From snow to snails

This has been a glum weekend. We were supposed to be away celebrating a birthday, but we couldn’t get out of Wales…

Usually I would be only too happy to stay at home, but missing spending time with my family, having posh afternoon tea, eating at a lovely brasserie and going to the theatre has put an enormous damper on my mood. Often I cheer myself up with creative activities, but it’s been hard this weekend. I have forced myself to start a new knitting project and to return to yet another long-abandoned crochet project, but progress has been slow and my mood has been low. It’s certainly not been helped by the weather improving, such that two days later, there would be no problem travelling.

Anyway, I have a pair of Nordic socks underway The pattern is Starry Night Socks and I’ve only modified it a little bit! I’m mostly using the wool I bought in Norway a couple of years ago, half of which was used for another pair of socks.


warm socks now it’s warming up again

The ‘old’ project is a cardigan that I wanted to wear for a wedding 18 months ago! The wedding came and went and the cardigan was not finished. Then I discovered that the pattern was very poor and didn’t properly describe how to align the little flower motifs in the border – there being a point where the flowers up the front simply didn’t line up with the flowers up the back (they are off-set by a third of a flower and it would only get worse when you add the next row and the final third row):


this is where I stalled – any additional flower would be in the wrong place in relation to one of the existing rows (both correctly placed according to the pattern)

I contacted the designer to get advice and she was unhelpful, basically telling me just to fiddle around with the flower motifs until they fit. I was so fed up that I put it to one side and didn’t pick it up again until a few days ago. By this stage I had decided not to follow the pattern (what there was of it) and instead to do my own thing. Since I was already glum, I started by removing the row of flowers up the front and weaving in all 248 ends that remained, then I added a simple border along the fronts and back of the neck that would be easy to attach other things to. Once these tasks were done, I felt a little better about the project.

As you can see, I left the row of flowers up the centre of the back, but I don’t plan to repeat them for the borders. So, it was a case of playing about with what I actually wanted. Initially I thought about paisley motifs and combining these with some free-form crochet, but then I had an idea: snails! Why not make it a snail of happiness cardigan? I’ve only just started, but I think this sort of thing might make a splendid border:


a cluster of snails

I can join them as I go and shape the border easily… and it will be both unique and very personal.

So, the weekend is drawing to a close and although I’ve wasted lots of time being sad, I’ve also made some things and I’m feeling happy about a project that, until now, was something of a millstone. I hope you have been having a happier time than me.


A long time coming

Those of you who have been with me for a while may remember me beginning work on covering my sofa with crochet (apparently, that was July 2014). I started well – I made a cover using a different design for each of the five large cushions that we lean on:


phase 1 completed a long time ago

Next I planned to make a large rectangular piece to go over the seat cushions. The colours were the same, but this was stripy. I started, but I got really fed up with the very long rows and work ground to a halt. I also started to wonder whether it was the most sensible way to cover the seat cushions – would it move about to much when in use?. Boredom combined with uncertainty does not lead to finished projects and so it remained a work in progress.

When the beginning of this year arrived, however, I decided that I wanted to shift some of my unfinished projects – either I was going to complete them or they were going to go. So, once the woolly hug and a charity blanket were completed, the sofa cover was next on the list. I braced myself for long, dull rows, but actually it wasn’t too bad. On further consideration, I decided that the seat cushions would each need separate covers, but the stripy piece could cover the back of the sofa. So I crocheted on and finally reached a size that seemed suitable. I edged it with a single row of double crochet and here it is:


those rows are SO long

Initially I was going to make some gussets for the sides, but actually it works really well (at least for the time being) as a simple throw. Of course, once the fancy cushions are in place, you can’t see much of the stripes, but I know they are there!


stripes peeking out

So far all the work has been done using double knitting wool, but I’m going to progress on to something a little thicker now. Fortunately, New Lanark, who make the wool, do the same colours in aran weight and that’s what I plan to use for the seat cushion covers and the pieces to go over the arms… I probably need a sort of pelmet for the front too. This project is not over by a long way, but at least there aren’t any bits languishing around the house unfinished now.

Funnily enough, I’m not the only one celebrating the end of a long-incomplete piece of work… The Twisted Yarn seems to be in the same position today. Anyone else managed a recent big finish?


Crochet, frog, repeat

Sometimes you make something and everything goes smoothly… the instructions contain no mistakes, the materials are cooperative, it ends up looking exactly how you want it to and you’ve enjoyed the whole process. And then sometimes that’s not the case.

I had some lovely New Lanark aran yarn in “Blackberry” that Mr Snail bought for me a couple of years ago. I had fallen out of love with the crochet pattern that it was originally intended for and I couldn’t find one that was exactly what I wanted. So, I bought a pattern that I was sure I could adapt. It was knitted rather than crochet, but that was ok – I’m happy to do either. I made the sleeves full-length rather than 3/4 and that worked well. Rather than adapting the wide, low-cut neck, I decided to in-fill with crochet once it was knitted. And that was where my problems started…

First I crocheted in a little triangle so it wasn’t as low-cut, but on inspection I discovered that it wasn’t quite centred, and in fact I’d made the triangle slightly too wide at the top, so it distorted the neck shape… so I frogged it. Then I decided to start slightly differently, so I edged it first, but it was saggy… so I frogged it. Then I edged it with some decreases and that was better, so I tried the triangular insert, and some more edging, but when I tried it on it still gaped and seemed very low… so I frogged it. Then I switched to a smaller hook and edged it and made a triangle using a different stitch pattern (which got partly frogged as I went) and then I realised I’d miscounted stitches down one side of the front edging, so it was uneven… so I frogged it.

Finally I got out my notebook and wrote down how many stitches I needed to work in each of the five sections. Then I counted as I worked and recounted once the first row was done. Then I put in a second row and counted again. Then I made the triangular insert based on all that I had learned from my previous attempts, which included using stitch markers to ensure that the two sides matched exactly. Then I crocheted another row and then I tried it on. It seemed to be ok, so I finished off with a crab-stitch edging.

It’s worked and I’m happy with it (it really is the colour in the first four pictures not the last one), but my word it has taken hours and hours and hours. Once all the ends are woven in, that will be another completed item made from my stash. I’m planning to spend time on something less challenging now before I return to the stripy cardigan that I abandoned months ago because of some technical issues with the pattern. Have you been struggling with any challenging makes recently?

Knitting up a storm

My recent focus as regards working with yarn has been on knitting – both producing designs using the wool produced by Mandy at Faithmead and enjoying working my way through the yarn in my stash. I’m pleased to say that I have had success in both respects.

I’ve created a hat, specifically designed with beginner knitters in mind for Mandy to include in a kit. The next task is to get the pattern typed up. In the past, producing patterns has been a bit ad hoc, but since I’d like to do this more regularly, I though I ought to start being more strategic and organised about it and, with this in mind, I’ve bought myself a guide book:IMGP5011Although the book is entitled The beginner’s guide…’ and I’m not entirely a beginner, it’s really useful and helping me to ensure that, from now on, my patterns will include all the elements that a user is looking for. Much more often than writing patterns, I work from a pattern written by someone else. This has proved useful in illustrating to me what a user doesn’t want in a pattern and the latest one I have been working from is a case in point, which a number of sections that have had me scratching my head, reaching for a pencil and writing down what I think needs to be done.

Issues with the pattern aside, I have completed the knitting and sewing up:

The finishing is simply supposed to involve crocheting a single row of crab stitch around the neck. I knew that I was not going to do just this right from the outset – the neck opening is too low for my taste and I have always planned to crochet a triangular panel to fill the lower part. I just have to decide exactly how I want this to look. I could knit a lace panel to match the sides, but I really want this garment to show off both knitting and crochet, so crochet it is going to be.

I have been doing some crochet on one of my UFOs, but that’s all from scrap yarn, so you’ll have to wait until this month’s ScrapHappy post to see that.


Woolly connections

In recent years I have met many people via social media – some only online, but quite a number I’ve eventually encountered in person. The networks that I have built up have enriched my life, providing me with new friends, sources of produce and teaching me a great deal. And this week, they yielded a creative collaboration. I won’t go into the rather convoluted details of how this link came about, but Thursday found me visiting Glynelwyn, home of Faithmead Felt, Fleece ‘n’ Fibre, to talk wool.IMGP4975Mandy and Derek have goats, pigs, horses and poultry, but it was the sheep that I was there for. Below are some of them – indoors to keep them out of the current poor weather (some breeds are not as hardy as you might think, plus this will help to avoid pre-felted fleeces). As you can see, some of them are particularly partial to dry pasta as a treat!


Glynelwyn is home to small numbers of a variety of breeds – Blue-faced Leicester (standard and coloured), Wensleydale, Corriedale, Gotland, Leicester Longwool, Teeswater and Grey-faced Dartmoor – and produces single-breed wool. It is also the home to tiny Fennel – a ‘micro-Corriedale’. She’s not a big wool-producer, but she does write well (a truly amazing sheep) and has just started her own blog!


Fennel and her pal Dennis

The wool from the big sheep is sold at occasional shows and on-line (they will send wool anywhere in the world!) and Mandy’s studio is heaven for a wool lover:


But, as well as the fibre, fleeces and yarn, Mandy wants to sell kits, and that’s where I come in. After a couple of unsuccessful previous attempts to have some patterns written, a mutual friend got us talking to each other and I’m going to help out. We are going to start small – a knitting kit for a hat using one of the yarns that Mandy has in (relative) abundance. On returning home, my first job was to knit some swatches, decide on an appropriate needle size and stitch pattern, and then get working on the hat…


It’s really lovely to be doing this with a local producer and I’ll be reporting on progress over the coming weeks.

No goals for 2018


Mr Snail’s Wellie socks #2

This time last year I was just getting going with 17 for 2017 – a list of goals for the year. This year I’m having a goal-free year, but if I was ticking off last years list I’d be doing well – I’ve knitted a pair of socks, baked a couple of batches of biscuits, darned three pairs of socks and repaired the pocket of a pair of jeans. I’ve even managed to play a game of Scrabble – something that proved impossible to do when it was a ‘goal’ but easy when it’s just what we fancied doing!

A friend of mine mentioned today that her word for the year 2018 is ‘creativity’ and I think I’d like my year to be especially creative too. Since completing Sophie I haven’t done much crochet, but my knitting needles have been busy… not only the socks but good progress on the jumper with lacy side panels:

I’ve also started reviewing my WIPs. There are five main ones: the sofa cover, two lap blankets, a cardigan and the Beekeeper’s quilt. So far, I’ve looked at two of these. The sofa cover piece is currently 74 cm x the width of the sofa (the white measure in the photograph is 100cm long). This piece is destined to be draped over the back of the sofa… I just need to bite the bullet and finish it and then I can start on the two seat cushion covers, which will be much more interesting (NB the main cushion covers were finished two or three years ago).


oh, those long rows!

And then there’s this lovely lap blanket, which I ran out of steam with.IMGP4938 Once I pick it up again I know I’ll enjoy making it and I have someone in mind to give it to. The centre is made from yarn that was given to me, but the edging is all scraps.

So, no goals for 2018, but plenty to get on with!

Three Things Thursday: 9 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, things arriving in the post. I love to receive letters and cards and parcels, especially when they have been sent by friends. The post this week has yielded two of these things – a card from Cathy and a parcel from Ann. Both made me smile a lot.


lovely arrivals


I think I can spare some!

Second, sending things in the post. Although I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, I decided this year to participate in Sewchet’s Crafty Secret Santa event… Stitching Santa. Basically, you are allocated a person to send a little gift parcel to and you receive one from someone else; there’s a budget but you can add extra bits and bobs that you have from your stash. I’m taking part in the knitting/crochet version, but there’s a sewing version too. I’m having fun reading my recipient’s blog and trying to decide what to include in her parcel. I really think I must send some Cambrian Mountains wool and some vintage buttons and some of my spare stitch markers, plus I’d like to make something… I have so many ideas! The suggestion is that everyone opens their parcel on Christmas day, but I may keep mine until my birthday a week later since I rarely receive presents because everyone is so busy with Christmas/New Year that they either forget or just don’t bother. I’m sure my gifter won’t mind a little delay in getting thanks. Oh and I have a parcel to pack up and send to the Beasties too.

Third, 100 swims. Yes, that’s right; so far in 2017 I have been swimming 100 times. That must be a cause for celebration, and must mean that I’m getting fitter.

So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?


Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

About that ‘yarn diet’

As you may have gathered, I am on a ‘yarn diet’. This means that over the next few months (at least until the end of the year) I am not going to buy any more yarn. This may sound like imposing unnecessary suffering on myself, but the intention is to encourage me to enjoy the beautiful yarn I already have rather than leaving it languishing in various drawers and cupboards, unappreciated. Many crafters have the habit of accumulating lots of materials (whatever their preference). I do this and, whilst it’s fun to have stuff available to use when inspired, it feels very wasteful to have loads of untouched yarn, plus it does take up a lot of space.

In general I buy yarn for particular projects, but sometimes I never get round to starting them, and by the time I am ready, I have had a change of heart (or even shape!) and so I need to find an alternative. I’m also a bit over-enthusiastic about sock yarn and have ended up with rather a lot of the stuff… more than I need for sock making. As I don’t want to build up an enormous collection of shawls, I have been wondering what else I might do with the sock yarn and inspiration arrived on Saturday. One of the organisers of the 60MT get-together was wearing a beautiful short-sleeved, asymmetrical top, clearly knitted in 4-ply. I asked her about the pattern and now I’ve bought a copy and will use some of my yarn to make Sugar Maple.

Despite the diet, some new yarn has come my way, but I did not buy it. At the event on Saturday, we had a ‘secret Santa’… everyone brought a ball of yarn wrapped up and they all went in a big box, before each person selected a different package to take away. So, I gave a ball of mottled sock yarn (which I entirely failed to photograph), but came home with two balls (yes, there were two balls in the parcel I picked) of Rowan Lima, an interesting aran yarn that looks like it has been crocheted into a chain already:

The two balls add up to the same weight as the donated ball (and, in fact, contain similar colours), so I have made no net gain, and, indeed, a loss, if I consider length of yarn rather than weight. I really am beginning to think like someone on a diet! Not sure what I’m going to use this yarn for – it’s very soft, so maybe a cowl.

As well as working on various existing projects, I’m also trying to restock my etsy shop a bit, as I’ve sold quite a few of the bird roosts. The train journeys over the weekend were split between sock-knitting and bird roost crochet, and I’ve now got several roosts ready to felt:


three done, one in progress

So, the stash is slowly being used and I’m not feeling deprived because I can’t shop for yarn… it’s a good result so far.

And suddenly it’s autumn

Rain, darkness when I get up and all those “first day at school” pictures (shudder)… whatever happened to summer?

Now that it is September, Knit Night has returned to my favourite local yarn shop. Having come to the end of my charity blanket marathon, my current project is the honeycomb cable socks.

These are not suitable for a night of knitting and chatting as too much concentration is required. With this in mind, I returned to the chunky wool from the crochet jumper I frogged a little while ago. Whilst still at home, I cast on the stitches required and so I was ready to knit and be sociable simultaneously last night.IMGP4040It’s rather nice to have a project that is growing quickly. I very rarely use chunky wool because I’m not keen on knitting with big fat needles (this project uses 8mm needles), but it’s fun sometimes.

In September I also want to publish a knitting pattern, so I am busily testing the chart I have created and making sure that the numbers of stitches work. Watch this space if you want a hat with a Halloween theme… complete with skulls!IMGP4025So, those are three knitting projects on the go and no crochet. Actually, I do have three separate crochet projects to finish, but for one reason or another none of them are currently inspiring me. I do, however, now have all the yarn I require for my Sophie’s Universe blanket, and so I will begin that soon. Hopefully it will grow bigger as the weather cools and I can snuggle underneath whilst I work on it through the winter.

If I am to meet my 17 for 2017 target, there need to be two further pairs of socks before the end of the year, but otherwise  there will be no new projects… well, that’s the plan.

So, I’m interested… with the turning of the seasons, what are your creative plans for northern hemisphere winter/southern hemisphere summer?

Stash not scraps

It’s the fifteenth of the month, which would usually mean a ScrapHappy post, but not this month. You’ve already seen my latest scrap creation, in the form of this blanket:


a big blanket of scraps

For the next few months, my plan is not to use scraps (although it might happen on the side), but to work my way through my slightly out of control wool stash and complete some WIPs*. Whilst I have been busy using up scrap wool for charity blankets, I have worked on relatively few other knitting or crochet projects, but I have continued to add to my yarn stash.  I’ve decided that the time has come to address this imbalance and to make use of some of the lovely wool currently squirrelled away in draws and cupboards.

So, my first (small) stash-busting project is a pair of socks (which will also contribute to one of my 17 for 2017 targets). This wool came in my 2016 sock yarn club subscription from The Knitting Goddess. The theme was The Discworld and the colour combination is called Distressed Pudding**. Personally, it makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream.


scrummy yarn

There were six stripy colour combinations that came in the 2016 subscription and this is the third that I have used. I subscribed to another club this year with more subtle colourways, but since I have not knitted up any of those yet, there will be no 2018 subscription… I really have to reduce the amount of wool, not increase it.

As someone who bangs on a lot about excessive consumerism, I’m feeling a bit guilty about having this lot, especially since this is by no means all my stash. It’s time to enjoy using rather than accumulating I think.


* WIP = Work In Progress

** If you are not a Terry Pratchett fan, just accept this and don’t worry about what it all means.

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