Skyscrapers and String


Enjoying the slow knitting…

Hello everyone,

I hope your week is going smoothly.

I’m thoroughly enjoying knitting the jumper I had fallen in love with a decade ago and am now relishing each row.

The yarn is Manos Del Uraguay silk blend, in a discontinued shade ‘Virgo.’

The colours are very mother of pearl, and gentle on the eye, and the wool is soft and lustrous and delightful to knit with.

I wanted to talk today about the idea of ‘slow fashion’ because a recent launch of yet another set of patterns and yarns by a very popular brand of American yarn was accompanied by a written piece singing the praises of ‘slow fashion.’

Now, I’m finding it hard to reconcile the current yarn industry with slow fashion because I follow lots of crafters online and the impression I get is frenzy, not slowness.

You used to hear people say knitting was a dying art.

People I have followed on Ravelry since I started my knitting journey may have several hundred lots of yarn logged in their stash and several hundred garments knitted, yet they still post about all the new things they’ve bought.

I’m concerned about the loss of slow crafting.

I’m not much better than anyone else because I have a cupboard full of unused yarn and a bookshelf of patterns and my wardrobe has enough cardigans and shawls to insulate the loft. But it’s under control and it’s thought through.

At the Ally Pally show on Saturday I knew what was on every stall I walked past. It was the same as last year.

I saw ladies toting suitcases on wheels and trollies full of yarn and wondered what was so novel on sale that you couldn’t order from the internet from your armchair when you got home.

The Stylecraft stall for example had a lovely yarn called ‘Batik’ offered at the ‘show price’ of £2 a ball. On the Deramores website when I got home, the standard price for the yarn was £1.99 and they were offering 30% off all yarn.

There were a few stalls selling hand dyed yarn but each year I go the number seems to dwindle.

Notwithstanding all that, knitting seems a frenzied occupation nowadays!

On my instagram feed, people are endlessly producing knitted objects, things they’ve woven, quilted and bought. It’s dazzling.

They go somewhere and proudly display suitcases worth of yarn souvenirs.

Where do they keep all these things they’ve produced? You can’t sell hand knitted things made with expensive wool and make a reasonable hourly wage as well?

I asked someone once where they kept all the hundreds of shawls they turned out and they told me they had cupboards for them.

In the half dozen years since then they have continued their output unabated. I envision their house as being full of closets, full of shawls which once blocked, go on the pile after the Instagram photo has been posted and the shawl worn to knitting club once. A bit like the Library in Doctor Who with the shadows…

I have a lot of yarn and a lot of patterns I plan to knit and a lot of knitted objects.

But now the whole thing has become a fast paced industry encouraging over indulgence and is starting to make me feel queasy, like watching a hotdog eating competition!

I’m not sure what equates with ‘mystery knit a longs’ but thousands of people join in a quest to follow clues to make something random using expensive yarn.

At the knitting show being held roundabout now in the US, it seems you even have to knit something specifically to wear in order to be able to attend!

I do knit most days and it’s nice to knit for friends and for charity.

But my knitting life is a process of selecting the precise elements to make something unique that I’ll love. I live breathe and sleep to become inspired and it’s hard work to manifest my inspiration into something I can touch and wear. A lot of ripping takes place. But it’s worth it.

It’s couture! It’s magical! It’s alchemy!

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Spreading socks

Quite a few years ago I read a great book called Sew Your Own by John-Paul Flintoff and as a result I started a knitting club at work with the aim of sharing the antique art of knitting socks with any colleagues who were interested.

That was one of the transforming moments of my life.

I emailed John-Paul to let him know and he thought it was funny that I would be doing this with a group of bankers in Canary Wharf.

The thing is, our knitting group wasn’t attended by bankers.

Big companies employ all kinds of people, we were mostly in IT and risk management of different kinds. I was in awe of most of the members who were experts in so many different fields: quants experts, computer programming languages, data modelling and some were ace coders who would ‘manage scrums’ or ‘manage spaces’ and do projects of mind boggling complexity. I remember one conversation I sat in, about knot theory which was mind blowing and I came home and furiously boned up on advanced math. Astonishing!

My role was superuser of a training and development database used to ensure the bank could prove it had properly trained its staff on important things like avoiding fraud and money laundering, and health and safety, and I also used to build cunning databases or intranets in Sharepoint.

Most of us were just recently students or mums and dads. We represented every diverse group of people who work in London.

We coached colleagues who were taking their Citizenship exam, exchanged ideas on how to deal with difficult colleagues, comforted each other after spiteful appraisals, bereavements, family problems and celebrated successes, promotions and new babies.

And as did all that we knit, crocheted and stitched embroidery in the dim light of Costa coffee in the shopping mall.

I learned so much during that time, my knitting is millions of times better. Some of the members were perfectionist and you knew if you took something faintly bodged out of your bag you would feel embarrassed and we kindly urged each other to re do that bit, or try out newer, harder techniques.

We went on knitting classes together at the weekend, shared books and patterns and showed each other what we had learned and picked up so many tips and tricks to do with crafting, cooking, all areas of life generally.

We also raised money for charity regularly by selling our work, and being in a big bank meant we were generously supported by our colleagues.

And it was nice to build friendships with people who you might never have crossed paths with through your job. A lot of us are quite naturally introverted and knitting in a group allows for quiet sharing of space and the chance to chat or to listen or to concentrate on the handiwork.

So although I don’t see everyone from the group every week now, and I’ve been gone from work for two years, last week I met up and had a wonderful day with a former club member who now lives in Scotland, and my memories of those knitting club years are very fond.

And today one of my oldest friends is coming over for lunch so I can help her turn the heel on her first sock.

So I’m still spreading sock knitting and I urge anyone who knits to start a club at work, it’s the nicest way to make new acquaintances and can sometimes be life changing.

And who doesn’t love soft warm socks?


Weather superstitions…

Funny how prehistoric apprehension accompanies freaky weather…

Yesterday we had almost complete darkness at 3pm and I had to put all my lights on.

The sky had turned yellow and the sun appeared huge in the sky but was hidden behind a thick mist.

The usual Dagenham starlings were still flying about and chirping loudly and my cats weren’t even slightly bothered, but I was properly spooked!

I felt like something awful was about to happen.

Bearing in mind the bizarre political climate across both sides of the channel, which must make anyone gloomy at best, irrespective of your political affiliation, to feel like the cosmos was having a poke seemed like the last straw frankly.

This morning everything is back to normal, no tropical sandstorms are apparent and my neighbourhood looks entirely normal again.

Last night Jon put the tumble dryer in the cupboard and it’s working fine.

But the cupboard housed everything that didn’t have a home and it was all shoved in and because the space has had to be redone there’s old tea towels and hot water bottles and other less easy to identify stuff on every flat surface.

The only major thing left to do after the cupboard and the tumble dryer is to take our latest Kitteh, Beezer to be neutered on Friday.

And I’m left to tidy the hurricane of displaced kitchen ephemera left by the tumble dryer cupboard being redone.

With any luck I will get back to normal soon!


Coming together in the end

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re keeping well and enjoying the warm autumn so far (if you’re in the UK).

I’m enjoying the weather as I don’t like heat or cold particularly and the only thing that causes me to grumble is the faded quality of daylight.

Apart from that, things have calmed down a lot at home, all traces of my lurg are long gone, the new bath is nice, even though it’s a bit narrow it’s very deep and holds the heat – good for reading!

Today I’m patiently waiting for the new tumble dryer to be delivered and the house is clean, no chores to speak of apart from laundry, which is endless.

This weekend just gone I went with my dear friend to Ally Pally for the knitting show and it was a foot crunching walk round all the stalls.

I felt very blessed as I didn’t really need any supplies and I had taken note of the quantity of yarn I needed to make a jumper I had been yearning to make for a really long time in case the discontinued yarn was suddenly apparent on one of the stalls.

Dutifully I looked and looked but there was nothing close available. I did see some lovely silky yarn in gentle colours that looked familiar for some reason, but that was a lot of money even being on sale, and not enough was available to complete the garment anyway.

We had the greatest time catching up as we walked about and Ally Pally had improved it’s facilities by opening a pub which served nice food and had a terrace with benches. Everywhere you looked you could see groups of ladies eating and drinking and having the greatest time.

After the show, I brought my aching feet home and sat on the sofa gratefully. My Fitbit buzzed and scolded me for not taking enough steps.

I told it to bugger off!

After a delightful dinner and a relaxing evening I went to bed and snuggled into my puffy white sheets.

I dreamt of the jumper I wanted to make and my subconscious remembered the yarn I already had in the shed, which was an abandoned project which was due to appalling pattern instructions I’d paid £7 for and the actual garment made me look like a boarded up shop.

When I woke up, I went outside in the dawn air in my nightie and slippers and opened the shed to retrieve the box of wool and half finished sweater.

Back in my knitting chair I looked at the yarn label and indeed it was perfect for the long yearned for jumper. And I had more than enough!

As Jon and I sat unraveling the jumper (I destroy, he winds) watching tv that afternoon I couldn’t help but feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, clicking her red heels and finding she could have returned home at any point.

I think I have had the pattern 10 years, and the yarn for nearly as long. I’m a couple of inches along already and promising myself to sit and do a few rows here and there today.

Isn’t it lovely when you end up having what your heart has yearned for, with so little effort required. Mind you, that has been the story of my life to be honest.


Zooming along!

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re having a good day today.

I’m on the bus home after the gym and a revelatory haircut.

I say that it’s revelatory because I walked in with wet, freshly showered hair after my swim and sat down and Lauren cut my hair exactly as requested and was finished Dyson hairdryering it before I could finish my M&S cut up fruit salad!

When have I ever had a hairdresser quickly and efficiently deliver such a service?

Usually it’s do you want a coffee and you get a huge tray with biscuits you don’t want and some dreadful junior tangles my hair up shampooing my hair then it’s an hour tugging at it unmercifully untangling it again.

Then you have to make small talk with the hairdresser about where I’m going tonight (nowhere) and when is my next holiday (dunno) and on and on.

I was able to snap my hair back into its messy bun, pay 1/10th of the last salon price and am only 25 minutes later home than normal.

It’s been a good day all round.

1) The local gleaners took the old bath out of the garden so I don’t have to pay to get it taken away.

2) My washing line is full of dry laundry as it didn’t rain while I was out.

3) I got round to some errands I had been unable to finish last week as I was poorly

4) I’ve nearly finished the spreadsheet I wanted to do for ages! I’ve just got to add in the items from my bullet journal and it’s done!

And I’ve had a smashing swim!

All in all a satisfying and productive day!

Beezer agrees!


Embroidering over the lines…

Hello everyone,

I hope you enjoyed your weekend.

Mine was quiet, the plumbers fitted the new bath and taps, Jon fitted the panel and I have enjoyed several sumptuous baths which I’m sure have helped me to feel better.

I read a novel, ‘The Last Wish’ it was very good, quite different from most things I read usually and I’m now needing to pick a new book to read from the huge pile of books which are my reading queue.

I’m thinking about reading the book on colour theory first. But the book on dragons ….!

This is the problem with too much choice!

Also over the weekend I made good progress with my brown cardigan and started embroidering the sleeves. I’ve got quite a bit still to do but it’s gone from a boring chore to something exciting!

When you think about embroidering a knitted object you initially don’t realise you need to make a massive adjustment for scale. Stitches which look tiny in embroidery silk become huge ghastly elephant footprints in knitting wool.

Of course I couldn’t wait to finish the sleeves before embellishing them so there’s been a fair amount of picking up dropped stitches.

I’m trying to think how I’m going to tackle the grey green stripe, originally I imagined red wheels of some kind. We’ll see…

I’m glad to be feeling better and I’m pleased Jon had a good birthday.

This week I’m trying not to feel all behind with myself due to being out of sorts last week.

I’m going to potter around this morning and tidy up. It’s going to be a productive day!


This is all good…

Hello everyone

I hope you had a super day yesterday and are enjoying your Sunday so far.

It’s Jon’s Birthday today and he has a hammer in his hand and is cursing everything trying to fit the bath panel on our new bath.

I’m hoping it goes smoothly because no one plans to spend their birthday on the bathroom floor covered in splinters.

Last night I slept all night for the first time in ages, so obviously the antibiotics have started to work!

I’m very pleased with that to be honest.

Sleeping through the night has been a priority since I stopped working. First off I was content to just sleep and not spend my nights awake and fretting.

Then I was advised by my Doctor that I was woefully deficient in vitamin D, then I discovered I was also deficient but not as badly so, in the other fat soluble vitamins and iron so I have been taking additional vitamins and now feel like I am doing well.

Then I got properly into my Fitbit and started concentrating on moving more, then my new Fitbit started to tell me about the quality of my sleep.

That’s another thing to become obsessed with!

So with Fitbit you get given the breakdown of the three types of sleep and you can then get told off for not getting enough sleep.

Then you find yourself reading up on sleep.

It’s a big topic at the moment with Nobel Peace prize winners being body clock experts and research on Dementia points to a lack of sleep being a potential cause.

My Mum has terrible dementia and is a frightening wreck of a person and I’m terrified when I visit her. And I’m scared of ending up like that.

So once you delve into the topic of sleep and how it works, you rush upstairs to bed on time, you start meditating, avoiding coffee and drinking before bedtime and in the morning you hurtle downstairs to check your Fitbit and see how you’ve done.

This morning my Fitbit said I regularly sleep over an hour longer than other women of my age.

The other interesting aspect of sleep is the link between your body storing fat and your appetite regulating hormones.

Apparently if you nurture yourself by getting enough of the right kind of sleep your body will produce the right chemicals to ensure you don’t feel so hungry all the time and your body will process what you eat and not store it as additional fat.

So it’s all baby steps.

I never understood how important these ordinary things are to my wellbeing.

But before, when I didn’t sleep I was too exhausted to do all the right things for myself during the daytime.

Now I’m waking up and feeling fresh and ready for anything.

It’s not rocket science.

Sleep, move, read, cook fresh things, get outside, tidy round, make something, be kind, challenge yourself.

It’s quite a long list, but we can’t have you getting bored can we?

Here you can see the start of the embroidery on my sleeve of the boring cardigan. The idea came to me in bed!


Ambition…

Hello everyone

Today I am cooped up indoors waiting for the plumber who has already rung to say he’s running late.

I’m swathed in a shawl and cardigan because the house is freezing and I’m still not feeling great.

I want to go to bed although I was only up once in the night, which is a massive improvement.

Once the men are here I will slope upstairs and catch some zzz’s.

Today I feel frustrated by the things I’m not well enough to do.

  • The pile of typing
  • The spreadsheet that needs finishing
  • The dusting needs doing
  • The voucher I could be redeeming
  • The shed needs a visit
  • The box of magazines that needs sorting

I’m like a toy in a cupboard.

Oh but when the bath is fixed I’m sure I will start to get better!

But for now, I will sit and be patient as best I can.


Iron throne

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re having a great day. I’m still indoors, taking antibiotics and feeling wretched.

Missed my swim today and catching up with my friend Lesley. Instead I got to unpack the shopping delivery and do some bits indoors.

I’m still useless but have managed a few rows of knitting, the endless brown cardigan is not so bad once you finish the brown ribbing, which seems to go on forever…

It’s lovely outside and it’s not funny being stuck inside but nonetheless it’s nice being home and I have chocolate and just opened a drawer to find a packet of cola bottles! Yaay!

I realised I hadn’t shown you my birthday present from Jon. It’s an iPhone charger and I love it. You can also see the boring knitting.

When Jon was making my present I teased him that he was making me a Blue Peter Tracy Island. It’s been such a surprise!

My house is full of things he’s made me, I love walking around and noticing something special, I have some of my grandparents things dotted around as well.

It makes a nice home.


Washed out…

So here I am, up and dressed with no place to go because I’m sweating and taking antibiotics for a ghastly infection.

It’s one of those medieval lurgies where you become feverish and almost out of body experience-like. If that’s a word…

However, one constructive thing I’ve found I can do is washing clothes, so now everything in the house that isn’t nailed down is either on the washing line or hanging off something indoors.

I’ve stopped now for the day as we have no tumble dryer and I’m keen to catch up with the tv show on Queen Victoria and the episode I’ve queued up is apparently showing how she sorts out the Irish Potato Famine.

You can tell I’m not a monarchist can’t you.

Anyway, any port in a storm.

So before I start watching the tv I’m going to go online and order myself a new tumble dryer.

I hope you’re keeping well.

I have so much to do and I’m keen to get on with all my plans but I’ll have to keep taking the tablets and get better first.

As you can see, dear Bandit has been keeping me company. Cats are great when you feel lousy!