The Sisterhood…

Some of you will have heard of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook and some of you will not… a few of you are part of the sisterhood.

Last year, Anne Lawson decided to start a project to draw creative people together around the world. She made a book and invited fellow bloggers to contribute… all the folks who volunteered were women, and so the sisterhood was born.

This week the book arrived with me – the eleventh contributor on the list. From Australia, it went to the US and recently it has been travelling in Europe:

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the journey of the sketchbook

It contains drawings, paintings, quilting, stitching… words and visuals… love and creativity. It has its own blog and I encourage you to take a look here at the posts from the contributors, where there are beautiful pictures and lovely thoughts. Here is a little taster of some of the contributions to date:

Sadly one of our sisterhood, Viv, passed away before the book reached her, but some of her words have been included in the book.

I’m currently working on my contribution… news will follow.

Three Things Thursday: 23 March 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.

First, a new vaark for a new friend. I made this little creature on Sunday and on Monday it went in the post to make a new friend smile:

A new vaark ready for the world

Second, seed saving. Last year I saved seeds from the melons that I grew. The variety, Green Nutmeg, came from the Heritage Seed Library and so it’s particularly pleasing to have a new generation germinating this year. I have loads of these seeds, so if anyone in the UK would like some, just let me know and I’ll put a few in the post.

Green Nutmeg melon seedlings

Third, a rare carnivore. I have lots of sundews and pitcher plants in the limery, and whilst they present some challenges, they generally seem to be doing ok. The Venus Fly Traps are a bit more of a challenge, but I have three small ones. My favourite carnivore, though, is much more tricky to care for. The Monkey Cup can’t stay in the limery over winter as it’s too cold – it has to come and live in my office on the window sill. I’m very happy, therefore, to be able to return it to the limery this week and to note that it’s getting bigger and looks really rather healthy:

Monkey Cup (Nepenthes ventricosa x talangensis)

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

17 for 2017 – February Update

Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet

Here I am again with a 17 for 2017 progress update (where does the time go?). If you look carefully at my spreadsheet, you can see that one of the rows is full! There are still some rows that don’t contain anything, but I’m making some progress, and some is very seasonal anyway. So, here’s where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I sent off my first of these just the other day. I want it to be a surprise for the recipient (although she knows it’s on the way), so no photograph just yet.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. I’ve only made one batch this month, but since I made loads last month, the total for the year so far is a respectable 7 batches

Fifteen… cheeses.  No hard cheeses this month, but one batch of curd cheese.

Another pair

Another pair

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Three more pairs completed this  month bringing the total to five. I’ve getting better with the overlocker, so they are getting easier to make.

Thirteen… mends. Three this month: the knees of Mr Snail’s work jeans patched again; a hole darned for a friend and a pair of my leggings mended.

Twelve… letters to friends. Just one written this month, but that’s ok because I only have to average one a month to reach my target.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I’m delighted to say that there are now seven bird roosts listed – some felted and some made with woollen twine. I haven’t sold any yet, but it’s early days.

Ten... plants given to good homes. None yet – it’s still too early in the season.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we seem to have been so busy.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although we’ve eaten lots of omelettes, making them partial meals from our garden!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. I’ve managed two ‘big’ visits – first to Manchester, where I saw a whole load of friends who I know via Twitter, as well as my dear Sarah, who I’ve known since I was 18 and my niece Alex; second to Birmingham, where I got together with lots of permaculture friends, most of whom I communicate with via FaceBook.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. None yet… it’s all been about crochet recently.

Five… book chapters written. None yet, although I may have persuaded a friend to contribute to the book.

Max quality-controlling the final blanket

Max quality-controlling the final blanket

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. All four done… I will make more later in the year, but I’m having a rest for a while.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None – it’s still too cold to venture up there yet!

Two… patterns published and on sale. I did one last month, but nothing further this month.

One… denim gardening apron. Not yet, but I will try to sort out the fabric in the coming month.

So, it’s progressing well – how about your projects this year? If you have 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

Three Things Thursday: 23 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…

First, being safe and warm. We are currently experiencing Storm Doris – heavy rain yesterday and now really strong winds. It’s at times like this that I appreciate having a home. It’s also at times like this I think of all those refugees who, through no fault of their own, don’t have a place to feel safe and be sheltered from all that the world throws at them. And so I continue to make blankets to provide a little bit of warmth and a token to show that other people care; here’s the latest:

Another blanket for 60 Million Trebles

Another blanket for 60 Million Trebles

Second, new skills. I have been focusing on getting to grips with my overlocker this past week. Using it is not quite the same as using a normal sewing machine, but they say that as we get older it’s good for our brains to learn new things. I’m very happy to say that I’m finally getting more comfortable using it (the overlocker, not my brain) and that I can rethread it without too much trouble now.

It's all starting to make sense

It’s all starting to make sense

Third, seedlings again. I am being very restrained sowing seeds so far this year, but the peppers, chillies and tomatoes that I planted a couple of weeks ago are coming through and the tomatoes will need potting up from their tiny modules this weekend. I just love the promise of abundance.

All that potential

All that potential

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

17 for 2017 – January Update

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see- very geeky!

As we are coming to the end of the month, I thought I’d give you a 17 for 2017 progress update. I’ve got quite geeky about it all and made myself a spreadsheet with hyperlinks to pictures and (in one case) a second spreadsheet, meaning that I should be able to see how I’m getting on at a glance… if I remember to actually update the spreadsheet as I do things! Anyway, in less than I month, this is what I’ve done:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I haven’t finished any yet, but I’m working on quite a big creation to send as a surprise gift.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. This was under-ambitious for the year – I’ve already made five batches!

Fifteen… cheeses.  I’m not sure whether I should count one or two here – I made a tomme-style cheese, and then I made ricotta with the whey. I’ve only entered this as one cheese on my spreadsheet, because it was only one cheese-making day.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Good progress here: two pairs completed and another six pairs cut out and ready for sewing.

Thirteen… mends. Two done: some boro mending on the knee of a pair of jeans belonging to Mr Snail and a tear in a cotton tunic repaired using my overlocker.

Twelve… letters to friends. In a flurry of activity on a dull and wet day, I wrote five letters!

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. None yet (although one pattern is now listed, but that’s lower down this list)

Ten... plants given to good homes. None yet – it’s too early in the season.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we’ve got a bit carried away with watching The Blacklist on dvd to the exclusion of playing games.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, because neither of us fancy kale omelette!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. One visit to blogging friend Katy the Night Owl.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. Yarn and new pattern at the ready, but none started yet.

Five… book chapters written. None, although I’m planning a talk on ecology that will form the skeleton of one of the chapters.

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. Two completed – one for Knit for Peace, one for Sixty Million Trebles, and two on my hooks.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None – it’s too cold to venture up there yet!

Two… patterns published and on sale. Bird Roost pattern finished and available as a digital download from my etsy shop.

One… denim gardening apron. Not yet – I’ve been dithering about the fabric!

If you have 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

17 for 2017

Over the past year I’ve really enjoyed hearing what fellow bloggers have achieved off the lists that they made at the beginning of the year in 16 for 2016 (and before that in 15 for 2015). So, reading this year’s lists from gillyflower, Nana Cathy, Murtagh’s Meadow and others, I’ve been inspired. As I’ve said, I don’t like new year’s resolutions, but I do like a list. I started off on paper with some ideas.

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it started with a mind map

 

Finally I’ve settled on this list of some of the things I’d like to achieve in 2017…

Seventeen… Love Rocks (my rocks will have little crochet vests rather than glued-on hearts) or other little random yarny/sewn gifts to be given to individuals or left to be found by anyone

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits

Fifteen… cheeses… it’s ambitious, but now I have my great source of milk, it’s do-able and they don’t all have to be hard cheeses

Fourteen… pairs of knickers… that’s how many I’m planning to make!

Thirteen… mends… darning, patching, gluing, stitching… whatever needs doing

Twelve… letters to friends, using real paper and real ink

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop (this is long overdue)

Ten... plants given to good homes (this one is inspired by Murtagh’s meadow)

Nine… games of Scrabble… Mr Snail and I used to play often, but we rarely do now even though it’s something we both enjoy

Eight… meals using only our own produce (except oil and seasoning)

Seven… visits to see friends who I normally communicate with via social media

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns (I have one pattern I use over and over, but I want to diversify)

Five… book chapters written. I’m planning to write a beginner’s guide to ecology

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there (I think there’s a box of 30-year-old bank statements!)

Two… patterns published and on sale. This year I will finally complete my crochet bird roost pattern and my skeleton hat knitting pattern (which involves a chart).

One… denim gardening apron

So, really it’s business as usual, but one or two of my goals may be quite a challenge and this should help to give me focus.

If you have 17 for 2017 blog post, do leave a link in the comments, I’d love to read what you are planning.

Knickers to 2016!

Has 2016 been pants for you?

It has for me… starting in August, when I decided that I really needed to investigate making my own underwear. I experimented with using fabric from old t-shirts and relied on the limited functionality of my trusty old sewing machine… and I had some success. However, subsequent testing revealed that the zig-zag stich (the only stretchy one I could do on my machine) was not robust enough and that we wear our t-shirts until they are in such a state that they are not up to the job!

So, if I wanted to make my own pants (that’s UK pants, not US ones) I was going to have to have a rethink.  And then Mr Snail offered to buy me an overlocker for my birthday (which actually isn’t until Monday). To avoid the madness of Christmas deliveries, this amazing machine was ordered and delivered ages ago and I was allowed to have it straight away. I have to confess that it was all rather intimidating…

I decided that I needed plenty of time to get to grips with it and so it was only today that I finally got round to having a go.

My initial trials produced nice neat sample seams:

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testing-testing

And so I bit the bullet and cut out a pair of Scrundlewear briefs from some of the organic cotton jersey fabric I bought for the purpose and had a go. I’m still getting used to the overlocker, but now at the end of the afternoon, I have a pair completed and ready to wear and I’m very pleased with myself…

It was all my own work too, since my assistant this afternoon did not contribute much:

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Max doing what he does best

So, assuming they are more robust than my last attempt, there’s going to be lots more sewing so that 2017 will be another pants year!

The Knicker Report

I know I said I wouldn’t show you my knickers again, but I have been testing out the Scrundlewear pattern and I can now give you a preliminary report…

There are two styles available – shorts and briefs and I have made both. The waist and leg bands must be made from fabric with some stretch, so I bought some organic cotton-lycra jersey in amusing patterns to play around with:

Then I made versions of both styles entirely out of the new fabric and also with fabric from old t-shirts for the bits that don’t need so much elasticity, resulting in four fabric/style combinations in total:

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Piles of pants

And then I wore each pair for a full day to road-test them!

So, here are my thoughts:

  • The pattern just gives dimensions for the waist and leg bands, but it’s easier if you make an actual paper pattern piece to work with – it just makes life easier and you don’t have to keep using a tape measure.
  • The original pattern is designed to print out on A4 paper which then has to be stuck together. I used these print-outs to create a template and transferred the pieces onto a single large piece of paper so there were no joins to act as points of weakness.
  • When it came to sewing, my machine struggled with the 100% cotton t-shirt fabric. I tried a variety of needles (normal and ballpoint), but still suffered from problems with tension and missed stitches. In contrast, once I’d got the tension/needle combination right, the new cotton-lycra jersey was easy to sew.

Missed stitches reduce stretchiness and mean weak joins, so minimising them is important. I need to do more trials with my machine to sort this out.

  • Once it came to wearing them, I found the most comfortable version, generally, to be the shorts with the reused t-shirt fabric (those are the ones with the black and white bands in the picture). However, it was a close-run thing and I have to confess that although they were good, none of them were perfect. It will be interesting to see how washing affects the fit and comfort.
  • In all cases, I thought that the leg bands were a little too wide, so I’m going to make these a bit narrower next time and see how that works out. The waists were fine.
  • They are quite substantial, so I imagine that if you lived somewhere warm you might like to seek out a finer jersey than I used, and perhaps use lingerie elastic rather than the fabric for the waist/leg bands (there is an option for this in the pattern).
  • I quite enjoyed making them and it does get easier with practice.
  • Out of interest, I’m going to dismantle some comfortable knickers that I have been wearing for years and see how the shape compares to this pattern… I will then make some modifications and have another go.

So, there you are. My conclusions? Give it a go – if you’ve got a sewing machine that can cope, I’m sure you can be successful if you are prepared to experiment. This way you can have ethical, organic pants and save a lot of money.

Three Things Thursday: 1 September 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (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, chickens – happy and behaving naturally. Specifically the fact that this:

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Feathers!

is because of this:

Moulty Bluebell

Moulty Bluebell

not because of a fox or other predator. This is quite an early moult, but it’s good because the weather is still pleasant, so she’s not shivering or drenched (yet). As you can see the two new girls are also doing well; they are both laying almost every day… so I’m grateful for their eggs too.

Second, crafty activities. I spent the whole of Sunday sewing, crocheting, paper-crafting and generally being creative. I’ll write a whole post dedicated to some of the sewing sometime in the future, so here is an example of some paper-craft:

birthday spiral

Mr Snail’s birthday card

Third, tomatoes. For many years I have found it impossible to grow tomatoes. Every year in our old greenhouse I got only a tiny crop before the plants succumbed to Botrytis mould. This year is the first full growing season for the limery, and I’m delighted to report it’s turned the tide and I can now produce my own tomatoes – hurrah!

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

 

I want to show you my knickers

Let’s face it, sooner or later it becomes necessary to buy new underwear. After all, there are only so many years that a pair of knickers will last. And thus, it came the time for me to seek out new undies. My initial thought was that I would shop with Pants to Poverty . Sadly, when I tried to go to their website I found it was no more, and a quick internet search revealed that they have gone to the wall – very sad news, both for ethical shoppers and for the people they were supporting. So what to do? I know of several other companies that sell ‘ethical underwear’, but I had also read quite a lot about making your own… in particular I have read good things about the Scrundlewear pattern from Stitch Upon A Time. Yo may recall that many years ago I wrote a post about the political symbolism of making your own knickers, entitled Civil disobedience is homemade pants! and finally I felt it might be time to take action.

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One very elderly t-shirt

I thought about it some more and then decided to buy the Scrundlewear pattern and have a go. One of the clinchers was that there’s a version that requires no elastic and that can be made (at least in part) from old t-shirts. Since I have a big pile of such t-shirts that I plan to use only the fronts of (to make a memory quilt), it seemed like a good opportunity to use up some of the ‘waste’ fabric. As well as cotton jersey, some more stretchy fabric is required, and so I used a black viscose/lycra jersey top that I have expanded out of. I really didn’t want to invest in any new fabric or notions at this stage, this being very much a test run.

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the pattern is downloaded as a pdf

So, I set-to with my scissors – I cut out the pattern and the fabric pieces and tried to get my head round the sewing. I’m not a very enthusiastic sewer, but I will do it if I need to. I had a few trial tuns with the fabric and my sewing machine and decided to start by using the stretchy stitch that my machine does… It’s a bit easier to control than a zig-zag stitch and it’s easier to see what you are doing. Although the pattern says you can make a pair of knickers in an hour, I took me considerably longer than this… I suspect that next time will be much quicker.

The Verdict: I chose to start with a pair of what are described as ‘boy shorts’ because these are what I had enough of the stretchy fabric for. I can confirm that they were relatively easy to make. The sewing machine stitch I chose was a mistake – it’s a bit too firm for this use and in future I will use a zig-zag stitch even though that’s not quite so easy to control and I’ll probably need more practice. In addition, I need some ballpoint needles for my sewing machine, as I broke four sharp needles in the process of making one pair of pants. I’ve tried them on and the seem quite comfy, apart from the lack of give in the stitching, but I haven’t worn them for any length of time, so I can’t comment more than superficially. Perhaps the fact that I’ve just ordered some stretchy fabric for the bands is a good indication that I happy with this pattern.

So, probably for the only time ever on this blog, let me show you my knickers…

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these are my pants!

They may not be the colours I would have chosen in a shop, but I’m quite pleased with them, especially since the only new component was the sewing thread.

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