Three Things Thursday: 21 July 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As she says…

*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*

First, unplanned plants. I do love an unexpected visitor in the garden and, in this particular case, in the limery. Some of the seed that we put out for the birds must have got into the potting compost, because one of my pepper plants has a companion. I nearly weeded it out when I first noticed it, but then I thought how lovely it would be if it flowered… and how right I was:

Second, the ‘big 50’. Not quite my birthday yet (although that will be happening in a few months time) but swimming. Since I started in mid-January, I have been swimming 50 times. I swim a minimum of a kilometre every time I go, so I’ve swum quite a long way this year. My annual pass has been a great investment and, in fact I’m close to having covered the cost already.

Third, swapsies! I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was swapping my knitting skills for some yarn. The deal is that I knit Kathryn some socks and she sends me some of the yarn that she is no longer able to use. So far I am up on the deal as the yarn to knit up, plus my ‘payment’ arrived yesterday. As well as the commercially produced yarn, Kathryn also sent me a little of the yarn she spins herself, which is lovely. I have a trip away at the end of next week, so Kathryn’s socks will be on my needles for that.

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

Three Things Thursday: 7 July 2016

Joining with Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As “Nerd” says…

*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*

First, soft fruit – possibly my favourite harvest from the garden. Specifically I love raspberries, still warm from the sun. What’s more, the surplus can be frozen and brings a wonderful taste of summer to dark winter days. Right now, though, we are enjoying them with home-made ice cream (using eggs from the garden). I’ve also been picking red currants – ruby gems that add a bit of zing to recipes. I think a cake combining the two is in order.


One day’s haul

Second, Blacker Yarns. Having decided to make a felted version of the bird roost, I went on the wonderful Blacker Yarns’ website and was able to find a suitable British wool in perfect colours almost immediately. Not only that, but it was delivered less than 24 hours later. Hurrah for well constructed web sites and great customer service.


Just the job

Third, swapsies! I’m just in the process of bartering some of my knitting for some lovely yarn. How fabulous is that?

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

The value of…

Mr Snail is currently writing a few blog posts on “The value of value“. The other day I asked him whether he was going to write one about the value of a secondhand Kindle and he said that he wasn’t, so here is one from me….

A few weeks ago Mr Snail’s Kindle died. He worked hard to try and fix it, but had no success. So, he wrote a blog post about it (take a look if you want to see what all the electronics inside look like). This post was read by writer and artist Kate Murray, who contacted him with the offer of her old Kindle (slightly physically damaged, but fully functional). Mr Snail asked what she’d like in return and she replied that she’d like to learn to make cheese. So that’s what we did… she came over on Thursday and I showed her how to make soft cheese. It sounds like I got the rough end of the deal (after all the Kindle wasn’t for me) but, in fact, she also gave me a dozen or so balls of yarn and so we were all winners.


What is a lesson in cheese-making worth?

I love this sort of exchange – everyone gains, indeed everyone gains more than the object or skill acquired. Mr Snail has a functioning Kindle, which means that he can progress with his latest book (he wanted to be able to read the current draft away from the computer and make notes). Kate can now go and try cheese-making on her own with a bit more confidence. In addition, she has off-loaded some ‘stuff’ that was of no use to her (she can’t work with the yarn as she has an allergy to wool and anyway it felts severely when washed so has few uses) and she couldn’t sell the Kindle for much because of the superficial damage. And I not only got some yarn, which is already well on it’s way to being a snuggly blanket (that won’t matter if it felts and shrinks), but also I got to spend some quality time with a friend.

How do we assess the value of this? We’ll, I suppose we could look at the monetary cost of a new Kindle, and of the yarn and we could find a cheese-making course and see how much that would cost, but that would be missing the point. The only money that was really involved was the cost of 3 litres of milk, some cheese culture micro-organisms and 12 drops of rennet, plus Kate’s fuel to get here; but the value was high for all of us. As Mr Snail wrote in his first ‘The Value of Value’ post:

We don’t know the value of anything, only the pounds and pence cost.

So, lets reclaim value and appreciate what things are really worth.


I don’t knit socks to sell – they take so long to make that even asking a paltry per-hour rate would take them out of the reach of almost all potential customers. Although a pair of handmade socks will last for years and is much easier to repair successfully than a mass-produced pair, no one wants to pay the true value. This means that, in general, if you own a pair of socks that I made, it’s because I love you! The only way I will undertake a commission to make socks is if I can barter for them – although I still have to like you a lot to even agree to do this! There are , however, folks out there who have skills that I do not and so there is a possibility of an exchange.

And so it is with my latest creations. These socks are very special: not only are they going to be exchanged for some leather work (haven’t quite finalised what), but more than that, they are made in part with wool from a friend’s sheep at The Inkpot, which is…

home grown, home shorn, Yorkshire spun, permaculture designed, pasture fed, holistically managed, non chemical, rare breed, British native, slow grown wool

Because it’s pure wool, it’s not ideal for hard-wearing socks, so the heels toes and ribbing are knitted from ‘sock wool’, which contains some nylon so that it doesn’t wear out too quickly. Even that yarn, is British (from West Yorkshire Spinners).

The recipient of these socks also already owns the first two hedgehogs that I made (Shy and Spike)… so I decided to expand the family. Therefore, the parcel contains three additions… two made from the Inkpot wool and one from the sock yarn. Of course, the spikes are made using eyelash yarn and that, sadly, isn’t British, but these three were made from left-overs from previous hedgies.

What do you make for love?

Trade socks

Trade goods are items specifically made to be used for trade (barter) rather than by the manufacturer or to be sold for money. And here are my first trade goods…

Trade socks... all packed and ready to go, along which a little sunny card

Trade socks… all packed and ready to go, along with a little sunny card

In exchange for these socks, I have (already) received a large box of felting wool, from which I plan to make a big colourful bag. And when I say colourful, it really will be if I use all of the shades:

All this for a pair of socks!

All this for a pair of socks… mind you, they do take  about 20 hours to knit!

I envisage it having a shoulder strap (perhaps made from an old leather belt) and being big enough to hold an A4 folder. I also intend that it has a flap to keep the rain out. I’m going to have to start off working round a really big resist (the plastic insert that allows you to create a three-dimensional object without the need for seams) to get a big enough bag. This will be the largest felting project I have ever undertaken, but it should be really fun. Now, I just need to find the time to do it!

Will knit for wool

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about wanting to do more bartering, so I was delighted the other day to receive a message from a friend who is about to move house and is sorting out ‘stuff‘. He wanted to know if I would be interested in an exchange… he’d got some merino wool tops suitable for felting, did I want them and what would I offer in exchange? After a bit of discussion, we settled on a pair of hand-knitted socks. I sent him a photograph of my stash of sock wool:

My current sock yarn stash

My current sock yarn stash (smaller than it used to be!)

and he selected the colours he liked.

I still haven’t received his foot measurements yet, but that’s not a problem for the time being… I can do as far as just beyond the heel for both feet before I need to know. So at present on my needles are Eddie’s socks… I hope he likes them:

Work in progress on Eddie's sock (displayed with my happy snail yarn bowl)

Work in progress on Eddie’s sock (displayed with my happy snail yarn bowl)

A fair exchange

Following on from my last post, I have had several discussions this week about bartering and how we can make a ‘living’ from our various activities.

No use offering me eggs for barter - I have plenty of those!

No use offering me eggs for barter – I have plenty of those!

I really like the idea of bartering, but if this happens directly, then both parties need to have something that the other wants. It’s no use me being able to knit you socks if the only thing you have to offer is eggs, since I already have an abundance of these; or a hair-cut, since I have long hair. This is where the LETS scheme has the potential to work well, since the exchange does not need to be direct: you get credits and these can be exchanged for any services in the scheme. I have never been part of  a LETS scheme, but I understand that they often break down because, for example, lots of people are offering massages (which few people want) and few people are offering plumbing services (which many people want).

I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t do some work for someone because they don’t have something I want right now… perhaps an IOU would be in order in such a case. It was during a discussion about this when it was pointed out to me that something that I do need is money; and that this is the thing that some people actually have! Indeed, money is a great way of storing up ‘credit’ to get services or goods you need in the future! So, I shouldn’t be too squeamish about accepting money as payment, if that’s what works. In fact, that’s what money was for in the first place – a way of keeping tally; it’s a shame it’s become something completely different to many people now.

So, my business plan is starting to take shape. The services that I can provide are craft-related and ecological advice (perhaps a strange combination, but there you go!). I plan to compile a ‘wants and needs’ list, so that people who want my services can look at that to decide whether they have something they can barter, and if they don’t I will be prepared to accept money. Of course deciding on the ‘value’ of things is a challenge – eggs have little value to me, but old hand-knitted acrylic jumpers do! Selling at craft fairs and on etsy will necessarily involve money and I’m happy with that. So, now I have to concentrate on my needs and wants and focus on how to determine an exchange rate…

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