Wednesday, 19 June 2019

...catching up

The past few weeks have been hectic. I had a hospital appointment when we got back from Seahouses, and came away with a date for my hip replacement surgery - 20th June! Which was wonderful and terrifying in equal measures, especially as we had just arranged for a bathroom and downstairs loo refurbishment to take place in late July/early August. The timing will be far from ideal, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger... allegedly. Recovery post-op takes around 6-12 weeks and there were lots of loose ends to tie up at work so as not to leave too much of a tangle for the rest of my team to deal with while I'm gone. I ended up booking some leave for the pre-op period so that I could literally and metaphorically get my house in order - with so much to do at work there wasn't time to draw breath, let alone prepare myself for major surgery. 

The past week has been a mixture of "jobs I won't be able to do for a while after the op" - taking the car to the garage for repairs and the XXSCat dog to the vet for annual vaccinations, emptying our glass recycling bins at the dump, and cutting the hedges - interspersed with bouts of cleaning, tidying, laundry and anxious list-making. I had hoped to do some relaxing and unwinding too, but it turns out that (for me) getting ready for an operation feels very similar to preparing to go on holiday (I suffer from Pre-Holiday Dread Syndrome). Essentially this means stress levels increase exponentially right up to the point that the car leaves the driveway (or the anaesthetic knocks me out) and there's no choice but to surrender to whatever comes next! So rather than feeling serene and well-rested, at this point I actually feel completely frazzled.

Creative activities have helped to distract me a little, and will hopefully help a lot more in the weeks to come. The dolly below belongs to my friend's great niece, who lives in Poland. She is a wistful little thing who apparently has only one item of clothing to fit her - some well-worn pyjama bottoms! 
I have been working on a new wardrobe for her, using my own thuggish-looking baby as a model. When I was trying to find a doll with similar measurements to the photo I discovered that although their faces are very different, their bodies are identical - literally cast from the same mould. I have been promising poor thug baby a wooly hat and cardigan ever since I rescued her from the charity shop, so I will make her a set of her own once I've finished the emergency clothing parcel for her Polish twin. I'm not sure that red is really her colour though - perhaps a soft violet would bring out the blue in her fierce little eyes.
I did a bit of decorative patching on some comfy new jeans - they are intentionally well-worn, vintage-looking, and came with an artful rip in the right knee which (apart from being annoying to wear) was just a bit too "out there" for someone in their mid-fifties, even if I am a bit of an aging hippy type. I didn't have the patience to mark grid-lines, so the stitching isn't perfect, but I really like the effect.
I also embarked on what was intended to be a post-op long term project to use up all the random double-knitting yarn that has accumulated in my stash over the years - a rainbow coloured mini-mania-scarf blanket! This was (almost) a complete failure. Not only did I end up buying MORE double-knitting yarn in order to complete the rainbow spectrum (little or no red, orange or yellow-green in my stash to begin with) but after a couple of rainbow sequence repeats I realised that it was going to be far too garish bright for an entire blanket. So I cast off and turned it back into a scarf. Which I actually really love, but may have to wait a while to leave the house in, as my husband's tactful response was, "Hmmm. It is quite bright - maybe you should save it to wear in winter, to cheer you up!" Unfortunately he followed this up with a far less tactful remark - "It's a bit Tom Baker in Dr Who!" A quick Google search might have told him that it's actually far more Jodie Whittaker in Dr Who, but nvertheless, point taken, it's quite high on the quirky spectrum .

I started work on some painted pebble place settings for my daughter's friend's wedding in July. She wants 25 in total, and I've completed 4 so far. I think this will be a good project for post-op convalescing. I'd just spray varnished the Groom pebble in the photo below - it has a matt finish like the Bride's when dry.
There was also great excitement last week when my friend had a Little Free Library box installed outside her house. This is a wonderful, positive, community-based project which has resulted in a growing network of Little Free Libraries across the city. Our excitement was bittersweet because the lovely lady who championed the scheme in Leeds died (after a long illness) just a few days before the box was installed. This was the last box she decorated (it's a beauty!) and we hope to honour her memory by keeping its shelves well stocked for many years to come.

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Sunday, 12 May 2019

...Seahouses III

Back to the beach where land and sky meet, with my eldest son as our companion.
See how the receding tide leaves artful doodles around every pebble.
Observe the textures and patterns, the soft glow of sunlight through a shell.
Bamburgh Castle offers glimpses of heavenly blue.
Ferns take root in tiny crevices, pebbles are assembled to form a rugged cobbled path. In the village abstract expressionist timbers mimic Rothko .
The scaffolding is gone from Lindisfarne Castle - it braces itself against the elements.
The beach presents fresh treasures, jewel-like on the sand.

Rocks at low tide reveal teeming colonies of barnacles.
We venture out to sea to visit the seals, puffins and kittiwakes.

 
 A shell fragment shimmers blue in my palm as we say "Au revoir".

Saturday, 11 May 2019

...miniature groceries

We called into a Lidl shop the weekend before last, and, as luck would have it, there in the Central Aisle of Random Joy were two little leftover boxes of doll's house furniture. A kitchen set, and a bedroom set. Naturally, I just had to buy them!

Nearly a year ago, feeling nostalgic for happy hours of childhood play and with a view to indulging my adult love of miniature worlds, I bought a flat pack doll's house from Ikea to decorate. It is still waiting to be assembled - partly due to creative paralysis about choice of decor, and partly due to having nowhere sensible to put it! Poor Miss Lavender, the prospective tenant, has been waiting patiently to move in ever since.
Having opened the furniture boxes to inspect the contents, it seemed only right to try them out for size. A space was cleared on the shelf, and in less than no time Miss Lavender was seated at her little kitchen table, admiring her smart new red and white kitchen. After a quick rummage through a little box of dolly accoutrements she was even able to enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cherry pie.

As is sometimes the way on a quiet weekend, one thing led to another. Out came the air-dry clay, and before I knew it I had a basketful of vegetables (red onion, potatoes, turnip and carrots), a fruit bowl complete with fruit (apples, bananas, plums and an orange), a crusty loaf, and some Emmental with a little wooden cheese board! I painted and varnished them the following day (being so tiny they were dry in no time), and Miss Lavender celebrated by having a friend round for tea.

I really am going to have to find a space for the doll's house now. This was just so much fun!

Thursday, 18 April 2019

...purple and green

"Red and green should never be seen!"
Apart from bright red berries against deep green holly leaves, perhaps?

 Either way, based on these recent garden lovelies I'd like to propose that purple and green should always be seen...




Purple and green are my friend Julia's favourite colours. A while ago I made her this pretty, lilac-hued, ruffle-edged scarf. She wears it all the time.


Over the past couple of weeks I've been working on this similarly proportioned sage green scarf, edged with sun-dew-plant-inspired tentacles, to give to her for her 50th birthday today.

It was quite a labour of love - those tentacles are FIDDLY - but she absolutely loved it, so it was absolutely worth it!




Purple and green should always be seen.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

...two years later

I collected up as many photos as possible to look back over the past year's creative endeavours. There are a few bits and pieces missing, as I sometimes forget to take a picture before giving things away, but most of it is here.

There's been plenty of knitting - hats, scarves and baby clothes mostly. I've started and and abandoned a couple of jumpers for myself along the way. Just can't seem to find the right yarn or the right pattern or the right gauge, and end up unravelling them in hope of finding a more suitable project later.
It's been a great year for the rescued toy brigade knitted-garment-wise. No issues with yarn, pattern or gauge when I'm making things up as I go along!
There's also been a fair bit of miscellaneous making - a couple of  tunics, some collage pictures for friends  and some painted pebbles/wood.
I wonder what's in store for the next year? There will definitely be knitting - a 50th birthday gift is on the needles right now. I think I'd like there to be more sewing - after all, I need to see if my cheap and cheerful overlocker will work - and also more painting. Maybe some doll making too... 

Friday, 15 March 2019

...16 days off

Day 1


We went out for breakfast and whiled away a leisurely hour chatting and planning some of the things we'd like to do over the next two weeks. Day trips and spring cleaning were high on my list, bike maintenance and several sporting fixtures on my husband's. 

When we got home I spent a couple of hours dusting, cleaning and tidying in the bedroom (the easiest room in the house!) and went through the contents of my trunk - old drawings, prints and photos from my college days, handmade birthday cards from when the children were little, and the Christmas tree (plus wrapping paper, lights and decorations). It also holds quite a big cardboard box full of fabric scraps and remnants which I peered into and then closed again - a job for another day. I made a start on filling a bag for the charity shop, having managed to discard a pair of hardly-worn shoes, a scarf and a cuddly toy elephant that I like but just don't love.

I did a bit of titivating in the pots outside the kitchen window, where lots of last year's experimental (planted and forgotten about) bulbs are already coming up - hyacinths, crocuses and narcissus. I added some jolly red and yellow tulip bulbs bought from Ikea a couple of weeks ago and a couple of cheap and cheerful punnets of violas (impulse buy at Aldi on the way home from breakfast). It's a pity they're not perennials though - I've decided that bulbs are definitely the way forward for a lazy gardener like me. In between these bursts of activity I continued work on the scarf for my mother-in-law. It needs to be ready for Tuesday...
Day 2

Started with a rainy morning walk at the park. The XXSCat dog was absolutely caked in mud by the end of it, but nothing a quick shower in the kitchen sink couldn't fix (probably the biggest advantage of having a very small dog is that the mess she creates is also small-scale). Lots of lush green moss, and buds and shoots - I'm so glad to be leaving the dark winter months behind.
I did some tidying in the front garden when we got home (removing dead foliage and cutting back the brambles that will not give up the fight for survival). Despite my aching back and very creaky hip I managed to fill half a wheelie-bin before a sudden hail storm drove me back inside to deal with the laundry pile. My mother-in-law's scarf is nearly complete. I've bought a set of long blocking wires so that I can (hopefully) give it a really professional finish, but will have to do a bit of research first into how to use them properly!

Day 3


Another day, another park. This one is a 15-20 minute drive away, but well worth the effort for the walk around the lake and the fruit scone with jam and cream at the cafe afterwards! It gives the XXSCat dog a chance to practice her people skills, as it is much busier than our local park. The XXSCat dog loves other dogs and adores her human family, but has a profound mistrust of everyone else and a bad habit of growling and barking at passers-by who don't have a dog with them. Most people just laugh at our miniature guardian, but it is not a habit we encourage, as it would be far less amusing in a bigger dog. A combination of redirection and rewarding of good behaviour seems to be doing the trick, and she managed to disregard all but a couple of the most suspicious (in her eyes) characters. Even the swans got a free pass today.
The scarf for my mother-in-law is finished, and is currently being blocked (after a quick YouTube tutorial). The blocking wires are doing a wonderful job, but I didn't enjoy the painfully slow process of threading them through all those edge stitches whilst kneeling on the floor. My poor old joints are still complaining half an hour later!
Day 4

The day didn't start terribly well, as I had a phone-call from the GP with x-ray results for my hip. "Severe osteoarthritis" with bone now rubbing on bone rather than cartilage. Which I guess would explain the constant pain and stiffness...the GP is going to refer me to the hospital because she seemed to think hip replacement surgery might be on the cards - a scary prospect for someone in their mid-fifties. But it's also a relief to know what's causing the pain - it's been so consistently bad for so long that I've been getting bored of hearing myself grumble about it, and even wondered at times if it was all in my head! Now, rather than continuing to hope it will "ease off" or go away if I walk far enough, I know it's probably here to stay and can find other ways to help myself - like getting a walking stick to take some of the pressure off the bad hip. A snazzy blue folding walking stick!


Meanwhile, the scarf for my mother-in-law is finished. Blocking really brought it to life - it is soft and airy and oh so pretty with those deep rainbow tones.
Day 5


Spent several happy hours catching up with an old friend, reminiscing about when the children were small, meeting a couple of her grandchildren, and swapping notes about our crafty endeavours. Since I saw her last (about two or three years ago) she has been learning to sew, and was excited to show me some of her latest projects. We discovered that we had both bought the same overlocker sewing machine from Lidl in the past couple of months. Mine is still in its box - hers has already been put to use making tunics and t-shirts. I have serious sewing envy and have vowed to get the overlocker out for a trial run just as soon as I've got some bobbins from the market!

Days 6-10

Frittered away with knitting (an adult-sized bonnet for my Mum using the wonderful Tin Can Knits 'Beloved' pattern), shopping (boring groceries and sensible stuff), cleaning (the bathroom - essential but dull), re-watching "Killing Eve" box-set, and a weekend park walk. Still trying to decide whether the "shooting into the sun so everything is dark" aspect of my chosen spot for this year's photo collection is a deal-breaker...
...not much has changed since January...
 ...but it did look rather lovely in the February fog.
Day 11

Finished the 'Beloved' bonnet  for my Mum. She loves it because it "stays on and keeps her ears warm". I love it because it is such a well designed, satisfying thing to make, and the gorgeous shifting colours in the yarn (Lang - Tosca Light) kept me constantly craving "just one more row".




Day 12

Spent a happy hour or so sewing a dress for my latest rescue doll and then ended up changing the buttons on the cardigan to match the dress. I haven't got the overlocker out of its box yet. I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about trying it because when I went to buy some bobbins from the market the lady in the shop was very sniffy about the machine I'd bought (a cheap and cheerful Singer from Lidl). Her husband does sewing machine servicing and repairs and she said that he "refuses to even look at them" because they are so poorly constructed and unreliable! My friend seemed happy enough with hers, so we shall see, but I'm bracing myself for possible disappointment and putting off the evil day for a little longer. 

I'm also still wavering about a facial repaint for the rescue doll. I really don't like her expression, but if I remove the factory paint she will be less durable and have less of a potential future as a hard-working dolly companion for a small person. I'm considering seeing what can be achieved by over-painting what's already there and giving her a temporary makeover instead.

Day 13

A spontaneous day out, visiting a nearby art/craft gallery recommended by a friend (Sunny Bank Mill in Farsley), followed by a further foray to a wonderful yarn shop (Knitter's Paradise at Coldspring Mill in Cullingworth) for a lengthy browse, a few judicious purchases and a delicious lunch at the cafe. Since we were literally just over the hill we rounded things off with a wander up and down the main street at Haworth, stopping for coffee, cake and a glimpse of the Bronte Parsonage Museum from the graveyard, with rooks circling noisily overhead. I treated myself to a copy of "The Illustrated Garden" - a gorgeous book stuffed with garden themed images from 69 different printmakers. Something to pore over for hours and get my creative juices flowing. 

Day 14

Ferociously knitting a 1-2-3 Chickadee scarf from the two balls of King Cole Sprite (Crete colourway) that I bought at the mill yesterday. I love the colours SO MUCH I literally can't put it down... 
...except to take delivery of my new hip-and-back-saving laptop trolley. My transformation into old-lady-hood is now complete but I really don't care. I can't face lugging a heavy laptop and files up and down the hill to and from the car park at work any longer, especially not when I know I'm compounding the problem in my hip. Trolleys and walking sticks - my new reality!
Day 15

Odd jobs - adding a couple of shelves to the storage units for my work-related "stuff" in the back bedroom, doing laundry...and more laundry...and more laundry.

Day 16

Sad that it's the final day of the holidays, but happy because we spent the morning walking the dog at the park with my eldest, catching up on the latest happenings in his life and having no choice but to wash it all down with tea and fresh cream scones. Also happy because my new scarf is complete and I love it - it is warm, squishy, and soft, and its colours make my heart sing.