Random acts of kindness

It was several months ago that Danielle and I started organising our contribution to the Chorlton Arts Festival – a window display and our ‘Kindness Tree’ event. The latter is happening on Saturday: a day of crafting to create objects with kind messages to give away to strangers. We will have a tree to decorate in the shop, plus we have permission to adorn the railings by the library with the little gifts and messages.

2017-05-24

The Kindness Tree in our craftivism window display  (c) Sue Archer

Chorlton, in case you don’t know, is in Manchester. And now seems like a particularly good time to share some random acts of kindness in Manchester. If you are in the area, please do come and join us (details here), but if you are not in the area, I’d love to think you are with us in spirit. So, I have a request. Wherever you are in the world, on Saturday, please will you undertake at least one random act of kindness? It doesn’t need to be anything big – it could just be a smile at a stranger – but please will you do something? I know what a caring community we are all part of here in this little bit of the blogosphere, and I’d love to think of our ripples of kindness spreading across the world.

Thank you.

Start a revolution…

Several people have asked over the past few days about what constitutes craftivism. Basically, it’s any crafted item that gets a message across – whether personal or political. Many people feel more comfortable with gentle ways to encourage change rather than being confrontational, and what better way to get your message across and gain attention than via a unique item rather than a letter? Send a felt bumblebee to your MP to make your point about conserving pollinators and they are certainly more likely to remember it than if you send them an e-mail.

Over the past few days I have been working on a message that is close to my heart. Here is my latest creation, made for our craftivism exhibition:

IMGP2347

Do you have a message you’d like to share with the world? Perhaps you can make your voice heard more effectively than simply shouting.

 

ScrapHappy April

This month’s ScrapHappy make is a “no-sew” shopping bag that involved a lot of sewing. I mentioned this creation in my post about craftivism the other day, but it’s finished now and I’m quite pleased with it.

The bag itself is simply an ancient t-shirt that has been cut and knotted, but because my intention was to use it for our craftivism display, I decided to do a little felt applique. I raided my box of felt scraps and cut out the letters I wanted by eye (some from really rather small felt bits), dug out some old embroidery thread and set to. I did the applique before tying the base of the bag so that holding the fabric was easier and allowing me to keep it flat, and here is the finished bag:

If you fancy making a t-shirt bag, they take about 10 minutes to create if you don’t get carried away with the decorations. All you need is an old t-shirt – remember it’s going to have to hold stuff, so if it’s full of holes or nearly worn through it’s probably better to turn it into cleaning cloths.

First lay it out on a flat surface and cut off the sleeves:

Next, cut the neck either into a V (as shown below), or into a U-shape (as I did with the appliqued) one:

Now, make sure it’s completely flat and lay a tape measure across the t-shirt about 10 cm from the bottom (adjust to make the tassels and bag the desired lengths, remembering that your bag will stretch if you use it to carry heavy things):

Cut through both layers of fabric up to the tape measure (taking care not to cut the tape!) to make tassels each about 2cm wide:

Finally, tie the pairs of tassels (one from the front and the corresponding one from the back) together with a firm double knot:

And that’s it – a t-shirt tote bag:

Ideal for yarn storage!

I must credit Joanne Harold for showing me how to make these bags – thanks Jo!

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) Scrap Happy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) Scrap Happy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

Be part of something crafty

As you know from my post the other day, I am involved in putting together a craftivism display in May and I’d love you to contribute. Our theme is Crafting a Kinder World. Now I know it’s short notice, and I know that many of you live a long way away, but you can still join in. If you’d like to write a message, share a thought, send us an anecdote or provide a picture to include in the display, we’d love you to do so. Danielle has designed the card below for you to put a message onto. Simply copy the picture (or send me a request and I’ll email you the file), insert your message and email us a picture back:

InkedHeart-Hands blank

You can insert words or a picture using a computer program then send us the file, or you can print out the card, write or draw by hand and then scan or photograph it to send back to us. We will then print out your file and include it in the display.

Because I give almost all of my craftivist creations away, I’m busily making some new contributions and digging out the few old ones that I have retained. Here’s one I’m working on at the moment… it started out as a no-sew t-shirt tote bag, but I wanted to include a message, so the absence of sewing quickly went out of the window:

IMGP2272

These bags are really easy to make (a quick internet search will provide plenty of tutorials to choose from) if you don’t decide to include a message!

Contact me using the form below if you’d like to be part of our project. I’d love as many of you to contribute as possible.

Crafting a kinder world

All the way through May my friend Danielle is going to have a display on craftivism in her window at The Make It Shop as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. For the uninitiated, craftivism is:

a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite* (Betsy Greer)

The theme that Danielle has chosen is Crafting a Kinder World.

IMGP9315

Last year’s Chorlton Arts Festival window display: Unleash Your Creative Beast

As well as the display, there will be a craftivism event on 27 May and I will be there to help host it. The plan (so far) is to create a “Kindness Tree”. We’ll spend the day inviting people to craft all sorts of small items to hang on the tree, each with a message of kindness. Subsequently our gifts and messages will be given away to spread the love.

Our last Make It Shop event: 60 Million Trebles Hook-up

I’m currently putting together a few bits and pieces to contribute to the shop window display, but most of my craftivist creations are long gone – having been given away to those in need (either of the object made or the message it embodied). So, I need to make a few more… but you can help me out here if you like. If you would like to send me an item to put in the window – whatever the craft, as long as it represents an aspect of craftivism – then please do. It could be a charity blanket, a twiddlemuff, a motivational embroidery, some bunting with a message, a piece of artwork, or whatever other crafted object fits in with the ethos. The display runs throughout May, so we would need your contributions in the next two weeks. There are two provisos. First, that the nature of the object is kind – craftivism is a gentle form of protest, or political action through positive creation – so any contributions that are displayed need to fit with this. And second is that, when the display is finished, you will allow me or Danielle to donate your object, whatever you send, to an appropriate charity or deserving person rather than send it back to you.

You can keep up to date with what’s happening on the Make-it Shop website here. And you can contact me to arrange making a contribution using the contact form below. And if you are in Manchester on 27 May – call in and say hello, have a cuppa and make something with us.

-oOo-

* Putting aside the fact that something is either infinite or not… I don’t think it’s possible to be ‘more infinite’!

 

Hooking up

Knitting and crochet are often considered rather solitary pastimes – we sit at home with our hooks and needles, creating lovely things… alone. With the recent popularity of ‘knit and natter’-type groups, things have become somewhat more sociable. Public crafting, however, is still relatively rare, so it was a delight to have the chance to spend Saturday at The Make-it Shop in Manchester crocheting and publicising the 60 Million Trebles project.

I made a weekend of it so that I could be there for the whole day and help my friend Danielle to host the event. The shop is a collection point for blankets for the project, so Saturday provided an opportunity for people to drop off completed work, plus we worked on our wips* and squares for a group blanket during the day.

We set up in the morning and wondered whether many people would come… and to begin with there were just a few of us and I managed to sit down…

the early birds

the early birds

… and then more people started arriving and bringing blankets and we realised that we were going to disappear under blankets and that we didn’t have enough chairs! These two problems were quickly solved by stuffing my car full of the completed blankets and borrowing extra chairs from the café next door! Plus, I mostly stopped sitting down…

What a lovely day it was. I got to meet up with friends old and new and by the end of the day 30 people had participated, we’d made a whole pile of blue and white squares for our communal creation and collected in 45 complete blankets:

All this amazing creative work is being undertaken by kind people from all over the world who are covering all the costs and simultaneously raising money for various charities. Every blanket will be donated to a charity and we may even break a world record!

If you’d like to join in, you can donate money via this Just Giving page or you can donate yarn or squares or make whole blankets… check out this Facebook group or this web page  or @Sixtymilliontre on Twitter to make contact.

-oOo-

* wip = work in progress

Crafting change

It’s been gratifying to see craft taking centre stage in world politics over the past few days… did you see all those amazing hand-crafted hats on Saturday? Knitted, crocheted, sewn, and created from plastic bags (check out Alys’ hat here). Such diversity, such individuality – so common to see if you frequent blogs like this one, but so rare to have highlighted in the mainstream media, where the most common craft stories are ‘did you know that knitting is not just for crones?’ and ‘men invented knitting, so it’s ok for them to do it now’.

Chez snail there are no pink hats – many other colours, but not pink – but the creativity is still being channelled towards social change/craftivism. Despite having treated myself to some lovely new wool on Saturday, my hook has only been employed on scrap yarn, creating more blankets for the 60 Million Trebles project (#onestitchonelife) aimed at helping refugees and highlighting the terrible situation of displaced people.

I completed one blanket over the weekend:

I had intended to move on to making something for myself, but at the moment I feel a strong need to focus on my charitable creations, so I made a start on another blanket using yet more yarn left over from previous projects. I decided to join up the squares as I went along:

But then, I got distracted and started rummaging around and pulling out my sock yarn scraps. These are too fine for the “squares blanket” above, but there are so many of them and the colours are so beautiful that I couldn’t help but start yet another :

I was trying to stick to one blanket at a time, but I’m quite happy to fail at that!

 

A frivolous pastime?

Today, for one reason and another (I’ll spare you the details), I have been wondering whether all the time and energy that so many of us put into the creative crafts is well spent. In particular, I have been thinking about the place of countryside crafts in environmental education.

I do understand that, by many, crafts are considered the preserve of ladies of a certain age with plenty of money and time on their hands. To a certain extent this is true… just as everyone who goes fishing is a working class man and all football fans are young blokes who drink lager. Perhaps I am just being defensive about an activity that I love, but I genuinely do see craft (countryside or otherwise) as a valuable way to spend my time.

Demonstrating the qualities of the wool of different sheep breeds on a felt making course

Demonstrating the qualities of the wool of different sheep breeds on a felt making course

At Denmark Farm we run a whole range of courses at a whole range of levels: from felting for beginners to Phase 1 Survey for professional ecologists; from basketry to bat identification; from food growing to field survey techniques. We train all sorts of people to do all sorts of things, but I would be hard pressed to rank our educational activities in order of importance. A stool-making course does not train someone in woodland management, but by having consumers who demand locally produced wood for furniture-making, we are developing a ‘market’ that might lead to the preservation, or indeed planting, of more woods. Our felting courses emphasise the value of using British wools and understanding the qualities of the wool of different breeds of sheep. Since different species and breeds of livestock deliver different conservation outcomes because of, for example, grazing preference, bite site and hoofprint size, the availability of a variety of animals is key in delivering a range of biodiversity objectives.

In addition, simply engaging individuals with activities that link them to the value of the countryside and associated natural resources is important. Sadly, many of us are distanced from the natural world and never realise the connections between it and, for example, our food production. Recently, the impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees has been in the news. Such insecticides, their manufacturers claim, are good for agricultural production. However, we now know of their devastating impact on pollinating insects and the knock-on effect of this on crops has severe implications for the production of food plants that rely on insect pollinators. By drawing people into the countryside in which all these interactions take place, we can introduce them to the issues and engender an interest and understanding. It is hard to feel invested in a system if you are completely disconnected from it.

Creating something useful

Creating something useful

Furthermore, by offering training in crafts, we build resilient communities in which individuals have the ability to deliver some of their own needs – whether that is producing charcoal, making clothes, encouraging pollinators by building a bee house or, even, earning a living. Encouraging creativity is valuable in itself. Once you know you can make a basket, what else might you be encouraged to try? Creating is a powerful activity and one thing can certainly lead to another. If we are always spoon-fed – with our food coming in a plastic package and our clothes on a hanger – we may never explore our potential to take control of the goods and products we rely on.

My experience of craft classes is that they are remarkably co-operative. Participants help each other, find shared experiences, make friendships and take new ideas forward. Sometimes the outcome is as simple as increased confidence and support, sometimes it’s the formation of a new community or a group project. It may even be something more dynamic – the phenomenon of craftivism is growing and can make powerful political statements as well delivering all sorts of practical benefits.

And finally, I cannot help but feel that the world is a better place with beautifully made things in it: items made with care and love, to be treasured and not simply discarded on a whim.

Sedate or seditious?

What does this say about me?

What does this say about me?

I’ve just come across a recent story from The Guardian with a very promising headline:

Knitting and needlework: relaxing hobbies or seditious activities?

But, on reading the article, you find quotes such as:

Wool shops now are places of luxury offering cappuccino while you browse designer, hand-dyed yarns. Knitting not as necessity, but art – for women who have just too much time on their hands.

and

In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in crafts, partly fuelled by celebrity knitters such as the Duchess of Cambridge and Kate Moss

Ah, so much complete nonsense in one place! Although I have to say that the article is worth looking at for the comments at the end… us knitters are certainly capable of ‘prodding buttock’ with our pointy sticks! I was not aware particularly of ‘celebrity knitters’, unless you count people like Kaffe Fassett or Debbie Bliss, and our local knitting yarn shops would throw you out if you arrived with a coffee and they certainly wouldn’t offer you so much as a mug of instant!

I’m disappointed that our media continue to stereotype in the sort of way this article does – apparently in the past all knitters were grannies and now we are all idle middle-class women, probably knitting whilst reading Hello magazine. The only “seditious” knitters that the author could summon up were Mahatma Gandhi (who described himself as a weaver) and a few goddesses. No mention of Knit the City… or any of the other yarnstorming groups. No mention of Betsy Greer and the craftivism movement. Not even any reference to knitting for charity… not exactly seditious, but certainly generous. Nor was there a hint that many people earn a living from this ‘relaxing hobby’.

Ah well, that’s me getting wound up about the media again. I really should stop reading it… I know I’ll just toddle off and drive my Chelsea tractor to the local yarn shop, to sip designer coffee and fondle all the hand-dyed yarn…

… actually, no, I think I’ll write a blog post about yarn crafts and sedition… watch this space!

 

Calling time… and starter’s orders

Circle of friends on the left and the beginning of a shell stitch square on the right... both with yarn from Katy the Night Owl

Circle of friends on the left and the beginning of a shell stitch square on the right… both with yarn from Katy the Night Owl

It will soon be time to collect in the last of the masterpiece squares… a few more weeks and that will have to be the end. I’m expecting quite a few more to arrive before then, though. Yesterday I finished adding Flo’s squares, and I have a small collection of others that are edged but not yet stitched in. Plus, I keep getting inspired to make another square or two myself – currently a ‘circle of friends‘ square and a shell pattern square using yarn that Katy the Night Owl gave me on Wednesday (I wanted to mark our meeting within the masterpiece). Once all of the contributions and additions are stitched together I’ll be crocheting a border around the whole blanket to finish it off prettily… any suggestions for stitches to use gratefully received (I’ve made sure I have lots of yarn) as it’s not something that I have done before and I am dithering somewhat. If any squares do arrive after the blanket is completed, I’ll make a cushion to add to the set for extra comfort when I’m snuggled up thinking about my lovely friends who contributed.

The whole experience of creating a community work of art has been so inspiring to me, though, that I don’t want it to end. I will miss all the support and messages, not to mention the packages arriving through the mail. And so, as one lovely project ends, I have decided to embark on a new one… and you, dear readers, are amongst the first to know.

The current state of the masterpiece

The current state of the masterpiece

In order to raise some money for the wonderful Denmark Farm, I am going to encourage our local community, and those further afield who want to support us, to create some blankets to raffle off. We are going to have a series of ‘Cake and Craft’ afternoons (the first being on 23 April) where people can come along and make squares or embellishments. We’ll be skill-sharing, making friends and raising money all at the same time, as well as drinking tea and eating cake. For those who can’t actually come along, we’ll be accepting donations of yarn or additions to the blankets. I’m hoping that some of our local groups and organisations, like the WI, may want to contribute too. To make it all as inclusive as possible, rather than just asking for knitted and crochet squares (although these will be welcome), I’m planning an applique tree of life blanket too. This is inspired by Kate Chiconi’s quilt, but will be stitched onto a woolly blanket and will include felt, embroidery, knitting, crochet… anything the makers feel like. I’m still firming up details, but hopefully this new challenge will be another fun way to use crafts to draw together a community and have a positive impact on the world… ah, yes, craftivism again.

%d bloggers like this: