My online shop

Breathing Space

I don’t know about you, but I find that the beginning of April to be the breathing time. That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Winter is sleepy and deep and quiet, while the Equinox is a bit turbulent – all that pulling into balance – its a cross between a menopausal woman and a bad hair day. well it is in my world. Which is a worry. 

But April, ah, that new unfolding time, the breathing time. you lovely month (yeah, I know, short memory, it snowed this time last year) – the month when I think “oh yes baby, the sunshine is here, the blossoms are around the corner, dust down your shorts, we are nearly there”. I take full responsibility if my premature enthusiasm tempts that pesky fate into sending us blizzards next week.

Enough talk of weather, enough I say. Let me talk stitching. Oh let me…..well, you see. It goes like this. When you are feeling completely overwhelmed with emails, and parcels of pink knitting, and your hormones, and housework, and illness and life – well, here’s what you do. You make sure you discover a new obsession, in this case English piecing, and spend literally hours peering through your spectacles like some crazy cat lady, at the tiniest stitches on little wee pieces of fabric. It’s a winner.

You can lose literally days of work, to this timeless art; meanwhile the little work pixies take pity on you, hop up onto your laptop and take over the management of your to-do list, like those cute little elves who made shoes at night. Only this lot are a highly trained crack team of admin specialists, and they have sorted your life out in a nano second. O.K, I’m getting a bit weird. It’s all that April fresh air.

Truly though, stitching is the very best. And my friend Cindy knows her way around fabric, let me tell you. She is responsible for me haring down this quilty road when I have so, so much else to do. You Queen of Badness. Those of you who are local, check out this fabric shop to end all others.

And seriously, going slowly, making tiny stitches in a way our grandmothers would’ve done, quietly, slowly by hand, is my way of breathing out, slowing down, getting out of my busy head. It’s got to be good.

Breathing space means that you slow down, and suddenly take a look at the moments you find yourself in. You may be surprised to find that your little boys turn very big, that celebrations with a houseful of teenagers and other family is actually quite enjoyable. (note to self: even the most incompetent adolescent can be taught to knit when the pressure is on – don’t let them fool you for one minute into thinking that those little pinkies can only work iPhones, oh no sireee)

Lucky girl that I am, I am about to journey to both of my oceans – first the ocean of the west, and then all the way across the land by train, to my ocean of the east. I am feeling very lucky that my work can travel with me, and my needles and thread, and camera. I am set. I have dear and lovely friends to see at both ends too, salty air to walk in, and pebbles to collect. I love you April, there is much to breathe in.

With apologies for the ridiculous number of photos this week, here are some outtakes, incase you are tempted to think this is all a bit Mary Poppins……

April 4, 2014   2 Comments

Faith is knowing….

Every moment of every day there are choices to be made. And thank goodness for my poor overloaded brain, that I make these choices quickly, instinctually and without too much rumination. I was always a bit freaked out by the film Sliding Doors, where there is one tiny moment – she misses a train – that changes the whole course of her life. If I choose a peppermint tea and the triple naughty chocolate brownie in my favourite cafe Black Books, am I doomed? Well, my thighs may be, but what about the rest of my life?

Holding on tight to these thoughts, I travelled to my ocean of the west before I made any more irreversible changes to my shifting sands in Stroud. There is nothing like a quiet shoreline and a new day rising golden, to help you feel better and make your 65 year old self say to your 45 year old self “listen honey, you’re gonna make it through. Relax, it all works out”.

So I may well be feeling like a bit of old frayed rope washed up on the beach, but the earth still smells good, reminding me that different things are always quietly being composted and remade. The world keeps turning. And, as my soon to be 16 year old said, in a sudden moment of wisdom “to make an omelette mum, you have to break the eggs. By the way, whats for tea, I’m starving?”

I’m feeling so crowded and over exposed, which makes me snort and laugh at myself as I share yet more personal thoughts on the book of Face and a blog that can be read by absolutely anyone. But I always love reading about the ins and outs of other people’s truthful stories, it helps me remember that we all pretty much work through the same issues, feel the same anxieties and fragility; we hurt each other in similar ways, love and hold each other and mend in the same ways too. It is just life, it is what happens.

Pathways can be fraught with things you didn’t expect though, coming out of a bag at ya….one minute the way is solid, next thing you know someone’s carelessness, or their own pain, can have you right down there, wondering who turned the lights off. Turn towards the sunshine, feel your way right outta there sister. All things pass.

I’m not really sure where I am going with any of this, its just one more pathway in my head, one more meandering thought to carry me through March, towards spring and warmth, blossoms, more travelling, more pink scarf.

If I am very lucky my oceans of the West and East will be blue and sparkling when I reach them, my hometown midpoint in Stroud will remain lovely and friend-filled, and my wayward hormones will be kind to me.

“When you come to the edge of all of the light you’ve known, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown; faith is knowing one of two things will happen. You’ll have something solid to stand on, or you’ll be taught how to fly.” Patrick Overter

March 16, 2014   5 Comments

Getting through

Hello February, you scoundrel of a month.

I remember my father trying to talk to me when I was a know it all teenager of about 15. He gently tried to explain that often life gets tough, and that sometimes beyond circumstances that you can control, it just is unexplainably hard, with pressure building and hopefulness fading. I thought then that most adults, particularly my parents were idiots. I couldn’t wait to be a grown up, and what really could be so very hard about it? Big bunch of whingers I remember thinking.

I’ve been a grown up for a few months now, and finally I am just getting it. I feel beyond sadness that he is no longer here for me to tell him he was right. But many of his words stay. Blue February days can be toughies. You know those days. Nothing is technically wrong. All the bills have just about been paid, the house insurance is up to date, you haven’t missed a meeting or dental appointment. You and your partner are speaking, and the children are sort of behaving. Yet its hard to make it through, and you astutely avoid all internet images of kittens lest you start weeping, and never stop. Oh dear. 

So never mind what puts us there, what gets us through? The thought that winter is passing? A long hot bath? Brand new girl boxers ordered off the internet late at night? I really have no idea. 

I do know that attempting to knit slinky jumpers on circular needles with under arm cast offs, when I can barely knit a straight scarf, is not the cleverest. I also know Netflix and 82% dark chocolate is a no-no after 10pm. 

I want my dad. I want him to finish the other part of the conversation that he started 35 years ago. What is supposed to happen next? Do I just carry on? (keeping calm obviously NOT being an option; I have my Mars in Leo for goddsake). 

My default setting is clearly a cross between Joyce Grenfell and Doris Day – bracing walks in the countryside are embarked on, and plenty of good, wholesome food (ignoring the bad influence of best friend eating family packs of chocolate bourbons, I shall not fall madam….).

I bury myself in work, and try to stick to the surprising and quirky. Like finding badgers painted on gateposts, stacks of old letters from the 1930′s in the community recycling, and a gorgeous ginger cake mix sent spontaneously in the post by a lovely woman I’ve never met. 

And if it weren’t for the fact that I’m often held to ransom by a jack russel terrorist then its possible that February could be quite dandy after all……

February 21, 2014   3 Comments

Time, loss and change

Oh hello! Did you think I had been eaten by gnomes? or my pets? or that Scotty had finally beamed me up and beyond to the blue yonder? Disturbing thought.

No, here I am, all is well, sort of. But this New Year time through January and February has been more intense than I ever remember it being. I’ve had to resort to tidying the odd cuboard to calm my nerves on occasion. This is what I found in the latest poke around a dark drawer – last year’s intention list – ha, ha, let’s see how I did….

Hmmmmm, not bad on balance, but slightly disconcerting that I marked myself on my own list…at least it wasn’t in red pen.

The hardest part about January was losing someone I loved.

I have always considered myself to have come from a world of women, to have been surrounded by women – mothers, godmothers, girlfriends and daughters. They nurture me, hold me, inspire me, they are my life.

And yet I have been blessed to have had the most wonderful men in my life too – father, uncle, godfather, partners and sons, who, now I look closely, have been interesting, thoughtful, and funny and who have also gently shaped who I have become.

To have lost one of these men suddenly seven years ago was heartbreaking. To be losing another, in slow motion, even more so. But to have been given this time with them, in the first place is surely the best treasure that I have been gifted.

Saying goodbye to someone has made me take a long, hard look at this thing we call time. It is so hard to measure, and yet that is what I am trying to do. Suddenly, it is more precious almost than the breath in my body, and I really don’t know how much of it I have, for my own life, or for any of the other precious people in my world, and there are many. How can it be that life is so very long, and hard sometimes, and then it is over, in the smallest moment, with that final breath?

In the middle of the saddest time of this last 6 weeks, I was able to get away for a few days. I sat in a roundhouse with my sisters, and passed on my blessing for strong endings and brave new beginnings. It went into a cauldron tended by a beautiful woman land guardian, along with the spells, prayers and wishes of nineteen other women. It was stirred in, mixed together with ocean totems and we have each taken a jar of it home. Mine is sitting here expectantly, waiting. In a way, I guess that is what I am doing. Sitting, waiting, for what, I do not know. But there is a space growing, so we will see.

In the meantime, there is plenty of work and organising to be done with Wool Against Weapons – 25 weeks left! And I am counting all the small blessings that are keeping me going in this winter time of change……

the best rice pudding in the world – you clever girl, for nailing the ultimate recipe and sharing it with me -

……a funny beast to share it with, he makes me smile (when I am not wanting to kill him for his bad deeds)

….sharing the best and maddest time with gorgeous women, preparing food together and laughing A LOT…

….the gentle smell of Suzi’s beeswax melting slowly in my kitchen, to make balm and honey…

…..finally seeing two years worth of ocean treasure collected up and ready to make into totems by my ocean sister…

….and because Imbolc’s light has quietly crept in to this winter grey, the making of Brigids crosses and the wonderfulness and pale green of spring bulbs – the sweetest blessing. May we all slowly unfurl ourselves, mend and stretch in to this new time….

February 10, 2014   5 Comments

We Were Made for These Times

Thank you Clarissa Pinkola Estes for your inspiring words to carry us in to 2014

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

December 31, 2013   4 Comments

The Twinkling Time

Ah ha! You thought I really had been sitting on my bad ass on the sofa after last months wee confessional, didn’t you? Oh you faithless friends. No, I have been uncharacteristically focused and disciplined, after the idea sprang into my head to make all my christmas presents (foolish girl). So I wondered if you fancied a little wander around my stitchy offerings – goodness knows you will appreciate them more than my children will……so walk this way…..

Right, so the staple of the presents are….drum roll….lavender bags!! Yay, no surprises there. But despite the quantities I’ve made, they have actually been quite fun and easy, and my Husquavarna machine and I have only fallen out a couple of times in the making. I call that a result…

Next up, cushions for the boys…when it came down to it, common sense and compassion prevailed, I just couldn’t give my 15 year old and 20 year old a lavender bag each. I have shown no such mercy to my mother and certain friends however. Too bad amigos.

My goddaughter has a little hand painted sketchbook in a bag for all her best 7 year old thoughts (and they be many and wondrous); and here is the long awaited University blanket for our 19 year old daughter – which had been wildly behind schedule – so thanks to my sweet friend Dareth for all her help in getting it finished!

There are other presents, but they must remain secret (as their recipients read my bloggy offerings) and I’d hate to upset the Solstice elfves. I was lucky enough to have my own hand made present too, from the legendary Bad Jo, who made me a bag filled with everything I need to make a gluten free Sour Dough loaf of bread – oh marmite toast, you shall be mine once more…..happiness

So with presents done, there was just enough time for a little bit of a frisky adventure to London with my favourite bad girl and other equally deviant compadres (I clearly mean well behaved and nicely mannered friends) – and all was sparkly, fun and a million miles from that slave driving sewing machine….marvellous

Now I am back home again, in the Solstice time, breathing a little slower now that I know the light is returning. All is quiet and gentle and good.

The stockings are filled, tangerines assembled (love a good tangerine, or mandarin, I’m not fussy) and the tree decorated. It is time to sit back and be cosy, watch the light wherever it may fall in the house.

Let the twinkling time begin…Solstice blessings to you all…thank you for journeying with me down these B roads I seem to be taking, it is such a pleasure to share them with you. It has been a year of oceans, pink wool, awesome friends and the ubiquitous cake of all naughtiness. Love, love.

December 22, 2013   1 Comment

Skin Weaving

oh hello….November’s busyness claimed me, sorry I haven’t been around for a while. I was waiting to see what it would send my way, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has been really quite magical. Draw closer to the fire, I will tell you…..

If there is to be a midwoman initiation, then it may as well start at the beginning of a vast and untamed ocean, laid out before her. She will sit on a hard granite rock high up, with the cold blue singing to her at dawn and wonder about her life and the pathways that bought her to this place. She will honour this past, but will quietly know that the time to step out has come. An ancient mother, with eyes as sharp as a buzzard will sit by her, and she will know that her teacher is fierce and not to be trifled with. Her name is Twisted Braid.

Together they will journey inland, away from the blue, to the wild moor. It is the moor, after all, that holds their stories, the old magic, the secret pathways. It is the place of beginning, for this soon to be Salmon woman.

They travel with stitches, lots of them, woven into a book. A book telling tales of sisterhood and paw prints. Telling how they each arrive on quiet wolf paws and leave on soaring eagle wings. There is a box, a treasure chest, filled with the dreams of witch women, known only to a few, its magic so potent it would burn stars into the deepest night.

What will she find there, as she arrives at dusk down a small track? A small hobbity cottage, guarded by wolves and ash and pine. Kettles warming on a stove, food cooking in the kitchen, and sisters, wild sisters, there for the magic of skin weaving and the twisting path of initiation.

She will rise at dawn and quietly tiptoe past sleeping bear women into the sharpness of a cold morning, and the dreaming of a hare. There will be blessings fluttering, season on season of coloured rags and songs, hung on the wishing tree for the breeze to carry them far into the sky. There will be the ancient Roundhouse where later they will gather to bear witness to their stories, and to show the ancestors their scars. And there will be bones, singing and clacking, in the morning, while Salmon waits, patiently, to journey with her little warrior sister.

And what of the initiation? The midwoman will meet the pain and her trembling with a song of strong blood, indeed this is blood magic most sacred. As the needle weaves into her pale skin, she will watch her sisters drumming, and foot stomping, and singing by her side. She will be held by crone women, crow women, buzzard women, and many mothers…and it will feel strong, and good, and a call to roar. And roar she will…..

And all the while, Twisted Braid will sit quietly, unblinking, wordless and deeply witnessing. Midwoman will know in that moment, that she may well have Salmon etched into her skin, but it means nothing until she can earn it. To earn it she must follow the this new warrior path, with discipline and focus, and dance fearlessly back out again to that vast ocean, gathering sisters on the way, remembering that one day she will turn, and head for home and quiet moorland pools. The tattoo fidgets on the inside of her wrist, restless to be begin……

November 23, 2013   3 Comments

November rolls in….

Does November know what it is this year? I know its bonfires and sparkly skies. All a bit glitzy after the darkness and gentle Samhain quiet of my Norfolk ocean. It’s a wee bit of a mash up in my head…a mixture of things that don’t seem to go together, but there they all are anyway – rolling around in my life. It’s somewhere in between autumn and winter – squeezing the last drops of sunshine out of summer, and pulling on the woollens at the same time. Eating the last tomatoes and basil, whilst chopping up the squashes for winter soups. It’s feeling radical at a feminist conference, then a week later lying on the floor praying for Scotty to beam me up. Hey ho. November, you can be a bit tricksy. We will see what you bring.

[Always heartening to know that your pets will double check you for deadness before they eat you...]

Yeah, so where did we get to? Oh yes, I left you a while back after I had decided that clippers were a fantastic idea. Even better then, after a vicious bout of pmt, to go the whole hog and do a Sinead. Hurrah. Listen up, all you mothers of teenagers, I have been banned by my children from the school A’level information evening. At the time of writing this, I am luxuriating, LUXURIATING, on the sofa with a glass of wine, while unfortunate partner is slugging it out in a sweaty gym hall filled with spotty youths and leaflets. I may be a cliche, but no-shit-sherlock, I’m a happy one.

November also brings the candlelight, and the beginning of the official ‘cosy time’ when my bad ass gets glued to the sofa. This can last, if I time it right, from November through to April, sooooo good.

It’s a wonder I actually get any work done at all. Although you would be proud of me – I have at long last had some of my original artwork mounted, and got together some of my stitchy things, and put them in an online shop here. And even more cunning of me, I have gotten that very clever girl, sister of badness, cake, and ocean dwelling, to carve some stunningly gorgeous crochet hooks and other lovely things, to put in the shop too. Yay. Do take a look and check out what we’ve been up to.

And from stitching to sisterhood – the Feminism in London Conference 2013 was a blast – a massive thank you to the organisers, speakers and workshop facilitators. I am still on a total high from meeting some fab women, hearing some great speeches, and well – just looking around a packed auditorium of women (and some men and kids too) – seeing strength, resilience, intelligence – and thinking wow! We rock sisters….

Photo credit: FIL 2013

Photo credit: FIL 2013

There are people putting the world back together again…piece by piece….hope by shining hope.

Photo credit: FIL 2013

Happy November to you all out there….may the leaves you swish through be extra crunchy, may the stars twinkle magically above you….may the dark time gently come to rest in your sacred spaces.

November 7, 2013   1 Comment

Samhain by the Ocean

Beautiful and quiet week, catching up on sleep, knitting, having lovely food cooked for me. The beginnings of mellow winter sunlight, crab apples, pumpkins, rosehip and birch. Feeling a sadness for this last visit this year to my ocean of the east, and a rightness in getting myself ready for the rich, dark dreaming time that Samhain ushers in. Wishing you all the most gentle of late autumn time, may all changes be for the good.

November 1, 2013   No Comments

Stitching, walking, thinking

I will not die an unlived life
I will not not live in fear of falling or catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid, more accessible,
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
To live so that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which came to me as blossom
Goes on as fruit.

Dawna Markova

October 25, 2013   No Comments