ScrapHappy July 2019

For some time now I have had it in mind to use some scrap fabric to make present bags. When Mr Snail and I give each other gifts we tend to wrap them in paper that has been reused many, many times – we never buy new wrapping paper. I have to confess that all the paper has all seen better days and it has become increasingly difficult to give a present that looks presentable. So, I had a rummage and found some nice scrap fabric left over from various sewing projects, as well as the remains of some old pyjama bottoms. I wanted to make draw-string bags, so needed lengths of ribbon and tape. Looking through my collection, I found some pieces from chocolate boxes, some quite long lengths that had been around clothes and household linen from ethical suppliers (to hold them neatly without the need for plastic), a piece that was once a curtain tab, two bits that were the hangers from the aforementioned old pyjamas and some other bits left over from long-forgotten projects. Not all the tape was long enough, but it was easily stitched together.

As I worked on the bags, I realised that I could also do with three in which to store plastic bags in the kitchen. Until the doors were replaced on the kitchen cupboards, plastic bags lived jammed into a cupboard and there was always the risk of a bagalanche when the door was opened. We reuse plastic bags, but storage has always been untidy, so three drawstring bags (one for small bags, one for medium bags and one for large bags) seemed like the answer. I made them in different colours so I would know which was which: the last of the spotty fabric from the dismantled night dress (the rest lined the scrappy satchel a while ago); a bit of an old sheet that had worn through in the centre, but has good edges left to be salvaged and has a cute paw print design; and a piece of stripy fabric that remains from a long-forgotten project. When Mr Snail saw what I was up to, he requested a bag for bags to use in his rented flat, so I made two of the stripy ones.

I’m very pleased with these scrappy creations – easy to make and all scrappy apart from the sewing thread. Even the little plastic tool I used to thread the tapes is a stirrer that came with a takeaway hot drink many years ago and has been living in my sewing box ever since, used lots of times and still going strong.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Five fings Friday

So, after yesterday’s post turned into a bit of a wallow on my part, I thought I would pick myself up and list  not three, but five fings things that are making me smile today (or made me smile yesterday).

First,  you lot. Your kind messages and comments yesterday went a long way to cheering me up. Although I’m still smarting from the rejection, it was lovely to be showered with so many positive messages. I’ve picked myself up and I’m moving on.

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it’s years since I’ve had Christmas presents!

Second,  secret Santa. Under normal circumstances I don’t do Christmas gifts, but I did decide to join in with Sewchet’s Stitching Santa this year. And yesterday I was very excited when my present arrived. It’s secret so I don’t know who it’s from until I open it, but it’s a lovely box filled with things yarn-related, so it’s bound to be a joy to open. I still haven’t decided whether to keep it an extra week until my birthday, but I may not be able to resist it for that long.

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chocolatey

Third, chocolate. Yesterday afternoon I cheered myself up with some cooking. In the absence of the beef, we decided to have fish pie (made using sustainably caught fish from Cornwall), followed by dark chocolate tart with a white chocolate sauce and raspberries (grown by me). The tart had chocolate pastry and a baked mousse-like filling. The sauce was simply a small amount of white chocolate melted in hot cream and then a teaspoon of liqueur added – it worked very well to contrast with the dark chocolate and the raspberries, although it would have been very sickly on its own.

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just the thing to make Sophie look extra-beautiful

Fourth, the end is in sight. I now only have two rows of Sophie remaining, so she will be finished tonight. I was delighted, therefore, that my new blocking mats arrived yesterday. Sophie is too big to block on my usual cork board, so I have bought some interlocking children’s play mats for the purpose. Each one measures 30cm × 30cm, so it’s possible to construct the size and shape of mat I need very easily. I did try to find some secondhand mats, but in the end I had to buy new; however, I think they are going to get lots of use in the future.

Fifth, a lot of swimming. Today is the final day in 2017 that our local swimming pool is open. I won’t be able to go and swim there again until 8 January 2018. So I’ve totted up my tally for this year and I discover that I have been swimming 112 times. I’m very proud of myself… especially considering that most of those swims have been at 7am.

So there we are, lots to make me smile today. How about you? I really hope good things are happening in your life and, for those of you who find this time of year difficult, I send a big hug and remind you that the media’s representation of Christmas is nonsense and that there are lots of lovely people out there who want to support you and make you happy, like the café owner in this story from our local newspaper.

Thanks once again for the lovely comments on yesterdays post – you are all amazing.

Three Things Thursday: 5 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, my birthday (even though it was a big one). I had a lovely time on Monday going out to lunch with my family plus Mr Snail bought me these:

Can you spot the theme?

Can you spot the theme?

Second, I finished knitting my jester work bag. It’s currently in the washing machine on a hot wash so fingers crossed the felting works. In the mean time here it is stitched together before felting:

Big and floppy... soon to be smaller and firm!

Big and floppy… soon to be smaller and firm!

Third, threading my overlocker. Despite everyone telling me how difficult it would be, I successfully rethreaded my overlocker after two of the threads broke the other day. Now, I’m not saying it didn’t take me a few attempts, but the diagrams in the manual were clear and once I had worked out why the first thread had broken (a bit of entanglement in one of the thread guides), it wasn’t too bad. I’m feeling rather less intimidated now.

Not as bad as it forst appears

Not as bad as it first appears… look, there’s even a little colour-coded diagram inside the machine on the right

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

Three Things Thursday: 1 December 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Ms Emily’s Home for Full-Grown Nerds (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, the lovely blanket that I knitted earlier in the year has been coming into its own now we’re having some cold weather. It is just the right size for snuggling under whilst I work

Second, making plans. Over the past couple of weeks I have been busy making arrangements for some trips in 2017: taking my mum to London for a few days so we can go to the ‘Undressed’ exhibition at the V&A; another holiday to Cornwall, because we had such a great time this year; a weekend of permaculture in Birmingham; and a trip to Manchester to spend a day crocheting in public at The Make It Shop to promote the Sixty Million Trebles project. I had to buy a diary so that I could write everything down!

Third, presents through the year. As you may know, here at Chez Snail, we don’t do Christmas. We don’t give gifts and we ask people not to give them to us,  and we don’t send cards any more. It’s not that we are mean, we’re just not into all the waste and overindulgence. Instead, we give gifts randomly at other times of the year and so I’ve just sent a hat to one friend and I’m currently making a little toy for another friend who tends to feel blue in the winter. I can’t share a picture of the latter as it’s gong to be a surprise, but here is a picture of some baby hedgies that went as a surprise to some friends earlier on in the year:

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hoglets

Finally, if you are waiting to hear the results of last week’s give away, you’ll have to hang on for a bit as I haven’t had time to do the draw yet… soon, I promise!

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

All present and correct

How are your festive preparations going?

Are you the sort of person who spends months dashing about shopping, organising and decorating the house for whatever festivities you are celebrating? Are you preparing to welcome family and friends into your home? Will you be rushing out to lots of parties? Or will you be having a peaceful time over the next few weeks, watching the madness from the safety of your armchair?

And, most importantly, have you bought everyone a present?

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Are you ready for the magic of the season? 

What? You haven’t? But didn’t you know that you can only express your love by presenting everyone with a physical item? I doesn’t matter whether they actually want the thing you have bought for them. What matters is that you gave them something… even if it is a plastic fish in a Santa hat that sings Jingle Bells, or an inflatable Eiffel Tower, or a box of inedible shortbread in the shape of a fir tree. Even if it is something that will be (at best) amusing when they open the gift and will almost certainly be in landfill after week or two or consigned to a cupboard until the next spring clean. Even if it is something made in a sweatshop by someone who is little more than a slave. Even if it does deplete the earth’s limited resources. Just remember… the important thing is that you spent some money… that you gave a gift…

Me? Don’t expect a gift from me at this time of year. Don’t expect to find me trawling the shops for that hard-to-find toy or searching the internet for a gift for my mother (who firmly tells me that she has everything she wants). It’s not that I don’t care for you (or her), in fact it’s that I do care for you and her and for other human beings and for the planet.

Before you buy that box of Christmas crackers with the silly jokes, paper hats and plastic prizes, or the amusing Christmas jumper that will be worn once, or the new set of ornaments for the tree because this year’s theme is silver and pink, whilst last year’s was green and red, you might like to consider this:

Guess what percentage of total material flow through [the] system is still in product or use 6 months after their sale in North America. Fifty percent? Twenty? NO. One percent. One! In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months. Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I find that figure shocking. However, we can all do something about it. And we can start by not buying things that we KNOW will get thrown away almost immediately.

At this time of giving and generosity, why not think about the recipient rather than the act of giving? If someone tells you that there is nothing they want for Christmas, they are probably telling you that they don’t want any more stuff… so give them the gift of time… it never goes out of fashion and it never enters land fill. Go out for afternoon tea, for a walk, go to the pub, cook them dinner, do some chores for them, have a chat… spend some quality time together. And if you do want to give a physical gift, make it a good one… something that will last, something they will love, something that won’t be discarded as soon as the wrapping paper is off. Think about the gift… and if you can’t find something that they will love, don’t buy anything right now…. give them an IOU… you know they are likely to get more joy from a gift at another time of the year than at a time when they have a whole heap in front of them.

We practice random acts of giving… our friends and relatives do receive gifts, but not at specific times. And sometimes they receive gifts or help or time in quick succession and sometimes not for ages. We send or do things as we become inspired. This means that one lucky person will get a parcel soon because Mr Snail and I are making a gift together, but not because it’s Christmas, just because we had an idea and thought of something fun to make that one particular person would enjoy.

As for Christmas day Chez Snail… we will be gift-free and are planning a picnic in the limery!

 

 

 

 

The ‘c’ word

So, apparently now that it is November, it’s perfectly fine to start banging on about Christmas… specifically about Christmas shopping. We enter a period where consumerism is king and if you don’t want to participate you are considered weird.

However, I don’t like it and I’m not joining in. So, please consider me weird.

A random present

A random present – one of you will recognise this!

We gave up giving and receiving Christmas presents years and years ago and so, the frenzy of shopping that many are indulging in, or preparing for, or bragging about is not a part of my autumn. I’m currently in the process of making a present for someone, but that will be dispatched once completed for immediate enjoyment and will have nothing to do with any sort of pseudo-religious shenanigans.

I have been told many times that if I had children, I would be obliged to participate, but I don’t, so it’s not relevant. And I think that my nieces and nephew (although no longer children) and my other friends and family rather enjoy the random arrival of gifts when the mood takes me and inspiration hits.

As usual this year, we’ll not be shopping and we’ll not be seduced into buying junk just for the sake of giving presents. I really encourage you to do the same. However, if you do want to lavish gifts on your nearest and dearest (and not-so nearest and dearest), please think about what you buy – make sure it isn’t something that gets opened and then never looked at again, or something that’s made in a sweatshop, or something that’s funny for ten minutes but ends up in the dustbin….

That’s it, I’m not going to say any more… grumpy snail is off to cook dinner!

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?

All present and correct

As you may know, we do not give presents at Christmas and, as far as possible, we try not to receive them either. It’s all part of the trying to be sustainable and avoid waste. But that is not to say that we don’t give presents… we just give them at random times and only when we know the gift is ‘right’ for the recipient. Rather than hundreds of cards and piles of presents at this time of year, we make a donation to Practical Presents… something for people who really need our assistance.

In the past few weeks the only presents I have given have been two calendars and a box of dark chocolate Brazil nuts, the latter being a birthday present. However, a visit to High Bank on Saturday inspired me to make a little gift for Sissie:

Some tiny mittens for Sissie

Some tiny mittens for Sissie

I’ll be posting them later, so if you are reading this, Perkin, don’t tell her!

Blankies

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!

All I want for Christmas…

It’s that time of year again in Britain… TV adverts for toys and perfume, shops full of chocolate, shiny things and ‘gift packs’, people getting harassed and the implied pressure that we should all be having ‘fun’. Yes, Christmas is coming.

Christmas is coming for most of the UK, but not for us snails! And why not? Well, here chez Snail we do not celebrate it… really, we don’t. We don’t give presents; we try, as far as possible, not to receive presents; we don’t have a decorated tree; and we don’t eat turkey. It may sound like a gloomy way to spend mid-winter but really, it’s not  – you should try it one year.

It all started one Christmas morning about 10 years ago. We had got up and had breakfast before settling down to open the array of presents that we had received. By this stage we had pretty much given up on giving each other many presents, opting instead for choosing some things together that we would enjoy – some films on dvd, for example, or a few cds. Most of the gifts that we had received were addressed to both of us, so we took it in turn to unwrap the parcels. I can’t remember now exactly what they contained, except they did include three jars of chutney (neither of us like chutney) and that amongst all the other things there was nothing that I really wanted.

It was at this moment that the penny dropped with me that Christmas was simply a big disappointment… it was never going to be that magical event I remembered from my childhood. We used to put the Christmas tree up and decorate it soon before Christmas day, and then on Christmas eve, we disappeared into our rooms to wrap presents before placing them under the tree. I never believed in Father Christmas – I knew that presents came from my parents, family and friends; I knew that they were special because someone had chosen them for me (and spent money on  me). I also knew the joy of giving… in my younger days I loved buying gifts for other people; in fact, I still do.

But suddenly on that morning 10 years ago I realised that present-giving had become an obligation… that at Christmas it had become essential to give gifts simply because it was Christmas. And so we stopped. The following September, we wrote to all our friends and family telling them that, henceforth, we would not be sending them a gift at Christmas and asking them not to send us anything. We explained that we would be giving a donation to charity from now on, and if they wanted to reciprocate, they could do the same. We suggested that, alternatively, they could use any money they would have spent on us on themselves – to a buy something they would really enjoy and that they really wanted. And, everybody entered into the spirit of it… we gave money to Practical Action and our friends gave to Help the Aged, Oxfam and various other good causes.

Subsequent Christmases have been very peaceful – no mad rush to ‘prepare’, no stress, just a quiet time at home enjoying mid-winter, ordering next year’s seeds and being thankful that the shortest day is past. A couple of Christmas days we went to a local dog rescue and walked the poor unwanted dogs… enjoying sandwiches and hot coffee for Christmas lunch, before returning home to watch Doctor Who on the TV. In recent years the weather has kept us at home, but either way we have had good days.

Gift-giving has not ceased, it’s just that these days we buy gifts when we see something we think our friends might like… this means that sometimes someone gets several gifts in quick succession, then nothing for ages. We always, however, send any gifts immediately, so that they arrive at random times throughout the year. And this too is reciprocated by some… my sister is especially enthusiastic about the idea and will often send something lovely through the post because she thought one of us might like it.

I am delighted to have removed myself from the current commercialism and greed that seems to have pervaded this time of year; to contribute no longer to the heaps of plastic paraphernalia that seem to have become an essential feature; to buy simply for the sake of it.

All that said, I do have a lovely day with my sweetie!

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