I’ve spent the last two days taking part in a participatory video workshop as part of a project aimed at reducing stigma around mental health issues run by a local charity with funding from Time to Change. There were seven of us involved; we all had some form of mental health problem but other than that we were a very diverse group (well, as diverse as you are likely to find in Oxford, which is not a very diverse city). Our ages ranged from mid-20s to retirement age and while affluent educated Oxford was certainly represented there were also people from less privileged backgrounds. We spent the weekend getting to know each other, learning how to use the camcorders, sharing some of our experiences of mental health problems and finally recording 30 seconds each of talking to camera as well as some shorter clips to show more about us as people and make the point that we are far more than just our mental health issues. (No prizes for guessing what got filmed for me there…) I had thought that I would talk about my experience of depression, and maybe about how crafting helps me, but in the end I chickened out of that because I’m currently in a place where sharing a hopeful, optimistic story about how I fill my life with things that make it easier to live with depression felt too much like a lie, but given how small Oxford is (one of the other volunteers mentioned that she used to follow me on Twitter and read my outfit posts, that’s how small it is) and that one of the ideas is that the video might be shown in workplaces I wasn’t brave enough to say what I’m really feeling right now, that after five years of trying so many different things I don’t feel that my depression has got any better and am very short on hope for the future. Not where someone from work might see it, maybe in a few months’ time when (hopefully) I will be feeling better because it won’t be winter anymore and some of the other stuff that’s putting me under stress will have been sorted out. Because yes, there is a stigma attached to mental health problems, and while I am increasingly open about mine because I am tired of not being I’m still wary of admitting to feeling suicidal, especially in something where there isn’t a timestamp and a string of other posts to show how the negative emotions ebb and flow. Anyway, 30 seconds isn’t very long so I just talked about how important I think it is to talk about mental health, and how talking has helped me to build up my support network but other people have also told me that my openness has helped them to be more open as well.
It was a really interesting weekend, and the other volunteers were a lovely group of people who I’m really pleased to have had the chance to meet, but I also found it very, very tiring to spend so much time with people I didn’t know well, in a fairly small space, never mind the emotional drain of sharing some deeply personal things, and I ended up having to leave a couple of hours before the end of today’s session because I was exhausted and had got to the point where I really, really needed to be home and have peace and quiet (and a nap, which is what I did once I got in). I was sorry to miss the end, but I think it was the right decision for me, especially as I have work tomorrow.
Obviously, all this means that I don’t have a lot of crafting to share this weekend; I’ve been too tired to knit anything complicated like the edging of the Ysolda shawl, let alone spin or sew. On the other hand, I did finish my second pair of Regia 6-ply walking socks, which are pretty much the same as the first except for having contrast ribbing and toes because the first pair took slightly more than half the yarn.
This is a good thing, because the canal towpath is very muddy at the moment and the first pair really did need a wash!
The rainbow hat I made last weekend is now blocked and has its pompom sewn on.
I love it, it’s such a fun hat and the pompom makes me smile.
I wore it yesterday when I went to Unravel for the day, but sadly it was far too warm inside the hall to wear a woolly hat. Luckily I was still wearing a handknitted cardigan (my Cria, which got a lot of compliments) and a shawl, so my credentials as a knitter were never in any doubt. I had a lovely day catching up with friends I haven’t seen for ages, and even though it was so busy it was sometimes quite difficult to get at the stalls I seem to have managed to spend all the money I took with me without too much trouble!
I was also very impressed with the signage that had been put up along the road from the station to Farnham Maltings where the event was held!
Given that I was out all day yesterday, it’s not that surprising that I don’t have much crafting to talk about. I am knitting more walking socks, which I took with me yesterday and made good progress on; today I finally started the final clue of the Ysolda mystery shawl, and also spun a bit more of the batt from the Hilltop Cloud learn to spin kit. It’s coming out much finer than I’ve managed to spin before, though I’m always getting quite enough twist into it. I’m pleased with my progress, though.
Due to a combination of having to go out both days this weekend (yesterday for an eye test and a haircut and today to buy mothballs after discovering holes in a old jumper of T’s that was at the back of my wardrobe) and having very little energy or enthusiasm for anything anyway, this weekend I didn’t do any sewing, or any spinning, or knit any of the final clue of the Ysolda mystery shawl.
I did knit a hat, though.
The pattern is Patricia Martin’s Way Up High, using rainbow mini skeins from The Yarn Yard and undyed yarn from The Knitting Goddess. I took the picture at about four o’clock this afternoon, and finished the hat a couple of hours later, having started it on Friday evening (well, actually I started it on Wednesday, but realised on Friday that I needed the bigger size so had to rip it out and start again). It’s blocking now, but I don’t have a decent picture because by the time I got there the daylight was gone. Proper pictures next weekend, when it’s dry and I’ve sewn on the big rainbow pompom I’ve made to go on top.
Despite having less sock-knitting time than I used to because I’m walking part of my way home from work in the evenings instead of just getting the bus, I managed to finish my Regia 6-ply walking socks in ten days.
I wore them today walking to and from work and they’re lovely and cosy and much more cushiony than the Peter Storm walking socks I was wearing before. I only used just over half the ball, as well, so I’m going to order a small ball of a solid colour and then I’ll easily get another pair out.
With the socks out of the way I have cast on Way Up High as a rainbow project for the Olympics, using a set of rainbow mini skeins from The Yarn Yard. Although it struck me last weekend that the colours of the yarn I used for the socks are reminiscent of the bisexual pride flag so maybe I can count them too…
I’ve always liked writing with fountain pens, and since being parted from my beloved fifteenth-birthday-present Waterman for a few weeks in 2012 while Mim‘s father very kindly fixed the clip I have developed a great fondness for Lamy’s Safari range. It started with a black pen and some blue cartridges which I bought in WH Smith as an interim replacement, but then I bought a purple Al-Star (the aluminium version) and purple cartridges and even though I have my Waterman back I’ve been using that at work; the nib is slightly finer and the Waterman is precious enough I don’t really want to have it in the office. And then this week I decided to add to my collection with a pink Safari and some turquoise cartridges, and I thought that maybe I should make a pencil case to keep my collection safe.
I used this tutorial, though I didn’t bother printing out the pdf pattern but just drew a rectangle of about the right size on some paper and used that as a template to cut out the main fabric, lining and some wadding. It went together pretty easily and was good practice at inserting a zip (I did have to unpick and resew the first side after I’d done the second and realised that I’d managed to stitch it much closer to the zip teeth). And it’s the perfect size to keep my pens safe.
I also finished spinning up the Falkland from last week, which drafted just fine this time so it was clearly just that I was too tired before.
I’m pretty consistently managing to get around 36m of 2-ply yarn from 25g of fibre at the moment, which is a considerable improvement on where I was a month or so ago although ideally I’d like to be managing around 50-60m to get enough to usefully knit with.
I also started spinning up the merino/Shetland batt that came in the drop spindle kit I bought from Hilltop Cloud. Given that it was a carded batt and not tops I wanted to try using more of a woollen spinning technique and I found it surprisingly easy to go back and redraft the partly-spun yarn so that it ended up thinner and more even. I think this counts as progress!
I’ve also been knitting (obviously) – I’ve finished the fourth clue on the Ysolda mystery shawl and am halfway down the leg of my second walking sock. In the end, after looking at where my socks seem to wear, I did an Eye of Partridge heel flap and continued the slipped stitches on the bottom of the heel turn, but did the sole in plain stocking stitch. If that turns out not to be strong enough, I’ll rethink for the next pair. They’re knitting up so quickly it’s not as though having to make more will be that much of a hardship!
This week I made a bag.
It’s not just any old bag, though. This is a special bottle-carrying bag.
Our local council don’t do kerbside collection of glass bottles for recycling, so T takes any bottles and jars to the bottle bank in the village. He’d been using a bottle bag that he got at the Co-op some years ago, with dividers to keep the bottles from knocking against each other, but the bag eventually ripped and the Co-op don’t do them any more, only the cardboard carriers which don’t stand up to repeated use, especially in the wettest Janaury in 250 years. So I offered to make him one, using the old Co-op bag as a template and three-quarters of a metre of heavy cotton that I bought in the local fabric shop. (It was a wide fabric and I didn’t actually need all the length, but that’s good as I have lots left if the bag needs patching.) The bag itself is fairly basic with a single piece for the front, back and base (meaning there’s no base seam to come undone), while the bottle insert consists of two short pieces and one longer one, sewn together to make a grid and then stitched to the sides of the bag (which was less fiddly than I thought it was going to be). It’s not exactly a work of art – the seams are a bit wonky and I ran out of black thread halfway through so several of the seams were stitched with black thread in the bobbin and white thread in the needle – but hopefully it’ll do the job and it will be mendable if it breaks.
In knitting, I finished the third clue of the Ysolda knitalong and also finished the socks I cast on for T at New Year.
The yarn is Schoppel-Wolle Admiral Cat Print, and while I have used Admiral yarns in the past with no problem I wouldn’t recommend this one – it’s lovely and soft but was so horrendously splitty it really wasn’t any fun to knit with, and then when I came to photograph the socks today I found a hole in the sole of one of them where it looked as though the yarn had just come apart (I really don’t think I accidentally snipped it with my scissors, I’m sure I would have noticed!) and although I’ve duplicated stitches to close up the hole I don’t have high hopes for the longevity of this pair.
My next pair of socks are going to be vanilla socks for me, in Regia 6-ply, because I go through commercial walking socks in approximately two weeks and they don’t keep my feet warm in cold weather anyway. I’m hoping that the Regia will be tough enough to last a while. Anyone have any recommendations for particularly heavy-duty heels and toes? I’m wondering about carrying on the slip-stitch pattern from the heel flap onto the bottom of the heel and under the ball of the foot.
With all that sewing and knitting, it’s probably not much of a surprise that I didn’t really manage any spinning. I did start spinning a sample of white Falkland, but ended up struggling to draft it properly. I don’t know if Falkland is harder to draft than the BFL and Jacob I spun last week and the week before or if I’d just used up all my energy for the weekend (the start of February is pretty much my lowest time of year) but in any case I decided that when things are going badly it’s usually best to put them to one side until another day. I did a lot more sewing than I normally would this weekend, so maybe next weekend I’ll make a point of doing more spinning.
I finished the Birgitte tee from last weekend, including chopping off and reattaching the neckband to get rid of the pleat (there are still some small gathers in the seam but they’re not obvious when it’s on).
I’m pleased with how it’s come out; T said that if he didn’t know I’d made it he wouldn’t have been able to tell, and the pattern is pretty.
I was going to make a start on sewing a bag for T to use to carry empty bottles for recycling in, as the bottle bag he had from the Co-op has given up the ghost and they no longer make them, but I didn’t really have the energy to do more sewing today, so that will have to wait for next week.
I did spin up another sample, grey Jacob this time.
I’ve managed to spin a similar weight to last week, about 35m from my 35g of fibre. My spinning is definitely improving and getting finer and more even. The Jacob fibre felt lovely but it’s definitely not as soft as last week’s BFL was and I may have put too much twist in as the yarn feels quite string-like. It’s all practice, though!
I’ve also finished the second clue of the Ysolda mystery shawl and am all ready for clue number three to be released tomorrow, and I’ve turned the heel on the second of the Kate Davies fair isle socks I started over Christmas, though they seem to be very slow going right now and I’m not sure I’ll ever actually wear them when they’re done. Good technical practice, though!
Rather than start a new big spinning project, this weekend I decided to spin up one of the samples I got from the Handweavers Studio when I went on the London yarn crawl in the autumn. I went for 25g of BFL humbug fibre, which spun up like a dream. I split the fibre lengthways into two so I could make a two-ply yarn, and I split each section again into three because I find it much easier to draft thinner sections of fibre. I ended up spinning far and away the finest yarn I’ve ever made.
I think I’ve got about 37m to 25g, and it’s 10 wraps per inch so somewhere between a DK and a worsted weight. Not quite as thin as I’d really like, given that I normally knit with 4-ply and laceweight yarns, but definitely going in the right direction. I think I’ll spin up some more of the samples and then possibly use them to knit something with an ombre effect from the different shades.
After spending some time wondering what to sew next, I decided to make another Birgitte basic tee using some flowered viscose jersey I bought from Croft Mill last year when I first decided to try making t-shirts, as a way to remind myself that I can make clothes.
I haven’t hemmed it yet, because I ran out of steam at that point, but it came together very nicely (except that I have managed to get a pleat of fabric at the back neck when I sewed on the neckband, which is annoying and pretty much unfixable, because unpicking stretch stitch from jersey is basically impossible). I’m not actually sure if I like the print very much or if I will wear it, but it’s good practice.
I have also cast on for Ysolda’s mystery shawl knitalong and been working my way through the first clue. I should be finished with that today, ready for the next clue to be released tomorrow, though I’m really not sure I needed a new knitting project given that I’m still plugging away on my Pi Shawl and the A-Z seems to have been stalled at M for several months now. So much crafting, so little time.
I’m happy to say that I managed to do my hour each of sewing and spinning this weekend with no problems at all. Unfortunately, the sewing was finishing off last week’s Sekrit Project, so no pictures, but the spinning involved plying the Polwarth I’d been working on and it’s come out beautifully.
I think I got about 90m from my 100g of fibre, pre-washing, so that’s definitely going in the right direction! I love how the colours have come out.
In lieu of any actual pictures of the sewing, here’s some gratuituous yarn porn instead – all the different rainbow yarns and fibre that have arrived in my house in the last week.
(From the back, that’s KnitPicks Felici from Great British Yarns, fibre and mini skeins from the Yarn Yard, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock from Modern Knitting and merino sock yarn from Old Maiden Aunt in a rainbow colourway dyed up specially for the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.)
Next week I will start to think about dressmaking again. I am planning a party to celebrate my 40th birthday in May and it would be lovely to make a dress to wear to that. I have a copy of Simplicity 2444 and I think that would make a lovely party dress, if only I can manage to make it fit me.
There has been a lot of discussion of rainbows on Ravelry lately.
The Winter Olympics are coming up, and that means that so are the Ravellenic Games, a knitting challenge which runs for the duration of the Olympics with competitors aiming to complete as many projects as possible during the two-week period. Sadly, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the decision to continue with staging the Olympics in Russia following recent draconian anti-gay legislation and concerns about the level of hate crime against gay people and the lack of action by security forces in response (more information here, for a start). Knitters on Ravelry have expressed similar concerns about participating in a celebration of the Olympics, and the organisers of the Ravellenics have not helped the situation by declaring that the official forum for the games should kept free of “political” discussion, and that discussion of human rights in Russia counted as political. Unsurprisingly, this has made a lot of people angry and upset, and several groups have come up with the idea of knitting rainbow coloured things for the Games and using rainbow avatars as ways to show their support for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer people in Russia, and indeed elsewhere.
Now, I am bisexual, but given that I have been in a monogamous relationship with a man for the last seventeen and a bit years and intend to carry on with that for the foreseeable future, I’m very conscious that unless I choose to tell them otherwise people are going to assume that I’m straight and no-one is going to discriminate against me because of who I’ve chosen as my life partner. And because I benefit from that privilege, I’m hesistant to claim LGBTQ rights as “my” cause, except insofar as I passionately believe that no-one should ever be discriminated against because of aspects of themselves that they cannot change, whether that be sexuality, gender, skin colour, nationality, disability or anything else, and that none of these things make any one person better or worse than any other person. That said, I want to show my support over this issue, so I suspect I may be wearing my rainbow shawl quite a bit over the next few weeks. And completely by coincidence I just got some rainbow yarn and fibre from Natalie at the Yarn Yard, who picked rainbow as her colour of the month for January, and there may be some more rainbow yarn on its way to me, because I’m a sucker for a rainbow anyway and I fancy some rainbow-striped socks.