From snow to snails

This has been a glum weekend. We were supposed to be away celebrating a birthday, but we couldn’t get out of Wales…

Usually I would be only too happy to stay at home, but missing spending time with my family, having posh afternoon tea, eating at a lovely brasserie and going to the theatre has put an enormous damper on my mood. Often I cheer myself up with creative activities, but it’s been hard this weekend. I have forced myself to start a new knitting project and to return to yet another long-abandoned crochet project, but progress has been slow and my mood has been low. It’s certainly not been helped by the weather improving, such that two days later, there would be no problem travelling.

Anyway, I have a pair of Nordic socks underway The pattern is Starry Night Socks and I’ve only modified it a little bit! I’m mostly using the wool I bought in Norway a couple of years ago, half of which was used for another pair of socks.


warm socks now it’s warming up again

The ‘old’ project is a cardigan that I wanted to wear for a wedding 18 months ago! The wedding came and went and the cardigan was not finished. Then I discovered that the pattern was very poor and didn’t properly describe how to align the little flower motifs in the border – there being a point where the flowers up the front simply didn’t line up with the flowers up the back (they are off-set by a third of a flower and it would only get worse when you add the next row and the final third row):


this is where I stalled – any additional flower would be in the wrong place in relation to one of the existing rows (both correctly placed according to the pattern)

I contacted the designer to get advice and she was unhelpful, basically telling me just to fiddle around with the flower motifs until they fit. I was so fed up that I put it to one side and didn’t pick it up again until a few days ago. By this stage I had decided not to follow the pattern (what there was of it) and instead to do my own thing. Since I was already glum, I started by removing the row of flowers up the front and weaving in all 248 ends that remained, then I added a simple border along the fronts and back of the neck that would be easy to attach other things to. Once these tasks were done, I felt a little better about the project.

As you can see, I left the row of flowers up the centre of the back, but I don’t plan to repeat them for the borders. So, it was a case of playing about with what I actually wanted. Initially I thought about paisley motifs and combining these with some free-form crochet, but then I had an idea: snails! Why not make it a snail of happiness cardigan? I’ve only just started, but I think this sort of thing might make a splendid border:


a cluster of snails

I can join them as I go and shape the border easily… and it will be both unique and very personal.

So, the weekend is drawing to a close and although I’ve wasted lots of time being sad, I’ve also made some things and I’m feeling happy about a project that, until now, was something of a millstone. I hope you have been having a happier time than me.



Being asked to make something for someone does not always fill me with joy – it may be that the thing I’m asked to make does not inspire me, or uses techniques that I’m not keen on/good at, but there is also the fact that I’m not sure that I can actually make the thing that the person asking envisages. Anything that requires lots of sewing together at the end is off-putting to me and these are the sort of patterns I would not choose for myself and I’m particularly worried when someone says they want a thing “just like this”.

So, when my friend Kate asked if I would make her a couple of tiny baby sloths from a pattern by The Twisted Crocheter, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them anywhere near as cute as the photographs:

I really wanted to oblige to say thank you for the waxed wraps she gave me a while ago, but I wasn’t sure I could do them justice. And then inspiration struck – I offered to do the crochet if she would do the sewing. This way I avoid the possibility of making sloth faces that look like demented frogs, but I do the thing that I am skilled in.

So, yesterday afternoon I settled down with my hook and some lovely Cambrian Mountains Wool (they will be Welsh sloths – sadly, my dictionary does not have a translation). I made all the crochet pieces for two of the little critters – most of them look like sausages (hence slothages).

Now I just need to pop them in the post and await the final results.

A long time coming

Those of you who have been with me for a while may remember me beginning work on covering my sofa with crochet (apparently, that was July 2014). I started well – I made a cover using a different design for each of the five large cushions that we lean on:


phase 1 completed a long time ago

Next I planned to make a large rectangular piece to go over the seat cushions. The colours were the same, but this was stripy. I started, but I got really fed up with the very long rows and work ground to a halt. I also started to wonder whether it was the most sensible way to cover the seat cushions – would it move about to much when in use?. Boredom combined with uncertainty does not lead to finished projects and so it remained a work in progress.

When the beginning of this year arrived, however, I decided that I wanted to shift some of my unfinished projects – either I was going to complete them or they were going to go. So, once the woolly hug and a charity blanket were completed, the sofa cover was next on the list. I braced myself for long, dull rows, but actually it wasn’t too bad. On further consideration, I decided that the seat cushions would each need separate covers, but the stripy piece could cover the back of the sofa. So I crocheted on and finally reached a size that seemed suitable. I edged it with a single row of double crochet and here it is:


those rows are SO long

Initially I was going to make some gussets for the sides, but actually it works really well (at least for the time being) as a simple throw. Of course, once the fancy cushions are in place, you can’t see much of the stripes, but I know they are there!


stripes peeking out

So far all the work has been done using double knitting wool, but I’m going to progress on to something a little thicker now. Fortunately, New Lanark, who make the wool, do the same colours in aran weight and that’s what I plan to use for the seat cushion covers and the pieces to go over the arms… I probably need a sort of pelmet for the front too. This project is not over by a long way, but at least there aren’t any bits languishing around the house unfinished now.

Funnily enough, I’m not the only one celebrating the end of a long-incomplete piece of work… The Twisted Yarn seems to be in the same position today. Anyone else managed a recent big finish?


Crochet, frog, repeat

Sometimes you make something and everything goes smoothly… the instructions contain no mistakes, the materials are cooperative, it ends up looking exactly how you want it to and you’ve enjoyed the whole process. And then sometimes that’s not the case.

I had some lovely New Lanark aran yarn in “Blackberry” that Mr Snail bought for me a couple of years ago. I had fallen out of love with the crochet pattern that it was originally intended for and I couldn’t find one that was exactly what I wanted. So, I bought a pattern that I was sure I could adapt. It was knitted rather than crochet, but that was ok – I’m happy to do either. I made the sleeves full-length rather than 3/4 and that worked well. Rather than adapting the wide, low-cut neck, I decided to in-fill with crochet once it was knitted. And that was where my problems started…

First I crocheted in a little triangle so it wasn’t as low-cut, but on inspection I discovered that it wasn’t quite centred, and in fact I’d made the triangle slightly too wide at the top, so it distorted the neck shape… so I frogged it. Then I decided to start slightly differently, so I edged it first, but it was saggy… so I frogged it. Then I edged it with some decreases and that was better, so I tried the triangular insert, and some more edging, but when I tried it on it still gaped and seemed very low… so I frogged it. Then I switched to a smaller hook and edged it and made a triangle using a different stitch pattern (which got partly frogged as I went) and then I realised I’d miscounted stitches down one side of the front edging, so it was uneven… so I frogged it.

Finally I got out my notebook and wrote down how many stitches I needed to work in each of the five sections. Then I counted as I worked and recounted once the first row was done. Then I put in a second row and counted again. Then I made the triangular insert based on all that I had learned from my previous attempts, which included using stitch markers to ensure that the two sides matched exactly. Then I crocheted another row and then I tried it on. It seemed to be ok, so I finished off with a crab-stitch edging.

It’s worked and I’m happy with it (it really is the colour in the first four pictures not the last one), but my word it has taken hours and hours and hours. Once all the ends are woven in, that will be another completed item made from my stash. I’m planning to spend time on something less challenging now before I return to the stripy cardigan that I abandoned months ago because of some technical issues with the pattern. Have you been struggling with any challenging makes recently?

The Dancing Skeleton

Many moons ago we made a blanket… it was called “The Masterpiece” and it represented lots of aspects of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. I made squares and you made squares and each of you who did so also sent me a letter or note telling me what the square represented in terms of helping make the world be a better place. Then I used The Masterpiece as the focus for my diploma presentation*:

alan 6

I’m a very enthusiastic speaker! ¬© Alan Carlton

The central nine squares each represented one of the projects in my diploma portfolio. If you look closely, you can see that there’s a little dancing skeleton in one of them… here it is a bit closer:


let’s dance!

It represented a design that I did about end-of-life planning, which I called A Dance with Death. The square turned out to be rather popular in its own right and I got several requests for the pattern. So, I found some charting software and made a chart and then I stalled. Other things needed doing and I lost momentum. Every year as we approached halloween I intended to get a pattern sorted and every year I failed. I thought that having ‘publish two knitting/crochet patterns’ amongst my goals in 17 for 2017 might provide the motivation, but even that failed**. However, producing a (completely different) pattern for Mandy at Faithmead got me back on track and so, the dancing¬† skeleton pattern is finally written up and available to buy as a digital download from etsy. I’m delighted to have Hattie to model it – although I really must sort out some hair for her (anyone have a wig they don’t want?)

Of course the charted pattern could be used as a motif on anything, I just thought that the hat would be a good starting point. Next I plan to make a crochet version… and sort out a few more skeleton poses to chart up.


* The blanket is still in use, in fact I am sitting on it now

** I did manage to get my bird roosts pattern sorted out, though

Yarn out, books in


Lots to get my hooks into

I love our local library, but it doesn’t serve all my needs when it comes to books – first, they don’t have all the books I want, especially specialist books and, second, I have to take the books back! Now the latter is fine most of the time – I read a book and then I’m done with it – but it’s not always the case. So, recently, I have been building up a collection of reference and source books for my knitting and crochet. I want to develop my skills, I want to expand my horizons. I know that there’s the internet, with a host of web sites and videos, but it’s not the same as browsing through a book. And when I’ve found something I want to focus on, in general I’d rather not have to have a screen in front of me (after all, that’s how I spend my working life, so I don’t want it to fill my leisure time too).

I’m hoping that all these books will aid me in working my way through my yarn stash – providing new ideas and inspiration – as well as with my pattern design aspirations. For the moment, though, I’m focusing on getting some WIPs and UFOs out of the way. In this respect this week has been very positive: two projects completed. The first I showed you nearly finished the other day in my ScrapHappy post – a woolly hug for a friend – but now all the ends are stitched in and it just needs to be packed up and sent on its way:

The second is also a scrappy project, this one for charity. A few months ago, a friend gave me some very old crochet squares. These had been made by her aunt (I think – correct me if I’m wrong, Ann) in Belgium. She asked if I could make use of them for a charity blanket. Time had not treated them well, and there were three of four squares that had been nibbled by mice. However, I was able to repair the holes and replace the edges where necessary. I crocheted them together using wool left over from a previous project and then edged the blanket with some scraps that my mum passed on to me a couple of years ago. So, this too is ready to be packed up and sent off to Knit for Peace:

At this rate, all my projects that are languishing in bags will be done and my stash will be greatly reduced by the time I go to Yarndale in September.

ScrapHappy February 2018

I had a sort out the other day and decided that the time had come to get rid of some clothes that were really beyond repair. Initially, I was going to send all of them for recycling, but then I realised that there was some good fabric left in some of them, so I set-to with my pinking shears and chopped up some old pairs of pyjamas to make cleaning cloths/dusters. They are 100% cotton and so there are no plastic microfibres to shed. I put the off-cuts (the bulky seams mainly) in the recycling and ended up with a nice big pile of eco-friendly cloths and a little pile of waste.

Actually, this wasn’t my main scrappy activity this month, but I wanted to share it anyway. My scrappy focus has, in fact, been on crocheting a blanket. A couple of years ago I bought a kit from Colinette (the company is, alas, no more) and made a knitted blanket. The blanket turned out beautifully and I use it regularly:

but there was rather a lot of scrap yarn left over. I originally planned to use this yarn in a blanket for charity, but the more I considered it, the less suitable it seemed – lots of different textures and rather too fluffy for easy washing. Nevertheless, I made a start on it sometime last year, beginning with a central square made from some purple yarn that had been given to me – some one else’s scraps! And then I got distracted… other charity blankets were made, other projects embarked upon and completed and this one languished as a UFO*.

In the past month, however, I have been revisiting abandoned on-going projects and I decided the time had come to get this one finished. A secondary incentive is that I know who I want to give it to: a friend who is having a hard time, but who is too far away to go and see in person. The idea is that I’m sending a hug in the form of a blanket. So, my hook has been flying and the scraps have been gobbled up – including additional oddments from my collection of left-over yarns. There’s quite a lot of mohair in the mix, so the blanket will be especially snuggly, plus they are cheerful colours and I’m hoping they will brighten my friend’s day. What do you think?

It isn’t finished yet, but I am nearly there. I’m hoping to be able to send it on it’s way within the next week.

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.


* UnFinished Object






Knitting up a storm

My recent focus as regards working with yarn has been on knitting – both producing designs using the wool produced by Mandy at Faithmead and enjoying working my way through the yarn in my stash. I’m pleased to say that I have had success in both respects.

I’ve created a hat, specifically designed with beginner knitters in mind for Mandy to include in a kit. The next task is to get the pattern typed up. In the past, producing patterns has been a bit ad hoc, but since I’d like to do this more regularly, I though I ought to start being more strategic and organised about it and, with this in mind, I’ve bought myself a guide book:IMGP5011Although the book is entitled The beginner’s guide…’ and I’m not entirely a beginner, it’s really useful and helping me to ensure that, from now on, my patterns will include all the elements that a user is looking for. Much more often than writing patterns, I work from a pattern written by someone else. This has proved useful in illustrating to me what a user doesn’t want in a pattern and the latest one I have been working from is a case in point, which a number of sections that have had me scratching my head, reaching for a pencil and writing down what I think needs to be done.

Issues with the pattern aside, I have completed the knitting and sewing up:

The finishing is simply supposed to involve crocheting a single row of crab stitch around the neck. I knew that I was not going to do just this right from the outset – the neck opening is too low for my taste and I have always planned to crochet a triangular panel to fill the lower part. I just have to decide exactly how I want this to look. I could knit a lace panel to match the sides, but I really want this garment to show off both knitting and crochet, so crochet it is going to be.

I have been doing some crochet on one of my UFOs, but that’s all from scrap yarn, so you’ll have to wait until this month’s ScrapHappy post to see that.


Woolly connections

In recent years I have met many people via social media – some only online, but quite a number I’ve eventually encountered in person. The networks that I have built up have enriched my life, providing me with new friends, sources of produce and teaching me a great deal. And this week, they yielded a creative collaboration. I won’t go into the rather convoluted details of how this link came about, but Thursday found me visiting Glynelwyn, home of Faithmead Felt, Fleece ‘n’ Fibre, to talk wool.IMGP4975Mandy and Derek have goats, pigs, horses and poultry, but it was the sheep that I was there for. Below are some of them – indoors to keep them out of the current poor weather (some breeds are not as hardy as you might think, plus this will help to avoid pre-felted fleeces). As you can see, some of them are particularly partial to dry pasta as a treat!


Glynelwyn is home to small numbers of a variety of breeds – Blue-faced Leicester (standard and coloured), Wensleydale, Corriedale, Gotland, Leicester Longwool, Teeswater and Grey-faced Dartmoor – and produces single-breed wool. It is also the home to tiny Fennel – a ‘micro-Corriedale’. She’s not a big wool-producer, but she does write well (a truly amazing sheep) and has just started her own blog!


Fennel and her pal Dennis

The wool from the big sheep is sold at occasional shows and on-line (they will send wool anywhere in the world!) and Mandy’s studio is heaven for a wool lover:


But, as well as the fibre, fleeces and yarn, Mandy wants to sell kits, and that’s where I come in. After a couple of unsuccessful previous attempts to have some patterns written, a mutual friend got us talking to each other and I’m going to help out. We are going to start small – a knitting kit for a hat using one of the yarns that Mandy has in (relative) abundance. On returning home, my first job was to knit some swatches, decide on an appropriate needle size and stitch pattern, and then get working on the hat…


It’s really lovely to be doing this with a local producer and I’ll be reporting on progress over the coming weeks.

Gone, gone, gone

For the first time in the history of this blog I have removed a post – well two actually.


Organic cotton bath puff

Many moons ago I was interested in environmentally friendly alternatives to nylon bath puffs (scrubbies). I wrote a number of posts on the subject and explored a range of fibres to use. At the time, I was delighted to discover how well reclaimed acrylic yarn worked and I wrote a post about it. At the time, and with the information I had to hand, it seemed like a great way to use something that would otherwise simply be thrown out (yarn unravelled from old knitwear). Now, it turns out it was not such a good idea. Just like making fleece fabrics from recycled plastic bottles, which we all thought at the time was a great way to use waste, new information has made me think again. Using manmade fibres in bath puffs will add to microfibre contamination of water unless there is a fine filter on the bath/shower outlet, which seems unlikely. So, the two posts that mentioned using acrylic yarn for this purpose have been removed to prevent encouraging anyone else to try it.


Soap and a flannel (the latter made by a friend)

It’s still easy enough to make bath puffs or cloths with natural fibres – cotton, hemp, nettle, or even wool, depending on the texture you desire. However, I like Kate‘s recent suggestion (see the comments in this post) about using loofahs if you want something with a rougher texture for washing yourself or your pots. If I spot some seeds, I may well have a go at growing my own – now that really would be a green solution. However, since starting to use bar soap, I’ve had no need for a bath puff. My favourite soap to use after swimming (ginger and lime) has little bits of ground ginger root in it and these provide all the exfoliation I need – naturally and biodegradably. I have also made myself (or been gifted) several cotton wash cloths/flannels and these are especially useful when travelling or when water is limited.

The moral of the story is that we do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at any given time, but that it’s important not to get stuck in a rut (or get defensive) and to make changes when new information comes to light. Have you had to revise your thinking on anything recently?

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