Most Recent Posts

Twin Misura Hats: A Woolly Wormhead Treatment

Twin Misura Hats: A Woolly Wormhead Treatment

There are occasions when I feel a bit (as Scarf Lady would say) ‘knit stuck’. In case you do not know who Scarf Lady is, this is she. My future (or maybe present) self. I just need that top knot. Because I do not have […]

What Have I Made?

What Have I Made?

I had an evening that required a dip into the Craft Snack Drawer. My Biopsy results were good, a couple of problems with white cell count, but overall, doing OK. The weight of the wait just meant that I was burned out and needed to […]

Getting Ready To Learn Something New About Helical Knitting

Getting Ready To Learn Something New About Helical Knitting

The third single-focus, deep-dive technique book by the Arnall-Culliford team is about to land with knitters in the form of a new eBook about …Helical Knitting, and the project promises to be pretty exciting.

Following soon behind the release of the new Something To Knit With Aran yarn range, The book utilises this easy-to-handle yarn to explore the perhaps underused technique of helical knitting. If you’ve knit either of Jen’s Spiralling Socks designs or the Hyacinthus Armwarmers, that I knit last year, then you’ve knit two stripes helically already. There are but a few other patterns that make use of this technique, and this new publication seeks to bring it further into the spotlight, and to embolden knitters to use the helical technique not only for striping, but for stitch pattern and construction purposes.

Ok, let’s step this back to basics before we lose ourselves. What is helical knitting, at it’s most basic? Well helloooo, if I don’t just happen to have a nifty diagram to show you (ultra nifty, because no other than yours truly designed the helical knitting diagrams for the book). It was a great project for me, firstly because it was my first ever commission for design work using Illustrator, which made me feel great, but also because it really gave me the opportunity to actually explore the concept of helical knitting in a very bold and graphic way, which is really what settled the concept, construction and (dare I say) possibilities of helical knitting into something clear and definite.

Helical knitting diagrams

On the left is described a standard piece of knitting in the round. Stitches work their way around in a cylindrical formation, stacking on top of each other in a spiralling fashion (actually, this is, correctly, a single helix, so yes, you have most probably knit a helix of some form before). This book isn’t really about that, though, because you’ve most likely got that covered (and if you haven’t knit in the round before then I fully encourage you to go for it, as it will open up a whole extra universe of knitting). Where this book takes a big jump forwards is in expanding this to a double helix (and way, way, beyond).

In the image on the right, the grey Storm coloured yarn spirals around as before, but on top of it, intertwined like the stripes of a barber’s pole, lay the Mustard yarn. Before the grey yarn makes it back to the starting point, the mustard yarn is joined in, and the two yarns climb around the cylindrical piece in a double helix.

How is this different from knitting stripes? Well, firstly, there is never a change of colour at a particular stitch (which would usually be done at the start of a round) which means, there is no ‘jog’. These are the ultimate jogless stripes. There is no carried yarn. Though this becomes quite apparently magic as you start to knit helically, the magic of three, four (or more) stripes knit with no colour jogs, no yarns carried over multiple rows is pretty special. There is a related diagram that I made for the book which shows the technique beyond the two colour spiral, but you’ll have to wait for the Arnall-Culliford team to share that.

And how far could you take the technique? Well, a look at the very front of the book will probably give you a very big hint. Of course, once you’ve explored the technique you might want to take it in your own direction, and go one (or two, three… sixteen?) better than the fourteen balls of wool on the cover.

The phased release of Something New To Learn About Helical Knitting begins on October 9th, with the first chapter with a set of five tutorials and points of knowledge and understanding and the first pattern. Three further chapters comprising many more techniques and learnings, and six further patterns are scheduled for fortnightly release, allowing you to digest and experiment between  bursts of knowledge.

I am ready to roll with an Aran rainbow and itchy needles.

Making It In Autumn: Where We Are

Making It In Autumn: Where We Are

The last few weeks have ben a bit of a whirlwind here at Castle Codd. I’ve steadily been busy making things to bring us into the new season, which is one of my favourite of the year, and is now always brought in with a […]

Talking About Texture: I’ve Been Playing With Arnall-Culliford Knitwear’s Latest Yarn

Talking About Texture: I’ve Been Playing With Arnall-Culliford Knitwear’s Latest Yarn

I’ve just heard, by way of newsletter heralding good news, that the latest line of yarn from Arnall-Culliford Knitwear has been released for sale, and I’m excited because it’s really, really good. I have been lucky enough to have an early play with Something To […]

The Craft Snack Drawer

The Craft Snack Drawer

When I migrated from my old website to this one, I did so because I wanted a safe space to write about the things that were important to me. A lot of my writing is about the things I make, either as handmade projects, art projects with my little boy, occasional recipes and similar, because the act of creativity is important to me, and being encouraged in that when I have been so discouraged in the past makes my life enjoyable. But I also have another, very important part of my site that I specifically created mimicodd.com for, and that’s for talking about my experiences of life, occasional struggles and the love and relationships I share with family, friends and the wider outside world. These posts usually have all black and white photographs, because here is where I give my words their greatest freedom and focus (and honestly, I mostly only include pictures as otherwise it messes up the formatting of the site). This post, more than any other before, perhaps spans both the creative and life talk. I don’t know where it fits. It fits in both places. Everything is slowly coming together.

Destruction

One of the reasons that I enjoy making things by hand is because I find an important balance in creative acts. I have spoken before about both physical and mental health challenges I have faced, huge life events that I have worked through, and how I try (and do not always succeed) in beating them.

A month ago, I hit my biggest mental health challenge of nearly eight years. This might be a difficult read. Back then, eight years ago, I really don’t think I had much to live for, until one huge day where I managed to turn the course of my life around with the help of some people online giving me courage and guidance, and a womens’ refuge. This time was different. I’d had some more bad news from the doctors, and was in a lot of pain. I always think that I might get used to chronic pain, but then the dial gets knocked up another notch and I feel like I just cannot cope. And so it was on this day. I’d found a second breast cyst, and increased pain, recent pneumonia and the hold up in my medication just all weighed down on me and I could not wrestle the hand that forced me to hit the self-destruct button. In the space of a few hours I went from wondering how I was ever going to make it through more tests, more waiting for results, more pain to deciding to get everything over very quickly. I tried to break up my family. It’s awful, and difficult to even think about now, but I tried to make my husband move out. I hated the burden I caused to him, and everything he’s had to do, and I wanted to cut him free in a brutal way. It was awful. We cried a lot. As the words came out of my mouth, over and over, I knew it was the last thing my heart wanted, but I thought it was the right thing to do. I wanted to keep Darwin with me, because I’d not survive without him, but I felt selfish for that, even, to put my child through a life with me as a mother. The truth is, I didn’t want to be alive any more. I have felt like this before, those eight years ago. Back then I had nothing to live for. Now, I did, but I felt being alive was painful, and selfish, and the people I loved most would be better off without me, and maybe, after all, it would be better for all concerned if I were no longer here. The change would be awful, in the short run, but life would be better for the few people that cared once the pain had dulled, and they were free of me.

This mental destruction is a hard and difficult path to pull away from. My mind could think of nothing else at that moment. I felt paralysed, and through the night battled until I was too weak to battle any more, and so I became scared, and I had to walk into my little boy’s room at 3am and just feel his sweet warmth, and tell his sleeping tiny form that I was sorry he had me as his mummy, his Yayii, but that I needed him. My husband, who I’d made take all of his clothes from the wardrobe so he could escape me, I could not bare to be away from. I asked him to walk me to the bathroom, and then back to bed, and finally sleep caught me as exhaustion let me fall into the nights’ waiting embrace when I knew that he was close by and would still be there in the morning.

The next morning had dulled the edge of self destruction ever so slightly. I still felt all of the feelings of the night before, but in a less keen form. Friendships I would not cut myself from: I would just let them drift away. It’s less painful for all involved, and they would forget me. It was kindest, I felt. I had love, and I loved my friends, but I was too tired to maintain the demands of being a good friend, but maybe I had just enough to still be an okayish mum, and a not-awful partner.

The Void

Days of indifference followed, with peaks of absolute pain. Mostly my head was a jumble of noise and deep grey feeling, but every now and again I’d have moments of absolute clarity, but those were always when the sharp edge of destruction glinted at me through the fog. I moved from pure destruction into depression, with flashes (I call them aftershocks) of my point of crisis coming back to me. As days rolled by there were occasional moments where the rolling grey with thunderous rumbles cleared and there was just the little glimmer of light that shone on me to make me feel the warmth of actual life again. My child’s laughter or a drawing of me that made me look like a potato with a face, which is perhaps the most beautiful I have ever looked, because it was a version of me that exists because of my child.

As a wonderful friend recently said, depression is boring. As the heavy grey clouds thinned slightly, what was left was murk. A sense of self that is nothing more than a grimy drizzle. No matter how far ahead I tried to look, all I could see was a coating of grey fog. Life was there, and I could sort of make out a few shapes and forms, but there was no light or shade, and every once-definable edge was dulled. It was being alive without living.

To truly live, I need to create and connect. I know this is where all of the colour of my life comes from. Painting with my toddler, making clothes to play and feel good in, making a home to live in. I knew this was the next step in breaking through the clouds and letting some light and form in, but this is where I always struggle to get to the next step in getting better and managing this thing.

Crossing The Void

My depression manifests in a great number of ways. It is complex, and difficult to beat, but I do understand some of the tricks it uses to hold me down. I speak openly about it specifically for this reason, as the more I consider it and explore it, the more I understand it. Slowly, I am finding bridges to cross the void that depression opens up in my life, and the stumbling blocks that it places on the path to my recovery. For myself, these include an inability to make decisions. Whilst my brain struggles to make sense of things I know that a part of getting better, includes, for me, the need to make things. It is my antidote to the destructive tendencies of a crisis, and the emptiness of the void. It is a battle of my need for creation vs the destruction that a mental health crisis encourages: it is bringing something new into existence to fill the void. But the background fog of depression is a noisy scene. Voices and doubts clatter around my head and I can’t separate out my thoughts from that noise.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that depression lays down is an inability to make decisions. I may have lots of ideas, but fear of failure can mean that I just can’t decide which is the right idea. I fear failure in making a decision and being wrong. And the noise intensifies. It rumbles so that I just cannot think. And the noise is physical. Making things, and having ideas, means stuff, it means things, it means mess. I like the chaos of ideas and materials when I am well, because I have enough mental space to give my ideas room to breathe, but during bouts of depression clutter is my absolute enemy. Clutter represents opportunity and choice, and my inability to organise thoughts and finding my ideas scattered around me has a physical manifestation in the form of clutter. Because I can’t make choices all of the potential that is around me just mocks me, so I want to throw it all out of the window.

A couple of weeks after the darkest days, I could see far enough ahead of me to start to believe that I was going to make it through this thing, but I didn’t know how, I knew some of the things I needed to do, but I didn’t know how I could achieve them. I needed to create, but all of the stumbling blocks were still there. What to make, how to make it and how to create without clutter. Ideas started pouring around my head until I eventually had to shoo them away and make way for the tumbling thoughts. Then, one day, my husband went to the supermarket and asked if he could get me anything to help, and it hit me in a moment of absolute bright, warm clarity, Mollie Makes.

The Light Goes On

For those who do not know of it, Mollie Makes is a craft magazine sold in the UK and elsewhere. It has a focus on creativity and inspiration, and is full of ideas and interviews with creators. I had never bought Mollie Makes before, but I had seen it on the news aisle shelves, and knew it would help.

Each month there is a cover gift on the front of the magazine with a little project to make, with the materials included to make it. It might be sewing, embroidery, macrame, origami… pretty much anything, and there lay the answer.

I like to create: I am ‘creative’ in that pretty much all of my projects are ideas of my own devising, but when I am not feeling well that spark of invention cannot rest. I still have ideas, almost too many ideas, but I also think that anything I do attempt will inevitably fail, because that’s what depression does to me, and therefore I end up doing nothing.

So, this time, I decided to let Mollie take the reins.

Creating

Though I find the greatest joy in bringing my own ideas to life, crossing the void is easier with a bit of guidance, so I realised what I needed was a half-way project, or series of. Short bursts of making that took the burden of creativity, clutter and decision making away from me, and there was Mollie with her gift.

She brought with her an ’embroidered necklace kit’, but honestly, it could have been anything. I had all the materials in a tiny pouch, I had instruction, and no decision to make, no design to plan. I could just pick up my needle (included) and start.

And so I did my first bit of embroidery. Actually… I think I may have embroidered once before, but I can’t remember what or why. Is it perfect? Nope. Does it matter? This is important now… no it doesn’t. And I’ll tell you why – it’s because I am not emotionally invested in this project. It was prescribed. It is someone else’s idea. It is not my baby.

It was great. A manual employment of my hands to make something without any pressure to realise my ideas. And I learned a few new techniques for when I am feeling well enough to be creative again. I am proud of myself, for having that one idea in the fog that might make a difference, and following that opportunity. And I know that it is a way forwards for me. I decided then, that it was something I should bare in mind for when I needed it next, because there will be other times when I need this. Hopefully I shall not ever find myself fall quite as deeply as I did those few weeks ago, but I still am feeling those aftershocks, and there will be future times when that fog closes in and the void opens up again. But this time I will have at least one thing prepared to help.

The Craft Snack Drawer

During the time I was completing the above embroidery, I saw someone on Instagram refer to a similar project (maybe the same one, actually) as a ‘Craft Snack’, and it’s stuck with me. I’m sorry that I have forgotten who it was now, because I have nabbed the phrase and love it. It’s perfect. It’s not heavy or a huge commitment, it’s just a snack. And what’s better than a good snack drawer?

I decided that I am going to be prepared and ready for any more aftershocks, as well as any future times of need. Russell and I searched on eBay and bought a couple of back issues of Mollie Makes that still had cover gifts, and a couple of cross stitch kits, and a kind friend on Instagram sent me some spare kits she was not going to use, to get me started, and I put together a quick snack drawer. Here, future craft snacks are kept together, and the drawer is clearly labelled and dedicated to this use. I have made it a real and permanent feature of my life, and I feel good about it.

And I have snacked from the drawer a couple of times, because the aftershocks have not completely died down (though they are getting less intense and further apart).

So now I have all but completed a coaster in the shape of a grapefruit, and the majority of a Mummy Clanger. They need slight finishing touches, as my health and medication has given me great joint pains, and the slightly tougher stitching through the thicker felt of the necklace and coaster was hurting my fingers, but now that the pain is a little less, I look forwards to finishing them.

And I will keep this going. I have subscribed to Mollie Makes* (you can even get the first five issues for £1 each) so that I can build the drawer back up and not stress too much about dipping into it when I need a little snack to give me some energy back.

And I’m feeling better. Today was the first day in over a month that I feel ok. Not great, but ok. I finally believe that, actually, things will be alright.

Thank you to all of my friends and family that have stood by me, and understood. To those who have not judged openly, or silently. To those who have held me, or dropped me a line of thoughtfulness and support from the other side of the globe. I genuinely would not be here without you.


*I am not affiliated with Mollie Makes in any way, but this has been a big, positive step for me, and it might just help someone out there. Depression affects people in so many different ways, and so it might not work for you, but on the tiny chance that it strikes someone as being a possible positive step, this helped me.


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.

 

SaveSave