Tuesday, 30 June 2015

"The Grass Is Always Greener Where You Water It"

"The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don’t give up. They don’t take no for answer. They keep demanding change. This is my faith. When we see injustice we must tackle it."
Ed Miliband resignation speech

I copied and pasted this quote the day after the UK election. I didn't really know what to do with it, but it struck a chord with me. As time has passed I've been thinking about things and I wanted to share some of my observations and snippets of conversations, if only to get them out of my head and organised into something that resembles a thought-process. 

I have spoken with friends about my despondency at the election result, and my concern that we have lost our way as a country and as a society. My sense of community is perhaps a romanticised one, a little old fashioned and based on rosey-tinted tales from others - I often wonder what happened to street parties, and why nobody seems to know their neighbours any more. I remember the green-grocer who used to sneak tangerines to me while my parents shopped for the weekly veggies, and my nan used to get the bus to town a couple of times a week for supplies and to catch up with friends - a lovely couple who regularly visit my shop reminisce about how you could spend the whole day in town because you'd see most of the people that you knew and you'd chat and catch up. I wonder what happened to that. 

image from www.plumstead-stories.com 

We seem to be fed such hateful propaganda these days - at what point did being vulnerable make you the bad guy? When did it become normal to be so suspicious of others? I am sure that there will be people who mistreat the system, there always has been, but I'm positive that they are in the minority. Surely the system was put in place for a reason? I mean things good and supportive things like disability allowance, child support, unemployment benefits - these things were put in place for the greater good, as a safety net, so that those who could give a little more could take the pressure off those who had less. Am I being naive here? 

"When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net...was there to break the fall" JK Rowling 

But instead of looking after people, we seem to be turning on each other, blaming the people at the bottom when it's the people at the top who are actually causing the problems by not paying their way. Who do they answer to? Where is the justice? I have just finished reading Mark Thomas' latest book "100 Acts of Minor Dissent" and in it he comments on the fact that companies like Apple, who pay no tax anywhere, still expect the roads and pavements outside their shops to be maintained - I'm paraphrasing here because I don't have the book to hand but the point he makes is totally valid. We've lost our high-street shops to supermarkets, our bakers and butchers and greengrocers are more or less gone on the high-street, mostly relegated to markets, and we've let it happen, and then we complain about it. From first hand experience of having a market stall I know that we can make a difference - we have tiny businesses in the great scheme of things, but they are honest businesses, run by (for the most part) people who care about their customers and believe in their product, wanting always to do their best. We just want to keep doing what we do, just trying to get by and keep going. We are just waiting to be discovered.

I wonder, where do we go from here? Everything is so resentful, the media so full of divisive language, the world feeling like it's beginning to crumble. There have been so many awful things happening everywhere - such hatred, differences used as justification to dehumanise, the propaganda that is being so carelessly thrown around being used an excuse for violence. It's been everywhere - attacks in France and Tunisia, which instantly lead to Islamophobia, hate feeding hate. The shooting in Charleston, where innocent people were seen only for the colour of their skin. Police shooting rubber bullets at a Pride Rally in Turkey. All of these things bred from intolerance. Are we not all just people? 
A friend sent this little video to me after a conversation that we had on Saturday. We talked about tending your own garden, making your own patch nice and helping others with theirs. How the government don't care but they don't get to set the standard that we all live by. They can lead with the example of looking out for themselves, but we can do better. We are worth more than the standard they set - they are pathetic and we can surely do better than that. 

I've seen some glimmers of hope - the historic victory of love over inequality in the United States and the show of solidarity with facebook rainbows. The rejection of Fracking in Lancashire. The Craftivist Collective fighting for M&S employees to be paid the Living Wage by embroidering messages onto handkerchiefs for the board members. Amazing women like Clemintine Ford fighting for women everywhere - I've been following her story in particular (thanks to lovely Pip Lincoln at Meet Me At Mike's for highlighting it) but there are lots of other amazing people raising their voices too, and there are fantastic campaigns like Let Clothes Be Clothes and the super-dad over at Man Vs Pink who are trying to raise awareness of the harm that gender stereotyping can cause. There are lots of little steps which cumulate in big changes.
photo from Greenpeace

So, I come to the end of my little rant, and I guess what I'm saying is that I am starting to feel more positive. I am just one person, I don't have all of the answers, and I'm sure I don't understand all of the questions either, but I can fight, in my own little ways and I have to stay positive. I have to be inspired by the amazing people who are also fighting, and try to rationalise the negative things, work out if they can be changed and how, and what difference I can make. I will try to be well-informed and open-minded. I will try my best and I won't give up. 


I found myself in a fairly unusual position this month - I really didn't enjoy one of the books that I read. I persisted and finished "All the Materials for a Midnight Feast", but it really was a chore. In fact, it took most of the month to read it because I couldn't bring myself to pick it up. There's nothing that I can put my finger on, it just didn't go anywhere or have anything much to say. I don't really like to be negative, but it really was a disappointment. 
The positive was that "The Opposite of Loneliness" was full of brilliance. I found the recommendation on a blog that I follow, but unfortunately I have since lost track of which one, because I would like to thank the author for sharing it. Marina Keegan died so tragically young, but I believe that her legacy will be a great one. I would say it's worth picking up a copy for the opening essay alone, her words are so poignant... 

"We're so young. We can't, we MUST not loose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have." Marina Keegan
My June books...
  • David Nicholls - "Us"
  • Gary Dexter - "All the Materials for a Midnight Feast"
  • Marina Keegan - "The Opposite of Loneliness"
  • Mark Thomas - "100 Acts of Minor Dissent"

Monday, 29 June 2015

Make on Monday

Today was something shiny and new - Make on Monday. It was the first ever, and I'm pleased to report that it went rather well. My friend and I have been plotting this for some time, joining forces to offer our crafty skills in a lovely local cafe. Becca is one of my go-to friends for knitting advice, and she has a great business called Alterknitive
So we packed up our bits and bobs and set up in the Baby Bird Cafe with lots of books and hooks and needles and yarny-goodness. 

We had a visitor each, Becca helped with increasing and cable knitting, and I gave a bit of advice on stitches, different UK and American abbreviations, and pattern reading - we made granny squares, following the pattern as we went along. I felt pretty proud. 
We have the next Make on Monday dates all booked in already, I have such high-hopes for our joint adventure.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

My Week...

My week started with a very exciting evening out in Liverpool watching the very scary-mindbending Derren Brown after a little visit to Hotel Chocolat for a pot of cocoa-shell tea. 
It has been a quiet and cosy week at home aside from our city adventure, with Thursday being spent building pretty triangular raised-beds with my dad, filling them with pretty succulents and alpines and pretty flowers. I have high hopes for them.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Taking Stock...June

Making : pompoms, socks and blankets
Cooking : mostly comfort food to help me through this run-down lurgy that I can't seem to shake off
Drinking : lots of tea
Reading: Gary Dexter "All the Materials for a Midnight Feast"
Wanting: a day at the seaside
Looking: at inspiration for a rockery
Playing: Pearl and the Beard, and crying into my tea at the news that they are parting ways.
Deciding: on dates for our Big Knit-Along for Innocent Smoothie and AgeUK
Wishing: for all of the Cath Kidston skirts
Enjoying: the sunshine and lovely long days
Waiting: for a day at the zoo
Liking: crocheting sock yarn squares
Wondering: if we're in for a summer storm
Loving: hearing tales of people carving Russian Dolls on the sides of roads, I have ever so interesting customers.
Pondering:  the purchase of succulents 
Considering: cake...
Buying: pretty summer clothes
Watching: "The Simpsons"
Hoping: to have some time at home this week, adventures are wonderful but I'd like to sit in the garden and read
Marvelling: at my pretty garden and how it changes almost daily
Cringing: at the thought of the 500 Big Knit hats that need pompoms!
Needing: the year to slow down a little, the days pass so fast.
Questioning: humanity after the atrocities in Charleston. My heart breaks.
Smelling: new pretty perfume from Zara, it's called Fruity and it lives up to the name
Wearing: pretty summer dresses and little pumps
Following: the news, and wishing people were kinder to each other
Noticing: that my 2015 blanket is growing!
Knowing: that I keep trying my best
Thinking: that I need to spend more time working in my sketchbook
Admiring: lots of lovely things on instagram
Sorting: out wool ready for the Big Knit this year
Getting: towards the end of a second pair of toe-up socks
Bookmarking: pretty patterns and inspirational blogs
Coveting: Cath Kidston loveliness
Opening: my big bag of sock yarn leftovers
Giggling: at my cats and their funny ways
Feeling: so happy that people like the things that I make 
Snacking: on crumpets

Thanks as always to lovely Pip for this list, she's always a source of inspiration!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

My Week...

This week has just flown by! I got to spend lots of time with my lovely parents, making pompoms with my mum for our Big Knit hats and plotting a raised-bed rockery with my dad. I've been preparing for a collaborative project with a fellow crafter by winding yarn cakes, and we visited a lovely studio where we will run knitting and crochet courses, followed by a very productive little meeting over lunch. 
I had a very busy making day at home on Thursday, crocheting rosebud brooches for my stall in pretty summery colours. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

My Sock Yarn Blanket Begins...

So the thought was in my head last week, and it wouldn't go away, and now it would appear that I have started a new project, one that might well be a long time in the making...

 I gathered all of my leftover sock yarn, and my trusty 3mm hook, and I began making little squares. And suddenly there were five of them...
 The pattern is one that I found on a search of the internet, a sweet little mitred square pattern that works very nicely indeed. My particular method and exact stitch numbers are...

(UK stitch abbreviations)Using a 3mm hook and 4Ply yarn, chain 31 and turn

Into the back loops only (which gives the nice textured ribby effect) double crochet 14 stitches, skip 2 chains and dc14. 

Ch 1, then dc into 13 stitches, sk2, dc 13. Turn.
Ch 1, then dc into 12 stitches, sk2, dc 12. Turn.
Ch 1, then dc into 11 stitches, sk2, dc 11. Turn. And so on, you get the idea...
Until you have only two stitches either side of the gap, and you simply draw up a loop from each of the side stitches (still skipping the middle two) and wrap and pull through all of the loops. Then cut your yarn leaving a tail to sew up with!
This gives you a square that is approximately 5cm square. I just stitched them together through the side stitches, and added each square as it was made, hopefully this will help me to avoid the dreaded colour OCD...

My thanks to the creator, Mary Grace at Hooked on Needles for the wonderful pattern! 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

My Week!

Another week has flown by, and what a lovely week it has been. It started just right with my trip to London, mooching around the British Museum, then on to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, all so very full of people enjoying lovely cultural excursions. I also enjoyed rather a lot of cake, scones at the British Museum and Cannoli from a sweet little cafe around the corner. A day out is not a day out without cake.  
The rest of the week has been spent working and knitting, and getting over some kind of lurgy that left me dizzy and confined to the sofa. I can't complain, I binge watched old episodes of The Simpsons and started a snazzy pair of Frankensocks, as well as finishing my first ever toe-up pair. I spent my Friday evening making pompoms for Innocent Smoothie Big Knit hats with my mum, and squeezing her little dog Jock. He's a happy little ball of fluff. 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Hip to be Square...

I've been plotting and scheming with a dear friend of mine over the last month or so, and we're going to be running a little course called "Square Enough", which will be a little bit of dabbling in both crochet and knitting. I'm handling the crochet side, so I've been having a little go at some different types of squares...
I grabbed a book, my usual starting point, and tried some corner-up patterns - these two came from "200 Crochet Blocks", one of my all-time favourite crochet books. 
Then I consulted the internet, thank goodness for google, and found a pattern for mitred squares. I tried some different sizes, and some with stripes, and I think they're rather splendid. I might even be tempted to make a sock yarn blanket with my odds and ends, although I'm pretty sure I don't need any new projects! 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Treasures of the British Museum...

The British Museum is one of my most favourite places. Ever since my very first visit I have been amazed by it's collections, the scale of the wonders of the ancient world and the ability to travel through every continent by simply moving from one room to another. As time goes on, I find myself looking less at the monumental sculptures and statues, and taking more time to look at the little things. Each room is full of tiny treasures, beautiful objects that have been made with such skill. 
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours pottering around, as always I stopped for a look at the Chinese Ceramics and the Japanese rooms, they are full of some of my favourite things, and I spent some time looking around the European art, the painted ceramic tiles and jewellery in particular caught my attention. 

During my degree I spent such a lot of time looking at how things were constructed, in particular how different brooches worked, different ways to fasten. I suppose I had a geeky moment in the Iron Age European room, looking at the beautiful brooches, admiring their elegant shapes. 
I really could quite happily spend days looking around the museum, I always feel like my creative batteries have been re-charged. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Thoughts on Being 30 (and a half)

Today is my half-birthday. I am Thirty-and-a-Half and I've been doing some thinking about the whole "being thirty" thing. Now, I can't say that reaching this particular milestone was terribly bothersome to me - twenty-seven was rather more unsettling and I have no clue in my head as to why that was, but thirty was just fine. But I've been thinking about life, and how things change, and how I've changed over the years and I thought I would share some of my conclusions...

I've decided that I'm messy, and I'm busy, and really I'd rather be crocheting than tidying.

I have fewer friends now than I've ever had, because not so long ago it became apparent that fair-weather friends aren't worth the energy, and so there are less friends, but they are good friends. They are the people that know me best, that I could share anything with, that I would do anything for. I love my friends, they are the best! I make an effort to spend as much time as I can with my family, I love them very much, and after living away for so long I make the most of the time I have with them. My life is sweeter for having my friends and family in it.
I am finally reaching a point where I am happy in my own skin. I like my short hair, and I wear what I want, and I love bright coloured clothes and pretty prints and sweet little shoes, and I love big clunky Dr Marten boots, and some days I love Kawaii cuteness and my little pink basket and everything has to be pink, and other days I love Granny florals and my knitting bag and dainty little teacups. Some days I want to go on adventures, and some days I want to hibernate. And that's just fine. It's taken a long time to get here. 
My life as a full-time crafter is a happy one. I don't earn nearly as much as I did working in retail management, but my goodness, I hated working in retail, and I love what I do now. I make my own schedule, I work harder than ever but I have flexibility and I am so proud of my sweet little shop. I wish I could keep a sketchbook more consistently, and I wish I was a little braver at knitting, but I love my little brightly coloured shop, and all of the quirks of being self-employed. 
I must confess that I don't always find life easy, I still don't feel like a grown up, and sometimes I wonder how other people make life look so easy, and seem so capable, and yet I feel so awkward all the time. Of course, I'm sure to other people I seem utterly confident and capable and they probably feel just as awkward as I do on the inside, but still, some days it's really not easy. I watched a Ted Talk recently about how to "fake it 'till you make it" (I've only just discovered Ted Talks and they're really rather interesting, as usual I'm a bit late to the party...) and it really made sense, to keep coming across as confident until eventually you become it... I'm still waiting for it to happen, but the nice lady assures me it will. 
There are lots of things that make me happy - cats, tea, flowers, art galleries, knitting and crochet, cake, silly tv shows, cardigans, old movies, notebooks, pretty jewellery, buttons, taking photographs, reading lots of books, floral fabric, walking in the countryside, going to see my favourite bands, letters, the Harry Potter Studio Tour, vinyl, the seaside, London, museums, charity shopping, vintage brooches, cassettes, my favourite songs, pretty clothes, vintage toys, visiting new places, my garden, art books, home. All of these things are part of what makes me who I am. 

If you've made it here, to the end of my rambling then thank you, I'm not sure if any of it means anything or is of any value or consequence to anyone but me, but I wanted to share anyway, if only to get thoughts out of my head. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

My Week...

What a wonderful week of adventures it has been! Every moment has been full, it's been a whirlwind! We've been to see two bands that were important to me as a teenager - Coal Chamber for sheer nostalgic value and the Manic Street Preachers because they will always have a place in my heart. 
There has been lots of making, I've been trying out itty-bitty crochet samples for something I have planned with a friend, and I've made lots of pretty button earrings for my shop (and for myself, I must admit that rather a lot of them came home with me...)as well as working on my toe-up socks which are very nearly done. There has been plenty of shopping, mostly summery clothes, although I did find myself a rather nice pink satchel, and I've spent lots of time with my lovely family. I also adopted a couple of woolly friends - two knitty gnomes and a little mouse. One of the gnomes will be going to live with my little sister, although she doesn't know it yet! 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Yesterday I popped along for a mooch around Wolverhampton Art Gallery. I always enjoy the exhibitions there, there are so many interesting things to see and they are always very varied. 
 Martin Parr - "Black Country Stories"

 David Bethell - "Dr Bird Conquering Clouds" 
 Yara El-Sherbini - "The End of Series" 
"The End of the World"
"The End of Empire"
"The End of Agreements"
"The End of the Adventures of TinTin in the land of Black Gold"
Yara El-Sherbini - "The Current Situation" 

Reading - May

The one advantage to the fairly miserable weather that we are having is that there is more opportunity to read. The garden is looking overgrown, but it's just so much nicer to stay inside. My May readings were an interesting mix - a bit of fiction, some political musings and a sweet vintage Penguin biography of Beatrix Potter. As much as I look forward to nicer weather I am making the best of it.
My May books...
  • Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen - "The Rabbit Back Literature Society" 
  • Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny - "#Newsfail"
  • Nick Hornby - "Funny Girl"
  • Margaret Lane " The Tale of Beatrix Potter"