Tuesday, 31 January 2017

If you can keep your head...

The world is pretty crazy right now. It looks as though things will continue to be a whole heap of crazy pants for a while to come. I've been reading quite a few articles and blogs about what individuals can and should do to help. One of the big things for me is the need to pace ourselves; to look after our minds and bodies, so that we can keep on keeping on for as long as is needed. 

I've committed myself to taking small actions every day: writing postcards (so much quicker than a letter), writing emails, bearing witness, noticing events and reminding myself that this is not normal. Brexit was/is bad enough, but I doubt very much that DJT and his crew are suddenly going to morph into liberal minded and highly principled politicians. This is not going to pass quickly or easily. 

To nurture my inner reserves I'm going to keep on knitting. I've got a scarf on the needles just now. Garter stitch oblivion. Springy and green. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

2017: more of the same

Christmas has been and gone, the New Year blew in on a cold wind and things are slowly getting back to normal - work this week; school again next week. 

Like everyone else I am starting my new year thinking about what and where we are going next. Last year we made the first steps towards moving our family to a new (different) home. This year will be about making the move itself - selling our current home and finding a new nest for our family to grow. It's no mean feat seeing as we live in about the most expensive part of Edinburgh and would really like to continue living in the same area. But, I am a firm believer in things working themselves out, so I am looking forward to it and trying not to be daunted. 

For the moment then, my priorities are about preparing for these changes. Decluttering and tidying up unfinished projects, organising stashes and paring back my (our) belongings ready to move. 

Last night I sat down and tackled the mending pile: 

  • one skirt with a falling-down hem 
  • one cardigan with a hole in the shoulder/neck seam
  • repairs to a shoddily-made RTW hat 
  • knee patches for the littlest boy
  • a side seam split repaired in a school gym skort
  • a hole in a t-shirt repaired

I had the house to myself, a stove to sit next to and an unending supply of tea and music. It was an hour or two well-spent - with things restored to cupboards and wardrobes rather than languishing in a pile. 

Next on my list are the unsewn Christmas projects which didn't quite cross the finish line: 3 pairs of pyjamas, 1 nightie and some zippered pouches of one type or another. 

Happy New Year everyone! 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The tale of a hat: Newhaven (FO)

I'm a hat knitter and a hat wearer. I'm wearing one now - sitting at our dining table, typing on my lap top - sitting inside. It's a bit chilly, and I'm going out again in a short while, so I decided just to keep my hat on when I got in. 

I seem to come from hat wearing stock. My dad used to wear tweed flat caps in the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up, and my brother wears something on his head most days, usually one of the scrap hats I have made for him.

To go back to the story: I wear hats a lot in the winter, and over the last few years I have made quite a lot of hats for other people. My own hat stash was wearing fairly thin. I have a green, striped scrap hat - the original prototype and starting point for my scrap hat recipe (but the tassle fell off last year) - and a lovely red hat, knitted in a soft red yarn (Rowan Kid Classic) using a pattern from a dim and distant Rowan magazine.  If it's cold I wear them both. 

Some time last winter I decided that I need to augment my hat collection. I wanted a blue hat to work with all of the blues in my wardrobe. I put it down on my shopping list for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and came home with a skein of completely on-message Wollmeise DK and a copy of Ysolda Teague's Newhaven hat pattern. Tick and tick. 

I also snagged a skein of Ysolda's kitten soft yarn, Blend No. 1 which I bought at the same time as the pattern. Naughty, but very nice. 

Obviously, as the grey yarn wasn't on my shopping list, I wound that first, and then used that to make my first Newhaven hat. The hat has short rows and charts and texture, but before you know it you are at the top and trying to work out how to turn the thing inside out for the 3 needle bind-off. 

Once I figured that out, I put it on my head and I haven't really looked back. It's my new favourite. I can't remember if I have washed or blocked it yet (why bother?!). 

I was wearing the hat the other morning when I saw Ysolda herself, having her morning coffee. I waved and pointed at my hat, and she waved back and gave me a thumbs up. Then she wrote about it on her blog. Ah. Light and love and things to cheer us up. Happy knitmas one and all. 

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.