ScrapHappy June 2018

I haven’t done a ScrapHappy post for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been using my scraps. Here is my latest “Permaculture Hat” (follow the link for an explanation):

I used up the whole of my scrap ball, but I’ve already started another one (you can see it in front of Hattie in the first picture). This and others of its ilk are made entirely from those tiny scraps of yarn that would otherwise be too small to be considered for a knitting or crochet project. Usually I sell these hats, but I have decided that this, and a variety of other hats I have made recently will be donated to Knit for Peace, who are always able to find such items good homes.

We have been very ScrapHappy Chez Snail this month, so Mr Snail is also writing a ScrapHappy post (check out his blog here after mid-morning on the 15th UK time)… be prepared for something completely different to the usual tales of fabric and yarn!

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.

Three years ago…

… there was disruption, with builders all over the garden and construction of the limery in full swing. Mr Snail was well out of it working in Reading and I was trying to retain my sanity and soldier on with my work (not easy when you have to keep making cups of tea and pacify two terriers in the face of “strange men”).

Now all is relatively peaceful. No builders, only one terrier and a calm spaniel and Mr Snail is the one making cups of tea for me. There is, admittedly, the prospect of him going off to Reading again, but nothing is certain at the moment. But all that effort  really was worth it, as the limery fills up with plants and the first signs of a harvest. The winner in terms of early productivity this year is a variety of pepper called “Yellow Monster”, which is already bearing fruits a couple of inches long. A second variety, Kaibi, is not far behind. Both of these are from the Real Seed people. I did succumb to some F1 pepper seeds this year, but germination was poor and no plants have survived, so I won’t be seduced next year. We’ve also got some black chillies flowering, with a lovely purple tinge to the petals.

Of course there are other things in there too: tomatillos, epazote (both for forthcoming Mexican cooking), squashes, lemongrass, a curry tree, tea (a very tiny plant), not to mention the carnivores and the passionflower, and of course several things that I started off in the limery are now outside: peas, potatoes, salad onions, sorrel. Here’s hoping for lots of crops… but, perhaps, fewer greenfly (they are a real pain this year for some reason).

There is also a new addition to the limery, but I’ll share that with you in a later post.

Seize the Daisy

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan… and sometimes things just happen and it’s probably best to go with the flow. Currently my flow has taken me here:

a very waggy tail

This is Daisy… and as of today, she’s part of the Snail household.

I’ve half-heartedly been looking at dog adoption web sites since we lost Max, but the prospect of choosing a dog on the basis of a  few photos and a paragraph or two of text was deeply unappealing. After all the behavioural issues we have had with challenging rescue dogs in the past and the stress of Max’s long illness, I didn’t think I had the strength to do it all again. But Daisy was different…

We first met her a couple of months ago when visiting a friend. This particular friend fosters rescue dogs and Daisy was one of her charges. She was a lovely and friendly dog, but we weren’t in the market for a new canine at the time. A week or so later someone said they wanted to adopt her and that was that, but for one reason and another the prospective adopters kept putting things off, a situation that went on for several weeks and eventually it all fell through. Poor Daisy.

So, last Thursday, knowing that I liked her, her foster mum sent me an email just to let me know that Daisy was available once again. First, we had to get Sam’s approval, but once it was clear that all was well in that department, things moved rather quickly and now it’s Monday and we have two dogs once more.

I feel very happy.

Byebye Bavaria

My plant to complete some of my UFOs* is going well. Finally, after four years, I have finished my Bavarian crochet lap blanket.

It doesn’t look like I originally envisaged, but I think having a border around the Bavarian centre frames it rather beautifully. I’m also rather pleased with the scalloped edging, which just finishes it off nicely.

To celebrate the completion of such a long-term project, I embarked on a tiny project that was completed in a single day. I was asked if I would make a baby bonnet by one of my Knit Night friends:

It needs a ribbon threading through, but I think it turned out quite well and it was lovely to make something so quickly.

Now… time to return to the jumper I was knitting before I got swept up in a frenzy of crochet!

-oOo-

* UnFinished Objects

Things I can learn from Max

As some of you already know, our doggy buddy Max finally passed away a couple of weeks ago. It was very peaceful, but has left me feeling very sad. I am trying to remember the lessons that he taught me, so here’s a little reminder for you too…

The Snail of Happiness

I am very unsettled. The presence (and absence) of builders over the past few weeks means I don’t feel particularly relaxed.

First, every morning, there’s the will they/won’t they arrive question. Then if they don’t turn up first thing the issue of whether I should release the chickens to free range, or whether the builders will appear later and then I’ll have chicken wrangling to deal with. If they do arrive there is disturbance and noise, even though the workers are all very nice and deeply apologetic when they need to ask for something. I had hoped that it would all be over in three weeks, but it’s going to go on longer than that.

In an attempt to work out how I should get through the next few weeks, I have been observing Max, who seems to take this sort of thing completely in his stride (well, shuffle, really)…

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Reflections on our holiday

One of the most beautiful things I noticed when we were on holiday was the light on the water. Our cottage overlooked, Loch Carron, which was tidal, but very calm. Every morning we looked out of the window to a glorious view of the water. And many of our walks involved views of the loch. Capturing the atmosphere and beauty on camera proved difficult:

However, on our final full day we visited the Lochcarron Gallery and enjoyed seeing the different ways that local artists interpreted the area. One piece of work particularly gabbed our attention, seeming to capture perfectly the shimmering light and peaceful waters. And so Mr Snail bought it for me  and we brought home the wonderful “Dispersing Sea Mists” by Helena Emmans:

The photographs don’t do it justice, but it really does shimmer like the water. It is made using hand dyed threads wrapped around wood. A lovely memento of our holiday.

Have hook will travel

You may remember that one of my goals in 2017 was to meet up with friends I have made here and through other social media channels. Having a target gave me focus and so I easily reached my goal of seven visits – I went just down the road for some, and as far as Manchester and Devon for others. However, one trip that was planned did not come to fruition until a couple of weeks ago.

When I originally mentioned my intention, Jenny from Simply Hooked commented that she’d love to meet up, but that she lives in such a remote part of the UK it seemed unlikely. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I started looking at the possibility of organising a trip and it wasn’t too long before advice had been sought and bookings made. The advice was ‘come in May before the midges and children appear’. However, it was too late for 2017, so it had to be 2018.

So, earlier this month, we set off for the west coast of Scotland, stopping on the way to visit New Lanark for a few days and buy a little bit of wool – you get a discount if you are staying at the hotel, so it would have been churlish not to.

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Beautiful New Lanark and the River Clyde

After staying for three nights, we continued our journey, arriving at our final destination to beautiful weather. Jenny and George kindly provided lunch the following day, and the weather was obligingly good enough for us to enjoy the sun and company in their garden.

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Sunshine and smiles

Later in the week we visited the little art gallery in the village and I was able to snuggle some of the beautiful crochet that Jenny has for sale there:

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Isn’t it lovely?

Sadly we were only there for a week, but we plan to return. More on the beauty of Scotland in later posts.

Welsh Quilts

What a lovely day I had yesterday…

Some weeks ago Sue (Going Batty in Wales) mentioned to me that she wanted to go and see the summer exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter, and suggested that we go together. So, we met for coffee and then visited Red Apple Yarn before having an unexpectedly large lunch (the café we went to had run out of the soup I wanted) and then going to the exhibition.

The quilts on display represented the past ten years of summer exhibitions at the Quilt Centre and so we had the opportunity to see a wide variety – from Kaffe Fassett creations to Victorian quilts made from tiny scraps of reclaimed fabrics. There were examples made with flannel, beautiful cream coloured quilts made for Claridge’s in the 1940s and marketed through the Rural Industries Bureau, a single printed tree of life panel made in 1810 and paisley scarf quilts.

Whilst it’s hard to single out any one quilt, I did love the creations where the quilting itself was the star, and the cream Rural Industries Bureau quilts were perhaps the epitome of this, but I particularly liked the yellow quilt that I have featured some corner detail of above. The pattern in this demonstrates the traditional Welsh characteristic of a central design surrounded by borders comprising smaller motifs… or at least, so Sue tells me. The other quilt that really caught my attention was the Victorian patchwork one displayed on the bed… mainly because it featured a large mend (that I completely failed to photograph) where it had either been torn or worn along a fold. Several of the quilts had been repaired or had small unfinished sections and I was particularly drawn to these features that reminded me of the women who worked so hard to make and maintain these works of art.

Altogether it is an inspirational exhibition and we had a lovely day out. If you are visiting mid-Wales I highly recommend a trip to the Quilt Centre where the exhibition runs until November.

All washed up

For some time we have been struggling to find suitable, biodegradable washing-up equipment. Mr Snail (who does most of the washing-up) likes to use a brush. Most brushes for this job are plastic and the bristles get flattened very quickly, making them useless. First, I found a recycled plastic version with a replaceable head, but the quality was so poor that the head needed replacing after only a few uses. Then, I was delighted to find a wooden brush with natural plant-fibre bristles and replaceable heads. I bought one, along with spare heads, and we gave it a try. Sadly, the heads seemed to last only a short time too, were a less than ideal shape (round) for getting into all the nooks and crannies and repeatedly fell off the handle. Eventually Mr Snail refused to use them any more and returned to a standard plastic brush. The quest continues to find a washing-up brush that actually delivers all we need: a good shape, durable and made from natural materials.

Mostly, I prefer to wash up using a cloth. Crochet cotton cloths are fine unless you want some abrasion and my old abrasive cloth, which I have had for years but is very worn, is plastic (nylon possibly). I was happy, therefore, that Red Apple Yarn sells textured cotton dishcloth yarn and I just had to give it a go. I decided that a loose mesh was likely to prove most useful, and whipped up a crocheted dish cloth in double quick time. I tested it out this morning* and it does a good job, although is only a bit abrasive (it felt more so when I was working it up). For me this is likely to be a good option; for Mr Snail the quest for the perfect brush continues.

-oOo-

* I washed up because Mr Snail was still in bed recovering from yesterday’s 21-mile sponsored walk.

Too late for me

Long-time readers will recall my struggle to give up teabags because of the plastic they contained. Before I made the switch to loose leaf tea, I tried in vain to persuade Clipper, the company whose teabags I used to buy, to change their product. I wrote to them in 2014…

Dear Clipper
On your ‘our story’ web page you publish the following statement:
“Always a pure, natural product – there isn’t a single artificial ingredient in any of our products.”
However, in your FAQs, I discover that
‘Square “pillow” bags do have a very thin layer of polypropylene plastic’.
Oh, I’m so disappointed! As someone who is trying to live more sustainably, I want to eliminate as much single-use plastic from my life as possible. I love your organic tea bags, but feel that I’m going to have to revert to loose tea because of the presence of this plastic. Yes, I know it’s a small amount, but it’s still there and it all adds up.
Please, please could you consider ways of making tea bags without the plastic? I know it would make you very popular with customers like me who care deeply about the environment and the products we buy.
Many thanks
Dr Jan Martin

… and they wrote back…

Dear Dr. Martin,
Thank you for contacting us here at Clipper – it is lovely to hear from you!
With regards to your concerns about their being plastic within tea bags we can confirm that certain types of tea bags do contain polymer fibres. Standard square or round tea bags which are the most common in the UK market will all contain a type of polymer fibre as they are made using heat-sealable filter paper. The tea bag filter paper requires a means of sealing the two layers of paper together as paper will not stick to paper and glue is not used. The filter paper Clipper uses for this type of tea bag contains polypropylene to provide the heat-seal function. The filter paper is food grade for its intended purpose and meets all relevant UK and EU Regulations.
The filter paper used to produce tea bags with the string and tag attached does not need to be heat-sealable, as it is closed differently, and therefore does not contain any polymer fibres/plastic content.
In terms of Clipper packaging in general we can confirm that we do not use PLA material (the biodegradable material used for some pyramid bags and other plastic packaging) as it is derived from corn which may be from GM sources.
Best regards

Hayley Butler
Consumer Care

Now, fast forward to 2017 and David Attenborough’s second Blue Planet series on the BBC highlights the devastating effect of plastic pollution in the oceans. More customers start calling for plastic no longer to be used in (amongst other things) tea bags. More customers demand change…

So I contacted them again… more publicly and more bluntly this time, using Twitter:2018-04-27 (1)and their response was rather different:

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What a difference a few years makes!

See? The Snail of Happiness – ahead of the game!

Sadly for Clipper, they are too late – my transfer to loose tea is complete and I won’t go back.

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byebye bags

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