The kindness of friends

In “A Streetcar Named Desire” (now that’s a depressing play if ever there was one) Blanche DuBois’ most famous line is

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers

… and I thought of using it as the title for this post. But it’s not really appropriate, because I consider all the kindness that has been (and continues to be) bestowed on me as a result of my requests for squares to be from friends… even if you weren’t before, you are now.

Cosy squares and vintage crochet

Cosy squares and vintage crochet

The latest little package that has arrived is from Kerry (Love those “Hands at Home”). It contained two fabulous squares using a crochet technique that she learned during a very trying time in her life. You can read the story of the resulting blanket and the associated flood here. She had a couple of squares remaining from this time and sent them to me to add to my latest friendship blanket (still the squares keep coming – thank you one and all). I really love the pattern… in fact I’m so taken with it that I’m planning to use it for one of the big cushions on my sofa. It has some affinities to Bavarian crochet, so should be relatively easy for me to pick up. But the squares weren’t the only thing in the package, there was also a piece of vintage crochet, worked by some unknown lady (well, ok that’s an assumption, but I’m sure I’m right) in the most amazingly fine thread and at such an incredible density that it is stiff. I’m adding this to my collection of lovely things that I have received with the friendship squares. Like the cards I received from Pauline (The Contented Crafter) I want to frame this.

The Dangler of International Happiness – isn’t it beautiful?

And talking of Pauline, I was thrilled to see her post yesterday on another collaborative effort… The Dangler of International Happiness. This work of art is another example of the generosity of crafty bloggers from around the world. In fact, it was initiated by Fran over at The Road to Serendipity rather than Pauline herself. I love how all the different elements have been drawn together to make this…  and so, really I think there is a much more apt quote from Blanche DuBois that sums it all up:

Oh look, we have created enchantment.

And haven’t we just?

Next group project? Something for Fran!

Rays of sunshine

This week has been very grey. Despite temperatures around 17ºC, we’ve hardly seen the sun. That combined with the hour changing and thus it being dark so early in the evenings has made me rather gloomy. It’s great, therefore, that I have such lovely friends to bring some metaphorical sunshine into my life.

Beauty from New Zealand

Beauty from New Zealand

First, I received the first contribution to the ‘lap blanket of late-comers‘. All the way from New Zealand (my most distant square ever) from Mrs P, the Contented Crafter, came this lovely square. And not just a square, but some of her beautiful cards… which I think I’m going to put in a frame… possibly with a crochet border. If you like her cards (and really my photo does not do them justice), do check out her etsy shop.

An abundance of friendship!

An abundance of friendship!

Now that was something to make me smile straight away, but on the same morning I also received a parcel of knitted squares from a dear friend in Yorkshire. These are squares that she had intended to make into a blanket for herself, but she’s got distracted by quilting and decided to contribute them to the friendship blankets that we are making to support Denmark Farm, the conservation charity I am a trustee for. I may be naughty and divert one of these squares (and perhaps one of the ones below) to my lap blanket, even though this will mean that Nia has contributed to both that and the Masterpiece.

And another lot

And another lot

But that was not the end. Yesterday I went to my regular learning guild meeting and was presented with yet more squares for the Denmark Farm friendship blankets. Again, another friend who was planning to make use of these squares for herself, but decided that she had enough projects and that we could give them a better home. In fact Ann has made the most wonderful bedspread out of squares in some of those rich colours that you can see… I must get a photograph of it sometime, I’m sure you’d be impressed. The squares were not her only gift, though. She also presented me with something for the chickens. Originally grown for popping, this colourful corn just didn’t want to cooperate, so it has been consigned to being chicken feed. I tried it out on the girls this morning and they weren’t sure whilst it was in the tin, but soon tucked in once I’d scattered some on the ground:

So, even though the sun hardly showed its face this week, there were many bright moments. Many thanks to everyone who acted as a sunbeam!

PS You may notice that Esme is looking rather the worse for wear… on Monday about half her feathers fell out, but the reason is now clear… she had a whole batch of new ones just ready to burst forth! I have never understood why chickens moult in the autumn, but this year she’s certainly not getting chilled!

Finally, we spent the night together

Our relationship began just before last Christmas. It started small,  a bit at a time and I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Really it was just an idea to begin with, but somehow things grew and grew and before I knew it the whole thing seemed to have taken on a life of its own. Things did get rather hot over the summer and sharing a bed simply wasn’t an option. But, finally, last night it felt right.

The morning after

The morning after

And so, for the first time, I snuggled down to sleep under the Masterpiece*. And very cosy it was too. I foresee many warm and happy nights thanks to my friends from around the world.

Very snuggly

Very snuggly (and Max agrees)

-oOo-

* If you haven’t met the Masterpiece before (I know I’ve had a flush of new readers recently), the story starts here.

It started with a post…

A square representing many permaculture principles

The first square and letter

On 18 December 2013 I wrote post entitled My Masterpiece, inviting my blog readers to contribute to a knitted and crocheted blanket. I really didn’t dream that this would result in contributions arriving from around the world… North America, Africa, Asia and especially Australia. The very first square arrived before Christmas, in fact the letter that came with is was dated 19 December! That one was from Jennie… who came on one of my introduction to permaculture courses about three years ago. After that they just kept coming… I had weeks and weeks of getting little packages containing a square or two (Willow), or three (Nia) or even nine (Flo); I also received some lovely gifts – several of these from Australia, which must have added significantly to the postage. The whole experience was like having one long birthday!

A very special square

The final square to arrive

Of course all good things must end and so it was with slight sadness that I received my final square… hand delivered by Lorraine in June. I had a schedule to meet and so it couldn’t go on forever, how ever much I would have liked it to. It was bad timing, really… I had to crochet the edging of the blanket during a very warm summer, wearing shorts and t-shirt but swaddled in a cosy blanket. I managed to avoid passing out from heat exhaustion, and it was all finished in time for my diploma accreditation presentation as planned. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking it with me to visit all sorts of people and be duly admired, frequently with the comment “Oh I wish I could have contributed”. So, I have some good news… at the suggestion of the lovely Hannah from The Inkpot, I am (or rather you are) going to make a “Late-comers lap blanket”. Now is your chance to contribute if you didn’t before (or even if you did and want to again), but this time I’m not going to tell you what size square or rectangle to make… this is going to be a much more free-form creation and we’ll see what comes from it. It’s probably best to aim for something between 6 and 9 inches/15-22cm, but I will be able to accommodate anything… oh dear, famous last words! And, even better, I’m not on a deadline with this one, so you can take your time.

Of course, you start something like this and it makes ripples. The idea of this sort of crafty community creation was the inspiration for the blankets we’re making at Denmark Farm, three of which are now finished:

These (and more) are going to be raffled off to raise funds to support the work of the charity. I’ve just applied for the licence to run this ‘lottery’ as it’s legally termed and then I can get tickets printed up and start selling them.

But that isn’t the only ripple. Last night I had dinner with Jennie who made the first square. She’s recently had a a baby boy and she has decided that if people want to give him something, she’s going to ask for squares to make a friendship blanket – how great is that? I love the idea of marking a birth with this sort of creative project – so much more special than plastic toys, clothes or silver bracelets.

If my project has inspired you, perhaps you can use the idea yourself… if so, I’d love to hear about it.

Blanket #1

Blanket #1

Ta-dah!

HURRAH! In the past few days I’ve received the paperwork confirming that I have passed my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design and I’ve completed my masterpiece blanket, which illustrates my diploma journey.

I promise that I will now update the masterpiece pages here on the blog and on Pinterest. I also plan to create a more user-friendly way of looking at all the squares and reading their stories… watch this space!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the blanket – yarn, squares, support, ideas – without you all it wouldn’t have been possible.

Edging towards the finish line

Just thought a little post on the progress of the masterpiece blanket is in order for my regular readers.

Despite crocheting bunting for Scarborough and finding fabric for Queensland (a little of which I had to remove from the parcel to make it less than 2kg and thus affordable to send), I have managed to fit in a bit of work on the edging… actually three and a quarter rounds so far, which is no mean achievement considering what warm work it is!

I must also direct you towards a blog that I think many of you might enjoy… I had to stop reading back through the posts because I was spending so much time, but if you have an hour to spare, take a look here… you might be as tickled as I am with it.

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.

Not quite the big reveal…

I know that lots of you have been itching to see progress on the Masterpiece and I have been remiss about keeping you updated. Frankly, over recent weeks, something had to give and this was it. As a result I have lots of squares to post up on the Masterpiece Page as well as work to do on the scrapbook, although some of the pictures have made it onto the Pinterest board. However, having got my portfolio of permaculture designs sent off at the beginning of the week, I have had time to focus on some crochet.

Yarn from Karen... just starting the square

Yarn from Karen… just starting the square

All the squares that I have received are now part of the blanket and there is a gap for just one more that I’m expecting very soon. The final square that I am making myself is from wool sent to me by the lovely Karen B of Sweet Baby Veg. In fact, I had a couple of other squares already done, but when this yarn arrived this week, I just had to add some to my blanket. I haven’t decided what to do with the rest, but I will, no doubt be inspired soon. Karen was very modest about her gift, saying that it was not particularly original, but I honestly cannot think of a better parcel to arrive through the post. The yarn is made by Tavistock Tastes and Textures and is from their flock of Jacob’s sheep, which graze on Dartmoor. The colours are ‘natural’, ‘rust’ and ‘ocean’. It’s turning out to be lovely yarn to work with and speedily worked up…

Completed square

Completed square

Anyway, this is where I am at so far, with the above square and the one from Lorraine still to be incorporated and then lots of edging. What do you think?

So far, it’s got Max’s approval:

And Sam’s quite keen too:

Happy dogs

Happy dogs

It’s all coming together!

It has been a while since I posted a picture of progress on the masterpiece blanket. Originally Easter was my deadline for receiving squares, but one or two people needed a bit of extra time and my end-point was arbitrary, so now the final date is 20 May. So, if you wanted to contribute, but thought you’d run out of time… you have an extra month. If you do still plan to send a square or two, it would be really useful to know… just put a comment below, or drop me an e-mail.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see what it currently looks like:

The masterpiece today

The masterpiece today

Six by nine

… that’s the size of the Masterpiece.

I have made a big eff0rt over the past few days to to get as many squares as possible incorporated before I have to go away for a couple of days. And here is the result:

Blanket on 11 March

Blanket on 11 March

It was a bit breezy and wouldn’t stay still, but you get the idea. I even managed to add a stem linking the big snail’s border to a leaf in Nia’s square (on the right):

That's one happy snail!

That’s one happy snail!

It really is a blanket now and I know there are quite a few more squares to come. Thank you, one and all!

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