Week nineteen: in which I looked tidy for the first time since March

A Tuesday interlude…

I have had a whole host of new experiences this week already! Not only my first virtual job interview, but it was the first time I’d applied for a job share, for a secondment, and for a temporary maternity cover role. It was also the first time that I’d prepared for and attended an interview as part of a team.

Keen followers of the East London museum scene will know that the V&A is branching out even further eastwards than Bethnal Green, and creating a shiny new museum on the East Bank in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There are so many parallels with our own redevelopment project, and both projects are working across the same boroughs, that we felt it would bring a new dimension to our own practice as well as a wider insight into the locality if one of us were to move a couple of stops down the Central Line for a few months.

The trouble was… none of us were keen on doing it alone, as we all have specific experiences and this role would cover all our audiences. I am formal, C is informal and H is creative. As a triumvirate (or an unholy trinity/three-headed monster depending on who you talk to!) we work very collaboratively: bouncing ideas off each other, supporting each other, representing the team and feeding back, developing ideas together (some madder than others – the Museum LARP session hasn’t come to fruition yet but there’s still time!) and bringing all our individual skills to the learning party.

That’s me on the right, by the way (Powerpuff Girls image from pngwave.com)

In a team Zoom social, someone suggested we ALL applied for it as a jobshare. “That’ll blow their minds, ha ha!” they said. We chatted about how that could work, what it might mean for each museum, and our line manager and director (I know she’s reading this!) were supportive. So…. we did.

The three of us contributed to the supporting statement and then put in our separate application forms, and crossed our fingers. We weren’t sure if we’d even get an interview, as a three-way job share might have been a step too far, but we all felt our statement was really powerful. We were fairly sure that with a combined 40+ years of experience in the culture, arts and heritage sector we could demonstrate a good understanding of what the role would require. We also proposed an outline of how the job share might work, and how the role could be managed. We are lucky, as we had a period last year in between line managers when we had to work in a similar way, sharing information and acting as one.

On Monday we were told that we’d be interviewed….on Tuesday. Cue frantic Zooming, planning our strategy and going over the job description, all the information we had to hand about the East project, trying to anticipate the questions we might be asked and challenges the panel might raise about managing the job share. We broke down the role responsibilities, decided on an order for us to answer questions so no one had more of a voice than the other two, and came up with a plan for how we’d pass the baton between us.

One of the most important things we did was to share our CVs with each other, so we could ensure the most appropriate person could answer a question. So useful – I had no idea of the breadth of experience in the team! As a team bonding and development exercise it worked really well. Going through the documentation we had access to and matching it to the role description and our skill sets – as a team and individually – was a great way to remind ourselves what a well-rounded team we are. I don’t know about C & H but my confidence in what we were trying to do was boosted immensely by this.

I usually hate internal interviews (OK, I hate all interviews) but knowing I was in this with my brilliant colleagues made it better. Three against three, and we could fill in the gaps for each other. For the first time ever I am not sitting here post-interview thinking ‘I wish I’d remembered to say that!’ The virtual format probably helped, as at no point could I see the whole panel.

Whatever the outcome, I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well! (Plus, I put make up and a dress on for the first time since March.) Can’t wait to get back to working with the team!

(Sunday update: we haven’t heard whether we were successful or not, but I still feel good that we did something that put us outside our comfort zone, helped us understand the benefits of the way we work anyway, and which put us on the wider museum radar.)

Sunday service resumes

After the interview and a debrief with the team I went for my first massage since the end of January. I hold a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders, probably from sitting in all sorts of weird positions while I crochet, cross stitch or sew; and I also suffer from migraine and tension headache. I try and have a monthly treatment with the wonderful Paula, who lives round the corner, and I have been seeing her since she was training to be a sports massage therapist.

Since qualifying as a sports therapist she has taken additional courses in cupping, facial massage and gua sha and she combines these (along with a sympathetic ear!) to create a bespoke experience for each of her clients. And it is blissful…although you do have to answer a few funny questions about cupping marks in the summer. Here in the village its like a badge of honour or membership of an exclusive club – Paula’s clients compare marks! There was a lot of interest from Bangladeshi women when I did an event at work last summer after cupping – they wanted to know where I’d had it done, and if it helped. Some said their husbands had it done regularly too.

At the moment, of course, facial massage is off the table so I had 45 minutes of work on my back and neck, including some gua sha, and I felt AMAZING afterwards. Thoroughly relaxed, and looser than I had been for several months. There’s no cupping yet, as there’s a risk of blood clots after Covid-19 (though as far as I’m aware I haven’t had it), so that’s something to look forward to.

The great outdoors

I’ve had a very active week! My swimming buddies and I have been up to Redricks Lakes three times this week – my cover image is the main lake. Sue and I went at 9am on Wednesday, and had our first independent swim in the main lake. We went back on Thursday afternoon as it was so hot and then Rachel joined us for an early dip on Saturday. There’s a nice mix of swimmers – super fast triathletes or club members who zoom about front crawling, fitness swimmers and people like us who mainly breast stroke round chatting and enjoying the process.

There’s a lot more bird life in this lake, so we encountered a mama coot with a young noisy brood of six tiny, scruffy chicks, and more coots with older chicks who are a bit more independent. There was also a grebe with her chick, who we swam quite close to. They don’t worry too much about the slow swimmers but the crawlers gave them a shock!

My walking friend Jill and I have signed up for Runkeeper’s August challenge, where we need to track 30k over the month. We are early morning walkers, except on Sunday when we have a lie-in and don’t go out until 7am. Today we knocked 8k off the 30k challenge, with a walk through the Lower Forest (aka Wintry Wood) to Epping and back via Coopersale and the Gernon Bushes nature reserve. We are not the fastest walkers but we do use it as an opportunity to clear our heads for the coming week and to put the world to rights. Both of us are subject to depression, so this is talking therapy for us.

We try and do a couple of shorter walks in the week, and then a longer one on Sundays. The summer is best as we can use the fields and woods, but in the winter they get a bit swampy – the Cripsey Brook feeder streams surround the village, though luckily we have an excellent flood alleviation scheme. This last winter we did a lot of our walks in wellies, and yes – we did jump in muddy puddles. Why should the kids have all the fun?

Muddy puddle!

The great indoors

Cooking with Kevin this week included making cinnamon sugar sourdough pretzels – we love soft pretzels in this house, and there was a lot of sourdough discard to use up. We also had pizza, which is becoming a firm family favourite.

Angry bread

This was also the week that I put the bread in the oven for a cold bake and when I took it out an hour later the casserole was empty….. and the dough was still rising on the counter behind me. It had a normal bake instead – but don’t you think the way the ‘ear’ has baked into eyebrows makes him look a bit cross?

Thing 2 and I made chocolate fudge brownies, too, using a recipe that I have had for years – I’m not even sure where it’s from but its very easy and quite delicious.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

  • 50g self-raising flour (or plain flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder)
  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • optional: 75g walnuts, chopped

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup over a gentle heat and set aside to cool.

Stir in the beaten eggs, flour, vanilla and walnuts if you’re using them.

Pour into a lined 18cm square tin and bake at 180c (Gas 4, 350f) for 25mins.

Serve warm with ice cream.

See? Super easy!

The crafting table

This week has had no finishes at all! Monday and Tuesday were so busy prepping for the interview that nothing got done.

I did make a start on the Closet Core Patterns Morgan jeans – the front is done, but I’ll leave full details for a proper review next week. I will rave about two tools I’ve been using to make them this week instead though. The first is the Clover Hot Hemmer (Long) which I’d had on my Amazon crafty wishlist for ages, and which was one of my birthday voucher purchases. It’s so useful – usually when prepping pockets I’d either spend ages with a chalk pencil, the iron and pins marking out the hems, or I’d be superlazy and guess the width which meant wonky pockets. With this ruler-type gadget you simply fold over the fabric to the right depth and iron. Brilliant, and no burned fingers either.

Hot hemmer in action – image from Clover website

The other gadget is a wool pressing mat – this gadget claims to retain heat to make pressing easier, quicker and more efficient. It seems to work – though the steam leaks through so I have been using mine on the ironing board or my cutting mat. Anything that makes ironing easier is a plus!

I have almost finished the first of the custom dolls – she needs a haircut (don’t we all right now?) and a mouth but otherwise she’s pretty complete. I’d forgotten how long it takes to do the hair! The companion doll has long hair and a beard….

I’d better get back to my crochet hook….

Same time, same place for the Week twenty update?

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Dead Land by Sara Paretsky (The latest VI Warshawski novel – I am all caught up!)

Tales from the Folly – Ben Aaronovitch (a Rivers of London short story collection – too short!)

Last Act in Palmyra/Time to Depart (Falco series) – Lindsey Davis on Audible

Listening to…

Hollywood Park – The Airborne Toxic Event

American III: Solitary Man – Johnny Cash

Podcast: The Socially Distant Sports Bar (Elis James, Mike Bubbins and Steff Garrero) via Spotify

Week sixteen: the pinwheels of my mind

This week has been all about the patchwork! Regular visitors to my little corner of the web will remember that I had a birthday the other week and, as guilt free shopping is always good, I was given a couple of Amazon vouchers. I have a rule that birthday money should always be spent on presents for yourself, and not on anything practical like new washing machines or cat food: therefore, much of my crafty wish list found its way into my basket!

Throughout furlough I have been really enjoying patchwork – starting with the mini charm quilt and the Attic Window quilt that had been in the UFO pile for years, and then working through various charm packs and fat quarters that were lurking in the stash.

Like most people who sew, I end up with lots of remnants. Prior to lockdown, I used to take all my cotton/polycotton remnants to work where they would be used to dress the thousands of peg dolls children made every term, and in April I gave a lot of fabric to a woman in the village to make masks from as she wasn’t charging for them. Since then, the pile has been building up again.

One of the presents I bought myself was ‘Use scraps, sew blocks, make 100 quilts‘ by Stuart Hillard and it’s been a bit of a game changer. I had a couple of books of traditional quilt patterns already, as well as Quilting for Dummies, but as they are all in black and white I found it hard to get inspired by them. I always enjoy Stuart’s column in one of my sewing magazines, so this seemed like a good book to buy. As you can see, it’s already bristling with sticky notes! Every time I look through it something else catches my eye.

Bristling with sticky notes already!

It’s a very practical book – suggestions for organising your scraps by cutting them to useful, regularly-used sizes before you chuck them in a box, or for cutting a strip off every fabric you buy and adding to your patch pile might seem obvious but as a newbie patcher I really hadn’t thought of that before. Having this sort of hoard also means that you see how colours and prints work together in a way you might not have expected.

The instructions for piecing together are very clear, and Stuart has simplified the cutting process for each block (I love his quick half-square triangle method!) to make them feel less daunting for newbies. The virtual quilt illustrations are really useful alongside the photos of the gorgeous finished quilts and make me feel as if I could actually make one of these artworks.

On Stuart’s advice I bought a 45mm rotary cutter and a proper transparent quilter’s ruler – I had a larger 65mm cutter that I don’t use much, probably as it’s blunt, and normal steel rulers, but the quilting rule has angles and centimetres. I wish it had inches as well, but there we are. I felt ready to put all these top organisational tips into action , so I wandered up to my shed and sorted out a pile of remnants to cut into nice tidy pieces. I did make a start, honest…I cut up some Japanese florals and Kokeshi prints into 6″ squares to go with a set of Totoro panels, and then I got distracted. Again.

I knew all those polyfiles would come in handy.

One of the pre-cut charm packs I discovered in the stash was a set of 4-inch squares with florals, ladybirds and butterflies – I think I bought it at a stitch show years ago as I find it hard to resist anything with ladybirds on! In the remnant pile I found some cream polycotton left over from making the Colette Sorbetto top, and it looked as if it would pair nicely with the charms. I ended up making half-square triangles and then spent several days playing with patterns.

How do you choose which patchwork design to use? I moved things around on my drawing board, and every time I chanced on another layout I loved it just as much. I ended up taking photos of every block and posting them on Facebook, and asked my friends what they thought at block and layout stages – quilting by committee! Some of the layouts used the prints randomly, others put them together, and I even tried putting two different blocks together to create something quite chaotic. Opinion was divided – some people liked the same pattern together, others preferred the mixture of patterns, but the clear winner was the pinwheel or windmill block (centre bottom).

I went with the majority vote and I am soooo pleased with the outcome. It worked well as a stashbuster, which just goes to show what a good investment the book was! As well as the cream print in the triangles I made the bias binding myself from the remnants of the backing fabric from the red quilt from a few weeks ago using this tutorial, and this quilt top is backed with a cot sheet that I had kept from when the kids were little. I used a double layer of batting, as it’s the 2oz one and I wanted a puffier effect, and I quilted in the ditch along the diagonal lines. It’s not a huge quilt, coming out at 33″ x 26″, but it’ll be a good baby gift.

There will be more patchwork in the future, I suspect! This week I am going to try and be good and finish chopping remnants into organised scraps, and possibly have a go at the Morgan jeans if the fabric arrives. I’m still working on the two commission dolls, which just need to be given hair and clothes, and yesterday I managed a whole round of my virus shawl while queuing for the Co-op and the post office.

Musings….

This week my annual pension statement arrived from my previous job and reminded me that I have another 20 years of work to go (on current reckoning, anyway – who knows what the next two decades have in store?) on the same day that my eldest, Thing 1, decided to go Goth on me. She is 14 this week and looks so grown up – it doesn’t seem that long since the ridiculously hot summer of 2006 when she arrived, and I wanted to take her back to the hospital as I really didn’t feel capable of being in charge of this little being. I’m told this is quite normal!

There’s still days when I’m not sure I’m ready for the responsibility, but it may be a little late to change my mind now. One of the wonderful things about furlough is that I have had time to spend with the three of them that – as a working parent – I wouldn’t otherwise have had. These months have been the longest time I have had away from work since my last maternity leave (in 2011!) and while I love my job and wouldn’t want to give up work, I do feel lucky to have had this chance to enjoy my children now they are a bit bigger. Maternity leave is great, but it’s also a lot of hard work with a tiny person and a lot of overwhelming emotions, especially if – as I found – post-natal depression comes into the mix. It’s a cliche but your babies don’t stay little for long!

I also ventured further from home this week than I have done since lockdown started – a whole five miles, in order to make my 21st blood donation over in Theydon Bois. It was all very well organised, with triage as you enter and no waiting around. The worst part was when my Kindle crashed about a minute into my donation – nothing to read!

I started giving blood in 2011 after my brother in law suffered a heart injury which left him in hospital for several months and with permanent impairments. My youngest child was still tiny and I couldn’t be with my sister as much as I’d have liked, so donating blood helped me feel a bit more useful. I love getting the texts that tell me where my blood has been issued to! Only 4% of people who are eligible to give blood actually do, so I try and encourage friends and colleagues to visit the vampires – it’s an hour out of your day a few times a year, and you get a drink and a biscuit afterwards. Orange Clubs, if you’re lucky – so go on, head to http://www.blood.co.uk and find out where you can donate.

This week’s cover photo is of a field between North Weald and Tawney Common, where the farmer has left a wide and beautiful border of wildflowers around the field. My phone camera doesn’t do it justice but the butterflies and bees were loving it!

Next week is the end of term: no more home learning till September, and hopefully we’ll be back to some form of normal by then, at least in terms of going back to school. Thing 2 is having a socially distanced leavers’ assembly this week in the school playground, so please wish us good weather!

See you on the other side of week 17…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Use scraps, sew blocks, make 100 quilts‘ by Stuart Hillard

V I Warshawski series – Sara Paretsky

Poseidon’s Gold (Falco series) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

and if you want a couple of film recommendations, head on over to Amazon Prime Video and check out Adult Life Skills (with Jodie Whittaker – I wept) and The Great Unwashed.

Week eight: ups and downs

What a strange week this one’s been – again. After last week’s lengthy rant about the possibility of lifting lockdown shortly before Johnson’s pre-recorded ‘address’, we’ve all been stuck in a weird confused limbo which hasn’t really been clarified by various press conferences and guidelines. We are staying safe at home still, as that seems the most sensible thing to do at the moment. And don’t even get me started on school reopenings…

All three children (and I) have had a wobble at some point this week. It’s been important for us all to recognise that this is not a normal time, and that it’s OK to be able to put our hands up and say ‘right, I am not coping today’ and to retire to the sofa. Thing 2 had a meltdown on Thursday when it became clear that the family holiday in Wales was going to have to be cancelled and we wouldn’t be seeing the cousins and the grandparents this summer, let alone the aunties and uncles. My parents live in France and my youngest sister in Northern Ireland, so getting everyone together every couple of years is something we all look forward to. Thing 1 is missing her friends and has lost motivation, and Thing 3 is not sleeping well and is having trouble focusing. He enjoys learning and the stimulation of the classroom, as well as being with his peers. Being stuck at home with his big sisters isn’t a lot of fun, he tells me.

My own meltdown was Tuesday. I couldn’t wake up, and spent the day feeling as if I was wading through treacle. I didn’t even pick up a crochet hook or a needle which, if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know is pretty unusual for me. I lay on the sofa, read a book, and napped through the afternoon before feeding the family things from the freezer for dinner. I’ve learned over the last twenty years or so of periodic depression that some days are bad days, and there’s often no rhyme or reason for it. I’m not in a period where the first thing I do when I wake up is do a mental check to see if I’m OK, thank heavens, but there’s still the odd downturn. I take Citalopram, like many other people like me, and that seems to keep me pretty level most of the time.

What about the rest of the week?

Luckily up days outnumbered down, and despite a few frosty mornings I’ve been able to get out walking every other day. I’ve been varying my route only slightly, by taking the odd different path, but mostly I’ve stuck to a wide semi-circle around the village which takes in fields, woods, a farm and – one day – the golf course. The pink flowers are coming into bloom now alongside the white and yellow, and one early morning I saw three hares. There are coot chicks on the ponds, and the sound of skylarks in one particular field on the stretch of Essex Way I cover is glorious.

Today we went on a bike ride round my usual route – all five of us! – and were lucky enough to run into friends. It was so good to have a conversation with other adults – albeit from a distance! The kids had enormous fun in the giant climbing oak on Friday too, when we dragged them out of their pits for a walk.

Things 2 and 3 – monkeys in a tree again

My sock fixation has continued, and I finished the pair that had me cursing last week because I wasn’t reading the pattern properly. They’re very pretty, and quite lacy – it’ll be a shame to put shoes over them!

I’ve managed some sewing too. After last weekend’s organising of patterns and fabric, I was able to grab the kits I wanted and get straight on – apart from with the True Bias Shelby Dress, which I cut out and then discovered I didn’t have any interfacing! Annoying, as this was the one I really wanted to make!

Virtually everything else has been using jersey and other stretch fabrics, for which I bless my overlocker. The first thing was the Jump Up Suit by Alice and Co, which is yet another item in my collection of work appropriate pyjamas. I made this in a grey Ponte Roma fabric, and before cutting I took 6 inches off the legs (and another three when I hemmed it!) and lengthened the waist by a couple of centimetres which I then ended up taking out again. I CANNOT get the hang of blind hemming, so couldn’t do the pretty scalloped neckline, so after much swearing I ended up doing a rolled hem on the overlocker which still seems to work. I can see this being much worn…

Alice and Co Patterns Jump Up Suit

I used scraps of jersey fabric to make the Watson bra by Cloth Habit – a toile, really, to practise new techniques and to check the fit. Apart from needing to pull in the elastic under the arms, it’s pretty much a perfect fit and the pattern instructions really do guide you through the process step by step. As I was working on smalls, I also whipped up a pair of Superhero Boxers by MBJM Patterns for my beloved, who was the only person in the house who didn’t have any handmade undies – he was sceptical but they fitted perfectly and he wants to know when the rest are coming…

Finally, I gave in and made some face coverings after the lovely Patrick Grant launched The Big Community Sew project – I used leftover fabric from my red quilt (which still isn’t bound) and from Thing 2’s shaggy pants, and some fat quarters from the stash. Luckily I also had some elastic, as that’s proving hard to source at the moment. I chose the McCalls face covering pattern as it looked pretty straighforward. I whipped up ten – not perfect but they’ll do the job.

Face coverings

I made another Greenstyle Centerfield top, using plain black jersey and a printed jersey I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show a few years ago and have had in the stash. I bought it as I thought it had sheep on it, but it turns out to be alpacas so at least I’m on trend. This is a DREAM to sew and comes together in less than an hour’s sewing time. I chose the plain scoop neckline rather than a hood this time round, so it was superspeedy. And SO comfortable – particularly with the MBJM Patterns Four Seasons joggers that I used the rest of my black jersey on. I love MBJM patterns, they are so versatile – I made these in capri length with phone pockets, but you can also choose three other lengths, two waistbands, a faux drawstring and another pocket style.

Finally, we have been lucky with the wildlife this week – I’ll leave you with our regular badger, and see you at the end of week nine.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Jump! – Jilly Cooper

Home School – Charles Webb

Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook – Terry Pratchett

Week seven: preemptive pizzas in the park*, AKA you can’t quarantine stupid

*not my pizza, or my park. I stayed home.

As I type, the nation is waiting for today’s Boris and Co Show, where he’ll be addressing the the people from 10 Downing Street. Rumours have been flooding the more binary media for the last few days that lockdown will start to be lifted, that the schools will be open from the beginning of June – and at the same time the headlines tell us that we have now outstripped Italy in the coronavirus death charts and that we are second only to America in the world. Police forces on social media in the sunshine yesterday were telling us that there were whole swathes of people pre-empting any lockdown announcements by eating pizza in the parks. Other countries who have started lifting the lockdown are experiencing second waves, which should stand as a warning to those considering lifting restrictions only seven weeks in rather than the 12 that were initially mentioned.

I think the terribly English VE Day anniversary celebrations (socially distanced scones at 4pm, anyone?) and the Churchillian vibe that Johnson seems to want to project have clouded a lot of thinking coming from Westminster. The devolved nations have been very clear that lockdown will stay in place for at least the next three weeks – and while Westminster is apparently keen that the nations should stay in step, this means they want everyone to fall in with them rather than considering that maybe – just maybe – the devolved nations have the right idea. Construction workers are actually expecting to start work tomorrow, at least according to the one I was chatting to in the queue at the Co-op this morning.

I’m angry, and I’m worried – as in America, the economy seems to be driving the need to raise lockdown rather than the safety of the nation. I am worried about getting back on the tube – and I was on the Central Line the day after 7/7, because I work in London and we don’t back down. But this time – of all the times – we can and should be backing down, because this little virus – this invisible mugger, or whatever Johnson called it – is even harder to spot than a suspicious person. I’m angry that the government are abdicating responsibility for this decision, claiming that ‘the public’ have had enough. I’m aware that my chosen social media is by its very nature an echo-chamber, but I have yet to see or hear anyone pushing for this to be over. Inevitably there are the conspiracy theorists shouting about ‘plandemics’ and plots for world trade domination, but even they seem quite keen to stay alive and well. As Nicola Sturgeon says, the best defence against this is our own front door. Yes, people are bored – but we are healthy and bored.

Apologies for the rant!

Normal service will now be resumed….

My Google maps timeline for April appeared in my inbox this week and, like an idiot, I went through it to see if I’d done anything exciting – I did! I went a whole 1.75 miles from my house to the local farm shop to try and get some flour (no chance) but apart from that I stayed within about a mile radius of home. I’m looking forward to May’s timeline, when I can reminisce about that time I went to Tesco.

The lych gate at St Andrew’s Church, North Weald (dates from 1898)

Those walks within a mile or so of home do allow me to take in some beautiful scenery – after last week’s musings on spring colours coming in waves I made a point of looking for flowers in different colours on my walks. One of those walks took me past the church and the flood meadow – circling anti-clockwise round the village rather than clockwise – and I also took Thing 2 with me one morning who enjoyed spotting blooms at ground level. She insisted on collecting a dandelion clock for everyone so we could all have a wish. I made use of the PictureThis and LeafSnap apps to identify flowers, and we also enjoyed using the BirdNet app to identify birdsong (song thrush, blackbird, mistle thrush, blue tit, Eurasian blackcap, whitethroat, chiff chaff and lapwings!)

I’ve been quite stressed and anxious this week, which affected my concentration. The scrubs sets I was making took well over a week, as I took them very slowly and just did one step a day until my mind levelled out again. By Saturday my mojo (sewjo?) had returned and I whizzed through the scrubs trousers and also made Thing 2’s ‘Shaggy pants’, which she loves. I used New Look F6013 and she chose some fun printed cotton from Pound Fabrics. We decided on an elastic waistband rather than a drawstring, with a ribbon bow. The trousers only have two pattern pieces, and took about an hour and a half from opening the pattern packet to putting the trousers on for a photo so they were super simple. She loves them so much she has already requested a second pair… Thing 1 wants culottes (but with ‘flowy fabric, mum’) and my beloved has asked for some pyjama pants – so I’ve been back online this morning finding the right materials.

Thing 2 in her ‘Shaggy pants’

I’ve been superorganised today and made a list of all the things I want to sew in the next few weeks – then put the pattern, instructions and fabric for each into separate bags so I can grab and go. There’s a few in there that will stretch my skills a bit – a proper bra and pants, for example – and some quick wins.

I finished last week’s crochet socks, which felted a tiny bit in the washing machine so they are really soft – the pattern was the Magdalen sock by Vicki Brown, from Inside Crochet issue 101. I’m not sure she envisaged them in quite the same colourway, but I love them!

Magdalen socks – in Drops Nord, Regia sock (cuff) and Cygnet Wool Rich 4-ply (heel and toe)

I’ve now started a new pair of socks – this time the Vappu sock by Claire Montgomerie – and it’s a measure of just how away with the fairies I’ve been this week that it took three attempts to start the first one, and a lot of cursing, because I could NOT work out where the designer had got her stitch count…. and it turned out I was reading the pattern wrong. I’m using Stylecraft Head over Heels yarn in Sugarloaf for these. Watch this space!

(If you’re a crocheter and you haven’t had a go at making socks, I highly recommend it – this is a great book to start off with)

Thanks for sticking with me through this week’s rant! Let’s see what week 8 has in store for us all.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Evil Seed – Joanne Harris

The Making of Mr Hai’s Daughter: Becoming British – Yasmin Hai

All the Little Places – Sophie Shillito

Listening to:

The Grove of the Caesars – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

Week 3: not a fronted adverbial in sight!

The Horde have been on school holiday this week, and their Dad has been furloughed so this week has been a lot more relaxed – at least for them! I have still been working, but have been (mostly) able to do just one thing at once. I’m still focusing on the potential for makerspaces and project based learning, reading and thinking about what’s manageable and possible to test over the next couple of years.

There’s been a lot of meetings via MS Teams, and I am finding them more tiring than being in a room with all the same people. I mentioned this over on Twitter the other day, and some wise people shared their thoughts with me about the extra cognitive work your brain is having to do to remember you both are and aren’t in the same room as people. My sister shared this link with me, which was interesting. Both this one and another that our museum director shared liken what we are experiencing to trauma, and the stress of being in a situation out of our control. I think we are all also very aware that we don’t know how long this lockdown will go on for, and that there is so much uncertainty about what the ‘new normal’ might look like.

One Teams meeting was delightful, though – an end of week chat with two lovely colleagues over a virtual drink – there should be more of this, and it was good to have a conversation with other adults that didn’t come with an agenda…

Walk this way….

One of the ways I am managing my own mental health is to keep walking – on Tuesday I was so tired when I woke up that I didn’t start the day with a 6am ramble, and the impact on my mood was surprising.

Despite not being able to set my usual pace due to last weekend’s running injury, just that 45 minute walk has a calming effect across the whole day. It helps, of course, that we are in the countryside but even when working I try and get off the train a stop early and walk along the canal towpath to Victoria Park.

Slowing down to hobbling pace has also forced me to look around a bit more as I go! It was suggested the other day that this seems to be a bumper year for blackthorn (so we’ll be making sloe gin later!) and it’s true that the Common is white with blossom.

Thing 2 – an early riser like her mama – has joined me the last three days, and it’s been a time for her to ask big questions about the things that worry her, and for us to have some peaceful time together. She loves to spot animals, and was thrilled today to see a tiny mouse as we came back through the forest.

Holiday activities

The weather has continued to be most un-bank-holiday-ish, treating us to days of baking sunshine instead of the torrential downpours we usually associate with school holidays. My beloved has been working in the garden, planting all sorts of vegetables and pulling weeds out of the ground, and Thing 2 has been joining in. She has shown a lot of interest in germinating fruit seeds – actually googling how to do it properly rather than shoving them in some earth and hoping for the best which is my usual method. We have a set of little orange trees that are now about 6 inches high, and a few apples and a plum underway. Thing 3 helped make a rack to put seedlings in, having a go at sawing wood and helping screw things together. All the wood in the garage that my beloved kept in case it came in useful has – yes! – come in useful.

Expecting oranges in about 5 years…

What’s Thing 1 been up to? She’s mostly been asleep, but she did let me cut her hair earlier this week – the thinking was that if I did a really bad job then lockdown means it has time to grow out. I can’t remember the last time she let me cut her fringe.

Once again there has been a lot of baking – the delight when I landed the last bag of flour in the Co-op was quite ridiculous. The highlight has been hot cross buns, of course, but we have also made rocky road cake, more flatbread and pancakes for breakfast.

My to-do list hasn’t seen much action, sadly, but I have cut out four sets of scrubs which will be going to a mental health trust in East London, and made up one of those sets.

Saturday was spent making ‘ear savers’ – the elasticated masks that medical staff wear hurt their ears as they are wearing them more often, so I whipped up some of these little gadgets and sent two dozen off to a friend who works in the maternity unit in our local hospital, for her to use and pass to her colleagues. They are super simple to make, and a good way to use up scraps. I won’t deny that an afternoon in the sunshine sewing buttons on was lovely, too…

Ear savers!

I put a plea out on Facebook for anyone who had buttons to spare to share them with me so I could make more of these, and the response from both friends and people across the village was amazing. So many buttons – people were going through their button boxes and popping them through my letterbox all day!

I have booked this week off, and am looking forward to spending some relaxing time with my family, pottering about and making things. Hopefully you all have something nice planned for the bank holiday at home!

See you at the end of week (signing off just as another package of buttons have arrived….)

Kirsty x