150: make, do, and mend.

Another week which has zoomed (or at least MS Teamsed) by in a whirl of meetings and emails. The high point of the week was a day at the Wellcome Collection, host for the Endangered Materials Knowledge Programme’s two-day workshop on the role of Mending and Making in museums. I attended day one in person, and dropped in to the morning of day two online. EKMP is a programme set up to research and capture the skills, technology, knowledge and values being lost as processes become more and more industrialised. It explores how these skills are being passed on, and connects source communities with museum objects. One of the speakers spoke about the annexing of the ‘make do and mend’ ethos from WW2: it’s not all about making do, it’s about making new, learning new skills and mending to extend or repurpose. Just the addition of commas changes the sense of the phrase (much like the ‘let’s eat, grandma/let’s eat grandma’ example).

In museums (in my head, anyway, I am sure conservators will tell me I am wrong), I have always assumed that damage is part of the story of an object: the evidence of being buried as grave goods, the reason something was thrown away, the story of on object surviving centuries underground. You know, the stuff that ends up on archaeological display in the British Museum – helmets with bloody great blunt instrument damage, for example.

As we know from Instagram and so on, ‘visible’ mending – sashiko, boro, kintsugi, darning, etc – is enjoying a moment in the limelight as a reaction to the rise of fast fashion and consumer culture. In my explorations of the handling collection before we sent it off to other museums, invisible mending was more apparent: the ricrac braid covering the tell-tale line where a dress had been taken up or down, miniscule stitching on tears or holes in baby clothing. The attendees of the conference – fabulous people like Kate Sekules and Bridget Harvey, and Celia Pym who was lurking online – wore clothes with gorgeous rainbow darns and embroidery highlighting and reinforcing holes. Catherine Reinhart was darning socks and Catherine Howard brought vintage textiles and encouraged people to tear and mend squares in any way they liked, to add to a collective project. There were lots of links made between making, mending and mental health and wellbeing – both collective and individual. I was secretly thrilled when several people commented on the dress I was wearing (one of my repurposed duvet covers) and my quilted jacket (ditto). Talks on yurts in Kyrgyzstan and fishing nets, on how saris are repurposed, explored how fabrics are remade to support new pieces when they are too far gone to repair.

Of course, it wasn’t only textiles, though this was what had attracted me in the first place. There was a talk on why miniature artists make using repurposed household objects, patchwork and bricolage in southern Africa, and from someone who used an old French horn to give his lawnmower a new lease of life. All of these were basically a justification for never getting rid of things which may come in useful (my Beloved would agree with this: he was thrilled when making our deck to use a piece of oak which had been in the garage for 30 years, in case it was handy).

I was particularly interested in a talk on damage and repair in Iron Age shields, which challenged the theory that things like the Battersea Shield and other objects previously thought to have been made purely for ritual purposes or flashy display had actually been used in battle until they were no longer repairable. X-rays and scientific testing showed craftsman-level repairs of small damage presumably caused in day-to-day use, perhaps training – and when damage was inflicted in battle the repairs were deliberately obvious, maybe to say ‘OK, I survived this – come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. Only when the shield or helmet’s owner was dealt a death blow were the objects consigned to grave or the liminal spaces of the rivers and lakes.

There was, of course, lots of interest in the museum reopening and the work I have been doing with Spotlight and Scott Ramsay Kyle on sustainable fashion and mending. I also caught up with Scott this week, over coffee and a tour of his department at Central St Martins. I’d have loved to have had a go on the looms and spinning wheels, as well as spent time talking to the students. They had a swap shop going on, where students could bring materials left over from projects and swap for something they needed. UCL have a Repair Cafe, part of a worldwide movement, which helps people mend and repurpose.

Later today I’ll be catching up with an online session from the Textiles Skills Centre – find their YouTube channel here – from their Tea ‘n Chat series. After I have defrosted a bit from my ice swim this morning…

Other things making me happy this week…

  1. First training walk done for the Race to the Stones. Just under 9km, negotiating swamps and electric fences. Only six months to get up to speed! https://www.justgiving.com/team/Gwrachod-Ar-Daith for more info on who we are and what we’re doing.
  2. Nice conversation with an older lady on the tube about crochet
  3. An update on the museum’s progress.

Now I must go and defrost a bit…. same time next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Summer Knight/Brief Cases/Death Masks – Jim Butcher

Guards! Guards!/Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

149: spinning around

Disclaimer: before I begin, any typos are the fault of trying to type at an angle due to having a lap full of cats. Attempts to dislodge them proved futile, as they just sat on the laptop. You have been warned.

As mentioned last week, my partner in woolly crime Heather and I were off to the Waltham Abbey Wool Show on Sunday to fondle yarn and to have a go at spinning on a drop spindle – something I have wanted to try for a while. An excuse to have a go at using all those gorgeous piles of fluff and colour and sparkle that are on offer at the shows, and also to learn a new skill.

Led by Michele Turner, aka Craftyheffalumpus, it was 90 minutes of woolly happiness: fluff and squish and colour and interesting crafty gadgetry. Many of these gadgets are surprisingly spiky (hackles and wool combs, for example) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find them popping up in a gruesomely bucolic (bucolically gruesome?) episode of Midsomer Murders. The Midsomer Weavers and Spinners Guild could be a force to be reckoned with. You read it here first.

There’s also a whole lexicon of new vocabulary: as well as the aforementioned hackles, there are batts, punis, roving, staple, noils, tops, rolags, slubs, and of course the fabulous niddy-noddy. We had a go at using some different types of spindle, working with different forms of fluff (assorted sheep! sparkly things!) and we all went away with small balls of yarn and a new excuse to go and squish (and sniff) different sorts of yarn at the stalls. My favourite was YarnTings with beautiful hand-dyed batts inspired by photos the dyer had taken.

I came home with some lovely things to spin, some sock yarns (of course) inspired by Doctor Who, and a spindle. There were some stalls missing from previous years but many new ones – I have some linen yarn to try making some jewellery with, which I haven’t seen before, and it looks as if it may need less starching than cotton thread. You’ll see from this week’s reading list that I have been doing some research, but so far I haven’t convinced my beloved that we need an alpaca/small flock of sheep for the garden.

Further adventures with Evri

Well, the missing parcels finally arrived! Having been declared lost in the previous week, they then reappeared and re-entered the delivery process on Monday with a ‘your parcels are out for delivery’ notification. They were not delivered. Tracking on Tuesday showed them as actually going backwards in the system to the sender’s local depot. They finally arrived on Thursday. Ordering something this weekend, I was offered the option of free delivery with Evri, or £3.50 for DPD. Want to guess which one I picked?

Swimming with the (frozen) fishes

Between starting this post and now, I have been up to Redricks Lake for a swim – well, a dip. The lake is covered in an inch-thick skin of ice in the dipping spot, and we did have to talk ourselves into getting in there today! I went up in my wetsuit for the first time since last March, and then took it off before I got in as the thought of wrestling it off again was daunting to say the least. I wore 5mm boots and my 3mm boots on my hands which looked very silly but meant I didn’t have to struggle getting the winter gloves off.

It was definitely only for the hardy today at a surface temperature of 1 degree and an air temp of -5…! Thanks to another swimmer for taking pics of Jill and I in the water…I have my new sparkly red bobble hat on, made by Jill’s mum, and my skin matched it when I got out! I lasted about two minutes and then made a dash for the hot choc and my heated gilet. My foresight in putting my pants and thermal leggings into my hot water bottle cover was excellent and I feel amazing now, honest…

Other things making me happy this week

  • Kick off meeting to sort out the handling collection before we move back to Young V&A
  • Omelette at The Full Monty in Bethnal Green
  • Going public with our plan to do Race to the Stones in July to raise money for Parkinsons UK in memory of David Anderson (my Uncle David)
  • New shoes, finally delivered by Evri.
  • Starting to construct the Sew Different Sunrise Jacket – happiness tarnished by discovering that I’d cut one set of panels out the wrong way round. There was swearing.

And that’s it – I’m going to go and defrost in a hot bath now!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Fool Moon/Grave Peril/Summer Knight – Jim Butcher

Hand Spinning – Pam Austin

Spin to Weave – Sara Lamb

Spin Art – Jacey Boggs

The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Wool – Kate Larson

Thud! – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

134: What goes on in Cardiff in the dark

My left shin is currently sporting an impressive bruise, just at the height a medium sized dog’s head might reach if – say – they were overexcited by the the scent of a fox, it was dark, and raining, and the aforementioned shin was wearing dark jeans and boots. It’s an excellent bruise which is still changing colour and I do hope the poor hound in question – Kalie, who belongs to Jane, one of my Cardiff cousins – didn’t suffer concussion from the collision.

But why were you hanging about in the rainy dark in Cardiff, I hear you cry? Well, last Sunday London sister was running the Cardiff half marathon, so I went along for the ride and to give her a bit of support in the last couple of miles. My hound-owning cousin was also supporting, in several more places thanks to her speedy cycling, but it’s the thought that counts and I did see her at two places thanks to a bit of speedy lurching across Roath Park. The week before she had run the Ealing half marathon and today she is running the postponed (thanks to the Queen) Richmond half marathon. Mad but impressive. Anyway.

Apart from the extremely lengthy M4-avoiding detour through Newbury, Reading and other probably scenic bits of Berkshire on the way back, it was a lovely weekend. The detour on the way down, skirting Cirencester and Gloucester and through the Forest of Dean, was rather nice as we ended up in Monmouth without sitting in M4 traffic – which was where we were planning on stopping for lunch anyway. We had a bacon roll in Estero Lounge, which we felt we had to try as we’d seen it soooo many times on a local Facebook page. Usually asking when it was open, which luckily it was. It’s definitely a step up from Maureen’s caff and Buster’s the bus station caff, which were the options when we were younger at that end of town! We had a wander up Monnow Street, entertained the ladies in Salt & Pepper with our sisterly double act (but came away with a hat which didn’t make London Sister look like a) a mushroom or b)the Witchfinder General), and marvelled at Boots the chemist closing for lunch.

Dinner was in Cardiff at La Dolce Vita on Wellfield Road, where we had done a lot of shopping on weekends as children as we’d started life in Lakeside. Six of us met there for various pizzas, pastas, puddings and Prosecco-based cocktails* – representing most of the female cousins, apart from Irish sister who said Cardiff was too far for dinner and the other one. It was good to be reassured that the ability to carry on six different conversations at once is clearly a family thing (and going by the photos we are quite definitely family) – I was complimented the other week when I was running a registration desk at a forum on my ability to hold several conversations, remember a spelling and write at the same time, and this is clearly where it comes from. The restaurant runs ‘sittings’ in the evening, much like school lunches but with less custard, and they were very keen to get rid of us as we neared the end of our allotted time. They brought us the bill without being asked, and whipped all plates and glasses away as soon as they were empty. Cousin Sal took great delight in taking the longest time ever to eat a tiramisu… we then repaired to the pub to finish off conversations before walking back through Roath Park.

Roath Park was a very big part of my childhood: I remember walking through it on Sundays to ‘the Kiosk’ (now a coffee shop) to get the papers with Dad, and getting a Drumstick lolly to keep us going on the way back. It’s got a very nice lake, with plenty of bird life, pleasure gardens, rose gardens, a wild garden (that’s the dark one where Kalie ran into my leg) where the foxes live, a play area which was notable for having a massive metal slide when I was young, a cafe and various other things that any decent park wouldn’t be without.

After I’d raced across the park to see Tan at mile 12 (before ‘the Widowmaker’ as the final hill is as known) I rewarded myself with a rather nice ‘caramelised biscuit’ ice cream (Biscoff, by any other name) and wandered through the rose garden to the Conservatory which is a HUGE greenhouse type affair that we used to occasionally visit as children. I got bitten by a fish there once. Last time I went there were baby terrapins which I think had been retrieved from the main lake where they’d been released after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fever had worn off. The terrapins are still there but a LOT bigger now, and one of them was doing yoga on the edge of the pool while the rest were just lounging about on a rock. The plants are also a lot bigger, and there is a pair of whistling ducks. I wouldn’t like to get bitten by one of the fish now, they’re enormous.

I did a bit of crochet as I sat on a bench (because I can) and then wandered back to Jane’s for a most delicious lunch cooked by her husband Jason – Moroccan Lamb with Apricots, Almonds and Mint which I cooked for my beloved on Thursday as he’s partial to a bit of lamb too. I’m looking forward to heading a bit further into Wales for half term in a couple of weeks.

*Other cocktails were available and indeed drunk, but they ruined my alliterative streak.

Ooh, bees!

Yesterday one of my crafty friends and I made our annual pilgrimage to Ally Pally to the Knitting and Stitching Show where we squished yarn, stroked fabric, marvelled at gadgets and furniture and spotted Sewing Bee contestants wandering about the place. We got there about half an hour after opening and left just before they threw us out, and we had a great time – Heather and I are butterfly crafters who like to try all sorts of things and often have many things on the go at once, so we take our craft shows very seriously. Before we went in we hit the Toft Metamorphosis space where we crocheted a circle to add to the HUGE butterfly.

This year we started at the far end of the show and worked our way back which meant we avoided all the mad old ladies with shopping trolleys and pointy elbows and had the chance to actually get into stalls. Heather is a DT teacher so we started with the quilting guild show and the gallery spaces, before heading into the stalls for some inspiration.

We had a fish finger sandwich for lunch and cake at 3pm (so disciplined!) – there was much more choice of food this year. At the cake stop we sat with two elderly ladies and we all showed off our hauls, so at least Heather and I know what our future in craft shows looks like! I also ran into one of my favourite freelancers from my Museum of London Docklands days which was lovely!

I came home feeling crafty and made a couple of Christmas decorations using this pattern and Paintbox cotton yarn.

Today I think we are off to Copped Hall Autumn Family Day, with as many children as we can drag out of bed, and this evening it’s the Full Moon Swim at the lake. And I really must do the ironing…. See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

I Believe in Yesterday – Tim Moore

Believe Me! – Eddie Izzard

Twelfth Doctor Tales/Tales from Trenzalore (Audible)

126: ambassador, you are spoiling us

Last week we ran out of the Furry Fiends’ usual Iams cat food, and as the Amazon subscription delivery was due in a few days I grabbed some Go-Cat from the local Co-op to tide them over. It received the kind of ecstatic welcome I’d expect from the Things if I turned up with a surprise McDonalds. There was winding round the ankles, head bumps, clean bowls and general excitement. Clearly this is junk food extraordinaire for cats: weird shapes, vegetables, that sort of thing.

Considering they are cats and can’t actually speak, they do a good job of communicating their needs to us. Bailey herds us to where we need to be – food, or water – and Ted is very vocal. Lulu is the teenage sulky cat who flops about the place or stalks off in a huff.

All three of the furry landmines came to us as adult cats: Teddy and Bailey from a new blended family where there was an allergy, and Lulu from a home where they just didn’t have room for a cat any more. Ted was four, Bailey was three and Lulu was one. Ted is a lilac haired British Shorthair, Bailey is a chocolate point British Shorthair and Lulu is a dark tortoiseshell domestic shorthair (your common or garden mog, in other words). Much like the Things, they have their own very well-defined personalities.

Ideally they would all love each other and sleep in adorably Instagrammable furry heaps. In reality, the boys hate the girl so every week we have to swap them between upstairs and downstairs. The boys will walk through any open door, Lulu has to be collected by stealth or physically wrestled: no matter who actually does the swapping it’s my fault and my ankles are at risk for the next few hours. The sight of a bag of kitty litter sends her into hiding as she knows what’s coming. For a cat that regularly falls down stairs when she rolls over on the top step and who has been known to miss when she jumps onto something, she’s pretty bright at times. Ted and Bailey will also walk straight into the cat carrier to go to the vets.

Lulu adores my Beloved and has been known to bring him gifts of unwary shrews that venture onto the catio. Last Christmas it took us half an hour, a wooden spoon and an empty cheese sauce pot to recapture a mouse she’d brought him. At least once she’s handed them over she loses interest, so we don’t have to retrieve them from her. She snuggles up to him on the sofa, can recognise the sound of the van and sit up meerkat-style when she hears him coming in, and she hurls herself at his feet when he approaches. The rest of us get our ankles attacked and our shoulders high-fived when she’s ensconced in her favourite box on the cat tree. The computer chair is her favoured sleep spot, and she’s happy to demand space from Thing 3. She also likes to make her presence known in the night by dotting her cold nose on any exposed limbs, or via a piercing mew close to your ear.

Teddy and Bailey are much more laid back (unless Lulu is within sight). Ted’s turned into a bit of a princess at the grand age of 10, seeking out cushions and comfortable beds. All paper work on the floor is fair game, and all pencils are his playthings. He goes through phases of sleeping on my head in the night, as pillows are his property, which leaves me with a cricked neck. I can occasionally employ a decoy pillow to distract him, however. His favourite trick is to demand attention and then to lie down just out of reach of the person attempting to stroke him. He has a loud miaow, which he deploys when anyone has the temerity to a) lock a door against him, b) be outside in the garden or c) not provide undivided attention on demand.

Both Teddy and Bailey can detect a tin of tuna being opened from three rooms away and can teleport to the kitchen. Pedigree cats are prone to gingivitis, so Bailey had a lot of teeth removed a couple of years ago which has left him with a fang on his bottom jaw. He has a faintly piratical air thanks to this and his bandit mask (like the Dread Pirate Roberts). He likes to stand on his back legs to demand attention, and does a silent miaow at you, especially in the mornings when he knows breakfast is in the offing. He’s partial to the odd Quaver or Wotsit, and also likes scraps of ham. His current favourite spot in the heat wave is under the desk in a dark corner, or on the corner stair next to the outside wall where it’s cool.

These two do collapse in furry heaps together, and I suspect Bailey would be open to a friendlier relationship with Lulu if Ted wasn’t around. We live in a house which has had cats since the 1960s and it felt wrong to be without one!

Other things making me happy…

This week one of my colleagues managed to take a photo of me that I didn’t hate, and Thing 2 also captured one of me in my latest attempt at creating work-appropriate pyjamas. (I haven’t tested them out yet as this week has been heatwave time again.)

  1. The red dress photo was taken at Oxford House, where one of my amazing colleagues organised an event for families on Monday. We had a great day meeting local families, playing with the blue blocks outside in the shade and finding out what makes them creative. They discovered what a curator does, saw some of the new ideas for the museum and designed some picture frames too. A local professional photographer, Rehan Jamil captured portraits of children with props while Will Newton, curator of the Imagine gallery, recorded their stories for the ‘This is Me’ section of the space. Naturally the team got in on the act for some test shots – of course I had my crochet with me in the shape of a new Dragon Scale shawl which is my current tube project. Our colleague on mat leave visited with her gorgeous baby, who is – fortunately – resigned to being cuddled by random museumites – the problem with people going on mat leave, I have found, is that you really want them to come back as you miss them but you also want their mat cover to stay as they are equally lovely.
  2. The work appropriate pyjamas are actually the Zadie jumpsuit by Paper Theory – online reviews were mixed on fit, and the PDF pattern was a nightmare to put together but the result was great. I used another 100% cotton fabric that I’d bought as an end-of-roll bargain last year.
  3. Fab lollies. Fab lollies are great. Although this week my beloved’s response to being asked if he’d like a Fab was ‘what time is it?’. That’s on a par with saying ‘no thanks, I’m not hungry’ to the offer of a chocolate. Weird.
  4. Trialling a giant pig in a blanket version of last year’s tree decorations. Chunky yarn!

And now I’m off for a swim! See you next week.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

More Tales of the City/Further Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

The Running Hare – John Lewis-Stempel

Swell – Jenny Landreth

125: ooh look, a butterfly

This week I am feeling uninspired, which is not like me at all. The Things are off on their school holidays, the weather is nice and – as my role is formal learning – there are no teachers out there to harass so in theory I have lots of time to catch up on the to-do list. In theory. In reality, as always in August, my head is relaxing on a beach with a good book instead of focusing on the GEM conference presentation I ought to be writing. My butterfly brain has been fluttering from item to item on my to-do list, and lots has been started but not much finished. The first 800 words of the presentation are tweaked to perfection though…

Luckily my sewing mojo has come back so I have at least accomplished something this week. Sometimes sorting out the shed throws a fabric to the top of the pile and reminds you that you had a plan for it. I had a lieu day to use up so took advantage of a rare meeting free day to indulge in some midweek stitchery.

The fabric in question is a lovely dark red cotton with daisy-ish flowers all over it. I love the By Hand London ‘Anna’ dress pattern, and have made a couple of versions previously: a maxi length in a yellow floral digital print viscose (lovely feel, horrible to work with) and a knee length version in a black polycotton where I’d experimented with extending the sleeves. You can make it in a range of lengths and there’s a couple of neckline options to choose from.

I wanted this one to be maxi length but with the longer sleeve so I could wear it for work, and I chose the V-neck option for a change. Rather than front darts for shaping, the dress has a couple of vertical pleats on the front, with darts on the back. The waistline sits high and the skirt is panelled so it’s a flattering flared shape rather than the current trend for tiered flounces. I extended the sleeves to just above the elbow into a flared shape to echo the shape of the skirt, and I was really happy with the outcome and wore it to work on Thursday. Apart from the zip insertion bit where I diverged, the instructions are really clear so if you’re looking for a beginner project with a good result I’d recommend this.

I also used a cotton voile to make a red square top using the Seamwork Bo pattern, a black shirt dress using the Seamwork Jo pattern (and another Bo to use up the double gauze!), added a Moomin iron-on to the bag I made last week, and in the evenings I finished the Travel by Tardis cross stitch from Country Magic Stitch and updated the Climbing Goat Designs temperature galaxy.

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Absolute Classic Rock not playing Peter Frampton at any point while I’ve been listening
  • My beloved’s birthday
  • Swim and a bacon sandwich this morning in the sunshine
  • Lovely afternoon with board games and friends yesterday
  • Lots of dog walks with Bella-dog, Loki the puppy, Dobby and Kreacher and their lovely owners
  • Paper Girls on Amazon Prime Video

Same time same place next week? This week I have three days out in Tower Hamlets with actual people and the blue blocks, a new cross stitch to do and I’m half way through the current crochet project.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon

A Change of Circumstance – Susan Hill

More Tales from the City – Armistead Maupin

124: God bless the cactuses

It’s not often that the death of someone I don’t know moves me to tears. The last time it happened it was losing Terry Pratchett in 2015, in fact. The passing of Bernard Cribbins this week was another of those moments. He’s just always been around, hasn’t he. From my childhood with The Wombles and Jackanory (more than 100 stories told there!); Albert Perks in The Railway Children; my kids’ childhood with Old Jack’s Boat; my adulthood with Doctor Who; the refrain of Right Said Fred ringing in my head after many, many meetings going over and over the same subject.

His role as Wilfred Mott in Doctor Who was beautifully done: for me, when Catherine Tate joined the cast, it was too close to her comedy show for me to take her seriously (so shouty!) and Bernard’s presence made her bearable. I have come round to her now after several rewatches, but his performance never gets outshone. Ten’s final episodes (‘The End of Time Parts I and II’) are heartbreaking: John Simm, who played The Master for Tennant’s Doctor, said this week that the hardest thing he had to do was be mean to Bernard Cribbins. He seemed like a genuinely lovely man, who has left a great body of work behind him.

Talking of interminable meetings…

By Thursday this week I had sat through more meetings than you could shake a stick at, and while the content was interesting in many cases my brain was a bit fried and I was overcome with the urge to make something. So at the end of the day the laptop went away, the sewing machines came out, and I spent a couple of hours using a duvet cover and an old favourite pattern to make a new dress.

There are benefits to using a familiar pattern (in this case the Simple Sew Kimono Dress): you don’t have to cut it out, you’re not focusing on any new techniques so your mind is free to think about other things, and in this case it was a quick make. Four seams and a hem, basically, and my dress was done: the pattern is a wrap dress, which has been a wardrobe staple in this recent heat, and then I used some scraps to create the waist ties. I added a pattern-matched patch pocket, and voila! A new frock which I teamed with wedge sandals for work. I love the rather sheepish looking jaguar in the pattern!

I carried on the sewing yesterday: a cross-body bag for the rare occasions I am pocketless, and a Rad Patterns Lucky Lingerie bra that I’d cut out a while ago. The bag was from The Book of Bags by Cheryl Owen, which I won in a magazine draw ages ago (I think) and that did need new techniques: inset zip and inserting a lining. Tricky but I like the end result. I also threaded my overlocker for today’s sewing, and loaded bobbins with black thread, so I am prepped for more creative adventures today!

Making me happy this week:

  1. the Africa Fashion exhibition at the V&A and seeing some of my favourite young people from Spotlight
  2. Working on the Travel by Tardis cross stitch from Country Magic Stitch
  3. Seeing J’s face when I handed over his new GIANT dice bag

That’s all, folks – I have to go and get my bathers on!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Moonglow/The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon

The Running Hare – John Lewis-Stempel

109: wake me up for tea

You find me at the end of a week off, in which I have done very little that was useful but a lot that was good for my soul: afternoon naps, long walks with friends, family and dogs, relaxed coffees, crafting, reading and a bit of cooking. My beloved claims that there is no such thing as a day off, but that is because he takes Monty Don’s ‘Jobs for the weekend’ section to heart as well as all the other things that a garden requires. I, on the other hand, am of the opinion that if you take a day off the jobs (and the garden) will still be there afterwards and the weeds probably won’t have taken over the world. Unless it’s sticky grass or wild garlic, in which case all bets are off.

On Sunday, post-blog, I met up with a friend in the wilds of Hackney to see Damien Jurado playing at EArtH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), a gig which had been postponed at least once and possibly twice thanks to the pandemic but which was well worth the wait. Jurado plays small, interesting venues – we have seen him previously St John on Bethnal Green church, at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster and this time the venue was a reclaimed Art Deco cinema auditorium reached via a most unprepossessing doorway on Stoke Newington High Street. After a pint at the Brewdog bar a couple of doors along and up a few flights of stairs you arrive in the auditorium, which was locked up after the last film showed there in 1984 (Scarface, apparently) and left derelict while the rest of the building went through the usual ex-cinema permutations of snooker hall and community venue – not Bingo, for a change.

It’s a lovely space, still in need of a lot of restoration but the original Art Deco features remain and with simple bench seating and a wide stage the acoustics were wonderful. Add in an atmospheric setlist and good audience engagement and the result was a great evening. We particularly liked the young man at the end who begged for his favourite song, with plaintive pleases, and got his way – I liked the proper last song, too, with snatches of the Grateful Dead’s Morning Dew scattered through.

Damien Jurado (r) and Josh Gordon

On Wednesday my beloved and I dragged the Things out for a family walk. Thing 1 sulked all the way up the hill but was won over by the tiny calves in the field and the friendly pig – I think we all were, to be fair. We’ve been very lucky with the weather this week, and on Friday the garden was full of one of the Timeshare Teenagers and friends, painting henna tattoos on each other and recovering from what seemed to have been a pretty heavy night out. Other walks have been in the early morning, finishing with coffee and croissants at M’s house in the garden while fending off the muddy paws of Dobby and Kreacher, who assume all laps are for sitting. These are two rescue dogs, who are now so used to the sight of me that they have given up barking when I walk in to the house for D&D sessions. M and I also had a mooch around North Weald Market yesterday, where we marvelled at the sheer quantity of polyester neon on display, pondered the possibility of all the blingy pictures refracting sunlight and starting fires, and were bemused at the current fashion for wearing fluffy mule sliders out in public with socks.

Family walk – the return leg

I’ve also been messing around with making some very geeky earrings from D20s and meeples, am up to date on the Temperature Galaxy and ‘Travel by Tardis’ is halfway done. There’s half a simnel cake left (it was a most welcome apres-swim treat this morning!) and Thing 2 and I tried our hand at making macarons the other day as well. I did do some gardening, weeding the wild garlic out of my little patch and planting a couple of saxifraga and a Bleeding Heart. I can see the shoots of this year’s physalis coming up, hollyhocks are poking through, and I don’t seem to have killed the hydrangea so with any luck I’ll have a nice show this summer.

On Tuesday I am back to work, so I am off to top up my nap. I blame my father. I must also do my Easter bunny impression and distribute some eggs, as the natives are getting restless.

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

In a Dry Season/Cold is the Grave/Aftermath/The Summer That Never Was/Playing With Fire/Strange Affair – Peter Robinson

Insidious Intent – Val McDermid

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 4 (Audible)

103: self-indulgent sewing

This week has mostly been about resetting my brain, one way or another – as you’ll have seen in previous posts, it’s been a busy few months with various work projects and all the other things that go with being a mostly-functioning adult. I took a couple of days off mid-week, as for the first time in many years I was in danger of having too many days to carry over into the next leave year.

As these were days just for me, I took them ‘off-off’, as opposed to making a list of practical things I needed to do – you know, opticians appointments, running errands and so on – and planned a sewing project. Folkwear Patterns, one of my favourite companies for a good dramatic piece, have recently published a jacket pattern in their new Basics range which I liked the shape of. I do love a ‘statement’ piece, as fashion magazines would say.

“A collection of simple patterns based on the premise of folk clothing, these pieces are easy to sew, easy to fit, comfortable to move and work in, and are a great canvas for creativity.  Make these pieces simple and plain or embellish till your heart’s content.”

https://www.folkwear.com/collections/basics

Another thing I’d been keen to try after my adventures in patchwork during lockdown was to make a quilted piece of clothing, so with a straightforward pattern this seemed a good time to try it. Seamwork, which also has an excellent range of patterns, has a link to a tutorial for making on how to quilt fabrics for garments so I headed there for some help.

The first issue I ran into was fabric choice – the pattern, as the front and back are cut as a single piece, isn’t suitable for a one-way print. The fabric I wanted to use for the outer layer – a double duvet cover in a dark teal green, with parrots and leaves – was (of course) a one-way print so I had to do a bit of cutting and sticking before I could sew. Pretty simple – I found the shoulder line, sliced the pattern along it and cut the back and front separately before sewing them back together and treating them as a single piece. Next time, I’ll remember to cut out the lining pieces before I cut the pattern so I don’t have to stick it back together! I chose to cut two sizes larger than my actual size, as I wasn’t sure how much room I’d lose when I quilted it. For the bottom of the quilt sandwich I used a polycotton sheet, as it wouldn’t be seen and was pretty much the same weight as the outer.

Once I’d cut all the bits out I started following the quilting tutorial, and never have I been so relieved that a garment had a full lining. I didn’t use enough pins/clips/nails/double sided sticky tape to hold the ‘sandwich’ together so the sheeting moved around like mad, bunching up and generally teaching me not to be lazy with my pinning. Luckily the aforementioned lining hides the disaster inside. I didn’t have quite enough batting to use single pieces, so one side is very much pieced together! Another reason to be glad of the lining….

I chose to quilt in straight lines, but only did small sections at a time so I could change the direction of the lines. You can see the front and back sections above – the chalk marks on the back are where I changed my mind and decided to leave sections unquilted as I liked the effect. The angles marked on my quilting ruler were very helpful here. The pattern isn’t symmetrical across the left and right halves of the jacket but the patterns and lines are roughly the same. I really liked the vertical quilting on the front sleeves and the ‘V’ shapes on the back.

Having quilted the bottom half of the front it dawned on me that I hadn’t accounted for the pockets which would cover my lines, so before I added the pockets I lined them up, marked lines on them and stitched ‘mock quilt’ lines so they’d fit in. I decided to change the pocket opening as well, as the side opening pockets looked as if everything would fall out. They’d be great for hands but not so good for things like keys, phones, pet dragons, shiny rocks, emergency waffles and so on. I went for a top opening – they’re very generous pockets, too, which is always good.

Day two was about construction. I trimmed the lining to match the outer, to take account of the quilting. Sewing the jacket together was very straightforward with only three seams (underarm/side and back) on each layer. The lining was attached with a single seam around the neckline and bottom hem, and then the sleeves were bound and the pockets added. I topstitched all around the hemline, threw the whole thing in the washer and dryer to get rid of the chalk marks and to fluff up the batting, and then gave it a press.

Having convinced Thing 1 to take some photos for me, I was all done – two days of singing along to loud music (classic rock and ska punk, mostly) and sewing something that’s made me really happy. It’s great to throw on, it’s lovely and warm and has big pockets as well as being dramatic enough for stalking the galleries of the V&A – you know you’ve nailed it when a visitor asks where you got it from. I teamed it with a black skater dress (also made by me) and a pair of platform boots – and new earrings also made this week. You can see them below, along with the alpaca beret (from one of the crochet mags) and a rainbow tinycorn.

I’ve also finished the Mental Health First Aid qualification I was doing, and went for a long walk with friends that ended up with toasted teacake and hot chocolate with a mountain of cream and marshmallows at the market. Last night was a meal out with some girlfriends at the local Indian restaurant – it’s been far too long since we’ve done that!

And now I’m off for a long bath….

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Kept Woman – Karin Slaughter

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

Influential Magic – Deanna Chase

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Novels vol 2 (Audible)

96: Everything louder than everything else

This week I was sad to hear that the incomparable Meat Loaf has died at the age of 74. London sister and I saw him at the O2 on the Last at Bat tour in 2013 and he was struggling then – the voice was going and he was using oxygen off stage, presumably to help with his asthma. It was still a great show – it was celebrating the Bat out of Hell anniversary, so interspersed with the songs were video interviews with Jim Steinman, ‘Mighty’ Max Weinberg and others. It was a memorable show but we were pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing him live again.

While I wouldn’t say Mr Loaf was one of my all time favourite artists, he’s not far off – not just because of the the music but because of the memories that go with them. Dead Ringer for Love casts me back to the Nag’s Head in Monmouth, while Paradise by the Dashboard Light is a road trip favourite. All his songs – dramatic, not theatrical according to Meat Loaf in an interview with Terry Wogan in 1982 – are perfect for singing along to in kitchens, pubs and cars even when you are not a singer (like me). His style has been described as ‘blustery, wounded romantic-on-the-brink-of-a-breakdown’. Loud is the key – ‘everything louder than everything else’, in fact – and with passion, much like himself. Meat Loaf was larger than life himself – funny, personable, engaging, entertaining.

Primordial Radio were playing a lot of Meat Loaf yesterday while I was crafting and each song raised a smile. Many friends have shared their own favourite songs on social media, referencing pubs and old friends – recollections of VI form or college, in many cases. Could you ask for a better legacy as a singer? RIP, Marvin Lee ‘Meat Loaf’ Aday.

The rest of the week

Has been pretty much business as usual, to be honest – a trek to south Kensington, another one to Hackney Wick and a lot of meetings in between. My favourite geeky friend has her birthday today so yesterday I had fun making her gifts while singing along to the radio – a dice bag and a pair of earrings. I made mermaid scale ones and bat wing ones – using dolls house miniatures – and took a vote on which I should give to her. Her husband had already ordered the Lego bat ones! The dice bag has Lord of the Rings fabric with purple (her favourite colour).

My adorable nephew/godson is in a Harry Potter phase, so a snowy owl winged its way over to NI for his birthday this week, and the 9 and 3/4 cross stitch (with glow in the dark outline and Gryffindor colours backing) is off to Yorkshire.

Neon Pikachu is going slowly….black aida is a pain to work on but the colours look amazing.

This morning the lake was 2.5 degrees and the swimming lane was limited by sheets of ice – we lasted 10 minutes (most of which was getting in!). Madness but the mental reset is so worth it.

Mummy tummy and all. L-R – Isla, me, Sue, Jill. No Rachel!

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Sapphire Manticore/The Golden Basilisk – Maria Andreas

Torchwood Tales (BBC Audio) – Audible

95: hello North Weald…again

This week started with the postponement of the final night of The Socially Distant Sports Bar’s live tour, which had been scheduled for Cardiff Motorpoint Arena the night before the Wales vs Scotland game of the Six Nations. My gig buddy Jen and I were looking forward it it: a night away with comedy and perhaps one (or two) drinks, and a good catch up since she has left London and is now living in the frozen North and watching birds for a living or something. It’s not the first thing that’s been put back a few months – Damien Jurado was rearranged for April, for example, but I was really, really looking forward to a night of belly laughs and to being somewhere else again.

I like live entertainment – whether it’s a decent pub band or Bruce Springsteen at Wembley, a small folky gig or a comedy night, a play or a musical. The best gigs – no matter how big they are – give you a sense of intimacy, a shared experience even in the most soulless of venues (the O2 at Greenwich, for example). Generally the people around you are fans too, or at least music fans, and they are willing to be carried away on the same wave: the roar when the intro of a fan favourite kicks in, or the big hits. There are shared moments from previous experiences: Jen and I were haunted by a very loud drunken person for several gigs, who we never saw but we knew he was there by his frequent bellows of ‘Play Wonderwall! Play Wonderwall!’ in between songs or when the singer was chatting. Jen and I have never seen Oasis together, so we are always a bit mystified by this. He was at a gig when I was there but Jen wasn’t, which felt quite wrong and I had to text her so she could share.

I’m not surprised the gig was postponed and I know it’ll be great when it finally happens, but I’m so tired of not being able to look forward to things any more because it just makes the disappointment of postponement that much worse. If Covid could sod off now I’d really appreciate it, please and thank you – that’s something we are all looking forward to.

Who doesn’t need a mini-me?

Just before Christmas, in an issue of Inside Crochet (issue 143), there was a little pink haired doll who reminded me of my last line manager Andrea – knowing she had a birthday coming up in January I made it and packed it off to sunny Leigh-on-Sea.

I’ve also been messing about with some jewellery ideas, so watch this space – I really shouldn’t be allowed unsupervised on ebay, but there we are. Ten more pigs in blankets are underway, a neon Pikachu cross stitch, a couple more snowy owls – not enough time in the day, it seems!

See you next week, when I might be a lot less disgruntled. More gruntled?

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Glass Gargoyle/The Obsidian Chimera/The Emerald Dragon – Maria Andreas

Torchwood: The Radio Dramas/Torchwood Tales (Audible)