Dame Hilary, in the Library, with the Knitting Needles

In the United States of America there is a network of Presidential libraries and a library has been established for every president since Herbert Hoover, each located in their home state. In the UK we don’t have such a network, so there is only a single Prime Ministerial library: Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden in Wales.

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Gladstone’s Library

Being the only Prime Ministerial library is not the only thing that makes this place unusual, it is also the largest (some sources say only) residential library in the country. It’s a place that has fascinated me ever since I first heard of it and so, when I saw that Knit for Peace were running a short knitting holiday there, I couldn’t resist.

Last Saturday, therefore, saw me arriving at this amazing building, ready to enjoy meeting other knitters in some impressive surroundings. Outside, there are gardens and an area of woodland, but it is the building that is really impressive, both outside:

and inside

The books are mainly history and theology, so no light reading, but they are accessible on the shelves and you can even sign them out if you are staying and take them back to your room to read. However, I wasn’t really there to read, I was there to knit, socialise and visit some woolly places… which is just what we did.

Upon arrival, we congregated in the sitting room, where I was surprised to be introduced to the founder of the Charities Advisory Trust (the parent organisation of Knit for Peace) Dame Hillary Blume. Two other members of staff also attended the weekend as well as a number of their regular volunteers, meaning that I got to hear lots about their work, from who curates the wool collections for the monthly raffle (which I won last autumn)to the compilation of the Good Gifts Catalogue and what day of the week they have cake in the office.

Each day we went out and about, visiting local wool producers/ retailers, making trips to Abakhan, Black Sheep Wools, The Lost Sheep Company and the Chester Wool Company/Fibrespates, returning to the library to knit and chat. To be honest there was rather more chatting than knitting, and indeed so much chatting that at least two of us (me being one) had to frog some of our work because we made mistakes whilst getting distracted by the conversations!

So, the weekend was a great success – money was raised for the charity, lovely places were visited, knitting was knitted, crochet was crocheted, conversations were had and I made a hat from some of my raffle winnings (it will be returned to Knit for Peace, who will find it a good home).

A million ends later

The play mat is out…IMGP6712

… which can only mean one thing: I have a finished item to block:

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a bit wrinkly 

You may have been wondering why you haven’t seen the optical illusion blanket until now…

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a mitred square

Well, first it took ages to join the squares together invisibly, including running out of blue wool and having to search my stash for some that was close enough not to show. Joining the squares involved putting together one edge that was a single colour against another edge comprising different lengths of the two other colours. The pattern suggested crocheting the join using the colour that formed to one long edge. I tried this, but it meant that the join was visible, because this colour was on the square that had a nice even edge, whilst the  adjacent edge in two colours was made up of the side of the stitches, which are much more difficult to join neatly and invisibly. This problem of joining two edges that don’t have stitches oriented the same way is because each square is mitred, working outwards from one corner, making ever-bigger squares. Anyway, the neatest way turned out to be to use two colours to join every pair of edges – resulting in many, many, many ends to weave in.

Once all the squares were in one piece I added a border of a few rounds using yarn that I already had in my stash, thus limiting my colour choice. Finally, I was able to embark on weaving in all those ends. I went at it evening after evening, only finally finishing yesterday… just in time for the wet weather to arrive and scupper my plans to block this blanket outdoors. So, the mat is laid out in the limery; I pinned the blanket out under the watchful gaze of Daisy – who thoroughly approves of this creation (she doesn’t realise it’s destined to go to Reading with Mr Snail).

 

And another (scrappy) thing

I can’t resist sharing this latest scrappy creation – a third twiddlemuff, this time made from a piece of abandoned crochet.

Ages ago, my friend Danielle gave me a piece of crochet she’d been working on, but which had gone rather wonky along the edges. Originally, I was going to frog it and use the yarn for some charity knitting or crochet, but I was reluctant to pull it apart when the only issue was the edges. Having finished my last twiddlemuff, it dawned on me that this lovely bright, stripy creation would be an ideal outer and that all I needed to do was stitch it into a tube to hide the edges and then make an inner layer.

Tucked away with in the same place, I found a crochet heart that I’d made when I was experimenting with a pattern and that came out too big for the project I was working on at the time, but was perfect for a little pocket now. So, a bit of blanket stitch, some crochet embellishment, a few more buttons from my box, a bit of unwanted ribbon and a piece of cord, some more scrappy yarn either donated or left over from old projects, and Danielle’s abandoned colourful stripes are transformed into another twiddlemuff:

That’s my last one for the time being, but I’m really pleased to have made use of some more “scrap”.

Fiddling with texture

My second twiddlemuff is complete. Again I used quite a lot of Scheepjes Softfun yarn, but I also included oddments of three pure cotton yarns (sunshine yellow, purple and an odd sort of pink/beige) and some cotton-rich bits that came, I think, originally from Jenny (Simply Hooked) a long, long time ago. Anyway, it’s nice and soft and easily washable and, yet again, I added some eyelash yarn so there was something fluffy to stroke and a pocket with a pompom on a string, plus a couple of crochet flowers, a crochet bobble that I found in my bag of scraps (I think it was originally a dragon nostril!), another pompom with sparkly bits and two firmly tied pieces of cotton tape that had once fastened a box of French chocolates.

Finally I rummaged through my button box. I focused this time specifically on finding different textures and selected:

  • a mother of pearl button with 4 holes, stitched on with a cross, for extra texture
  • a shiny, smooth button with a shank… one of the last buttons left from the first cardigan I ever knitted (about 40 years ago)
  • a black ridged button with a shank
  • a classic plastic button with a star indent
  • a green wooden heart

I actually pulled out more buttons than this originally, but the suggestion is that there are only about five items on the inside and five items on the outside, so I whittled my selection down a bit.

I really like this sort of scrappy project – it gives me the opportunity to work with bits and bobs that would otherwise probably remain languishing in a box or bag, plus it’s actually useful. I’m on a bit of a downer about how many scrap projects I see in various places that just convert one useless thing into a different useless, ugly thing…. and even worse, things that potentially spread problems further (plastic bag bunting, for example). I want to find ways to use scraps to make beautiful things, or useful things and that’s one of the reasons I’m always so inspired by the monthly ScrapHappy posts from everyone who joins in – long may you all continue to be so creative.

 

Twiddling

Patricia’s post about knitting for good causes resulted in many suggestions (here on the blog and on Twitter and Facebook) of worthy recipients for our work. One, in particular, caught my eye because it was so local and covered two good causes: Incredible Edible Carmarthenshire (a group who promote community growing in public spaces) were asking for twiddlemuffs, apparently they keep a stock of them to hand out at events and they are running low. For those of you who are not familiar with twiddlemuffs, they are knitted or crocheted tubes, incorporating various textures and items that can be given to people with dementia so that they have something to occupy their restless hands, plus they can simply keep hands warm. I’ve made a few in the past, so I decided this would be a good way to use up some scraps and stash yarns.
Periodically I acquire yarn that I probably wouldn’t actually go out and buy, and projects like the twiddlemuffs can be a great way to use some of this up. My Crochet Sanctuary weekend resulted in me coming home with some lovely blue Scheepjes Softfun yarn, intended to be used for a hot water bottle cover that we started during the retreat. However, on reflection I decided I didn’t really want another hot water bottle cover and so I frogged my work and put the yarn to one side. Rummaging through my stash, though, I came across it and knew that it would be an ideal base for a twiddlemuff – washable and soft.
I started by crocheting a tube, with a few added stripes of yarn with different textures – a bobbly one, a couple of wooly ones, a bit of rough silk/cotton and some eyelash yarn, all left over from past projects.

Double the length, so it can be folded in on itself

I added a little pocket, found a couple of crochet flowers that I made when I was teaching a workshop and stitched these on and made two pompoms – one for the inside and one attached by a crochet chain to take in and out of the pocket. To add some texture, I tied on a piece of cotton tape and a length of silky cord. Finally I attached a few buttons – nothing too weighty, because twiddlemuffs shouldn’t be able to cause harm!

I photographed it right way round and inside out so you could see what treasures lie hidden. The orange bits are on the inside.

Back to the stash now to find the next lot of yarn that needs using up for a good cause…

All an illusion

Somehow there has been much more doing than writing going on at Chez Snail in recent weeks Having completely failed to manage a scrappy project in time for the March ScrapHappy, I am determined now to do better in the coming month. I’ve been busy with some scrap-based things, but I’m saving posting about those so I don’t miss another SH on the 15th. I have completed the crochet for the sofa seat covers, but I’m dithering slightly about the finishing as I have a choice to make about the backing… I think I know what I’m going to do, but I don’t want to post about that until it’s complete.

Much of my time, however, has been taken up with a blanket that I’ve had the pattern for since last summer, but hadn’t quite got round to doing anything with. Originally I was going to make this for Mr Snail to take to Reading whilst he’s working away, but then I decided to make him a snuggly hexie blanket from scraps first. However, having discovered that he’s got two sofas in his rented flat, it seemed appropriate to make him a second blanket. The squares are now all finished, and probably don’t look very promising at first glance:

Dull squares

However, when laid out, look a bit more interesting:

some depth

I rather like how different this design is from most crochet patterns – the simplicity and the optical illusion were very appealing to me, and it will look even better once the squares are joined and edged. The Pattern is Cubine by Magdalene Lee and you can find it on Ravelry. The wool is aran weight and all British: the brown is natural Zwartbles produced by my friend Val; the blue is from Woolyknit; and the cream is from New Lanark.

The long haul

I first started making a cover for my sofa more than four years ago. My interest in the project has fluctuated over that time, but I have always been determined to get there  eventually. I don’t think I’ve updated you on progress for a while, so I here’s what I’ve achieved recently:

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seat cover

This was photographed draped over the sofa (and you can see bits of the back cushions) as it still needs the edging that will allow it to be fitted over the seat. Once it’s done, I will need to think about covering the arms and making a piece to go across the front of the base… perhaps it will be done in another three years!

What I am really delighted about is how hard-wearing the cushions that I made first have been – no pilling, no sagging and the colours have not faded. The wool comes from New Lanark and I can highly recommend it for this sort of project, as well as for warm sweaters.

CD salvage

Do you keep things because it’s difficult to recycle them? We do… especially things that we look at and think they have potential. Which is why, high up on a shelf  in our little utility room, is a box of old CDs. Most of these came free with magazines or were the source of long-obsolete software. For a while we used them as slug barriers in the garden, but the advent of the chickens (which clear the garden of slugs and their eggs over the winter, but are kept away from the veg beds in the summer) made this function superfluous. And so, the box sat atop a shelf until a couple of months ago when the subject of crochet CD mandalas cropped up  during a chat with a friend.

I resisted the urge to look for ideas on the internet and just picked up my hook. My first try was rather tatty and my next attempts looked good, but were a little looser than was ideal, but finally I managed a design that I liked. By making two circles and crocheting them together around a pair of CDs (printed sides together, so you just get shininess showing through), I made something that, with an added loop, can be hung up where it can spin around and catch the light (turn the sound off if you don’t want to hear Sam and Daisy in the background):

Alternatively, they can be used as coasters. In fact, the set of eight that are pictured below (both sides) have gone off to two local holiday cottages owned by a friend for just that purpose.

A little bit of further experimentation with the aim of producing a snowflake seems to have turned into a spider’s web. Oh well, I rather like it anyway:

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I might make a spider to go in the middle

I have a pattern drafted, so I may actually get it published eventually.
It’s turned out to be a rather nice way to use up wool scraps and I have about 200 more CDs, so I’ve got plenty of raw materials.

Pampered pooches

I regularly support Knit for Peace (a wonderful charity) with donations or entering their regular raffles. I’m not generally lucky, but a couple of months ago I was the winner of their British Wool raffle and very quickly the recipient of this box of delights:

I really, really don’t NEED more wool, but it was such fun to receive, and I will probably give some of it away; however I did want to use some of it. As you can see, Sam and Daisy were very interested, so I decided that they could benefit from this unexpected bonus.

Years ago, when we first got a second dog, we bought a big soft bed for them to share, comprising an inner cushion and an outer squishy surround. Over the years it’s got more and more tatty and the filling had clumped together, so that is was extremely lumpy. Neither Sam nor Daisy was interested in using it, preferring the sofa, the carpet or whatever thing I’m knitting or crocheting. I was thinking about this, and realised that the pooches clearly like to snooze on woolly things, so would probably appreciate a woolly bed. Not wanting to entirely discard the original bed I decided to re-cover it, but first I pulled all the stuffing out of both pieces, fluffed it up and put it all back into the cushion part, supplemented with some extra stuffing and a whole load of tiny wool scraps that I have been saving for just such a project. The outer piece went into the fabric recycling bag because it really wasn’t salvageable.

Then I set to work making some squares, which Daisy kept safe for me:

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MY squares

Interestingly, when turned the re-stuffed cushion over, so that the cotton side was upwards rather than the artificial fleece, both dogs became more interested in sleeping on it (as demonstrated by Daisy below right). However, soon it will have a whole new woolly cover and may be even more tempting. I have completed the first side and it has been tested and approved:

The other half is well underway in slightly different colours, so that we can ring the changes simply by turning it over.

I realise that Sam hasn’t had much of a look-in in this post, despite it being about dog beds, so here she is having fun on the beach the other day:

I’m hoping I will have the completed doggy bed ready to show you later in the month.

ScrapHappy November 2018

Finally the blanket from the scraps left over from Sophie is finished (originally featured in ScrapHappy September). Actually, it also includes some other scraps and a few new balls just to get it up to size, along with some of the abundant Cambrian Mountains wool that I had squirreled away and which was perfect to frame the blanket.

As you can see, it’s got cute bobbles on the end edges and is currently being road bed tested by Sam and Daisy (it turns out that Daisy LOVES wool). Here they are modeling it along with the original Sophie:

The pattern suggested just joining the hexagons at the corners, and this is what I originally did, But I wasn’t happy with how loose this made the blanket, so I have crocheted each row of hexagons together, leaving only the adjacent hexagons in each row unattached. This gives it more strength and means it’s less likely to get accidentally damaged because of something getting caught through one of the many gaps.

There were about a million ends to weave in, but I have plans for all the little left-over bits… watch this space.

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just a few ends

And now it’s off to Reading to make Mr Snail’s flat feel a bit more like home and provide a virtual hug from me when he’s there all on his own.

-oOo-

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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