Santa Snail

Now it’s over, I can reveal what I sent in my role as Santa. One of the down sides of not doing Christmas presents in general is that I do miss the joy of giving. It’s not that I don’t give presents, but usually I just wait for inspiration and buy/make and give things somewhat at random. For Stitching Santa I had the pleasure of stalking reading lots of posts from a blogger I had not encountered before.

My recipient was Julia over at Julia’s Creative Year. I may have given myself away by following her blog immediately I got the email saying she was “my person”, so I didn’t post much about what I was including in her parcel. I spent ages looking at her blog to get a feel for what she likes and I made a list to use as inspiration (including her fondness for flamingoes). As you know I have lots of yarn, so I selected some interesting British wool from my stash (some produced by friends of mine), made a work basket and added some trimmings, vintage mother of pearl buttons, a badge, a crochet hook with a handle and specially bought stitch markers and voila:

I hope she didn’t mind that the wrapping paper was reused, but hopefully she knows what I’m like by now!

Since Julia is also a card-maker and I have piles of card-making supplies that I’m never going to get through, I included a few of those too:


cards, envelopes and handmade paper

I just hope that the parcel reached her, because, being ‘secret’ Santa, your recipient doesn’t know who to send an email to, to say they received it.

I really want to thank Sheila over at Sewchet for organising all this. It gave me great pleasure to put these gifts together and I am loving reading about all the other parcels that have been winging their way around the world. Since there is a strict limit on the spend, most of the gifts are about creative use of what we have in our stashes, and what creativity there has been. I really hope to manage to read all the Stitching Santa posts, but it might take a while to track them down!








My resistance is low

As Oscar Wilde said “I can resist everything but temptation”. And so it was yesterday that I decided not to keep my Secret Stitching Santa until my birthday, but to enjoy opening the presents on the 25th. The idea behind this present-giving, organised by Sewchet, is to send gifts to another crafty person that you are sure they will enjoy. There were two options – a sewing one and a yarny one and I took part in the latter. Tomorrow I’ll show you what I sent, but today is all about what I received.


The parcel for me arrived last week and, as you can see, I couldn’t even open the card because of the warning!


a box of delights

However, yesterday afternoon, I launched into the unwrapping, to find all these lovely things:

Pattern weights, a pin cushion, a cute monkey tape measure, a stitch counter, a tin, stitch markers and more. But the pièce de résistance was a pair of socks. In my whole life, the only person who has ever taken the time to knit me socks, until now, was my nan. But look what was in my parcel:


these are beautiful

And they fit perfectly:IMGP4843So thank you, thank you, Kim The Material Lady – your generosity is greatly appreciated, I absolutely love your gifts.


Three Things Thursday: 16 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, secret stitching gifts. I mentioned before that, despite my usual rejection of all things Christmas, I decided to participate in Sewchet’s festive gift exchange. It’s nice to have an excuse to put together some yarny things that I know will be appreciated… and also to pass on some of my surplus. I made a start this week with my making, creating this little work basket; after all, you can never have too many receptacles for all those “works in progress”:


work basket from Berber carpet wool


Making it was tough on the fingers because the thick carpet wool is quite rough, but it holds its shape well and it should be very robust. In fact this probably counts as a double smile, because I’ve had that particular wool sitting in my collection for several years, so it’s been good to find an appropriate use for it.

Second, food with friends. Some friends came round for dinner on Tuesday evening – I cooked roast pork and heaps of vegetables, followed by apple pie and cream. The food wasn’t fancy, but it was delicious… all the more for sharing it with dear friends. We probably don’t do this often enough.

Third, sleepy dogs. I’m always amused how tired the dogs are after we’ve had people visiting. I smiled a lot at Sam being so crashed out yesterday; she was even too tired for a walk. Oh and for those of you who have asked – Max is still hanging in there . He’s rather frail, but he’s enjoying his low fat, high carb food and a tiny walk on dry days… not a bad life for an old dog.


Sam in recovery yesterday


So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?


Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Three Things Thursday: 9 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, things arriving in the post. I love to receive letters and cards and parcels, especially when they have been sent by friends. The post this week has yielded two of these things – a card from Cathy and a parcel from Ann. Both made me smile a lot.


lovely arrivals


I think I can spare some!

Second, sending things in the post. Although I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, I decided this year to participate in Sewchet’s Crafty Secret Santa event… Stitching Santa. Basically, you are allocated a person to send a little gift parcel to and you receive one from someone else; there’s a budget but you can add extra bits and bobs that you have from your stash. I’m taking part in the knitting/crochet version, but there’s a sewing version too. I’m having fun reading my recipient’s blog and trying to decide what to include in her parcel. I really think I must send some Cambrian Mountains wool and some vintage buttons and some of my spare stitch markers, plus I’d like to make something… I have so many ideas! The suggestion is that everyone opens their parcel on Christmas day, but I may keep mine until my birthday a week later since I rarely receive presents because everyone is so busy with Christmas/New Year that they either forget or just don’t bother. I’m sure my gifter won’t mind a little delay in getting thanks. Oh and I have a parcel to pack up and send to the Beasties too.

Third, 100 swims. Yes, that’s right; so far in 2017 I have been swimming 100 times. That must be a cause for celebration, and must mean that I’m getting fitter.

So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?


Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

17 for 2017 – October Update

Debbie loved her surprise gift

October has seen several of my 17 for 2017 goals achieved, but one that I had hoped to complete has not got done and one has been entirely abandoned. Anyway, here’s progress so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. Two this month and one in the offing, so the current total is 10.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. This goal is complete.

Fifteen… cheeses.  With my training course and the five cheeses that I brought home and am maturing in various ways now, this goal is complete.


so many cheeses this month

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six.

Thirteen… mends. Target reached in May.

Twelve… letters to friends. Target reached in June.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. Complete and more than exceeded now that I’ve got into the habit of doing this. And I’m delighted to say that sales are slowly increasing too.

Ten... plants given to good homes. Target reached in May.

Nine… has been abandoned… Forced enjoyment just wasn’t working for me!

Eight… meals using only our own produce. Target reached in September.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. Target reached in September


 finished near the beginning of the month

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. One pair completed earlier this month, plus two pairs in progress, so the total is 4 plus two on the go… and I have used three different patterns.

Five… book chapters written. None yet, and I really don’t think I’m feeling sufficiently motivated about this at the moment. I just don’t seem to have enough dedicated time to settle down to make plans and get writing as other things keep being more urgent.

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. Target reached in February.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. Still two. Although I have been up there and done some more sorting I can’t really describe it as a dedicated ‘session’.

Two… patterns published and on sale. I failed to get on with the second pattern in the past few weeks, although there really isn’t much more to do. The total, therefore is still 1.

 One… gardening apron. Completed in April.
 So that’s it for now. If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

Happy Birthday – Three Today!


Fizz and kitchen chaos!

I’ve just discovered that this is my third blogiversary… if I’d realised I would have made a cake. Sadly I’ve got no one to share a cake with as Mr Snail has just driven off into the drizzle for his latest week working away in England. Actually, we did open a bottle of fizz last night, for no other reason than because we felt like a celebration, so perhaps we had a premonition. Mr Snail even photographed it on his tablet (hence the poor quality or the picture). We enjoyed it with local smoked trout, potato wedges tossed in paprika and a green salad partially out of the garden, accompanied by homemade mayonnaise – a delicious and very simple meal mostly made with very local ingredients.

Over the past three years I have made some lovely friends here in blogland. I’ve been sad to see bloggers disappear, and delighted when they sometimes return. I’ve written over 500 posts (probably a couple of novels-worth) and chalked up more than 6000 comments! My word, we really do have a dialogue.

Some of the highlights of my time writing this blog have been through different sorts of contact – Skyping with Kate, letters from Karen, seeds from Patrick, swapping a picture for a dragon (he’s on his way) with Pauline, being gifted snowflake bunting from Dani, antique crochet from Kerry and a sketchbook from Anne… to name but a few. I’ve also enjoyed sending gifts of fabric and handmade items, although I seem to have rather lost track of exactly what has gone where!

Of course, the big project that many of you contributed to was my masterpiece… I’m snuggled into it as I write (yes, that’s British spring weather for you). In fact, I’m hoping to have some little gifts to share with those of you who sent a square (or two) very soon… I won’t tell you what yet, but if I don’t have your address, I may be in touch in the next week or so…

Anyway, I really just wanted to say thank you for reading and making this blog such a lovely place to spend my time. And here’s to many more years



The other day my friend Andrea (who I have never met in person) posted the following on Facebook:

Never let the outside world suppress your passion for kindness and altruism. It may be looked at as unorthodox at times, but I promise you that you are not alone. Kindness and love can change the world… we just need to believe that we can make it happen. (John Bryant)

I don’t do new year resolutions – I feel that if a resolution is worth making, you should do it at the time that you think of it… like giving presents. But, having said that, I do think that my focus in 2015 is going to be on kindness and altruism.By choosing to make a stand and to be kind, we can start to separate ourselves from all the confusing stories we are presented with by politicians and the media* and focus on something that is actually achievable, positive and has an impact on our ourselves and others.

If we make connections with other people around the world in a spirit of kindness, we will surely be encouraged to treat our fellow human beings with respect and to respect the environment in which they live. Kindness is not just about charitable donations or helping a friend, it’s about having a caring attitude to everyone. I am especially keen to extend my sphere of kindness to those who I never meet, but who are indirectly affected my choices – the people who make my clothes, grow my food, support my lifestyle.

Some direct kindness is also good for the soul and so later this week I will be dispatching two packages – one to Tasmania and one to the US – to two lovely and inspiring people that I have never met but with whom I wish to share some of my creative bounty. All this is thanks to the kindness of Pauline, The Contented Crafter, and you can read the details here. I want the contents of the packages to be a surprise for the recipients, so no photographs yet… you’ll just have to make do with one of Max testing out some of my packaging material:

This box feels comfy

This box feels comfy

Kindness is something we can all increase in our lives and, in all cases, it will make the world a better place. So, will you join me in trying to be a little kinder?


* Thanks to John B. for another post on FB that made me think about this


Random Crafts of Kindness

The pile of waste outside just one house after Christmas

I don’t want my gift-giving to mean this

As some of you may know, I don’t ‘do’ Christmas. I don’t give gifts and I prefer people not to give me gifts for Christmas. Two years ago I wrote about the history of this decision and you can read about it here, but suffice to say that it has made the festive season much more enjoyable. However, I don’t want you to think that gift-giving is not an important part of my life – it’s just that now  it’s linked to friendship and inspiration rather than a religious festival that, actually, I don’t believe in. And anyway, let’s not kid ourselves – for many people these days, Christianity has nothing to do with their activities in December, it’s very much about consumerism and greed, driven by companies not individuals.

Before I get too cynical, however, I must return to what I really want to say in this post, namely that giving and graciously receiving are wonderful acts, made all the more special by thought and effort going into each action. When we decided to stop giving Christmas presents, we started giving random presents; ‘I saw this and thought of you’ presents; presents at any time of the year; presents that the recipients would really want and at a time when they would want them. This means that sometimes our friends don’t get anything for ages and then, like buses, two arrive in quick succession, but that’s just how it goes.

A little jolly chunky bag

A little jolly chunky bag, which I sent to a sad friend to cheer her up

As time has gone on, however, I find myself making more and more of these presents. Several people now have pairs of crochet slippers because they have admired them and, when I have had time, I’ve made some. Some people have bling string bags, some people have bath puffs… as the fancy has taken me to make them and give them as gifts. And, in the past year, I have randomly sent other bloggers little crafted gifts. Partly, this is paying it forward- in thanks for the knitted and crochet squares that I continue to receive for my friendship blankets (there is a second one in progress, following on from the masterpiece), but partly it’s just because I love being part of this generous caring community, who reach out to each other and provide rays of sunshine even though most of us will probably never meet. The sentiments that Pauline expressed in her post that I re-blogged earlier today really resonate with me, and that’s why I will be participating in both her Random Acts of Kindness: the one that I help instigate and the one for a person I didn’t ‘know’ until today.

As for the festive season… we will eat, drink and be merry; we will enjoy the company of those we love and we will give a donation to our favourite charity; but we will not fill the world with any more plastic waste nor will we fill the pockets of greedy corporations. How about you?


Sissie snuggling in her blankie

Sissie snuggling in her blankie

Last year Patty and Perkin loaned us a dvd; the film was called Lars and the Real Girl. Have you seen it? It’s rather odd, but very endearing and a story that, at the end, you really wish was true because you want to believe that there actually are communities that care enough about their members to overlook their odd behaviour. However, this post is not really about the film, it’s just that the main character – Lars, a sad and troubled man – has a beautiful baby shawl that his mother (who died at his birth) knitted for him whilst she was pregnant. He wears the shawl as a scarf, giving him comfort and acting as a security blanket. I found this rather touching (despite it being fictional) and it inspired me when I found out that Patty was expecting a baby.

I don’t really enjoy knitting the sort of lace shawl featured in the film and, anyway, all those fine threads are just asking for little fingers to get tangled in them, so I made a much more serviceable blankie for little Sissie. It’s got a simple knitted pattern to add a bit of interest and I made it with Sirdar’s Simply Recycled yarn, which is more than 50% recycled cotton and easily washable (another important consideration with items for babies). Apparently, Sissie is rarely without her blankie… I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t have made two of them so there was a chance for washing!

A new blankie from left-overs... it will be creams and yellows with a cornflower blue border

A new blankie from left-overs… it will be creams and yellows with a cornflower blue border

Another of my friends is also expecting a baby. This one is due in the autumn, so a warmer blankie seems in order and this time I have decided to exercise my new crocheting skills and make one out of granny squares. The yarn I’m using is left over from someone else’s baby projects and was bought for a few pounds on e-bay… as usual, it feels good to be turning waste into useful items. It also feels good to avoid jumping on the baby gifts bandwagon. So many new-borns are showered with brand new stuff, which is then hardly used. Perkin and Patty specifically asked family and friends to avoid this consumer-madness, so my gift was made specifically with this in mind… even down to the choice of yarn. Avoiding waste is an approach that permeates their lives, from gardening to running their delightful holiday cottage, so it is natural for them to want the same ethics for their family.

A little bit of internet research reveals how much new parents do spend on a baby, even before it’s born. An article on Netmums from last year states:

…new parents are spending 13% more on their new baby than they did three years ago and are forking out an average of £2,538 before their baby is born. One reason is thought to be that they are copying celebrities who are photographed with the latest ‘must-have’ strollers and baby clothes and equipment. In a poll new mums admitted they were inspired by ‘A-list’ lifestyles and many also said any money sense flew out of the window when it came to buying for their baby. The survey found that newborns in Britain have a £600 wardrobe, £180 toy collection and a nursery costing £463 in furnishings and decorations.

EEKK! And that doesn’t cover all those presents that come with the birth of a baby and the spending afterwards. Well, I’ve been assured that Sissie’s blankie was most welcome and that her pre-birth spend was nowhere near that amount. I’m sure the same will be true for the other imminent arrival and since she is going to be a third child, there will be lots of hand-me-downs as well as the blankie from me.

I hope that Sissie, like Lars, will continue to value her blankie into adulthood (although for different reasons) and if it ever wears out, I can always make her a new one… possible recyled/upcycled from something else!

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank… perhaps they found her under a gooseberry bush!

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