’ll make the second once I know… and there will not have been any waste.

I quite enjoy using scraps, but it really is nice to complete some projects that are scrap-free.

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