Have your say

Increasingly I discover people who read this blog, but who never leave a comment. Hello to all of you!

A good spread

Come and join the party!

I know that one of the issues is that, to comment, you either have to have a WordPress blog or give some of your details, and many of you don’t want to do this. So, as an alternative, I have set up a Facebook page for the blog (and perhaps more). In theory, a link to each blog post should appear on the page as soon as it is published. If you have a Facebook account, you can leave any comments there. I also have a Twitter account (@thesnailofhappy) and links to all my posts automatically appear there too – and can be commented on (briefly). To follow me on Twitter, simply click on the link on the right.

If you want to join in with the conversation and already make use of one of these forms of social media, where’s no need to share your details with WordPress.

I really hope this means that I’ll hear the thoughts of more of you out there.

Ask and you shall receive

One of the things I’m trying to do at the moment is to avoid buying new things if I can get something secondhand. The idea is that this will reduce my drain on the earth’s resources, help decrease the amount of stuff going to landfill and satisfy my needs.

So, the other day I stopped myself taking the easy option (when you have enough money) and simply ordering a wool winder and a swift from Loop’s knitting shop. Recent purchases of yarn have regularly been in the form of hanks and draping them around chair-legs and winding by hand is a bit of a pain – and very slow. Owning these two items makes the process much easier and quicker.

This is my swift

This is my swift

However, I reminded myself that I do have a swift, albeit a broken one. It’s actually an object that I have great sentimental attachment to because it was given to me by a very dear lady who taught me embroidery. She was quite a hoarder, but often passed on fabric, embroidery silk and other sewing-related things to me and my mum (I have a collection of beautiful mother of pearl buttons from her). She gave me the swift about 30 years ago and I know it was old then, so it must be an antique. Sadly she passed away a few years ago, but the swift remains with me.

The broken 'arm'

The broken ‘arm’

Currently it’s held together with tape, but I plan to mend it with glue and fine twine, which I am hoping will give it many more years of (gentle) use. With all that trellis contraption, it’s no wonder that it’s got damaged. I’m pretty sure that it’s at least 60 years old and may be significantly older. It may even have been made by the husband of the lady who gave it to me as he was very good at woodwork. I’d be interested to know if anyone has seen one like it before. Anyway, whatever its history, it’s going to be put back into service soon.

A yarn winder

A yarn winder

So, the swift was already in my possession, what about a ball winder? My mum used to have one, but it ended up in a charity shop, I think. I, therefore, used the power of social networking and appealed to my friends on Facebook to see if anyone had one they didn’t want. In the spirit of bartering, I offered a pair of hand knitted socks or crochet slippers in exchange. And within a couple of hours I had one person who thought her mum had one, one offer to order a secondhand one from e-bay in the US (only new ones on UK e-bay at the time) and one person who thought they had one and would look. After a brief pause, my friend Susan came up trumps – she had one in her loft and delivered it on Thursday (she only lives two miles away). In exchange she accepted a cup of tea and a homemade muffin… I even offered money but she wouldn’t take any.

My next job, therefore, is some repair work on the swift, and then I will be able to convert hanks (skeins) into balls as much as I like. Hurrah for reuse and repair!

Nearly ready to use!

Nearly ready to use!

Oh, and if a second winder does become available, another friend would also like one, so I can rehome that too!

Turning my gaze to the world

Me and my masterpiece... all thanks to the internet

Me and my masterpiece… all thanks to the internet

In recent months I have received some lovely gifts as a result of my blogging and, although it’s not the same as meeting in person, I do love the friendships I have made via the Snail of Happiness. I now have genuine friends all over the world – people I e-mail, people I Skype and people who I will go and visit if I am ever in their part of the world. But this doesn’t just apply to distant people… I would never have met Katy the Night Owl without this blog: she is mostly confined to bed, so although she only lives about 500m from me, we had never met. Because of a series of comments here, I now have a new friend who I do actually go and share a cuppa with.

I also have some great friends who I keep in touch with via Facebook – some I knew before, but some I met via the permaculture diploma group on Fb that I’m an active member of (I’m hoping to meet lots of them in person at this year’s permaculture convergence in September in London). I was, therefore, slightly distressed when one of these friends announced that he’s going to stop using Facebook. With his comment, he posted a link to this video, it’s called ‘Look Up’ and highlights how we cut ourselves off from real-life encounters by being glued to our mobile phones, tablets and computers. Now, I agree that it’s not good to lock yourself away with the internet and never have face-to-face encounters, like the Japanese hikikomori and  dokuo,but I don’t agree that it’s all bad.

I know several people who have met their life-partner via the internet… and not just via dating sites, but through blogs and discussion groups. My Masterpiece blanket has been created because of connections via the internet, and that is a real, tangible object. I share photos with friends using Facebook and keep in touch with people who I cannot see because we live so far apart. I support small businesses that I find on-line and I’ve made friends this way too.

The route to so many interesting people.

The route to so many interesting people

What I don’t do is use electronic communication to the exclusion of face-to-face interactions and activities. Mr Snail-of-happiness and I do not take mobile devices with us when we go out to dinner – we sit and talk and laugh and look at each other, and the only other people we communicate with are in the room with us. I go into the garden and plant potatoes… I go to the local yarn shop and chat with the owner… I go on courses and meet new people… I love all that interaction.

So, as with everything, it’s about balance. It certainly isn’t healthy to lock yourself away and communicate only electronically. A virtual hug is not the same as a real hug. A touch of the hand cannot be replaced by an emoticon. I cannot wipe away your tears if I am on the other end of a phone line. I cannot clink gasses to celebrate a success via Skype. If you meet me, you see my full range of emotions; if you read my blog, you see selected highlights. But, even so, I still love writing my blog, making connections and sharing. I gain a perspective on the world that is not otherwise possible. If I watch the news, I get a very skewed view of other countries, but my friends in Tasmania, Albuquerque, Victoria, Brisbane, Cape Town, Paris, Santa Maria, Lima and elsewhere tell me of their true experiences, of what they see in the world and how they – real people – actually feel. Because of this I know that the world is full of creative, funny, caring people who give me hope for the future.

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!

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