The Death of a Jumper

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There are times when you have to say goodbye to things you’ve loved, created, or treasured.  Sometimes the relationship comes to a natural end; sometimes things take an unexpected turn, so that circumstances initiate change; and sometimes your own feelings change, or you confront the painful truth that maybe it just wasn’t quite right for you in the first place.

Take this jumper, for example.  It’s Shannon from Rowan Magazine 52:

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There’s nothing wrong with it, really.  The design works and I’d recommend it to other knitters.  What I hated, and tried for far too long to ignore, was the neck detail.  It’s supposed to be a funnel neck; indeed, it IS a funnel neck.  I’m rarely seen in funnel neck tops because I don’t like them, and yet I persevered with this jumper.  Why?  Was it partly because I like the moss stitch yoke and the way it seems to grow on from the diamond panels at the sides?  Was it because that (now discontinued) shade of blue in Rowan Kid Classic is one of my favourites and I’d been trying to save it for the right project, and now had to face my mistake?  Or was it because the idea of ripping out all those pretty cables was too much to bear, and I’d rather fudge a good fit than accept defeat?

It could have been any or all of those reasons, but whichever and whatever, they were no longer good enough for me.  Out came the scissors, and I got stuck into unpicking the seams.

unpickingshannon It reminded me of the truism that the hardest part of making a decision is making the decision.  Once I’d faced up to the disappointed hopes, accepted my mistakes and gracefully faced up to the correct – and inevitable – choice, I felt much calmer.  I wish there were a word in the English language to describe the sense of peace, calm and resolution one feels when you give way and let go of stubborn resistance.  With every stitch I unpicked, and every scrap bit of yarn I threw away, I felt empowered and free.

And embarrassed too: how long had it taken me to get around to this, and why on earth hadn’t I done this before?  What did I think was so difficult?  Why did I think this would be so difficult?  It isn’t, not at all.  The ego has a lot to answer for!  Needless to say, I was humbled.

shannonunpickedBefore too long – a few evenings, I think – Shannon was in pieces and I’d never felt more together about it.  She lay there, prone, supine, and accepting of her destiny.  I photographed her in that state, trying to remember the last time I’d seen her like that; when she was being knitted and I was preparing to sew her together.  Things really do come full circle, I thought.  Some circles are just bigger than others.

I gave it a few more days before I started unravelling the pieces.  Truth be told, I really enjoy ripping out knitting and look forward to occasions when it isn’t a design swatch I’ve laboured over in advance of a deadline ;-).  Now that I had one of those, I was going to enjoy it!  So much so that I decided to record the happy event and share it here for posterity:

So, what’s next?  The plan is to make a Kim Hargreaves Maddy jumper, my third, no less.  After this episode, I’ve decided to knit a design that I already know and wear to death.  I currently have two in grey and pink, so a blue one would be very welcome.  As I write, I’m expecting a tonal shade of Debbie Bliss Angel to hit my doorstep; slightly risky as I’ve only seen the colour online, but if nothing else, it seems to be the best match out there.  I have faith.  If I can believe that my second go with this yarn will be better than the first, then the colour will be perfect.  That’s another thing about passive nonresistance.  In situations like this, going with the flow is rarely a bad idea.

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Preparing for Harvest

The academic year has ended, and apart from graduation the focus is entirely on September and preparing for new and returning students.  It’s also time for me to regroup and turn my attention to design work due out later this year, months before anyone else is really thinking about wrapping up warm.  That said, London and June have been in the midst of an argument for a few weeks now, and we’re all waiting to see whether the summer weather will win!

Early spring and summer has made me think of planting seeds, or nurturing young plants as they make the most of the warmth.  It’s one way of understanding my lifestyle of working behind the scenes on a design, or on projects that I will have to wait to reveal.  For sneak peeks of these, take a look at my Instagram feed – at the time of writing, the tiny bits of knitting will make a lot more sense and you’ll see what I’ve been building up to!  I could say something about finding pockets of time to do things, but it feels more like the quiet moments in a composition: those few bars’ rest that aren’t rest at all, but part of the music.  The poetry of silence that resets the ear and welcomes the time, rhythm and colour of the next movement.

I’d also like to share a small accomplishment of mine: drum roll please!

PurpleRib4These 16 rows of rib might not look like much, but for me they’re the equivalent of a marathon runner coming down the back straight.  Finishing this second sleeve is the final bend; picking up stitches for the front band and sewing up is the home straight.  Blogging about it and wearing it to death is the finishing line and beyond! 🙂

This purple cardigan has been hanging around for so long, it can’t help but be a reward in its own right. I’ll need it for the colder days of harvest, when it’s time to wrap up warm against the brisk notes of the autumn wind.

Hello from the other side…

Hello!  Guess who??

I didn’t mean to be away for this long, but I’m slowly beginning to resurface after being sucked into the new job I was so gleefully happy to get 7 or 8 months ago.  There’s been loads of hard work and several students, staff and machines to look after; rewarding, but I have had so little time to design or write for the blog – and I didn’t want to post without any featured photos.  I’ve learnt that I’ll burn out if I don’t and that students are always keen to see what you’re doing.  Finding the balance is proving difficult but I’m determined as ever, and I will only improve.

That said, I have been making things whenever I get the chance to work on something pretty.  Most of them are still WIPs but here’s a partial roundup of some of the things I’ve been knitting, sewing or crocheting:

MyMakesAW15-16I’ll share more details at leisure over the coming months as these projects eventually turn into items of clothing and I carve out more of a routine.  I will try monthly posts, or fortnightly if possible.  Until then, thanks for sticking with me!  It’s much appreciated 🙂

All Change: A new job is on the horizon!

A very quick post to let you all know that I have another job!

UWLLetter And no, I couldn’t resist a train-based pun in the title of this post.  I’m still buzzing after the Charing Cross tour I had a little while ago 🙂

*Hopefully* this will lead to things being a lot more settled professionally – and me posting more regularly again.  It certainly feels a lot more grown-up, not least because this is the first permanent job I have had in my life.  I will still have time for my freelance teaching, but the most important and valuable thing that this job will give me is more of a routine – and a better idea of how much time I can commit to blogging and designing.  It’s been difficult to get any sense of that in the last few months, and I haven’t been able to help watching time pass by as I wish I could sit and have the luxury of a few hours each week to write, draw, sketch, swatch, experiment – ANYTHING at all.  Process and progress, I kept telling myself.  I’m a step closer with each passing day.

In a way, this is as much a celebratory post as it is a little announcement.  It is the culmination of a long-term ambition.  When I left my old research job in higher education, I did so without knowing quite what I wanted to do; only what I didn’t want to do.  And although negative dialectics have their place and are equally useful, I had to be extra patient and imaginative when it came to working out whether there was a new career that would suit me – or whether I would have to carve out a new job for myself based on my skillset and what I liked to do.

In just over two months’ time, it will have been six years since I left my last relatively secure job.  April 24th of this year also marked two years of being completely self-employed, without a regular income.  Most of the time, it has been sheer hard work and determination, none of which has been without false starts, rejection, disappointment – and tears.  But I, and anyone else taking the plunge into the unknown, kept going.  Eventually, momentum builds.  What nobody tells you is how consuming and draining it is to build momentum from nothing.  Hopes, dreams and wishes are the fuel in the tank; effort, determination and perseverance is the horsepower in the engine.

You have to keep going because there are only two reasons for stopping: when you think you’ve tried hard enough, or when you’ve got what you wished for.  There’s no wrong answer; the right answer is the one that feels right in your gut.  For me, it was the second reason.  Eventually, there’s a kindling, the magic happens, and flames spark into life.  You work out how best to tend the fire and build it so that it’s a warming, roaring success.  And then there are more tears – happiness, joy and relief.  It has all paid off.

You might gather from all this that I haven’t had much time to knit, crochet or sew anything pretty in the last few weeks: this is also because my home is still a bit of a mess with decorating!  It seems that life is all coming together, piece by piece, the inner reflecting the outer.  What I have found time for is learning how to use this 150 year-old machine and its bigger, mangle-like neighbour.  Here’s a snap as a taster for my next post, and a thank you for still reading my little blog, despite my long absences lately. 🙂

AnAncientPrintingPress

jolie-laide June

Apologies for my absence last week.  I’m currently living in a building site and palace of chaos!  Furniture has been displaced, space eliminated, long-forgotten possessions unearthed and a doldrum of drilling blankets it all.  I miss my home.

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And then the ceiling cracked 😦BareNakedWalls3

The silent moments – including the relative silence of work – have been golden, and I’ve gobbled up as many as possible, filling the time with making or looking at pretty things.  I haven’t really been shopping for them – well, I’ll confess, maybe a little – but the idea of looking forward to nice post is a very cheerful one!

Another cheerful little note is finishing the River sweater.  Here it is , all violet and tidy on a hanger.

River6 River7It fits beautifully too, and I’ll be getting a lot of wear out of it whilst the weather stays between 15-20 degrees.  It’s made me prowl around for more All Seasons Cotton; I’m waiting with bated breath for the summer clearance to see if the lovely buttercup yellow will be in the mix, but I’ve already fallen off the wagon and bought a bunch of this friendly baby pink from purlfect on Ravelry.  It’s a discontinued shade called Soul and I’ll probably draft a lace stripe top along the same lines as River, but with a round neck somewhere between a scoop and a crew and set-in sleeves.  Here it is with the hebe in the background, a regular guzzling station for the bees in spring and summer.

AllSeasonsSoulAndHebeThe noise and perpetual headache is a bit of a shame as this week is, or should be, a very nice one in my diary.  I’m trying not to let the grumpiness and irritation ruin things, but a snippy phonecall from my mother earlier this morning tells me I’ve some way to go.   (Sorry, Mum.  Don’t worry, she’s already had a proper apology!)

Tomorrow (Tuesday) features a 1-2-1 crochet lesson in the evening at Sew Over It Islington.  It’ll be my second time with this student and I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s been up to in the last two weeks.  She has a lovely, sunny disposition too, just what I need.

I have a half-day on Wednesday and the afternoon features printmaking lesson 2 of 6.  I know next to nothing about printmaking so can barely explain what I’ve been doing, but I’ve learnt a new word: callography, and this technique is surprisingly simple, but with bags of potential.  I hope it’s enough to say that you create low relief sculptures on a plate using plastic, string, tape, all kinds of things, stick it down, ink it up, and roll it through the press.  I’ve noticed that less is more, and that there’s a bit of process art involved in that each print is unique, and the plate develops and reveals more about the layers of its composition.  I’ve two prints drying off in the studio as I write and can’t wait to see how different they are.  I also don’t know for sure if it’s a new technique each week – but I do know that I’m going to turn up and enjoy it!

Friday finds me at Woman’s Weekly HQ teaching people how to crochet.  That, along with the view from the roof, puts a grin on my face.  I do hope the weather’s nice.  And after WWHQ it’s time for something I’ve never really done before: go to a fun conference!  Blogtacular is actually on Saturday 13th, but there’s a lovely Friday night dinner for people to relax and mingle before the big day ahead.  It looks set to be a jam-packed and inspiring 36 hours and I’m excited about the potential, ideas and opportunity to meet lots of like-minded creative bloggers.  A little prologue to this is the story of how I got to Blogtacular in the first place, but it’s best told after the conference.  What I’ll say now is that it involves five wonderful women – Jen at Inky Collective, Sarah of Hello Little Beee, Sasha from The Life Wardrobe, Katie of BeNourishd, Natalie at Block Print Social – and Sunday lunch 🙂

Sunday 14th is a trip to the disused Charing Cross tube station and, if I get my way, Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum.  It’s right around the corner from one of my places of work but I’ve been saving myself for this weekend.  Much nicer to go to museums at leisure than cramming in a lunchtime or post-work visit.  There’s a lot to look forward to but I’m especially keen to see the many ways in which necessity was the mother of invention.  Social history is one of my interests and I hope Fashion on the Ration will be a great account of enterprise and indomitable human spirit.

So, a lot to look forward to.  And in the midst of drafting that last paragraph one of my Blogtacular mates above has told me to “breathe deeply and have faith that all this chaos will be wonderfully worthwhile…”, so I will.  And find more delightful distractions!  A quick walk into the garden to snap the nascent hydrangea and lavender reminds me to cheer up – there’s prettiness to follow.

BuddingHydrangea BuddingLavender