The currency of memories

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa, over at Arlingwords wrote a post about making some felt sand dollars… replicas of the sea urchin shells that are found in various places round the world. I saw the pictures and they reminded me that about 40 years ago my grandmother gave me a sand dollar necklace. She had bought it on one of her trips to visit my uncle and his family in Cincinnati, although I can’t for the life of me imagine why a place such a long way from the sea would have been the source of this. On reflection, she also gave me a shark’s tooth and I think she told me she’d picked it up on a beach, so they must have visited somewhere coastal. I hadn’t worn, or even seen, the necklace for ages, but the memories came flooding back.

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A fish from Nana Cathy

Back in the present, Lisa was feeling glum, so I offered to make her a cheerful pussy hat. She asked if I could make it any colour other than pink and I said I could. Having shared my sand dollar memory with her, she said she would send me some of her felt creations in return. “How lovely,” I thought, “I’ll make them into a sea mobile with Nana Cathy’s fish and maybe some crochet sea horses using Wild Daffodil’s pattern.” Now, I’m wondering about other things – starfish, seaweed, sea slugs (they can be very colourful)… we will see.

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A diversity hat!

I decided to celebrate diversity in Lisa’s hat and used some fabulous multi-coloured wool that had been dyed in Wales. Parts of it almost look as if it’s on fire, so I hope it helps to brighten dark days and fan the flames of hope. It arrived safely and you can see a picture of Lisa modelling it on her blog here (showing off the ‘ears’ rather nicely); I’m always relieved to see that something I’ve made actually fits! Then, when I arrived home from London, a little squishy parcel was waiting for me, with these inside:

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A few dollars more

Aren’t they lovely? Of course I wanted to photograph them with my necklace… which I then couldn’t find. I thought it was in my wooden jewellery box, but there was no sign of it there. I searched several draws and other likely spots, but had no luck. I was beginning to think that it may have been lost or that I might have given it to one of my nieces, when I finally found it in a little Chinese bowl, full of old ear rings! What a delight to hold it again. I had forgotten about the little ‘doves’ that are found inside a sand dollar and that are on the chain of my necklace. As I held it I also remembered that some people consider that the life of Jesus is represented in the sand dollar (there are some poems explaining the symbolism here), which I seem to recall my grandmother telling me. To me, though, it’s not about anything more than a precious memory of my nan.

So, my sincere thanks to Lisa for reminding me of this treasure and adding to its history with her felt companions.

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My riches

 

 

 

Playing

Whilst I’m busy trying to boost my stock levels for my stall at the IPC, I also know that it’s important have a break and do something different sometimes.

So, this is what my work table has looked like over the past few days:

Isn’t that exciting? I don’t often use a protractor and compasses. And, look, I’ve got a new hole punch for paper and fabric (although it has struggled a little with the scrim backing on the felt I’m using). A couple of months ago I started making a felt bag, but I was really unhappy with the result, so I put my work to one side with the intention of coming back to it later. This weekend I finally admitted that the felt was not what I wanted for the bag and that it was time to do something creative with it.

So, I’ve been experimenting with making little pouches… or perhaps purses. As you can see from the number of templates, I couldn’t quite decide how many holes to make for the drawstrings. In fact, the felt that I’ve been working with is a bit thicker than would be ideal. Nevertheless, I have learned quite a lot and I will add some of the little pouches to my stall in September. I may even get round to making some felt especially for this purpose. What do you think?

Bag ladies… but not me

Yesterday, I spent another lovely day felt-making under the guidance of Lorraine of Greenweeds. We learned how to incorporate a variety of objects into our felt – sequins, shells, beads and other three-dimensional objects – as well as how to make a pocket  inside a bag. We spent the morning exploring techniques:

And then in the afternoon, most participants made a bag using one or more of the techniques. I didn’t… I just wanted to continue playing, so I worked on a flat piece. I really enjoyed the act of creating something without a particular end in mind – it was rather liberating and meant that when I’d had enough I was just able to stop and know that I have achieved all I wanted to.

When I got home I decided that I didn’t want to do much more work on my creation, so I put it in the washing machine and it felted to a nice thick piece, which I am going to cut into a square and use as a table mat. Here are some details:

The next piece of felting I embark on will be a long-planned bag that I now feel ready to tackle thanks to techniques learned yesterday.

Beach-combing with a deaf dog

It doesn’t take much to keep me amused – a sunny afternoon and a trip to the beach with the pups and I’m happy. I’m even happier if I know that the outing serves several functions, as was the case today…

On Saturday I am attending a felting workshop entitled ‘Hiding Places: Felt Bags’. In this class, aimed at more experienced felt-makers, we are going to be learning about embedding objects in our felting and using resists to make hidden pouches. I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to attend because it was originally scheduled for last Saturday when I was teaching statistics, but fortunately it was moved by a week and so I can go. The pre-course information came the other day and included the following:

Could all participants bring with them a few bits and pieces they might want to embed in their felt. This could be (but not exclusively limited to):
•    Small beads
•    Shells (including snail shells for Jan)
•    Open weave fabrics: old chiffon scarves, bits of cotton muslin, that kind of thing
•    Small stones or sticks e.g. Driftwood and pebbles
•    Sequins, shisha mirrors
•    Even small metal washers
•    Glass beads/pebbles
Nothing should be much larger than around 2.5 cms (OK driftwood sticks might be larger), smaller is great. What we will be doing is using resist techniques to ‘hide’ things in the felt, then reveal them (or not). Ideally bring things that go together as a ‘collection’ of things.

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My existing collection

See? I even get a special mention!! Thus inspired, I thought that Max and Sam would enjoy accompanying me on a trip to the beach to seek out some suitable shells to add to a little collection that I was given by some friends last year. The beach was almost deserted, but you’ll have to take my word for that because I forgot to take the camera… probably a good job as I was kept rather busy throwing Sam’s ball for her and rooting about for shells. Max does not generally move very fast, he usually just potters around sniffing things. But not today. Today he decided to demonstrate how useful he finds his deafness.

Collected today - despite the Max-shaped distraction

Collected today – despite the Max-shaped distraction

Max likes chasing sea birds. Actually, he likes running vaguely towards them and has never succeeded in getting closer than 20m away before they take off. Today there were oyster-catchers, which Max eyed for quite a while before deciding to make his move. I noticed him setting off in their direction and diverted him away three times before he suddenly discovered his accelerator  and departed like a bulled across the sand. There is no point in calling him back – he cannot hear and even when he could, he would not have paid any attention (it’s the Lhasa apso in him – they are very willful dogs). Fortunately he was slowed when he encountered a stony area and I managed to retrieve him with the inconvenience of only slightly wet trainers. From then on he had to stay on his flexi-lead and I had to collect my treasures one-handed. Despite this, I managed to make a nice little collection – choosing some shells that were worn away to expose the spirals inside. I’m not sure how these will work with the felting, but it will be interesting to experiment and I will report back next week.

All-in-all, a successful excursion, resulting in a happy me and tired dogs as well as my treasures.

Sam needs a lie-down to recover

Sam – recovering

Cocoon

I took the afternoon off yesterday to go an visit an exhibition entitled Cocoon. My friend Lorraine Pocklington has her felting and natural dying work on display at Rhosygilwen near Cardigan. It’s well worth a visit if you are in Pembrokeshire over the weekend (until Sunday 19 October).

Tŷ Solar in the rain

Ty Solar in the rain

The work is being exhibited in Tŷ Solar, an amazing eco-house on the Rhosygilwen estate that shows off just how energy efficient a well-designed house can be. Even on a rainy, grey day the house was bright and warm inside and provided a lovely setting for all of Lorraine’s creations. Her work adorned the kitchen, living room, hall, bathroom and two bedrooms. She had included practical items – place mats, oven mitts, a bath math – as well as clothes, shoes and decorative objects. It really goes to show what a versatile material wool is. I think that the work speaks for itself:

What a talented friend I have!

One last very special square

Today I received the final square for my Masterpiece blanket – delivered by hand by the lovely Lorraine of Greenweeds. She is the person who taught me how to felt and who is a fount of knowledge about all things wool. She makes amazing things from felt, with a particular emphasis on British wool. I was quite surprised, therefore, that the square she brought me is knitted:

A very special square

A very special square

But there is a reason. In the letter that accompanied it, she wrote:

It was knitted from my first (decent) spinning from the very first shearing of my darling sheep Dipsy. Knitted, then, in 2004 so somewhat older than some of the squares I imagine.

Without Dipsy and her brother Dribble I wouldn’t have “discovered” wool. Without discovering wool I wouldn’t have “discovered” felt. Without discovering felt I would have been a different person, with a different life, and there’s every chance we would not have met.

And so, you see, although very plain this square is nonetheless very special to me and I am happy that it has found a special home in your blanket.

So now you know just how what an amazing gift this is. I’m quite overwhelmed to have received this and delighted to include it as the final piece in my Masterpiece. Thank you Lorraine.

Honestly, I have felt better

Sometimes it just feels like everything is falling apart

Sometimes it just feels like everything is falling apart

Today I am really quite depressed. Usually I do not let politics impinge much on my life… I know that what happens in my country and the rest of the world is important, but I prefer to focus on things that I can have a direct impact on: my garden, my community, my local economy, my buying choices and so on. Today, however, I am very upset by the results of our recent elections – those to select our representatives in the European Parliament. I’s not so much the fact that he highest number of votes cast went to UKIP – a bunch of racist, homophobic, climate-change deniers – although that is bad enough. My real issue is that so few people actually voted – only about a third of the population were bothered enough to turn out.

Now, I accept that you might now want to vote for any of the parties or people on offer, and that it would be great to have a box to tick for ‘none of the above’, but failing that, just go and spoil your ballot paper – that way at least you have registered your involvement. Many commentators much more eloquent than me have described why it is important to vote, so I don’t plan to go into the arguments here. I do, however, wish to highlight the fact that the right of ordinary people to vote in Britain was hard-won and it’s a privilege that many people in the world still don’t have. Let’s not give a mandate to dictators just because we can’t be bothered to participate.

Pre-felting

Pre-felting

So, to cheer myself up I decided to be simultaneously destructive and creative. Some people break things when they are upset, but this just upsets me more. However, today felt like a day for transformation… and I have directed my attention to a cashmere cardigan. I loved this cardigan… it was very expensive… I wore it until it started to fall to pieces… then I mended it and wore it some more. Finally, however, it was beyond hope and I put it in a drawer because I simply could not bear to throw it away. But I decided that today was the day to transform it. I thought about cutting it into pieces to make a cushion cover, scarf or even a square for the masterpiece, but I knew that it was really too fragile for this and so, the only answer was washing-machine felting.

Post-felting

Post-felting

First I put it in the machine with a throw that I use on my work chair and that Sam had slobbered all over this morning (thank you Sam), but I was nervous and only risked a temperature of 50ºC. It came out a bit felted, but not very. So, since it’s a sunny day and the solar panels are doing their stuff, I then put it in with some towels at 90ºC… kill or cure! The result was a bit scrunchy, but definitely felt and usable for something… I just have to decide what now. It’s interesting that you can still see the knitted structure:

Knitting still visible

Knitting still visible

But that closer inspection reveals the felting:

Felted cashmere

Felted cashmere

Well, at least I’ve achieved something positive today.

 

The wonder of wool

Yesterday I went on an adventure with Kate … over the mountains to Builth Wells and the magical land of Wonderwool.

Kate helped me to get to grips with crochet on a course last year and, since then, I haven’t looked back. It seemed very appropriate, therefore, for us to go to a festival of wool together. The most direct route between Kate’s house and Builth Wells involves a 20-mile stretch along a single track road over the mountains, complete with hair pin bends, plummeting drops and tiny bridges:

The road's so small it barely appears on the map!

The road’s so small it barely appears on the map!

We were quite surprised, therefore, to meet an articulated lorry part way! Fortunately for us, he had clearly decided that he’d made a mistake and had pulled in to one of the very few places it was possible to pass such a large vehicle – a forestry track where, with some manoeuvering, he could turn around. He wasn’t still there when we came back, so clearly he’d managed it.

We got to Builth and the Royal Welsh showground without further incident but ill-prepared for the woolly assault on our senses. There was just so much to see and so many stalls. We spent at least the first hour wandering around, stroking things and saying ‘wow’ before we were able to pull ourselves together enough to sit down with a coffee and formulate a plan. This was quite difficult, because all the stands were so mixed up that it was not possible, for example, easily to compare all those selling alpaca yarn without walking about 15 miles back and forth. However, part of the reason for going was inspiration and there was certainly plenty of that… from felt quilling to interesting bags, from a dragon to an autumn woodland, as well as yarns in every colour and gauge. Not to mention a few of the most important contributors: sheep and alpacas!

Wonderwool Wales 2014

Wonderwool Wales 2014

So, I know you’re itching to know what I bought! Well, I was quite restrained and only purchased a hand-carved lucet, a ball of yarn to knit socks for Mr Snail-of-happiness and a piece of hand-dyed cotton scrim to use for nuno felting:

Yarn, scrim and lucet

Yarn, scrim and lucet

And then, I wanted some yarn to make a Bavarian crochet blanket (in the style of Teddy and Tottie). This is what I bought:

Yarn for my Bavarian crochet

Yarn for my Bavarian crochet

I fell in love with this yarn for several reasons: it’s amazingly soft (a mix of alpaca, Blue-faced Leicester and Wensleydale wool), it comes from Yorkshire and all the yarn colours are named after places I knew as a child because that’s where I grew up. The three I chose are: Eccup (the reservoir a mile from my old family home), Filey (a seaside town we used to go to for the day in summer) and Bramley Baths (well, we used to go swimming at Meanwood Baths, but close enough!). I also love the company name… and the fact that the yarn came with a lovely cotton bag. It wasn’t cheap yarn and so it’s going to be quite a luxurious blanket, but I’m really looking forward to working with it. I was unsure about which colours to choose and dithered a lot about ‘Filey’ because it’s not a colour I would wear, but (as Kate pointed out), I’m not going to wear my blanket, am I?

Now, I think I was quite restrained, don’t you?

 

 

November round-up

Well, it’s been an interesting month… lots of new followers, three blogging awards,a guest post written for the Transition Network, more visits to my blog than ever before, discovering some really interesting blogs to read and making new friends. Thank you, especially to everybody who made comments – I have been informed, inspired and encouraged by you all. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that the blog address has changed slightly in the past week, it’s now simply http://thesnailofhappiness.com … I decided to pay for hosting so that I could prevent any adverts appearing without my knowledge (if you’ve seen any in the past, they have been nothing to do with me!) and at the same time I was able to register this name for the site.

I thought that this final day might be a good time to report back on some of the subjects I’ve written about, including some of those that generated lots of comments.

The month started off with a poem… only the second one I have included on the blog ( the first was a gripe about WordPress not working properly!) which seemed to get things off to a good start as this is the post that’s received most hits so far (although you have to remember it’s had the longest time to do so).

Some lovely new feather on the top... not very speckledy though

Some lovely new feather on the top… not very speckledy though

Esme the chicken has featured a couple of times as I reported on the progress of her moult. I’m pleased to say that she now has a tail again (she looked very odd without one) and a lovely strip of new, dark feathers along her back. Unfortunately, she’s now shedding like mad from underneath. I’m guessing that, at this rate she will have a complete set of new plumage around March 2014. There is certainly no sign of her starting to lay again and Perdy seems to have come out in sympathy. All I can say is thank goodness for Aliss – still laying most days despite the low light levels.

No need to think about shampoo for a while now

No need to think about shampoo for a while now

One week into the month, I wrote about the ingredients in shampoo… this generated lots of interest here, with my Facebook friends and when I put a copy of it up on the Blogher website (that had received 115 hits last time I checked). I spent a while mulling over all the comments and, in the end, decided to avoid products that contain SLS (mainly because they seem to adversely affect my sensitive skin) and did some bulk buying as you can see from the picture!

I featured the Lampeter Peoples’ Market in one post and there’s now a link on the venue’s website (Victoria Hall) to my blog… with an occasional visitor arriving that way.

I reported on the progress of my apple scrap vinegar and I’m pleased to say that it really does smell like vinegar now and still isn’t going mouldy. I should be able to bottle it up in about six weeks. After that, I hope to report on the taste and what it’s like to use in cooking.

Hand knitted socks and the wool they were exchanged for

Hand knitted socks and the wool they were exchanged for

The bag that I made so that I could photograph the process is now full of the wool that I exchanged for a pair of hand knitted socks. I mentioned that this felting wool is destined to be made into a large bag; a comment on Facebook may yield a leather strap for this bag in exchange for another pair of hand-knitted socks… how great would that be? Especially since I have managed a net gain in sock wool since the beginning of the month, despite having knitted a pair and a half! I am considering, now that I have the photographs, actually writing up the instructions for making the bag as a proper pattern, but I haven’t found the time yet.

I managed a few philosophical posts during the month, with Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness proving a particularly popular subject that generated lots of discussion; so much so that I couldn’t resist quoting more of his thoughts in yesterday’s post about left-overs. Terry Pratchett is likely to provide me with much inspiration in months to come…and I’m just about to start on his new book Raising Steam so who knows what gems that might yield.

As well as shampoo, I’ve bought a few things during the month. First,  my beautiful shawl pin from Artis Ignis; if you are looking for beautifully carved items, do take a look at their etsy shop – they undertake commissions (that’s what my shawl pin was) and are lovely people. And second, my butter bell… a mass produced item but, hopefully one that will improve my diet. I didn’t mention in any posts about buying yarn, but the knitters amongst you will know that it’s very hard to resist, so I did acquire some lovely British wool from Texere (it was on sale – honest) that is likely to be making an appearance in WIPs and FOs in months to come. Oh, and there were my patterns and fabric.. since I won’t be spending quite so much time writing from now on, perhaps I’ll get round to making my nighties.

Fingerless mittens in action

Fingerless mittens in action

My Lazy Sunday turned out to be quite productive… and I surprised myself by completing the second of Mr Snail-of-happiness’ fingerless mittens in record time. I really ought to write this pattern up as it is really easy. I used 6-ply sock wool, which should make for a very hardy pair of mittens… they are likely to outlast mine in pure wool, plus they are very nice colours because of the self-patterning yarn. I think these could be good trade goods too.

And so, I progressed through the final week, managing a post every day. Those of you who were with me from the beginning of the month may remember that I started blogging every day to keep Mr S-o-h company whilst he was participating in NaNoWriMo. His target was 50,000 words in 30 days whilst was mine was a blog post every day for 30 days. I’m really pleased to report that he wrote every single day until he reached his target on Thursday 28 November. The result is Kirkenes Blue…. I think it’s a crime novel, but I haven’t been allowed to read it yet. He will now spend some time working on it, then I will edit it and proofread it and in a few months you should be able to buy it as an e-book. Watch this space and I will let you know.

So that’s it for November… I won’t be blogging every day from now on, but do keep reading and commenting…

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!

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