clean sweep

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I started this blog in order to be transparent about our decluttering journey.  That was six years ago.  We have a lot less unnecessary stuff now than we did then and are quite a lot better about what we let across our threshold in the first place.  But one area where I have always had a problem is my studio.

It doesn’t usually look like this!  This is the “I have pulled everything out and now need to sort it” photo.  Which is the method that works best for me – get it out, sort it.  I know it doesn’t work for everyone but each to their own and if I had to give advice I would counsel choosing one area (a room, a cupboard, a drawer – the size doesn’t matter) and emptying it all out.  It does look a mess, it may seem insurmountable, but seeing it all in one place both shocks you into action and, strange as it may seem, is easier and quicker to address than pulling out items one by one and considering them individually.  You can make sweeping sorting decisions and then tackle each pile in more detail.  Also when you see it all in one place it is easier to spot multiple duplicates and far easier to let go of the ones you don’t need.

But back to craft rooms/studios/cupboards.  For me this is always an area of rapid accumulation because I can always justify keeping fabric oddments, clothes that are past repairing but the fabric is gorgeous, yarn ends etc. because I may be able to use them in a project later and hey I am upcycling/reusing so that’s good isn’t it?  No it isn’t because nine times out of ten those oddments never do get used by me.  They (a) take up space  and (b) could be taken by somebody who actually will use them.

Taking up space: my kist was full of fabric and yarn.  Not only was it a nightmare trying to find something I knew was in there, half the time I didn’t know what was in there.  I found both distressing and stressful and made me feel terribly guilty.

Somebody else will use them:  I hope that the people who did take them (via Freegle) will use the yarn and fabric and it won’t just fill up one of their cupboards, but I can’t police that.  I hope that somebody gets some pleasure out of them, I hope that they find a new life and new use and are appreciated.

A couple of samples of the oddments that went to new homes.

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Everything from cashmere to acrylic.  Including several balls from the same dye batch.

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Hi-Vis to Harris Tweed.

My kist is now half as full.  I know what is in there and am shocked by how much yarn I have accumulated and didn’t really know about because it was buried under bags of stuff .  I went to a wonderful wool festival last weekend and had a fabulous time admiring the indie dyed yarn and batts.  I attended two extremely good workshops and had a fun time with friends at the evening event, but I bought nothing.  I have started to allocate my yarn stash to specific projects and not only do I not need any  more yarn, actually I don’t want any.  I want to use and appreciate what I have first.

My studio now

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Finally fired up by success in my studio I spent a day whizzing around the house and removing the stuff that had been in my eyeline for departure for far too long.  My friend’s charity is very pleased to have received all this, and my house is breathing a little more easily now.

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Love Gillie x

 

 

vital mending

I have a couple of free days, days where all I actually HAVE to do are the usual minutiae of life, no appointments, no deadlines.  Perfect for spinning or knitting.

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Only it’s not.  It’s too hot to be playing with wool, and I am not knitting with this on my lap.

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I’m not complaining about the weather (well I was when I was stuck in my daughter’s car for over an hour, no idea how to get home,  with no air con, no map (who doesn’t have a map in their car) and no phone charger, so no google maps either).  I was complaining about a lot then.

I have been doing a spot of decluttering over the past week (stay with me, there is a sequitur).  Finally, those irritating things around the house have tipped me over the edge and they are all allocated to new homes (divided between the local Clothing bank and a friend who runs charity sales every week – she ought to be on the route to canonisation if you are reading this up there!)   Even our old fridge (working but surplus to requirements), a duvet, some linen and a memory foam mattress went somewhere where they will be appreciated rather than snarled at as we pass by.

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Yesterday I decided it was time to face my studio, which is rather overstocked.  Part of the overstock is the pile of mending that has been waiting patiently for attention.  Top of the pile is a dress I made out of two dresses that no longer fitted.  It’s a summer dress, it’s cool (as in temperature, I wouldn’t dream of aspiring to social or fashion coolness) and perfect for the railway track melting temperatures we are currently experiencing.  Well it would be if I mended it.  So I did.

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Then I hemmed a pair of trousers, sewed on quite a lot of buttons, ran up a few seams and done!  I love the colours.  Now I have to wash and iron it all.

 

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I, like many of my generation, was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a family where mending was the norm.  There were times when my mother’s frugal ways mortified the arrogant youth in me.  Grating up soap heels to make new bars was something I don’t believe any of my friends did on a Saturday afternoon.  But guess what I still do it.

I’m not banging a new drum in saying that we have become a throwaway society, but we have done it at remarkable speed.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could become a mending society just as quickly.  Actually, it wouldn’t just be lovely …. it’s vital.

Love Gillie x

and it’s from the old we travel to the new

Yesterday I cried on and off most of the evening, went to bed and cried a little bit more. Woke up at 2.30am and failed to go back to sleep for another 2 hours as my mind wove its way through memories.  Had a near one died? No.  Was a loved one diagnosed with  terminal illness? No.  Were we about to declare bankruptcy? No.  The source of my sadness … a friend moved to the other end of the country.

We make friends at many different stages in our lives.  When we are young children our friends are mainly determined by our parents, they tend to be the children of their own friends.  We start to take control of our friendships at nursery and then school.  Some of our most enduring relationships are made at that time and I can include two friends I know I could call in the middle of the night from that era.  However, most of those don’t last the strains of time, travel and growing up.  During university and the early career years friends come and go as we move jobs, towns and even countries before we finally settle down in a career and/or a family.

It was at this stage in my life that this friendship was born.  I had moved to Durham from Scotland, newly married and with a toddler daughter following my husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  She had just returned to Durham after a decade away, with three young children following her husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  We both had a ribald sense of humour seasoned with plenty of sarcasm and an instant understanding of what is was like to be the non-working, non-medical wife of a hospital consultant (in those days – fairly shit – you are pretty much a non-person in the eyes of many of their colleagues of all ranks). It transpired our husbands had been at the same college at Cambridge (although like most men they couldn’t remember)  Our children were about to start in the same class at the same school.  Hello new friend.

Like all relationships we moved along with the tides and there would be periods when we didn’t see each other as much.  Once children became old enough to have outside interests and hobbies and husbands senior enough to be rarely around as they are sought after for conferences and committees across the country free time for coffee with friends is in short supply.  Thank goodness for friends with more time who arranged dinner parties etc.

Then finally the children gained driving licences and then moved away to university.  We began  a regular knitting and stitching group, six friends with a wicked sense of humour and a mutual love of knitting and stitching.  Ladies in Stitches was born.  Twice a month we spent the day at my friend’s house and upped the yarn and thread ante.  I learned to crochet, a dyed in the wool (no pun intended) stitcher learned to knit and has just completed her first pair of socks.

My friend introduced me to crewel work and I am still inordinately proud of my first ever attempt.

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I rediscovered ribbon embroidery.

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Another, a seriously accomplished crafter and professional seamstress took up lace work knitting with astonishing speed and equally astonishing skill.

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We had in-jokes.  At least five other people reading this will appreciate the significance of the squirrel!

We had days out  to festivals, exhibitions, gardens, we opened each other’s eyes, we learned from each other, we had a lot of fun and we supported each other quietly as we did so.  As each of us faced crises of sometimes quite frightening severity Ladies in Stitches wove a small part of the overall net that caught our fall.

Then a little part unravelled.  My friend announced that they were moving to the other end of the country.  It made perfect sense, that was where all their children lived, including her new grandchild.  Having brought my own children up without grandparents within 300 miles I understood, but my lower lip wobbled just a little.

They sold their house but without somewhere to move to down south they were looking to rent.  Lo and behold the tenants in our Barn had just left and they moved in next door.  My girls thought it was hysterical.  When they were younger the house next door to one of their friend’s in a nearby village came up for sale.  They were desperate for us to buy it so they could live next door to their best friend, they planned on digging tunnels  between the houses for ease of access!

We didn’t need tunnels. For a glorious year I had a good friend (and their two lovely dogs one of whom became bosom buddies with Poppy) a mere couple of yards away.  We didn’t live in each other’s pockets but the kettle was often on.

It couldn’t go on forever.  Yesterday she started the next stage in her journey and I wish her nothing but love and good fortune.  I am mourning the death of one friendship and learning to love the birth of a different one.  I am 55 years old, I have lived in this part of the world for 25 years, longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life, I have been married for 25 years and this friendship has spanned almost all the time I have been married and lived here and so is intrinsically linked to a major part of my life so far.  It is hard to unpick it and re-work it into a different form.

But I will.

Love Gillie x

 

goddesses

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In between getting my head down and concentrating on a lacework shawl and trying very hard not to drop any stitches because they are a right pain to try and pick up again in lacework, I have been playing with goddesses.

The Boss and I go to a pottery group every Wednesday and deciding that we now had enough platters and bowls I started to play around with sculptures.  We then had plenty of animals and vases.  So after our trip to Malta this summer where we saw some of the most amazing early goddess statues I decided to have a go at making my own.

The one at the top is based on an actual sculpture in Malta and was my first attempt.  When I was making the hips and feet a fellow potter looked over my shoulder and asked if I was making an armadillo!  I would have preferred to have given her bigger hips but it didn’t work out right.  Better luck next time maybe.  However, she is a nice size that fits comfortably in my hand and often travels around with me.

Next up was more of a wall hanging goddess.

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She is about 10″ tall and I am very fond of her.

I love walking the labyrinth and am still working on the Boss as I want to create one in the meadow.  Meanwhile I thought I would have a go at making a finger labyrinth for my table.  I love the goddess but am no so keen on the glaze.

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Finally I made a meditation yoni.  I have a friend who makes the most beautiful yonis out of parian porcelain.  She made one for me which I carved and glazed.  I decided to have a go at making my own.  I am very pleased with this one, it’s the perfect size to fit in my hands as a meditation tool.

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Whilst the clays were going in and out of the kiln I thought I would have a go at goddess interpretation with textiles.  I loved the colours in this one,  my sea goddess.

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This lady is still a work in progress, dark evenings are perfect for playing with embellishments in front of the fire!

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Now I think I need to get on with that lacework!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

ladies in stitches

Every other Tuesday I get together with five other friends for a day of stitching, knitting, crochet and general chat.  We egg each other on with unfinished projects, teach each other new skills and put the world to rights over a mug of tea and a bowl of soup.  Today I was hosting.  It was perhaps not the ideal day for me to chose as the builders had come over to catch up on a few snagging jobs, our fabulous duo of cleaning ladies were wielding their magic and a massive translation job came in….

However, now that I have my own little studio we took our tray of tea and date and walnut loaf and left them to it.  I had intended to get on with the cardigan I am making my mother for Christmas, but on the grounds that I knit every evening I thought I could better use my time catching up on the unfinished bits and bobs.  Two hop pillows and eight lavender bags (using our own hops and lavender no less) it was time for my fellow ladies in stitches to head home.  But I was on a roll, I cast my eye around for something to do.

When we lived in the north of Scotland I accumulated a lot of tweed.  Not a little tweed, a LOT of tweed.  Enough tweed to, well let’s just say come the apocalypse we won’t be cold in our little hobbit hole.  There was one particular off cut from a suit that the Boss had made that was deliciously soft and had been winking at me for a while.

Et voila two cushions and a dinky little tea cosy for the tea pot for one that is currently without a cosy2017-11-21 17.09.53

All in all I reckon it took me about half an hour to make all three.  Dead easy,  I promise.

First cut a strip of material at least two and three quarter times as long as your cushion and wide enough to drape over the cushion to the tension you wish (ie do you want a loose or tight cover) plus a generous 3/4″ to 1″ seam allowance..

Hem the two short ends and wrap around the cushion.

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Mark with the pin where you want to run the side seams.  Remove the cushion, pin and sew side seams.  Turn right side out and the proverbial Bob is your uncle.

As for the tea cosy.  Two arcs of tweed, two arcs of liner (I used soft brushed cotton, an old sheet) and two arcs of interlining (you want to keep your tea warm after all don’t you?)  Make the tweed two inches longer at the bottom along the straight edge.

Sew tweed – interlining – lining together in that order and turn up the two inches of extra tweed at the bottom for a hem.  Repeat for the other side.  Turn right side to right side and sew two sides together.  Cut excess hem along the curved edge and turn right side out.  Bob’s your other uncle!

Love Gillie x