Tatty Devine are having a retrospective of the 20 years they have been in business at the Lethaby Gallery in London. I entered a competition on Twitter, where they asked fans to share their favourite piece. I chose the rainbow necklace I made at another workshop I attended.
I was a little disappointed not to win, especially because I felt faked out when the gallery tagged me as the runner-up. Then there was a plot twist. The winner kindly offered me her +1 and before I knew it I was reorganising my Saturday plans so that I could go. Yeah, I guess I hadn’t checked my diary when I entered the competition.
I’ve actually been to a free bunting workshop at TD before. I just scrolled back through my Instagram feed to look for a picture and it was nearly four years ago!
I’d slightly hoped they might have some offcuts from the amazing acrylic they were using for another workshop available, but they didn’t.
I initially went for my default option of rainbow. However, since I know I’m pretty fast at making up the jewellery (I must have been to at least five workshops even though I haven’t blogged them all) I decided to spend a little longer at the design stage.
I laid out every colour of acrylic available, grouping them by the colours I felt went together. And this more pastelly option presented itself.
I also had a look around the exhibition- which I recommend if you are in the King’s Cross area for an hour or so. I first became aware of Tatty Devine when I was at university, so I’ve been well over ten years (god that makes me feel old). I remembered a lot of the collections. It’s interesting to notice how my tastes and personal style have evolved, and how that is reflected in the Tatty pieces I have been drawn to.
The founders of TD met at art school and I found myself, not for the first time, regretful about the way my life has turned out.
I don’t think the idea of studying art even crossed my mind when I was 17 and choosing universities, or even when I was 15 and choosing A’level subjects. I did art and graphics when I was at school. Back in those days, I think you had to choose a creative subject (art, music or drama) and a technology (my school was a ‘technology college’ and I think the choices were food tech, graphics or resistant materials (which once would have been woodwork and metalwork)) for GCSE.
Even though I spent more time on my creative subjects than all the others put together, I was raised with the idea that a woman has to earn her own money. Following my creative streak simply didn’t seem compatible with gainful employment. I ended up spending three wilderness years studying psychology at Oxford, then (after a couple of years of low-paid employment) a further three getting my professional doctorate to get the job I have now. While I don’t hate my day job, it’s also not a passion for me.
I tend to see some kind of second career in my future. I can’t imagine doing the same job for the next several decades. But at the same time, setting up a small business seems like an awful lot of work compared to the relative safety of my life now.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had to move house at the beginning of July. Moving is always an opportunity to sort through ones stuff and I am currently minded to own a lot less of it. I wish that I had kept a bit more of an inventory of what I got rid of- mostly clothes and shoes that I no longer wear, books and a lot of odd paraphernalia.
One category that I found quite tough to let go of was gifts. I have received a few things, like a crepe pan from my dad, that are actually quite thoughtful and nice items. However, I just do not need a crepe pan right now. Hopefully it will be purchased by someone who will give it the love it deserves rather than keeping it in a box for years.
I have also had a history (not for a few years now, mind) of buying things for ‘one day,’ which generally means when I eventually buy a house. For example, I have set of four or six heart-shaped teaspoons that I must have bought ten years ago. This illustrates why I try not to buy for one day anymore- my tastes evolve quite quickly. This is especially why I try really hard not to stash yarn or fabric. Heart-shaped teaspoons are just not something I would think are a good idea now. In fact, writing that paragraph has just motivated me to get rid of those bloody spoons.
I still have two big items that I haven’t managed to sell yet. Since I’m not in a rush to get rid of these items, I will simply move with them and wait until I am able to get the price I believe they are worth.
I took the opportunity to finally unravel two projects that have been hibernating for years. I was trying to knit knee pads out of the rainbow yarn. I think knitting is just not the correct medium for what I was trying to make. I was making a plain cardigan from the purple.
To be honest I’m not crazy about the shade of purple and the whole project bored me, hence the fact that it ground to a screeching halt. I have picked up a few cute sets of buttons on my travels, so I’m planning to re-make the purple yarn into a baby sweater.
A friend mentioned that she was in the market for some free yarn so I collected a big bag to give her. It’s yarn from my stash that I don’t see myself using, so I’m pleased to see it go to a good home. I put some yarn in my first batch of items going to charity and I’m a little concerned that it will end up in the bin. But what’s done is done.
While going through my knitting, I realised that I had a small moth infestation. I believe the source was the Clanger, which I have since binned. That Clanger helped to inspire me to go on this decluttering crusade, so I can’t be too cross. I think that the infestation was confined to one shelf and I have managed to freeze everything that was in the vicinity. Both of my handmade baskets had evidence of moth life. Even though they’ve been in the freezer, I am a bit scared that they may have been permanently sullied.
Actually moving was a bit of a reality check. Even though I managed to get rid of a lot of stuff, I still have an awful lot left. I’ve been lucky that the last two properties I have been in were houses, where my possessions could be spread out. Now that I am confined mostly to one room again, it’s much clearer how much I own.
I think I’m doing relatively well at not buying new things. I try to make all of my purchases thoughtfully, secondhand as far as possible. I am going to try and continue with a process of perpetual re-evaluation of my things, really thinking about what I use, am likely to use in future, and what I enjoy owning.
I ummed and ahhed about participating in me-made May this year. In fact, I am vacillated all month. I loved MMM the first year I participated. I felt more connected to the sewing community and my handmade wardrobe. However, last year, I did not like it at all. I found it really difficult to find suitable locations for the daily pictures, sometimes walking around for half an hour or more on my lunchbreak, searching for the holy grail combination of a colourful wall with somewhere nearby to rest my phone. I think some of the big Instragram overhauls took place between May 2017 and May 2018 and the engagement with my posts really dropped. It was disheartening to spend so much time trying to get the pictures when no one seemed to care.
The funny thing is that I wore me-made items most days in May. I wear me-mades all the time. I would say it is quite unusual for me to go a day without wearing something I have made, no matter the month. But because I wasn’t documenting it, I didn’t feel like I was taking part. That definitely says a lot about my unhealthy relationship with Instagram.
I will continue to participate the way I always do in my daily life, capturing photos as and when I am able. Perhaps next year I will be in a better place for the challenge to serve me again.
I have to move house again at the beginning of July and I am finally confronting the fact that I own way too much stuff. I am trying to de-clutter in the most brutal way possible. I am tired of having to move this stuff around with me. I have been trying to follow some broad green principles that I’ve picked up from various Instagrammers during this declutter. I know that the whole ‘sparking joy’ thing has become a bit of a meme, but honestly I think it’s a good baseline for deciding whether something is worthy of space in ones life.
I am dividing the things I no longer need into what can be given away to people I know, sold, given to charity or discarded altogether. This requires me to balance different priorities. I have some things that I have been hanging on to because I don’t want to waste them. For example, I have a bag of old t-shirts that I might one day turn into jersey yarn. I am aware that sending old clothing to charity shops isn’t necessary the green solution we would like it to be; apparently some companies still send a lot of items to landfill, while on a broader level second-hand clothing has damaged the textiles industries in some developing nations. On the other hand, I don’t really want to take a bag of t-shirts (which I have already elected to discard) to my new house.
When selling items, I have to balance whether it will be worth the time and effort required. Selling is better from an environmental perspective because you know that the item is going where it is needed or wanted. However, photographing, listing (and often re-listing) and posting items is very time-consuming. In a lot of cases, I have donated saleable items because I am happy for the charity to take on the burden of selling them.
Some of the declutter has been great fun. I decided to donate (pretty much) all of the books that I have read. I posted some stories on Instagram and asked if anyone would like to take the books off my hands. I had a great response and it feels great to be sharing my books with friends. The rest were donated. I buy the vast majority of my books second-hand so I’m glad to be adding titles that aren’t old Dan Brown novels and copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to the shelves of charity shops in the local area.
One of the more brutal decisions I made (that I’m proud of) was to get rid of my old guide books. I have hung on to many of them for years as souvenirs of my travels, but it’s time to let them go now. I am old-fashioned enough to still like physical guidebooks, but it seems unnecessary to hang on to them as they become increasingly out-of-date.
So far I’ve got rid of a couple of big boxes and several bags of items. I plan to list the items above for sale soon. I also need to decide how and where to sell some larger items, including the stand mixer I won several years ago and my saxophone.
Decided to make a little post about this toy clanger, that I never finished knitting, in case it helps anyone else considering using this pattern. Overall I think the pattern is good and would produce a lovely finished item. Here is the Ravelry project page if you would like more information about the pattern etc.
I got quite a way into making this toy a good few years ago. I think I originally started it because my boyfriend at the time liked the Clangers. We split up about ten years ago now so I’m not sure that’s right. But I do know that I’ve been carrying this WiP around for a long time.
I think I got stuck on the pattern because I was a relatively inexperienced knitter at the time. I always thought I would finish it one day, hence bringing it with me on several house moves.
I had a moth problem in one of my previous houses and I’m sure that I froze this project to kill the larvae. However, when I picked it up again recently, I realised that both the yarn and the knitting had quite bad damage and evidence of infestation. I initially planned to keep what yarn I could salvage before realising- if I haven’t finished a project in a decade, when am I going to get to it? Even if I did finish it, do I actually have any need or want for the finished item?
I finally threw poor half-finished clanger the bin. I will now need to freeze the basket it was stored in as well as my mermaid Humboldt sweater, both of which were in the vicinity of the infestation.
Discarding the clanger is part of a wider attempt I’m making to de-clutter. My mother and aunt, probably the biggest female influences in my family, are enormous hoarders. While I felt that I have done my best to avoid following in their footsteps, I can’t deny that I own a lot of stuff (edit: I have denied this many times but I have now accepted the fact). Way more stuff, in fact, than it is reasonable for someone who does not own property to have. Moving the stuff between rental properties every couple years (an unfortunate but necessary part of living in London without familial wealth) is an enormous burden, both literally and metaphorically.
I have set myself a target of getting rid of half my stuff. Basically I am the Thanos of my own possessions. I’m not quite sure how I will actually quantify whether it was actually half, but I will know in myself if I have met my target. I will probably write a separate blog post about the de-clutter, but I will say that the project reflects an attempt in my life to get rid of things that no longer serve me. My relaxed hair, my burdensome possessions, and hopefully some psychological habits too. To the left, to the left.
I was just checking over my scheduled posts when I noticed that I have published 499 blog posts. I don’t know why I never get notifications about WordPress about milestones, but 500 posts seemed like kind of a big deal.
I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now. The landscape around online presentation has changed a lot in that time. I think I started out when blogging was at its zenith, whereas now it has declined in favour of (mostly) Instagram. While I love Instagram an unhealthy amount, this blog gives me something different. I like the way that the long form lets me keep notes on my previous projects, as well as reflect on what the crafts I am focusing on tell me about the priorities in my life.
I have heard that it’s better to keep your blog to a specific area, but I’ve always wanted mine to reflect my life. I like the way that it demonstrates how my passions and pursuits have developed over the years. I used to have a heavy baking and cake decorating emphasis (indeed, I initially called my blog ‘crafty little baker’). I would never have envisaged that, half a decade later, I would have gone vegan and become so interested in sustainability.
It’s also nice to be reminded of how far I have come as a maker over the years. My knowledge and skill in knitting has increased steadily over the years and my sewing is coming along really nicely. If you’re wondering whether I’m exaggerating how much things have changed, feel free to check out the first knit and first sewn garment I posted about.
My output has declined a little over the years, which I’m happy about. In part, this is due to my increased focus on taking the time to make a few high-quality items rather than bashing things out that I may or may not be satisfied with. In fact I made a cheeky graph to show how my knitting output has changed over the years.
As I’ve said in my previous posts reflecting on the blog, it’s great to have a record of the things I have made over the years, especially since I make quite a few gifts, or upcycle previous makes into new ones. Who knows whether this blog will make it to ten years or 1,000 posts, but I will continue it until it is no longer a net positive in my life.
I decided to sit down and reflect on the year since my last attempt turned into a post about future intentions. 2018 has been very much a mixed bag for me. Work has been mostly very challenging and I need to put some serious time into considering the next steps in my career. It’s hard for me because my mother really hammered into me the belief that a woman must have her own source of income. I have worked really hard to have a decent job that pays quite well. Although one of my core beliefs is about the importance of excellent universal free education- it was the route to independence from dangerous families for both my mother and me- this job is simply not my passion. While I don’t mind doing it, I’m not excited to get out of bed on weekdays. What does get me excited is the things I write about here- making things and reducing my impact on our one and only planet.
It’s been a funny year in my craft life. My output has decreased every year, but I really see this as a positive. I want to focus my time on making a small number of items that are of the highest quality I can achieve, that meet the demands of my everyday life, and that last.
This year I sewed seven items. They are also a mixed bag and as follows:
The two Lark tees… meh. I have definitely learnt to stop buying jersey online. There are big variations in quality and that is the main issue with both of these tops. The cloud version does get worn sometimes but the black one is in the big bag of items I have that will one day be cut up into t-shirt yarn.
The Lindens… also meh. I love the look of the boat Linden but unfortunately the discrepancy between the weights of the fabrics did tell and the neckline has started to pucker. However, it has reminded me of how much I love pattern- and colour-blocking so I imagine there will be more of that in my future. The other Linden is nice enough, but just a bit boring. I don’t wear it much.
The olive blouse I was so proud of making does get worn, but I want to replace it with something better. The mistakes I made- especially sewing the neckline facing wrong and making a hole in the button band- mean that this is not going to be a garment that lasts for years. It was intended as a wearable toile, so I guess it served its purpose. While I really like the sleeveless blouse I made, I am very annoyed with myself for using cotton even though I know that I don’t like cotton tops.
The biggest win of the year was my corduroy trousers. Which is quite funny because it took me so damned long to make them. I guess it’s a reminder that projects that aren’t much fun to make can be great fun to wear. I adore these trousers.
So I guess that one of the main takeaways of the year has been to be super mindful about my fabric choices. I am very happy with my choice to state the costs associated with every make. It’s helpful for me to be clear about what I spend on craft. I wonder if it’s also interesting for non-crafters (though I’m not sure how many still read since Facebook links stopped working). People have definitely commented on how ‘frugal’ I must be since I make my own clothes. Of course they wouldn’t say that if they knew that my handmade coat cost over 600!
Especially when fabric comes out of stash, it’s easy to see it as ‘free.’ But of course, it isn’t. I believe someone has started a hashtag wherein she documents all the time it takes to make things too. I think that’s an interesting concept but I’m not sure if it would work for me. For sewing, yes. But knitting is generally something I do during ‘dead’ time such as travelling and watching TV. It would be logistically challenging to document.
I have spent time both on larger-scale alteration projects- such as unravelling two unworn jumpers to make a new one– and small-scale repairs that extend the lifespan of clothes I love. I have also made a few things in my zero waste journey, like my produce bags and dishcloths.
I have only finished one major knitting project this year- the sweater that took ten months to make. Again, I am happy to take more time to make better items rather than churning out loads of things of which I’m not that fond.
It’s been a good year for me physically. I only ended up achieving one of my three fitness goals, mainly due to breaking my finger. However, I know that I am stronger, faster, and better able to endure than ever before. I keep wondering when I will reach my fitness ceiling. However, my body continues to amaze me with the things I am able to do. This year I ran my first 10k.
Some of my fitness goals
- Lift over 100kg in lower body compound lifts
- Lift over 50kg in upper body compound lifts
- Unsupported handstand
- 5 pull-ups
- Enter at least two more races, aiming for sub-25 5k and sub-50 10k
Finally, I started bullet journalling this year. I like the way I have been able to record some aspects of my day-to-day life. However, I have really struggled with the planning/future logging aspect, which is actually what would be more useful for me. I was also hoping that the bujo would be a creative space, but I haven’t realised this wish.
I was looking back on some of my very oldest blog posts recently and I remembered how much I used to love making cards. I haven’t made a card in years, though I suppose I have also largely stopped giving cards. My craft life has exploded but this has been at the cost of my more artistic side. When I was at school, I spent hours and hours every week drawing and painting (I did art and graphics GCSEs).
It’s tough because there are only so many hours a day. I already work full-time, undergo psychoanalysis, play quidditch, go to the gym, knit and sew my own clothes, cook almost everything I eat, live a low-impact lifestyle, travel as much as I can and maintain a blog! That’s not even to mention socialising, life admin and rest/self-care.
However, as my weekly screen time reports attest, I do somehow manage to spend hours a day on my phone. I want to use the hours I have well.