The Sound of Silence

squirrel.jpgToday I’m back at my desk after the UK Bank Holiday weekend. This year Mr T went away on a “boy’s jolly” to Scotland, and rather than inviting friends to stay or jaunting off, I decided to treat myself to a few days of solitary  peace and quiet here at home.

There is a certain self indulgent joy in choosing not to be social. I got up when the sun woke me, went to bed when I felt tired and spoke to no-one for two whole days. I didn’t find myself feeling lonely, there was enough activity in the garden to keep me entertained and apart from an indulgent session of trashy film watching on Saturday night I only listened to the radio in the mornings to catch the news headlines, and the TV stayed turned off. I chose not to join the Bank Holiday shoppers or duck and weave between families visiting the forest. I stayed in, pulling on my PJs and not washing my hair!

The silence gave me a chance to listen to myself, to think about how I spend my days and how much of the time is spent trying to please other people or conform to expectations. I relished not having to slap on the cover up that hides my skin rashes and redness (caused by the Lupus and which forces people to stare when I go out). I wandered around my house, touching favourite books, opening them, reading a few pages and then adding some of them to the ready to topple pile of “must re-reads” on my bedside table. I spent long hours in the garden. I weeded, transplanted seedlings and watered pots. I noticed the pesky squirrel who comes to my garden every day is a female. From the look of her, she’s recently given birth and she has a healed injury to her front arm. There is a fresh wound to one of her nipples and I worried that it might become infected, so for a few minutes,  I allowed her free access to the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder. Her survival skills made me feel like she’d earned a break and an easy feed! I wasn’t really alone because I has a garden full of birds, butterflies and bees. They paid no attention to me or to each other. I felt at ease, without the need to hold a conversation. It was enough to just sit and watch the world unfold in my garden

I didn’t feel at all lonely during my two days alone (and let’s remember, it was only two days). Maybe this is because I had chosen this time for myself, thinking of it as an indulgence. Sometimes, I am forced to remain home alone because of work commitments or ill health and on these occasions I often feel resentful and suffer that terrible feeling of missing out on “all” the fun everyone else is having. I found myself dwelling on the subtle difference between being alone and being lonely. I thought about my neighbour, long widowed, who spends many hours in her own company, but protests she never feels lonely or abandoned because she can choose where to go and who to see. This is a stark contrast to her days as a full time carer, when she was never able to go out on a whim – or hardly at all to be honest! Back then she was often sad. She would spend long hours weeding her front garden, cleaning the car or finding any number of reasons to potter about in the hope of a snatched conversation. Other neighbours would take time to stop, to chat, to allow her time to indulge in gossip and let her talk about nothing in particular. Let’s be honest, apart from snatched moments with her husband’s carers or a PPI telephone call, these were her only interactions and she needed more.

This weekend of self imposed “me time” was a treat, a much needed break and a chance to please myself. How would I cope if this was my “every day”? I’m not sure. But, I hope that if / when that day comes then I will have enough resilience to find my own way through the silence and to enjoy my own company …

…just so long as I have access to a window and a full bird feeder!

The Undersong

35711401054_178e4796a5_cLost, forgotten words fascinate me. At university I took a course in dialect maps, tracing the origin and spread of local words around the counties of England. I had mentally collected lists of local words for  wild flowers for years as we moved around the country  and later  I collected words about the landscape and nature. My childhood fascination with collective nouns grew into a love of words that describe the landscape and it was at university that I first heard the word “murmuration”,  it remains one of my favourite words. After my last post about the things we don’t see, a follower reminded me of the books by Robert Macfarlane, he writes beautifully about words and landscapes and he’s definitely worth seeking out. “Landmarks” sits on my bedside table, it’s the book I open when I just need a few minutes to lose myself or need to decompress after a busy day, it’s filled with lists of lost words and descriptions of our landscape. Hard to categorise or describe – just find it and read it!

At the moment I am besotted with the word “undersong”, the subtle, underlying sounds of the landscape. As I sit at my desk I can hear the birds, often so loud they drown out the everyday sounds of home.  Mr T, who normally works from home has made a trip to his company office today, I miss the hum of his computers, the occasional ring that signals the start of a skype call, the huffing and ho hums as he scrolls through emails. His chair creaks as he pushes the wheels back and forth over the carpet and occasionally a tune will drift down the hallway as he plays music to calm and relax the stressful parts of his working day. This is my undersong, not the poetic things you imagined?

You were expecting me to write about the distant call of rooks, the grinding of a tractor as it ploughs the field, the lowing of cows, maybe the song of a blackbird? No, I hear all of these things of course. But underneath, in the background there are the sounds of life and community. The house sounds eerie and empty, so I step outside. Our new neighbours are renovating the house before they move in, for days (weeks), there have been builders calling to each other, scraping, sanding, fixing, painting. The “Hello there” of neighbours passing by – none of us can wait much longer for the big reveal – so we’re all being ultra friendly in the home of an invitation to peek indoors (I’ve already had mine!). A few doors down a dog yaps, excitedly greeting everyone who walks past; our regular postman waves  as he pushes envelopes through the door  and calls out – “parcel on the step Trace” – which means the arrival of more yarn or maybe bike parts. If I close my eyes, I know exactly where I am. I am home and feel grounded in my soundscape.

I’ve written a lot recently about the things I see, not so much about the sounds or smells that are familiar. Maybe it’s because Mr T isn’t here today that I’m more aware of the sounds that are missing, the sounds I didn’t even realise I heard.

Housework Forever, Crochet Whenever

No, not a typo. I wanted to write in defence of home making. over on Facebook I get tagged in shared memes all the time. Mostly they’re the kind that say “Crochet comes before housework for a reason” or similar. Apparently all knitters, crocheters and crafters are meant to put making before everything else. Housework, cleaning, cooking etc are secondary. Think of that sign you so often see hanging on the wall “Boring women have tidy houses” – well I’m coming out of the closet and saying I’m proud to be tidy.

On one level, these memes, shabby chic placards and posters might raise a smile, but at the same time I can’t help feeling that they are undermining the joy of home making. I don’t mean we should all live in  the showy, pristine homes you see on Instagram or in magazines (the kind where all traces of family life are removed and houseplants are artfully arranged to tumble over perfectly colour co-ordinated book shelves), but the kind of home where you feel welcome and would happily curl up your feet on the sofa with a cuppa and maybe a slice of cake. The chaos of family life is wonderful, there’s no shame in piles of unread post on the coffee tables, tumbling mountains of shoes, hats, coats and bags in the hallway. It’s OK to have unwashed dishes in the sink or an unmade bed. But, if you’re like me and find yourself indulging in a bit of gentle tidying as you go about your day and are happy doing so, why should other people feel the need to use terms like “homemaker” or “housewife” to make us feel small?

I enjoy the rituals of home making, the weekly meander from room to room watering my houseplants. I have about 30 at the moment, scattered around the house, not arranged in any particular order. Some in pretty pots, others standing in margarine tubs. There are a few prize specimens, but mostly they’re a motley collection of things that caught my eye, cutting from friends or presents from Mr T. If you have houseplants, they need to be looked after and there is a satisfaction in keeping them healthy, watching them thrive.

The same with book shelves. I dust them – because who wants to pull down a grubby book from the shelf – I like my books to smell like books, not accumulated dust! Floors are swept, because who wants to walk over a dirty floor in bare feet? Not me. The bathroom is clean – not spotless – but if I’m relaxing in the bath I don’t want to be distracted by cobwebs or tide marks (although it’s worth noting that bathing by candlelight disguises said cobwebs quite effectively).

Does it make me less of a good mother because there were days when I ironed clothes, did laundry or cleaned windows instead of playing with my daughter? Am I less creative because I like to tidy my desk before I sit down to write? If you come to visit and are served fresh coffee and home made cake it’s because I took the time to indulge in the joy of making a home, take pride in my surroundings and get satisfaction from picking garden flowers and arranging them in vases. I used to enjoy the daily ritual of tidying away toddler toys, plumping cushions (yes, I am a cushion plumper too – and no apologies), once my daughter was in bed, sitting in a tidy room , eating a home cooked meal, maybe drinking a glass of home made sloe gin and watching “rubbish telly” felt like a small victory in a challenging day.

You can mock the home maker all you like, keep tagging me in those memes or finding other ways to make me feel small and undermined because I am a home maker. But I tell you, for every woman posting pictures of her carefully curated home, fermented kimchi, gorgeous new kitchen, vintage sourced taps or pristine “creative space”  on Instagram, there is another woman (or man) behind the scenes, dusting, polishing, doing dishes carefully going about the business of creating a home – either that or they live in a hermetically sealed box where no kid is allowed to play with the train set, no husband is allowed to make a midnight snack and no dog poops in the garden!

Living a slower, simple life is about choosing your own path. There is no right way to live, no perfect recipe for a less complicated life. But what I do know is this; being surrounded by the people you love, making them happy and being made to feel valued and cherished leads to a more fulfilling day. If my day involves a slow bit of dusting, sweeping the floor, cleaning or baking and your doesn’t, that’s OK.

 

Interior shot credit: NHillier

Houseplants: Eddie Garcia

Outside My Window…

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Clematis “Winter Beauty” outside my kitchen window

I love my garden in winter. I know it’s meant to be bleak and bare, the season where nothing ever happens; but on cold winter mornings I find myself drawn to the garden. A brisk run to fill bird feeders or pick up windblown silver birch twigs for kindling often turns into a slow meander as I stop to admire the low winter sun shining through the waxy flowers of a late clematis, or listen to a song thrush.

Small pleasure, finding joy in a busy day. These garden moments remind me that even in the depths of winter, there is a reason to be outdoors. Of course, there are the days when I am forced to sit inside, looking out, when aching joints, headaches or just the effort of meeting a deadline mean that I must sit at my desk. On these mornings I sit eating breakfast, my camera beside me.  It may be just a quick snap of the robin, a glimpse of a snowdrop or the rare sight of a jay swooping low over the fields that catches my eye as I watch, but capturing these snatched moments has become a part of my daily routine.

When I do step outside, I realise that nature has accepted me. The robin sits waiting for me to scatter a few seeds on a tree stump, scolding me if I forget. The blackbirds no longer scurry away, but turn their heads towards me as if to say good morning. The crows and wood pigeons stare down from the tall branches, no longer startled or flying away. I am no longer just a garden observer, I am a part of this garden and just as I have shaped this outdoor space, it has shaped me. Offering joy, solace, optimism and comfort.

I have lots of deadlines approaching, the new book is nearing completion and I promise myself, that once this book is done I shall take a much needed break, to spend mornings exploring the garden, afternoons in the woods and evenings spent watching the sunset. For now, I must be grateful for these snatched moments, the beautiful last days of winter.

You can find more snapshots of my daily dose of the outdoors on my Instagram feed  click on the icon in the right hand column to see more.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe? (and why I don’t care if I don’t have one)

A photo of my wardrobe

My not so capsule wardrobe – it appears I like pattern!

So, what is a capsule wardrobe? I am reading so much about streamlining, de cluttering and minimalism at the moment and at every turn I come across this concept of the capsule wardrobe. Now, I remember years ago reading about this in Women’s magazines. There were features every month about how a grey / black / neutral limited wardrobe would simplify your life and turn you from a Slummy Mummy to super together Mum about Town overnight. I tried them, but I’m just really bad at following rules!

The idea of a streamlined, simplified wardrobe does sound appealing. I just can’t see how it would work for me. I’ve looked at the Konmari method, Project 333  and dozens of podcasts, blogs and Instagram feeds promising me the secret to a minimal wardrobe. Wouldn’t it be great to open your wardrobe every morning and not be faced with that “Oh my, what am I going to wear” dilemma? I solved it by working from home – honestly – the Amazon delivery man doesn’t blink an eye if I  open the door three days running in the same t shirt and yoga pants I laughingly call “work out wear”. When I do venture out, pulling on a Seasalt tunic and a pair of jeans works for me every time! Have I got a capsule wardrobe already, but just don’t know it?

Because I wanted to write this post, I took a photo of my wardrobe. The truth is, I don’t really have that many clothes. Do I? Living in the UK, I definitely need to dress for the seasons.  There are winter clothes (down coat, waterproof, sturdy boots), gardening clothes (jeans, t shirts and jumpers that don’t mind getting filthy when I’m weeding), decorating and housework clothes, special occasion clothes and then the stuff I wear every day. I pulled apart the hangers and thought about what I could throw away (in the words of Marie Kondo, what doesn’t “spark joy”). Honestly? I couldn’t say every item in my wardrobe sparks joy, but it does serve a purpose. There is nothing I could throw away.

I don’t buy clothes very often, but when I do I definitely fall into the “buy once buy well” camp. I like clothes that will last and earn their keep. Some are from charity shops, some were swapped with friends and there are a few “special” purchases bought for occasions such as weddings or my daughter’s graduation. I’m a big believer in clothes meeting the  “30 wears” rule. A reaction against disposable fashion, buying clothes you’ll wear at least 30 times certainly encourages you think about longevity, not just seasonal style. I have a functional wardrobe, and it serves me well

So, what do I mean by a “functional” wardrobe? Every thing in my wardrobe serves a purpose. The high waist bootleg jeans for those “fat and frumpy” days; the straight leg petite fit jeans that look great with heeled boots and a smart shirt for “daytime smart / casual”. The John Rocha dress I bought in the sale that only comes out for weddings and christenings. The basic t shirts and sweatshirts I wear every day, paired with jeans and the summer skirts and strappy tops that only see the light of day for two weeks every July! There are leggings for running (currently unworn because bloomin’ Lupus is flaring), the paint spattered jeans for annual decorating, the dressing gown and nightie that only come out for hospital visits. The Christmas t shirt that only gets worn in December and the beautiful beyond imagination embroidered and sequinned wool skirt that cost an arm and a leg 20 years ago, but still comes into it’s own for winter “formals” (works Christmas parties, the day I met Prince Charles* and those days when I really need to dress to impress!) and there, lurking at the back is the leather jacket Mr T bought me 15 years ago –  which truth be told –  no longer zips up. It’s job is to remind me I was once a little bit sassy and could carry off a strappy cocktail dress and leather jacket combo!

Even my undies drawer works hard. 3 bras (black, white, “neutral”), 10 pairs of knickers (ironed and folded  – is that too much information?) and a couple of camisoles for low cut tops that reveal too much middle aged flesh! Of course, we’ll skim over the sock drawer, I do have a little bit of a hand knitted sock addiction!

hand knitted socks

My current favourite pair of hand knitted socks

Is a functional wardrobe as good as, or better than a capsule wardrobe? Could I make do with less? If I threw out everything I haven’t worn for six months what would  I do when summer comes? (or was summer ’17  that glorious week in May and now we’re declining into autumn)? Should I throw away the leather jacket, wool skirt and killer heels just because I don’t wear them very often? Nope, they’ll have their day and having them means I won’t be tempted into spur of the moment or panic buys when the need for such an outfit arises.

You see, all these bloggers talking about their capsule wardrobes seem to be  constantly buying new. They’re all about this season’s sneakers, coat and must have  dress. My summer sneakers are both over ten years old and the Birkenstocks, just in view in that photo of my wardrobe are equally mature. At the end of the summer I’ll clean up my summer shoes, repair the heels, buy new laces and swap them out for my winter boots (similarly vintage).  You see, a capsule wardrobe isn’t the same as a minimal wardrobe and my functional wardrobe probably falls somewhere in between. My wardrobe isn’t full of mix and match separates, I can’t make 20 different looks from six Key pieces. Nor have I pared down my wardrobe to the extent that I have conquered my laundry mountain like these ladies from the Purposeful Home Podcast. But I am still wearing this shirt and denim skirt I bought in 2006!

classic white shirt and denim

My favourite white shirt and denim combo

So I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, who cares? Living with less, doesn’t mean living  with little. Minimalism, intentionalism, slow living, whatever we choose to call it is about living unencumbered by the stuff that causes stress and anxiety.  Taking the time to make considered purchases, valuing what we have and not being weighed down by the pressures of conforming to what we think is expected of us. That’s true minimalism in my book.

*a girl is allowed the occasional name drop, surely?

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Green (ish)

2013-11-03 10.24.21Labels are tricky. Over the years I’ve struggled with how to define my lifestyle. Is it slow? Mindful? Intentional (more of that another day). Or am I green, low carbon, eco friendly or ethical? The problem is, however I define myself, someone else will have a different set of values. I’ve been told my lifestyle isn’t “ethical” because I eat meat and “green” still carries all sorts of baggage. Whenever I find a way to describe how we live, someone else will find fault or gleefully pick up on my failings.

So, I’ve tended to stick to “Greenish” if people ask. The fact is, I just think of our lifestyle as “normal”. Well, it’s normal for us. Trying to avoid waste, thinking about our shopping habits and trying to buy clothes made of natural fibres in factories that value their workers all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

My neighbour recently “went vegan”, she’s on a mission to convert us all to a plant based lifestyle. Yesterday, she drove a 10 mile round trip to buy  a tetra pak of soya milk (she’d run out and “can’t” drink her coffee black). I thought about our own purchasing habits. When I run out of milk, I can walk to the local farm, buy milk in a reusable glass bottle from the vending machine and be home again in under half an hour. I struggle with the idea of getting in the car and driving so far to buy one thing. The packaging has to be recycled, the ingredients in her milk were part of the mechanisation of food production that I’m trying to avoid. But, she’s happy. Her choice didn’t harm an animal, that’s her bottom line.

So, how do we stay friends? Our ethical, moral and  lifestyle choices seem to be at odds. I buy organic, Fairtrade and local. She buys vegan ready meals, wears plastic shoes and acrylic jumpers from Primark. She eats an awful lot of imported fruit and veg. Air miles, carbon footprint and the issues of recycling aren’t on the list of things she worries about. She has made her choices and she’s happy with her decisions.  I’m happy(ish)  with mine.

Does it matter that someone else has a different set of values and priorities? Just because someone has a different idea of “a good life”, does that make it OK to criticise and condemn? I find myself mulling this over a lot at the moment. I would dearly love to reduce the amount we recycle. I really struggle with the concept that an overflowing recycling bin is a badge of honour – I’d much rather we just didn’t buy so much stuff in the first place. I worry about how many clothes we own and fantasise about building a capsule wardrobe, filled with eco friendly cotton, linen and wool. Yet most of my clothes come from charity shops and surely that has merit in a greenish life?

I struggle to know what’s best. I have a penchant for sparkling water. Is it better to buy in huge plastic bottles, smaller glass ones or invest in a soda stream and make my own?  My instinct tells me glass recycling is “better” than plastic, but I don’t know enough to be sure. A soda stream is made of hard plastic, needs refills of gas cyclinders and would involve a trip into town when I need a new one. I am confused.

If I’m confused, with my background in environmental education, community organising and low carbon consultancy what hope does anyone else have? For the time being I’ve settled on buying glass bottles and trying to reduce my overall consumption (on the basis that glass can be recycled over again, while plastic is much harder to process and recycled plastic has a limited market). If I’m wrong on that, please let me know where I can find out for sure.

I’ve come to the conclusion we can spend too much time worrying about “doing the right thing”, and that even in this internet age, getting accurate and useful information is a tricky business. I’m reaching the conclusion that simply buying less “stuff” might be the answer for us. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that buying single use  or “disposable” products makes me uneasy. Over the next few months I’m hoping to share my journey to less stuff. I’ll be looking at ways to reduce the amount of packaging that comes into our house, reducing our plastic addiction and finding solutions to all those “disposable” products that make our lives “simpler”.

If you’re struggling with the same dilemmas, or have solutions to these “eco worries”, do let me know. Perhaps this is a journey we can take together?

A Few Thoughts on Freebies

gxd8hcmi0iq-parker-byrdWe all love a freebie. It’s no secret that for lots of bloggers, Instagrammers etc the odd freebie or gift from a company is considered a perk of “the job”, while for others it’s a major source of income. If you post pictures of “free stuff”, you might want to take a look at this piece from BBC news on the subject of making money from Instagram. OK, so it refers particularly to the US, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to the UK. US consumer regulators are clamping down on celebrities and influencers who regularly post sponsored content without declaring their relationships with the brand. Marketing companies, individuals and celebrities have all been affected and I’m pretty sure that UK advertising standards authorities won’t be far behind in requiring users to be more transparent about the origin of products in their photos and blog posts.

There’s nothing wrong with sponsored content, just be sure your readers and followers know what you’re doing. Make sure you state early on that a post is sponsored (in the subject line or at the top of a post). Don’t hide disclosure among the hashtags, you might think that adding #sp or #ad to that long list of hashtags is OK, but many of your followers won’t see or read that far.

I’ve said before, that when it comes to monetising your blog or social media platform it pays to be open and honest. Readers aren’t averse to reading sponsored posts (in fact they appreciate you sign posting them to great products).  I have a whole page (see above) devoted to disclosure about how and where content is sponsored. Using words like “review” or just saying “XXX sent me this great product to try and I loved it” is usually enough to alert readers to the origin of a product.

Making money from social media is nothing to be ashamed of. Just be open, honest and write interesting content. Follow that advice and you can’t really go wrong!

 

Made in May – Giveaway

Sponsored post – give away open to UK readers only

The Gentlemans Wardrobe cover

It’s May, and if you’re a maker with an Instagram account, you can’t fail to have noticed the popularity of the MeMadeMay hashtag.

To celebrate this annual excuse to flaunt your handmade “stuff”, the team at GMC has offered one lucky reader a copy of Vanessa Mooncie’s new book “The Gentleman’s Wardrobe”, which is full of great sewing patterns for men.

My own sewing skills are very limited and so I’m hoping this book might inspire me to up my game and make something for Mr T.  Each project in the book comes with a full size paper pattern, something I find very useful, as printing out pdf patterns online and then taping them together just over complicates things for me.

I’m told by friends who sew, that finding decent patterns for men can be tricky. In which case, this book will certainly be of interest. The patterns include shirts, trousers, a messenger bag and even a bow tie! It’s certainly not a book for beginners. It assumes lots of prior knowledge and a certain understanding of the language of pattern cutting and sewing up techniques. But, with it’s on trend “hipster vibe” photography and illustrations, I am certainly enjoying it and I am definitely inspired to give some of the projects a try. There is a short techniques chapter and where technical terms are used, a note in the text signposts you to the relevant page for an explanation.

So, if you would like to win a paperback copy of Vanessa Mooncie’s “The Gentleman’s Wardrobe”, just leave a comment below telling me what you’re currently making. The giveaway will stay open until 12 noon (UK time) on Thursday 11th May.

Good luck x

Full publication details for The Gentleman’s Wardrobe  are given below. You can also find details on the GMC books website, where you’ll find details of all their current titles.

For debonair gentlemen who eschew denim in favour of tweed, and feel that grooming and gallantry should not be consigned to history, this book will prove extremely diverting. Featuring a cornucopia of elegant garments and accessories to sew, this beautifully illustrated tome is full of inspiration and charm. Including beautiful garments such as pyjamas, waistcoat, trousers and jacket, plus indispensable accessories such as cravat, flat cap and wallet there’s something for every fellow who’s looking to be more urbane than urban. Whether you make these smart projects for yourself or a loved one, this selection of spiffing sartorial gems will put a spring in anyone’s step.
ISBN13 : 9781861087478
Pages : 176
Photographs : 70 photographs
Price: £16.99

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Sorry / Not Sorry

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Romantic notion of me sitting at my desk composing erudite blog posts

Thank you to everyone who responded to my post on living with Lupus, especially those of you who shared their stories with honesty,  I swear, if we were “firing on all cylinders” we could conquer the world! It appears that when you write candidly about what life throws at you,  it has a noticeable affect on your “stats”. My Instagram follower count plummeted, which is fine, I follow / unfollow all the time. Interestingly, the number of subscribers to my blog went up. When I asked a few friends why they thought this had happened their answers surprised me. It seems some people don’t “get” that social media in general can represent a skewed version of reality. My willingness to be open about my life behind the photo wasn’t the reason they followed me in the first place. Most people wanted pretty photos of yarn or perhaps the garden. Instagram is our escape from the mundane maybe?

 

The fact is, Instagram is not most people’s reality. It’s the version of ourselves we want to project to the world. And if it’s heavily curated, edited and planned weeks in advance that’s OK. No-one’s life is perfect. That Instagram Influencer you follow (along with 500,000 others) with the sigh inducing feed full of immaculate flat lays and beautifully shot light casting shadows on her impossibly  white kitchen probably spent her morning wiping baby sick off her iphone, persuading a reluctant toddler to put on his shoes and go to playgroup. Or maybe, just maybe she managed to put on eyeliner and mascara while a nine year old screamed how life is unfair because both parents are united in their refusal to buy him a pet chinchilla (that one happened to a friend of mine very recently). You’re too busy drooling over that photo she just posted of a sheepskin draped chair in which she sits drinking coffee from a hand thrown mug, wearing head to toe Boden to care.

In the same way  we dress, apply make up and put on a public face for the world, our social media (and especially the image driven Instagram) performs the same function. If we’re honest, we know it’s all smoke and mirrors. Few of us “just happen” to catch that perfect photo of our toddler walking towards the morning light.

 

Looking at my own instagram feed I’ve noticed I created my own, slightly skewed version of reality and slowly I want to change that. In the Instagram world I am constantly creative, I bake cakes, visit interesting places and come up with fabulous new designs on a regular basis. Until now, I have rarely opened up about the personal stuff. Perhaps I was worried people would think I was weak or boring? In my usual roundabout way, I’m trying to say I’m sorry if my candour about living with chronic illness made some of you feel uncomfortable or left you wanting to send me a “virtual hug”.

I’m not sorry for admitting life can be crappy. Most off all I’m not sorry that you’ll still be subjected to slightly out of focus pictures on Instagram on an almost daily basis. In my imperfect world they’re sharply in focus, beautifully composed images of life in leafy Cheshire.

Whatever your reality, embrace it. Own it.

Be “not sorry” for your imperfections…

 

 

Capturing nature

20160723_171515For most of last year I had a personal project to try and capture the colour and textures of my garden. It was a lovely change from the challenges of commercial design work and it made the contrast between my personal designs and my commission work even more obvious.

It’s been a difficult struggle, to reconcile my beliefs in sustainable textiles and natural processes with the commercial demand for “budget” makes that many of my clients have been asking for. Acrylic yarns in particular are not “environmentally friendly”, they aren’t biodegradeable, the process of making is energy intensive and the brightly coloured dyes are often harmful, chemical based products. So,  I’ve tried to separate my commercial design work from my personal projects.

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Dyeing yarn using plant materials (not extracts or commercial dye stuff) has been a challenge and a steep learning curve. But I am loving the results and the colours I’ve achieved. Inevitably this has led on to exploring other natural processes and rediscovering some of the techniques I used in my teaching days.

three plants fern box and tree

This year I’m exploring ways to capture different landscapes and locations that have a personal connection for me. It’s been good for me to learn new techniques and to spend time with other artists and practitioners who are willing to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for natural processes.

herdwick bag

Of course I’ll still be publishing knitting and crochet designs (which you can find over at Granny Cool) and in future issues of Inside crochet magazine I have some fantastic designs which make the best of British Wool including (finally!) the  pattern for this gorgeous crochet bag pictured here in my favourite Herdwick wool.