Stash not scraps

It’s the fifteenth of the month, which would usually mean a ScrapHappy post, but not this month. You’ve already seen my latest scrap creation, in the form of this blanket:

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a big blanket of scraps

For the next few months, my plan is not to use scraps (although it might happen on the side), but to work my way through my slightly out of control wool stash and complete some WIPs*. Whilst I have been busy using up scrap wool for charity blankets, I have worked on relatively few other knitting or crochet projects, but I have continued to add to my yarn stash.  I’ve decided that the time has come to address this imbalance and to make use of some of the lovely wool currently squirrelled away in draws and cupboards.

So, my first (small) stash-busting project is a pair of socks (which will also contribute to one of my 17 for 2017 targets). This wool came in my 2016 sock yarn club subscription from The Knitting Goddess. The theme was The Discworld and the colour combination is called Distressed Pudding**. Personally, it makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream.

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scrummy yarn

There were six stripy colour combinations that came in the 2016 subscription and this is the third that I have used. I subscribed to another club this year with more subtle colourways, but since I have not knitted up any of those yet, there will be no 2018 subscription… I really have to reduce the amount of wool, not increase it.

As someone who bangs on a lot about excessive consumerism, I’m feeling a bit guilty about having this lot, especially since this is by no means all my stash. It’s time to enjoy using rather than accumulating I think.

-oOo-

* WIP = Work In Progress

** If you are not a Terry Pratchett fan, just accept this and don’t worry about what it all means.

Bye-bye blankets

Over the past nine months or so, I’ve been contributing to the Sixty Million Trebles Project – highlighting the plight of the sixty million refugees in the world (in fact, there’s now more than sixty-five million). The idea was to make blankets to send to refugees and for each stitch (a standard UK crochet stitch is called a ‘treble’) to represent one refugee. Three knitting stitches are equivalent to one crochet treble… you can, therefore, perhaps begin to imagine the huge amount of work that has gone into this.

Originally, the plan was to create a world record-breaking blanket. However, it gradually dawned on the group that the blankets were actually desperately needed by displaced people and so it was agreed that we would set aside the world record attempt and get the blankets to where they would keep people warm. Boxes and boxes have already gone to Syria to a hospital caring for premature babies, but the main bulk of the blankets are destined to travel to those in need later this month. So, feeling a little sad at seeing them go, I’ve just completed my last ‘refugee blanket’ and packed up my final three (totalling 97,258 trebles) to go off to one of the big collection points.

Prior to this, I’d made eight smaller blankets (plus a bigger one that went to a different charity – Knit for Peace) and these had already been dropped off in person at one of the collection points. Here they all are (as well as one of those in the current batch):blankets

The grand total for the 60MT project so far is 55 million trebles, so you can see how close we are. After this big dispatch, further blankets are destined for various UK charities as it was agreed that we also wanted to support people in need closer to home.

For now, though, I’m going to concentrate on some personal projects and finishing some neglected WIPs*

-oOo-

* WIP = Work In Progress

 

The frog princess

Sometimes you know when something is wrong.

Over the winter I crocheted most of a sweater. All the main pieces were done, it just needed the neck working up and sewing together. But I didn’t do it. It sat in my work basket for months whilst I made up excuses for not finishing it.

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nice wool, shame about the pattern

Finally, over the weekend, I got it out of the basket and looked at it. And admitted that I really didn’t like the shape – too long and skinny. In fact the pattern was for a man’s sweater and I should have taken this into account and adjusted it, but I didn’t, I followed the pattern. I should also have stopped working on it when I realised my tension was wrong and it was not as wide as it should have been for the number of stitches. For some reason, I pretended this wouldn’t matter as I worked and considered adding side panels… despite the fact that this would change the way the arms would have to be attached.. and their length… and their shape. And even knowing this, I followed the pattern for the arms too, so they weren’t going to work if I made the body wider. Is it any wonder that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it off?

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back to balls

On Saturday, however, I bit the bullet. I love the yarn and hate the way the pattern turned out. The only thing to do in such circumstances is to frog (unravel it for those of you who don’t do yarny stuff… because you “rip-it, rip-it”). So, with much sneezing (it had got dusty from all that sitting around), I converted it back into balls. I have plenty of yarn, so now I’m going to have fun choosing another pattern to work it up into… probably a cardigan or jacket. I have to admit that this is one of the reasons I like knitting and crochet better than sewing – the work can be completely dismantled and the raw material used again in its entirety if you don’t like the finished item or if it doesn’t fit.

 

-oOo-

This is another in my series of ‘honest’ posts, about things that don’t work or aren’t perfect. You can read my first one (about gardening) here. This is the anti-Instagram!

 

 

 

Primordial felting

Last week was a good week for felting. Two days after my fleecy adventure, I went to spend a day felting with Ruth Packham – a wonderful felt artist who lives locally. I had done a two-day course with Ruth last summer and I wanted to spend some time with her practising some of the techniques I learned then. Over the years I’ve been on various felt-making courses, but I decided that the time had come for some one-to-one tuition.

As it turned out, I chose the perfect day. I started raining overnight and didn’t stop all day. Sitting under the Velux windows in Ruth’s studio, listening to the rain hammer down, I was very happy that I was spending the day indoors, playing with wool. Ruth’s studio is full of amazing creations and loads of inspiration:

After some debate about what I would make, I decided to have a go at a sculptural piece, mainly based on wet felting, but starting with some needle-felted balls that would be felted onto stalks and then the stalks would be felted onto an undulating base. This was the piece made by Ruth from which I drew my inspiration:

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one of Ruth’s creations

 

First, I chose my colours… which Ruth described as ‘sludge’! Because I’m interested in natural forms, I wanted some colours that might be found in natural habitats, so I went for a couple of greens and a reddish-black. I got so carried away with the first part of the process – needle-felting little balls, making cords, attaching the cords to the balls and making the ‘resist’ that would define the basic shape of the base, that I forgot to take any photographs, but I did capture most of the rest of my work:

And after some more work to get the little antennae to stand up straight/ point in the direction I wanted them to and the base to sit nicely and the edges to smooth out, I ended up with this:

I’m thinking of it as life emerging from the primordial soup… I may add some more evolved critters to it.

Whilst I was working on my creation (I was with Ruth from 10am to 7pm, although we did have coffee and stop for lunch), she made these cute little ‘creatures’:

I have made so many useful things recently, that it was rather lovely to spend a day making ‘art’. Ruth is a brilliant teacher and I highly recommend her courses… she will teach you how to make rather more traditional things if you like (!) and she sells needle-felting kits too in her etsy shop. She also sells her creations

 

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Ruth’s creatures

I have made so many useful things recently, that it was rather lovely to spend a day making ‘art’. Ruth is a brilliant teacher and I highly recommend her courses… she will teach you how to make rather more traditional things if you like (!) and she sells needle-felting kits too in her etsy shop, along with some of her lovely creations.

Have you been doing anything arty this week? Share your more frivolous or quirky creations!

 

Fleeced

I have an increasing number of friends who keep sheep and, therefore, they have lots of fleeces around at this time of year. This means that, because of my interest in things woolly, I get plenty of offers of fleece. In general, I turn them down because my real loves are knitting and crochet (and a bit of felt-making on the side) and I really don’t want to have to go through all the rigmarole to get to yarn (or wool tops for the felt). However, when one of my Twitter friends said that she wanted to have a go at making felted fleece rugs from her collection of fleeces, I asked if I could join in (just in case I loved the activity and would have found a reason to accept all those fleecy offers).

So, last Sunday, another friend and I trundled down to Carmarthenshire, and rolled up our sleeves, to get felting.

The idea is to use a whole fleece and felt the underside of it (using wool from a different sheep) whilst keeping the top unfelted. You do this (according to the instructions we were following) by working on a mesh, so that what will be the top of the final rug hangs down through the gaps and doesn’t get involved in the felting process.

You start my making lots of fluff from a tatty fleece, pulling it gently apart and separating the fibres, then you spread these out over the underside of the fleece. First in one direction, then in the other. After that, it’s simply a case of using soap and water to work the wool into felt. I say ‘simply’, but it’s actually really hard work to persuade raw (although washed) wool, in large quantities, to become felt. We made some progress with three of us working together, but we didn’t complete the rug.

It was an interesting experiment and, despite not ending up with a finished rug, we learned a lot:

  • It turned out that the gaps in the mesh of the fence panel we were working on were a bit too big – not providing enough support to felt successfully without moving the fleece around periodically.
  • The panel was a bit too bouncy as well, so a bit more support would have been helpful.
  • Our instructions suggested using washing-up liquid as the soap, but it’s harsh on the hands after a whole day and I would use olive oil soap in future, as I do for other felting.
  • There was no mention of covering the work with net (as I usually do when felting) to stop the fibres lifting up. It’s absence made the work much more difficult and I would employ a net cover next time.
  • The process could have been speeded up by using a rolled bamboo mat as a sort of rolling pin to give extra friction a bit later in the process.
  • A whole fleece was a rather ambitious first project – it would have been better to make some mats to begin with.

Nevertheless, we had a lovely sociable day, a fabulous lunch which we all contributed to, and an audience with a special interest in the project:

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Ken and Dave

I’m sure there’s going to be a next time! I might even remember to photograph the finished item second time round.

ScrapHappy July

The scrappy project from last month is completed!

The blanket began with old crochet squares and unwanted yarn given to me by Wild Daffodil, grew with the addition of scraps from my own collection and has finally been completed with scrap yarn on cones plus some odd balls of 4-ply (both given to me by Sixty Million Trebles). The result is a blanket measuring approximately 60 by 52 inches:

This blanket will soon be on its way to keep a displaced person warm – showing refugees that the world does care.

-oOo-

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.

 

Marvellous Meadows

Yesterday, 1 July 2017, was National Meadows day here in the UK. Our favourite local conservation charity, Denmark Farm, were hosting an event to celebrate, and Mr Snail and I had volunteered to go along and help out. After a cold and rainy week, we were delighted to wake up to sunshine and the prospect of a lovely afternoon.

There were local artists and artisans there, as well as experts on bumblebees, gardening and plants. Once we were set up, it looked lovely:

And, despite being in competition with other similar events in the area, lots of visitors came along… many for the first (but we hope not the last) time.

I led a walk and talked about the different grasslands at Denmark Farm, whilst Mr Snail was on car park and welcoming duty. However, maybe my biggest success was teaching a whole lot of small children how to crochet…

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making crochet flowers © Mara Morris, Denmark Farm

And the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed two little bees on my table – one kindly given to us for our craftivism exhibition in Manchester by Helen, Maker of Beasties and one made by me from her pattern. These two felt bees are now going to live at Denmark Farm to help to teach people about the importance of conserving pollinators.

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little buzzy bees and a bee house! © Mara Morris, Denmark Farm

A bit more scrappy

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’m happy to report that the parcel of unloved yarn arrived today.

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a mixed bag of fine yarn

Some of it is very fine, and clearly intended for weaving, but that is no obstacle. I immediately set aside the sock I was knitting for Mr Snail (it’s summer, he doesn’t need new sock right now, right?)

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temporarily abandoned sock

and wound some of the yarn into multi-coloured cakes of two or three strands:

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cake, anyone?

But I couldn’t leave it there, and had to test it out by making a square for the scrappy blanket:

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behold, a square!

I think I’m going to be able to create a fine big blanket now and still maintain the basic colour scheme:

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looks like it belongs, doesn’t it?

ScrapHappy June

OK, OK, everyone else did their ScrapHappy posts last week, but events conspired against me and mine did not happen. That is not so say that I haven’t been working on a scrappy creation, just that it didn’t make it onto the blog.

In fact my current scrappy project is a continuation of one you have seen before – a blanket using old crochet squares and unwanted yarn given to me by Wild Daffodil. It has progressed from this:

to this:

and on to this by the beginning of this week:

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The outer squares and the edging were made from wool left over from some of my old projects and some from Freecycle. And I thought that might have to be it, as I’d almost come to the end of my brown/beige/green scraps. But, no! Someone in the 60 Million Trebles group has a load of old cones of wool and other 4-ply scraps and oddments and these are now on their way to me, so that this can be made into a full-sized blanket. I am really enjoying this collaborative effort and hoping that eventually it will keep someone warm and let them know that there are people in the world who care.

-oOo-

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.

 

Soiled

Yes, I know there’s all sorts of huge things going on it the political world today (we had a general election here in the UK yesterday, in case you didn’t know), but I’m going to distract you with my first bash at a soil-themed inky doodle. It came out more blue than I expected and the addition of silver did not really work, but this is what I created to begin with, just using drops of alcohol ink on yupo paper:

not sure it looks as much like soil particles as I had hoped

And then I started drawing bugs… completely randomly and just to play around with. I got a bit over excited and didn’t allow the ink to dry completely, so some of them are smudgy, however, this is starting to resemble what I had in mind.

My next attempt may involve a base wash and a felt applicator…. and allowing the inks to dry overnight before I doodle. Eventually these are going to be used to make cards, I hope.

And before I go, just a quick reminder about the give-away. If you want a chance of winning the ‘ditch the plastic bag’ bag that I made for the Manchester craftivism exhibition, check out the post here.

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