Monday, 15 June 2015

Another 5 years gah! AKA what I'm doing about the UK election result

Hey ducks,

Just to give you the heads up there's no sewing in this post and it's of a political nature an I won't be offended if you don't read but I should let you know there will be probably be a lot more politics in my writing going forward. This is because as well as the many other things I am in my life I have discovered I am political.

How are we? I hope at nearly midway through the year your plans and schemes are coming good and that the sun is shining on you.  I'm happy to report in my tiny corner of the world the sun has firmly got his hat on after what has been an interminable winter.

I realise I often start with a little overview of the weather but I like to feel it sets the scene for you and it's a very British thing to do :)

Average British summer scene :)

Now that you've been advised of the meterological forecast for Brighton can I just say a huge, fat, loving, thank you for all your kind words about my post about mental health.  It was truly heart warming to have so many of you get in touch and share your own stories both publicly and privately.  I got very emotional reading your comments it was a beautiful reminder of how amazing people are. 

On that note let me get to what this post is all about, which is people.  It's just over a month now since I woke up and discovered to my horror that a lot of people had decided to vote a conservative government back into power in the UK.  I'd been very buoyed when I arrived at my polling station at 7.30am to find a queue round the block.  I've got suffragettes in my family tree and to see so many people keen to get make their views heard gets me emotional. My Nan always used to say women gave everything they could to give you choice even their lives and by voting you're saying thank you.  It was lovely to see people with their children on the way to school lining up outside and explaining what it was all about.

Through the immediacy of social media it seemed like this was the same story all over our little island.  People were turning up in droves to put crosses in the boxes and see the changes, that desperately needed making, happen.  By the time I got to my dears, the Prestonville Knitters, for stitch and bitch I was positively jubliant we would get the result we were all wanting - David (ham face) Cameron and his cronies out and a healthy mix of labour and green to attone both people and the planet.  Everyone that kept coming into the pub was saying they'd just voted and they couldn't get over the queues.  We felt assured we would get what we wanted.  My twitter timeline trended it, Facebook posted it, the media was awash with it and people in the street were certain it was done.  You can then only imagine my extreme disappointment when I went home at 10pm and turned on to the exit polls with a Tory majority.  My timeline was then awash with people absolutely shocked and horrified.  I decided that I wasn't going to stay up because I didn't want to go to bed crying and was instead going to believe that as is often true that it was all speculation and the next day we would wake up to a brave new world. 
Margaret Mead provides me with some great advice and I leaned on her quotes when I woke up on 8th May to the shocking news the UK had voted a conservative government into majority rule.
I did indeed rise to a brave new world but sadly not the one myself or anyone I know voted for.  Personally, I voted green and specifically for Caroline Lucas.  I think very highly of her as a consituency MP and having been fortunate enough to meet her I think she's also a wonderful human being who is willing to fight hard for all the things that I think matter.  In Brighton we were in the minority in that we were happy with our choices.  Our little city by the sea re-elected the first and only green MP and Hove voted to see get rid of the conservatives and install labour. 
Pictorial proof that my home is an island of sanity in a sea of insanity.  In the midst of the misery Jason Smart declared independence - the People's Republic of Brighton & Hove
It was a little ray of sunshine to have confirmed what I already knew that Brighton may not be where I'm from but it's where I'm meant to be :)  Though despite my own happiness I was heartbroken about the national result.  I was sorry to know that there were so many people who would choose to make things worse for the most worst off in our society.  During the 5 years of coalition rule I have worked in various roles alongside my self-employed work and these have included the NHS and the public sector. I've seen how awful ordinary people's lives are being made under austerity whilst the bankers that caused the financial crisis carry on getting bonuses, cooperations continue to dodge billions of pounds of tax whilst the poorest in society have their benefits cut without consequence and find themselves desperate and reliant on foodbanks or full prey to unscrupulous moneylenders.  It sounds Dickensian but sadly it's the situation in the UK right now.

As I walked into work on 8th May and saw the upset on people's faces I decided that I was going to choose hope over despair and give all I can to making a change.  They can't cut compassion and there's no tax on kindness.
Again I find myself saying I'm not an expert but I, you -  we still have a voice and the power to execute change. I thought what my Nan said about voting and choice and we still have that.  We don't have to make things easy for this government that we didn't choose.  It's a numbers game and there's a few hundred of them and gad knows how many of us. 
Specifically I am and you can:
  • Vote
  • Lobby things I don't agree with at every opportunity
  • Sign petitions that matter
  • Join a union
  • Give what I can to charity
  • Volunteer - I know we all have a great many skills that could be really put to good use
  • Donate to foodbanks
  • Join a political party
  • Get involved with  local community groups who are trying to make a difference
  • Patronise local businesses
  • Talk to my neighbours and improve my community
  • Stop spending money on corporations who are avoiding tax
  • Join the WI (or similar)
  • Support those taking strike action
  • Engage with like minded people
  • Engage with people who don't share my views in a positive mannrer and explain to them why I feel this government isn't good for any of us
  • Attend marches and rallies
  • Be kind and compassionate to those less fortunate than me
  • Never go quietly.
Since the result I've put a good few of these that I wasn't already doing into action.
Yesterday, I was one of 1000 cyclists that attended my local naked bike ride, which is part of National Bike Week  that runs from the 13th - 21st June
The world naked bike rides have been going on for a number of years and their aim is to create a "cleaner, safer, body postive world".  All things I thoroughly support and it also gave me the opportunity to air my political views clearly.  WARNING: There's a little nudity below and I've no desire to offend anyone but if you're not bothered by a touch of nipple then carry on reading :)
TITS NOT TORIES! - We need to get the message across with everything we've got and in my case that includes boobs :)
Yesterday, (14th June) at the bike ride was amazing.  It was so incredible to be surrounded by so many compassionate people that like me believe in their own power to bring about change. 
That's why I'll be attending the the march against austerity organised by the People's Assembly on 20th June at Midday. 
It will be a chance to make our voices heard and to quote Ghandi, "be the change you want to see".  I understand it's not possible for everyone that wants to attend to get there but if you check out the links above there will be something going on local to you.  I've got a huge gob though and I'll be using it to speak up for me, you and all those that can't. 
Right so that's me signing off for my last post of 34.  I promise there will be sewing in the next one because I think sewing in its way is a political act but hey that's a whole other post :)
Love, light and proud to still be Mis-Shapen
Miss D


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Making and mending - a post about mental health.

 This is a line from a Leonard Cohen song - Anthem.  He says it better than I can but then he says most things better than most people and that's why he's Leonard Cohen (thanks to my friend, Aymi for introducing me).  Doesn't mean he's always happy.  That in itself is a good thing in my opinion.

Hello my loves,

Thank you so much for your kind words about my last post and your warm welcome back to the blogosphere.  I am super happy to be writing to you all again.  This post is text heavy and will contain a little bit more about sewing than my last  but mostly about how sewing helped me recover so I won't be offended if you don't read, as this is after all a sewing blog.  Though because I am both writer and editor of this here journal I get to make the rules *boss face*

It's Friday afternoon in Brighton and I'm looking out over the seaside and it looks more mid winter than late spring.  The sky is bullet grey and even the seagulls look a little bit more agro than usual.  I also didn't get a job I went for on Tuesday (the feedback on my interview was really good though so it's just a case of keep knocking on those doors).  However, I feel quite content and I know that means I'm well.  The reason I know this is because when I was a sick a day like today might have made my mind wander to the place where the crap thoughts are that make me feel really shit.  You know the kind of thing - Oh Rehanon you don't know what you're doing. You're kidding yourself.  You shouldn't have done this!  You should have done that! You're too old.  You'll never be happy, blah, blah, blah - bore off!  This still happens but it's normally just a quick cursory visit and I certainly don't set up camp there like I used to.

This year's Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on mindfulness and how it can help us.  Along with time, craft, exercise and therapy it helped me.

I've set out to write this post many times but other thoughts (mostly nice ones these days) came into my head or the time wasn't right or I didn't have enough time or I didn't have enough words or even too many :) but that's the thing with mental health there's no time like the present. It's only in the here and now we can do stuff about it.  As it is, in the UK it's Mental Health Awareness Week and I think that's a pretty appropriate time to share my story and raise some awareness.

Before I go any further I just want to highlight the fact that I'm no expert and neither do I claim to be.  I've got no professional training and I know people who had much more difficult experiences than me.  I'm just telling you my story because that's one of the things I think is really important in tackling the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.  I feel like it's so important to be open and to be aware when people are talking to you because that might be the day, that they say, "I just wanted to say I'm not actually fine and I'm struggling and I need a bit of help."  Life is really hard sometimes even when to all intense and purposes it seems like you're just sailing along.  Deep down I think most of us know that but by saying yeah it happened to me and I was able to do something about it and now I'm in much better place is good for all concerned.  So these days I when I see stuff in the media saying you should be this, that or the other I say fuck off the only thing I should be is me.  Counselling taught me that but more on that later.

I've no real idea how many people read my ponderings but I figure if even one person reads it and it encourages them to seek the help or at the very least make them realise that their mental health is nothing to be ashamed of then that's no bad thing.  Shame is in fact the one thing that didn't stop me from writing about my mental health issues.  I actually never felt ashamed, which when I look back makes me wonder why I did leave it so long to get help.  One thing I think it could have been was that for as long as I can remember people have come to me for advice and I guess I thought if people are asking for my help then surely I can't need it myself.  My ex partner though, who is a very good egg and a great friend to this day knew I needed help for a long time and he often told me so. I hasten to add it was in a really lovely non-judgemental way because he wanted what was best for me.  He also picked me up for a long time too and then he finally let me pick myself up and that just made me realise even more how much he cared.  Actually, I had several people very close to me who knew I wasn't well and they all helped me on the road to brighter days and I can never thank them enough.

Looking back on it all I guess I thought I would just get better over time as after all it is meant to be a great healer.   What mattered to me so much at 25 matters so little as I'm one month and two days from 35 but at the time I know I felt completely different.  The other side of the coin is that not all my days were sad.  In the midst of some times where I felt so sad  and everything was going wrong and I just felt so lost, I had moments that when I think about them now make me heady with joy.  That's one of the real shockers about mental illness, really "happy" people suffer.  It's another reason why I wanted to write this post because there were a lot of people that were really shocked when I admitted I'd had a breakdown because I'm considered to be a really positive person.  That's another part of why mental illness can be so tough to deal with.  You even end up arguing with yourself  and then you just try and block the feelings and it only magnifies the pain.  Happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive but when I finally admitted I was ill the sad times were far out weighing the happy times and in my mind I couldn't see that it was ever going to change.

Despite some really low points I managed to get through university and I got my degree and then I walked across Spain.  When I think about it now it was doing that, which kept me going much longer before asking for help.  I think it was then I realised exercise was really important to my mental wellbeing.  After this I pushed on through my late 20s drifting along and feeling less and less in control of the direction of my life.  I just kept going because I thought that's what you did and in hindsight I was clearly scared that if I stopped that's when it would all come tumbling down.  By the time my 30th birthday was coming around I was forced to stop and that's when I did fall all the way down.

The fear of coming apart was far worse than the actual reality.  The reality being that in May 2010 after a series of events that found me back in Brighton a place that makes me happy to this day I finally had the nervous breakdown I'd be running from.  After another night of disturbed sleep I was sitting on my own in a very ordinary office doing a temping job.  As I typed I started wondering whether I was ever going to be doing something I really I loved and telling myself I'd let life pass me by.  This thought pattern took over until I had made myself believe I was never going to be happy again and then I had a full on panic attack.  I was crying my eyes out and I could hardly breathe.  

I managed to get to the toilet and ring one of my close friends.  She was amazing and she told me really calmly I was going to be okay and I just needed to trust her.  Everyone was at a meeting so she told me to go on early lunch and she would meet me outside.  I did what she said because I just couldn't think straight.  I sat with her for an hour crying and apologising for being a state and that I just needed a bit of sleep and I'd be fine. She told me she'd been worried about me for a long time but you can't push people to admit things that they don't want to and you just have to be there when they're ready.  All things I would have said if I was talking to someone else.  She rang my GP and got me an appointment after work.  I went along and I was fortunate to speak with a really kind doctor who listened to me explain about how sad I was feeling and how scared it was making me.  He felt that although I was deeply anxious and really unwell that I didn't need medicine but counselling.

Following my appointment my GP referred me to a mental health clinic in Brighton who are also a charity and I was lucky enough to be seen within a week.  I am beyond grateful for this and another reason why I wanted to write about my experience as sadly this is not true for everyone and mental illness needs to be viewed as equally as any other illness.  I would describe my counsellor as the best kind of aunt you could wish for.  In my first session I said to her I think I'd probably just over reacted and I didn't want to take up her time as I had no idea what I'd speak to her about for an hour every week.  She smiled and said, "well let's just chat about your day and see how we go."  In the end it actually took 3 months for me to bring her to point where I collapsed in the office.  She made me realise  that I wasn't weak and my mind was just really tired of being strong and it just needed a rest.  

In the end I saw Babs on and off for 18 months.  In that time life marched on and I moved to London for work and my relationship with my ex finally finished after 10 years.  I was so scared that I would get sick again but my counsellor made me realise that wasn't going to happen and it was just another hurdle.  She was right and even though I was really sad about us I knew it was for the best and that we were returning to where we started, which was being great friends.  As my head got clearer and I started to realise that I wasn't my thoughts I had more space and in that space I began sewing, I started running again and I slowly started to see that I had a future.

It's now 5 years since my breakdown and I feel really well.  That is I'm happy more often than I'm not :) It may seem an odd thing to say but I wouldn't choose to forgo what happened to me. I just think the wonkiness in my head is as I call it is no different to my weak knee left leg.  Both just require a little extra care and attention to function properly.  I know that eating well, sleeping properly, asking for help when I need it and making time for the things that make me happy like sewing, running, knitting, lying in the hallway with my legs up the wall listening to Pulp and spending time with the people that love me for me. Basically, just being me. Equally, I learned we all just need to keep trying everyday and some days will be extraordinary and others not so much but that's what make life interesting.  Ultimately, though I found out good and bad, light and dark I like who Rehanon is and that seems as a good place as any to end up at nearly halfway to 70 :)

Here are some contact details in case you do want talk to someone.  You really aren't alone and I promise you people really do care.

This is Miss Demeanour signing off and saying no matter what you might think right now I know you're amazing.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Jam & Jersusalem and Beers & Burlesque aka Why I WI

Giving my widest WI smile to commuters on United Nations International Day of Happiness

Hey all,

It's been a while *face of putting it mildly*.  I have missed you and this blog but I'm back behind the keys and the sewing  machine.  I'm not sure whether it's the realisation it's been a year since I waddled into my first day in a new job (was only meant to be 2 weeks has been a year) because I'd run the Virgin London marathon.  Maybe it was the inspiring talk we had from Bikeit Ben from Sustran at my WI meeting a couple of weeks ago or maybe because I wrote "start blogging again" in my passion planner (my attempt to bring organisation into the House of Demeanour) or a possibly a mix of all three. I summise a mixture of all of the above coupled with seeing "write a post" languishing week after week on my ever increasing to do list has galvanised me into action.  It's funny isn't it that when life gets a little unwieldy the casualties are often the things we love doing. 

Wise words as always from Maya. I've got this stuck on my laptop to remind me how much I love writing.
The other nuts thing is that I've written hundreds of posts in my head in the last few months but they've just not managed to make it on screen.  That said I think a good few of them will over the next few weeks as I get back in the saddle so to speak.  For now though it's best to stick with the topic in hand, which is the WI.

It's my calling card!

As those who follow me throughout the social media sphere  and who know me in real life know I'm a member of my local WI, Brighton Belles.  The reason you will have wind of this is because I wax lyrical about it at every given opportunity.  There has been a great many things that have been ace about my 30s so far but joining such a positive, diverse, progressive, kind, community minded and humourous bunch of women is right up there.

A lovely bunch of Brighton Belles
This year the WI celebrates its centenary. There is much cause for celebration because since its beginnings in 1915 as a drive to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War it has been an incredible force for postive change. This alone is a huge part of the reason I'm so proud to say I'm a member.  Here's just a few of the things that this wonderful organisation has made happen:
  • Policewomen - In 1922 the WI passed a resolution to campaign for the reinstatement of women police officers following their disbanding after the war. They lobbied the goverment heavily and gained the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This led to the recruitment of greater numbers of women in the police during WWII and by 1944 over 335 policewomen were employed across Britain.  Women now make up over 25% of the total police force.
  • Equal Pay - The WI passed a resolution calling for 'equal pay for equal work’ in 1943 and campaigned tirelessly for this until 1970 when the Equal Pay Bill was passed.  From 1970 onwards it was illegal to pay men more than women for work of equal value.
  • Environment - In 1954 at the annual conference members were appalled by the state of rubbish and litter across the country and passed a resolution, which went on to form 'The Keep Britain Tidy' group.  This directly led to the passing of the 1958 Litter Act.
  • Family planning - 1974 saw the WI's lobbying of government and mobilising of its county federations lead to family planning services being offered as a normal part of the free NHS.  They continued to lobby for contraception to be made available to all no matter what their age or marital status.
These are just a few of thing things that the WI has made happen in its last 100 years.  Making life better for both women and  society as a whole.  How could I not want to be a part of such a fantastic organisation?  I don't really need other reasons but here are a few anyway:

The WI taught me you can use icecream to make cocktails.
They gave me the chance to make people dance whilst raising money for a great cause.
I get the chance to do ace things like help at a marathon whilst wearing a comedy moustache.
I've gained new interests.  I was told at school that I wasn't arty but the chance to try out a life drawing class with the WI suggested otherswise. I'm no Picasso but I really enjoyed it.
I get to indulge my love of making and eating cake at brilliant events like Pride.

I think what I love most about the WI though is the fact that I get to make friends with really amazing women who believe change is possible.
So there you have it folks in a nutshell that's why I WI.  If you're local to Brighton we meet the second Monday of every month at Donatello's in the Laines from 7pm - 9pm.  We are always looking out for new members and I can say whole heartedly we are all good eggs. Our next meeting is Monday 11th and we'll be raw chocolate tasting.  You'd be crazy not to!
If you're further a field but my ramblings have pricked your interest here is a link to find your nearest WI. I promise you won't regret it.
Well I think that's quite enough from me.  I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favourites, Margaret Mead.  She sums it up well.
Yours fabulously,
Miss D xxx


Monday, 9 June 2014

Hatches, Matches & Dispatches aka Me Made May 2014

My life is handmade.

Hello darlings,

How are we in June?!  Quick pass me the gin for in just over a week's time  the counter will reset and I will be at another age my 34th to be exact.  Ah what am I saying I'm not scared of the advancing years for everyone is to be savoured plus I was mistaken for 24 recently so there you go.  I put it down to good genes, the drinking, smoking and questionable life choices ;)

Anywho as it has been for the last 3 years my birthday has been proceeded by  Me Made May hosted by our Hostess with the mostest, Zoe and ably assisted by the adorbs Dolores this year, which I've found has been a really nice way to start the phase of reflection and review  I always seem to enter into on the run up to my birthday.  It kinda seals the deal on the last 12 months and gives me a chance to work out how and where I go to next initially in sewing but then with this whole merry dance we call life. 

Yves knew what he was talking about and I heartily concur.

The meaning behind my chosen blog title of  "hatches, matches and dispatches" is that this year's MMMAY14' involved life's key events i.e. birth, marriage and death and handmade was worn for all of them.  During the merry month of May I celebrated the start of life for  my brand new niece courtesy of my baby bro Jamie and his darling lady, Sophie. Maggie Rose May Mackenzie born 24th May 2014 weighing 6lbs 11ozs and sharing her birthday with Bob Dylan she's guaranteed to be a legend :) As soon I got the call I buzzed straight up on the train to make my acquaintance in the electric blue skater skirt with handmade gifts in tow obvs.

Darling girl with her whole life ahead of her and already rocking handmade courtesy of her Great Nanny Brenda and her ace knitting skills.

I finally managed to get my head round magic loop knitting (it's amazing don't be scared, it'll set you free!) and produced these two hats for Maggie's little swede :) The top pattern is a basic baby hat found here and the bottom is the baby berry hat found here and they're both free.  Yay for selfless crafters woot!

Earlier in the month we celebrated the union of dear friends of the family.  Tania and Joe got married on 3rd May and as soon as I received my invitation my first thought was ooh lovely another reason to make a frock.  For this occasion I chose to whip up my very first Anna and the Kiss and Make Up maxi was born and worn to great effect.  I've known both of them since they were little and the bride's Ma and Pa are great friends of the family and it was a beautiful day full of family, friends, tears of joy and laughter.

The happy couple - may the road rise up to meet them at every turn :)

The day of the wedding 3rd May also happened to be my dear brother's birthday.  Here's darling Ben a rose between two thorns ;)

May also heralds as it will every year the anniversary of the passing of our friend Tania just a few days before her 45th birthday and as sad has her loss was and still is I am happy to have a woollen tribute to her.  I feel like she'll forever be around weaved into every stitch of the Tangerine Dream that she inspired me to make. 

A fond farewell to MMMAY14 in my loud and happy tangerine tribute to a loud and lovely lady who just didn't get long enough.

So as May rolled on by and the big stuff came around it got me to thinking about my sewing and my life in general.  I've realised on my journey to 34 I'm wearing more hats than ever - a woman, a daughter, a sister, an aunty, a friend, a writer, a rebel, a vinyl junkie, a feminist, a wanderer, an old romantic, a diehard Pulp fan, a runner, a baker, a dreamer, a dancer, a raver, a triathlete in training, a wannabe drag queen, a member of the WI ah the list goes on and on but what underlies them all is my making.  Wherever this merry dance now takes me it'll be in handmade as it has been for the last 3 years.   Learning to sew in 2011 was pretty much the best decision I've made in my adult life.  As I once told a fellow sewist, Tilly it made me more me than I ever knew possible :)  

Speaking of Tilly here's my latest make and finished at the tail end of May.  My very first Miette aka the Immaculate Collection skirt named so because large black and white polka dots always make me think of 80s Madge (the best Madge IMO).  This pattern is ace and there will be more.

Me Made May this year made me believe completely in the power of clothes to lift you.  One of my favourite fashion icons, Cyndi Lauper once said, "On your darkest days wear your brightest colours" and I think she's completely right.  Whatever I find myself doing in life I'll be able to make just the right thing to grace it in.  The month just gone I realised that I've haven't shopped for clothes for such a long time because fast fashion is exactly that it's just a quick fix and it doesn't make me happy because it's got no feeling in it.  People always comment on the fact that they love I name all the clothes I make.  I name them because they feel like they've got a personality or they make me feel a certain emotion when I wear them and because I know the process that when into creating them I cherish them and make the most of them.  My Nan was a prolific sewist and always talked about saving up to make "the dress" or "the coat" and she loved her clothes so much because they were her.  

So I've figured out during this May that sewing is not just a hobby but a way of life that's going to make me happy for the rest of my dance :)

As I've talked a lot about life in this post I'll sign off with song that says everything I wish for my new niece's one.  It was my housemate and friend Aymi that remarked that Maggie shares her birthday with Bob and as always he's got just the right words.  I listened to it just after she was born and burst into tears of joy :)

Life is the for the living so wear what you love and love what you wear.

Miss D


Thursday, 15 May 2014

The only things that separates us from the animals is our ability toaccessorise aka my sew late sew dolly clackett frock.

This is Lovejoy and the use of  him doesn't require reason.

Hey party people,

How the devil are we?  Swell I hope :)  I myself am slightly left of the middle after wrangling with with three different types of spandex but hey you gotta roll with the punches.  As the title of this wee post suggests this is the dress I made in  honour of our darling of the dress dearest Dolly Clackett aka Roisin.

The little darling with the gorgeous ooobop and me cradling a Terry at her surprise supercalifragalisticexpialidcious spoolette hen do organised by the epic trio of Claire, Sally and Jane.  Fabulous photo by Katie

I won't go into huge detail because this ship has already hauled anchor in suitably fabulous fashion :) but in case you've not been round these parts for a while this is the squeeze.  Darling girl is getting wedded to her swell fella Nic (I can vouch for his swellness having drank, chatted and danced with the dude he's good people) tomorrow.  In honour of the sheer fabulosity of Roisin and the joy supreme of the occasion the lovely Sarah from Rhinestone and Telephones hosted Sew Dolly Clackett.  Things like this make my cup runneth over for the sewing community.  Can you honestly get a more supportive loving bunch yay us *chuck pompoms in the air*.  Anywho the sewalong rang from February to April and there were lots of prizes to be won, which were indeed won by v worthy winners. 

Check out Roisin's post with dresses so sweet they'll give you a toothache :) Long and short of it was I knew I wasn't gonna  get my frock done during the the timeframe but I just wanted to get it done anywho to celebrate the little firecracker she is.  Plus fittingly this dress got worn to  the wonderful wedding of our friends Tania and Jo and I do love it when a story dove tails :) 


Here she is my so (sew) late addition to Sew Dolly Clackett - the kiss and make up maxi.  Made using the gorgeous By Hand London Anna, which is hugely favoured by Roisin and hot ass sewists alike and now me too.  I tell you for why because despite my height that would, you imagine v much suit a maxi all RTWs one I've tried have made me look like bad drag.  Hell I loves me some bad drag but there's only so many looks a gal can rock in one life  time but Anna has well and truly broken the curse.  Size wise I cut a 20 and dipped the double pleats at the front 2cm to release the girls into the wild with enough space to roam free.  I shaved 1.5cm off side seams from armhole to waist and dispensed with the back darts.  So all in all very minimal effort required for maximum effect huzzah!  I think next time I could afford to the lengthen the  bodice a little but hey that's small fry.

This is me and my sister giving it our best Joan and Jackie with her little munchins.  As you can see a love of big hair and big jewellery runs in the fam :)
As previously tested by me By Hand London patterns are good for being active in having run a marathon in Flora I can confirm Anna was excellent for all manner of shape chucking on the dancefloor. My friend Ronnie and I appear to be invoking the spirit of the dance lol!
So there you have it the kiss and make up maxi in honour of Roisin.  I think as is tradition at a wedding I would like to give a speech but in the form of a poem to celebrate this lovely lady and her impending nuptials to her charming man :) *raises glass of gin*
Dear Dolly
I write these lines in honour of a lady,
in who's company I have drank plenty of wines,
This is a woman who truly rocks the frocks she chooses,
and hell don't get me started on her awe inspiring collection of shoes (kinda rhymes - poetic licence)
We met online via twitter,
She much like me enjoys a good witter,
Then just over a year ago today happily we met in real life,
and tomorrow she'll become Dr Nic's wife,
He's a lucky old swine,
but rightly so because just like the band she loves together they are divine,
They both enjoy a good crime drama like Morse,
and there's Law and Order of course,
She's sewn her own dress to sashay down the aisle,
and I know for sure Nic's will be the biggest smile,
And when all the formalities done and they've signed their marriage rights,
They'll meet on the dancefloor and perform Wuthering Heights,
To both of you I send  my warmest regards,
because the pair of you are the best kind of cards!
Have the best day tomorrow my lovelies you totally deserve it.. You guys are gonna be so happy and  I know the road will rise up to meet you at every turn.  Huge amounts of love to you both it's an absolute pleasure to call you friends :)
I leave you with this image taken on Monday night at the hen do  I can only assume I'm doing some form of invocation of the good wedding spirits or I'm half cut and throwing shapes either way it goes out to you.
Love and all the joys it brings,
Miss D

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Why I like nothing better than a good stitch and a bitch and how I aim to use this to improve Anglo Canadian relations or She Don't Use Jelly aka as I finished my tangerine jumper

Hello my sweet things,

How the devil are we all?  I for one am embracing the long overdue spring gracing our fair isle by lying on the grass at lunchtime barefoot.  I really do hope it's here to stay even though I've finally finished the woolfest that is the tangerine dream. So typical of me to present the world with a heavy Aran jumper just as the temperature starts to soar.  Fear not though because she's not a seasonal whimsy but an heirloom to be cherished year upon year.

I  think it's best to start at the beginning so let me take you back to when I first came to Brighton and indeed crafting.  As I previously documented I found myself back in B town in 2010 and I spent the summer getting reacquainted with the area.  By the time autumn came I was itching to take up a new hobby to while away the long nights and at that point with my leg still being naff, running wasn't an option. Instead I found myself getting into crochet.  I think I was in Urban Outfitters of all places and I spied the book below and decided to have a crack at crochet.  I made some pandas whilst watching a documentary on the Savoy narrated by Stephen Fry whilst quaffing a full bodied red.  It was then and there I thought I think I'm gonna bloody like this crafting lark.

This book is ace by the way and I highly recommend.

Not long after that I suffered the dreaded insomnia and was up late and crocheting and ended up googling sewing and started reading dear Tilly's blog and woosh my pilot light was lit and sewing was the next thing on the agenda.  I spent a good chuck of  2011 flexing my sewing muscles having hooked up with darling Zoe who herself was a new B town resident.  She massively encouraged me and aided and abetted me with fabric.  The summer flew by and as autumn returned I had a yearning for the yarn once more.  It was at this time I discovered a Stitch and Bitch  at wool shop a few roads from my house and met some amazing ladies and a fella and the best way of spending a Thursday night.

Our original home in Purl until the shop closed.  Where much wine and tea were drunk and laughs were had.

Our new home in the Prestonville Arms in Seven Dials where the wine still flows free and there's an open fire!

Once Purl closed we knew that we all still wanted to meet because what better way can there be to spend a Thursday night than drinking cava, eating chips and discussing bad taxidermy.  Yes bad taxidermy that is one of the topics we return to again and again and I still have no idea why.  After a long week at work there's times when I think oh I'm a bit too tired to go tonight but I kick my ass and I go and I'm always glad of it because it completely lifts me out of whatever funk I'm in.  It's definitely a kind of therapy and all of us have turned up at times with a lot on our plates and we've all gone home laughing and feeling a lot better about life. We've become real life friends to and have celebrated the wedding of one stitcher and the birth of another one's small person plus all the other triumphs in life.  I can thoroughly recommend joining a stitch and bitch group if you want to dip your toe in the crafty waters and meet fantastic people.    I think without them the tangerine dream would have been just that a dream.  I had lots of encouragement and advice from the ladies, which ultimately saw her become a reality. So now you've had the background to this yarn (sorry couldn't resist) I'll bring you to the main event.

The crossover from crochet to knitting came when I promised a lovely lady who is sadly no longer with us anymore that I would keep the knitting flame burning bright.

Tanya, a close family friend, lovely Mam,a champion knitter and all round good egg who sadly lost her battle with cancer 2 years ago today.  

She was an incredible person with an iron will.  She knitted up until she was too ill to.  The last time I saw her we were really laughing about whatever mad item of clothing I was wearing and she was at peace with what was happening to her.  For me it was tinged with sadness because I knew it would probably be the last time I saw her alive.  She loved all my crafty ways and made me promise I  would give knitting a go and I said I'd give it my best shot.  She died a a few days before her 45th birthday and when my Mam phoned to tell me I cried my eyes out and then I made a call to Purl and got booked on the beginner's knitting course because I wasn't going to let a dear friend down.  All the way through the knitting of the tangerine dream I've thought of Tanya and when I thought about chucking it in because it was taking ages or was too difficult I was reminded that to live this life is a privilege and not a given.  So I best to be sure to give mine a damn good go to honour the passing of hers.  It feels like she's weaved into all the strands :)

The book in, which I found inspiration.

Once I'd got a bit of practice under my belt I was gifted the above book in June 2012 for my 32nd birthday. Flicking through it I thought the designs looked pretty advanced bu then I saw her and fell in love.

All parts of me then and now know that tackling an Aran cardigan as your first knit project is not entirely advisable but neither is walking across France and Spain in Crocs but I did that as well.

I kinda figured from small acorns mighty oaks grow and what was the point in knitting a scarf if I wanted a 1960s style tangerine cardigan.  So out went reason to be replaced by my enthusiasm and belief that will a little elbow grease I could knit this baby.  Unfortunately the first hurdle I hit was that the wool I required for the project wasn't available in Europe.  I kid you not the email I received from Malabrigo on trying to source the wool had the subject, "Trouble at mill".  I was not to be thwarted nor was I going to even attempt to substitute.  I was already enough of a rookie on a difficult project let alone adding anymore uncertainty into the mix.

Eventually managed to source it from America and they were doing an offer so it worked out really reasonable and arrived in time for me to walk across Scotland with it.  What more perfect location to start an Aran jumper?

Once I'd gained gauge, which took several attempts I got stuck in and cast on the back, which I think was 150 stitches and the full enormity of what I was doing hit me.  This was November 2012.

I tried to knit most days and many times employed initiative when I couldn't find a cable needle.

I had a bit of a break in early 2013 but my March as spring was springing I was breaking the back of the back.

By May 2013 the back was finally done after having to frog 30 rows at the top after not realising I'd lost my place and thought oh I'll knit  through it will sort itself out.  I warn you this is the belief of a fool.  I eventually  had to admit defeat and rip it all back.  This was when I knew I was gonna finish the swine because although there were public tears on a very busy bus no part of me wanted to say sod it and chuck it out of the window.

Summer came round again bringing with it it holidays and hi jinx.  Progress slowed but on I plodded much to the surprise of myself and those around me who had worried I might get bored and it would be forever a WIP. I can actually say hand on heart I enjoyed the whole experience despite the tears, which I guess is a testament to doing what you want rather than what you should.

Finally, in the September 2013 there was a woollen vest that Delilah dutifully wore all through the winter.  Helpful gal that she is :)

All that was left with the sleeves and I thought ooh blink and they will be done.  Fortunately one of my very wise stitch and bitch buddies, Renee leveled with me and said, "honey the sleeves are like knitting a whole garment again".  This was the reality check I needed because I had delusions of grandeur that I'd be wearing this over the 2013 Christmas period despite a full time job, a shed load of sewing commissions and  marathon training.  Someone needed to put that fire out before I got disheartened and lobbed it in the to be done pile.

By mid January 2014 we had one sleeve.  I hasten to add more wool had to be ordered to finish this beast and again for number two and the making up!

Then hallelujah by 2nd March 2014 she was all knitted and I hit up YouTube to learn mattress stitch for the final push to golden glory.

At last all that was left to do was block it and then pick up stitches and knit the button band.  I decided to go for a wet block after reading it was the best treatment for merino and then for three long days I waited for it to dry out. Then in what I can only assume was a final fit of madness I stayed up until 4am using a crochet hook and a fierce disposition to pick up the stitches from the cast off edge to knit the neckband. On the early hours of 20 March 2014 my woollen baby arrived :)

Welcome to the tangerine dream.

A little from the side.

Check out that decrease in pattern.  That happened!

The face of batshit joy and relief that this woollen beast was finally tamed :)
Phew!  Well if you're still with me then well done because this post was a doosie but I guess that's in keeping with the scope of project.  I'm glad I didn't realise how big a deal knitting this cardigan was gonna be back in June 2012 as I may have tossed it side.  Seeing as this baby encompasses nearly 2 years of my life  I thought I'd chuck in some stats because I'm a bit geeky like that.
Knitting Stats
·         Balls of wool used 13, which equates to 1783m or 1.1 miles.
·         Weight of jumper 1.3kg equal to the weight of an adult human brain.
·         Length of time to complete 504 days, which is equivalent to the gestation period of an elephant.
·         Number of countries knitted in is 4 these are England, Scotland, Germany and Spain.  Most unusual place knitting has taken place is probably outside Amnesia before a night of raving in Ibiza.
·         Number of conversations started up over knitting is too many to count.  Most memorable though would probably be with a lovely Scottish fisherman from Oban whose Mam knitted him several Aran jumpers 30 years ago and they’re still going strong.  He said every clan had a different pattern because if you went overboard you tended to be unrecognisable on recovery but the pattern was easy to identify you as a Mackenzie or Stewart.  Gruesome but nonetheless very interesting.
·         Side eyes from commuting businessmen whilst I knitted and drank cider countless.  I can only think that the consumption of cider and the knitting of an Aran cardigan are mutually exclusive I thank gad they’re not.
·         Number of heartbreaks just one but a big one and one little heart wobble.  All good now though.  Knitting is a good healer :)
·         Number of babies born during the gestation period of my woollen wonder two absolute beauts and one on the way with my gorgeous bro and his lady expecting in two weeks’ time.
·         Number of years the tangerine likely to be worn a lifetime!
So my darlings that is very much that.  I'll leave with a picture of the Gos because rumour has it he is a very keen knitter and I would more than enjoy the opportunity to knock off a few rows with him.  So Ryan if you're reading this the Prestonville Knitters and I meet every Thursday night between 8pm - 10pm at the Prestonville Arms, Brighton.  Obviously, you'll need a place to stay and I'm more than happy to offer mine.  It's no trouble at all ;)  Anyone else fancies a stitch our doors is always open.

Love always,

Miss D