Some finished objects for Friday

As it’s Friday I thought I’d show off a few recently finished objects… I’ve been relatively quiet about crafting over the past few weeks, mainly because there’s been so much to share about food and gardening, but that does not that I’ve not been busy with my hooks and needles. I’ve made two pairs of snails – one of which has its own carry bag made out of an old pyjama leg (!) – a hedgehog (a commission which has gone to Belgium I think), a hat for my mum for her birthday, and some socks.

The hat and the colourful snail wool are both yarn that I bought from Colinette in January before they closed. The brown snail yarn is from West Yorkshire Spinners. The cream yarn used in all the snails is from The Inkpot. And the socks are knitted from Regia yarn for my swap with Kathryn.

So have you any finished objects to share… knitted, sewn, written, painted, drawn… anything creative?

Goings and Comings

Goings

Gradually filling the raised bed... a layer of greenery next

Gradually filling the raised bed… a layer of greenery is required next

I think that I have finally worked my way through most of the old paperwork in my work room and banished it to form the lovely absorbent base layer in our new raised bed. In a fit of enthusiasm I also went through a couple of large plastic crates that were lurking in the bottom of the wardrobe and that also contained long-neglected teaching materials. Go Me! Now, I’m moving on to craft materials…

Over the years I’ve tried my hand at lots of crafts… some have become firm favourites, whilst my interest in others has waned. Years ago, for example, I used to enjoy Brazilian three-dimensional flower embroidery, but these days it does not pique my interest. Similarly, I have done no encaustic wax painting for years, nor have I made paper. And, I have finally admitted to myself that I really don’t enjoy dressmaking. And so, the next task is to find good homes for my unwanted craft items. To this end I have joined a swap/sell pre-loved craft stuff group on Facebook. I’ve tried selling via ebay with mixed success, so I thought a targeted group like this one might be a good alternative. And so it is proving… I have takers for a pile of t-shirt fabric, another piece of fabric and a bundle of zips – and this is only after one day. I know that I won’t be able to get rid of everything this way (the shoulder pads remain unclaimed, despite offering them free, just for the cost of the postage), but at least some of my unwanted crafting supplies will be welcomed into new homes, where they may actually be used thus freeing up space for me.

What I do have to be cautious of is too much flowing in the opposite direction… I must not be tempted. Having said that, though, there have been a couple of arrivals this week, which leads us to the

Comings

Last week I had a lovely email from a participant on a course I taught a few years ago, with the offer of a set of purple glass snails. How could I refuse? And so yesterday morning I received these:

Glass snails

Glass snails

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet… I could use them as buttons or embellishments and I think I need to have a good think about them for a while before I make a decision. Anyway, if you want to see more of Charli’s work, do take a look at Ugly Teapot.

The second arrival was, coincidentally, also in the form of buttons, these from the very talented Joanna Bond:

Ceramic buttons... with a tiny leaf motif in the middle of each

Ceramic buttons… with a tiny leaf motif in the middle of each

I commissioned these buttons for my sofa cushions, but I don’t think that I really want them to be tucked away out of sight (the shell ones that are currently on the cushions are good enough for that), so I think that I will use these to hold the main pieces of the cover together – making the joins a decorative feature and effectively creating a set of loose covers. I went to collect these buttons from Joanna’s studio where we discussed the possibility of an artistic collaboration – yarn and ceramics. If it works out, you’ll be the first to know!

So, the goings have far exceeded the comings, plus I’ve made a bit of money selling things that, to me, have become clutter. I think that counts as a successful few days!

Will knit for wool

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about wanting to do more bartering, so I was delighted the other day to receive a message from a friend who is about to move house and is sorting out ‘stuff‘. He wanted to know if I would be interested in an exchange… he’d got some merino wool tops suitable for felting, did I want them and what would I offer in exchange? After a bit of discussion, we settled on a pair of hand-knitted socks. I sent him a photograph of my stash of sock wool:

My current sock yarn stash

My current sock yarn stash (smaller than it used to be!)

and he selected the colours he liked.

I still haven’t received his foot measurements yet, but that’s not a problem for the time being… I can do as far as just beyond the heel for both feet before I need to know. So at present on my needles are Eddie’s socks… I hope he likes them:

Work in progress on Eddie's sock (displayed with my happy snail yarn bowl)

Work in progress on Eddie’s sock (displayed with my happy snail yarn bowl)

Swapsies

I have some good marketable skills – I can edit (fiction and non-fiction), proofread, conduct ecological surveys, provide advice on land management and habitat creation, I can teach (ecology, conservation, permaculture, statistics), and I can make things (knitted snails, crochet bacteria, felt camera cases). So really, I don’t have a great problem earning a living. But I have this niggling desire to try to do some of my work for payment that isn’t financial… for things that I need or want rather than for money to buy things that I need or want. But, is it possible?

Our LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) died a death some time ago. These systems allow you to avoid direct exchanges, but instead earn some sort of credits that can be used to ‘buy’ from another member. Apparently, in our area, everyone wanted carpenters and plumbers, but most of the offers were for jars of jam and back massages… I over-simplify, but you get the idea. So LETS is not an option here. We already make use of Freecycle, but this is really only useful for physical items and anyway, has nothing to do with exchanges.

No use offering me eggs for barter - I have plenty of those!

Eggs are good for small swaps…

In a small way, we already exchange goods and services – eggs for chicken care, house watching when neighbours are away, swapping seeds and so on, but I want to do something more. The problem is most challenging with big things. The skill that I have that is in greatest demand is (perhaps surprisingly) my expertise as an ecologist. I know lots of people who want advice about managing their land: from enhancing biodiversity to improving their soil; from understanding the vegetation they have growing on their plot to planning a management strategy; from identifying a plant to creating a species-rich meadow; I get asked about all sorts of things. In general, I like to help out, but since this work forms part of my livelihood, I can’t do it for nothing… a girl has to eat (and feed her hens).

... but what is my teaching worth?

… but what is my teaching worth?

So, what constitutes a fair exchange? And what happens if the person who wants my services does not have something I want? As has been pointed out to me, this is where money comes in – it’s a way of keeping score, and something that I can exchange for those things in life that I do need. So, whilst I’d rather you gave me half a lamb for the freezer, hand-spun yarn, or a sack of corn to feed my hens, maybe I will just have to accept that sometimes I have to take a cheque or a bank transfer.

Anyway, I have decided to make a start by compiling two lists: one of what I can offer and one of what I want. This way, next time someone asks for some work from me, we will at least have a starting point for negotiating a fair exchange.

A fair exchange

Following on from my last post, I have had several discussions this week about bartering and how we can make a ‘living’ from our various activities.

No use offering me eggs for barter - I have plenty of those!

No use offering me eggs for barter – I have plenty of those!

I really like the idea of bartering, but if this happens directly, then both parties need to have something that the other wants. It’s no use me being able to knit you socks if the only thing you have to offer is eggs, since I already have an abundance of these; or a hair-cut, since I have long hair. This is where the LETS scheme has the potential to work well, since the exchange does not need to be direct: you get credits and these can be exchanged for any services in the scheme. I have never been part of  a LETS scheme, but I understand that they often break down because, for example, lots of people are offering massages (which few people want) and few people are offering plumbing services (which many people want).

I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t do some work for someone because they don’t have something I want right now… perhaps an IOU would be in order in such a case. It was during a discussion about this when it was pointed out to me that something that I do need is money; and that this is the thing that some people actually have! Indeed, money is a great way of storing up ‘credit’ to get services or goods you need in the future! So, I shouldn’t be too squeamish about accepting money as payment, if that’s what works. In fact, that’s what money was for in the first place – a way of keeping tally; it’s a shame it’s become something completely different to many people now.

So, my business plan is starting to take shape. The services that I can provide are craft-related and ecological advice (perhaps a strange combination, but there you go!). I plan to compile a ‘wants and needs’ list, so that people who want my services can look at that to decide whether they have something they can barter, and if they don’t I will be prepared to accept money. Of course deciding on the ‘value’ of things is a challenge – eggs have little value to me, but old hand-knitted acrylic jumpers do! Selling at craft fairs and on etsy will necessarily involve money and I’m happy with that. So, now I have to concentrate on my needs and wants and focus on how to determine an exchange rate…

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