Hobbies or habits?

Some bug got into my head this last weekend, and I’ve started moving stuff, organizing stuff, getting to the bottom of bags and boxes that have filled up with the detritus of life, or moving, or plain old boredom.  Throwing out pieces of mail that travelled to and from work with me for months “because I really ought to do something about that/ring that guy/cancel that subscription”.  I’ve been clearing the floor in my overstuffed studio, moving the desk out, making space to walk around in.  Trying to find a place for everything, and put everything in its place.

And it occurred to me that over say the last five years, I think I have spent more time buying fabric, moving fabric, organizing fabric and figuring out how to store it than I’ve spent sewing.  So is sewing a hobby for me?  Or do I just have a fabric habit?

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to spend any more time at the remnants bin in John Lewis.  That goes double for linen.  Triple for *green* linen.

And one other truth: If I’m going to start weaving more, I need to start sewing again.

Foggy solstice

Knitting progress has been slow recently – and spinning and weaving practically nonexistent – but I recently finished one vest (Honeycomb, which I don’t think has made it to the blog at all so far), so it’s clearly time for a new sweater on the needles.

IMG_2774I found the summer solstice pattern a few weeks ago, and thought it might be a good match for some soft grey yarn (colourway: Foggy) that’s been in my stash since sometime towards the end of last year.  So it’s a complete coincidence that today – the day of the summer solstice – dawned soft and dull.

IMG_2775After Honeycomb – which required every stitch to be cabled on every sixth round – I’m looking forwards to some plain-and-simple stockinette knitting, even if the construction is a little on the complicated side.

In other news, my life is still in a state of upheaval/limbo.  The new job is going great, but I’m in the throes of buying a new house as J buys me out of my share of our current place.  There are no obvious pitfalls (touch wood), but nothing’s ever certain in the UK house buying process until contracts have been exchanged, and I’m a long way from that yet.

In the meantime, the hounds and I are still living, with J, in the old house.  In some ways, it’s really nice, because we are still friends and it’s great to have company around for most of the time.  In other ways, it’s not so great.  Apart from anything else, J started making the place his while I was up North, so a lot of my furniture and other possessions are in storage.  Almost everything I’ve brought with me (with the exception of my spinning wheel and a few kitchen-y bits and pieces) is in my current bedroom.  I no longer feel like the space is ‘mine’, so I’m sort of shrinking my life, trying not to intrude or make a mess, and the end result is that so much I want to do is ‘on hold’.

So I suppose it is fitting that the solstice – usually a time of vibrant, pulsing energy – feels cloudy and pensive.

These photos were all taken this morning as I was out walking the hounds.  The day is not cold, but it is overcast and humid.  It almost feels like we are due a thunderstorm to clear out the air – but without the usual oppressive feel you get before thunder.

IMG_2777 It might not be the most photogenic  weather you can imagine, but it has an odd, meditative tranquility that is not unpleasant.  And after all, the solstices are the points on the wheel where change is slowest.  For the briefest of moments, the world pauses, and catches its breath ready for the return swing. And even in the greyness of the day, there are unexpected moments of vivid colour.  This last flowering grass amazed me with its deep, purple flowers, set amongst the intense green…  If you only click on one photograph in this post, make it this one.

There and back again…

No, not the Hobbit.  Me.

I’m back in Cambridgeshire, with yet another new job, and have moved back into my old home.   This is not what I’d expected to happen when I moved to Yorkshire at the end of last year!!

Unfortunately, the job I moved to was not the greatest of catches.  For a start, it kindof sucked, and then the company I was working for announced redundancies.  I wasn’t informed that I would be affected – but then, they didn’t need to tell me.  My initial six months were as a temporary employee of the company, on a six month fixed term.  The plan was that I would become a permanent employee after that, but of course, I had no meaningful guarantee of that, and once the redundancies were announced, all bets were off.  So I started job hunting, both up North and back in the Cambridge area.  As it happens, the only responses I got were for jobs back in the South, so here I am (though I have to say that, after three whole days, the company I’m now working for looks like a real winner).

So for now, the hounds and I have moved back in with my ex!  Happily, I’m lucky with my exes, and we’re still good friends.  In the fullness of time, he will buy my share of this place, and I will buy somewhere of my own, but for now, I’m sleeping in my old dye studio, and a lot of my furniture – not to mention all my remaining Yarnscape stock! – is in storage.

So I’ve officially changed the notice on the site’s front page to make it clear I’m not currently trading, and I’ll be taking the shop links down for now, too.  I don’t know how long I’ll be officially out of business, but first he has to get a mortgage sorted, then I have to, then all the happy house buying shennanigans can commence…  I do miss the dyework, though, and am sad not to be at Wonderwool Wales this weekend, either as a guest or a trader!  I hope I’ll be back with a shop in the future, because I miss the dyes, though I doubt I’ll ever do it full time again.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying having a real garden to work in, and have managed to shoehorn my wheel, looms, sewing machines, fabric, yarn and fibre back into the house (which is somehow much smaller with us sleeping in separate rooms), so I think I shall wander off and spin a bit.

Yorkshire or bust!

And yet again, I find myself starting a post with an apology for my recent silence.  This time, though, I have a better reason than usual.  A while ago, J and I decided to separate.  Every time I tell someone this, I’m greeted with sympathetic eyes, shock, and a horrified, “Oh, no!!”.  Which do definitely appreciate- but honestly, it’s not quite like that.  While very bittersweet, this is an amicable separation – and both of us are keen to see it stays that way.  We have, simply, come to the end of our path together, and it’s time for each of us to travel our own way.

And I do plan to do some travelling.  Specifically, I’m starting with a trip about 200 miles north, to a (new!) new job and a new life in my old homeland of North Yorkshire.

I’d be lying if I said this was all smooth sailing.  Getting the job was the easy part, though I feel very lucky to have found something that relates to my particular expertise so close to home.  As a country lass in a very technical job, I actually feel very, very lucky indeed.  Getting a place to live has, so far, been trickier.

Initially, you see, I will need to rent.  And the hounds are coming with me.  There is a real dearth of rental properties that are willing to let to someone with not one, but two, mid-sized dogs.  You would have thought that, especially in a rural area, it wouldn’t be so difficult, but until yesterday, I’ve been met with ‘no’ after ‘no’.

Now, though, I seem to have hit a run of better luck.  I’ve found several ‘possible’ places and one ‘will definitely accept two dogs’ place.  I have two viewings booked for a week tomorrow, so will hopefully have something settled very soon after that.

fingers crossed! (photo belongs to Ashtons Estate Agents)

Of course, this means I am unlikely to be resuming the dye work for a while yet.  Firstly, rental properties generally prohibit you running a business from the premises.  Secondly, it’s one thing risking your own carpet to dye and other assorted chemicals – it’s quite another when the carpet isn’t your own!  Thirdly, both space and time are likely to be at a premium for the next wee while.

Please keep your fingers crossed for this next phase of the proceedings.  Once I have found a place to live, the major anxiety will be over, with any luck.  There will be lots of hard work ahead, but at least I will be able to stop being worried – and start being excited!

Catching up and keeping up

You may have noticed a drop-off in blog posting round here recently….  Well, I’ve not been too well.  Nothing serious or life threatening, just notably sub-par.  I don’t talk about it much here, but I have ME (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS/ME).  It waxes; it wanes, and generally I think I’m doing pretty well.

At the beginning of this month, though, I had my first occupational therapist appointment at a specialist CFS/ME clinic.  It was eye opening.  I’m on three scheduled rests per day (and you would be amazed at the things that do not count as resting.  Not Ravelry, not knitting, not television, not reading, not audiobooks!), and I’m slowly realising that things that have just faded into the background – things I have considered ‘normal’ for years – are actually symptoms.  Anyway, I don’t intend to blog about this here, (if you are interested, I have started a new blog* to chronicle my journey back to normal functioning), but suffice it to say that I have not been keeping up with the online world.  Shop listings, blog posting, Ravelry, blog reading and commenting – all have fallen by the wayside.  And it’s November!  When a whole bunch of you nutters join in with NaNoBloPoMo, and try to post daily!!  Talk about bad timing.  My RSS reader currently shows over 350 unread posts.

Anyway, I’ve decided that there is no point in trying to catch up with everything whilst the whole world rattles onwards without me.  So I will be working my way through the backlogs, whilst simultaneously attempting to keep up with stuff coming in from now onwards.

In related news, I realised that Saturday came and went without me saying anything more about the current Saturday Giveaway competition.  Oh, dear.  That is very much ‘my bad’.  Well, I’ve decided that I will extend the competition until *this* Saturday, so get on over there, read about the Farm Animal Sanctuary, and see if you can help them out.  Remember- you don’t actually need to spend anything to enter the competition: Spreading the word on Twitter, or Facebook, or your blog counts, too!  (but don’t forget to come back here and let me know, so I can enter you in the draw!)

Well, enough rambling – I will be back soon (I sincerely hope!) to update you on my recent adventures.

82) Tipping point

I'm at work, and I'm really struggling to be productive.  I'm tired, which never helps, but more significantly, I realise I'm coming to some sort of tipping point regarding my professional life.  For around ten years, I've been trying to do the responsible, corporate thing. Trying to find a job where I fit in, where I feel capable and competent and challenged and engaged, and I simply haven't found a niche that is me-shaped.  Whenever I hear about people keen to return to their work after having a child, it just boggles me.

It's not that I have a Bad Job – far from it.  It's just that, beyond my general wish to do good, professional work and not let anyone down, I'm totally indifferent to it.  I do not, in the vernacular, give a crap.  I am not interested in my 'career'; I do not want to advance my prospects.  I don't want to 'graduate' into management.

But the big problem here is that the world is full of things about which I really do care, about which I am truly passionate.

If I had no driving passions, no wish to do anything else in particular, I'd be happy enough to plug away at my desk for 37.5 hours per week, collect my pay cheque and relax for the rest of my waking hours.  Unfortunately, that's not me.  I cannot be that person; I am starting to realise that I cannot be happy pretending to be that person.

I'm hoping to agree part-time hours with my employer in the near future.  I'd ideally like to go down to three days per week, but I think they are likely to hold out for four.  I really don't know if that will make enough of a difference to me.


One final note:  I do, honestly, realise just how lucky I am to be able to even contemplate voluntary part-time working in our current economy.

Please, no comments encouraging me to 'be happy with what I have' or 'look on the bright side'.  Believe me, if it were that easy, I would already be there.

5) New energy

It's glorious weather here in Cambridge today.

I had to go out at lunchtime, to post a letter, run a few errands, so I was glad to see the sun shining after the frost and fog of early morning.  I wrapped up, and set out.

After five minutes, I took my gloves off.  Two minutes later, my scarf was being carried.  After a total of about 12 minutes, I took my coat off.

The air is cold, but soft and fresh, rather than harsh and bitter.  The warmth of the sun is very obvious.  It's a turning day; a day of new energies, and the promise of spring.  It's not that winter is over yet, but you can feel the shift, the certainty that the cold is heading away from us again.  And as I was walking down King's Hedges Road, and back up through the
Science Park, I could smell wet earth and creosote.  Smells of a new
year, and new growth.

1) X-over

Let's admit it: I stalled on 'X'.  I have strenuously avoided 'Xmas' because I hate the Xpression.  So I'm stuck with the X-over between the new year and the old, which is, if anything, even lamer.

From last year's first post, I see that I felt over-burdened with yarn and fabric, and rather guilt-ridden about all the stuff I had, but was not really taking advantage of.  I made the following resolutions:

  • Knit daily – no, but probably close
  • Blog three times per week – no; I averaged twice, with 105 posts in the year, not 156.
  • Spin weeklyI don't think so, but I spun more last year than the year before
  • Learn 1 weaving technique per month – definitely not!
  • Sew more.  Some.  At all. – no…
  • Detash some – yes!
  • Practise recorders – no…
  • Grow food for J and I (the dogs will eat pretty much anything out of the garden; that's not a challenge). – yes!
  • Increase my flexibility, strength and cardio fitness – maybe a bit.
  • Decrease my weight, hopefully to pre-shingles levels – yes! Though there has been a slight relapse over hte festive season…
  • Learn to sing – no…
  • Spend more quality time with J and the hounds – yes!
  • Follow my inspiration – no…
  • Allow time to breathe. – no…

There's a lot of 'no' on that list, but actually, I'm happy with it.  This year, I want to:

  • Appreciate what I have;
  • Release what I don't need;
  • Keep up with the obligations I have taken on;
  • Be more aware of what I am achieving.

That's a rather looser list than last year, definitely, but I think I will try and set a concrete goal in each area for each month.  I'm also going to number my posts again this year, just because it's fun.

January's list:
This month, I am going to:

  • Make a project list for the year.  This has worked awesomely for me in the past, even if I don't stick to it, and it would be fun to appreciate the stash I have rather than wishing for more.
  • Destash more fabric and yarn.  There's always more that I don't need.
  • Work hard.  There is a big deadline at the end of the month, and I need to concentrate on it to ensure I hit it, rather than allowing it to hit me.  I also need to dye/blend more yarn and fibre in preparation for TIF.
  • Try and put together a project round-up for last year.  Both my Ravelry and Weavolution records are sadly out of date, and I'm not sure even I can remember what I've been doing in recent months.

More on the X-theme…
I had an Xcellent festive season with my Xceptional family.  I think this was the first time in almost a decade that both my brothers were able to get to my parents' house on Christmas Eve and stay well past boXing Day.  I think it's safe to say that there are few families who will go sledging -twice!- when the youngest member is 30 and the eldest more than twice that:


The best – and fastest – of the family sledges are at least 15 years old, and technically broken.  Large cracks have been mended with various kinds of tape, but we've found no replacements to beat them, so they stay.

My Dad had the most spectacular wipe-out.  I managed to catch this shot with light visible between the sledge and the ground, and between the sledge and Dad.  No light is visible between Dad and the ground, though his feet are *definitely* well above his head:


Andy was specialising in coming down face-first, with a sh – err, snow-eating grin, which you can't really see.  Steering was by means of his toes:


Mum was perfecting a no-hands technique:


Whilst Stu was holding on tight and giggling like a loon:


Me?  I'm behind the camera.  There is no evidence of my waterproof yellow fisherman's waders.  Though, I will say, I am happy to wear them with no shame at all.  I like winter clothing which pretty much does away with the need for the sledge – wearing these, you keep going, even if you come off…

98) P: Panic, or Possibly Pneumonia, or Planet, fallen-off-of-the-face-of

OK, my alphabet challenge isn't goign to be finished in a month.  Surpriiise!

I've started a few P-posts, about post offices, parcels, postage, packaging (as in, excessive), but they were all snarky and snide and not really 'me', so I binned 'em.

I'd got stuck on 'P', so I was pouty and petulant and peeved.  And I've spent the last few days feeling slightly panicky – though it's nothing to do with silly alphabet challenges (or even Pyjamas!  Now, that would have been a good P…).

I'm a bit …ill-ish.  I really don't want to sound all dramatic, but I can't quite breathe properly.  My lungs are achey and feel 'clenched', somehow, and it seems there isn't quite as much oxygen in the air as there should be.  It feels like the symptoms of acute, panicky anxiety, and so in a fit of extreme conditioning, my emotions are following suit.  So I've been wandering around feeling anxious and sad and panicky, all because my lungs have led the way.

I have a doctor's appointment in about an hour, and I'm suspecting some sort of chest infection.  Pneumonia would fit the P-theme nicely, but the universe doesn't have to play along with quite such enthusiasm really.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue with the alphabet, but more slowly.  I was failing to keep up with the comments anyway.

Oh – and the person who found this blog by Googling "Can you do 4 shaft patterns on an 8 shaft loom?" – yes.  Yes, you certainly can!  🙂

84) B is for…

better?  J is home from hospital, complete with his appendix and no plans to have it removed.  Whilst I'm not familiar with this concept of appendicitis 'getting better', Mum has reminded me that doctors used to talk about people having a 'grumbling appendix', so maybe we'll call it that.  Everybody repeat after me, in your best 'Dr. Nick' voice: "Feengers crossed, everrybodee!"

B is also for beer!  J and I started brewing our first batch of beer that isn't made from a kit, a few weeks ago.  It's a Belgian Wit (wheat) beer, flavoured with orange and coriander seed, and uses real, actual hops and torrified wheat, as well as the more familiar malt extract.  It's a step towards doing full mash, or all grain, brewing, which feels so much more 'real' to me than using tinned extracts.  It also means that, once you know what you are doing, you get far more control over the final flavours in your brew.

It also means you have to boil the ingredients for about an hour, depending on the recipe.  We have a special mash tun and boiling vessel, which is a plastic tub with a very serious heating element in the base, and a thermostat.  You can use this to do the vigorous boil, or the gentler, more refined heating that is required to get the sugars out of the malted barley (or the wheat, in this case). When you add the hops, they float on top of everything else:


But by the time the boil is done, they're significantly less buoyant.

This is really a spring/summer drink, so here's hoping it keeps well!  It's almost finished fermenting now; we should be bottling in a week or so…