Supporting small

Over recent months many small businesses have found themselves in a precarious situation – unable to open shops, sell at markets – making it all the more important that we support them now to ensure their future existence. We Snails have done our very best to buy from small traders over the past 10 months and have managed to source the majority of our food that way – luckily in our part of the world there are many, many small food producers and an abundance of independent retailers. In addition, we’ve been able to access direct from some producers via the internet. I know that people who cannot go to the shops have found the big supermarkets to be a lifeline, but those of us who are able to shop locally can play our part in making sure that people in our community who have small businesses continue not only to survive, but to thrive. Plus, many of our local small businesses have gone the extra mile to support the vulnerable in our community – delivering emergency supplies at short notice, for example – something that you simply wouldn’t get from big companies. In addition, many small businesses, despite suffering themselves, have donated to local food banks and other charities supporting the needy.

Aside from shops that sell food, other retailers have found the last year even more of a challenge. Even well-established companies are being affected. I noticed that Baa Ram Ewe, producers of fabulous British wool (including the stuff I made my latest fingerless mittens out of), have had to resort to crowd funding to give their business a chance of surviving (here is the link). Whilst I have been at home, I have tried to make the majority of my on-line purchases of materials for making things from small, independent companies, but I also keep an eye open for very small enterprises who are crowdfunding. And this is how I came across Midwinter Yarns, who were trying to collect enough money to produce a Welsh wool to add to their range. They are based in Scotland, but have Welsh connections and their wool sounded lovely (you can read about it here, although their crowdfunder was successful and closed last summer).

My contribution was sufficient to receive six skeins of their hand-dyed yarn. The wool arrived a few weeks ago and so I needed to find a pattern that would be suitable for the amount of yarn available. Having gone out of my usual comfort zone and chosen a sludgy green colour (the photo on the left below is closest to the actual colour), I wanted to make something appropriate, which I think I found with Southern Pines by Dora Does.

It’s worked top down, all in one piece, so there’s no sewing up at the end. I had a bit of an issue early on in the pattern, but Michelle, the designer. was amazingly helpful, even though it turned out that the problem was me being dim rather than an issue with the pattern itself. It will have long (or at least 3/4) sleeves, and I’ll make the body as long as uses up all the yarn – this is one of the joys of top-down garments. I plan to make a skirt to wear with it out of some grey and white fabric I have with a design called “crop circles” (the fabric was from an independent on-line store, but more on that in a future post). So, a new outfit in hand all from small, businesses – long may they survive.

ScrapHappy January 2021

In mid-December I came across a lovely pattern that I just had to buy a copy of because it looked like a prefect way to use up some scraps. I optimistically thought that I would have it completed for Christmas, but it took much longer than that and so, I give you my New Year ScrapHappy Wreath. All the yarn was left over from other projects and there are some antique mother of pearl buttons nestled in there too. The ring it is constructed around was given to me by my mum years ago and has been sitting unused on a shelf ever since, awaiting inspiration. In fact, I didn’t follow the pattern exactly, and just used the elements that I wanted. Indeed, because I had a shaped ring already, my version is much more three-dimensional than the original, which is mounted on a cardboard ring.

In fact, it didn’t use up a lot of yarn, as each component is small, but it has certainly inspired me… I envisage making some collages and plan to start a box of small crocheted things made from scraps, to put together, perhaps in an old frame, when I have a large enough collection. In fact a rummage around has yielded a few crochet flowers left over from old projects, so I already have the beginnings.

-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:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

New year, New skill

Happy New Year, dear readers.

Sadly the beginning of 2021 has been a bit of a damp squib… we are lockdown again, with no end in sight. Trying to look on the bright side, this means I should have plenty of opportunity to do lots of creative things, including sewing some of the new fabrics I have bought recently. And, of course, I have lots of yarn to keep me occupied. At the beginning of the year I completed a ScrapHappy project, so you’ll have to wait a few days to see that and then I wondered what to do next. There’s a WIP that I’d like to get finished, but it didn’t inspire me, so I turned to my latest Little Box of Crochet and a new technique therein, namely Tunisian crochet.

Tunisian crochet is something I’ve wondered about for a while. It looked to me like a cross between knitting and crochet and I wasn’t sure that it was worth bothering with. However, when you are presented with all the equipment (well, actually just a strange crochet hook that has a cable on the end) and instructions, it’s time to dive in. In fact, it turns out that it’s just crochet in rows with stitches kept on the hook on alternate rows. You work back and forth always with the right side facing.

I’ve surprised myself by rather enjoying making this cowl and I will certainly be exploring Tunisian crochet further and following Natalie, the designer, who blogs at Detroit Knots and has some interesting patterns for sale.

So, have you tried anything new so far this new year?

In a rut

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been something of a challenge here. Whist I like my home, and being confined within it is not a terrible thing, being obliged to stay there all the time has been difficult. It is incredibly easy to get into a rut and to develop habits that you’d rather not have… over consumption of cake and chocolate, for example. One of the things that I have missed most this year is spontaneity. No one ever calls round unexpectedly for a cuppa; we can’t wake up in the morning, see it’s a lovely day and decide to go and visit my mum; for quite a while we couldn’t even go anywhere in the car to have a different dog walk. So, what to do?

Recently, Mr Snail and I have decided to make the effort to do some different things… and to plan to do different things, even if they are not very exciting. For example, on Wednesday we set off early and went to the fruit and veg merchants in Carmarthen, where we stocked up… now we are in the process of making big batches of soup to go in the freezer. It’s the first time we’ve done this for months and months. We’ve also been down to the beach a couple of times recently with Sam and Daisy. It’s fun for us and they have certainly enjoyed themselves:

Beach time

The other thing that I did earlier on the the autumn was to take out a subscription to “Little Box of Crochet” – which means that once every two months, a project with all the materials arrives on my doorstep. In the past, I’ve felt that I don’t need to be given a project to work on, being quite capable of thinking of things for myself, but sometimes inspiration wanes and maintaining creativity over recent months has sometimes been hard. So, I decided to to let someone else do the thinking for me, and enjoy a parcel every now and again. I met Amanda, creator of Little Box of Crochet, at the first Crochet Sanctuary that I went to a couple of years ago and I know what care she puts into the boxes, so I was certain that I wouldn’t be disappointed. The latest one arrived just yesterday and will challenge me to learn a new skill: Tunisian crochet. It’s not something that I would otherwise have tried, but sometimes it’s good to get the brain cells working and have a go at something new. So far I’ve had three of the boxes and the two previous ones have resulted in a duffle bag (which I’ve shared pictures of previously) and the most lovely pair of fingerless mittens made with wool from Baa Ram Ewe in amazing colours.

I’ve spent no money on going out for the past 10 months, so it’s nice to use some of my savings to support another small business.

So, what have you been doing to amuse/inspire/motivate yourself in 2020?

A bit of glam

I was going to save this post for next month’s ScrapHappy, but I just couldn’t wait four weeks to share it.

Many many years ago I was invited to a wedding. I and the friend who I was going with had form in terms of making and wearing outfits for various events, but we were both feeling a bit lazy and decided that we would buy something to wear rather than do the sewing ourselves. We discussed what to do and finally settled on a trip to The Bombay Stores in Bradford… I would buy a saree and she would buy an Indian suit. Off we went with my mum and had a wonderful time choosing our outfits. I think hers was really vibrant, whilst mine was lilac and gold. And then… we were asked to be the bridesmaids.

Our Indian outfits were put to one side and we ended up wearing deep purple velvet dresses. That could be the start of a ScrapHappy post in itself, as Mr Snail has a waistcoat made from my dress – I may even have the remaining scraps somewhere. But that’s not what this post is about… this post is about that saree, which I have had ever since but never found the opportunity to wear. I came across it when I was sorting out my work room and decided that its time had come.

Spending a lot of time at home this year, I have increasingly become aware that some parts of the house are tattier than others, and that some revamping is in order. During our latest lockdown I decided to tackle the bathroom. Really the whole bathroom suite needs replacing, but that will have to wait. However, I had already bought some paint to spruce things up a bit and so I was able to improve the walls quite quickly. Obviously the curtains had to come down and once they had I knew that they weren’t going back up again as they had suffered over the years and faded in stripes. Interestingly, the linings had survived perfectly, although the rufflette tape was disintegrating. I dismantled them, retained the lining and bought some more tape… and then I took a deep breath and set to with my scissors and that saree.

Fortunately the width of the saree was perfect for the drop of the curtains so no top or bottom hems were required, and I only had to shorten the lining a little. I put the wider border at the top, where it conceals the stitching and provides additional strength. I did iron the fabric, but because it had been folded in pleats for more than 25 years it’s going to take a while longer for the creases to disappear completely. I’m rather pleased with the outcome – what do you think?

Oh, and I still have a couple of metres or saree left to do something else with.

Please plesiosaur me

When you sew your own clothes you are removed from the constraints of fashion and other people’s ideas of what you should wear. Admittedly, it’s not always possible to find exactly the fabric you have in mind or a pattern that’s exactly the right design, but if you keep your eyes open, lovely and inspiring fabrics do crop up, and as you get more experienced, patterns can be adapted. Sometimes, however, you fall in love with a fabric and you find just the right pattern, and you can make an item of clothing that you would simply never find in a high street store.

Currently, the world needs to smile more, and this dress is certainly making me do that at the moment:

The pattern is Indigo from Tilly and the Buttons and the fabric is Jurassic Sea by Lewis and Irene. My only slight criticism of the fabric design is that you can either have the pink plesiosaurs the right way up or the blue ones, but not both… I chose blue although I think this means the ammonites are actually upside down.

The pattern is great, although next time I make it I will move the bust darts as they are a bit low for me (I’ve already marked the pattern accordingly so I don’t forget). There is no zip and no buttons, making it a very straightforward piece of sewing and a garment that, I suspect, is going to be made many times in the future.

Months of yarny makes

Being trapped at home over the past few months has not inspired me to write much, but I have been busy making, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve been up to…

There’s been plenty of crochet and a bit of knitting. I finally got round to completing a coatigan in Jacob wool for my friend Kt. This latter project got held up whilst I awaited the arrival of some beautiful handmade toggles, plus I added some pockets , which the original pattern did not include. It has gone to it’s new home now and seems to be greatly appreciated.

I made a duffle bag – a kit from the lovely Little Box of Crochet, who I’ve taken out a subscription with to provide me with a parcel of cheerfulness and inspiration every two months. Although the pattern didn’t suggest it, I lined the bag, which I think will make it much more useable. It’s rather subtle bleached driftwood colors, so I chose a nice bright green lining to provide a startling contrast. I also made a poinsettia mandala, which uses a surface crochet technique that was new to me and can be used to produce lovely effects., Then there was a tiny Daisy-alike using a pattern from Toft. Finally, there has also been a bit of knitting in the form of a pair of socks which had been hanging around unfinished for months prior to all this staying at home business and which I finally got round to working on because I needed a portable project to take with me when I went on a mission of mercy that required a lot of waiting around.

I’ve also made some more Dorset buttons after my initial trials. First, a peacock brooch and then a variety of sizes to form a necklace. They are fun to make and I think many future projects are likely to incorporate them.

As the winter draws in and we’ll be spending even more time at home, I’m planning a big scrap yarn project plus I have plenty of lovely wool just waiting for inspiration to strike, so I don’t think I shall be short of more yarny creativity for a while yet.

Dressy

I may not have been writing much, but I have been sewing. The plan to update my wardrobe is going well, and I have chosen to work as far as possible in natural fibres. I’ve made two dresses using a pattern from Anna Allen (the Demeter Dress), the first in a cotton and linen mix and the second in a wonderful bright pink linen. Both dresses are lovely to wear, especially in hot weather, and were simple to make, with brilliant instructions to follow.

After these, I decided to use a fabric remnant that I acquired last year. I modified the pattern that I made up in MayThe Avid Seamstress’ Raglan Dress – making the neckline a little lower and the skirt part a little more flared. This also gave me the opportunity to test out my new “invisible zipper” foot for my sewing machine, which turned out to be a dream to use and did indeed make the zip nearly invisible. This time I made the dress with short rather than 3/4 sleeves, because that was all the fabric I had available.

Now I’m on a roll with my dress-making, I plan to make several more, including some for winter and I have a few new patterns to try out. I have two more pieces of linen, some wool/viscose jersey and a number of pure wool fabrics (more on these in a forthcoming post), as well as some silk, so I have plenty to keep me busy for a while yet.

A Dorset adventure

Actually, despite travel restrictions being eased, I am staying firmly at home, with any visits restricted to friends in the area. So, what have I been doing in Dorset? Well, nothing, actually, but I have made some of their buttons…

Dorset buttons are something that I’ve wanted to have a go at making for ages, so when I saw kits for sale I thought that would provide me with an ideal introduction. Making these buttons dates back to the early 1600s, and at its height their production constituted a cottage industry in Dorset, employing over 4000 people. When the technology was developed to make buttons by machine, the Dorset button industry was destroyed and the skill all but disappeared. However, it was not entirely lost.

Dorset buttons are made by weaving/stitching yarn onto ring. You begin by blanket-stitching around a metal ring, then make “spokes” across it before weaving your yarn in a spiral around these spokes. By back-stitching and stretching the yarn across more than one spoke, it’s possible to create all sorts of different patterns, like these :

These are my first attempts, and I’m rather pleased with how they came out. Never again will I be disappointed because I can’t find buttons to match an item I’ve knitted or crocheted.

The company I got my kit from is called Beaker Button. They make lovely kits including hand-dyed yarn, all packaged in reusable bags and with no plastic. IMGP8317

ScrapHappy July 2020

I’ve been waiting a while to be able post this month’s ScrapHappy creation. This particular scrappy chappy was made about two months ago, but he was a present and needed posting. When he was completed we were only going out once a week and trying to avoid unnecessary activities, so he didn’t get mailed straight away. Then, once dispatched, he took several weeks to arrive at his destination because Australia is a long way for someone with such short legs. However, I have received news that he has arrived, so I can share him with a wider audience. So, I echid-you-not, this month’s ScrapHappy is an echidna:

The pale wool was left over from a cardigan, the dark wool from some hedgehogs and the stuffing was some brown wool tops remaining from and ancient, abandoned piece of work.

-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:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

%d bloggers like this: