Crafting a kinder world

All the way through May my friend Danielle is going to have a display on craftivism in her window at The Make It Shop as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. For the uninitiated, craftivism is:

a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite* (Betsy Greer)

The theme that Danielle has chosen is Crafting a Kinder World.

IMGP9315

Last year’s Chorlton Arts Festival window display: Unleash Your Creative Beast

As well as the display, there will be a craftivism event on 27 May and I will be there to help host it. The plan (so far) is to create a “Kindness Tree”. We’ll spend the day inviting people to craft all sorts of small items to hang on the tree, each with a message of kindness. Subsequently our gifts and messages will be given away to spread the love.

Our last Make It Shop event: 60 Million Trebles Hook-up

I’m currently putting together a few bits and pieces to contribute to the shop window display, but most of my craftivist creations are long gone – having been given away to those in need (either of the object made or the message it embodied). So, I need to make a few more… but you can help me out here if you like. If you would like to send me an item to put in the window – whatever the craft, as long as it represents an aspect of craftivism – then please do. It could be a charity blanket, a twiddlemuff, a motivational embroidery, some bunting with a message, a piece of artwork, or whatever other crafted object fits in with the ethos. The display runs throughout May, so we would need your contributions in the next two weeks. There are two provisos. First, that the nature of the object is kind – craftivism is a gentle form of protest, or political action through positive creation – so any contributions that are displayed need to fit with this. And second is that, when the display is finished, you will allow me or Danielle to donate your object, whatever you send, to an appropriate charity or deserving person rather than send it back to you.

You can keep up to date with what’s happening on the Make-it Shop website here. And you can contact me to arrange making a contribution using the contact form below. And if you are in Manchester on 27 May – call in and say hello, have a cuppa and make something with us.

-oOo-

* Putting aside the fact that something is either infinite or not… I don’t think it’s possible to be ‘more infinite’!

 

Three Things Thursday: 6 April 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

All this weeks ‘things’ came in a single package from Wild Daffodil, who had sent me an email to ask if I could make use of some crochet squares and yarn… I said I could (no surprise). When it arrived the package was bursting with things to make me smile.

First, ‘bringing new life to yarn‘ – this is the phrase that Wild Daffodil used in her letter to me. She sent me: some autumn shades squares that were going to be a poncho, but 12 years down the line were clearly not going to achieve their original intended purpose; some thicker squares; and some 4-ply yarn that had been her mother’s. I plan to give all this yarny abundance new life by working it up into blankets (or other charity items), most likely for Sixty Million Trebles.

Second, a letter and more. Not only did Wild Daffodil write me a letter on beautiful paper that she bought in a Nepalese temple in 1994, she also included a few extra sheets of the paper for me to use.

IMGP2236

a letter and the potential for another letter or two

 

Third, a crochet seahorse. I do have a copy of Wild Daffodil’s pattern to make these seahorses, but time has not allowed me to complete one yet. However, I now have one made by the designer herself. I’m going to add this to my marine collection (sand dollars from Lisa and a fish from Nana Cathy) which is eventually going to become a mobile.

IMGP2237

see – a horse!

 

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – and all in one parcel. What has made you happy this week?

Sewing and not

I don’t love sewing in the same way that I love knitting and crochet, but I do find satisfaction in making useful things. And so, over the past few days I have slowly been working on a gardening apron. I am using the same pattern ( the Beatrice pinafore) that I did for my two kitchen aprons, but this version is lined, so the edges didn’t need binding, and I made the pockets deeper because gardening requires much more transportation of random stuff than cooking does! The benefit of making garments from scratch like this is that I know it wasn’t made by workers who are being exploited and I am able to source fabric that is organic/fairtraded. It’s akin to cooking from scratch, it’s just that it requires more concentration! The downside is that I usually always have to unpick something and I am never 100% satisfied with the result. However, it is finished now, and I’m hoping that the dark purple chambray (which is a rather nicer colour than the photos suggest) that I chose for it will hold up to the rigours of the garden and that I won’t be too sad that the lovely bee fabric is mainly hidden away as the lining (although it is reversible if I don’t mind having the pockets inside).

I do, however, wish that I liked sewing enough to make gorgeous quilts and other complex constructions. That said, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the yarny things that I want to, so I mainly just look on in awe at the creations of my fabric-oriented fellow crafters. However, I do occasionally get my hands on a beautiful piece of sewing to treasure, and this has just happened.

Over the weekend there was an online auction to support the Sixty Million Trebles project and I was lucky enough to submit the highest bid for the most fabulous handmade work bag.  Barbara, the lady who made it, sent it straight away and so I already have it… and I’m just blown away by her skill. Look:

IMGP2213

the skill!

Not only did it arrive beautifully gift-wrapped, but there was a rustle from inside and I opened it to find a matching ‘mug rug’ and a little pouch of sewing goodies. Internally, and somewhat difficult to photograph, there are all sorts of pockets, including some very narrow ones that will be perfect for hooks and knitting needles.

Oh the joy of owning a wonderful creation like this… I am in awe.

 

A tempting red apple

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook is tuning out to be a great project for me to be involved in. Not only has it given me the opportunity, for a brief time, to be the custodian of some beautiful art, it also gave me the excuse this morning of visiting my favourite local yarn shop: Red Apple Yarn in Lampeter.

At this point I must say that whilst I’m a supporter of local yarn shops, they are not all created equal and Red Apple is rather special. First of all, it’s full of gorgeous yarn, much of which is British, and second it’s owned by Jude – an amazingly knowledgeable lady who doesn’t mind at all if you go round the shop stroking the stock (just as long as you don’t drool on it) and will chat about things woolly for as long as you like!

It’s not entirely wool, though… there’s buttons too…

IMGP2181

a grand use for the old post office counter

 

What I went for, however, was something particular, namely some Cambrian Wool, which comes from Welsh Sheep. Part of my contribution to the Sisterhood creation is going to be made from this:

IMGP2177

genuine Welsh wool (on the lower shelf)

 

So, if you are ever in Ceredigion, I highly recommend a trip to Red Apple Yarn, which can be found in the Old Post Office in Lampeter – tell Jude I sent you! In the mean time, you can keep up with Jude’s adventures in knitting on her blog, where you can also find contact details, opening hours and lots more

17 for 2017 – March Update

I can’t believe another month has whizzed by, but it has, so here is the March update for 17 for 2017. This is where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I have managed two contributions this month: hopefully my yarn bombing for Sixty Million Trebles reached a few people, plus I made Petunia vaark who has gone off to live with a new friend in Lancashire. This takes my total to three – I think vaarks may feature quite prominently in growing this target!

Ginger biscuits

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Four batches in March means that the annual total is already 11. The best thing to report, however, is that we have not bought any packets of biscuits at all, so there has been no palm oil consumption.

Fifteen… cheeses.  One regular hard cheese plus two alpine cheeses this month mean that the total has increased to six. The regular cheese has been waxed to allow it to mature without further intervention, but the alpine cheeses are being washed regularly with locally produced honey ale to control the natural mould growth – these are supposed to be ready to eat after six weeks.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Only one pair made this  month, bringing the total to six. However, I have now got some more organic cotton jersey fabric, so there’s cutting out to do.

Oh, darn!

Thirteen… mends. One pair of slippers and one pair of socks have been darned this month. I’m trying to keep on top of mends as they crop up, and this approach seems to be working well so far and I’ve now mended seven garments this year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I haven’t added anything this month, but I have sold a couple of items, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t listed them in the first place! The current total is still seven.

Ten... plants given to good homes. None yet – but it looks like I’m going to have plenty surplus as the year progresses.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although we’ve eaten lots of kale, broccoli, mizuna and eggs from our garden!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. We met up with a whole bunch of Twitter friends a couple of weeks ago, taking my annual total to four. I’m currently in the process of organising a visit in April, one in May and looking at a get-together at the end of July. If all three of these work out, then that will take me to my target number.

Stripy socks

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. I made my first pair of the year this month using my old-faithful pattern… I just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to try a new pattern.

Five… book chapters written. None yet – I’m just not feeling inspired!

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of last month. I haven’t made any more in March, but various friends have given or are about to give me yarn and squares, so there are going to be more blankets in coming months.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None, although a plan is afoot to increase storage space in the kitchen and then we can have a good sort-out of all the preserves and preserving equipment that’s up there and currently quite disorganised. I have also given away a couple of items, but I’m not being very focussed so far.

IMGP2158

fabric for #1

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern, so just the one published in January – sadly sales of that have been disappointing.

One… gardening apron. Not yet, but the fabric, chambray for the outside and poplin for the lining (not denim in the end – I had a change of heart) has arrived and this is something I’d really like completed soon because I want to use it!

Petunia

So, it’s progressing well – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

Three Things Thursday: 30 March 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, grass roots action. All sorts of things have happened in the world of politics over the past year, and one result seems to have been that ordinary people have been galvanised into action. In the US, for example, there’s The Town Hall Project, which “empowers constituents across the country to have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives”; there’s also Run for Something, an organisation that “will recruit and support talented, passionate youngsters who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years… We’ll help people run for offices like state legislatures, mayorships, city council seats, and more. We’ll do whatever it takes to get more under-35 year-olds on the ballot.”

Here in the UK, there’s More United, who “raise money to support political candidates who stand by our values, regardless of their party. Our support helps those candidates get elected and influences the makeup of Parliament, changing Britain for the better…. With a name inspired by the words of the late Jo Cox MP, More United stands for unity and inclusion, and rejects hatred and division.” I am an original member of this organisation, meaning I donated some money to help them get off the ground. I’m happy to be part of this organisation and to support its aims… and to show off my support these arrived this week:

getting political

Second, I passed! A couple of weeks ago I attended a Food Safety course at The Food Centre Wales in preparation for scaling up my cheese-making. There was an exam at the end and I’m happy to say that I found out that I passed when my certificate arrived in the post yesterday :

IMGP2160

officially certified!

 

Third, new fabric. Although my heart lies with yarn, I have recently been enjoying a bit of sewing and so I was very happy this morning when a parcel arrived containing various pieces of organic cotton for two of my 17 for 17 projects arrived.

IMGP2157

jersey, chambray and poplin

 

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

Sowing and growing

Life is flourishing in the limery. Seeds that were sown a few weeks ago are developing  nicely into young plants – lettuces, tomatoes, sweet peppers and melons:

I sowed more seeds over the past few days, including the first ones outside. The latter is a pea variety called “Carouby de Maussane”, a mange tout with red flowers that is going to grow up the pea obelisk that Mr Snail created (I think most people use them for sweet peas, but I prefer to grow edibles). A few days of sunshine has given me the chance to weed one of the raised beds and that’s where the peas are.

IMGP2140

only planted yesterday, so no germination yet

 

Unfortunately one of the things that is flourishing in the limery is the cluster-fly population. I really don’t want to use chemical pesticides, but the flies have arrived before the carnivorous plants are doing their stuff. However, the recent sunshine has encouraged pitcher growth and so I’m hoping that soon the Sarracenias will be munching their way through the flies. I grew some from seed last year, so I’m especially pleased to see one of the youngsters producing a vigorous pitcher already. The sundews are also showing signs of growth; in particular the Drosera dicotoma looks like it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future (I think of it as living fly-paper). The Venus fly traps are growing too, but never really earn their keep apart from providing interest!

Amongst my favourite seeds to plant are the squashes, but I’m hanging on for a few more days so they don’t get too big before it’s warm enough to plant them out. And then there’s beans and borage and all sorts of herbs…

Meating up

We are very committed to supporting local producers. We buy hardly anything from supermarkets anymore,  choosing instead to frequent local shops or buy directly from farmers and growers. It makes sense in terms of sustainability and supports the community – socially and economically. When it comes to meat, however, there is another major reason for buying direct from producers – we can be sure that there is good animal welfare.

Over the years, we gradually moved to buying mainly organic meat, but more recently we have started trying to source as much as possible direct from small producers who are happy to allow their customers to visit and see their production methods directly. Many such producers are not registered organic, but are low-input and high welfare and, unlike larger producers, happy to answer questions about their systems and pleased to have engaged customers.

IMGP2115

good to find a decent producer

And so yesterday we found ourselves on a hillside up above Abergavenny with Martha Roberts and The Decent Company pigs. We met Martha at a smallholders’ gathering last year and decided that her approach was just what we wanted from a meat-producer. So, when she announced that her latest pork was available, I asked if we could come and collect some in person and see the pigs. What a joy it was to meet Nancy, Winnie, Minnie, Dora, Madge, Margot, Wilbur and the growers, plus Polly and her (unplanned) piglets and see them enjoying a free-ranging life amongst the trees and grass… not to mention mud.

We learnt a great deal about pig behaviour and it was a delight to witness them exhibiting it – rooting, rolling, nesting, squabbling, snuggling up together. Most of Martha’s pigs are Gloucester Old Spots (or crosses thereof), but the wonderful Madge is a Mangalitza. Part of me balks at cooing over piglets that I know are destined for the table, but they have a good life and would not exist at all were it not for their meat value. It feels right, to me, to meet my meat and accept the implications of eating it.

So, we had sausages for breakfast this morning and we felt very grateful to Martha for her hard work, high standards and allowing us to learn what goes in to producing the food on our plates.

IMGP2117

the end-product

By the way, I highly recommend Twitter for getting to know small local producers – many of them have accounts and post often about their animals, crops and products. Martha Tweets from @martharoberts and this link should take you to her account even if you are not a registered Twitter user.

The Sisterhood…

Some of you will have heard of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook and some of you will not… a few of you are part of the sisterhood.

Last year, Anne Lawson decided to start a project to draw creative people together around the world. She made a book and invited fellow bloggers to contribute… all the folks who volunteered were women, and so the sisterhood was born.

This week the book arrived with me – the eleventh contributor on the list. From Australia, it went to the US and recently it has been travelling in Europe:

IMGP2047

the journey of the sketchbook

It contains drawings, paintings, quilting, stitching… words and visuals… love and creativity. It has its own blog and I encourage you to take a look here at the posts from the contributors, where there are beautiful pictures and lovely thoughts. Here is a little taster of some of the contributions to date:

Sadly one of our sisterhood, Viv, passed away before the book reached her, but some of her words have been included in the book.

I’m currently working on my contribution… news will follow.

Three Things Thursday: 23 March 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, a new vaark for a new friend. I made this little creature on Sunday and on Monday it went in the post to make a new friend smile:

A new vaark ready for the world

Second, seed saving. Last year I saved seeds from the melons that I grew. The variety, Green Nutmeg, came from the Heritage Seed Library and so it’s particularly pleasing to have a new generation germinating this year. I have loads of these seeds, so if anyone in the UK would like some, just let me know and I’ll put a few in the post.

Green Nutmeg melon seedlings

Third, a rare carnivore. I have lots of sundews and pitcher plants in the limery, and whilst they present some challenges, they generally seem to be doing ok. The Venus Fly Traps are a bit more of a challenge, but I have three small ones. My favourite carnivore, though, is much more tricky to care for. The Monkey Cup can’t stay in the limery over winter as it’s too cold – it has to come and live in my office on the window sill. I’m very happy, therefore, to be able to return it to the limery this week and to note that it’s getting bigger and looks really rather healthy:

Monkey Cup (Nepenthes ventricosa x talangensis)

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

%d bloggers like this: