Shepherding the lost sheep

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Chrissy and one of her many spinning wheels

Unlike Little Bo Peep’s sheep, which would, apparently, return home of their own accord ‘wagging their tails behind them’, most sheep need a shepherd – someone to guide then, nurture them, heft them and ensure their well-being. Sadly, it appears that many farmers and shepherds could, themselves, also do with such care and attention… and so, I’d like to introduce you to Chrissy Smith, an amazing woman doing her bit to help the sheep farmers of Wales.

Interested in Welsh sheep breeds and discovering a few years ago that their wool was not really being understood and effectively marketed by the farmers who produced it, Chrissy decided to take action. So, she established The Lost Sheep Company. By understanding the properties of the wool of different Welsh sheep breeds, farmers can appreciate the value of what they produce and consumers can select wool that will do the job they want. So Chrissy is on a mission to get everyone (producers and users) to appreciate the value of wool, especially wool from the traditional Welsh breeds: Balwen, Beulah Speckled Face, Black Welsh Mountain, Jacob, Kerry Hill, Llanwenog, Lleyn, Ryeland and Welsh Mule.

On her web site, Chrissy provides a wealth of information, from how to roll a fleece, to the characteristics of wool from the different breeds. In her shop (well, heritage craft centre really) in Colwyn Bay she sells fleeces, hand spun yarn and equipment, restores old spinning wheels and runs and hosts classes. She buys fleeces from local farmers for ten times the price that the wool marketing board pays (which is often just pennies per kilo), processes them in a couple of old twin tub washing machines and works her magic with natural dyes.

In 2017 Chrissy was involved in reviving the tradition of the Conwy Wool Fair and she’s hoping to make this an annual event.  In fact, what she’s seeking to do is to re-introduce the traditional Wool Charter Market in Conwy – the right, granted by royal charter, to close off the streets and hold a market to trade wool once a year. Apparently, she’s got Prince Charles on the case trying to track down the original charter. Now wouldn’t that be an event worth going to?

We met Chrissy during the Knit for Peace Wool Hunt weekend and, for me, visiting her shop and hearing about her work was one of the highlights. I am always inspired by people who see a problem and take action, and you don’t get more active than this. If you are ever in north Wales, The Lost Sheep Company is really worth a visit.

Dame Hilary, in the Library, with the Knitting Needles

In the United States of America there is a network of Presidential libraries and a library has been established for every president since Herbert Hoover, each located in their home state. In the UK we don’t have such a network, so there is only a single Prime Ministerial library: Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden in Wales.

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Gladstone’s Library

Being the only Prime Ministerial library is not the only thing that makes this place unusual, it is also the largest (some sources say only) residential library in the country. It’s a place that has fascinated me ever since I first heard of it and so, when I saw that Knit for Peace were running a short knitting holiday there, I couldn’t resist.

Last Saturday, therefore, saw me arriving at this amazing building, ready to enjoy meeting other knitters in some impressive surroundings. Outside, there are gardens and an area of woodland, but it is the building that is really impressive, both outside:

and inside

The books are mainly history and theology, so no light reading, but they are accessible on the shelves and you can even sign them out if you are staying and take them back to your room to read. However, I wasn’t really there to read, I was there to knit, socialise and visit some woolly places… which is just what we did.

Upon arrival, we congregated in the sitting room, where I was surprised to be introduced to the founder of the Charities Advisory Trust (the parent organisation of Knit for Peace) Dame Hillary Blume. Two other members of staff also attended the weekend as well as a number of their regular volunteers, meaning that I got to hear lots about their work, from who curates the wool collections for the monthly raffle (which I won last autumn)to the compilation of the Good Gifts Catalogue and what day of the week they have cake in the office.

Each day we went out and about, visiting local wool producers/ retailers, making trips to Abakhan, Black Sheep Wools, The Lost Sheep Company and the Chester Wool Company/Fibrespates, returning to the library to knit and chat. To be honest there was rather more chatting than knitting, and indeed so much chatting that at least two of us (me being one) had to frog some of our work because we made mistakes whilst getting distracted by the conversations!

So, the weekend was a great success – money was raised for the charity, lovely places were visited, knitting was knitted, crochet was crocheted, conversations were had and I made a hat from some of my raffle winnings (it will be returned to Knit for Peace, who will find it a good home).

All an illusion

Somehow there has been much more doing than writing going on at Chez Snail in recent weeks Having completely failed to manage a scrappy project in time for the March ScrapHappy, I am determined now to do better in the coming month. I’ve been busy with some scrap-based things, but I’m saving posting about those so I don’t miss another SH on the 15th. I have completed the crochet for the sofa seat covers, but I’m dithering slightly about the finishing as I have a choice to make about the backing… I think I know what I’m going to do, but I don’t want to post about that until it’s complete.

Much of my time, however, has been taken up with a blanket that I’ve had the pattern for since last summer, but hadn’t quite got round to doing anything with. Originally I was going to make this for Mr Snail to take to Reading whilst he’s working away, but then I decided to make him a snuggly hexie blanket from scraps first. However, having discovered that he’s got two sofas in his rented flat, it seemed appropriate to make him a second blanket. The squares are now all finished, and probably don’t look very promising at first glance:

Dull squares

However, when laid out, look a bit more interesting:

some depth

I rather like how different this design is from most crochet patterns – the simplicity and the optical illusion were very appealing to me, and it will look even better once the squares are joined and edged. The Pattern is Cubine by Magdalene Lee and you can find it on Ravelry. The wool is aran weight and all British: the brown is natural Zwartbles produced by my friend Val; the blue is from Woolyknit; and the cream is from New Lanark.

The long haul

I first started making a cover for my sofa more than four years ago. My interest in the project has fluctuated over that time, but I have always been determined to get there  eventually. I don’t think I’ve updated you on progress for a while, so I here’s what I’ve achieved recently:

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seat cover

This was photographed draped over the sofa (and you can see bits of the back cushions) as it still needs the edging that will allow it to be fitted over the seat. Once it’s done, I will need to think about covering the arms and making a piece to go across the front of the base… perhaps it will be done in another three years!

What I am really delighted about is how hard-wearing the cushions that I made first have been – no pilling, no sagging and the colours have not faded. The wool comes from New Lanark and I can highly recommend it for this sort of project, as well as for warm sweaters.

CD salvage

Do you keep things because it’s difficult to recycle them? We do… especially things that we look at and think they have potential. Which is why, high up on a shelf  in our little utility room, is a box of old CDs. Most of these came free with magazines or were the source of long-obsolete software. For a while we used them as slug barriers in the garden, but the advent of the chickens (which clear the garden of slugs and their eggs over the winter, but are kept away from the veg beds in the summer) made this function superfluous. And so, the box sat atop a shelf until a couple of months ago when the subject of crochet CD mandalas cropped up  during a chat with a friend.

I resisted the urge to look for ideas on the internet and just picked up my hook. My first try was rather tatty and my next attempts looked good, but were a little looser than was ideal, but finally I managed a design that I liked. By making two circles and crocheting them together around a pair of CDs (printed sides together, so you just get shininess showing through), I made something that, with an added loop, can be hung up where it can spin around and catch the light (turn the sound off if you don’t want to hear Sam and Daisy in the background):

Alternatively, they can be used as coasters. In fact, the set of eight that are pictured below (both sides) have gone off to two local holiday cottages owned by a friend for just that purpose.

A little bit of further experimentation with the aim of producing a snowflake seems to have turned into a spider’s web. Oh well, I rather like it anyway:

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I might make a spider to go in the middle

I have a pattern drafted, so I may actually get it published eventually.
It’s turned out to be a rather nice way to use up wool scraps and I have about 200 more CDs, so I’ve got plenty of raw materials.

ScrapHappy November 2018

Finally the blanket from the scraps left over from Sophie is finished (originally featured in ScrapHappy September). Actually, it also includes some other scraps and a few new balls just to get it up to size, along with some of the abundant Cambrian Mountains wool that I had squirreled away and which was perfect to frame the blanket.

As you can see, it’s got cute bobbles on the end edges and is currently being road bed tested by Sam and Daisy (it turns out that Daisy LOVES wool). Here they are modeling it along with the original Sophie:

The pattern suggested just joining the hexagons at the corners, and this is what I originally did, But I wasn’t happy with how loose this made the blanket, so I have crocheted each row of hexagons together, leaving only the adjacent hexagons in each row unattached. This gives it more strength and means it’s less likely to get accidentally damaged because of something getting caught through one of the many gaps.

There were about a million ends to weave in, but I have plans for all the little left-over bits… watch this space.

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just a few ends

And now it’s off to Reading to make Mr Snail’s flat feel a bit more like home and provide a virtual hug from me when he’s there all on his own.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ScrapHappy October 2018

Several years ago I came across a maker who I greatly admired. I looked at her work and I pondered whether I could emulate it, but in the end I decided that it was beyond me and that, therefore, if I got the opportunity, I would buy one of her creations. So, unusually, this month’s ScrapHappy post features a creation that is not my own.

Fwo weeks ago I managed to get to Yarndale (more on this in a future post) and finally to see the wonderful creations of  Sue Reed, The Woolly Pedlar for real. I was so captivated, that I completely forgot to take any pictures of her stall, so it you want to see more of her work, you’ll have to follow the link. Sue uses old knitwear as the raw material to make amazing dresses, shawls, ponchos, coats, hats and more. In Sue’s own words:

I take waste knitwear and create new pieces from it, saving it from landfill. Textile waste is a huge problem, and landfill sites are full of discarded textiles that could be upcycled into new things.

And this is the poncho I bought:

One of the things I love about Sue’s creations is that she can use damaged knitwear. Elbows of a sweater worn through? No problem, just use the bits that are still intact. Moths got your cardigan? Cut out the squares from between the holes. Her eye for colour is amazing, as are her quirky designs. What an inspirational ScrapHappy business she has created.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ScrapHappy September 2018

You may remember Sophie… which took up quite a bit of my time last year:

I bought new wool to make her, but there was rather a lot left over: perfect for a ScrapHappy project. So, with Mr Snail living away from home during the week (more on that in a future post) and him commenting that the flat he’s renting doesn’t entirely feel like home, I decided that a snuggly sofa blanket was needed. It’s not finished yet, but this is progress so far.

As well as the left-overs from Sophie there are a few balls from my stash. It’s all wool (with the exception of a tiny bit of silk in on blend) and almost all British; any that isn’t is old balls that I have no idea anymore of the origin. I’m planning to work on it until I have used up as much of the wool as possible and then edge it in the cream wool (Cambrian Mountains), of which I have quite a lot left on the cone I bought to make Sophie.

I think it will make Mr Snail’s flat feel a bit more like home and keep him warm on those cold winter nights… if I can just get it finished!

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ScrapHappy July 2018

One of our regular Knit Nighters has moved away and so we will only be seeing her when she comes up for an occasional visit. Before she left, however, she witnessed the creation of the alpacadillo and she was besotted. I didn’t have time to make her one of her own before she left, so this little chap will have to go in the post:

His head, body, limbs and tail are made from the remains of a ball of wool from Sophie, but I can’t remember what the shell is an oddment from… anyway, it was lurking in a basket of small left-over balls, so I clearly made something out of it at some time (I do know it’s one of the last remaining bits from the sadly missed company Colinette). This critter is 100% wool, so not an alpacadillo, but a scrapadillo, I think. It’s going to live in Swindon.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sofa stoppage

Long-term readers know how long the project to make a complete set of covers for my sofa has been going on. However, it recently received a boost when I bought more (thicker) wool supplies whilst we were away on holiday and I started making progress once more.

The work-in-progress at the moment is the cover for the seat cushions. I have decided not to make separate covers, but to make a single piece, which will be easier to hold in place and will also prevent the migration of crochet hooks, scissors, knitting needles and biscuits down the cracks (there’s never any spare change heading that way!). So far I’ve managed about half of the top, made from join-as-you-go squares. Here it is… and a ‘mock-up’ of what it will look like when it’s done combined with the existing parts.

It’s quite hard to show the colours… the limestone grey always comes out looking rather washed-out and the subtleties of the other colours don’t really show, but you get the idea. I’m planning to stitch it onto some cotton fabric to ensure that it holds it’s shape through the rigours of being sat upon.

Unfortunately, however, work has ground to a halt. The UK is currently basking in glorious sunshine and it’s far too warm to be underneath a thick woolly creation. I’m focusing on smaller and thinner things instead… including this month’s scrap happy make (just completed). Nevertheless, I’m pleased that this section is at least started. No doubt it will be cold soon enough and a wooly cover whilst I’m working will be not welcome.

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