Thursday, 8 December 2016

2016: a retrospective

2016 has been a challenging year. 

Brexit and Trump mean it will have a lasting political impact on the world, but there are other things too. Smaller things about my own life which have been difficult and challenging and which will have ongoing and long-term effects. And, just like Brexit and Trump, these things are also changes that I do not want, that I do not support, and which I have done my best to resist. 

It seems - sadly - that I will have to learn to live with them. To work round them and to rethink my future. 

To get back to the other challenges for 2016, I set myself several crafty objectives earlier in the year, and it's time to take stock. 

1. Tame the stashes 
I did a good job of reducing the yarn stash, and knitting from stash a wee bit (tank top or two, plus a few other accessories), and then bought a sweater's worth of lovely yarn from Skein Queen to make myself a jumper, and two skeins of yarn for hats. 

I did sort the fabric stash, and move a few things around and get rid of some fabric I thought I would never use. But, that didn't shrink it much, and then I found I needed to order some more for a project or two that I had planned, so I don't think I am any further forward. 

2. Use the stash!
Knitting: I made a cowl for myself, a tank top for the bean, another scarf for myself, and a lovely hat. I used the stash to remake a hat for my brother, and knit a Christmas hat for my daughter. I made a slightly too big pair of socks that ended up going to my dad. My needles are currently clacking away on a pair of fingerless mitts for my brother's girlfriend. 

Newhaven Hat by Ysolda Teague
knitted in Ysolda's Blend No 1 

wee scrap hat (own design)
modelled by little bean

scrap hat revisited - own design
I made this for my brother using some frogged yarn from an old scrap hat of his, which was disintegrating from use/wear and washing. 

Sewing: I have made myself two jersey skirts suitable for work, three very small raglan tees for a friend, two pairs of school leggings and a nightdress for the jelly bean. I also made a few upcycled projects using fabric recovered from old t-shirts.

3 x recess raglan tee (See Kate Sew)
made with upcycled fabrics; the fire-engine motif was rescued from a toddler t-shirt and attached using bondaweb

4 x upcycled dusters or polishing cloths. Made from old t-shirts

3. Make some things to fill gaps in my wardrobe: 
I made a cowl, a navy jersey skirt, a lovely raspberry coloured scarf, and a grey hat. It is so satisfying to make things that fit right in to the palette and styles that I wear everyday, and which immediately go into rotation. I also made a gorgeous multi-coloured skirt which didn't really fit into my careful plans, but has been a useful me-made addition nevertheless. 

 Bias stripe scarf (Purl Soho)
Knit with some lovely but anonymous raspberry sock yarn from the stash, and striped with some odds and ends

4. Finish the UFOs
There has been progress here. My WIP pile has reduced significantly. I think I just have one long-range UFO in my knitting bag, which I am eyeing up as a Christmas gift. My sewing UFO pile ebbs and flows, but I think it has reduced in size a little. 

5. Continue to work on mending. 

There has been a lot of mending this year. I have darned, sewn, embellished, and ironed-on patches. I even managed to do some of that with friends. 

I haven't blogged much.  But I have been stitching. And I made myself some things. I might not have achieved everything I planned, but I can happily tick quite a few things off the list. Hurrah for that. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Itchy Fingers

Ah, September. Something about the shift in light and the cooler temperatures and the back to school vibe are making my fingers itchy. 

Life has been a bit challenging here lately with one thing and another (hello chicken pox, hello full-time workload). Our University semester and first teaching block has begun and I'm setting some boundaries early on to try and keep myself sane/well. 12 weeks of teaching is exhausting - particularly as our model of teaching insists that we all work as single traders - that doesn't really suit my style of working or teaching at all well. Sigh. 

In the middle of all that, yarns have been tumbling through my fingers and I have been eyeing up patterns here and there. There are some small projects to finish off too, and a few deadlines coming up that I'm working towards. But, the main thing that has been happening is sewing. 

I've realised that waiting until all three children are asleep means that my evenings are fairly short. So, I have been snatching little pockets of time here and there to move projects along. The other day I cut out a nightdress for the jelly bean (now 7!) while the little bean was having a bit of quiet time. Later in the afternoon I sewed it together, during the post-supper play and homework slot, and quickly did enough during bath time that she could wear it that night. 

A couple of days later, during another playtime lull, I rummaged in my stash for t-shirt fabrics to make up into shirts for a soon to be 1 year old friend. I cut three sets of sleeves, three backs, fronts and neck bands. Batches really are the best when you are short on time! I'd love to hear other people's strategies for sewing/crafting when time is tight.

So, it's September and my creative juices are flowing. I'm stitching here and there and doing my best to make in-road into my stash which is still (ahem) generously proportioned! I'll be back again soon. Promise. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


Although this blog is not about politics, I don't think I can avoid saying something about Brexit, given my very public support for the European project. 

On Thursday night I stayed up to watch the results of the referendum vote. I was expecting it to be close, and hoping for a majority to remain in the EU. About 3.30am it became clear to me that it was lost, and I went to bed. 

Since then I feel as though in a daze - so much has changed, but everything remains the same. The UK government has not yet triggered the leaving process via Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It is not clear who or how the Labour party is going to respond to this situation, and the only politician that appears to be doing anything is Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

I am utterly dejected by the Leave victory. It is increasingly clear that the Leave campaign was predicated on several claims that turn out to be at best misleading and at worst knowingly deceitful. 

1. Control of borders and immigration - this is unlikely in European terms because continued membership of the single market and European Economic Area requires the free movement of labour. I cant see that the UK government will get far by demanding that this changes. 

2. The £350m per week for the NHS.  A huge whopper of a lie because the contribution that the UK makes to the EU is actually much less than that, and in the context of our overall national budget, it is only buttons. And of course, there has been lots of very hasty backpedalling on that particular promise. It is unlikely that the NHS will receive any additional funding as a result of Brexit, and is likely to suffer significantly in terms of its capacity to recruit and retain excellent clinicians. 

3. Regaining our sovereignty and reducing the burden of EU regulation - great, so now the UK can decide about glyphosate for itself. Except it probably can't because again, if we want to be part of the single market and EEA, then we will also need to play by the same rules as the rest of Europe - so it looks as though we will still need to adopt EU regulations, but we wont get to influence any of those requlations through our representatives in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. Norway and Greenland are not part of the EU - but they are part of the single market, and as a result have to accept EU regulation and small details like allowing the EU fishing fleet to fish in their waters.

Almost everything I can think of seems worse if we are outside the EU. We have already heard about UK researchers being asked to withdraw from European research projects and consortiums. Architects are losing projects. People in the finance sector are being told that their jobs will be relocating to other centres within European (Paris, Brussels etc). Incoming students from the EU and overseas are concerned or reconsidering their options and then there's the palpable rise in the confidence of the white power, far right fascism and racism.  I don't need to say that I despise this and will do my best to speak up for and support everyone's right for a life without fear or discrimination. 

You might not have seen a very powerful and moving perspective on Brexit for Northern Ireland, which has a 'hard' border with the EU and faces the prospect of returning to the not very distant and troubled past that people thought they had left behind. It was little discussed in the referendum campaigns, and seems likely to remain as a marginalised side issue. 

So, Brexit - poorly articulated and completely mis-sold to an electorate rightly concerned about jobs and housing. Carl Gardner has written an excellent piece on this, and why the UK parliamentary democracy needs to step up to resolve the situation. That does not necessarily mean overturning it, but it does mean scrutinising the options available to the country and forcing the leavers to be very clear about the path they wish us to take. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

I'm IN

I interrupt this blog for a partly political broadcast.

It's referendum day, and I'm in*. 

That's all. 

* After 4 years of writing a PhD about Europe, its policies and ideas on territory and spatial planning, and almost 2 years of living and studying in other EU countries, I am a very firm believer in all the brilliant things that being part of the EU makes possible. I am not going to give them up in the vain hope that this will magically fix all of the 'problems' we have in the UK. It is a vain hope. I can see no rational justification for thinking that quitting the EU will solve anything. It will (in all likelihood) make a lot of things very much worse. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Mending Monday #4: Kapow

Ahoy there. Apologies for the slight delay. Work happened, or life, or something. 

Anywayz. It's May! Just how did that happen?  One minute it's snowing, and then the sun is shining again and summer is just around the corner. Amazingly, the springiness of the weather, has also returned my sewjo, and over the weekend I blitzed my mending pile like a crazy mending ninja. KAPOW!

Just like that, I stormed through:

  • 2 pairs of boys trousers that needed a button replacing (for those waistband elastic adjustor things, you know)
  • One girls frilly tutu that needed a bit of waistband stitching to be redone
  • Repairs to a toddler grobag (sleeping bag thingy)
  • Two mummy-made girls tops that needed fixing in the under arm area
  • One pair of boys trousers that needed patching and fixing 
  • A school cardigan that needed an under-arm repair (oh - I see a pattern here - something about that girl and her armpits!)
  • 7 dribble bibs that have been waiting for poppers
  • overlocking the internal seams on dress I made in sometime in the late 1990s.  

That dress I mention, I did really make it in the 1990s. Probably 1997 or 1998 when I lwas a student. It's some kind of rather loose weave viscose, which frays badly, and which I bought from the absolutely fabulous Abakhan Fabrics in Liverpool. I still have a couple of other bits of fabric in my stash from that time too! Overlockers hadn't been invented when I made the dress, and although I probably knew about finishing my raw edges, I didn't. I didn't have pinking shears until after 2003... Anyway - despite being rather see through and having a wonky hem, this dress is still in my wardrobe, still fits and is still the sort of thing I like to wear. I can't work out if that means I have timeless style, or just no style at all. Sigh.

After that flying start, who knows what the rest of May will bring? What are you mending today?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Things I realised this week: why I like knitting

Ah spring. There you are all green and springy, making things start to grow and inspiring me to start All. The. Projects. 

This week I realised just why I like knitting so much. Sure, it takes a relatively long time to get from a ball of string yarn to a finished sweater - but: 

1.  it's pretty portable. You can do it on the bus, on the sofa, in bed and standing up (and in most other places and positions, although please don't knit whilst driving or operating heavy machinery obvs).  

2. it's also highly pick up and put downable: you can do it for a few hours or a few minutes at a time. Just pick up the needles and knit a row, or two. 

3. Knitting is quiet - you can do it on your own, or in company.   

4. knitting is easy. If you go wrong, you can tink back (or frog) and put it right. 

Sewing on the other hand. Well, it's not quite the same. I want to sew, and to make all of the things, and I have lots of fabric. But:

1. Sewing requires quite a lot of preparation - getting the machine, scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, thread and fabric all together. 

2. Sewing has lots of stages: pattern tracing, cutting the fabric, making a toile, adjusting the toile, adjusting the pattern, cutting out the real fabric, sewing it up, adjusting it, finishing it off. 

3. Sewing often involves multiple gadgets (sewing machine, overlocker, iron, ironing board, tailors ham, tailors dummy)

4. Sometimes sewing requires all of those gadgets at almost the same time. 

5. Using the sewing machine and/or overlocker is not compatible with watching TV. 

6. Cutting fabric is final - although mistakes in stitching can usually be retrieved. 

Note to self: if you want to finish that quilt you actually have to do some sewing. Just thinking about it does not appear to be having any actual effect on the number of blocks which have been trimmed to size and stitched together.


Pass my knitting bag. 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

I had the briefest, fleetingest, shortest imagineable encounter with the Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016 on Friday, and I was utterly charmed. 

I wandered around the yarn market for an hour or so, with a stop for tea and most delicious cake part way through. It wasn't really long enough to do the place justice, or really have a good rummage and browse for the things I wanted.

I spied a few well-known faces from knitterati: Tom, but no Kate, from Kate Davies Designs, Ysolda, Stephen West - who was impossible to miss in his extraordinary outfit. I was trying to describe it to the jelly bean (age 6). She didn't believe me!

I stayed mostly on-message - with some rich blue DK yarn from Wollmeise to make myself a hat. That was definitely part of the plan. 

I also picked up some gorgeous DK weight yarn from Skein Queen - also part of my me-made plans. Stupidly I convinced myself that 2 skeins would be enough! It might be close, but I doubt I'll manage either of the two patterns I have at the top of my queue.  And, as you can see in this photo, the two skeins I picked seem to be subtly different in tone/colour. That is probably the fault of the 'show' lighting in the Corn Exchange - I did have 4 skeins to choose from! But it's not insurmountable. 

The extra thing I brought home was this little haul from Ysolda - two patterns and some of her kitten-soft silvery grey undyed yarn. 

The other pattern is her blank slate sweater. I had to pet the yarn a little bit yesterday, and hand wound it whilst drinking tea and chatting to the little bean. It's seriously nice. Silky and soft, and a lovely pale grey. I'll be casting on for that hat as soon as I can find the right needle, and, I can see a blue version coming along just behind it.