A stormy Sunday

Storm Ciara is currently pelting the UK with wind and rain, so I’ve been staying warm and dry indoors today (apart from my usual Sunday morning run – fortunately the wind hadn’t got up to full strength and the rain hadn’t really started then yet).

Inside, I’m happy to say that things are calm and peaceful – very contrary to the exterior world at the moment! I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years wishing for a simpler life. What I have come to realise more recently, is that life can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. I mean that in relation to all elements of life – from how you relate to the people you live and work with every day, to the amount of stuff you gather around you, to how you think about your future and the plans and dreams that you have.

IMG_6132

I like to think that by and large, I’m a kind person. However, I often think I should be kinder. I’ve realised over the years, from watching other people interact with each other in negative ways, and the problems that can ensue from that, that actually the capacity to be compassionate and kind toward other people has great power to simplify and improve our lives, and the lives of people around us.

IMG_6127

Sure, there will always be some people that I feel a greater affinity for, and liking for than others. But so what? If I make more effort to understand those people with whom I don’t have such innate sympathy, things will be better than they would if I don’t make the effort. So I should try to work on listening to other people more. In this busy world, its so easy for me to rush through life focused only on what is important to myself each day. Sometimes this means hurrying other people through conversations, and not really hearing what they are trying to tell me. However in doing that, not only am I being unfair to the other person, I think I’m also losing part of myself. I’m missing out on finding out about what makes other people tick. And that’s important to me, because despite being an introvert, I like people and I’m interested in them.

The way I see it, taking time to listen to the people around me will help me to understand those people. And, if I understand the people around me, then hopefully spending time with those people will be less complicated than has sometimes been the case.

IMG_6118

I also mentioned the amount of ‘stuff’ which I gather around myself. Like a lot of people these days, I’ve started to feel a little bit weighed down by possessions, and to question why I continue to accumulate things I don’t really need, or can’t use for months. And, yes, I do include yarn in this!

I love to knit and crochet, and I’ll never give it up as long as my hands and fingers hold out. But, I’ve allowed myself to accumulate far to many un-used balls and skeins of yarn. I don’t really know how it happened, but it’s reached the point where I have boxes and boxes in the cupboard. I really want to change this situation, because it’s actually started to become a source of stress to me. So, I have some rules for myself here:

  1. No buying yarn for at least another 6 months. All projects made in that time must therefore use of something from the stash.
  2. No making of things that I have no use for. This will require some creativity in terms of projects given the ban on buying, but I don’t want to end up making a load of items that will just sit in the wardrobe unworn instead of sitting in the cupboard un-knitted. That would not be progress. If I really struggle to find things to make with my stash or don’t want to make the things I can, then I will either consider selling the yarn, or make something and give it to a friend whom I think will appreciate it.
  3. Think creatively (see above). Given that I can’t buy new yarn, and am determined to try and use as much of my stash as possible in the next few months this may mean that in order to make things which I know I will either be able to use myself, or find a loving home for, I’ll need to think outside the box. This could mean adjusting patterns for a different weight of yarn (eep!) or combining yarns of different weight to reach the required weight.

So these are the three golden rule which I’ll be following this year! We’ll see how it’s going come July. Wish me luck, and please, if you can any stash-busting tips, please let me know!

IMG_6117

I found a brilliant newsagents in London back in January, which stocks heaps and heaps of independent magazines. There are few really great independent mags around now that I really love, but they can be a struggle to find as they aren’t stocked by the regular high street newsagents. So, when I heard that Koel magazine had a new issue just out, I headed over there to see if they had a copy. I was so excited to discover that they did! I’ve heard of this magazine before, but have never seen it for sale in the flesh. So I’ve been happily flicking through that, on and off since triumphantly bringing it home yesterday.

My crochet cotton bed spread is also now in a virtually finished state (ends fastened in and everything), so I am looking forward to sharing details soon, maybe in my next post.

Soft grey

My first garment of the year came off the needles yesterday. It’s the ‘Wished‘ cardigan by Kim Hargreaves, from one of her latest pattern books.

I really love how it turned out. It’s a little roomier than I was expecting. I knitted the smallest size, and it’s fairly loose fitting. I love it though, and I think it’ll get worn a lot. It’s a short of chic Grandad style cardigan. Very simple and classic. I chose to make it in the same marled grey shade shown in the pattern book. I love grey and have a fairly monochrome wardrobe these days – all my things are mainly grey, black, white and navy blue with the occasional soft pink or brown.

IMG_6100

It should be simple to style this cardigan with different clothes for different days. With black trousers and brogues it’ll be perfect for work during the week, and the with jeans and brogues or ankle boots for the weekend.

IMG_6097

 

IMG_6102

It’s heartening to think there’s only one week left in January now. It’s been a good month on the whole, and I’ve actually enjoyed easing back into the year, and trying to pick up some new habits on the way. I haven’t been perfect, but that’s never the point. I’m reaching the end of the month feeling pleased that I’ve managed to keep up fairly well with most of my resolutions for 2020, bar a few mis-steps and moments of doubt along the way! I’m looking forward to February as well, and to getting back out into nature with my camera a bit more as the days slowly start to lengthen and the weather (hopefully) improves. I always love this time of year, when winter comes to an end and spring is just around the corner. The air suddenly freshens. One day, leaving work you suddenly realise that even though its 5pm, it’s not dark yet. One day you go outside and the sun has a tiny extra bit of warmth, and that clarity of light that only comes with spring.

IMG_6031

I’m cherishing hopes for 2020, and looking forward to outdoor adventures and simple pleasures of sunshine and fresh air coming soon. I hope all of you are too.

 

 

Snowdrops

It’s snowdrop season here in the Southeast of England. I’m a city dweller – I live in London. London has it’s good points, but I think in my heart of hearts, I’m a country girl. Because of this, I often feel slightly stifled by the city. I wish I could spend more time out in green spaces. I miss the greater seasonality that comes with the countryside. Of course you do notice the seasons in the city as well, but the changes in plants and animals are just obvious when you’re surrounded by concrete for much of the time.

Snowdrops1

That said, London is one of the greenest cities in the world, in terms of the amount of park land and public green space that it contains. So, if you make the effort it is still possible to make that connection with the natural world.

Daylight

It’s something I’ve missed out on the last few years. There are often things that I think of doing, in order to make that connection with the seasons, but I’m not very good at actually getting out and doing them.

Snowdrops3

But, today I did take advantage of some of London’s greenery – S and I went Snowdrop hunting. I wasn’t really sure where in London would be a good place to find Snowdrops, or whether it might still be too early in the year to see any. However, a bit of web searching turned up a few suggestions, one of which was Tower Hamlets Cemetary Park.

Snowdrops5

As you can see from these photos, I was not disappointed! The cemetary provided Snowdrops in abundance, as well as a few Crocus, Cyclamen and Daffodils. The weather was glorious today as well, which of course added greatly to the experience. Today has been the first sunny day we’ve had for a while, it feels like it’s been raining for weeks on end. As I’m sitting here, typing this, the sun is starting to go down. Looking out of the window next to my desk, I can see the backs of the row of houses along the lane. I can see trees and there is still blue sky. Today was a good day.

Detail

Craft catch-up and putting effort into life

So far, 2020 has been good. I made a few New Year’s resolutions (I think I posted about them at the start of January), and I haven’t been too bad at sticking to them. It’s made me realise something as well – something I already knew, but had somehow forgotten in recent years. All of my resolutions have involved some effort. Getting up at 6.30am in the dark on a weekday morning in January isn’t the most enticing prospect. Forgoing one potential weekend lie-in to go running in January is also fairly unattractive (though not quite so bad as a 6.30am start!). Writing in a journal several times a week to record the day’s events and how I’ve felt about them isn’t always easy. Sometimes, if I feel depressed, I just don’t feel like going back over everything to write it down.

IMG_5797

And yet, the more I do these (and various other small things I’ve tried to commit to this year), the better I feel. I’ve been running twice a week, every week since the Christmas break. I know it’s only the middle of January, but I think if I can keep up with it now, in the coldest, darkest and traditionally the most depressing month of the year – then I can do it for the rest of the year as well. Twice weekly running is the most exercise I have completed for years – probably since I was at school. It feels fantastic. One of the things that prompted me to start was that I just felt unhealthy, and thought that maybe I could stand to loose a few pounds. I’m actually not overweight, I’m usually a UK size 8-10. But really, weight or shape – they don’t matter. The more I run, the more I appreciate my body, the stronger I feel and the better I feel about myself psychologically. You really can’t beat the feeling.

Journalling has similar, although subtler benefits. It helps me to process the day, even when I don’t feel like it. I hope it’s also, over time going to help me remember and appreciate the small positives of day to day existence which can easily be over-looked and which I should be the most grateful for. If you’ve made resolutions for 2020 I wish you the best in keeping them.

***

As it’s been a while since I’ve posted about anything crafty here, I thought it might also be time for a little catch up. Although I’ve been away from blog-land, I’ve still been working away at knitting and crochet. I think they will always be a constant in my life, whatever else is going on. 2019 was a fairly good year craft-wise. I made two blankets, and started a third.

My first blanket was a giant granny square, made of large squares in fingering weight yarn, all stitched together. As I was using mostly hand-dyed yarn (left-over scraps and the odd un-used skein) the colours are lovely and muted. It has a very pleasing vintage feel, and has been a constant throughout autumn and winter in either our bedroom or living room.

IMG_5793

IMG_5791

There were many more makes in 2019, but I think the rest may have to wait for another post as I’m running out of time for today. I’ll give a quick mention to the sweaters – many sweaters were knitted in 2019. Not all of them were entirely successful (one came out rather large), but some came out very well and have already been worn many times.

IMG_6028

IMG_6026

 

Sweater storage is becoming something of an issue. I love to knit, and I don’t think I can stop sweater knitting, but I am starting to run out of wardrobe space. Has anyone else had this problem, and if so, what did you do about it?

Wishing you all a lovely Thursday and Friday.

Let’s like what we have

S and I moved in to our current home several years ago. Others in the UK will be familiar with the difficulty that many people in our age group have had buying homes of our own. S and I are actually probably slightly too old to be members of ‘generation rent’ so compared to many people, I think we’re been relatively lucky. We were both able to own small homes of our own, and eventually bought a larger place together.

IMG_5953

I spent many, many years still living with my parents while I tried to save up enough money for a deposit for my own place. I think I’m probably a natural ‘nester’ – I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic elements of a home, and like things to be calm and cosy. I could quite happily browse interior magazines and spend hours day-dreaming about furniture and sighing over images of other people’s homes online. As you can imagine, these nesting instincts were utterly frustrated until I had my own home, and even when I had that, I didn’t have a great deal of money to spend on it, as I wrestled with paying a mortgage and bills on my own for the first time.

The thing is that while it’s nice to day-dream about things you would like to have, or that you see that other people have, I’ve found that it can be quite toxic. I’m fortunate now in that I’m in a position where I can afford to indulge my nesting instincts slightly more. I still love interiors magazines, and lifestyle magazines such as Country Living and the Simple Things, which usually have some interiors spreads mixed in with other content. I still love Pinterest, and have a huge board dedicated to interiors which I regularly scroll through and add to.

IMG_5944

However, there is a danger, I feel, that too much of the above can lead me to focus on what I think I don’t have, and a result, I forget to appreciate all the things I am lucky enough to have (and which many people still don’t have).

January, with its classic financial New Year’s resolutions of saving more and post-Christmas belt-tightening seems a good time to remind myself of this. I have found in the past that spending less time dreaming about things I’d like to buy really changes the way I feel about the here and now, and actually increases my enjoyment of small pleasures in life. I’m no psychologist, but I imagine that it’s something to do with the fact that I’m more focused on the here and now when I put my day dreams to one side. Day dreams are lovely of course, and I’ll never give up my Pinterest boards or interiors magazines completely – but there’s a lot to be said for enjoying and appreciating your own life, exactly as it is.

Wishing you all a peaceful day.

January part 1

So far this year, I’ve been trying to wind up things that I started making in 2019. The main, ‘big’ make that I’ve been working on is a cotton crochet bedspread. This is really a summery make, so it feels a little strange to be working on it in the depths of winter. I actually started it back in July or August last year (I can’t quite remember now). I new it would take me some time to finish, so I’m ok with the fact that I’m still working on it now.

IMG_6006small

 

I wanted something intricate and delicate. I created the square motif myself, so there’s no pattern. It’s a fairly simple design though. In the end it didn’t come out quite as I wanted it. I think I had something a little more lacy in mind originally. However, having created this square, I liked it, so decided to continue.

It has been helpful too, in letting me see how, next time I want to do something like this, I may be able to create something a little more intricate and delicate. I think I was originally aiming for something of the kind you might see on sale in an antiques store, or at a flea market – a sort of Victorian or Edwardian kind of lacy crochet. I love a good old fashioned horror or ghost story, and S and I recently saw a 1970s film adaptation of Dracula. Vampires and fangs aside, I couldn’t help noticing and appreciating the lovely sets and costumes in this film, including the heroine’s bedroom, which I think had some gorgeous examples of vintage crochet throws and lace. Maybe a horror film is a slightly unusual source of inspiration for a crochet project, but I guess inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes!

IMG_5717small

The bedspread is actually now a lot further along than these pictures suggest (they were taken months ago) and depending on how big I finally decide to make it (and whether I decide to splurge on any additional yarn for it) it might be finished fairly soon.

IMG_5707small

 

Wishing you all a peaceful Sunday, whatever you get up to.

 

 

Faith in the future

IMG_6024It’s been so long since I’ve been here. If anyone is reading this, maybe you wondered if this was just another dead blog, abandoned by its owner. I’ve wondered that myself, although this little space never left my mind completely in the 18 months since I last posted. I’ve wanted to come back…I just couldn’t. Things have been busy, between studying and working. It was all just a bit too much. But, one way or another, in 2020 things are going to change. Change is now inevitable and it feels frightening, but good.

IMG_6018

In recent years, I’ve often started January with butterflies in my stomach. Strange really, I have no real, actual reason for it – it’s almost like nerves, fear about what the year ahead will hold. This year, the butterflies are still there, but I am different. I’ve so often let myself be blocked from doing things that I really want to do, or should I say that I have blocked myself. I won’t go into the reasons here, at least not today. It’s enough to say that sometimes, I am my own worst enemy. But that stops now. This is my commitment to live my life and not to hold myself back in any way.

So, my resolutions for 2020, if you can call them that…

  1. To come here, and post, at least semi-regularly. I’d like to say at least once a week, but I think we’ll have to see how it goes. It won’t be helpful to set myself unrealistic goals. Hopefully I’ll make it at least a couple of times a month.
  2. To be kind, to be mindful and to listen. I mean this both for myself, but also for other people. I’d like to make more effort to be there for other people, my friends, family and colleagues.
  3. To appreciate what I already have. I’m sure anyone who uses social media, even a little bit knows the effect that constantly comparing yourself to other people can have. By this time, many of us have probably read a few articles about how bad this is psychologically. I made a good start on focusing on the here and now, and what I already have last year, instead if always wishing I could have or be something else or something more. And I really did find it made a difference. Simply by focusing on what I have, I begun to enjoy and appreciate small details of life, which I had been overlooking.
  4. To run regularly. I started to get back into doing more exercise, including running, last summer. But then, a few things happened, some of them health related, which led to my abandoning my new ethic. I’m determined that exercise is going to be a regular part of my life for 2020 though. I’ve already made a start as well – I managed to fit in one jog over the Christmas holiday, and another first thing this morning.
  5. Take drawing lessons. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, years now. However, because I’ve had so much else on, there simply wasn’t room to fit anything else into my life. That will change this year though, so hopefully by the later half of 2020 I’ll be able to go to some evening classes on basic drawing.