Crafting a kinder world

All the way through May my friend Danielle is going to have a display on craftivism in her window at The Make It Shop as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. For the uninitiated, craftivism is:

a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite* (Betsy Greer)

The theme that Danielle has chosen is Crafting a Kinder World.


Last year’s Chorlton Arts Festival window display: Unleash Your Creative Beast

As well as the display, there will be a craftivism event on 27 May and I will be there to help host it. The plan (so far) is to create a “Kindness Tree”. We’ll spend the day inviting people to craft all sorts of small items to hang on the tree, each with a message of kindness. Subsequently our gifts and messages will be given away to spread the love.

Our last Make It Shop event: 60 Million Trebles Hook-up

I’m currently putting together a few bits and pieces to contribute to the shop window display, but most of my craftivist creations are long gone – having been given away to those in need (either of the object made or the message it embodied). So, I need to make a few more… but you can help me out here if you like. If you would like to send me an item to put in the window – whatever the craft, as long as it represents an aspect of craftivism – then please do. It could be a charity blanket, a twiddlemuff, a motivational embroidery, some bunting with a message, a piece of artwork, or whatever other crafted object fits in with the ethos. The display runs throughout May, so we would need your contributions in the next two weeks. There are two provisos. First, that the nature of the object is kind – craftivism is a gentle form of protest, or political action through positive creation – so any contributions that are displayed need to fit with this. And second is that, when the display is finished, you will allow me or Danielle to donate your object, whatever you send, to an appropriate charity or deserving person rather than send it back to you.

You can keep up to date with what’s happening on the Make-it Shop website here. And you can contact me to arrange making a contribution using the contact form below. And if you are in Manchester on 27 May – call in and say hello, have a cuppa and make something with us.


* Putting aside the fact that something is either infinite or not… I don’t think it’s possible to be ‘more infinite’!


Hearts and flowers… and penguins

After completing my eighth blanket for Sixty Million Trebles, I have decided to spend some time on other creations for a while. However, before I put the whole project to one side, I decided to use up some scraps and make some hearts and flowers to attach to tags aimed at publicising the project:

I’m off on my travels again this week, so will be distributing hearts and roses far and wide. I have a few to finish off before I go, though:


Roses in the making

I would have finished them this afternoon had it not been for a request to do a quick test of a little pattern for Danielle at The Make-it Shop:


Penguin pieces

I think I positioned the wings a bit wrong, so it looks more like a purple sparrow than a penguin, but he’s a jolly little chap no matter what:


Happy penguin

It’s always fun testing out Danielle’s patterns.

Have you made anything frivolous recently?

Hooking up

Knitting and crochet are often considered rather solitary pastimes – we sit at home with our hooks and needles, creating lovely things… alone. With the recent popularity of ‘knit and natter’-type groups, things have become somewhat more sociable. Public crafting, however, is still relatively rare, so it was a delight to have the chance to spend Saturday at The Make-it Shop in Manchester crocheting and publicising the 60 Million Trebles project.

I made a weekend of it so that I could be there for the whole day and help my friend Danielle to host the event. The shop is a collection point for blankets for the project, so Saturday provided an opportunity for people to drop off completed work, plus we worked on our wips* and squares for a group blanket during the day.

We set up in the morning and wondered whether many people would come… and to begin with there were just a few of us and I managed to sit down…

the early birds

the early birds

… and then more people started arriving and bringing blankets and we realised that we were going to disappear under blankets and that we didn’t have enough chairs! These two problems were quickly solved by stuffing my car full of the completed blankets and borrowing extra chairs from the café next door! Plus, I mostly stopped sitting down…

What a lovely day it was. I got to meet up with friends old and new and by the end of the day 30 people had participated, we’d made a whole pile of blue and white squares for our communal creation and collected in 45 complete blankets:

All this amazing creative work is being undertaken by kind people from all over the world who are covering all the costs and simultaneously raising money for various charities. Every blanket will be donated to a charity and we may even break a world record!

If you’d like to join in, you can donate money via this Just Giving page or you can donate yarn or squares or make whole blankets… check out this Facebook group or this web page  or @Sixtymilliontre on Twitter to make contact.


* wip = work in progress

Making it!

I had the great pleasure to be invited to spend World Wide Knit in Public Day at The Make It Shop in Chorlton, Manchester. You are much more likely to find me in a dedicated wool shop than a general craft shop, but this place was a treasure trove of interesting crafting supplies to tempt all but the strongest will. Fortunately I was distracted by the knitting all day otherwise I may well have come home with a significantly lighter wallet. As it was, the only thing that I did buy was a set of pompom makers… so expect bobble hats in the future. But just look at it…

I was delighted to visit Chorlton – a thriving town within Greater Manchester. The high street has lots of local shops, and spending the day sitting outside one of them, I came to realise that it is a thriving centre. I discovered that local shops are members  of a south Manchester loyalty card scheme called Tag and that there’s a very active traders’ association. All in all, a great model for supporting community.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of buying local and supporting producers and traders in your own area, but it’s worth saying again. According to the New Economics Foundation:

… every £1 spent with a local supplier is worth £1.76 to the local economy [compared to] only 36 pence if it is spent out of the area. That makes £1 spent locally worth almost 400 per cent more.

And that’s before you take into account the fact that shopping local is likely to support local  artisans, producers and crafts people, you can ask the retailer questions about the product and get advice, you can often try before you buy, you are enjoying a social experience and you are being part of a local community. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and support your local retailers and producers…. and if you are in Manchester, pop into the Make It Shop and say hello…. and perhaps give in to temptation.


Now isn’t that just inviting you to go in?



On the street where you knit

What did you do on Saturday? I spent the day on display outside a shop in Manchester encouraging passers-by to sit and knit with me. No, honestly. You see, it was World Wide Knit in Public (WWKIP) Day and I wanted to make an effort to do something very public this year, rather than simply taking my knitting out to lunch!

About six months ago, I made some new friends via Twitter, one of whom owns a craft shop. When she mentioned that she was going to run a WWKIP event this year at the shop, I commented that I would love to go, but that it’s a long way. Almost immediately, another friend who works in the shop invited me to go and stay for the weekend and very quickly arrangements were made.


The Make It Shop without WWKIP

So, Friday saw me driving across to Manchester, taking one of my nieces out for lunch and then struggling through rush-hour traffic to my friends (I like to fit in a variety of activities when I go on a trip!). On Saturday morning we headed over to The Make It Shop in Chorlton* to set up. There’s a wide pavement (sidewalk) outside the shop and the weather was good, so we took a table and some chairs outside, put out a selection of yarn and needles, plus some pompom makers (for those who couldn’t knit and didn’t want to learn) and waited for the crowds…


To begin with it was just me and the vaarks

And we weren’t disappointed. Some people came and spent the whole day with us, some just stayed long enough to knit a row or two. Some folks brought their own projects, whilst some contributed to our communal production of twiddlemuffs**. Two of the local councillors came – Sue Murphy who could knit and John Hacking who couldn’t. So Sue knitted and John learned… and both of them bought twiddlemuff kits to take home afterwards to knit up so that they could be donated it to a local dementia charity. We hosted a range of ages from four to over eighty. Several families came and the children made pompoms (a great addition to many knitted projects, including twiddlemuffs). In the afternoon we were joined by the lovely performer and activist Kate O’Donnell*** and her friend and costume designer Daniella Pearman. Kate knitted, although she hadn’t done so for many years it only took a quick demonstration before she was off, and Daniella made a pompom (which may appear on stage!!).

All in all we had a great day – full of community spirit. It only happens once a year, but I will certainly do my best to participate in WWKIP Day 2017!


* More on The Make It Shop in another post

** Twiddlemuffs are sensory sleeves made for stimulation and stress relief.
They have been found to provide comfort and pleasure for restless hands of people with advanced dementia

*** Kate has a show on at the Soho Theatre this week… too far for me to travel , unfortunately



Introducing… Snailvaark

Despite initial reservations, it’s turned out that I really rather like Twitter. I set up an account last April and, although making connections has been slow, it’s been great for finding like-minded people… especially folks recycling, reusing, repairing and repurposing. In addition, on days when I don’t want to embark on reading long posts, it keeps me connected with the world.

Anyway, through a regular weekly discussion via Twitter – Make do and mend Hour – I also encountered a large family of critters, The ‘Vaarks. Originally created by Danielle Lowy of The Make it Shop in Manchester, and featured in her booklet How to Make Monsters & Monkeys, the ‘vaarks have taken on a life of their own. Various ‘vaarks have their own Twitter feeds – @Ratvaark, @Mousevaark, @Bendivaark and @Phileas_Vaark – sharing their adventures in gardening, repairing, reusing objects and eating cake.

And, so I hankered after my own ‘vaark. The originals are each stitched from an old sock, but being me, I didn’t fancy sewing and kept looking at the spare knitted snail shell and some left-over sock yarn I had to hand. Then I mentioned on Twitter my desire to make a snail version of a ‘vaark, and thus the seed was sown. I just had to make a snailvaark. Not only did I have to make a snailvaark, however, I had to make one (at the request of Alfred, one of Ratvaark’s guardians) that was able to retreat into his shell. I thought about it long and hard and didn’t make any progress, and then I heard that Ratvaark and his folks are coming to west Wales in May, and want to meet up for cake… hopefully with snailvaark too.

So, this week, I picked up my crochet hook and set to. And I’m pleased to introduce Snailvaark:


This is Snailvaark!

As you can see, he can be a bit shy:



But he can be persuaded to come out again:


Oh, hello

Snailvaark has been very well-received. Danielle-creator-of-vaarks has already asked if she can have one (it’s on my list) and he got a good reception from some of his cousins on-line:

Snailvaark makes his internet debut

Snailvaark makes his internet début (courtesy of @Ratvaark)

In May, there will be a grand ‘vaark gathering (the crowd above plus Bendivaark who lives locally), with tea and cake… who says we can’t develop meaningful relationships via the internet?

If you want to follow Snailvaark’s adventures on Twitter, he has his own fledgeling account: @snailvaark (what else?)

And if you want to follow me, I’m @thesnailofhappy (happiness was, apparently, too much for it to cope with!)

Ready for some adventures

Ready for some adventures

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