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.

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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.

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.

17 for 2017 – January Update

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see- very geeky!

As we are coming to the end of the month, I thought I’d give you a 17 for 2017 progress update. I’ve got quite geeky about it all and made myself a spreadsheet with hyperlinks to pictures and (in one case) a second spreadsheet, meaning that I should be able to see how I’m getting on at a glance… if I remember to actually update the spreadsheet as I do things! Anyway, in less than I month, this is what I’ve done:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I haven’t finished any yet, but I’m working on quite a big creation to send as a surprise gift.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. This was under-ambitious for the year – I’ve already made five batches!

Fifteen… cheeses.  I’m not sure whether I should count one or two here – I made a tomme-style cheese, and then I made ricotta with the whey. I’ve only entered this as one cheese on my spreadsheet, because it was only one cheese-making day.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Good progress here: two pairs completed and another six pairs cut out and ready for sewing.

Thirteen… mends. Two done: some boro mending on the knee of a pair of jeans belonging to Mr Snail and a tear in a cotton tunic repaired using my overlocker.

Twelve… letters to friends. In a flurry of activity on a dull and wet day, I wrote five letters!

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. None yet (although one pattern is now listed, but that’s lower down this list)

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

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we’ve got a bit carried away with watching The Blacklist on dvd to the exclusion of playing games.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, because neither of us fancy kale omelette!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. One visit to blogging friend Katy the Night Owl.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. Yarn and new pattern at the ready, but none started yet.

Five… book chapters written. None, although I’m planning a talk on ecology that will form the skeleton of one of the chapters.

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. Two completed – one for Knit for Peace, one for Sixty Million Trebles, and two on my hooks.

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

Two… patterns published and on sale. Bird Roost pattern finished and available as a digital download from my etsy shop.

One… denim gardening apron. Not yet – I’ve been dithering about the fabric!

If you have 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

17 for 2017

Over the past year I’ve really enjoyed hearing what fellow bloggers have achieved off the lists that they made at the beginning of the year in 16 for 2016 (and before that in 15 for 2015). So, reading this year’s lists from gillyflower, Nana Cathy, Murtagh’s Meadow and others, I’ve been inspired. As I’ve said, I don’t like new year’s resolutions, but I do like a list. I started off on paper with some ideas.

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it started with a mind map

 

Finally I’ve settled on this list of some of the things I’d like to achieve in 2017…

Seventeen… Love Rocks (my rocks will have little crochet vests rather than glued-on hearts) or other little random yarny/sewn gifts to be given to individuals or left to be found by anyone

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits

Fifteen… cheeses… it’s ambitious, but now I have my great source of milk, it’s do-able and they don’t all have to be hard cheeses

Fourteen… pairs of knickers… that’s how many I’m planning to make!

Thirteen… mends… darning, patching, gluing, stitching… whatever needs doing

Twelve… letters to friends, using real paper and real ink

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop (this is long overdue)

Ten... plants given to good homes (this one is inspired by Murtagh’s meadow)

Nine… games of Scrabble… Mr Snail and I used to play often, but we rarely do now even though it’s something we both enjoy

Eight… meals using only our own produce (except oil and seasoning)

Seven… visits to see friends who I normally communicate with via social media

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns (I have one pattern I use over and over, but I want to diversify)

Five… book chapters written. I’m planning to write a beginner’s guide to ecology

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there (I think there’s a box of 30-year-old bank statements!)

Two… patterns published and on sale. This year I will finally complete my crochet bird roost pattern and my skeleton hat knitting pattern (which involves a chart).

One… denim gardening apron

So, really it’s business as usual, but one or two of my goals may be quite a challenge and this should help to give me focus.

If you have 17 for 2017 blog post, do leave a link in the comments, I’d love to read what you are planning.

Three Things Thursday: 1 September 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, chickens – happy and behaving naturally. Specifically the fact that this:

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Feathers!

is because of this:

Moulty Bluebell

Moulty Bluebell

not because of a fox or other predator. This is quite an early moult, but it’s good because the weather is still pleasant, so she’s not shivering or drenched (yet). As you can see the two new girls are also doing well; they are both laying almost every day… so I’m grateful for their eggs too.

Second, crafty activities. I spent the whole of Sunday sewing, crocheting, paper-crafting and generally being creative. I’ll write a whole post dedicated to some of the sewing sometime in the future, so here is an example of some paper-craft:

birthday spiral

Mr Snail’s birthday card

Third, tomatoes. For many years I have found it impossible to grow tomatoes. Every year in our old greenhouse I got only a tiny crop before the plants succumbed to Botrytis mould. This year is the first full growing season for the limery, and I’m delighted to report it’s turned the tide and I can now produce my own tomatoes – hurrah!

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

 

A change of plan

For ages now I have been telling you that I’m going to set up an etsy shop; or, rather, that I’m going to stock the etsy shop that I set up last year. The time has finally arrived for me to start doing this, but… I’m not going to!

Rainbow bag

This will be in the shop

Prior to embarking on the work needed to create a good shop, I decided to do some reading round (here, for example) and as a result I discovered that etsy is no longer the platform it used to be. Originally (as I understand it), it was set up to act as a marketplace for craftspeople – a one-stop-shop on the internet where you could go to sell your lovingly-created items and where buyers would understand the ethos and value. Alas, this is no longer the case. You can now sell anything on etsy, even acting as a third-party seller for cheap mass-produced stuff. So, rather than a forum for crafters, we have another ebay just without the auctions. It appears that many genuine crafters have seen a significant drop in sales as a result because buyers are swamped with choices and find it difficult to distinguish between the origins of the different goods on offer as well as the discrepancy in prices.

A bowl of bath puffs!

There’ll be bath puffs too

I acknowledge that my products could be considered expensive when compared to what you can buy in the supermarket, but generally my buyers understand why this is… from the raw materials to the time taken to design and make the items on sale. I can’t compete with Superdrug on the price of a bath puff, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. So, I turned to Folksy – a British website specifically dedicated to handmade items. It has lower ‘footfall’ than etsy, but at least visitors will only be comparing like with like. Thus far I have set up the shop, but not stocked it. This weekend, I will be photographing my stock and hopefully there should be items for sale by next week… ooh it’s all rather exciting.

 

It’s not what you know

Two things I read this morning have made me think about social networking. First, a comment from my friend Snuffkin (she of the wise words) and the second a blog post by Gregory Patrick (otherwise known as Mad Man Knitting… check out his lovely knitted bears).

A bowl of bath puffs!

If you want to make a difference: buy from a craftsperson!

How do you determine whether you are successful? Is it about having a roof over your head? Being able to feed yourself? Helping others? Well, apparently, at the moment it’s about how many ‘votes’ you get in various on-line competitions. And, thus it is not about what you know, or indeed who you know, but more about how many people you know and how many people they know.

I really like the opportunity to communicate with others around the world – to make new friends, to connect with other people who have similar interests.  I like using Facebook; I like writing my blog and responding to the comments. I use these channels to advertise the courses that I teach and the crafts that I sell. I even get a warm glow when I get a new follower for this blog. But how far do we take this?

If we, like Gregory, don’t get enough ‘votes’ to win a Martha Stewart competition that would allow us to develop our business, are we failures? Or that our business is not good? Or does it simply mean that we are not sufficiently well-known? And if success is only linked to how many Facebook ‘likes’ we have, what is the point in developing a skill? Whatever happened to merit?

Now I know that it’s not possible to sell a product or service without marketing, but I am disturbed by the fact that Martha Stewart is only prepared to support a business if it is sufficiently well-know to get a gazillion votes in her competition. I can’t help feeling that this is more about marketing Martha Stewart than about supporting skilled and creative people.

So, rather than buying into this sort of big-business marketing, let’s do something that will make a difference to the little guys (that’s US). If you like someone’s product – buy it; if you are looking for a gift – visit your local craft fair, or Folksy or Etsy and buy something handmade from a small producer; if you think a carftsperson is good – tell your friends (on-line if you like); and if you want to support your community, then support the people who work and earn a living in it. Let’s get behind the little guys – Martha Stewart, Justin  Beiber and Coca-cola simply don’t need our help!

OK, rant over…. tomorrow I’ll write about squashes!

I’ve got it pegged

The original felted peg bag

The original felted peg bag

Ages and ages ago I bought a felting kit for a peg bag. It seemed like a great idea and having a kit would give me a chance to practice my (then) recently acquired felting skills but with a safety net, so the speak. I made it up following the instructions and produced a lovely, fancy little felted bag… much more beautiful than I would have designed if left to my own devices. The problem was that the main way to describe it was ‘little’: it held about 12 pegs. I simply couldn’t fit all my pegs into it and so, however beautiful, it really wasn’t much use. Since I  completed it, it has been sitting on top of the washing machine, unused.

The new felted peg bag

The new felted peg bag

Last week, I decided that the time had come to make a more functional peg bag – one that would hold all my pegs and that would be good for years of use. I didn’t want to spend a huge amount of time on it, so I chose a single colour for the interior and three for the exterior, with no embellishments. All but the  purple wool, which is Merino, is British Blue-faced Leicester. I used a wire coat hanger for the hook and to help it to hold its shape inside and edged the hole with embroidery silk that I’ve had for about 35 years! It’s a bit more square than I would have liked – the pod-shape of the original appeals to me – but I’m quite pleased with it.

... and together for comparison

… and together for comparison

I may have gone to the other extreme in terms of size and it’s certainly not as fancy as the first one, but I’m really pleased with it and, other than the stitching, it only took a couple of hours to make. The tiny original, I’m going to hang up in my office and use if to keep little USB cables in because I’m always putting them down and forgetting where… I knew it wouldn’t go to waste.

Crafting my way to happiness

Alpha wave generator

Alpha wave generator

Regular readers of this blog will know that I dedicate quite a lot of time to craft projects – crochet, knitting and felting in particular, but I also do needlepoint, embroidery, paper-making, and more. Some of my creations are useful things (socks, gloves, bath puffs), but some are quite frivolous… the collection of knitted slugs probably have little practical use! However, there are more reasons for craft activities than just the finished item.

Knitting and crochet are portable and I take my projects with me to all sorts of situations. For example I often knit socks whilst travelling, attending courses and conferences, teaching  and when participating in meetings. I do often have to explain to people that my knitting does not mean that I’m not paying attention nor should they consider it disrespectful – it’s just something I do with my hands and that helps me to think. Don’t believe me? Well, I have been knitting for more than 35 years, so it does come quite naturally and  there is sound evidence showing that knitting is associated with the production of alpha waves by the brain. According to the Bicybernaut Institute

Alpha brain waves are seen in wakefulness where there is a relaxed and effortless alertness

Production of these brainwaves reduces stress and is associated with creativity. They are also linked to heightened imagination, visualisation, memory, learning and concentration. And knitting (along with other craft activities) encourages their production. The Circles website, for example, states that

The act of knitting has some inherent and intriguing qualities to it. It has been shown that when we knit, our brains produce the alpha waves of a relaxed meditative state… Clinical studies have found that the repetitive action of knitting creates a calming effect. Yes, more alpha waves than when meditating or doing yoga. Due to this, it is quite effective to use knitting as a mechanism for opening up to self-exploration, growth and healing. From simply adding knitting to a traditional therapy model of talking and processing with a guide, to knitting a specific project chosen or designed to evoke specific paths of exploration, knitting is one of the most relaxed and enjoyable, while highly effective, modes of growing your self-awareness that you can experience.

Last week I attended the latest in a series of meetings that have all been rather stressful. However, for the first time, I took some knitting with me and was delighted to find that I came away much less tense than usual and, along with the progress made in the meeting itself, with about a quarter of a sock more than when I started. I also didn’t feel the need for a large glass of wine as soon as I got home!

Alpha brainwaves are produced when we do all sorts of craft activities… things that are gentle and repetitive and that allow us to relax, thus freeing our minds. We can combine creativity with our hands with mental creativity. I have never been comfortable with sitting thinking about my breathing in order to relax and mediate, but give me some wool, water and soap and I will happily felt my way into a meditative state! So that’s what I’m off to do now, I have a felted peg bag to finish and some ideas about a chapter for a research handbook I’m writing to get sorted out in my mind, so excuse me whilst I go and get soapy… and thoughtful!

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