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Trying Something New – Stamp Carving

Trying Something New – Stamp Carving

There’s an account I follow on Instagram, ViktoriaAstrom, where I have seen the most wonderful little illustrations turned into large carved stamps and used to print wonderful and whimsical pieces of art. I always fancied a go at making one, but like many crafts it […]

St Mary’s Lighthouse Embroidery

St Mary’s Lighthouse Embroidery

Though I wrote about my Self Portrait embroidery first, because it was such an important piece of work for me, I actually made another embroidery piece before that one. This embroidery piece was made to mark my fifth wedding anniversary in July. When I first […]

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

I have made something important to me that I have spent some time wondering if I should share. I have decided that I should, that I want to, because my most recent project has been all about self-acceptance, and I think a large part of that is acknowledging that when I go out into the world other people will see me.

I have a skin condition. I don’t know what it is, because the doctors do not know what it is. I have dark red patches on my skin. They can appear in under two minutes, and move around just as quickly. Until the last few weeks they were always on my face, but they would move from one area to another without a moment’s notice. Here my forehead and one cheek, now both cheeks and my jaw. As time has progressed they have got steadily darker, now resembling a dark red birth mark that just doesn’t know where to rest.

People are generally kind about it. They know it bothers me and so tell me that they don’t really notice it, or that it doesn’t look that bad, but I know from the reactions of doctors and other people that it really is the first thing that a lot of people see when they meet me. And I have had occasional cruel or unkind comments. When a patch moved quickly to my nose recently two people independently made ‘Rudolph’ jokes at my expense. And so it was the day after those remarks that I decided upon this project. And, honestly, I love it.

Stitching

I found the planning and stitching of this embroidery piece incredibly cathartic. I’ve found it so incredibly difficult to find any body positivity in my own reflection since my skin started changing. I have found it difficult to see this face as ‘mine’, partly because it is always changing. Not at the slow and steady pace of ageing, or even of a sudden change that I might slowly come to terms with, but something where each time I look in the mirror a different stranger looks back at me. I wanted to find some familiarity in the lines of my face and to reclaim my own reflection by getting to know me again.

I stitched the lines of my face and features first, because they were what came first. They are the bits of me that have always been, and that have been hidden behind the blemishes that my eyes fall on first.

Following my sketch on the 100% linen fabric, I used mostly stem stitch with small areas of back stitch for most of the outline work and got to remember my nose, my uneven eyebrows, the tilt of my eyes, my lips that were always a bit too thin, but that I now love a little more.

I used a series of small, straight stitches close together like satin stitch to make the irises, with a variegated blue embroidery thread, and made the pupils from three strand lazy daisies, each with seven petals to give a decent amount of fill. I put a bit more detail into my eyes than I did the rest of my features as I didn’t want the exploration and recognition of my face to be only about the marks on my skin. As witness to my past and present, my eyes are important to the person that experience has formed, as well as being a link (through strong familiar characteristics) to my child.

In contrast to my eyes I enjoyed making the slightly more haphazard stitches of the eyebrows, to add a bit of texture and character. They are not identical, because my own eyebrows are naturally uneven.

Blooms

Once all of the outlining and features were complete I started making the feature stitches of my facial markings. As they are constantly changing I picked a moment in time when I finally had my project idea and had gathered all of my materials and felt that I was ready to begin this journey of acceptance.

This is me on July 30th 2019, at 11am.

I decided to use a lazy daisy stitch for the facial markings as I wanted something that wasn’t as solid and permanent as satin stitch for the fill, but that would also not be too bold in texture (as French knots and some other feature stitches can be), as my skin condition has not affected the texture of my skin. I used a variegated thread again because my colourisation is not uniform, and I thought it would add a bit of lightness and a sense of change to the stitching. I also chose the daisy stitch as when I’ve spoken to people about my face (when they’ve noticed red patches appear whilst we sit and talk) I’ve instinctively explained that patches ‘bloom’ and then fade away, seemingly at random. This word, to bloom, usually means something positive, I know, but for some reason it has been the vocabulary I have developed to cope with discussing it with others. The areas of my skin that go dark red are also described by my doctor and others as florid, from the latin for flower, so a floral stitch added to my need for a sense of wordplay and whimsy to lighten the subject.

And so, after many stitches, and many carefully placed little blooms of colour, here I am.

Heartgyle: A Tale Of Two Socks

Heartgyle: A Tale Of Two Socks

I thought pretty assuredly that I was going to be the first person to complete my Heartgyle Socks. I was on course to finish them in five days, despite the fact that I had changed the cast on and restarted the toes more than once. […]

Casting On: Heartgyle Socks

Casting On: Heartgyle Socks

In the list of words that strike fear into a good number of knitters, intarsia comes not too far after moths. Despite the dread, here we intrepid band of Boost Your Knitting adventurers go, headlong into knitting intarsia in the round [audible gasps ring out, a woman faints]. […]

The Apple Swizzle Hat

The Apple Swizzle Hat

June’s Boost Your Knitting project and accompanying technique was a beanie-style hat in DK weight yarn, simple in form other than the dip stitches that this month’s accompanying tutorial and learning materials teach.

This has been my first step back into knitting for a while after health issues left me unable to enjoy even gentle crafts or pastimes such as knitting or reading as I had been unable to look down. I was so, so very grateful to have such an immersive and achievable project to encourage me back to my needles.

Off We Go

Anybody who has experienced my knitting in real life or online knows that I do grumble about ribbing. It was only last night that I was laying in bed wondering if future me could get a cheap knitting machine *just* to knit the rib portion of projects. 1×1 rib is perhaps the most useful of all the rib stitches but of course that would have to mean that it is definitely the most tedious.

The fact that I made it past the ribbing section without deciding that, actually, knitting was perhaps not enjoyable to me any more was wholly due to it being my first experience of Fyberspates’ Vivacious DK yarn. What a lovely bounce the yarn has to it, and with just enough of a hint of variegation to keep each stitch standing proud and bring some depth to the miles and miles of knit one, purl one.

Learning How To Tuck Stitch

Performing Apple Swizzle’s tuck stitches involves knitting into a stitch that is not on the left needle, but instead several rows below, and in the case of Apple Swizzle, knitting into that stitch multiple times to produce the charming little clusters of elongated stitches that span multiple rows in the stitch pattern.

Care has to be taken to allow enough yarn into the tuck stitches for the preceding rows to lie flat, which allows the stitches, gathered together in a decrease further on in the stitch pattern, to form little lotus flower-like clusters.

Apple Swizzle was the perfect little knitting aperitif after a long drought. Enough to help me get a feel for my needles, and quick enough to leave me wanting to knit more.

The repeats of the chart seemed to whiz by, and before I knew it I was on to the decreases.

The crown shaping of this hat happens quickly. After 4cm of rib and 48 rounds of the main pattern, the decreases accelerate quickly over just 10 rounds. I thought this might give a slight gather to the top of the hat, but it seems to have blocked into a rounded crown shape with most of the potential gathering offset by the drawing in of the stitch pattern.

I used all of the remaining yarn after knitting a medium sized hat from a 100g skein to make a pompom. I used the largest of the standard size Clover pompom makers (blue) to make an 85mm pompom which I trimmed down slightly to round off the shape.

I’m please with myself for following my own rule of when in doubt: pompom, because I really like the balance of the hat with it’s bobble.

This hat is ready to be put away for golden autumn days. My little boy always ;loves to furnish his own head with a bobble hat as soon as it is cool enough outside, and then very much requires all accompanying members of his expedition party to do the same, so this hat will be in heavy rotation in a few short months.

Apple Swizzle is part of the Boost Your Knitting program series of patterns and techniques to learn on a month-by-month basis, hosted by Arnall-Culliford Knitwear. The accompanying knitalong is available to take part in on Ravelry and kits are available containing all yarns and patterns needed to complete the year of learning.


Coddswallop

Our First Two Years Together

Our First Two Years Together

It’s been two years since our family grew by one. I think we were always a family, Russell and I. From, perhaps, the day that I felt like I trusted in his goodness to let go of that little bit of certainty and security of the path I was on, soon to have my own little place to live, and took the leap that I could trust in this human to be good and to care and love enough that I could uproot once more and move in with him to a pokey little cold flat in Whitley Bay. Boy it was cold. And it was so tiny! But perhaps it was my favourite of all the places that I have lived due to it being where our story began and the first place in which I had felt safe in a very, very long time.

But my favourite chapters of the story so far all burst into colour two years ago when a tiny human popped into our world, a mixture of Russell and I. This whopping great blackcurrant stained baby shot into the world at a faster rate than I could really handle it. But after all the worry and panic there lay this 9lb bruise with a wrinkle for a nose and Russell and I cradled pure love in our arms. It had not been so very long previously that I did not think that I could trust anyone to truly love in my lifetime, and now I had these two pillars of love, one huge and protecting and one (not so very) tiny, heartbeat fluttering fast upon my chest, and I knew that I would never feel the same again. And our family was strong.

I truly love being a parent, but as so many people will tell you, parenthood is tough. Gosh, yes we have our off days. Tired, grumpy days, days of illness and the mystery maladies of baby and toddlerhood, sometimes that write themselves apparent three days after the screams and sobs with a scarlet rash and sometimes which manifest on no physical symptoms that you will ever detect and are put down to some mystical condition which may or may not have existed. And you are always, always doing it wrong. So says that lady in the supermarket, or the health visitor who you’ve known for four minutes of your life, or that relation who’d do that differently, or the neighbour who is old enough to remember when babies did not cry because in those days 10 month old babies did as they were instructed, and probably earned their keep down the mines at the same time.

If my little boy knows or feels anything I would hope it is just how perfectly I love him and that I love learning from him more than from any of those people. I hope that Russell and I can teach him, above all else, how to be kind, how to be thoughtful and how to have empathy for all the people whose lives touch on his. I do not expect that as he grows and natually makes mistakes for him to always be good, or that he will always make the right choice, but I do so hope that we will always have time to put three chairs around the table and to talk about how we feel and how others might feel, and the effect of our actions on others. And from him I am learning how to best see the world anew. How the most basic and fundamental feelings that I have can be best nurtured and put to use. I am tougher in my resolve to surround myself with good and kind people and to not let damaging influences into our lives without guard, and to that end I have a strong determination to stand up for my family and to know when to say ‘no more’.

I hope that our third year together will be one of greater learning and growth. I hope it will be full of rainbows and colour, but when there are grey days that we can make things better with love and understanding. I hope that that there will be laughter, kindness, and, importantly, dinosaurs.

 

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