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


Take a chance

Would you like to own a masterpiece? Not mine, but one inspired by it. Well, here is your chance… at least if you live in the UK.

Sociable and creative

Sociable and creative

Early on in 2014 I had the idea to start some sort of ‘knit and natter’ or ‘stitch and bitch’ group up at my beloved Denmark Farm. However, I didn’t like either of these titles… partly because I wanted to open the group up to all sorts of crafters, partly because I didn’t like the gossipy negativity, and partly because I wanted to build in the idea of afternoon tea! I really wish at the time I’d come across the word ‘crafternoons’, but that didn’t appear in my lexicon until about July this year and so I came up with Cake and Craft (or possibly Craft and Cake, depending on your emphasis!). Originally my idea was just to have a social group with lots of creativity, but my dear friend Linda suggested the idea of fundraising as part of it and so, we created a project entitled Everything is Connected … and started making connections through eating cake and crafting.

An evening spread

An evening spread

Over the months we’ve spent some lovely afternoons, and a few evenings (we call those Cawl* and Craft) with hooks and needles, creating beautiful blankets inspired by my masterpiece.

We’ve made four lovely blankets so far, plus a number of smaller items and I’m working on a fifth blanket, and now we are raffling them off. So… buy a ticket or two (they are £1 each) and you might have a masterpiece of your very own! I’ll do you a deal… if you live in the UK**, buy some tickets and I’ll cover the postage to send them to you and I’ll also pay to have the blanket delivered if you win one (make sure you tell me if you have a preference – first drawn gets the choice). How can you resist?

In fact, the blankets aren’t the first prize – that’s a long weekend for two in our beautiful ecolodge… just 12 miles from where I live – you could come round for a cuppa!

So, if you fancy your chances, send me an e-mail to my snailofhappiness address that you can find on my ‘about’ page and we’ll make arrangements.


* Welsh soup

** If you’re overseas I’m afraid I can’t afford to cover the cost of sending a blanket… but if you really want one, I’ll make the arrangements if you cover the cost should you win!

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)


* 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

The Masterpiece Displayed

So, Saturday was the day when the masterpiece blanket finally got to be a very public manifestation of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. All those squares from across Britain and all over the world were on show at Gilwell Park in Epping Forest, London as I gave my final presentation before receiving my diploma at the UK Permaculture Convergence. Whilst other people choose to use Powerpoint or Prezi on a computer, or have a slide show, I decided to be low tech, but high impact and take my blanket. The main question was how to display it.

When I discovered that I was to give my talk in a marquee, I knew that my initial idea would work, namely to hang it from a washing line so it was easy for everyone to see. The joy of a marquee is that there are lots of struts to fasten your washing line to, allowing perfect positioning. Two very kind people – Katie and Nigel – actually put the line up for me, helped adjust it, and then ran around finding some yarn so that we could tie the bottom to a couple of chairs to ensure it was all visible and didn’t flap about. The result wasn’t bad considering the Heath-Robinson nature of the endeavour:

The Masterpiece in all its glory (picture: Alan Charlton)

The Masterpiece in all its glory (picture: Alan Charlton)

The feedback I received about my talk was that it went well and that the audience enjoyed it – there were lots of questions and a great deal of interest afterwards. My dear friend Alan Charlton kindly took some lovely photographs and you can see that I got quite animated:

So, all-in-all a real success, culminating in me receiving my diploma certificate from my tutor Looby Macnamara:

Receiving my award

Receiving my award (picture: Katie Shepherd)

Especial thanks to all of you out there who contributed… a role of honour to follow later.

L is for…

Mr Snail-of-happiness learned to knit so that he could contribute a square to My Masterpiece. Like everyone else, I asked him to write something to go with the picture of the square in my scrapbook. This is his contribution:

a special contribution

a special contribution

I’m just finishing off the scrapbook… photos to follow.

Blog hop

Many thanks (I think) to Kate Chiconi for nominating me to take part in this blog hop… aimed at introducing you to new blogs written by lovely creative people. Kate’s blog Tall Tales from Chiconia allows me to drool over wonderful (mainly quilted) creations that I would never make myself (having a love-hate relationship with my sewing machine).

Whilst I’m at it, I should also acknowledge that two other people asked me to participate in this blog hop – Jenny of Simply Hooked asked me a few weeks ago and her request somehow disappeared in a flurry of other things so that, by the time I realised I needed to reply, it was too late (sorry Jenny); and Wendy at Quarter Acre Lifestyle, who was pipped to the post because she asked me about two days after Kate! Anyway, go visit their sites too!!

The way this works is that there are a few questions to answer and then I point you in the direction of another couple of lovely creative blogs to check out, so here goes…

What am I working on?

It’s probably easiest to show you…

There’s lots of food and garden creativity too, which is on-going…

Currently, I am getting VERY creative with these:

The weight is in kilos not pounds

The weight is in kilos not pounds

And, at Denmark Farm, a whole group of us are getting creative to raise funds to support the work of the charity and keep the nature reserve open:

How does my work differ from that of others?

Well, apparently there are only a limited number of crafters who make mushrooms, bacteria, molluscs and the like! In addition, I do like to support local businesses (yarn shops and producers) and I try to buy British wool as much as possible. I also like to be as green as I can, so reusing, recycling and selecting ‘green’ yarn is important to me. I have spent quite a bit of time looking into the ethics of knitting yarns and continue to look for good options, although I know that I don’t always succeed.

In my life in general I try to be thoughtful about the resources I use and that’s reflected in my gardening – I like food metres rather than food miles whenever possible and I try to use the things I have creatively – hence a gate from a pallet, growing plants up an old rotary drier, planting seeds in old toilet roll middles etc. I’m certainly not alone in this sort of approach, but I do talk and write about it more than most people!

Why do I create what I do?

Because I’d go bonkers if I didn’t… I know some of you think I’m bonkers already, so just imagine how much worse I would be if I didn’t make all this stuff! Lots of folks I know tell me of the value of mediation (and medication), but frankly creating things is what works for me if I want relaxation or thinking time. What I think of as classic relaxation always feels like this to me:

Now, isn’t a spot of crochet much better than that?

Oh, and hand-knitted socks last so much longer and are so much more fun than bought ones!

And, I want to save the planet!

How does my creative process work?

I start doing about a million different things and then just pick up what I feel like when the mood takes me. This is why I’m not very keen on undertaking commissions… I just never want to do something that I have to do! It all works out in the end for me.

In the garden I do what needs doing plus whatever I feel like… as I said, I don’t like to feel obliged to do anything.

And now for my recommendations… two very different blogs, but both inspiring and both written by good friends of mine.

First is Katy the Night Owl’s blog about her crochet creations. Katy and I met through blogging and then discovered that we live about 500m away from each other. However, because Katy is mostly house-bound we would never have met without the technology. She’s currently helping me to make a dent in the great courgette mountain!

Second is Karen’s beautiful and poignant blog Sweet Baby Veg… full of amazing recipes and lovely pictures of Karen’s garden… I can only dream of a garden oasis as beautiful as the one she has created.

Katy and Karen will be posting their blog hop contributions next Monday, 4 August.

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.

On edge

Finally, all the squares are stitched together in the Masterpiece blanket and so I’m on to edging it.

All the squares!

All the squares!

I had grand ideas of a fancy edging originally, and I did test out one option that I thought would look great:

Test on a spare granny square

Test on a spare granny square

But actually I hate it! I’m sure it would look fine on a baby blanket, but it just wasn’t right for the masterpiece. If you do like it, you can find the instructions here. I realised, however, that what I want for the masterpiece is a frame: something simple. I have never been keen on very fancy picture frames, so why should this be any different?

I have, therefore, decided to start with a few rows of trebles so that there’s a simple base to work from and after that, I think I’m going to do some rows with granny-square style clusters of three trebles, followed by a wavy edge like this:

Bunny Mummy’s Double-V Edging (click on the picture to visit her web site for instructions)

That way, the focus will still be the squares. I might go as far as doing the outer few rows in black rather than blueberry, but I’m  not sure yet.

I haven’t even managed the first round of trebles yet, but at least I’ve made a start and so it should be completed within a few weeks if I focus. After that, I just need to get the scrapbook in order and (finally) update the Masterpiece page here on the blog. The end really is in sight!


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.

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