17 for 2017 – May Update

May turned out to see lots of action with respect to 17 for 2017, including another two sets of goals achieved. So, this is progress to date:

17 RCKs 5

A gift vaark

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I could claim that this goal has been completed, having put dozens and dozens of hearts in the community garden in Chorlton last Saturday, but I’m only counting this as one ‘act’. I also made a little vaark which was sent as a surprise to one of the administrators for the 60 Million Trebles project. Thus, the total so far is six.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Three lots in May means I’m just a single batch away from my goal.

Fifteen… cheeses.  I made two lots of Bel Paese-style cheese – it’s really simple, is ready after just six weeks and it’s great for cooking. Th total now is nine

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

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Mended with a swirl or two of Sugru

Thirteen… mends. Leggings, pyjamas and two different sets of headphones this month means that I’ve reached my target for the year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I’ve added just one item this month, the “Start a Revolution, Plant a Garden” embroidery that appeared in the craftivism display. This takes the total to eight.

10 plants rehomed 9

Lemongrass, grown from seed, off to a new home

Ten... plants given to good homes. Although I only gave the first plants away last month, I’ve already reached my target, with summer purple sprouting broccoli, lemongrass and chillies accounting for most of the plants that have gone off to new homes in May.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although there have been several meals that came close.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. My visit to Manchester took my total to six.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. None this month, so still only one made

Five… book chapters written. None yet.

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The squares for blanket six of four

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of February; however, I finished another this month and I’ve nearly finished one more.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None yet.

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern this month, so just the one published in January.

 One… gardening apron. I made this last month.
I’m feeling rather pleased with my achievements this month – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

17 for 2017 – April Update

This month has involved a holiday and a lot of work, distracting me from ticking things off the list; however, here is the April update for 17 for 2017. This is where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I crocheted a little collection of flowers and hearts for the craftivism display at The Make It Shop, to be given away at the end of May. Although there were seven of them, I’m just counting this as one ‘make’ on my list. Most unusually, I completely forgot to photograph them, but I will do so once they are in the display. This takes me to a total of four for this target.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Just one batch in April takes the annual total to 12. We took this batch on holiday with us!

15 Cheeses 7

April’s cheese in the mould

Fifteen… cheeses.  I experimented with making a new sort of cheese this month, using a thermophilic bacterial starter. It is smelling very good, so I hope that April’s solitary cheese will be a success. The total has now increased to seven.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six. I have decided I need to tweak the pattern a little as I have lost a bit of weight!

13 Mends 9

Bucket reinforced using Sugru

Thirteen… mends. Two mends this month – both involved using Sugru to rescue damaged plastic items, namely a bucket and a coat hanger. This takes me to nine different mends so far this year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I haven’t added anything this month, The current total is still seven, but I’ve got some new ideas.

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Here they were, ready to go to their new home

Ten... plants given to good homes. Finally kicking off this aim, I gave away two tomato plants this month to the friend who looks after our hens when we are on holiday.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we took the Scrabble set on holiday, but somehow it never got used.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although plants are flourishing in the limery now, so the future looks bright.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. One lovely visit to see Karen of the blog Sweet Baby Veg – more about this in a later post. My total is now five.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. I planned to knit a pair of socks whilst on holiday, but I could not find the right needles before I went, and so I didn’t manage even to start a pair. Of course the needles turned up as soon as I got home, so maybe I’ll do better this month. The total is still just one pair.

Five… book chapters written. None yet – I’m still not feeling inspired!

4 Blankets 5

A bonus blanket in progress (the fifth of four!)

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of February; however, I have another one underway at the moment – it’s the project I took on holiday in the absence of sock needles!

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None, but now the weather is warming up, the prospect of this happening is increasing.

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern this month, so just the one published in January.

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It’s a bit grubbier than this now!

One… gardening apron. Yay – this one is done, and it’s getting lots of use.

Progress has been a bit slow this month, but I’m still moving forward – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

Mendiferous

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All soles

I had a dilemma this week – my crochet slippers developed some holes and I had the choice of finally giving up on them or mending them. A while back, Kate sent me some sheepskin slipper soles that are no use to her in tropical Australia and I plan to use these to make myself some brand new spiffy slippers at some point, but looking at my old slippers, I decided that there was still a bit of life in them and mending would be worthwhile. I did briefly toy with the idea of using the new soles to mend the old slippers, but actually the new pieces do not coincide entirely where the old ones are worn and, anyway, I have some ideas for the new ones… when I eventually get round to them.

This is the third mend of my old faithfuls and each time I have used a different colour to make the repair obvious. First they had new crochet soles, then I added some crochet reinforcement to the sides, and now finally I’ve done some darning:

The original yarn was a mix of sock wool and some 100% wool chunky, but all the blue mends, including the latest three patches of darning, have been made using Axminster rug wool. The original company that I got the Axminster wool from went out of business, but I’m delighted to say that a new supplier, Airedale Yarns, has popped up. I haven’t ordered from them yet, but I can highly recommend Axminster wool for making slippers – it lasts so much longer than any other yarn I’ve tried for the job.

So, my slippers live to be worn another day. I’m pondering whether there will come a point when there is nothing left visible of the original slippers… or , indeed, whether they will eventually become unsalvageable.

Do you have items that are mended repeatedly? And when do you decide to give up on them?

Mending

I’ve just got back from a weekend away, meeting up with a whole bunch of people involved in permaculture. In the whole of the event, the only pictures I took were these:

Before and after shots of a mend I managed on a poncho belonging to one of the other attendees. Perhaps the metaphor is enough… let’s all try to mend the world one little hole at a time.

Three Things Thursday: 9 February 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday…

Before I get started, though, I have to say that I could probably have listed thirty things this week, but here is just a tiny selection.

First, a mend by Alfred. One of the things we don’t have skills for Chez Snail is metalwork. However, we know a man who does. So, on Saturday, whilst I was crocheting, Alfred, who I was staying with, mended our Kelly Kettle. This much-mended item had finally got to a point where we could do no more – the rivets had failed so that water poured out and the anchor for the chain that allows you to tilt the kettle without getting burnt was detached completely. Cue, Alfred, who braised it for me and now it’s back in use.

In days gone-by this is the sort of thing tinkers did – travelling round the country mending pots and pans – now that’s a profession that could do with resurrecting.

Second, germination. Only tomatoes so far, but what a delight it is to see the first shoots emerging from the soil. Plus the potatoes are starting to sprout.

Third, the kindness of people. I know that I wrote a whole post on the get-together in Manchester over the weekend, but I’m still smiling about the fact that 31 people came together to craft for charity – between them, they covered all the costs and raised some money too. They laughed, they chatted and they created. And then they went home and shared the love on social media.

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crafting a better world

 

So, those are 3 things making me smile this week – what about you?

Three Things Thursday: 12 January 2017

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain (note her new self-hosted web site) here are my Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, our local library. I haven’t been a member of a library since I resigned from the university, but last Saturday I finally got round to calling in to our local town library and joining. Since I spend all day editing, I don’t read many fiction books (I listen to audio versions, which the library also stocks – yay), but I do make lots of use of non-fiction books. So, here is the first one I have borrowed:

Some inspiration when baking for my gluten-intolerant friends

Some inspiration when baking for my gluten-intolerant friends

Second, boro. I’ve been meaning to have a go at Japanese visible mending for a while. I’m quite pleased with my first attempt, which I wanted to be subtle in case it turned out badly! There is substantial reinforcement on the reverse. This is one knee of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans.

Boro: visible mending

Boro: visible mending

Third, my first pattern sale. It’s taken me ages and a lot of hard work to finalise my bird roost pattern, but it was very gratifying to make my first sale of it from my etsy store. This little boost is encouraging me to get on and finish a second pattern that I’ve been working on – knitting this time.

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A roost made to test the pattern

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Finish as you mean to go on

So, here we are on the last day of the year…

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, I believe that when you want to make a change in your life you should do it when it’s right for you. Making resolutions because someone has told you that you ought to means you are much more likely to fail. However, it’s good to take stock sometimes and today is as good a time as any to do so. For me, 2016 has  involved lots more little steps to have a smaller negative impact on the planet and make life a little better for the people who live on it: from trying to be responsible for less plastic packaging (using soap and shampoo bars, taking our own bags and containers to the shops, seeking out products packaged in paper/cardboard/not at all), to growing lots of food; from undertaking lots of mending, to trying to cut out palm oil.

Today has been no exception: I started with a little pile of garments to mend:

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a variety of mends needed

I started by repairing a pocket of a pair of Mr Snail’s jeans. It had been repaired once before, but a new split had appeared so I used mending tape and a little piece of scrap cotton. The previous mend was spotty and the new one is checks, but only you and I know because they are hidden inside the pocket.

Next I replaced the toggles on my hand-knitted hoodie. The previous ones were glass and two of the three had broken. Before that it had wooden toggles and Sam ate them. This time I’ve used plastic, which I hope will be more durable.

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fingers crossed these never need replacing

Then I darned two pairs of hand-knitted socks. Mr Snail is very hard on his socks, so this is something of an ongoing chore.

My next job was to salvage the usable parts of the underwear that I made with my old sewing machine. Most of the pieces will be reused and stitched together using my new overlocker.

And finally, in my ongoing biscuit quest I made Granny Boyd’s Biscuits… a Nigella recipe that came my way via my friend Sue. The verdict: delicious and really easy to make, plus no palm oil. Thank you Sue, these are going to be a regular bake from now on.

So I have finished the year in the spirit that I intend to live in 2017. How about you? Do you make resolutions? Do you have plans?

Out of my life

As the year draws to a close I have been reviewing some of the changes that I’ve made in my life over the past 12 months. Every year I try to do things to make my life that bit more sustainable, and this past year has been no exception:

  • I’ve given up liquid shampoo and shower gel in order to reduce transport of water and to cut out a bit of plastic packaging. I did come across some previously unnoticed shampoo in the bathroom the other day which I am using up, but once that’s done with there will be no more. I’m now only buying bars of soap/shampoo packed in cardboard/paper.
  • In goes the second one

    Our own container at the take-away

    I’ve started saying ‘no’ to lots of packaging – taking our own containers to the butchers and the take-away, for example, means a few less plastic bags and a bit less aluminium foil in the world.We also take our own fabric bags and repeatedly reused plastic bags to the greengrocer’s to put our veggies in. Plastic carrier bags have not been part of our life for many years.

  • We are now buying all our milk direct from a local farm. This means much lower energy inputs (transportation, processing) and no plastic cartons, as we take our own churn. In addition, we are keeping money in the local economy and the milk is delicious and great for making cheese, yoghurt and extracting the cream.
  • I’ve invested in a steam juicer, so we have another way of processing all the apples we tend to get given in the autumn. Making our own juice means repeated re-use of the bottles (cutting down on packaging), reducing transportation of processed juice and thus fewer food miles and knowing exactly what’s in the juice we are drinking.
  • I’ve given up fly paper – it may seem like a small thing, but it’s nice to feel that the fly control in the limery is being achieved by plants rather than a manufactured product.
  • during

    home-made brass cleaner

    I’m now making my own deodorant – it’s more effective than the ‘green’ stuff I was buying before, plus there’s relatively little packaging and it’s made from very simple ingredients.

  • I’ve started making more of my own cleaning products: re-usable cleaning wipes, window cleaner, brass cleaner. All of these rely on limited ingredients and I now have supplies of alcohol, white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils to make what I need when I need it.
  • I’ve increased the amount of mending that I’m doing. Darning, patching and sticking things together with Sugru are amongst my most common types of mending.

I’m not sure that’s everything for 2016, but it seems like some good steps forward. My next challenge is a bit more daunting: excluding palm oil from my life. I think that all our toiletries and household cleaning products are palm oil free, and I cook most of our food from scratch, so there’s none in that, but I do have a problem: my weakness for biscuits. I do like a chocolate digestive biscuit with a cuppa and sadly I have found that McVities, who make my favourite type, use palm oil. So, I have to find a brand I like that’s ethical, make my own, or give them up entirely. I’m now checking all the other products we use that may contain palm oil, just in case…

 

Three Things Thursday: 17 November 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Ms Emily’s Home for Full-Grown Nerds (note her new blog) and others for Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, African flowers. I’m very fond of this granny square pattern and I’m greatly enjoying making these for my latest Sixty Million Trebles blanket; they are also using up lots of oddments.

Second, the magic of putting green tomatoes in a box with apples and them coming out ripe a couple of weeks later. I hate green tomato chutney, so turning green tomatoes red at this time of the year means they will actually get used; indeed the ones from the box are those pictured in the roasting dish, which is currently in the oven.

Third, Sugru. This magic creation has saved many items in our household from the dustbin. This week I’ve made a fourth mend (the one in pink) to my favourite headphones. Obviously, it would be better if such things were built to last, but since that is not the case, Sugru will always have a place in our house.

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Can you spot all four mends?

 

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Mend-it May

I’m not sure how Jen Gale came up with the idea of “Mend-It May”, but during the past month, she has been encouraging folks to indulge in some repairs and share them via various forms of social media. I have, in recent years, been trying to get into the habit of mending more, and so this month was not particularly special for me. However, I like documenting my mends if, for no other reason, than to provide a record I can look back on and feel smug about.

One task that I did set myself this month was to look through all our hand-knitted socks and make any necessary repairs or reinforcements. It turns out that Mr Snail is much harder on his socks than I am on mine, and that there were quite a number of holes to deal with… some of which were quite extensive. In future I am hoping that we will notice damage when it is small and therefore much easier to mend. Anyway, here is a little gallery of some of this month’s work:

Some of the mends were made with sock wool and some with darning wool – it will be interesting to see which yarn holds up best. The pink/purple stripy socks were one of the first pairs that I knitted; they were originally intended to be for me, but I made them too big so Mr Snail got them. This is their third mend – they had their toes replaced once and they have been darned once before this time… eventually they may comprise more repair than original.

Because I have been trying to keep on top of repairs I only have a few more to mention. The first was more of a resurrection than a repair and involved some home-made mayonnaise. When we got the chickens, I stopped buying mayonnaise and started making my own. If you look at the ingredients in commercial mayo and compare them with home-made (egg yolk, oil, seasonings, a little vinegar) you will understand why. It’s relatively easy to make, but you have to be patient and it can be temperamental… as was my last batch. As I gradually added the oil to the egg yolk, it started to thicken up nicely. Addition of a little cider vinegar, however, destroyed the consistency and I ended up with what looked like scrambled egg in oil – yuk!

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Possibly the world’s most unappetising mayonnaise ever

Fortunately, as well as being temperamental, mayonnaise is also accommodating and can be encouraged to re-form. So, with a clean bowl and a clean whisk on my mixer, I started again beating a fresh egg yolk. If you then very gradually (and I mean very gradually – a few drops at a time) beat in the yukky separated original mixture, it will all come together and form beautiful new mayonnaise. It requires lots of patience, but it works and it means that none of your precious ingredients go to waste:

An odd, but very satisfying ‘mend’ that one. The other two mends I want to share are not mine, but both involve items that belong to me.

A few months ago, I discovered that the pouring handle on my jam pan had come adrift on one side. I contacted the manufacturer via Twitter and they told me to email their customer services. I did this and simply received no response. I was busy and didn’t pursue it, but I did ask my friend. Alfred “Maker of Things”, whether he thought it was possible to fix it. He said things about ‘brazing’ which were clearly beyond me. However, Alfred came over to west Wales on holiday last week… and brought the equipment necessary to mend my pan. In fact, he effected the mend during the course of a tea party that we were both at. I still need to give it a good polish with wire wool, but otherwise it’s mended. Thank you Alfred.

And the final mend is a major reconstruction and adaptation of our old wooden chicken house. We had dismantled this ages ago and the bits were sitting in the garden unused. After careful thought, I decided that it would be great to have a spare house – it’s really useful for introducing new hens or using as a “hospital wing” but it needed to have the unwieldy run removed and a new roof on both the house and the nest boxes. I explained what I wanted to Mr Snail and over a couple of days he effected the transformation using only waste wood that we already had, a piece of plastic from the old greenhouse and some bits from an old compost bin. I won’t steal his thunder too much because he’s blogging about it himself, but I can tell you that I am delighted with the result. Anyway, here it is in pieces awaiting the mend:

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a very big mend

Not a bad set of things that we’ve extended the lives of… and I’m even coming to terms with darning!

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