Start a revolution…

Several people have asked over the past few days about what constitutes craftivism. Basically, it’s any crafted item that gets a message across – whether personal or political. Many people feel more comfortable with gentle ways to encourage change rather than being confrontational, and what better way to get your message across and gain attention than via a unique item rather than a letter? Send a felt bumblebee to your MP to make your point about conserving pollinators and they are certainly more likely to remember it than if you send them an e-mail.

Over the past few days I have been working on a message that is close to my heart. Here is my latest creation, made for our craftivism exhibition:

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Do you have a message you’d like to share with the world? Perhaps you can make your voice heard more effectively than simply shouting.

 

Be part of something crafty

As you know from my post the other day, I am involved in putting together a craftivism display in May and I’d love you to contribute. Our theme is Crafting a Kinder World. Now I know it’s short notice, and I know that many of you live a long way away, but you can still join in. If you’d like to write a message, share a thought, send us an anecdote or provide a picture to include in the display, we’d love you to do so. Danielle has designed the card below for you to put a message onto. Simply copy the picture (or send me a request and I’ll email you the file), insert your message and email us a picture back:

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You can insert words or a picture using a computer program then send us the file, or you can print out the card, write or draw by hand and then scan or photograph it to send back to us. We will then print out your file and include it in the display.

Because I give almost all of my craftivist creations away, I’m busily making some new contributions and digging out the few old ones that I have retained. Here’s one I’m working on at the moment… it started out as a no-sew t-shirt tote bag, but I wanted to include a message, so the absence of sewing quickly went out of the window:

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These bags are really easy to make (a quick internet search will provide plenty of tutorials to choose from) if you don’t decide to include a message!

Contact me using the form below if you’d like to be part of our project. I’d love as many of you to contribute as possible.

Crafting change

It’s been gratifying to see craft taking centre stage in world politics over the past few days… did you see all those amazing hand-crafted hats on Saturday? Knitted, crocheted, sewn, and created from plastic bags (check out Alys’ hat here). Such diversity, such individuality – so common to see if you frequent blogs like this one, but so rare to have highlighted in the mainstream media, where the most common craft stories are ‘did you know that knitting is not just for crones?’ and ‘men invented knitting, so it’s ok for them to do it now’.

Chez snail there are no pink hats – many other colours, but not pink – but the creativity is still being channelled towards social change/craftivism. Despite having treated myself to some lovely new wool on Saturday, my hook has only been employed on scrap yarn, creating more blankets for the 60 Million Trebles project (#onestitchonelife) aimed at helping refugees and highlighting the terrible situation of displaced people.

I completed one blanket over the weekend:

I had intended to move on to making something for myself, but at the moment I feel a strong need to focus on my charitable creations, so I made a start on another blanket using yet more yarn left over from previous projects. I decided to join up the squares as I went along:

But then, I got distracted and started rummaging around and pulling out my sock yarn scraps. These are too fine for the “squares blanket” above, but there are so many of them and the colours are so beautiful that I couldn’t help but start yet another :

I was trying to stick to one blanket at a time, but I’m quite happy to fail at that!

 

New technique, old yarn

I find it very easy to get set in my ways and never more so than when I’m knitting or crocheting. It’s so easy to pick up yarn and needles/hook and embark on a familiar pattern or stitch without really thinking, so I’m always pleased when something comes along that gives me a bit of a shove. One such thing was the Sixty Million Trebles (SMT) project, for which lots of the participants are making ‘corner to corner’ blankets. These blankets are made using a technique I hadn’t encountered before, but I noticed that it was described in my new crochet squares book, so I decided to give it a go. It turns out that it’s very easy and really fun to do, and it looks rather nice when done:

I have been working on projects recently all aimed at using up yarn that I have left over from past work or that has been given to me, but I still have quite a lot of that I want to get through, so I’m planning a corner-to-corner square for SMT using random yarn… I’ll start a ball and carry on with it until it’s done (or I get bored with the colour), then join another and do the same. There will be no planning, no worrying about what goes, just randomness. If nothing else it will result in a warm blanket, and it may even look good too!

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If you can knit or crochet or stitch squares together (or raise funds), SMT is looking for more volunteers, here’s what it’s all about:

The UN at the end of 2015 estimated that there are approximately 60 million refugees Worldwide
Just think about that for a moment. That’s like the population of the UK being without a home
The objective of this group is huge and it’s two fold
We want to create a yarn blanket containing 60 million trebles to represent the 60 million refugees. #onestitchonelife
Then because we have gone that far we want to continue and create the largest yarn blanket the world has ever seen.
To create a yarn blanket with 60 million trebles or equivalent we need around 8,000 36 inch squares, to take it on to become the largest blanket in the world we need around 13,000…
This will be a blanket to represent everyone who cares about the millions who are homeless, stateless and on the move
Running alongside this we are going to be raising funds #onetreble1p. If we raised just 1p for every stitch that would be a massive amount of money.

There’s a Facebook group and an Instagram account and a web site with all the details. This is my little pile of SMT blankets so far:

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Five blankets so far, no yarn bought specially for them

We have a winner

Last time I did a give-away, it was in conjunction with Mr Snail and he insisted that the draw be made by Sam the dog and be filmed (the clip is here if you want to re-live the excitement). This time, however, I was much more restrained. I wrote the names on some re-used paper, placed them in a bowl and got Mr Snail to make the draw over our morning coffee.

So, did you enter? Did you win these cute little decorations?

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are they yours?

… and the winner is… drum roll, please…

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a winner!

Congratulations Emily of Miss Emily’s Home for Full-Grown Nerds! How very appropriate, since it was Emily who introduced me to the idea of ‘Three Things Thursday’ in the first place. Once I have your address one robin, one Christmas pud and a bauble will be winging their way to you in time for… well, Easter probably.

Thanks to everyone who took part, especially for sharing the things that made you smile. Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.

Do things!

So you are depressed about the politicians in your country and their environmental credentials? I’m not just talking about the US now… things aren’t any better in Australia, the UK or much of Europe. Well, in that case take control. YOU can make a difference and here’s how:

Don’t want fracking and all the associated pollution and greenhouse gas emissions? Then make sure your energy supplier doesn’t support this. In the UK the Big 6 all support fracking, but there are plenty of smaller, green suppliers who don’t, so give your business to them.

Worried about greenhouse gas emissions from transportation? Optimise the use of your car – never drive for a single purpose, always try achieve several goals on each journey. And, if you can, walk, cycle or use public transport instead. Buy local – locally produced goods have not been transported long distances, plus you are keeping your money in your community.

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Our milk is produced using wind to power the milking parlour and refrigeration

Concerned that our governments aren’t providing enough support for renewable energy? Support it yourself – switch energy suppliers, buy a solar charger, install solar panels/a wind turbine, investigate community energy projects, buy from companies who use renewables.

Want to see a reduction in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Plant a tree (or ten), sow some seeds, get an allotment, dig up your lawn and plant vegetables, share your surplus plants and produce, take some cuttings.

Don’t think that it is expensive to take action – use your money wisely, value the resources you have and make the most of them and never, ever believe anyone who tells you that you can’t make a difference through your actions and choices.

 

Be a starling

Yesterday I read a post on Facebook (you can see the original here) that I want to share with you. This, written by John Taylor, summarises exactly and succinctly what I feel and the message that I try to get across…

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Be a starling

I work as a Climate Change Advisor in Suffolk, UK. It fascinates me how people react to documentaries and films on climate change, and what motivates people to act. I’ve seen a lot of messages saying that it is all too much and it makes them depressed. Something that helped me was an analogy I first heard from Systems and Feedback Thinker, David Wasdell. The point he made and that I want to emphasise is this. How we define a problem determines how we react to it. Climate change, we are told is a BIG problem. A favourite analogy among politicians and commenters is that it is like an oil tanker. It is a vast problem with it’s own inertia and a long turning circle. The trouble is, this image creates a psychological disconnect when it comes to individual action. How is me changing a light bulb going to turn this ship around?
But this is not how I see climate change. For me, it is like a murmuration of starlings. It looks big, but look closer and you will see it is really made up of thousands and thousands of smaller individual actions and choices. It is how I heat my house, the type of car you drive, the air conditioning in that office on my street, on everyone’s street. There is no single control room driving this ship, Climate Change is an emergent property of all our individual actions.
And compared to an oil tanker, change in a flock is agile and swift. Yes, please care about the bigger picture, but if you act in the areas that you directly influence, you have the power to be the bird that turns. So do something in your life today, and be proud and tell people about it. The birds around you will see and follow suit, and soon that change will ripple through out the whole flock. If you think of climate change like this, a global response can begin with you.

 

John Taylor @coppicejt

Every choice you make in life is important – you are important – so do your bit and shout about it from the rooftops (oh and follow John on Twitter).

Thanks to John for allowing me to share his words.

Llaeth Crai – my own revolution

Democracy is a great thing – we all get to vote periodically and select the people who will lead our country. And then we get to moan about them, see them hand power to unelected organisations, and basically do a bunch of things that make us unhappy.

How would you feel, however, about getting to cast a vote everyday? How would you like to make choices that would have a direct effect on the country, the economy, your community? Does this appeal to you? What if I told you that you were already doing it? Well, you are – every time you spend money, you are casting a vote. You are choosing the sort of world you want and you are choosing the businesses that you want to thrive. Most of us don’t have unlimited money and so we have to prioritise where we spend it. Unless you are living in poverty you have a multitude of choices and  encourage you to think about their implications.

Always buying the very latest Smartphone means you are supporting a multinational company that exploits its workers and plunders the earth for raw materials, adversely affecting lives and the natural world. And this is your choice – no one is forcing you to make it. Alternatively, you could keep the phone you have and use the money that you would have spent on the new one to do some good, to support ethical companies, local producers or crafts people. But  what about everyday purchases? Lets think about food…

The people who feed us are getting shafted by the supermarkets and we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen Without our farmers, most of us would not have anything to eat and even those of us who produce some of our own food would be in dire straights. Dairy farming is a case in point – in the supermarket whole milk costs 45-80p per litre, but farmers currently only get paid about 22p. This means that dairy farming is right on the cusp of being viable, and many small farms are only able to make it pay because the family effectively works for next to nothing. And this matters – it matters because these people are often at the heart of our rural communities, because these people are the guardians of our land and because they are almost certainly being forced to work within an economic model that makes no sense to them.

Milk is produced across the UK, so why is it transported hundreds of miles around the country to be sold, packaged, resold and processed? Surely in these days when we need to minimise our use of fossil fuels, the best place for milk to be processed and consumed would be close to where it was produced?

So, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Several local farms in our area have started selling their milk direct, and so the other day I arranged to go to the closest one, Penlan y Môr, to make my first purchase. They sell raw (i.e. unpasteurised) whole milk in glass bottles:

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Returnable glass bottles with screw caps

They will also put it in containers that you take yourself. There is no throw-away packaging and no unnecessary transport. As well as trying out the milk for general use, I wanted some for cheese-making. Apparently I am the first customer to turn up with my own churn…

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My churn being filled

The cheese-making is currently underway – a hard cheddar-type and a soft curd cheese. It will be a few months before I can report on how the former turns out, but the curd cheese will be ready to taste tomorrow and I’ll be taking a sample back to the farm so that the family can taste what their milk can become.

Now that’s the type of thing I want to do to support my community and make the world the sort of place I want to live in. How about you?

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My milk – positively shining in the sun!

How small?

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We met and the sun shone

Yesterday we attended a barbecue. It was arranged as a get-together for smallholders, so we felt a little bit as if we were gatecrashing (although we had been invited). However, the general consensus was that, in essence we do have a smallholding… it’s just very small! The key factor seemed to be our chickens – everyone felt that livestock tipped the balance from garden to smallholding! And, indeed livestock were the focus of the barbecue – the other smallholders provided lamb, hogget, burgers, rabbit and pork. All most delicious and all home produced, with the animals lovingly cared for (except the rabbits!) and slaughtered either on the holding or at a local small slaughterhouse with minimal stress. It almost goes without saying that there was plenty other home-produced fare too: bread, salads, egg, brawn, cake, Eton mess, brownies and, of course, our cheesecake.

It was an absolute delight to share time with like-minded people, eating good food, plus we got a tour of the host’s beautiful (full-size) smallholding – sheep, river, Edwin the dog and some fabulous old trees.

As seems to be increasingly the case in my life, this was another gathering resulting from social media contacts. It has become remarkably easy to make connections with like-minded people if you put a little effort into it. Almost everyone who attended had connected via Twitter… who would have thought that 140 characters could lead to so many good things?

So, back on our “tinyholding” today we return to harvesting and tidying up the garden and limery in preparation for the winter, but feeling that we are part of a community doing real things to make a difference to food production and leading lives that are a bit kinder to the planet.

 

Back to School

Around here it’s the first day of the new school year and I feel queasy.

On social media, proud parents are posting messages wishing their little darlings and little darling’s friends well at their new school/in their new class. There are photographs of slightly embarrassed children in new school uniforms and comments saying how excited the children are. And I feel even more queasy.

In all honesty I can tell you that there are still nights I wake up terrified from a dream about trying to memorise a complex school timetable or being forced to play volleyball. Even entering a school building makes me go cold inside. The fact that our local swimming pool is on school grounds put me off going for ages.

So, on this day, I am thinking of all those children who hate school. Who, like me, will be educated despite rather than because of school. Who will wake up every weekday morning for years dreading the day ahead. Who, more than 30 years after they last walked out of their school gate, are still adversely affected by their experiences.

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Even at the age of 5 I didn’t seem to be enjoying myself (fourth from the left seated, on the second row)

I don’t have children and I’m not a teacher, but if you are I urge you to remember that school days are not always the happiest days of our lives. I know that home education is not possible for everyone, but if your children have to go to school, please support them if they find it a difficult experience. And if you are a teacher, please remember that there may be children in your class who are terrified or stressed or simply unhappy; that bullying can be very subtle; that not being good at sports can be incredibly isolating; that being different can make you a victim. Children who feel this way almost certainly can’t tell you, for fear of the response of their classmates or because they simply daren’t speak to you.

We all learn in different ways, and a classroom is not the ideal place for everyone… a bit more flexibility in our education system would help. However, I doubt this is something that we will see soon in the UK. Anyway, for the moment I just want to highlight the issue and say to any children reading this who feel this way, there are people who understand… and life is SO much better once you don’t have to go to school any more.

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