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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

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 http://www.flickr.com/groups/2339365@N25/

Photo credit: FIL 2013 http://www.flickr.com/groups/2339365@N25/

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

Photo credit: FIL 2013 http://www.flickr.com/groups/2339365@N25/

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

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

A Stitchy Tale

A short stitchy story. You know how it goes. September comes around, the kids go back to school, you twiddle your thumbs for a couple of days, wondering what to do next, because clearly you do not have enough going on in your life. Then, ah ha! You have that lightbulb moment, sitting in the last of the summer sunshine, when you think, ‘well, it’s nearly Christmas, I had better crack on with some present making’. All in the name of actually avoiding knuckling down to some real, live, paid work, so your family doesn’t starve. Hurrah. Present Making it is. 

Next thing you know, you have persuaded your ex-husband to cut down his entire crop of lavender, although the scary man-tool strimmer was waved a little too close to your head for your liking, but hey presto, you have a tonne and a half of lavender to process before the sun leaves for another 8 months.

So you sit there weeping a little, feeling like what-was-her name when Rumplestiltskin said she had to spin an entire attic of straw into gold. Too big a task for one wee, mad girl. Never mind hey, because that is what Facebook is for – to send out a call for help. Which you do, and before long your garden is filled with lots of fab, mad girlies who spend an entire morning destalking your lavender and gossiping. Your ears nearly fall off their talk is so scandalous.

Well, this isn’t very stitchy yet, sorry. O.K, so lavender is deliciously procured, and made into lavender bags for Christmas, thus saving you a small fortune, funds instantly diverted into a better cause, namely books, chocolate and fun days out.  “And your 15 year old will be delighted with his lavender bag” a friend wryly points out. For shame. Don’t be telling me the truth now, lady.

Alright, spurred on by the success of the lavender mission, you will naturally feel that your stitching talent is boundless and that you really are rather foxy when it comes to needles and thread. Oh you foolish girl. Around the same time you will be mercilessly talked into making a rather wonderful pouch for a special carving, and being a textile goddess you will enthusiastically agree. Oh my god. Did Martha teach you nothing in your sewing classes 3 years ago? Did she really tell you that a tape measure is a complete waste of time, that pins are for wimps? I don’t think so, she would have you horsewhipped for the short cuts you figure you can take.

Even so, you forge on, and as well as the pouch, you attempt to make a quilted hot water bottle cover, all nice and witchy, and magical. Because you can. But maybe, you actually can’t, and by day 5 you are rifling through the bathroom cabinet for diazepam to take away some of your self inflicted pain. I promised you honesty my friends, one blog back – well here it is. This is me, praying, no begging my Husquarvana to have mercy on me. It is pitiful, no?

Well, I need to wrap up this sorry chapter….the pouch got made (I was thrilled to discover my hairy white jumper had moulted all over the black fabric) and the hot water bottle cover just about made it through too, after I had a strict chat with myself and dug out some pins, and even a tailors chalk. The tape measure never quite got used, but lessons were learned. Oh yes they were. Namely, I must remember that learning to sew is best done slow; that one lavender bag made does not make you Mama Soule, far from it. Lavender is more soothing than diazepam and better for you, and JAINE: GET ON WITH SOME PROPER WORK….with this is mind, I am heading off to my Cornish ocean, to build up my strength and take a little break. Back in a week……

September 19, 2013   3 Comments

Because I Am A Girl

Here’s the thing. There doesn’t need to be much of an excuse for a party around these parts. Especially if it’s going to be a girly, stitchy cake party (yes, these things really do exist, particularly in Stroud)

In my experience, the girls round here will rock up to the opening of an envelope (harsh but fair) – so you can imagine the frisson felt when Woodchester village hall started filling up with fabric and frolicking….

Sewing machines were lined up, cake was laid out, and we were on our starting blocks…because of course we were on a mission…..

We were invited there by Bad Jo, whose birthday had rolled around again (they do that, birthdays) – and asked to each make a piece of quilt for her, to remind her of the fantastic community that we have and how loved she is within it. Yay to that!

Of course, because it was Jo, in all her brilliant-ness and cunning, she had got us there for something else too. And this something else was called Because I Am A Girl.

…which is the name of a campaign run by an organisation called The Plan, supporting girl’s rights to quality education. Here is what they say: At least one in five adolescent girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, conflict and discrimination. Every day, girls are taken out of school and forced into work, or married off to strangers where they risk isolation and abuse. Missing out on school can mark the end of a girl having any choice over her own future. This isn’t fair, it isn’t right and it’s also a huge waste of potential.

So Jo got us there to tell us all about it, and to make a commitment to help in some way. Which we agreed to do, because, hey, this is a plan that makes sense for all of us, right?

So in amongst the busy needles and lovely things to eat, there was chatter too about how lucky we are in this country to have the choices we do when it comes to education; to home educate, or state educate and all that it means for our daughters. With One Billion Rising still fresh in our minds, we got inspired to carry on and fight for all the daughters in this wonderful world of ours

And this we will do, together, in communities, and wherever it is needed and however long it takes. Stitch by stitch, plan by plan, word by word, because these children are not only our future, it’s vital to invest in their education properly and fairly. Women hold up half the sky. Thanks Jo. 

April 17, 2013   No Comments

Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons

How rock and roll do you want me to be?

I am a bit of a Libran at heart, and so my thinking world is often very grey in that I can see all sides, value lots of different ways of seeing issues. On Monday, I travelled to the Stop Fooling with Nuclear Weapons Protest at Aldermaston, and had one giant dose of black and white dished up to me. I don’t really know where to begin.

O.K, so to set the scene…there were lots of different gates and a very big wire fence surrounding the bomb factory – and many, many fab rainbow people gathered around each of the different gates. Knowing I couldn’t get to visit all of them, I concentrated on two – the Women’s gate and the Faith Gate. First job – hang up a length of our pink peace scarf – oh, for longer legs…

There were some very moving things tied up there, including these beautiful origami peace cranes that had been painstakingly arranged despite fingers being so numb they were nearly dropping off.

…and fabulously colourful stitched banners…I am determined to make my own banner of loveliness – anyone up for helping me?

Hey, check out these little crocheted birds that had cheekily yarn bombed their way into one quiet corner….

O.K.That’s enough of the stitchy angle, lets get down to business. I have to tell you that I met some AMAZING people that day – people of hope, people of faith, people of determination, smiley people, articulate smart people and just plain awesomely wild people!!

This is me talking knitting to one of the oldest women in the U.K. Her name is Hetty, and at 107 she was totally up for protesting nuclear insanity. Go Hetty! Next to us is the M.P Jeremy Corbyn – he had some totally inspiring things to say too.

Dr Rebecca Johnson was there (one of the awesome people I mentioned earlier) – now she has some feistiness that I wouldn’t mind a little of. Here she is reminding us that what we do locally feeds into political debate globally. Oh yes, people, we can and do make one hell of a difference.

Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary was there and up for modelling a bit of our pink scarf – yay! And there was also possibly the most formidable women I am ever likely or lucky enough to meet. Here she is with Kate – Pat Arrowsmith. She is a peace campaigner of some standing, has had prime ministers quaking at her sustained heckling, is a voracious gay rights advocate and having served 11 prison sentences was force fed when on hunger strike in Gateshead prison as a younger woman. That is some C.V.

There were some gorgeous Somali women who I had fun dancing with when the time for making noise and banging pots and pans came. And oh! I was ablaze with cheekiness about asking people to be photographed with that scarf of pinkiness – I knobbled Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, and several others – some needed to be incognito – they were obviously on more secret missions…sssssh….

Oh yes, this was a day of anti-nuclear frolicking to be sure – and with 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world, someone had to do it. There was a smackeral of glamour too – here I am trying to advise Katharine Hamnett on the ins and outs of a knit and pearl (yes, so she is Queen of the World when it comes to all things textiley, but hey! I was unstoppable by then….)

I need to tell you how exciting it was unrolling those first pieces of pink peace scarf that we have all knitted. Wool Against Weapons is on the map, and on Monday was in people’s hands, draped around shoulders, hung on the fence, and most of all being talked about.

So, I stepped into that whole rush of black and white thinking, and it was good. There is no middle land in this debate – Trident has to go. We cannot afford the £100bn in renewing it, and our dear planet certainly cannot afford the consequences of something so morally reprehensible and vile being fired. There, was that rock and roll enough for you..

As one of the brilliant banners said – “Resistance is to make yourself one safe republic of unconquered spirit” – well, I saw many of those such spirits there, and wow, did it blow me away.

Actually, what really nearly blew me away was being handed a pink megaphone in one mad moment, in front of the crowd at the Women’s gate – and fired up on a few too many virtual coffees jumping up and going for it….ooops! This is Jaine Rose (again), unzipped and crazy pink, signing off

April 3, 2013   No Comments

Not Christmas shopping….

Hello lovelies….I thought I would be back here sooner, but no, these have been funny, busy, run up to Christmas kind of days.

Days in which I have tried to avoid big bouts of Christmas shopping in crowded places, really I have. Days in which I have tried to pretend I am part of the Von Trapp family and am making all of my presents….without breaking a sweat.

This present making malarky has been much boosted by a return of my insomnia. Well, that’s the official party line – the truth of my insomnia might also be ascribed to the love of a quiet house that is ALL MINE. Cat purring, hot waterbottle snuggling, tea drinking, music listening and crochet hook twiddling at 3am. Lush.

Whatever my motivations, whilst the fields outside have frosted up, I have where possible remained inside, by the fire, twiddling away with all sorts of frivolous crucial Christmassy projects.

O.K, I know you will want a full report. So let me see. I have made baby bunting for my Faery Goddaughter – this was before I attached little silver bells. Thanks to Lucy at Attic 24 for the sweet pattern.

I have made little stitchings, some textile machine embroidery tree decorations, and a dream journal notebook

I am also unforgivably smug that I even managed about six Christmas cards – go girl…(even if I am the only person cheering my sad self on….)

Despite our stove breaking down in the coldest week of the year, my little frost bitten fingers have been beavering away on a hot water bottle – the word ‘hot’ becoming an obsessional thought for our family over the last week or so.

Just so as I didn’t feel like a total slacker, I did manage to fit in about 15 minutes work in my dining room office, where I miraculously made a deadline for a piece of artwork. Rewarded, naturally, by a slice of my sister-in-law’s homemade Christmas cake…that she absolutely insisted I scoff before Christmas Day. And yes, that is my Facebook page you can see there on my work laptop (before one of my very clever friends points that out to the world, in the comments section below…smile.)

So this has been my little world, in the Stroud land of ‘Not Christmas Shopping’. Which to be fair, could also be subtitled ‘Not remotely doing any Housework’, ‘Not being Focused’ and certainly ‘Not engaging in anything more taxing than a ball of wool and a cup of witchy tea’. So be it. In any case, we are ready, we are there, bring it on. The teenagers are either hitting new sugar-induced highs of anticipation or reassuringly doing what teenagers do best – sleep in all sorts of odd places….

…and as for Santa’s little helper….(giddy on way too much sherry and shortbread)

Have a wonderful time everyone! Big hugs and love to you….

December 20, 2012   2 Comments

Enchanted Forest

After a grieving heart and the unbounded confessional of my last blogpost, I was ready for some time off for good behaviour. And who better to behave with than my dear friend Bad Jo.
So with this in mind we headed off to Stroud’s Musuem in the Park for a little enchantment of a certain kind.

Here we found The Thirteenth Tree by Corrinne Hockley – a wonderfully visual fairy tale inspired by a train journey she took across the vast, snow silent Russian winter, from the majestic cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow and over the Ural Mountains to icy Irkutsk and primeval Lake Baikal.

Oh what gorgeousness…this rich tapestry of folklore and story telling was set around a birch tree forest that she had built right there in the gallery. A tale of the thirteenth fairy who was excluded from Sleeping Beauty’s story with disastrous results.

But this was no ordinary fairy of badness, for in this forest she was one of the helpful guardians or forces who remain in the shadows, preparing the way and singing over the bones as we reconnect with our own journeys. Sound familiar, all you witchy friends out there?

Far beyond time where few travellers go – the forgotten forest lies hushed in the snow
At its north edge in the fast fading light, a flickering village prepares for the night
Safe in her Dacha ‘tween mother and fire – Tanushka’s bright eyes were beginning to tire
From knitting fine socks and needlepoint gloves for the doll from her mother – a treasure she loves

This was exquisite enchantment with red threads enticing us through the trees. There were red dancing shoes, little Red Riding Hood, and stitchiness everywhere we turned, woven into the story with fable and magic.

And Babushka’s story of princess and witches was told to the rhythm of firelight and stitches
But thimble had fallen and hid from her eye – she pricks her forefinger – draws blood and a cry
Then later in bed with a small fever burning Tanushka’s moon shadow is fitfully turning
As three crimson drops and a tear are all seeping across her doll skirts, Tanushka lies sleeping

Did you notice the Princess and the Pea bed with lots and lots of mattresses? And the tiny key necklace and bones? There were a hundred sweet little details waiting quietly to be found. We didn’t know where to look first. Corinne’s work is simply beautiful and layered with ancient story threads and potent words.

Corinne’s story made me want to snip away all threads of responsibility that tie me to my life and pack up my crochet hooks, wool and notebooks immediately. Waving a cheery farewell to my little Stroud house, I would venture out into the world, by train, boat and gypsy wagon, bound for the quiet snowy whiteness of my own Russian winter, deep into Birch woods.

Well, some day maybe. It was the cafe that we bravely ventured to, as well you know me by now, dreams tucked secretly away in my pocket.

Snippety-snip

December 5, 2012   3 Comments