The currency of memories

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa, over at Arlingwords wrote a post about making some felt sand dollars… replicas of the sea urchin shells that are found in various places round the world. I saw the pictures and they reminded me that about 40 years ago my grandmother gave me a sand dollar necklace. She had bought it on one of her trips to visit my uncle and his family in Cincinnati, although I can’t for the life of me imagine why a place such a long way from the sea would have been the source of this. On reflection, she also gave me a shark’s tooth and I think she told me she’d picked it up on a beach, so they must have visited somewhere coastal. I hadn’t worn, or even seen, the necklace for ages, but the memories came flooding back.

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A fish from Nana Cathy

Back in the present, Lisa was feeling glum, so I offered to make her a cheerful pussy hat. She asked if I could make it any colour other than pink and I said I could. Having shared my sand dollar memory with her, she said she would send me some of her felt creations in return. “How lovely,” I thought, “I’ll make them into a sea mobile with Nana Cathy’s fish and maybe some crochet sea horses using Wild Daffodil’s pattern.” Now, I’m wondering about other things – starfish, seaweed, sea slugs (they can be very colourful)… we will see.

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A diversity hat!

I decided to celebrate diversity in Lisa’s hat and used some fabulous multi-coloured wool that had been dyed in Wales. Parts of it almost look as if it’s on fire, so I hope it helps to brighten dark days and fan the flames of hope. It arrived safely and you can see a picture of Lisa modelling it on her blog here (showing off the ‘ears’ rather nicely); I’m always relieved to see that something I’ve made actually fits! Then, when I arrived home from London, a little squishy parcel was waiting for me, with these inside:

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A few dollars more

Aren’t they lovely? Of course I wanted to photograph them with my necklace… which I then couldn’t find. I thought it was in my wooden jewellery box, but there was no sign of it there. I searched several draws and other likely spots, but had no luck. I was beginning to think that it may have been lost or that I might have given it to one of my nieces, when I finally found it in a little Chinese bowl, full of old ear rings! What a delight to hold it again. I had forgotten about the little ‘doves’ that are found inside a sand dollar and that are on the chain of my necklace. As I held it I also remembered that some people consider that the life of Jesus is represented in the sand dollar (there are some poems explaining the symbolism here), which I seem to recall my grandmother telling me. To me, though, it’s not about anything more than a precious memory of my nan.

So, my sincere thanks to Lisa for reminding me of this treasure and adding to its history with her felt companions.

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My riches

 

 

 

From squares to stripes

Last week I finished my sixty million trebles projects with a little yarn-bombing in London to publicise the cause. I printed and laminated tags and attached a heart or flower to each one. London is full of railings, so it didn’t take me too long to find somewhere to hang them in the hope that they would be taken by the curious and that one or two people might get involved.yarnbomb-2I will eventually make some more square blankets for 60MT, but I need a change, so I have returned to some sock-knitting. Last year I subscribed to a sock yarn club, with colours inspired by the Discworld. Somehow, I only got round to knitting up the first ball, so I had five balls of beautiful stripy British sock wool from The Knitting Goddess, just waiting for my needles. I’ve written previously about my disappointment with a previous sock yarn club from which, whilst beautifully dyed, almost none of the wool was hardy enough for socks and I think it was intended for shawls (a bit of mis-selling, sadly). The Knitting Goddess yarn is very different – you choose that base yarn that you want, so it is only the hand-dyed colourway that comes as a surprise when it arrives. The pair of socks that I did knit using this yarn last year are lovely and robust, so I had no hesitation starting another pair. The colourway is called Salamander Flash.

I think I’m going to have the brightest feet in west Wales!

Memorials, museums and memories

London – it’s a very strange place to me. There are some amazing things, there are some bizarre things, there are anachronisms and there is just so much that you can choose to do.

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The Albert Memorial

On Thursday morning Mr Snail and I decided to have a stroll up to Hyde Park, through Kensington Gardens, past the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert memorial to the Serpentine. The parks were full of people walking dogs, cycling, rollerskiing, visiting the cafes, playing with their kids in the playgrounds, and generally having a good time outdoors. There was much to see, from wildfowl, to The Household Cavalry out and about with their horses (one troop complete with plumes and shiny metal breastplates) and we spent a happy couple of hours wandering around just enjoying being there. There’s no charge for entry into the parks and they add some welcome green amongst all those buildings.

 

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In the courtyard at the V&A

The previous day, Mummy Snail and I spent the day at the V&A and Mr Snail went to The Science Museum. We did visit a special exhibition for which there was a fee, but general entry to both these museums costs nothing (likewise The Natural History Museum and The British Museum) and they are huge. Such a variety of exhibits in each of them, and such amazing architecture. We don’t visit London very often, but we do try to go to at least one museum when we do, and we are never disappointed with what we get to see. In fact, the main purpose of our trip this week as to see the exhibition at the V&A, although we also fitted in afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason plus a West End Show.

And as we packed to come home on Friday morning, we realised that we hadn’t bought a single ‘thing’ to bring home – we had spent money (food, taxis, theatre tickets, hotel), but Mr Snail and I had not bought any ‘stuff’. Instead, we brought home memories. We seem to do this naturally now – we don’t look for gifts or souvenirs, apart from the occasional picture to go on the wall, and not even that this time. Life is about so much more than things, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to spend time like this with my mum… may we have many more such trips… in fact that there’s another exhibition that we have our eyes on starting in December…

 

Three Things Thursday: 2 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, this week all seen during a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London:

First, I’m very grateful that I don’t have to wear a woollen knitted costume when I go swimming. I can’t imagine the drag factor, the sag factor and how long it would take to get one dry! Click on the picture to go to the V&A’s description of this garment.

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1937 Knitted Bathing Costume

Second, amazing tiles. There were so many in the museum, both as exhibits and as part of the structure. Below you can see two exhibits that particularly made me smile. The tiled panel is from Iznik, Turkey and was made around 1580 (click here for more details); the huge fireplace is also Turkish and dates from 1731 (click here for more details)

Third, the skill that must have been required to make this quartz crystal ewer. It was made in Egypt around 1000 and was carved out of a single block of rock crystal. I have to say that this particular object left me speechless. Click on the picture for more details.

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This carved rock crystal ewer is a thousand years old

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

17 for 2017 – February Update

Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet

Here I am again with a 17 for 2017 progress update (where does the time go?). If you look carefully at my spreadsheet, you can see that one of the rows is full! There are still some rows that don’t contain anything, but I’m making some progress, and some is very seasonal anyway. So, here’s where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I sent off my first of these just the other day. I want it to be a surprise for the recipient (although she knows it’s on the way), so no photograph just yet.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. I’ve only made one batch this month, but since I made loads last month, the total for the year so far is a respectable 7 batches

Fifteen… cheeses.  No hard cheeses this month, but one batch of curd cheese.

Another pair

Another pair

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Three more pairs completed this  month bringing the total to five. I’ve getting better with the overlocker, so they are getting easier to make.

Thirteen… mends. Three this month: the knees of Mr Snail’s work jeans patched again; a hole darned for a friend and a pair of my leggings mended.

Twelve… letters to friends. Just one written this month, but that’s ok because I only have to average one a month to reach my target.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I’m delighted to say that there are now seven bird roosts listed – some felted and some made with woollen twine. I haven’t sold any yet, but it’s early days.

Ten... plants given to good homes. None yet – it’s still too early in the season.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we seem to have been so busy.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although we’ve eaten lots of omelettes, making them partial meals from our garden!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. I’ve managed two ‘big’ visits – first to Manchester, where I saw a whole load of friends who I know via Twitter, as well as my dear Sarah, who I’ve known since I was 18 and my niece Alex; second to Birmingham, where I got together with lots of permaculture friends, most of whom I communicate with via FaceBook.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. None yet… it’s all been about crochet recently.

Five… book chapters written. None yet, although I may have persuaded a friend to contribute to the book.

Max quality-controlling the final blanket

Max quality-controlling the final blanket

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. All four done… I will make more later in the year, but I’m having a rest for a while.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None – it’s still too cold to venture up there yet!

Two… patterns published and on sale. I did one last month, but nothing further this month.

One… denim gardening apron. Not yet, but I will try to sort out the fabric in the coming month.

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

Coming around again

It has recently been announced that there is a plan to relaunch the old Nokia 3310 mobile phone. Back in the noughties these were one of the most common types of phone to see around… and they were good. They were small, the call quality was good and the battery lasted ages. In those days mobile access to the internet was not even a distant dream.

I wonder what happened to all those old 3310s – are they lurking in drawers? Are they in landfill? Were they recycled?

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Still in use after all these years

I never owned one myself, but my dad did pass on a 3410 that he got free, but couldn’t use because it was too small… and I can tell you what happened to that: I still use it. It has never had its battery replaced and it is still going strong. I don’t need a smart phone – I work from home where I have perfectly good internet access and I have a mobile phone to make phone calls when I’m away from home. I also have a laptop that is fine for longer trips away.

 

The constant demand for ever more complex gadgets means that we regard much technology as disposable, and this encourages the production of goods that are not made to last… after all, what’s the point?  I am reminded of this from The Restart Project:

2017-02-25-1Worth remembering next time you are tempted by the latest new bit of technology.

Hearts and flowers… and penguins

After completing my eighth blanket for Sixty Million Trebles, I have decided to spend some time on other creations for a while. However, before I put the whole project to one side, I decided to use up some scraps and make some hearts and flowers to attach to tags aimed at publicising the project:

I’m off on my travels again this week, so will be distributing hearts and roses far and wide. I have a few to finish off before I go, though:

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Roses in the making

I would have finished them this afternoon had it not been for a request to do a quick test of a little pattern for Danielle at The Make-it Shop:

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Penguin pieces

I think I positioned the wings a bit wrong, so it looks more like a purple sparrow than a penguin, but he’s a jolly little chap no matter what:

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Happy penguin

It’s always fun testing out Danielle’s patterns.

Have you made anything frivolous recently?

Three Things Thursday: 23 February 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, being safe and warm. We are currently experiencing Storm Doris – heavy rain yesterday and now really strong winds. It’s at times like this that I appreciate having a home. It’s also at times like this I think of all those refugees who, through no fault of their own, don’t have a place to feel safe and be sheltered from all that the world throws at them. And so I continue to make blankets to provide a little bit of warmth and a token to show that other people care; here’s the latest:

Another blanket for 60 Million Trebles

Another blanket for 60 Million Trebles

Second, new skills. I have been focusing on getting to grips with my overlocker this past week. Using it is not quite the same as using a normal sewing machine, but they say that as we get older it’s good for our brains to learn new things. I’m very happy to say that I’m finally getting more comfortable using it (the overlocker, not my brain) and that I can rethread it without too much trouble now.

It's all starting to make sense

It’s all starting to make sense

Third, seedlings again. I am being very restrained sowing seeds so far this year, but the peppers, chillies and tomatoes that I planted a couple of weeks ago are coming through and the tomatoes will need potting up from their tiny modules this weekend. I just love the promise of abundance.

All that potential

All that potential

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Who’s a chicken?

For more than two months now UK poultry have had to be confined to keep them separate from wild birds because of the risk of avian ‘flu’. Originally it was suggested that they should be housed 24/7, but when it was realised that is was not possible, netted areas with water and feed kept under a solid cover was deemed to be acceptable. The end to this restriction is in sight: after the end of February birds will be allowed to range once again as long as various mitigation measures are in place.

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Approved disinfectant and Self-assessment form

The situation varies a little across the UK, but here in Wales all poultry keepers are required to complete a self-assessment form which they must have available if they are inspected. This outlines the actions that they are taking to minimise contact between wild birds and stock (e.g. use of bird scarers) and the biosecurity measures being implemented (e.g. hosing down and disinfecting concrete paths, disinfecting boots after accessing poultry).

For the duration of the restrictions, the hens Chez Snail have been happily foraging in the fruit cage, which has been connected to their small run and house by a netted corridor. Their small run always has a ‘roof’ over it to give them somewhere to shelter from the rain, so their feeder has been in there. Now they are going to be allowed to range free round their half of the garden, however, a different sort of feeder seemed like a good idea. So, I bought a rodent-proof, wildbird-proof feeder…

The hen stands on the pedal,the lid opens and there’s the food. It can only be activated by something weighing more than 500g, so garden birds and most rodents won’t even be able to open the lid. We can keep this out on their range without fear of attracting wild birds.

The only issue now, is training them to use it. Yesterday, we put it into the fruit cage propped the lid open and there was some interest…

Today, even with the lid propped open, they very carefully avoided it… hens really are chicken when it comes to new things. So, Mr Snail has been out there showing them the ropes… with some success:

I hope they get the hang of it soon – or at least before the end of the month!

Three Things Thursday: 16 February 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 little bit of snow. On Saturday it snowed in Birmingham – it was lovely to open my curtains and see a dusting of white. I find snow a bit stressful if I have places to drive, but since I just had a short walk from my hotel to the meeting venue, I really enjoyed the sight. In fact it didn’t last long, but it was beautiful whilst it was there.

Morning snow

Morning snow

Second, a good night’s sleep. I’m always a bit concerned about the comfort of a strange bed. At home we sleep on a natural latex and wool mattress, so normal sprung mattresses feel a bit odd in comparison. However, I need not have feared: the hotel I chose for the weekend had lovely comfy beds… and snailvaark and Iolanthe agreed…

Nothing like a comfortable place to nap

Nothing like a comfortable place to nap

Third, coming home. It’s enjoyable to have a trip away, but it’s always good to be back home. After two consecutive weekends on my travels, it was lovely to return home to Mr Snail and the pups.

Mr Snail and the pups at our own front door

Mr Snail and the pups at our own front door

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

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