One becomes two

You never know what you might find in a property that you buy… our shop being a case in point. As well as loads of old suitcases in the loft (each one containing at least one smaller suitcase), some very dated pillowcases, a pair of “jeggings” (Mr Snail is still shuddering at the word), six dining chairs, a microwave oven, a desk, an engraved knife and some picture frames with broken glass, there was a big, free-standing broom cupboard with orange doors. Originally this was attached to the wall with a bracket, but it was freed from its shackles during the work day our friends helped with and has been looming over the upstairs room ever since.

On Tuesday this week, Sue (Going Batty in Wales) arrived with her friend Lindy to help out. Over coffee I mentioned how much I dislike this cupboard and asked for suggestions about how to dispose of it. Lindy, however, had much more vision than me and came up with the idea of splitting it into two… which she duly did. Of course, the horrid orange doors are still there, but those can be covered over (paint, decoupage, fabric) and actually, I may now have the beginnings of storage for the sewing machines… at least if we add stronger shelf supports. We could put a work surface between the two, using them as pedestals, so that we have a counter separating the two areas upstairs, which would be useful. I have to confess, that they are currently still unappealing to me, but I can see potential now and all this does fit with the make do and mend ethos of the shop.

Sue very generously offered to do some work at home for me, so she went off with one of the old dining chairs to have a go at making some sort of cover to hide the rather dirty and worn seat pads. Again, we are trying to minimise buying new and hoping that, by demonstrating what is possible, we will inspire others to have a go at improving what they already have. It would, of course, be much quicker just to go out and purchase all the things we need for the shop from Ikea, but this is so much more satisfying and environmentally friendly.

Would you like to join in?

Life Chez Snail is currently very much focused on the shop… we’ve now finished dismantling things and have started constructing, which feels like quite a big step. We want to make a big impact when we open up and so I’m very busily making things with which to decorate the shop. The big window will need filling and we intend to have a monthly/six weekly change of display. For the grand opening I’m planning a ScrapHappy window, with all sorts of examples of what you can make with scraps… thank goodness for all those ScrapHappy blog posts I can look back on for inspiration! As well as the window, I want the shop to be a riot of colour, both in terms of the stock and with lovely decorations.

So I’m wondering if you would like to help? Sandra (Wild Daffodil) contacted me and offered to donate some decorations and suggested that others might also like to do the same. Before her email I hadn’t even thought of asking for contributions, but since you are so encouraging about this project, perhaps you would like to add something tangible too? I’d love to have things to put in my ScrapHappy display, or decorations for the shop – garlands, bunting, pictures, wall hangings, mandalas, mobiles – anything that fits with the making and mending ethos of the shop. All crafts are welcome: textiles, yarn, spinning, weaving, paper, printing, dyeing, painting, woodwork… whatever takes your fancy.

I’m keeping several of my recent makes under my hat so that I can share them in future ScrapHappy posts (I don’t want to steal my own thunder), but here’s one example of a decoration that I have completed. This crochet chandelier was from an unwanted kit (from the Little Box of Crochet, alas no more) that I acquired from a friend.

If you would like to add to my collection, I’d love to hear from you.

All hands

We are very lucky to have good friends… the sort of people who, when they offer to help, actually mean it. In recent weeks, Mr Snail has slowly been removing the partition wall upstairs in the shop and dismantling the old changing room downstairs. The latter seemed to have been over-engineered and was taking some serious work to get it apart. So, I put the call out and, on Saturday afternoon, four friends turned up to help… and one of them even brought her parents along too!

I had plans for keeping households separate on different jobs (covid, you know), but somehow that didn’t work out and everybody pitched in. In just one afternoon the dismantling was complete, a cupboard had been removed, a bookshelf had been sanded and partly painted (until the paint ran out) and paint had been stripped off the interesting sticky-out bits of concrete on the front of the shop (we have not the first clue what they might be called, but perhaps one of you knows). In addition, tea and coffee had been drunk and cake consumed.

Now we have a big heap of reclaimed timber with which to build a counter and it’s all construction from here on. The shelves we have been offered are ready to be collected (once the owner gets over his bout of covid), so a trip to Manchester is on the cards. It’s all very exciting, because it really feels like we are progressing towards actually being able to open the shop… I really do need to order the stock now for the mendery part of the shop.

Mend-It Monday #28

After the departure into needle felting last week, this time I’m afraid we’re returning to darning. I guess having so many garments that I have knitted or crocheted, it’s inevitable that lots of my mending will involve this technique.

I have quite a few pairs of fingerless mittens to wear for dog walking – you’d think one pair would be enough, but they get wet and they get dirty and often there’s a pair or two hanging up to dry. Because of holding a dog lead, they also wear in particular places and thus need mending. The subject of this week’s mend did have one of the pair repaired with a speedweve darn in November, but the repaired one needed some more work in a different place and the other had also worn through. So, two thumb holes have been reinforced and one area at the base of the index finger has been repaired and reinforced. Unlike the last time, I decided to make these mends visible and found an oddment of heather-coloured wool, which I think looks rather nice.


Just a quick post to let you know that you can now follow our adventures with the shop on Instagram. For a long time I’ve resisted having such an account, but it’s apparently where some of the cool crafting kids hang out and so it seems like I might reach a wider audience by having a presence there. I’m so busy at the moment that blogging is taking a bit of a back seat, but I am trying to post a few pictures each week on Instagram, so if its your thing, do take a look.

As always you can find me as thesnailofhappiness.


Mend-It Monday #27

As you know, one of my favourite raw materials to work with is wool, and usually I knit it or crochet it, but I sometimes do a bit of felting too, which can be very useful for making substantial objects. So, when I got a new phone last year, I got out my felting supplies and made a case, to protect it when I’m out and about. I used lots of layers of wool and wet felted them to achieve the desired thickness. Looking back through my posts, I realise that I didn’t write about it at the time, and looking back through my photographs I don’t even seem to have taken any pictures of either the process or the finished object.

Anyway, this post isn’t about making the case, it’s about repairing it. Because it turns out that Sammy is rather fond of woolly things… balls of wool, sheepskin rugs, Woolcool insulation and – you guessed it – felted mobile phone cases. Now we know, we are teaching him to leave them alone and trying to avoid temptation, but for a couple of weeks after he arrived we weren’t so careful and one day he pinched my pone case (sans phone) and was happily nibbling it when Mr Snail discovered the naughtiness in progress. The result was a piece removed (which I photographed) from the top and a little nibbled hole on one side (which I failed to photograph).

One of the joyous things about felt, however, is that it’s relatively easy to repair. Admittedly, it does require the use of a barbed felting needle and I do always managed to stab myself at least once, but as long as you have some wool tops in an appropriate colour or colours, holes can be filled, pieces reattached and mends achieved without any sewing or sticking. Simply needle felt the hole full of wool or reattach the separated piece using a little extra wool for reinforcement.

I’m pleased to say, that I did only stab myself once and that the resulting mends are pretty sturdy, so now I just need to keep it away from the hound and all should be well. In fact, If I hadn’t told you about the hole in the side (its location indicated by the arrow) I bet you wouldn’t have guessed it had been there.

Mend-It Monday #26

I’m afraid that we are back to darning this week, but not socks for a change. Some years ago we came across some excellent oven gloves – glove shaped and made of some magic, knitted insulated stuff, the name of which completely escapes me. Anyway, over the years we have had several pairs and eventually they stop being so well insulated and have to be retired. However, the latest pair, which is constructed of two layers, started to wear out. There were holes in the thin outer fabric of two fingers and one thumb and this reduced the insulating capacity noticeably, although it’s the inner layer that provides most of the insulation.

I think the original outer is cotton with silicone grips, but I decided that wool would be a better fibre for the mend. I found some left-over pure wool in a natural grey colour – I think it might be Jacob wool – that was sufficiently thick for the job. Wool burns at 570-600°C, so there’s no chance of igniting it with the temperature a domestic oven reaches. I darned the holes with quite a dense weave, being careful not to stich into the inner layer, which could potentially provide a route to conduct heat.

Time will tell how long this particular mend will last, but I am quite hopeful that it will significantly extend the life of these very useful gloves.

ScrapHappy January 2022

This month I have been concentrating very hard on my rag rug… to the exclusion of pretty much all other evening craft activities. I was really hoping that it would be finished by now, but alas there is still some way to go. The picture on the right (which is the back of the rug) gives a good idea of how far I still have to go.

A large amount of scrap fabric and unmendable clothes have gone into this project and it’s really very heavy (as Sue warned me!). Every time I think I might have cut enough rags, it turns out I am wrong and my bags end up needing to be replenished. I am glad that I didn’t try to make a specific pattern, because I would probably have seriously underestimated the amount of fabric of each colour that was required. Fortunately my random assortment has worked out ok and I don’t mind that the mix changes across the rug.

I consider this to be a very successful way of using up scraps, particularly ones from worn or damaged fabric, but it’s not a quick win and I can imagine that many people who start give up because it really does take many, many hours to produce anything of any size. Still, it won’t be my last rag rug and it’s certainly something we’ll be selling tools for and running classes on in the shop.


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 folk often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda, Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me), Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2 , Bear, Noreen, Preeti, Edith and Jule

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.

Mend-It Monday #25

A few days of cold winds last week encouraged me to mend my hat with ear flaps. Mr Snail bought this hat for me about 20 years ago, before I had rediscovered the joy of knitting and ages before I learned to crochet. Since then it has served me well – it must have accompanied me on many hundreds of miles of dog walks each winter. One day a few weeks ago, however, one of the cords started to come unravelled. I managed to catch it before it was completely undone, but wasn’t sure how to mend it. Happily, once I came to examine it, I realised that it was simply a crocheted chain made from several strands of wool. The red strand had broken and somehow that had started the whole thing coming apart. I decided that it would be stronger if I used cotton yarn to mend it, so I simply crocheted a new chain, adding the cotton to the mix. In addition, in order to make all the cords stronger, and reduce the risk of them coming undone at a later date, I threaded a couple of strands of the red yarn along the length of each of them, and anchored the tassels more firmly.

Not just a mend, but reinforcement to avoid future mends too.

Start as you mend to go on

Whilst I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, I do have a “theme” in mind for 2022: Mending.

I’m going to try and write more Mend It Monday posts, and I’m going to try and be more creative with my mends… I promise it won’t all be about darning! In addition, of course, in the new shop we will be selling mending supplies and equipment and we’ll be teaching courses on mending (once the upstairs is not divided by a very unhelpful partition wall!), so I should have lots to share to inspire you.

However, my first mend this year is a simple bit of patching. I have some lovely soft, organic cotton nightshirts, but the oldest of these has started to wear, and the side seams at the bottom edge had begun to deteriorate. The seam on one side just needed restitching, but on the the other, the fabric had torn and so a patch was needed. Since this is a garment that only gets worn in bed, I was only interested in a functional mend, so I couldn’t be bothered re-threading my overlocker with a more appropriate colour.

I found a scrap of cotton jersey, cut out a patch and secured it in place with a zigzag stitch. Then, I anchored the ragged edges of the original fabric with more zigzag stitching, before finishing the bottom edge with my overlocker.

It’s not the most attractive mend ever, but I am hoping that it will keep this garment useable for another year or two.

Do you have any creative plans for the New Year? Is mending on your list of things to do?

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