PS

Once more I am in tears about Patricia. A friend of hers sent me this link via Facebook. It is worth reading.

What a wonderful and kind woman the world has lost.

Patricia Collins

I’m very sorry to tell you that Patricia Collins has died.

Patricia, as you may recall, wrote a number of guest posts for me and regularly commented, joining in with our discussions of everything from recycling to charity knitting. She had mentioned to me that she wasn’t well, but I had no idea how ill she was. In fact, Patricia was the person I wrote a letter to last Thursday whilst I sat in the pub with Sam… sadly she never received it… and now I wish I’d sent her an email instead.

The last gift that Patricia sent me

I never met Patricia. She found my blog via a mutual friend, but I now have no idea who that was. She first contacted me towards the end of 2017 and I wrote about her getting in touch here. What a kind person she was: she loved the interaction on the blog, but was concerned about the pressure it put on me to write and respond, so she offered guest blog posts to help things along. I never had to edit what she had written – it always fitted so easily into The Snail of Happiness ethos. In addition, she sent me little gifts and we communicated via email and she inspired me. If I hadn’t written a post for a while she would always drop me a line to check that I was ok and write encouraging words.

I will miss those emails SO much. I will miss my friend who I never met. And I will mourn the fact that we never had the chance to chat over tea and cake and talk about yarn and dogs and saving the planet.

Goodbye, Patricia, and thank you for being such a lovely person

-oOo-

You can read Patricia’s posts here, here, here, here, here and this one, which is a combined one from the two of us.

More, more, more

Economics, as it’s currently understood, is all about growth. The economy is failing unless it continues to grow; wages must keep rising; there must be inflation; we must spend more and consume more. If not, we are failing. But why? What skewed theory is based on continuous growth? It doesn’t work in natural systems, so why would it work in human systems?

Adam Smith, who seems to be at the bottom of much of current economics, considered that technology would result in increased outputs. The enhanced economy would lead to reduced mortality and increased fertility thus delivering an increasing workforce to deliver this ever-expanding economic growth.

Unlimited growth isn’t possible in a limited space

At much the same time as Smith was developing his theories, Thomas Malthus was writing about about limitations. In recent years, Malthus has been somewhat maligned and his Limits to Growth model has been criticised for its simplicity. It’s true that there are more factors to consider than Malthus’ simple contention that food production could only increase arithmetically, whilst the population could expand geometrically, thus the former would limit the latter. However, in a more general way, you have to accept that he had a point: the world contains finite resources, and at some point these are going to limit the populations (human and other organisms) that can be supported.

And it is resources that I have been thinking a lot about lately. The two main environmental issues in the news recently have been plastics and climate change, but really the overarching factor is over-exploitation of finite resources. Whatever aspect of the environment you are concerned about, reducing your use of resources will have a positive impact. Use less “stuff” and you will reduce energy consumption (in production and transportation of goods). Buy less “stuff” and make what you have last longer and there will be less material that needs to be disposed of or recycled. Make the best use of the resources you already have and you will be reducing your impact on the planet.

The economy may not grow as a result of your actions, but the economy is simply a human construct, whilst life in the oceans (for example) is very real and will certainly benefit. In my opinion, a change in what we consider important – from economics to ecology – cannot come soon enough.

Shepherding the lost sheep

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Chrissy and one of her many spinning wheels

Unlike Little Bo Peep’s sheep, which would, apparently, return home of their own accord ‘wagging their tails behind them’, most sheep need a shepherd – someone to guide then, nurture them, heft them and ensure their well-being. Sadly, it appears that many farmers and shepherds could, themselves, also do with such care and attention… and so, I’d like to introduce you to Chrissy Smith, an amazing woman doing her bit to help the sheep farmers of Wales.

Interested in Welsh sheep breeds and discovering a few years ago that their wool was not really being understood and effectively marketed by the farmers who produced it, Chrissy decided to take action. So, she established The Lost Sheep Company. By understanding the properties of the wool of different Welsh sheep breeds, farmers can appreciate the value of what they produce and consumers can select wool that will do the job they want. So Chrissy is on a mission to get everyone (producers and users) to appreciate the value of wool, especially wool from the traditional Welsh breeds: Balwen, Beulah Speckled Face, Black Welsh Mountain, Jacob, Kerry Hill, Llanwenog, Lleyn, Ryeland and Welsh Mule.

On her web site, Chrissy provides a wealth of information, from how to roll a fleece, to the characteristics of wool from the different breeds. In her shop (well, heritage craft centre really) in Colwyn Bay she sells fleeces, hand spun yarn and equipment, restores old spinning wheels and runs and hosts classes. She buys fleeces from local farmers for ten times the price that the wool marketing board pays (which is often just pennies per kilo), processes them in a couple of old twin tub washing machines and works her magic with natural dyes.

In 2017 Chrissy was involved in reviving the tradition of the Conwy Wool Fair and she’s hoping to make this an annual event.  In fact, what she’s seeking to do is to re-introduce the traditional Wool Charter Market in Conwy – the right, granted by royal charter, to close off the streets and hold a market to trade wool once a year. Apparently, she’s got Prince Charles on the case trying to track down the original charter. Now wouldn’t that be an event worth going to?

We met Chrissy during the Knit for Peace Wool Hunt weekend and, for me, visiting her shop and hearing about her work was one of the highlights. I am always inspired by people who see a problem and take action, and you don’t get more active than this. If you are ever in north Wales, The Lost Sheep Company is really worth a visit.

Twiddling

Patricia’s post about knitting for good causes resulted in many suggestions (here on the blog and on Twitter and Facebook) of worthy recipients for our work. One, in particular, caught my eye because it was so local and covered two good causes: Incredible Edible Carmarthenshire (a group who promote community growing in public spaces) were asking for twiddlemuffs, apparently they keep a stock of them to hand out at events and they are running low. For those of you who are not familiar with twiddlemuffs, they are knitted or crocheted tubes, incorporating various textures and items that can be given to people with dementia so that they have something to occupy their restless hands, plus they can simply keep hands warm. I’ve made a few in the past, so I decided this would be a good way to use up some scraps and stash yarns.
Periodically I acquire yarn that I probably wouldn’t actually go out and buy, and projects like the twiddlemuffs can be a great way to use some of this up. My Crochet Sanctuary weekend resulted in me coming home with some lovely blue Scheepjes Softfun yarn, intended to be used for a hot water bottle cover that we started during the retreat. However, on reflection I decided I didn’t really want another hot water bottle cover and so I frogged my work and put the yarn to one side. Rummaging through my stash, though, I came across it and knew that it would be an ideal base for a twiddlemuff – washable and soft.
I started by crocheting a tube, with a few added stripes of yarn with different textures – a bobbly one, a couple of wooly ones, a bit of rough silk/cotton and some eyelash yarn, all left over from past projects.

Double the length, so it can be folded in on itself

I added a little pocket, found a couple of crochet flowers that I made when I was teaching a workshop and stitched these on and made two pompoms – one for the inside and one attached by a crochet chain to take in and out of the pocket. To add some texture, I tied on a piece of cotton tape and a length of silky cord. Finally I attached a few buttons – nothing too weighty, because twiddlemuffs shouldn’t be able to cause harm!

I photographed it right way round and inside out so you could see what treasures lie hidden. The orange bits are on the inside.

Back to the stash now to find the next lot of yarn that needs using up for a good cause…

Truth

2019-03-28I love the internet.

I hate the internet.

And… I remember the days before the internet. Do you? You know, when information was relatively difficult to find and we used to toddle off to the library to look things up.

Now, I’m not saying that those were better days, and buying a knitting pattern certainly took much longer, but there were benefits. First, information in books tended, whilst biased by the author’s opinions/agenda, not to be enormously swayed by the demands of advertisers. And, second, some degree of filtering happened before a book was published – acceptance by a publisher and subsequent editing, for example. I know that there was still plenty of misinformation, not to mention downright lies, but we were exposed to less of it because all information (true or false) was harder to access.

Now, we are bombarded by information and it can be overwhelming. How often do we look for something and get a million or more hits from our internet search, so only look at the first couple of suggested sites? How often do we see some figures on social media and think that they must be correct because they are quoted by a friend or a “trusted” source? Apart from anything else, what I consider to be a trustworthy source may not be the same as what you think is a trustworthy source.

However, the fact that we can access all this vast store of information is marvellous because, unlike in days gone by, we can follow up on it, we can check it, we can examine sources, we can find out more about the view of the author or publisher and, therefore, we have the opportunity to be more discerning than ever before. But often, we don’t… because it takes time, or because the information that we see supports our existing view of the world or makes us feel good. I know that I am much more likely to fact-check something that I disagree with or that makes me uncomfortable than something that confirms my existing opinion.

I am not someone who clicks the “share” button very often on my social media accounts and, you may have noticed, that here on the blog I try to research my information-sharing posts thoroughly and provide links to the sources. I generally don’t entirely believe the attention-grabbing headline statistics I see, but recently I find myself becoming more and more cynical and wondering what agenda is being served by the numbers and “facts” that appear before me. So, I’ve started looking a bit more closely – even at the numbers I like. I recently came across a useful fact checking charity called Full Fact, which seems to be impartial and I have used Snopes for many years. What I’d really like, though, is for people to check before they post. We are all responsible for “fake news” if we keep spreading it around.

So… are you a sharer or a cynic? Do you have a preferred fact-checking website? Do you reference the information that you put on your blog?

 

Making, but not excessively

By Patricia Collins

Dorothy was 89 when I asked her how she spent the long dark evenings of winter. “Jigsaws’ was her answer. “Do you knit?” “I love knitting, but I’ve no one left to knit for”.  Her family of children and grandchildren were grown up and fending for themselves and her great-grandchildren had reached the age when they would not be seen in hand made clothes. Now there’s a topic for discussion!

Dot’s rather plaintive cry was something that I could relate to though in s slightly different way. I love making things, sewing in particular, but I’ve reached the stage where I have everything I need – sufficient clothes, accessories, curtains, aprons and the rest.  From now on my sewing life could easily be confined to repairs and the making of an occasional pot holder.  Any more would be surplus, excess.  But I still love sewing and have a box of material just waiting to be used.  How do we make stuff without making more stuff?

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Dot, at her knitting group, models a fleece hat!

There was a simple solution for Dot. A few of us started to meet regularly in our village tea shop and exchange news about local projects needing hand knitted items. Now well into her 90s, Dot is keeping the local premature baby unit in exquisite tiny clothes. Others in the knitting group have produced hedgehogs for the local rescue, blankets for homeless people, warm bed socks to welcome refugees to the county.

There was a solution for me too and a chance to get back to that stash of fabrics and enjoy my sewing again. Shoe bags for the women’s rescue, incubator quilts for the hospital, Little Dresses for Africa and my easy favourite Morsbags for the food bank. There are projects galore on the web wanting and needing our sewing skills.  We can make more without making excess. Any favourite sites anyone?

Finding Rainbows

We make a special space in our lives and our hearts for our pets, and when we lose them, we are left with a hole. Max was a huge part of our lives and his care was one of our major concerns during the last few months of his life so his departure left me very sad and empty. But, what kind friends I have… in very short order a parcel arrived all the way from Pauline (The Contented Crafter) in New Zealand, with a very special light-catcher made to commemorate Max’s life. There is even a little heart shaped frame in which I have placed a photo.

Isn’t it lovely? And, in combination with my other light catcher (made specially by Pauline for the limery) I have rainbows (which look lovelier in real life)

like the ones that Max left in my memory.

Daisy is doing a good job of making new rainbows in our life and she and Sam seem to be enjoying each other’s company.

What joy to give another unwanted dog a home… although I can’t for the life of me understand why she was taken back to the rescue. Perhaps it was the singing.

Seize the Daisy

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan… and sometimes things just happen and it’s probably best to go with the flow. Currently my flow has taken me here:

a very waggy tail

This is Daisy… and as of today, she’s part of the Snail household.

I’ve half-heartedly been looking at dog adoption web sites since we lost Max, but the prospect of choosing a dog on the basis of a  few photos and a paragraph or two of text was deeply unappealing. After all the behavioural issues we have had with challenging rescue dogs in the past and the stress of Max’s long illness, I didn’t think I had the strength to do it all again. But Daisy was different…

We first met her a couple of months ago when visiting a friend. This particular friend fosters rescue dogs and Daisy was one of her charges. She was a lovely and friendly dog, but we weren’t in the market for a new canine at the time. A week or so later someone said they wanted to adopt her and that was that, but for one reason and another the prospective adopters kept putting things off, a situation that went on for several weeks and eventually it all fell through. Poor Daisy.

So, last Thursday, knowing that I liked her, her foster mum sent me an email just to let me know that Daisy was available once again. First, we had to get Sam’s approval, but once it was clear that all was well in that department, things moved rather quickly and now it’s Monday and we have two dogs once more.

I feel very happy.

Have hook will travel

You may remember that one of my goals in 2017 was to meet up with friends I have made here and through other social media channels. Having a target gave me focus and so I easily reached my goal of seven visits – I went just down the road for some, and as far as Manchester and Devon for others. However, one trip that was planned did not come to fruition until a couple of weeks ago.

When I originally mentioned my intention, Jenny from Simply Hooked commented that she’d love to meet up, but that she lives in such a remote part of the UK it seemed unlikely. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I started looking at the possibility of organising a trip and it wasn’t too long before advice had been sought and bookings made. The advice was ‘come in May before the midges and children appear’. However, it was too late for 2017, so it had to be 2018.

So, earlier this month, we set off for the west coast of Scotland, stopping on the way to visit New Lanark for a few days and buy a little bit of wool – you get a discount if you are staying at the hotel, so it would have been churlish not to.

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Beautiful New Lanark and the River Clyde

After staying for three nights, we continued our journey, arriving at our final destination to beautiful weather. Jenny and George kindly provided lunch the following day, and the weather was obligingly good enough for us to enjoy the sun and company in their garden.

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Sunshine and smiles

Later in the week we visited the little art gallery in the village and I was able to snuggle some of the beautiful crochet that Jenny has for sale there:

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Isn’t it lovely?

Sadly we were only there for a week, but we plan to return. More on the beauty of Scotland in later posts.

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