Clinging to the Wreckage

CRUMMOCK BLOGEver since my Lupus diagnosis I’ve been in denial about just how much it has shaped my life. I realised I’ve been “clinging to the wreckage” of what I thought my “old life” was like. Scared to let go and embrace the fresh challenges that life now brings me. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced long term illness just how it affects daily life. People ask “How are you?” and of course I answer “Oh, I’m fine, mustn’t grumble.. you know…”. What I really want to say is that today was a “good day”. I managed to get myself vertical by 9am, dress, eat breakfast and meet  a friend for coffee. I spent the afternoon “in recovery” on the sofa, my legs refusing to hold me upright because the effort of simply washing my hair, getting dressed and out of the house was  as much as my body could take for one day.  These things you take for granted, that you do without thinking are herculean tasks for me on a “bad” day -and here’s the cruellest thing – I never know when a bad day is coming. I might have a lovely week, plenty of sleep and little stress. Then a sarky email or snide remark will send my stress levels soaring. I’ll lie awake worrying about a friend going through a rough patch and Bam! I can’t even get out of bed and dress myself.

I tell you this is in the spirit of “full disclosure”. So that when you tell me how well I look or how “lucky” I am that my husband “lets” me stay at home all day instead of having a “real” job or jokingly call me a “slacker” because I answered the door in my PJs at 3 in the afternoon you may understand why you get the rough edge of my tongue or the benefit of my great repetoire in sarcastic one liners. I’d love to have a “proper” job, but try explaining to an employer that you can’t work mornings or that double vision brought on by fatigue stops you getting behind the wheel on a regular basis. Self employment really is my only option. Ask me about the freelance life and I’ll wax lyrical about the freedom to choose my own hours, work from home. But the truth is I envy you your mundane 9 – 5.

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We spent Easter week in Cockermouth at my Mother in Law’s.  “Lovely daughter” came over for a few days and in between over consumption of chocolate eggs we managed a cosy Mother – Daughter lunch in town, a mooch around the shops and best of all, a family outing to Crummock.

This place holds special significance for me. It’s one of the first places Mr T took me to when we first met. We used to give our dog a regular  bath in the lake and it’s where Mr T tried unsuccessfully to teach his little girl (and his wife) how to skim stones. My M-i-L is dismissive about it’s charms. The walk is too flat, there are too many tourists and you have to pay for parking. All this is true; and yes, you have to dodge toddlers in wellies too big and dog walkers who haven’t quite mastered the extending lead. But you’ll be rewarded with some of the finest views to be had at ground level.

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I love this place, no steep gradients mean I can walk further and for longer without pleading tiredness. There are benches where you simply “must” stop and admire the view. It’s a chance to breathe fresh air, to reflect and just occasionally have a moment of clarity. All of a sudden I realised, that by denying the daily struggles and  by pretending all is well and life is lovely I was kidding myself more than anyone. The fact is life can be shit. Not just for me, but for all of us. Mr T has many crappy days at the office, my neighbour has MS and endures far more than I do. Another friend is a carer, another recently bereaved. There are days when we all have crappy lives.

So, here on a shingle beach, with the sun trying hard to shine through grey skies I reached an epiphany of sorts. I’m going to stop pretending life is great when it isn’t. But equally, I’m going to do my best to find the sunshine on every rainy day. So yes, it took me until lunch time to get of bed the day we went to Crummock and I didn’t have a shower or wash my hair first. But I got to see lambs in the field, hold Mr T’s hand as we walked and do the things normal people do.

No more excuses. No more pretty Instagram pics posted from bed giving truth to the lie that all is well when it’s not. Instead, lots of laughter at my own expense. An admission that mooching around in PJs for most of the day is acceptable every once in a while – anyway – that’s practically uniform for most freelancers isn’t it? A late lunch with friends instead of morning coffee is OK and admitting that an evening in the pub means a morning in bed (and not because of a hang over) is not an admission of failure. It’s time to let go of what might have been and accept what will be.

Feel free to remind me of this optimism and positive attitude next time I bend your ear about how unfair life is. Then pour me strong coffee, cut me a large slice of cake and join me on the sofa. I didn’t choose to live life in the slow lane, but you know what? It’s a pretty darned good place to be.

An Indulgent Weekend

16864106_1186849991433338_4226166083667145784_nI spent the weekend in Saltaire at textile artist Hannah Lamb’s studio. The workshop title intrigued me, “Patchwork and Place” seemed to fit so well with my own current work in progress, which aims to record places and events through stitch and textiles. My Garden Remembered (working title) project to record our own garden now continues into year two and the techniques and ideas sparked by my weekend with Hannah have moved my plans in a different direction.

16939544_1186850018100002_2624248069481218477_nOn day one, Hannah introduced us to the technique of cyanotype printing and immediately it was obvious to me that this could be the ideal way to record the flora and fauna of the garden in a way that complements last year’s experiments with solar dyes. I came home and searched through my old “teacher box” until I found some sun print paper. Using the leaves I pressed last summer along with bird feathers collected from the garden I managed some very pretty first efforts. I am now planning a whole series of pieces – once again  harnessing the power of the sun seems to be the theme of this years “garden captures”. Hannah is running an introduction to cyanotype course at her studio in May, if this is a technique that intrigues you I would definitely recommend Hannah – she is generous with her knowledge – and encouragement.16996267_1186849834766687_4976128420989220223_nThe second day was spent constructing patchwork and stitched pieces using the fabrics we had prepared on Saturday. This was tricky for me as I have never done any patchwork. I watched, asked questions and after some perseverance I did manage to finish my sample at home on Monday. I’m not sure that formal / traditional patchwork comes naturally to me. It requires patience, straight lines and a degree of accuracy that doesn’t come easily.  Like all hand stitching, the slow, meditative process of joining one piece to another was a joy. I shall definitely be working on my English paper piecing skills this year.

16998031_1186849881433349_3778062752372984237_n.jpgMr T kindly paid for my workshop as part of my Christmas present. Secretly I think he was glad of a weekend to himself, to watch the rugby uninterrupted and not be nagged to do weekend chores. For me, it was a lovely chance to observe another artist at work, to learn new skills and spend time with a lovely group of sewing enthusiasts. A weekend away might seem like an indulgence, but I think that time away has “recharged my batteries”, given me permission to be creative without the pressure of making a commercial design or a product to sell. Today I’ve been hard at work researching a new textile project that won’t involve crochet or knitting, it’s early days and so I have nothing to share yet (just scribbled notes in my sketch book , a rapidly filling Pinterest board and a shopping list that reads like a chemistry lesson). I’ve also been researching the mills of Cockermouth and discovering what a huge part linen cloth and thread played in the development of the town. There are exciting times ahead, and they definitely involve stitching…

A Weekend in Pictures

Weekends are for sitting by the fire, reading books, drinking coffee and indulgence. At least that’s the plan. It rarely happens in this house! I’ve been indulging in a lazy weekend, relishing time alone with just box sets and chick lit for company.

boots-and-books

I cleaned my boots – oh that colour! These boots make me smile every time I wear them. . It’s just a bonus that my scarf is all matchy matchy! Note to self, if you decide to walk over the fields to buy the weekend papers, don’t wear suede boots!

coffee-fireside

I made a pot of coffee and sat by the fire. I read trashy chick lit on my  Kindle and I watched  Greys Anatomy (again).

fire-and-wine

I did some weeding, and when it got dark I came inside. I opened a bottle of wine and sat by the fire. I read the  papers and I watched Greys Anatomy (again).

rice-pud

I ate left overs for breakfast. I did as I pleased. I gave myself permission to step off the work / design / housework treadmill. I had the best weekend. If this is slow living I am definitely happy in the slow lane. I hope your weekend was happy too.

Here’s to Monday x

The Art of Slow Living

gathering-woodMove over Hygge, it appears 2017 is the “year of slow living”.  No-one really seems sure where this movement started. Perhaps it was inspired by the Slow Food Movement, or maybe it’s just a response to the fact that “life moves pretty fast” these days, and to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you might miss it. I’ve been following (and occasionally using)  the #slowliving hashtag on Instagram for a couple of years. Here you’ll find hundreds of misty, slight griege* pictures of tea in hand thrown mugs, resting on scrubbed pine tables, crumpled bed linen and carefully composed flat lays (items laid on tables, photographed from above). But, there’s more to slow living than composing a beautiful photo and scripting the perfect caption.  The trouble is, my life is messy, colourful and random, so my photos stand out like a sore thumb in the hashtag feed. My real life is not Instagram friendly!

eden-cottage-hatI like to think of my  life as a journey, not a destination. I derive pleasure form the “doing” and the “making” of life, not just life itself.  I relish the process of cooking meals from scratch, hand stitching my clothes and growing food for the table. Making time for coffee with friends, watching the goldfinches squabble over the bird feeder or just  enjoying a hug from Mr T (always time for that) when I take him a mug of tea is important to me. I try to find joy in the mundane; whether it’s filling the log basket, sorting the recycling or wrangling the laundry.  I think (and you might disagree, that’s ok), that if we’re constantly wishing we were doing something else, we’re in danger of missing out on the simple pleasure of life itself. If I didn’t wander around my garden every day to forage twigs for kindling I would miss the first snowdrops appearing at the bottom of the garden. I wouldn’t notice the bird nest in the clematis, which is only visible now the leaves have all dropped off.  If I didn’t change the bed sheets every week I wouldn’t get to relish snuggling into freshly laundered cotton (I have thing for crisp, white linen and feather pillows).  I’m interested to know how others live life in the slow lane, which is why I follow the hashtag. I tried to think about what makes my life a slow life and over the next few weeks I’ll share my own art of slow living. To kick off –  here’s the one I struggle with most – balancing my online life with “real” life.

Mastering  the art of tech life balance

I’m not talking about a digital detox (ugh what a horrible expression  that is), instead learning to balance my  life online with real world experiences. We don’t need to be constantly checking email, counting “retweets” on Twitter or scrolling through carefully curated and scripted photos on Instagram. My online life is a huge part of my interaction with others, working from home I’ve often called Twitter “my water cooler moment”, so I struggle with the concept of a “detox”. Instead I try to build time online into my day, I try to avoid constantly picking up my phone to read emails or look at Instagram. In fact, I quite often turn off the wifi on my phone and switch off my tablet for a few hours each day so I can work on designs or write undisturbed.

After tea I try to put my “devices” away, switch off the laptop and have real conversations. We’ll settle down to read books, watch a box set or spend time with friends and at these times “device checking” is frowned upon. Of course we break the rules, I might spend half an hour having a Facebook chat with a far away friend or Mr T might check out what his friends are up to on Strava. But we follow a few unspoken “rules”, no device checking at mealtimes, no jumping up to answer the phone in the middle of a conversation and the only electronic device in the bedroom is my kindle. And here’s the thing, iplayer has given us so much freedom to choose what we watch and when that I forget what life was like when you had to timetable TV watching into your day so you didn’t miss call the Midwife!  Our smart TV has given us freedom and flexibility. It is “good” technology and I won’t hear a bad word said against it!

Today I went for a walk, my phone was in my pocket but it was switched off and I relished being “uncontactable”. We’re not a technology driven family; if we want to turn down the thermostat we get up and turn a knob, we don’t reach for an app on a phone. We don’t have sat nav – we are “old school” and carry maps. Technology allows Mr T to work from home, he spends his day on Skype calls, sharing screens and logging into client databases. No wonder he’s happy to leave technology behind after a day in the office (aka the smallest bedroom). The internet allows me to sell my patterns, research ideas and keep in touch with fellow designers, editors and friends who live to far away to drop in for a cuppa.  Technology is an aid to efficiency, but it can also make us slaves.

Of course technology is not just about being “connected”. Try making a loaf of bread by hand instead of throwing everything in a bread maker, whip egg whites for a meringue by hand or make pastry. Take a map when you go for a walk instead of plugging routes into a GPS. Look up from your screen, look out of the window and talk to a real person not a Gravatar once in a while. Read your toddler a story from a book instead of passing them your ipad. Build a den under the dining table, make time to talk and to listen no matter how bored you are with reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar or singing the same song over and over again. The greatest gift you can give to your loved ones is time and technology can suck that away from us if we’re not careful.  I know this because my own daughter spent far too many hours watching Barney and playing Sims while I attempted to “work from home” in her early years (and yes, I still  carry the guilt of the working Mother). I thought technology would make me more efficient, more productive. It just made me a slave to my inbox.

How do you balance life and technology? Do you use an app to switch on your kettle / turn on the lights? Do you find yourself checking Facebook during ad breaks? I’m fascinated by how we all adapt and respond to the growing technologies that promise to make our lives easier and more  efficient. Do they? I’d love to know how you find a tech life balance –  maybe you already have the answer?

*griege – those slightly grey / sepia / muted images that are so common on Instagram. Read “everything you need to know about griege”  here.

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  • Pretty!
 Took Mr T to Chester Maker's Market today. Ho got pie, I came home with pretty yarn from @joannawoodpaint (oh and cheese, curry sauce, cake, more cheese, smoked salmon and secret presents for lovely friends oh and cheese -with rioja and caramelised onion - have you guessed we love cheese!!)! Really hope you make this a regular @_makersmarket xxx
#knittersofinstagram #handdyed #indiedyer #sockyarn #madenotmanufactured #100daysofwool Gin! Not just any old gin - Scottish gin from @inshriach now available. Sorry Walter - photo shamelessly nicked from your feed - but oh my - how fabulous! Go check this one out ladies (& gents) I just know it's going to be fabulous!
I'll be pouring myself a large g&t later and raising a glass to everyone who read or commented on my last post. We're definitely stronger together. Have a lovely weekend everyone xxx

#knitterslovegin #gin #scottishgin #gincredible #ginfriday #ginoclock #inshriach #madenotmanufactured Ruby chard, freshly picked. Going to saute it with chorizo for tea...
In other news I've got a new blog post up (link in profile) if you want to know what it's like living with a chronic illness start here...going to a bit more honest about my real life from now on.
#slowlived #thisthingcalledslowliving #bakingandmaking #ediblegarden #mygardenrightnow #permaculture #plottoplate Sometimes the best view is the one right on your doorstep. Just before I hung the washing on the line I decided to sit down, drink my coffee & be grateful... #bakingandmaking #thisthingcalledslowliving #slowlived #theartofslowliving #morningslikethese #mygardenrightnow #permaculture Old socks, new socks. Can't resist trying on newly cast off socks. On the left "old" socks in @kingcoleltd zig zag & on the right "new" socks in @coopknits Socks Yeah. 
#operationsockdrawer #toeupsocks #socksyeah #igknitters #madenotmanufactured #makeitwearit #toeuptuesday #toeupsocks #100daysofwool Weathered and worn... Beautiful, even in the rain... No knitting, just walking & enjoying the view xxx The sun is trying to come out. Wool in all it's natural undyed glory. Local, breed specific wools are the best! 
#100daysofwool #britishwool #britishyarn #herdwick #hebridean #choosewool #britishsheepbreeds 100 days of wool ... Found these lurking in my stash left over from one of last year's designs. I love all @thefibrecompany yarns, but this one is my favourite, it's a blend of wool and mohair (even a bit of British wool in there) soft to knit with, washes well & comes on all my favourite colours. Now I'm off to visit my favourite coffee shop & plan some Easter knitting...
#igknitters #100daysofwool #britishwool #lovewool #madenotmanufactured #shoplocal #notjustlakes Waste nothing. Even the tiniest bits of leftover wool can make stuff that is useful & beautiful. Collect your scraps, follow your favourite sleeve pattern and make arm warmers! 
#lovewool #loveknitting #lovewoolhatewaste #choosewool #madenotmanufactured #makersgonnamake #choosewool #zerowaste #permaculture #reloved #repurposed #upcycle #100daysofwool A good day to dry socks! I love wearing wool & knit most of my own socks (toe up, fleegle heel because I'm too lazy to graft toes or pick up stitches!!) My favourite yarns are Eden Cottage ayarns Milburn 4 ply, Sirdar Heart & Sole, Patons Kroy & West Yorkshire Spinners sock wool.
#100daysofwool #toeupsocksrock #toeuptuesday #fleegleheel #choosewool #igknitters #sockknittersofinstagram #makeitwearit Sunday blues. A gorgeous blend of merino & cotton called Coast, bought from @tangledyarnuk . I love wool / cotton blends, especially when they come in such fabulous denim shades. 
#100daysofwool #choosewool #yarnlove #tangledyarnuk #doubledenim #denim #sundayblues Hands wearing handmade things holding little things... pattern for the Cavendish beanie & wristwarmers now up on love crochet & ravelry (follow link in profile). Credits: yarn is gorgeous @westyorkshirespinners beautiful styling by @clairemontyknits & photo  @mavricphotography
#crochetaddict #britishwool #100daysofwool #makersgonnamake #lovecrochet #horgolás  #uncinetto #crochetconcupiscence #crochetgirlgang #choosewool Frivolous flowers! I loved using @bordertart 's indigo yarn for this design. It has such gorgeous sheen. The pattern first appeared in @insidecrochet & is now available to download online (link in profile). I just love everything about this beautiful photo!
Credits: photo @lucymakesmyheartskip styling @clairemontyknits 
#lovecrochet #indiedyer #choosewool #crochetaddict #uncinetto  #insidecrochetmagazine #indigo #naturaldye  #merino More garter stitch love. Stripes & garter stitch are perfect partners. Knitted on the bias using simple increases & decreases makes a perfect draping wrap.Knitted with 1 ball each of Wendy Ramsdale & Louisa Harding's Grace hand dyed from my stash.
#100daysproject #100daysofwool #wipwednesday #britishwool Playing hooky! I'm suposes to be working on a crochet commission (a huge cabled blanket that's taking forever), but I am giving myself the afternoon off to enjoy this gorgeous blend of natural fibres.  I've just ordered more because it knits & crochets like a dream.
 #madewiththefibreco #tangledyarnuk #the100dayproject #100daysofwool
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