If the sense of relief I felt on Monday was anything to go by, I made the correct decision in moving out of my place in London. I had two busy weekends of sorting and packing things, but all that work should make it fairly straightforward for me to move in once I find my next place, which I’m hoping to buy rather than rent.
I did have a little break from packing to darn one of my dishcloths before putting it into storage.
I also marked my compost bin in the hope that a new tenant will keep using it.
A lot of craft time has been dedicated to my Oran do Chaora/Sinister Catdigan again this week. I’ve finished both sleeves and joined them into the body, which has now been set aside.
I mentioned last week that I’d started doing the maths for the colourwork yoke. Well, unfortunately I made a really stupid error with that calculation that resulted in me spending about four hours reducing the body section by one stitch.
Fortunately I re-checked my sums before I did anything too major and realised my mistake. I’ve now picked that stitch back up and the numbers on my Oran do Chaora body and sleeves should match the numbers on the finished Sinister Catdigan yoke.
I’ve done the crochet provisional cast on for the yoke and the first row of cats has emerged! It’s quite hard work managing the tension with long floats and a slippery yarn but I think it’s going okay so far.
It’s funny that I was looking forward to knitting the cats and it’s only now that I’m recalling how laborious this kind of knitting can be. Working the fair isle requires quite a lot of attention. It’s very easy to make errors and I’ve had to do more than my share of undoing. But it is fun to see the cats emerge row by row- in fact it’s pretty addictive.
I’m already starting to think about how I will do the decreases for the shoulder section. I’m not that fond of the neckline of SC and I think it will look odd to do a saddle shoulder above the fair isle section. Some more planning and maths is in order next week I think.
I fed my sourdough starter again in preparation for making my first loaf. I looked at some recipes and started to get a bit stressed because of all the equipment needed. I don’t have a banneton, baking stone or a dutch oven.
The loaf is a little disappointing. I used a pan as a lid following some advice online and I think it actually restricted her growth. Now I’m contemplating investing in a Dutch oven.
I had another very tiring week at work so I was very grateful that it was only four days long thanks to the bank holiday. I had hoped to get a few things done- particularly some exercise- but I also need to be careful with myself and if my body is saying I need sleep, I ought to listen.
Funnily enough, the day after writing the above paragraph (and sleeping for over ten hours), I unexpectedly ran my first 5k in under 30 minutes. I’ve been struggling towards this goal since I resumed running six weeks ago and felt like I’d plateaued. I knew that I had my goal pace in me; I actually ran 5k in 30:01 when I did my first 10k in December 2018, then went on to run the same distance again. But maybe at 33 I couldn’t do it.
Distance running feels like more of a mental challenge than physical for me. I always have a voice in my head telling me that I need to stop. Sometimes this voice is telling the truth- like when I’ve timed my run badly and not eaten enough, or if I’m just having an off day. But normally the voice is lying and I am capable of running more. My body is a much better barometer for what I can do than my mind, and I’m learning to listen to her. And I think that’s what helped me to achieve this goal. I listened when my body said I was too exhausted to do my previous run on Thursday and I rested. I allowed myself to sleep more when my body told me to. And then yesterday I found myself with the energy and grit to keep going.
Anyway, on to my weekly update.
This week I finally cast on the second Joy mitt to match the one I started in Africa. God, that seems like a lifetime ago. I’m very grateful that I was able to go and have such a great experience. The mitt was also an enjoyable knit after working in long rows or rounds of plain stocking stitch on my last project. Looking at this photo, I’m not sure why the second mitt is looking bigger than the first but I’m hoping I can even them out with blocking.
I have run out of Buachaille so work on my blue cardigan is on hold. I’m probably going to go back to London for a few days (or longer, depending on what happens with work) in late May so I’ll have access to my stash. It’ll be time for me to do some proper planning for the yoke of this cardigan, which should be a lot of fun.
After spotting a gorgeous pattern on Instagram, I decided on the spur of the moment to invest in some rainbow mini skeins from Mothy and the Squid. I’ve been following her for a while so I’m glad to have bitten the bullet and made an order. I’m a bit ambivalent towards hand knitted socks. I don’t like wearing them in shoes because I find them too thick. However, I really enjoy making them and I like them as objects. I’m going to try wearing them as bed socks I think.
This week I baked some vegan pasteis de nata. I’ve had the recipe pinned for ages but never got around to making them before now. I posted about making pasteis de nata many years ago- reading this old blog post was such a blast from the past!
I could have done much better with my vegan custard but this is a great jumping-off point.
I’m going to try out a weekly format for the rest of the lockdown, but since I wasn’t ready to write them until now, here is a super-post. I think it’ll be useful for me to track the progress I’m making on various projects.
I’ve seen a lot of posts floating about saying how people with various psychological disorders might actually feel better during the pandemic. As somebody with C-PTSD, I wouldn’t say that the case for me, though I think I’m coping okay. You wouldn’t expect everyone with a certain label to respond in the same way to one event, but that oversimplification has been bothering me. I’ve never been great at working from home, so that has been the main struggle for me. That, and my normal issues with attention and focus are massively amplified, so I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time. I try not to beat myself up about it, but it’s still a little frustrating at times.
Before the lockdown was implemented, I decided to come down and stay with relatives on the south coast for a while. I was struggling to work in my shared house in London. With my aunt and uncle, I have access to a dining table where I can set up my working from home equipment. They also have a garden that’s been so wonderful during the warm weather we’ve been having.
I brought a few projects down with me. I already wrote about the gold work song thrush that I managed to finish over my first weekend. I have since framed the embroidery, though the back is a little bit messy and I think I’ll add a felt backing once I’m back with the bulk of my possessions.
I’ve also been working on my blue cardigan, which I must say has been super uninspiring. Knitting plain stocking stitch back and forth is just something I find really boring. I think the body is nearly long enough, so I’m going to switch to working on the sleeves, which I think I’ll enjoy a little more.
I also picked up my Ripple bralette. I got frustrated when casting off the back but managed to finish that bit and get as far as possible with the yarn I have on hand.
I’ve been searching for a cool quarantine project to work on, but I keep being scuppered when the materials aren’t available. Of course I want businesses to protect their employees and limit the spread of the virus. It’s just a little unfortunate that every time I manage to settle on a project, I can’t get what I need to make it. This happened first when I decided to get an Alice Starmore kit and again when I decided to make a jumper out of denim yarn, which apparently is impossible to buy in the UK.
Aside from craft, I’ve been taking the time to cook. I’ve been enjoying having the opportunity to make myself whatever I like for breakfast and lunch each day. I’ve been on a big toastie jag. I also made some brownies, Chinese steamed buns, and bagels from scratch.
I’ve also resumed running since the gyms are all closed. I’m not a huge fan of running, so I basically only do it when all other exercise is off the table. I’m making (very) slow progress. I really enjoyed participating in some live-streamed classes from a yoga studio near me in London. I should make more effort to do more.
What I find the most difficult about lockdown is not knowing how long it’s going to go on for. I had been planning to move house in the summer and now I have no idea when that’s going to be possible. At the moment my place in London is no more than a storage facility.
I found it pretty helpful to review the things I made in Winter 2018/9 so I’m going to review my makes from September, October and November 2018.
Corduroy cigarette pants
These trousers are certainly one of my most successful makes. I wear them all the time and think they are great. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have seen me complain that it is impossible to get a good picture of these trousers. I’m convinced they look fabulous in real life.
The corduroy seems pretty hardwearing thus far. I probably wear the trousers once per week. The texture on the cord is a little worn at the inner leg (which is where my trousers always wear out) but showing no signs of developing holes yet. I wonder if I should attempt some pre-emptive patching.
Reusable cotton pads
These make-up removal pads were a complete disaster and have been composted. They absorbed loads of liquid, which seemed wasteful, and I didn’t like the way the stranded cotton felt on my face. I replaced them with some washable woven cotton pads that I bought from The Source and I like those a lot better. However, I try to wash my face with water and a flannel where possible rather than using make-up remover.
Fortunately the other ‘zero waste’ item I made was a lot more successful. I use these cloths for washing-up and wiping down surfaces and they do a great job, I don’t have any pictures because they’re not that pretty. You’ll just have to trust me.
The hemp yarn isn’t especially strong, which means that the cloths develop holes now and again. My system is to rotate the two dishcloths that I made. Once one develops holes, I put it in the washing machine and then put it in the repair pile. It only takes around 20 minutes to repair them every month or so.
The dishcloth I made using larger needles was even more prone to wear and kind of an annoying size so it has been composted.
I did some work to fix up my zebra shorts, which were looking a bit shabby. They’ve certainly stayed in commission, though I don’t know how much more life they have left.
Really I need to make a second version of these shorts using a more hardwearing fabric.
This new feature has been inspired by ‘One year sewn’ on the Sewstainability blog. Her idea was to review the clothes she has made a year later to establish how they have held up, and whether they have found a consistent space in the wardrobe. I will be doing the same for all of the things I have made- hence not just stealing her hashtag wholesale.
Eventually I plan to review everything that I have posted about on the blog. I’m going to start with makes from Winter (i.e. December, January and February) 2018/9. I am going to go by when I published the blog posts about the garments despite the face that this does not necessarily reflect when I made them.
This is a very warm sweater so I can’t wear it as often as perhaps I would like. In fact, a learning point is that I probably have enough warm sweaters and should probably focus my energy on lighter-weight garments. Since I have broad shoulders, I tend to be apprehensive about garments that draw the eye to this ‘unfeminine’ part of my body. In reality I love the way my shoulders look in this sweater. I have used the inverted commas there because I think women (and possibly Black women in particular since we often do not conform to white beauty standards) are programmed to hate our bodies. Especially since cutting my hair I have started to notice that ‘femininity’ is a particular arena for self-attack about my appearance and I’m trying to notice and deconstruct that.
I was concerned about how well the buttery-soft Sugar Baby Alpaca yarn would wear. Actually it seems to be holding up well. The sweater is quite prone to pilling, but the pills don’t really show up against the black background and the zigzags still look great.
Even though I am pretty happy with this dress, it doesn’t make it out of the wardrobe that often. It doesn’t help that the dress is on the tighter side so I don’t feel as comfortable wearing this as other dresses I own.
Mending these two pairs of jeans extended their life spans by several months. However, both pairs are back out of commission since they need further repairs and I don’t have anywhere to use my sewing machine. Writing this post actually prompted me to search for sewing cafes in London so hopefully my jeans will be back in rotation soon.
I think this is an interesting thing to note because mending has fallen so far out of favour that it doesn’t even occur to people as a possibility. Two friends have reached out to me offering old pairs of jeans. While in a way it’s sweet that they’re trying to think of a use for them rather than just chucking them- and also aware that this is the sort of thing I care about- I also think it’s a bit weird to offer someone else your trash. My view is why not continue to wear them as jeans?
It’s so clear how fast fashion has taught us to think Something has a hole in it, time to get a new one. By the same token, if anyone reading this is aware of any cool projects that have a need for old jeans, please let me know in the comments!
Unfortunately shortening my League did not have the desired effect. Part of the problem is that I made the front a bit too short and the placement of the ribbing is now really unflattering. It’s a real shame because it used to be a garment I turned to quite often, though now I’m wondering if that space in my wardrobe has been taken over by some of my newer sweaters (like She Loves Wool) that I simply like more design-wise.
I am now contemplating whether to attempt another mod to this sweater or just pass it on to someone else. I don’t think I want to unravel it because I’m never been in love with the colours (hazard of buying on line, which I now seldom do). My concern with donating it is that the weird length will make it unsaleable. This is an issue I think about a lot actually- whether I should repair my clothes before donating them. If any readers would like to have this jumper, please do let me know.
December was a strange month for me. I was feeling super optimistic when I started drafting my review blog post. I had just got my new job and my life seemed to be on an upswing. Then, out of nowhere, I managed to break another finger. It happened at quidditch training, but it was strange because nothing actually happened. I threw a ball and all of a sudden my pinkie was pointing in the wrong direction. I thought it was a dislocation so it came as an enormous shock when, after three hours in A&E, I was told that it was badly broken and had my whole forearm put into a cast. I guess I must have had an underlying hairline fracture.
Breaking my finger affected me psychologically as well as physically. Having no use of my dominant hand left me feeling pretty helpless as well as unable to do what I normally would if I was ill- knitting. I couldn’t even cook for myself. Fortunately I wasn’t too depressed and managed to keep myself occupied by going to the cinema and reading.
A few days after the injury, I had to have surgery and now I have two metal wires in my finger. Although I was lucky that I had my operation under local anaesthetic (most surgeons do the procedure under a general, and I felt dreadful when I had one a few years ago), it took a lot out of me. I took four days off work, the most time I’ve had off in years. All of the plans I’d made about managing my last three months at my current job went out of the window.
Anyway, I did have some time to think about projects during my extended recuperation.
Current WiPs are my Ripple bralette, cat cardigan and these gloves, which are very nearly finished. I have a trip to southern Africa coming up and I need a suitable project to work on while I’m away. I have two projects in mind, but both will be gifts so I won’t write any more about them for now.
I’m planning to move again once I have settled in my new job, and one of my priorities will be finding somewhere with a sewing space. I’ve had several sewing projects cued up for some time. Hopefully this year I will manage to make my turquoise raincoat, at least one TC1617 blouse.
I’m also going to take my new job as an opportunity to slightly alter my weekday style and wardrobe. Since I’ll be in a more senior position, I think I’ll dress a little more formally. I’ve been planning for years to make a copy-cat version of my favourite pencil skirt, purchased secondhand a long time ago. I’ll use the Sew Over It ultimate pencil skirt as a starting point. I even have a remnant of nice navy blue wool ready to go.
If that works, I will also make a black version. I have a few shirts that don’t really work with navy blue (which is my main base colour). I even have quite a bit of magenta wool left over from my tulip skirt, which could also be pressed into use as a pencil skirt. While I wear the tulip skirt quite often, I’m actually not sure that the style really suits me.
While charity shopping a few months ago, I found a nice wool dress that was essentially a pencil skirt with a cropped boxy top layered over it. I didn’t buy it in the end because it was a bit too big, but I feel like it would be really cute to have a matching shirt for some of these putative pencil skirts. I love the shape of my short- sleeved Linden. I wonder how the raglan sleeve would work in a wool…
From my ramblings I’ve realised that I have the loose outline of nine items I’d like to make this year. I didn’t bother with a #2019makenine but I think I’ll do one this year to try and keep myself honest. I find making basics really boring so I have a bad habit of veering off and working on more fun projects. However, my basics get worn all the time so it’s time to buckle down.
It’s funny looking back on my review of 2018. While I haven’t actively thought about that blog post much, I have actually taken action in many of the areas I wrote about. In fact, I think this often happens to me- I reflect on something, then those thoughts slowly percolate in my everyday life and I make changes without even really noticing.
This year I slowly accepted how unhappy I was in my workplace. While I liked my colleagues and schools, I was generally unfulfilled and languishing in my career. I started putting feelers out and thinking about applying for a more senior position elsewhere. My confidence was knocked a bit when I didn’t get shortlisted for the first job I applied for. So it came as a bit of a shock when I did get an interview for the second job, and even more of a shock when I was appointed!
Fun fact: I realised on the morning of the interview that I must have donated my old navy jacket when I moved. So I wore the jacket I bought for my Joker costume.
Doing all the negotiation to change jobs proved super stressful, which is part of the reason why I have barely blogged in the past couple of months.
Another huge thing that has happened this year is finally embracing my natural hair texture. I cut all of my hair off in April and I’m so happy I finally took the plunge. One day I will write a full blog post about it.
Shall I mention craft now? As last year, my craft output has continued to decline. Part of the reason for that is practical- I don’t have a sewing space where I’m living at the moment. I finished sewing one dress in January, and that’s it for the year.
I do need to re-repair both of my pairs of jeans, so I plan to visit the Sew Over It sewing café soon. I will try and get a few repairs done but it may be a while before I have the opportunity to sew another garment.
Knitting-wise, I completed four projects. Three were gifts and the other is my Mermaid Humboldt sweater, of which I am very proud.
I’m proud to say that my purchasing has taken a huge downturn as well. This year I have bought three items of clothing new- a bikini, a cotton wrap and a summer dress. To be honest, I regret buying all three. I didn’t really need them and they were impulse buys. While I am comfortable with adding things to my life in a mindful way, this is not what I did with those items. It’s not something I’m going to beat myself up about, but I do want to keep learning and working towards living in the most sustainable way I can.
It doesn’t help that my craft time has been so significantly curtailed. Aside from the stress of changing jobs, I took on a trainee in September so my role was busier than usual anyway. In fact, I bought a skirt (secondhand of course) that didn’t fit properly and I took the decision to get it altered by a tailor rather than attempting to do it myself. Since I have such limited time, I really need to allocate those resources carefully. Deciding to outsource a tricky alteration means that I can use that time to do something else. It’s so funny to notice the change in the relative importance of time and money over time. I am in the privileged position of being able to choose to pay others to do some tasks for me, and I am so grateful for that.
This leads conveniently into sustainability, the other area in which I have taken significant action in my life this year. While I’m still more plant-based than fully vegan, I am proud to say that I have not cooked any meat in 2019. I’m not sure whether I feel the need to be a strict vegan or not. I like to have a bit of flexibility in my life in general, and give myself the freedom to choose non-vegan options occasionally. At the same time, sometimes I feel bad when I cave in, or at least I don’t enjoy the food as much as I would have thought. I guess this is just something for me to continue to explore and reflect on in the coming months and years.
Once again Halloween rolled around and once again it was a week before a party that I started thinking about a costume. I had a little time in central London so wandered around a ‘vintage’ store for some inspiration. I wanted a costume that would work with my teeny weeny Afro. Initially I was thinking Moss from the IT crowd.
As I looked at the dubious vintage items (a bugbear of mine is ‘vintage’ stores that are overpriced and have crappy, samey clothing), I started to feel inspired. I quite wanted to go for an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia costume but didn’t want to buy a new wig- maybe I’ll go as Ango Goblogian if I stumble across the right secondhand wig another time.
I had just seen the new Joker movie and wondered whether there was mileage in that as a concept. I’ve seen on Instagram (good targeted advertising I guess) that they sell hair wax that’s capable of producing vibrant temporary colour on Afro hair and doesn’t look crispy and awful.
Note: I’ve been meaning to write about the experience of cutting my hair but haven’t got around to it. I definitely surprised myself with how strongly my feelings about my gender were tied up with my long hair. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I felt much more drawn than usual to dressing as a male character.
Anyway, when I went charity shopping a couple of days later, it was the character of the Joker that appealed to me the most. I spotted a red jacket and went to look at some reference images. What would the odds be that I could find a red suit, green shirt and yellow waistcoat all in my size in five days? Would I become desperate enough to violate my ethics and buy something new?
I visited the secondhand shops near my work and came away feeling a little apprehensive. I made the decision to just buy any item I could find that suited my needs- more on this later. As I returned to my office after lunch, I recalled that nearby Chiswick High Street has a fantastic selection of charity shops. Since I had some containers and could pop into the Source as well, I hopped on my bike and went over that very afternoon.
Chiswick sorted me out beautifully. The first thing I spotted in the Shelter store was a bright red jacket for £15. I tried it on and it fit. I decided not to buy it immediately just in case I came across something better.
The next shop came up trumps with a pair of red trousers- I had to ask the volunteer to take them off a mannequin for me. Not perfect but definitely good enough for my needs, especially since they were £6.50. I bought them straightaway so the lady wouldn’t put them back on the mannequin.
The thing I was most worried about was the waistcoat. I’d hardly seen any waitscoats at all on my search, and is a yellow waistcoat an item anyone would want aside for for costume purposes? But the Barnado’s shop contained a golden floral one. Again I didn’t buy it straightaway. It wasn’t quite perfect and I had a couple more shops to visit.
I wandered down to the shop at the end of the road, where my eye was immediately caught by a green silk shirt. It was more olive than I wanted, but a beautiful silk shirt from Whistles seemed too good an offer to pass up at £20- it’s something that can definitely slip into my work wardrobe when spooky season is over and done.
I quickly walked back up the street to collect the waistcoat and jacket, which was a great match for my new pants. It seemed silly to waste time looking any further. I was irrationally terrified that other shoppers would have snapped my items up, but I needn’t have worried.
The only big misstep I made was with the very first item I bought; another red jacket. For the first time, I investigated a weird junk shop that’s opposite my office. There’s no indication of what it is on the outside, just some rails of clothing. I went in and there are hundreds of poorly sorted items and no lighting. It’s so strange. There were people wandering about using their phones as torches. I wish I knew the story behind it.
I found a red men’s jacket in there and hastily bought it for £15. In the gloom of the shop, it had looked okay if a little big. As soon as I tried it on in a proper changing room, I realised that it wouldn’t do. I looked like a little kid in their dad’s suit. When I bought the second jacket, I donated the first one at the same time. No sense bringing it home to take up space when I have absolutely no use for it. I hope that Shelter will be able to make some money back from it at least.
Overall it felt really serendipitous that I was able to get everything I needed within only a couple of hours. Normally my cardinal rule of secondhand shopping is not to go looking for something specific. But this time, it worked for me. As my friend Cayleigh pointed out, perhaps even the men’s red jacket was part of the magic of that day of shopping. There may be some reason that it needed to find its way to the Shelter store in Chiswick.
In the end I paid £49.50 (not including the stupid second jacket) for my costume, which I know is far from cheap. The silk shirt I know will go into my normal wardrobe. And, in fact, I felt really fabulous in the red suit. I wonder if there’s a viable market for renting a single costume only suitable for a size 10 woman. Actually, two costumes since I still have my Wonder Woman dress from last year. I feel grateful that I am fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium to live according to my principles.
The one thing I bought new was the hair wax for £11. I had to use around 1/3 of the pot to get decent colour on my hair. I quite liked the definition that it gave my curls, though it did make my hair quite hard.
Yes I did go out for dinner dressed as the Joker. And yes my two companions were wearing normal clothes.
It was so much fun to dress up in a completely different way to normal. I’ve never worn a trouser-suit before and actually I was living for it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn a suit as an adult full stop. I will 100% be looking for any excuse to wear my red suit again. The biggest surprise was probably how hot I was! I suddenly have a new respect for men in three-piece suits on the tube. Continue reading