Woolcool

IMGP7223In order to support small producers, we buy most of our meat direct, and it arrives by courier. In general, it’s packed in a cardboard box and insulated with a product called Woolcool – basically a thick layer of wool in a recyclable plastic cover. Some of this has been returned to the producers for reuse, but we have also been finding new uses for it, as encouraged by the manufacturers.

There are a couple of pieces of it in the cool bag that Mr Snail carries back and forth to Reading each week with his supplies – it provides additional insulation and stops everything rattling around and falling over. I’ve also used some as mulch in the garden. I had put one piece aside, however, for a specific project which I finally got round to this week

We have an old plastic dog bed that both dogs are rather fond of. For years it’s simply had an old blanket or duvet in it, but the current blanket is disintegrating and so it’s time for a revamp. To begin with, it needs some padding in the bottom, and this is where the wool packaging comes in. The Woolcool is a long thin strip and the bed is oval, so I had to cut the strip in two and then join the pieces side by side, but there was plenty to do this. I used a little fabric glue to hold the two bits together and then stitched them using some knitting wool. As the pad is used the wool is likely to felt, so the yarn and the fleece will probably become one. I made a cotton cover out of some more of that old sheet that featured in July’s ScrapHappy because the paw prints seemed appropriate.

The off cuts of the wool went into the compost heap because I’m very keen to see how well it breaks down, and the plastic cover went in the recycling… I wish they didn’t use this, I’d be perfectly happy with unenclosed fleece. Now all I need to do is make a new blanket… I might just have a few yarn scraps somewhere for that.

ScrapHappy July 2019

For some time now I have had it in mind to use some scrap fabric to make present bags. When Mr Snail and I give each other gifts we tend to wrap them in paper that has been reused many, many times – we never buy new wrapping paper. I have to confess that all the paper has all seen better days and it has become increasingly difficult to give a present that looks presentable. So, I had a rummage and found some nice scrap fabric left over from various sewing projects, as well as the remains of some old pyjama bottoms. I wanted to make draw-string bags, so needed lengths of ribbon and tape. Looking through my collection, I found some pieces from chocolate boxes, some quite long lengths that had been around clothes and household linen from ethical suppliers (to hold them neatly without the need for plastic), a piece that was once a curtain tab, two bits that were the hangers from the aforementioned old pyjamas and some other bits left over from long-forgotten projects. Not all the tape was long enough, but it was easily stitched together.

As I worked on the bags, I realised that I could also do with three in which to store plastic bags in the kitchen. Until the doors were replaced on the kitchen cupboards, plastic bags lived jammed into a cupboard and there was always the risk of a bagalanche when the door was opened. We reuse plastic bags, but storage has always been untidy, so three drawstring bags (one for small bags, one for medium bags and one for large bags) seemed like the answer. I made them in different colours so I would know which was which: the last of the spotty fabric from the dismantled night dress (the rest lined the scrappy satchel a while ago); a bit of an old sheet that had worn through in the centre, but has good edges left to be salvaged and has a cute paw print design; and a piece of stripy fabric that remains from a long-forgotten project. When Mr Snail saw what I was up to, he requested a bag for bags to use in his rented flat, so I made two of the stripy ones.

I’m very pleased with these scrappy creations – easy to make and all scrappy apart from the sewing thread. Even the little plastic tool I used to thread the tapes is a stirrer that came with a takeaway hot drink many years ago and has been living in my sewing box ever since, used lots of times and still going strong.

-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 other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

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.

Hats (and mittens) off

I decided to have a bit of a rummage up in the loft last weekend and came across a box of crochet items that were originally made for sale. I haven’t had a stall at any event for a while, so these had slightly fallen off my radar and I decided to sort some out to donate to charity, adding them to the small collection of hats that I have made recently.

In the end, there were 13 hats and 5 pairs of fingerless mittens. These will be on their way to Knit for Peace very soon. In addition, I added three pairs of knitting needles to the box. Apparently KfP are always in need of needles suitable for double knitting wool – 3.75, 4 and 4.5 mm – so if you too have any of these sizes going spare, they’d be delighted to receive them.

Waiting around

In recent weeks I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in waiting rooms and it’s an activity that looks likely to be part of my life for a while yet…. next up is another trip to see a dentist (my fourth in the past month and not my last). I started off taking my Leftie shawl, but there are various colours to contend with and I took the wrong balls the week before last and so was unable to knit whilst waiting for the car to have its MOT, plus it’s getting a bit big. I, therefore, decided to start work on some simple granny squares to make into a blanket for charity… these have the added benefit that, even when you have toothache, you have the mental capacity to make them.

I had a big cone of dark green yarn that was given to me a few years ago specifically to make items for charity and this seemed ideal for my purpose. In fact, I’m enjoying making simple squares so much, that I’ve done very little work on anything else for the past couple of weeks. Indeed, I have so many now, I’ve started to join them together, using some other donated yarn:

I’m planning to make this into a good big blanket to keep someone really warm – the wool is a bit rough at the moment, but its softening as I work it and I’ll give it a wash once its finished.

So, what projects do you take with you when you have a lot of waiting to do?

Brace yourself

We have lived in our house for nearly 20 years now and, in line with our general ethos of trying to reduce our impact on the environment, we have done our best to make things last. Eventually, however, there comes a time when the fixtures and fittings need replacing, We’ve been aware that our kitchen cabinets have been getting more and more tatty in recent years.

We started talking, a couple of years ago, about having them replaced. I got Tim (the wonderful cabinet maker who built our pine cupboards) to look at them with a view to him constructing a whole new kitchen for us. However, he was of the opinion that this was unnecessary – the carcasses of the units were very robust and he suggested that just replacing the doors would be the way forward. I searched and searched for ‘off the shelf’ doors that would match the ones Tim had made before, but had no joy, so I gave the job to him.

He constructed traditional ledge-and-brace doors from pine. and even managed to reuse most of the original hinges. In addition, he was able to clad the ends of the cupboards to make them look even smarter. He also put new fronts on the drawers.

Finally, he was able to modify one of the cupboards so that it has a back door. This may sound odd, but supporting our breakfast bar is a big corner cupboard… you know the sort – so big that things get pushed to the back, never to see the light of day again. Usually, of couse, these are in the corner of a room, but not so ours – it just had a wooden back on it. I asked Tim if he could remove the back and fit doors so that I could access it from either direction and, being the skilled carpenter that he is, he had no problem building a frame, modifying the shelf and fitting additional doors.

You can even see a door of the original cupboard Tim build for us a couple of years ago in the background of the last picture!

So, our kitchen has been rejuvenated. In the end, all the wood, two hinges and the screws were new and three of the existing hinges also had to be replaced. The wood was sourced from a local sawmill and the work was done by a local craftsman – now, that’s my sort of revamp. I feel that we’ve managed to make an enormous improvement whist making use of as many of the existing materials as possible. At some point I’ll have the work surfaces replaced, but they are ok for now and I’m still pondering suitable materials.

I am a very happy snail.

ScrapHappy June 2019

A very small ScrapHappy this month.

Mr Snail has a friend at work who’s just got a rescue cat… a poor kitty who has, so far, spent its life living in a garage. It now has a much more pampered existence and so I thought that it deserved a little present. I dug out at bit of scrap yarn and created little mousey:

hello Mr Mousey

No pattern, I just made it up as I went along. Its eyes and nose were made of a tiny length of left-over sock yarn and it’s filled with (new) wool filling. I hope kitty enjoys it.

-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 other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

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.

What a difference a yarn makes

I haven’t been very creative over the past few days… the gum infection transformed into an abscess, the antibiotics made me feel extremely unwell and I had to have emergency dental treatment last Friday. It’s the first time a dentist has ever had to take my pulse and that treatment has had to be suspended whilst I’m prevented from fainting! Oh well… I’m feeling somewhat better today and I’m waiting for an appointment to have a root canal, although I’m back at the dentists for a review tomorrow. Anyway…

IMGP6047

My Yarndale haul

Before all this happened I started (and it seems like ages ago now) knitting a shawl using the beautiful Little Grey Sheep mini-skeins that I bought at Yarndale last autumn. I realise now that I never shared with you much about my visit to Yarndale with my dear friend Mrs Robinson. We decided to go with specific projects in mind and one of mine was to get some interesting colours to use for a shawl pattern I’d had a hankering to make for ages – the Leftie Shawl. In the end I selected six colours: green, pale yellow, bright yellow, orange, pink and purple (for some reason the orange is obscured in the picture of my Yarndale haul – that gold with the big band is for a different project).

I already had a ball of Little Grey Sheep wool left over from the Poison Oak top that I made last year and I thought that this would be perfect for the main neutral colour, allowing all those bright yarns to shine. So, I started off, using the size of needles suggested… and quickly became disillusioned: the colours seemed diminished and the material I was creating stiff and not at all drapy, as I envisioned the shawl

At this stage of creating anything it’s hard to stop – you’ve already put some work in and it feels like a waste to give up. But I didn’t like it. This thing that I had wanted to make for months and months wasn’t turning out well. So, taking a big deep breath, I started again, still using the coloured mini-skeins, but this time with larger needles and some of the fabulous Milburn yarn from Eden Cottage yarns. I had too much of this for the project it was bought for (one that’s currently on hold), so this was going spare. Milburn contains some silk, so it creates a fabric with much more natural drape than pure wool.

And I wasn’t disappointed, the new shawl looks and feels much more like my vision. The coloured wool helps it to keep its structure and the soft silk and wool means it should be a joy to wear. Here they are for comparison, new on the left, original on the right.

IMGP6768

the two versions

Sadly the picture makes them look much more similar than they actually are, but, take it from me (and the Knit Night gang) the one on the left is much more striking than the one on the right.

Despite no progress over the last few days, prior to that I had done quite a lot and I’m rather pleased to be creating something with colours that I wouldn’t normally choose, but that I really do love. I’m so glad that I started again.

Shepherding the lost sheep

IMGP6811

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.

Dame Hilary, in the Library, with the Knitting Needles

In the United States of America there is a network of Presidential libraries and a library has been established for every president since Herbert Hoover, each located in their home state. In the UK we don’t have such a network, so there is only a single Prime Ministerial library: Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden in Wales.

IMGP6821

Gladstone’s Library

Being the only Prime Ministerial library is not the only thing that makes this place unusual, it is also the largest (some sources say only) residential library in the country. It’s a place that has fascinated me ever since I first heard of it and so, when I saw that Knit for Peace were running a short knitting holiday there, I couldn’t resist.

Last Saturday, therefore, saw me arriving at this amazing building, ready to enjoy meeting other knitters in some impressive surroundings. Outside, there are gardens and an area of woodland, but it is the building that is really impressive, both outside:

and inside

The books are mainly history and theology, so no light reading, but they are accessible on the shelves and you can even sign them out if you are staying and take them back to your room to read. However, I wasn’t really there to read, I was there to knit, socialise and visit some woolly places… which is just what we did.

Upon arrival, we congregated in the sitting room, where I was surprised to be introduced to the founder of the Charities Advisory Trust (the parent organisation of Knit for Peace) Dame Hillary Blume. Two other members of staff also attended the weekend as well as a number of their regular volunteers, meaning that I got to hear lots about their work, from who curates the wool collections for the monthly raffle (which I won last autumn)to the compilation of the Good Gifts Catalogue and what day of the week they have cake in the office.

Each day we went out and about, visiting local wool producers/ retailers, making trips to Abakhan, Black Sheep Wools, The Lost Sheep Company and the Chester Wool Company/Fibrespates, returning to the library to knit and chat. To be honest there was rather more chatting than knitting, and indeed so much chatting that at least two of us (me being one) had to frog some of our work because we made mistakes whilst getting distracted by the conversations!

So, the weekend was a great success – money was raised for the charity, lovely places were visited, knitting was knitted, crochet was crocheted, conversations were had and I made a hat from some of my raffle winnings (it will be returned to Knit for Peace, who will find it a good home).

A million ends later

The play mat is out…IMGP6712

… which can only mean one thing: I have a finished item to block:

IMGP6703

a bit wrinkly 

You may have been wondering why you haven’t seen the optical illusion blanket until now…

IMGP6731

a mitred square

Well, first it took ages to join the squares together invisibly, including running out of blue wool and having to search my stash for some that was close enough not to show. Joining the squares involved putting together one edge that was a single colour against another edge comprising different lengths of the two other colours. The pattern suggested crocheting the join using the colour that formed to one long edge. I tried this, but it meant that the join was visible, because this colour was on the square that had a nice even edge, whilst the  adjacent edge in two colours was made up of the side of the stitches, which are much more difficult to join neatly and invisibly. This problem of joining two edges that don’t have stitches oriented the same way is because each square is mitred, working outwards from one corner, making ever-bigger squares. Anyway, the neatest way turned out to be to use two colours to join every pair of edges – resulting in many, many, many ends to weave in.

Once all the squares were in one piece I added a border of a few rounds using yarn that I already had in my stash, thus limiting my colour choice. Finally, I was able to embark on weaving in all those ends. I went at it evening after evening, only finally finishing yesterday… just in time for the wet weather to arrive and scupper my plans to block this blanket outdoors. So, the mat is laid out in the limery; I pinned the blanket out under the watchful gaze of Daisy – who thoroughly approves of this creation (she doesn’t realise it’s destined to go to Reading with Mr Snail).

 

%d bloggers like this: