Wednesday, 29 February 2012

I have almost finished my shawl

And yet, because it is a circular shawl, all I can show you is a slightly bigger white lump.
I cross out my completed rows in a mad obsessive manner carefully
And, not even that much bigger. Because, as it is a circular shawl, you finish the middle bit quickly and then the edging essentially takes you The Rest Of Your Life. You labour and slave for days and nights, heedless of the passage of time, heedless of the play of clouds, sunshine and shadow, outside your neglected window. Your hair grows. The skin under your eyes darkens. Cross-eyed and frantic, you sit with your fingers working independently of your conscious mind, your body twitching frenetically. Lo! You have knitted a row and added a mm to the diameter of your shawl.

When people say to me, gosh, knitting, I am not sure I would have the patience, do you know what I say? I say, yes, I agree, I am not sure I have the patience either, I shall give up the whole thing and do something easier. Indeed: come on, Andrew Lansley, bring me your white paper or your green paper or whatever it is, I am sure I can draft you out something that will be acceptable to the BMA, Nick Clegg, that woman who told you off, hardline conservatives and popular opinion as evidenced in the Daily Mail and Loose Women, and it will only take me half an hour before dinner and will be easier than knitting this damn shawl.

Entirely hypothetically, if I ever wanted to think about collecting 2 skeins of different-coloured sock yarns to knit a Cladonia at some possible point in the future, does anyone have any ideas about where might be a good place to look?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

You could have your choice of men. But I could never love again

I wanted to let you know how I was getting on with playing my guitar. I have started having (very occasional) lessons, i.e. I have had my first because when I got my job I decided I was now RICH despite the fact that I spent my first wages before I had got them on shoes, and it has been helpful. If you remember, I was trying to learn well enough that I could play in public and then, I don’t know, I was going to cross that off my bucket list and go and swim with dolphins or something. Well, readers, here is the exciting news: I do think that if I carry on practicing (I have been reasonably consistent) that I might be able to play in front of other human beings at some point (or perhaps a rather critical cat to start with?).
My guitar with Partner's bright yellow scarf which my mother very kindly knitted for him entirely in single rib because yellow is 'the best colour'. Partner loves his scarf and says everyone remarks upon it in shops and this is true, I have witnessed it happen
I mean, I am not good, but, I am having fewer Father Ted My Lovely Horse moments, so, I don’t know, I shall carry on a while longer and see how I feel. I have a repertoire now. I can play the following:

Where Did You Sleep Last Night
That Johnny Cash one about the ink turning to red and I pray you don’t look at me, I pray I don’t look back
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
That Leonard Cohen one about Joan of Arc (if he was fire then, oooooo, she must be wooood…)

What a busking session that would be, hey hey? And I’ve got an outfit ready for if I ever get to play in public, because clearly that’s the most important consideration:
Vintage eighties. Sequinned all over. Put me near a light source and I'm just like a disco ball, a sarcastic disco ball
I shall tell you some things I learned from my lesson, which was a lot of fun. (My guitar teacher is very nice. He said, normally he had trouble getting people to sing: he did not then continue by saying, but you, I cannot get you to shut up, but I think that was the strong implication. I suppose you have to be tactful if you are a freelance guitar teacher. He said I had ‘the kind of voice that people would want to listen to’, so, in the absence of that actually being a direct insult I have decided to take it as encouragement. It makes life easier if you take that approach to things. Obviously I haven’t told him I knit, though, as that might mean he would refuse to teach me any more.)

This is the first thing I learned, and, if you are an aspiring guitar player who knows nothing, like me, you are going to find this very useful: you can take your guitar to a guitar shop, and they will file down your frets, sort it out generally, and make it easier to play. It will cost you about £20 (if you live in Cambridge, Strings on King Street will do it for you, I have already been in and chatted so I have done the groundwork for you there). My brother Dan who is a very good guitar player has done this to his own guitar, and I can vouch for the fact that it has made it much better, but, I did not realise you could pay someone to do it for you and that it is standard. So when I organise myself to get that done it will save me a lot of blisters,

The second thing is, barre chords are difficult to play and you are not a failure if you cannot play them at an early stage in your career. I blame Russ Shipton for this, because he slips in barre chords practically on the second page of his learn to play guitar book and it made me get quite depressed. But apparently they are just difficult and it is fine to work up to it,
This song has a line in it (you just kinda wasted my precious time) that I was going to say to Partner if we ever split up. We just never did though (also I might have to shave my legs if I was looking for someone new) so I told him instead, and he agrees that it would have been a very cool moment
And the third thing is, if your song requires a barre chord which you can not play, just play half of it as if you do not play the lowest string it makes the shape your hand has to make (technical term) much easier. It sounds fine! Sing a bit louder over that bit! Because, remember this: if you actually become a technically proficient guitarist, as Dan says, you end up like Eric Clapton: and who wants to be like Eric Clapton? Or you end up doing horrendously boring guitar solos and everyone looking at their watches or sneaking off to the bar. So, it is fine to be a bit crap, as that is in the spirit of anarchy, improvisation, the Sex Pistols, and so forth. So if you will excuse me, I shall now go and work on my ironic anarcho-punk feminist reclamation of Jolene (do you know what I think? I think Jolene didn’t give a stuff about Dolly Parton’s husband. I mean, is there anything in that song that indicates Jolene has actually even interacted with him? There is not. I think Jolene was just hanging out, doing her thing, thinking, I don’t know why that blonde woman over there keeps giving me the stink eye. Never mind. Because I, Jolene, I have other stuff to do).

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

In which I discover I am Not Quite The Thing

So, had to share this one with you, especially after my previous post. As you know, I’m experimenting with different crafts/ arts and seeing where it takes me, and I was at my art class earlier (next week we’re doing reflections and I’ve got to take a reflective object. If anyone can think of anything interesting that I can get in my bag and which will save me taking in a spoon, I’m all ears).
(Middle one mine) - this is an appropriate pursuit for the middle classes (although I suspect mine was a bit bright)
I was chatting to a couple of other women in the class at break time. Now. Cambridge, as a place, is in many many ways very lovely: I meet lots of really nice, interesting people, there’s always lots to do, and it’s somehow a place that’s very open to new experiences and new ideas. And then, very occasionally, I meet people who are snobs *cough* Partner's ex-girlfriend *cough*. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen sometimes that it is made very clear to me that I am Not Quite The Thing. Since I am by now fairly sure that whatever The Thing is I am probably having more fun not being it, it just makes me laugh a bit but yes, had one this morning, whoosh.
Knitting this would not be an appropriate pursuit for the middle classes. I might just as well start watching The Only Way Is Essex, wait, oops
So, we were chatting about how long we had been painting, and I said, cheerfully, that I had only just started, but that I did some other creative stuff and it was quite a different experience; to which they said, what, and I started off on my litany of all the mad things I do. ‘I knit…’ And readers, I got no further. One of the women said ‘Knit?’ in a tone just like Lady Bracknell and the handbag (really, she did), and looked at me just as if I had marched in and announced a liking for polyamory and then mooned at her. ‘That’s right’ I said, cheerfully, because I am quite hard, also if anyone ever tries to outsnob me I have the killer blow: because, I can always say ‘and my partner is a medieval latinist of international repute’ and that is the kind of thing that works in Cambridge. ‘I knit’.

The woman visibly quailed, because clearly this is not something you should mention in the hallowed presence of Oils. I warmed to my subject, because, I do not take offence at people unless they actually insult me deliberately, as sometimes people are just a bit gauche. I didn’t have long to wait, though. ‘Yes’ I said, with a smile. ‘I knit very intricate lace designs [look. People. Allow me some poetic license, also, never put yourself down in front of people who are waiting to do it for you] and fairisle. It’s very interesting and creative’. ‘Well’ the woman said with a small horrified laugh. ‘Knitting is not something I would ever do’. ‘Really?’ I said, politely. ‘Normally people tell me about the lovely things their grandmothers used to knit’ (they do normally tell me that). ‘Well’ she said, as if I'd actually dissed her family. ‘Knitting isn’t something I or anyone I know would ever do’. ‘What a shame’ I said, politely. ‘Because knitting is so incredibly fashionable these days’ at which another woman backed me up that actually everyone these days was knitting. ‘Well’ the first woman said. ‘I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t care about… [tinkling laugh] fashion. I shall go and continue with my painting’.
O the silkiness of Natural Dye Studio Precious! But, this would be anathema to the Serious Artist. Having this yarn is worse than watching TOWIE. It is actually as bad as getting Vajazzled. It is directly morally equivalent
Readers, I am polluting that class with my shallow knowledge of craft (and fashion), and all I can say is, it is a good job I did not announce my intention of tie-dyeing a quilt panel this Friday, because, it may well have knocked that woman out, and who wants the moral dilemma of whether or not to have a go at CPR in a draughty church hall? I’m afraid I am going to continue with my class, though, because it’s a lovely atmosphere (no, it is), and the teacher’s great.

But, next week, I may be wearing my Jaali.

An Interview with Jo, Arts Therapist

So, readers. I have been thinking recently about art, craft, differences or not differences, and what the function is of both (because, I am a diehard utilitarian. I am essentially the Mr Gradgrind of the craft world), and, when Jo Ash, who is an arts therapist in Cambridge (you can get in touch with Jo through her webpage here), kindly agreed to do an interview for me, I thought I would explore some of the thoughts I had been having. So I hit Jo with all my questions in a beady-eyed fashion and she was a very interesting, thoughtful interviewee. Thanks for doing this interview for me Jo!
Jo, still looking cheerful even though I'd made her do my questions
1/ What art forms do you encourage people to use in your sessions, and what are the most popular?

We use a variety of art forms – painting and drawing, clay, musical instruments. On my placement in Fulbourn I see clients in an amazing room with a piano and drums, but normally we don’t have access to instruments quite like that! – Puppets are very popular, also I use a sand tray (placing things in it), and postcard images. I also sometimes use drama techniques, and movement and body work. Clients can bring in stuff that they think would be helpful – for example, clients often bring in music.

Choosing postcard images is very popular – clients often have some shame issues around creating art. They’re told at school that they’re bad at art and that stays with them. So clients choose images that represent a part of them, and then we talk that through.

[I asked Jo if anyone had ever wanted to express themselves through fibre crafts, and, interestingly: no-one ever had. I’m wondering if it’s because knitting (for example) isn’t a very immediate medium: not only does it take you forever to, say, express your irritation at someone by knitting a giant circular shawl with skulls on, on the final chart now, but, you have to learn how to do it first. But, I don’t know, and I imagine this varies for people].

2/ Do you find people have an initial resistence to expressing themselves through art?

People definitely do – particularly the clients I’ve worked with. Everyone’s a little bit apprehensive to start with. Often it’s because of their background – they’ve grown up thinking they’re not a very creative person. People might also have difficulty around being spontaneous and playful. Therapy is often about facilitating play. The power of using arts is that it has the potential to get straight to the unconscious, and that’s very exposing. There can be lots of transference from the client to the therapist. [We discussed here as well a bit about the fear of facing the blank canvas, or blank whatever: how perhaps the ultimate fear is that as soon as you make a mark you reveal your unconscious, and it’s not good enough. I realised that this is actually a difference between craft and art for me: with craft, I don’t have the facing-the-void problem. I just don’t have it. I don’t know if that’s an issue of media, what I’m expressing, or my own preconceptions, though].

3/ What types of issues do you find respond best to art therapy?

It tends to work well with exploring different aspects of the self, therefore, it’s useful for people with a fragmented sense of self. It’s good for people who are perhaps feeling flat and stuck, and want to live to their potential. I’ve also used it on people who are psychotic, although not all therapies are effective in that case: for example, where normally I might get someone to create an image and then journey into it, I would only do that if someone had a secure footing in reality. Music tends to be useful for psychotic patients: it gives structure.

4/ Do you think some people are intrinisically more creative?

I like to think that everybody is creative, although it might be more in some people’s temperaments – but there is also creativity in other things. There is creativity in living a good life, for example, not getting stuck in old patterns, and having the capacity to be in the moment. Art can be used as a kind of rehearsal for life, and if people have taken risks in the art relationship, they can then transfer that over to life.

5/ Do you think there is a difference between craft and art?

I started off as a textile artist, and I like the idea of fusing craft and art. It’s all about the aesthetic for me: if craftwork moves me then it’s the same to me as painting. I think the intention in creating the work is important.

6/ Do you think art and a well-balanced mental state necessarily go together? [I’m going to analyse myself now. I think this question is expressive of an anxiety that you lose some part of yourself through therapy and/ or becoming functional. Not to worry though, I think I’ve some way to go yet].

I think there’s a lot of romanticism about creativity and genius, and how they can come together, but I think in actual fact sometimes the more in touch someone becomes the more that layer of doubt and neurosis is taken away. [Jo explained she had undergone lots of therapy herself, as this is mandatory for anyone acting as a therapist to clients, and I shall now spare you my rant about how This Should Be The Case In All Voluntary Sector Professions Involving A Client-Professional Dynamic, although, I did not spare poor Jo: anyway, this had helped her a lot in confronting feelings of ambivalence towards her own art, e.g. the idea that she had to do art obsessively for it to count. I do think there’s a very strong cultural idea about the Mad Driven Artist which is actually worth unpicking if you think about it because also it’s generally post-1820 or whenever].

7/ What was your experience of working with Kids Company?

I worked in a couple of primary schools for Kids Company – it was inner-city London, and could be quite challenging. There were some difficult psycho-social issues, and people were quite resistent to therapy – it wasn’t in their culture. There was a lot of shame about admitting you might be struggling. It was very enriching though – clients enrich your practice – you learn a lot from them. Often people have very traumatic early beginnings, and it’s quite inspiring to see how they work their way through them.

8/ Tell me about the art you do!

I paint in oils – I do abstracts with a figurative dimension. I’ve exhibited with Changing Spaces – I used to have a studio when I lived in Leeds, but I don’t have one in Cambridge. I need to get back to it!

Thank you Jo! You were a lovely interviewee, and you gave me lots to think about. I am off to ponder what I am expressing and how, and I am also going to think about unhelpful Artist Stereotypes I might be holding on to. I am actually sitting here wondering what art forms I gravitate to naturally if I am actually trying to work through something emotional, and, I gravitate to writing and music (not saying I do either well, but, those are the ones I go for, and I shall be telling you about my adventures in guitar playing in a future post). And, interestingly, it is writing and music that have been difficult for me over these last couple of years. You see: lots to think about. Thank you again Jo and all the best with your practice and your painting!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Nice Knitalong you may wish to do

Just quickly popping in to point you in the direction of Chrissy at Stitched Together's beautiful shawl which she designed. Chrissy is hosting a knitalong for this shawl on Ravelry, and if you take part in the knitalong you get a pound off the shawl pattern (details in the linked post).

Obviously I'm not doing enough things generally (HA!) so I shall be taking part, and I'm rather excited. I've even bought some expensive (for me) yarn (and here's a hint: it isn't Noro). My paypal account squeaked in protest, but my hands have stopped shaking now so it's OK, and I may show it to you when it arrives. If you're looking at this and thinking, no, that is too complicated for me, I have seen the pattern and it looks perfectly doable, so, if you've done any lace at all you should be absolutely fine (or if you haven't, but, you're adventurous and dogged, you should be fine too). The only slight difficulty is that unless you use a cobweb weight yarn, you will probably have to buy two skeins of laceweight, but, you will definitely have enough left from the second skein to make a whole other shawl (perhaps it is just me that worries about these things?) - anyway, if you are wanting to knit a very pretty semi-circular shawl this may be the time to do it. KAL begins on 5th March, so get googling for laceweight and limbering up.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

And I hate everything about you

Readers, this is a very serious post. I need to warn you.

It is possible that you may be sitting around one day without anything immediate to fill up the part of your brain that deals with urgent issues. Perhaps the bath is not leaking for a change and you do not have to regrout it. Perhaps Partner (or, your equivalent) has not got flu/ a phishing email that is confusing him/ something he wants to tell you about a realisation he has had about literary intertextuality. Perhaps the state of the house would not actually cause the man who reads the gas meter, should he perchance call by, to inform the council, so, you do not need to clean it. Perhaps you have sorted out peace in the Middle East, the Greek Default, and have already told Mr Cameron not to be so silly re: NHS reform.

At such a dangerous moment, the following thought may pop into your head: what I need to do, you may think, is, start knitting a cardigan in laceweight yarn. I know! I shall use Noro Sekku! Then my cardigan will cause people in the street to stop, throw their hands up, and say the following: gosh, is that a handknitted cardigan or is it actually Vintage Missoni which may have cost in the region of £450? My goodness, by knitting that cardigan not only have you astonished me with an innovative and quirky yarn/ pattern combination, you have assisted in the reclamation of knitting as a cool thing and not something only partaken in by 45-year-old virgins with too many cats [actually that sounds kind of attractive as a lifestyle to me, does it to you?].

Do not do it. NORO SEKKU IS ABSOLUTELY AWFUL. Look, I try to be nice and constructive on this blog, but, truthfully: it is unusable. It is overspun (apart from the bits that are not spun at all). Parts of it come apart in your hands. It has knots. It sticks to itself and knots up and you have to unravel it all the bloody time. If your hands are at all rough (and look. It is February), you have no chance at all. If you have bought a skein, I would advise you to do the following: dig a large hole in your garden, bury it, come inside and drink gin. Or, use it to tie your tomatoes to stakes. Me, I shall be finishing my cardigan as I am a masochist. But you, readers, you still have a chance: you can save yourselves. Put down the stripy laceweight yarn. Put it down and walk away slowly. I would rather watch a Loose Women marathon on TV than ever use this yarn again. And do you know what? You can actually buy Loose Women DVDs! I have seen them in Poundland! (But: don’t buy one of those either).

Monday, 13 February 2012

I won't keep doing this

As we march together along this long, paint-stained road that leads inexorably to a huge canvas of a cross-eyed labrador. (Although. While I was buying my Value white spirit in Tesco - I know - the woman on the till asked me if I was painting 'a wall or a picture', and then we had a long conversation about her grandmother who used to paint wonderful paintings but stopped when she got married in 1904. So there we go, you see, art/ craft: uniting women across generations. Get out there and be visible with your craft and remind everyone of their grannies.)
Remember when you had to take your film in to be developed? No-one took pictures of coffee then
Inspiration. This was on the coldest day so far this year. (Yes, that is instant coffee: if I drink real coffee I get overexcited). Look at the steam! Our house is always freezing. I think we have a ghost. In fact, actually I've heard him.
The perspective is not, actually, all wrong, because it is an Interpretation
Work in progress. I'm waiting for it to dry and then I'm going to do more detail and make the colours brighter (advice to aspiring artists: buy a shedload of Titanium White!).

When the things you make have more exciting lives than you do

Happy Monday! (Says she, brightly). Before I go out to try to start the *^%^%^& car and swear impotently, because, as you will have intuited, my life is non-stop glamour, just wanted to say a big thank you to AC Engineered Knits for showing my rainbow bag that she bought on her blog. It’s a funny feeling (in a good way) to see your things popping up in other places. You feel like saying, hey you rainbow bag, what are you doing over there with your new horizons. Anyway, thank you AC, I am delighted. Also wanted to show you my skirt I made from recycled tshirts:
Not naff. What could you sew, Partner? Nothing
Partner has just wandered past this and called it ‘wonderfully naff’. Partner has no proper comprehension of the Recycled Garment Revolution. I made it from tshirts I got from local charity shops and it’s constructed with kind of a-line panels and godets (I made the pattern, that’s why I sound a bit vague. I never know what you’re supposed to call things). I’m thinking the same shape in different weights of fabric might look interesting. I’m even wondering about felted wool. I shall have to go back and have another look in the hens’ teeth section.
Always use stitch markers. That's my advice. If only there were Stitch Markers For Life
And this is my shawl I am (still) making (arsenic and old lace). You can’t see anything: all you’re going to be able to see until I finish it is slightly bigger white lumps on a needle. I’m up to the teeth of the skull, and, because I Just Don’t Like long rows it’s a bit of a challenge (only psychologically), but I shall definitely finish it (says she, grimly). One thing I will say: if you’re thinking of doing a circular shawl but you’re worried they’re too difficult (I mean, you might also be worried you haven’t got a million hours of your life to spend on one but let’s pretend that’s not a problem), this is an excellent one to start with. I haven’t found any errors in the pattern so far, it’s well explained and intuitive (just pay attention to the bit about moving stitchmarkers – that’s the only place I really cocked it up so far).
This is the chin and teeth of the skull. I can't understand how I can be a person who enjoys something as fiddly as knitting lace. I am having to readjust my self-image
Circular shawls aren’t difficult, but the bit on double pointed needles at the beginning is a bit of a faff, because nupps on dpns and yarnovers inbetween needles is fiddly (if you’re a diehard magic looper it might all be much better for you: just start off on a 100cm needle perhaps and gradually your stitches will fill it? I don’t know). Anyway, I press on, and I’ve worked out that if I do a couple of rows a day I’ll have it done in a month. So everyone give a shout on 13th March and hopefully I should be able to proudly display a giant impractical shawl with skulls on. Skulls on! I’m going through my second adolescence.

(Hopefully it’s better than the first one, though. One word: Bros. In fact, two words: Bros. Acne).

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Learning to paint with oils

OK, quick blog post (I say this then I end up rattling on forever). I did my art class.
I'm pretty sure this makes me an Artist
And do you know what? It was so much fun. I had a great time. We were doing landscapes in the style of David Hockney (the cynic in me says that is because beginners would have a better chance at doing a David Hockney landscape than, say, hyperrealism, but then again, what’s wrong with being realistic and practical about things? Excellent choice of subject, Tom the oil class teacher) and because I am always late, underprepared, slipping on ice and generally crap, I had not bought a picture of a landscape to work from. But I dug out my camera which is always on hand in case a big hairy cat walks past and vogues, and I used this one:
It is a bit dark, yes. I like a challenge
First I did a couple of sketches with oil pastels. I will say to you honestly that when an oil pastel was put into my hand and an A4 sheet of paper was placed in front of me, I felt inadequacy and fear. I think my fear is of producing something that is recognisably a drawing, but is crap, and then not knowing why it is crap so not being able to improve: just being overwhelmed by crapness and despair. I swear bad art actually hurts me physically, I am too delicate for this world. (I have identified Partner’s biggest fear, too. I have shown him these photographs I am going to show you and he said immediately: ‘promise me we will never have to do Cambridge Open Studios. People will all come and look at me.’ I don’t know if Partner has dreams where he is resitting his A-levels naked*, but obviously he fears exposure which you would not think since he is never wearing any clothes.)
And now we will draw a veil over this whole misbegotten episode
So this was my first sketch and it was indeed crap and I did not know why, and I felt sad and inadequate, especially as the woman sitting near me appeared to be producing a Constable. But I looked at it again and I thought: too much going on, composition doesn’t flow, I shall try again. So I did a simple line sketch and I felt a bit happier.
This was the Purple Ronnie of oil pastels. Oils pastels are not my metier
Then I started with my oils and a canvas and that felt much better. For those of you who may wish to have a crack, this is what I have learned so far: you only need to buy (no, I know, thrifty oil painting, I am so predictable), titanium white and some primary colours (blue, red, green, yellow) as you can mix colours from that (I used for my painting blue, white, purple, yellow, green and brown and various mixes thereof). You can apparently get cheap canvases from The Works although also check your local friendly art store (I don’t just say this because I work in one) as they will have a range (and will cater to students so they won’t all be expensive. The words to use are ‘student quality oils’). Oil paints are not cheap, though, so, I don’t know, start off by painting a ladybird? Or a zebra? Anyway, this is where I ended up at the end of today (this is just the background and some tree trunks, I will put the detail in next lesson).
No cross-eyed labradors. I'm going to put branches on the trees and everything
I wouldn’t say it was good, exactly, but I don’t think it is unspeakable and I am not ashamed. Also I can face finishing it. For the next lesson I am going to get some of my own paints, and I may also get a small canvas and have a bit of a go on my own beforehand, I shall see how I go. Could this be a new way to disguise the woodchip? We will see.

* Partner has just walked past and told me that he has got A-levels in Latin, Greek, Ancient History, and Latin Verse Composition. You see at my school they encouraged you to be well-rounded, but at Partner’s clearly they didn’t.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Feeling inspired

It's snowed here in Cambridge, so I slip along nervously with my big boots on, while cats watch me contemptuously from the tops of dustbins (look, big grey hairy cat! You have four feet! I have but two! I shall not be intimidated!).
A new dawn of inspiration. I have to get up early now, you know. And I'm not a lark. I'm an owl
While it's all cold and frozen outside, though, inside (thematic link! link coming!) I feel more fired up than I have in a while, and I've got a few new projects on the go (pics will have to wait till I am near them in daytime). I've been drafting a skirt pattern to make from recycled tshirts, and today I went charity shopping and actually got some tshirts that will work for it, and, thrillingly, a 100% lambswool jumper.

I'm collecting wool jumpers to make one of these coats (buy the pattern - it's a good pattern), and she suggests that you do your first coat with woollen jumpers that you've washed on a hot wash and felted a bit. Well. I don't know where your local charity shops stock the 100% wool jumpers, but in mine they're normally on the rail next to the hens' teeth. Yes. You will recognise me in the charity shops of Cambridge because I'm the one rifling through the endless sea of George at Asda acrylic, muttering, bloody bloody hell. But no matter. It is a long term project and now I have three jumpers to use (one from today and two of mine that have seen better days. No they don't match. It will be fine).
This skirt is actually rather cool in real life. Reconstructed black jersey, wrap, contrast stitching. However every photograph I have taken of it is JUST HORRENDOUS. It is like those postcards of motorway bridges. Why can't I have an aspirational house that does not have a green carpet or piles of Partner's boxes? Why can't I live with a man who doesn't have boxes? Are there such men? Why have they passed me by?
And I'm going to an art class tomorrow. We are going to be doing an oil painting in the style of David Hockney, this has nearly finished Partner off as it is possibly the most amusing thing he has ever heard in his life. If you remember, I was going to go to a life drawing class but then I thought further about things, and I thought: what am I most inspired by? Nakedness or Colour? (I know what that says about me. Self knowledge is a terrible thing). So, David Hockney oils it is initially, and then I may do life drawing later, as I am exploring Different Expressive Media. My mother has put her order in for a drawing if I do ('can I have something to put above the fire, Susie, although, if it's a naked man could you do his back rather than full frontal as I don't want to be having to explain when Beryl and Roger come round'). I've been thinking a lot about art, craft, the difference (if there is one), and about experimenting with different art forms to Express Myself. Partner is hoping any new modes of self expression will not take up a lot of room or cause him ever to have to leave the house or talk to people, however, I am afraid we are just going to have to see where the Muse takes me. I have to say, it is not likely to take me to a Royal Academy exhibition, but I am also trying to deconstruct the idea that you have to be good at things to try them. I shall be bad at things, and I shall be liberated.

(So when I show you oil paintings of wonky houses or slightly cross-eyed labradors, you may want to work up to being kind about them while I work up to being bad and liberated. We'll get there. It will be fun).

Friday, 3 February 2012

12 things for me

So, I made a skirt but now it’s too dark to take a photo of it so I’ll have to show you in the next post. Here’s a nice photo I took of some trees instead (we’re freezing our bums off here, I don’t know about you).
There were a million squirrels running about. Squirrels haunt me, they haunt me
I started this year with a Secret List which I’m wondering whether to share or not, because I just have this feeling that the minute I make it official I won’t want to do it any more. There were a flurry of things around the internet in December about 12 things for yourself in 2012, (you could have a look at this flickr group here, or this group on Ravelry), so I made a list of 12 things (well, 12 things and a bonus) I would like to make for myself. Since I’ve now made one of them and am about halfway through another I might give you a small peek (I don’t think you’ll put me off, nice readers, I just worry as soon as I commit it to pixels I’ll go off the idea!).
Also, I have now spent all my wages in advance on a pair of deeply impractical shoes. So, all these things will be made from string and an old bedsheet
Anyway, making things for myself has made me think about a couple of things. The first one is that when I make things for myself normally I tend not to value them, or, not quite not value them, but, I don’t mark them out as being of value, if that makes sense. So I don’t always finish things perfectly if they are just for me, and I wear them around the house and with hoodies. I wondered, though, with the 12 I’m (possibly) making: what if I finished them all nicely, sewed labels in, and wore them as if they were expensive designer pieces I’d bought from a shop, i.e. with accessories and makeup, gasp? How would that feel? How would it affect how other people saw them? So I am going to try that just as an experiment,

And the second thing is something that has always been an issue with me: I don’t want to make the things that it would be useful for me to have. I can’t tell you how strongly my taste in handmade things tends towards the dramatic, the one-off. What would be useful for me to have in my wardrobe is 3 more navy blue tshirts, a pair of trousers that fit, and a couple of fine-knit v-neck sweaters. Do you know what, though? I’ll just make what I’m interested in making, I’ll buy the plain things from TK Maxx if I need them, and we’ll see what happens. What use is a navy tshirt anyway without a huge circular shawl with skulls on to set it off? Exactly.